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We are still working on a better slogan!
Yeah, they thought the same, it was very close. I even named the chapter to suggest that... Though it really refers to the end of their journey to the League.
Yeah, there's a lot more to do before he's going to leave.
Part Ten: Five Great Warriors
Chapter Sixty-Four: On the Eve of Battle
Boreas woke up feeling warm, fed, comfortable, and happy for the first time in ages. Slowly opening his eyes, he found he was in a soft bed in a pokécenter, under thick blankets. In his arms lay Aqua, sleeping peacefully and snoring softly. As he snuggled up to her, he recalled how he'd got here. Their slow, laboured descent down the northern side of the Pokémon League valley, how they had finally reached their destination after five months on Victory Road, feeling more dead than alive, how they had been taken to the pokécenter quickly and given the greatest meal they'd ever eaten – though that likely had more to do with their famished stomachs than the true quality of the food. Finally they had been taken to this room, put in their beds, and fallen into a deep, careless sleep. Or at least Boreas had after sneaking out of his own bed and into Aqua's.
That they had reached the League, without losing anyone, felt better even than the soft bed and the sweet girl in his arms. He had led his friends through uncharted paths over the Black Mountains and against all odds they had made it, if only by a hair's breadth. The sight of the mountain had kept them going, but while hope could nourish their minds it couldn't nourish their bodies, and even the most determined mind will eventually find a physical limit its body can't go past. They had come dangerously close to that limit, and even now Boreas' body still felt weak and achy, if less so than the day before.
Boreas didn't have to worry any more that Aqua might starve soon, though when he felt her stomach he noticed her ribs still stuck out far too much. That and the weakness he felt himself made him realise they were in no condition at all to fight, regardless of whether N had reached the League as well.
But had he? Boreas didn't even know that, as they had only had thought for food, warmth, and rest yesterday. Or was it before that? They had all been tired enough to sleep through a whole day, easily. He'd seen trainers and their pokémon work together in the pokécenter, so N probably wasn't Champion yet. Maybe he hadn't made it out of Victory Road? That would be a very bad thing, oddly enough, as it removed the only reasonably easy chance they had at beating Team Plasma.
Aqua suddenly began cuddling him back, and mumbled sleepily in a soft voice that made Boreas' heart beat faster: “Hmm, Boreas... What're you doing to my belly?”
With a blush, Boreas stopped rubbing and petting her stomach, which he had subconsciously continued doing. “Er... Sorry.”
Slowly opening two deep black eyes, Aqua giggled. “You don't have to stop, it felt quite nice. You may rub my belly any time... Though I'd also like to fill it at some point, I'm hungry...”
Boreas winked and resumed the rubbing. “Alright, then. Come to think of it, I'm quite hungry too. Maybe we should try to find some breakfast... Or whatever meal it is at this time of the day.”
“Hmm... Later... Right now, I just want to lie here and snuggle you...”
“I would be happy to,” said Boreas truthfully. “I don't think I've felt this well in a long time...”
“Neither have I...” flirted Aqua as she gently nuzzled his fur. “But maybe after breakfast, we'll have regained enough energy to do things that are even more fun than just snuggling, so we can feel even better?”
“I thought you didn't want to get breakfast,” chuckled Boreas, blushing.
“Well, I thought I didn't... But now that I have something more to look forward to, maybe I do...”
“Well,” giggled Boreas, “I've got an idea: I'll get up real quickly and get us breakfast as fast as I can. I'll come back, dive back into bed with you, and we'll eat it. And then... Well, we'll see what happens next.”
“Can't wait to find out.” Aqua winked as Boreas got up quickly. He didn't stand quite stable, but it was no problem. He quickly left the hospital ward, almost skipping. Things had gone so much better than he had ever expected. The journey had been incredibly long and hard, but in the end he had led his friends to the safety of the League. His greatest hope had thus come true, and now he was well-rested, warm, and about to get another meal. Not just that, but he had just snuggled with Aqua without hunger or the fear of death clouding their moods, and was probably about to get lucky too. In short, he was full of glee, and as he skipped through the pokécenter, he wondered why he would ever need to feel concern or unhappiness again.
“Attention, challenger N's battle with Shauntal of the Elite Four is about to begin. Head to the holographic hall to watch it live!”
“Oh,” said Boreas, “I guess that's why.”
As Boreas recovered over the next few days, he explored the League. It was in a wide valley between the mountains, protected from the storms and blizzards by them, and warmed up more by human ingenuity. The southern half of the valley was the public part of the League, which was essentially a town full of trainers. There was the pokécenter, but also the train station, a market, various training facilities, houses for those who lived there, and more. At the moment, it also served as a refuge for anyone who didn't want their pokémon taken from them, as one of the last free places in Unova. The northern half of the League was inaccessible to anyone other than the Elite Four, the Champion, and their challengers, so Boreas didn't know much about it. It had five towers; a large one in the middle and four smaller ones around it coloured black, purple, dark red, and blue; and there seemed to be other facilities there as well. The tops of the towers would sometimes be lit by the Sun at day, while the rest of the valley had only artificial lights then.
The first few days they were slowly recovering from their trial, glad they had survived and finally reached the League as they regaining their strength. Yet they were also reminded now that the journey was never the true challenge: it still lay ahead of them. N had arrived two weeks before them. Apparently he had managed to find a deep path through the caves, and it had landed him on a different pass. After a journey almost as long as Black's, he had finally arrived at the League, coming from the west. No-one, human or pokémon, was allowed to be present at a Pokémon League battle they weren't part of, but several 3D cameras across the room would record the battle and broadcast it as a spectacular hologram in a great dome called the holographic hall.
The news that trickled in from south painted a grim picture: Unova, other than the League, was now completely in Plasma's hands. It sounded like a grim, grey land where only Team Plasma had pokémon and any dissension was punished severely. Plasma's victory was nearly complete. Zekrom's force of will was strong enough to influence many people, and by now Plasma was popular enough that they probably didn't even need N to become Champion. Boreas wondered if defeating him would make any difference, even if they could do it. N was the official king of Team Plasma, but by now the Seven Sages were as good as kings of Unova. The Gym Leaders all seemed to have disappeared, and Black was unable to get any news of Bianca, Cheren, or White.
N had already beaten three of the Elite Four by the time Boreas was well enough to leave the pokécenter. He went to the holographic hall with Aqua to watch his final battle, against a master of psychic pokémon named Caitlin. The hologram was incredible, as if the battle took place right in the dome. This way people could watch the battles, despite not being allowed into the northern half of the League.
Caitlin's pokémon fought gracefully and elegantly, yet it was clear there was tremendous power in them. Boreas had only once fought a powerful psychic type, and it was a very unpleasant memory, and had allowed Diego to impersonate his brother. He was no stranger to deceit and trickery himself, and so he already knew the power of manipulating an opponent's mind, but to do it directly, simply reaching into it and changing things? That was a terrifyingly powerful gift, one that Boreas wished he wouldn't have to fight soon.
But it seemed likely he would. While at first Caitlin seemed to be gaining the upper hand, that changed when it was Diego's turn to fight. Mysterious, dark powers took down two of Caitlin's pokémon. Boreas didn't know to what extent the Zoroark's powers were illusions and what part of them was real, but he could easily tell Diego was an even more dangerous opponent than ever before. He was also reminded of what he had tried to do to him the day they allied and blushed with shame. The troubles on Victory Road had allowed him to repress the memory for a while, but now he knew he would have to deal with it somehow. He needed to tell Aqua what the Glaceon she loved was really like, but he was too ashamed to do it. He was scared she'd get angry at him, or even dump him. So he tried to focus on the battle instead.
Diego was eventually defeated by a Bronzong, and N replaced him with Zekrom, his sole remaining pokémon. Even though it was merely holographic and the real Zekrom was far away in Caitlin's tower, Boreas still felt a surge of passion for pokémon liberation and wished to be free from Black, but quickly shook it off. The effect was much greater on the long-haired, princess-like Caitlin and her pokémon, though, who were much nearer. They were clearly confused and in doubt. Then Zekrom attacked.
Boreas had never seen anything like it. He had been too distracted by his own enemies and observing Diego when they had met in the Black Mountains to pay attention to the battle between Zekrom and Hydreigon, but now he could just watch it battle. It was awe-inspiring and terrifying. Intense bolts of lighting flashed with fierce blue light that put the Sun to shame. Huge meteors of fire and lightning struck and rocked the entire tower. Boreas felt their power course through his veins, though this was no more than a hologram. Everyone watching it was silent with awe.
“Zekrom prese-” Boreas began, before correcting himself: “Kyogre preserve us...”
He hadn't fully realised until now what it meant for a legendary pokémon to be on N's side. Now that he did, he saw the outcome of this battle immediately, and knew tomorrow's battle with Alder was no more than a formality: N would become Champion, there was no doubt about it. And then he and Zekrom would wield an almost invincible power over the hearts and minds of everyone in Unova.
Octa walked to the holographic hall with Toxica. They hadn't been released from the pokécenter yet the day before, so they only had the accounts of Boreas and Aqua to rely on for the strength of N's team. They wanted to watch his final battle with Alder, both to cheer the Champion on, though he couldn't hear them of course, and to observe their eventual opponent if N did win.
“Octa?” Toxica asked worriedly. “Do you think Boreas is right? Do you think Alder doesn't stand any chance against Zekrom?”
Octa paused. “'Tis a good question, my darling. One I do not yet know the answer of. However, I do know Alder is a very powerful trainer; 'tis evident from his position as Champion. Recall his prowess in the battles of Dragonspiral Tower and Nacrene City. Zekrom may be a legendary pokémon, but it's still a pokémon. It can be defeated, I am certain of it, and if Alder can't do it, we'll see what we can do. Darkness shan't fall.”
To his delight and slight embarrassment, Toxica hugged him and gave him a kiss. “You're right, it's just-”
“Keep your dirty hands off the descendants of Equinox the Great, Vileplume, or darkness shall fall for you sooner than you think,” spoke a voice icily.
Octa turned in shock, letting Toxica go, and saw an angry-looking Serperior whose body was streaked with several bands of purple. “Hey, who do you think you are, you stuck-up git?!” snapped Toxica angrily, to Octa's shame.
“Quiet, Vileplume; do not speak to your betters in such manner,” sneered the Serperior.
Octa felt caught between two fires as two of those he loved spoke to each other like that. So he tried to pretend it didn't happen. “Gaius, my dear brother! What a delight to see you again, but what are you doing here?”
Gaius frowned in contempt. “I could ask you the same, brother. Why are you shaming yourself in public with this common hag when you could have been wed to the fair Aurora Invicta of the house of Quintillus?”
“Hey, who-” Toxica began.
“Brother,” said Octa sternly, “this is the time nor the place to discuss my private life. I know you have been in opposition of my choice-”
“In opposition? My dear brother, don't you see opposition to it is the only sensible stance? How could you forsake five centuries of our house's history by choosing this hag over the fair Aurora Invicta? Selfishly deny your descendants the noble ancestry you have? I can barely believe you could do such a thing. And I want you to know that while you somehow got our father to support you, as well as our foolish younger siblings, I shall ever guard the future of our house, as well as yourself, both now and when I inevitably succeed Lord Publius as our leader.”
“Hi there, Octa, Toxica,” said Boreas, who had just arrived too. “Who's this big girl's blouse, then?”
Octa winced at the untimely arrival and rude remark of Boreas, feeling very much trapped between Scylla and Charibdis. Fortunately his brother scowled and said: “So this is the kind of company you keep nowadays? Plebeian Vileplumes and scruffy-looking Glaceons who insult your family; how the mighty have fallen. I shall take my leave now; come talk to me without this rabble some time.” He turned and slithered away.
“Good riddance,” spat Boreas. “What a windbag.”
Octa felt quite angry hearing his brother talked about like that. “Be quiet and do not insult my brother.”
“Yes,” Octa explained with annoyance, “that was my older brother, Gaius Julius the fourth of the house of Equinox you just insulted.”
“He deserved it, bossing you around and insulting Toxica. Is your whole family like that?”
“No,” said Toxica, “not all of them. His other siblings are pretty nice. It's just Gaius who has a thorny stick up his-”
Octa interrupted angrily. “I forbid you both to talk of my family like that! For your information, Gaius is noble, wise, cunning, and brave. He simply does not support our union, and got quite angry seeing us osculate in public, making him express himself far less tactful than he would otherwise.”
“That's an understatement,” muttered Toxica. “But I still don't like 'im. And he doesn't like me either.”
“Indeed, he doesn't. And he shall like you far less after this situation, which is a problem. You see, he is a very influential member of my house; so much, in fact, that he will most likely succeed my father as our leader. Therefore, you have made a grave mistake by earning his scorn, as it will surely spread to others as well.”
“Oh...” said Toxica. “I didn't know that.”
“I know you didn't,” sighed Octa. “But understand that if you ever wish to become a lady of the house of Equinox, you shall have to learn how things work in it. For if you do not fall into grace with my house, they shan't ever condone our union, in which case I would have to leave the family... I implore you, do not make me do that. 'Tis a prospect that fills me with dread.”
“Sorry,” said Toxica sadly, “I know I'll need to impress your family. I really-”
“Attention, challenger N's battle with Champion Alder is about to begin. Head to the holographic hall to watch it live!”
“Come on,” said Boreas. “We've wasted enough time with this, let's watch the battle to see what'll happen next.”
Silence hung heavily after the Volcarona crash-landed into the floor and didn't get up again, its glow quickly dimming. None spoke as they let the realisation that N had won and was now the Champion sink in. Alder too was flabbergasted. Finally, N spoke:
“Today, a new era begins as I, N, become the final Champion of Unova! The final trainers will release their pokémon during my time as Champion as I command it, and then I will at last disband the Pokémon League, and the very concept of the Championship.”
But Alder said: “Please, do anything but that! You can't end the friendships between humans and pokémon, you will destroy many beautiful things if you do! I know you are a good person, but you are also a very deluded one. Look at what Team Plasma has done and continues to do, and compare it with all the good trainers have done! You are fighting the wrong battle, N.”
“Don't speak,” said N calmly. “We fought to test our ideals, and mine won. You have no right to speak, as you've been proven wrong.”
“I didn't fight to test my ideals, but to protect them! You can't prove an idea simply by fighting for it, you only prove to be more powerful that way. An idea's strength doesn't translate into physical strength! Evil can be more powerful than good.”
N, for the first time Boreas knew him, wavered. “I... Maybe...”
But then Diego spoke. “He's lying, like humans usually do. A good ideal gives strength, while evil only tears it down. That's why Zekrom is so powerful: because it fights for what is right. And that is why you won. And now, the pathetic human is trying to twist your mind with his lies since he couldn't win properly.”
N nodded. “You're right!”
An earthquake struck. The hall shook and panic erupted. “A mountain!” someone screamed from outside. “A new mountain is rising!”
As Boreas rushed outside, he saw it wasn't a mountain, though its size was almost as impressive. Tower after huge tower of obsidian black stone erupted from the ground, rising up rapidly as if by magic to the north of the League. But not just there: dark towers, walls, and fortresses rose to the east and west of the five towers of the League, which now seemed small and insignificant by comparison, enveloping them like a hawk about to devour its prey. The Earth shook, and small avalanches of snow and rock rolled down the slopes of the mountains around the League. Clouds of dust hung around the base of the mighty fortress that had risen from the ground. Flagpoles rose from the tops of the towers, and unfurled to show the banner of Team Plasma. When the castle had stopped rising, and the Earth stopped shaking, bridges opened from several towers, bridges that thrust towards the Champion's tower, touching its highest floor. There was a phenomenal cracking sound, and then tiny figures moved on one of the bridges. Boreas rushed back inside.
The Champion's Room was devastated: three bridges had broken through the walls, making a mess of rubble inside. Alder looked as flabbergasted as everyone else, and even N looked surprised. Diego, however, didn't.
“What- what is going on?” Alder worded the question in everyone's minds.
At that moment, the Seven Sages entered the room via the bridge. “Congratulations, N,” spoke Ghetsis. “You've proven our ideals of pokémon liberation by becoming the Champion! But since you are very different from the corrupt former Champions, you require a different chamber than this one. Follow me, my lord, to your throne room, from where you and Zekrom will rule Unova.”
“The castle...” N gasped. “I had no idea it could do that...”
“It only needed to be underground for as long as Team Plasma was. Now that we're victorious, it shall stand in the place of the outdated League as a testament to the power of our dreams.”
N spoke aloud to nobody in particular: “Black, I know you're watching this. You heard Ghetsis: I'll be in my throne room in Team Plasma's Castle, where I belong. Only you can defeat me now, and that is highly unlikely. But you'll try anyway, that's what you're a hero for. So come to my throne room; I will command Team Plasma you are to be let into the Castle unharmed. And then we will fight like the heroes of old and once and for all determine whether truth or ideals is more powerful.”
With N as the Champion, Zekrom's power somehow seemed increased greatly. Boreas now felt the wish for liberation all the time, as did other pokémon, while humans felt inclined to release their pokémon all over Unova. It needed to be stopped, or soon there would be no trainers left. But they couldn't battle N right away. First they needed to recover from their ordeal on Victory Road, which took them almost two weeks.
They trained a lot during this time, mainly having training fights against each other. To change things up and prepare better they had practice fights against different opponents, except for Boreas against Aqua. This exception was because their training matches always seemed to turn into tongue wrestling matches instead. While they both protested they were training well and didn't mind having a bit of fun during training, Octa snidely pointed out that since neither of them were ghost-types, they wouldn't be using their tongues in combat, and were therefore better off training against someone they wouldn't end up snogging with. Octa found it quite annoying: while he could understand their love for each other was strong, surely there was such a thing as self-control?
Black had asked for permission to enter the Champion's tower and challenge N directly, since it was the only way into the Castle that could be found. This request had been passed on to the Elite Four, who refused it. So he had requested it again, with a whole series of powerful arguments, but again the Elite Four refused, despite the huge fortress now enveloping their League and Plasma ruling Unova.
One day, Black met with Alder, and had the opportunity to ask him why they would refuse when it was.
“I don't know,” said the former Champion, who looked down on his luck and shocked at his defeat several days before. “And I can't ask them either, as I'm no longer allowed in the League, being the ex-Champion. The only way I could get there would be by challenging, but I'm not allowed to since I didn't get here through Victory Road.”
“So what you're saying is, I'll have to ask them myself when I battle them.”
“That's right, I'm afraid...” sighed Alder. “I hope it's just of devotion to their duty as Elite Four; but I just don't know them well enough to be sure...”
“What are they like?”
“I never got along with them very well... And I was usually away from the League travelling. They're very powerful trainers, quite close to my own skill. It's going to be very hard to defeat them. You battle one of them each day, and then you have the rest of that day to recover and get ready for the next battle. Lose against any of them, and your challenge is over immediately. You fight Grimsley, master of the dark-type, on the first day; then Shauntal who masters the ghost-type; Marshall the fighting-type master; and finally you'll have to battle the leader of the Elite Four, Caitlin the psychic-master. Only then can you challenge N...”
“It'll be tough...” said Black.
“I know it'll be tough, that's what it's supposed to be! But you're the only hope we have to defeat N... I'll help you train, because if you lose...”
Octa met with Gaius in private soon after N had become the new Champion. It turned out he had come to the League with various other members of the family to observe Octa's battles. Octa was delighted to hear news from home: things were as well as they could be, with no more attacks on their home. This was because the humans of Crimson Breeders had made an arrangement with Plasma: they gave up the breeding and left the pokémon to their own, and in turn Team Plasma would let the pokémon be as well. While it meant their home was safe for as long as Plasma kept its promise, it also felt a bit too much like a surrender for most of the Equinoctes, including Octa. He was happy his family was well, but on a certain level he would have preferred to have heard about their glorious deaths as they defended their ancestral home until the bitter end.
Gaius had also come to dissuade Octa from his relationship with Toxica, and Octa was far less happy about this. While he apologised for some of the words he'd used in anger, he still asked his brother to reconsider his love for Toxica several times. Octa refused, of course, yet he was beginning to wonder if his family wasn't right in discouraging his dalliance with her. Until now, he had believed pursuing a relationship with her and thus breaking his house's rules had been the right thing to do, ever since she and Boreas had convinced him to do so. But in the light of his cowardice on Victory Road, he began to wonder if it wasn't part of a larger failure of character of his. Perhaps he wasn't a proper descendant of Equinox the great, at least, not in mind; he knew of course for certain that he descended from Equinox, biologically speaking. But it was said there's a rotten Leppa in every basket; perhaps he was the one in the house of Equinox?
He could try and excuse his cowardice by trying to convince himself he had been following Boreas on the road the Glaceon had chosen; when he gave up, it was therefore logical to do the same, to assume that if Boreas couldn't find the way, no-one could. But he knew it was a worthless excuse: his friend was just a common Glaceon, brave and intelligent though he was. Octa, on the other hand, was a descendant of the great Equinox: in a time of despair he should've been better than to accept defeat; he should have led them on instead, as his ancestors would have. The only reason he was even alive at all was the courage of Selene, of all people.
Ever since that horrible moment, when his courage and noble blood had failed him when he needed them the most, he had been full of self-doubt. He had always believed the blood of his ancestors that ran through his veins meant he was like them. It was only through Boreas' renewed determination and his never-failing friendship that Octa had continued after that. And now, whenever he talked to Gaius, the shameful, nagging knowledge that he was far less noble than his brother gnawed on him. Perhaps he had just inherited the wrong genes from his ancestors; or perhaps he had the right genes, but simply didn't have the valour of his ancestors. The approaching battles against the Elite Four and N actually frightened him now, since he could easily lose them and fail all of Unova, if he could fail his own blood.
He could of course tell Gaius about it and announce his decision to leave the family, unworthy as he was. But he realised there was a better way: he could try to act like a true descendant of Equinox from now on, try to banish the unworthy cowardice from his veins. But, he realised, it would mean breaking up with Toxica to be truly like an Equinox. Perhaps Aurora Invicta was still willing to consider marriage to him. She would make a far better wife to him than Toxica, after all: she was incredibly beautiful, very noble and graceful, clever, kind, everything. She was the ideal partner to him, he reasoned, so it only made sense. So why was his heart objecting so strongly to it?
Oh yeah, so close to an epic battle!
Octa's having a lot of thinking... I just hope he'll choose Toxica over stupid family lines whatever. I can relate to it by a bit though, and I hate following the steps of family tradition... =/
As usual, I await the next chapter~ :D
Not just one epic battle, but five of them... At least, I hope they'll be epic.
Yeah... Honour and pride and all that are very important to him, so the fact that he gave up is a very painful thought to him, one that rocked his entire world.
Chapter Sixty-Five: Light and Darkness
The day of their challenge came rapidly. It seemed like one moment they had days of training left, but the next moment it suddenly was the evening before their first battle. No-one spoke much, tense as they all were. Every hour that passed on the final day went far too quick. There were twenty hours left... Then suddenly only seventeen, sixteen, fourteen, eleven, ten, nine hours left. After a night of very little sleep it was time to begin their challenge. Octa felt like his blood had frozen, his heart having to pound heavily to make it circulate at all. It felt like his chloroplasts didn't process any light, frozen with dread.
After having his badges checked a second time, Black was admitted into the northern half of the League. It was very quiet here as they left behind the modern architecture of the southern parts of the League and approached the five towers, while Team Plasma's castle enveloped them more and more. All five of the towers were part of the same building, a huge round, open complex supported by enormous columns. Once they were inside Octa was awed by the magnificence, and yet the simplicity of the great hall. There were four staircases leading to the towers, and a single statue in the middle of the hall. There were words engraved upon it:
'Five great warriors form this Pokémon League. To the north-west is one who has mastered the dark-type. To the south-west is one who does not fear the ghost-type. To the south-east is one who channels the power of the fighting-type. To the north-east is one who knows the mind of the psychic-type. One who can defeat these warriors with one's courage and wisdom shall be led to the summit, where the Champion awaits.'
They took the stairs at the back of the hall to their left, leaving the great hall. The light dimmed soon as they climbed into Grimsley's tower, until they were in utter darkness. The stairs ended and they carefully took a few more steps forward when a bright, fiery light enveloped them and the ground started moving at the same time. Most of them lost their balance and fell, but quickly recovered. They were on a crimson conveyor belt that was covered in red carpet. It went up and around a bend, and a torch lit as they passed it. The conveyor belt moved them up and around, and more torches lit as they passed. They saw more of Grimsley's tower as they got higher and the light increased: it was a gorgeous, ornate room that reminded Octa both of home and an 18th century theatre. It was clearly decorated by a man with style.
The conveyor belt took them higher and higher, and after two large circles they had reached a platform. A gigantic chandelier above flared up and bathed the tower in orange light. There was a black sofa on the other side of the platform, and on it the pokémon master himself sat, looking proud and gentlemanly, yet at the same time bored and slightly lazy, slouching a little. He had blue hair with two large spikes of it pointing up above each ear, and wore neat black and red clothing. He had a long yellow scarf that hung onto the ground.
“You?!” exclaimed Black. “What did you do to Grimsley?!”
Sly laughed. “If it isn't Black from Nuvema Town! I had never expected to see you here. But to answer your question: you're looking at him.”
“No, I'm not,” said Black sourly. “I'm looking at Sly, a petty thief and kleptomaniac from Nacrene City.”
“It's true,” chuckled Sly, “I did that a while ago, it was quite funny. But allow me to reintroduce myself: my name is Grimsley, and Grimsley means me.”
“We're supposed to believe Grimsley of the Elite Four is some common thief?” scoffed Octa.
“Not a common one!” Grimsley pointed out, clearly understanding him. “A master thief, if you please. Because I make sure I am a master in everything I do, and what I do is whatever is fun. It's important to master the cards you hold in your hand. Master thief Grimsley, master gambler, pokémon master, master of the dark-type.”
“And master liar,” said Black. “The game is up, Sly. Where is the real Grimsley?”
“I already told you. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't him. And you wouldn't be here if you hadn't challenged us. So you have a simple choice: fight me or surrender.”
“Fine then, I'll believe you're Grimsley. For now. But if you are: why did you stop me from battling N? Surely you must see Plasma is a threat?”
“Not to me,” boasted Grimsley. “They can't steal my pokémon, so why would they be a threat to me? Besides, it's more fun to test your prowess in battle first. That's my right as the first member of the Elite Four.”
“Maybe it is, but what about all the trainers who have been separated from their pokémon, or even killed, because of Team Plasma?”
“What about them?” Grimsley shrugged. “Bad luck. They're not my concern.”
“I'm going to battle you. Now! While I'd rather fight properly, the League forces me to battle according to certain rules. So we'll each use six pokémon, one at a time, there will be no substitutions, no items, and no fighting when a pokémon is no longer fit for battle. Honchkrow, begin!”
“You have a Honchkrow too, huh?” laughed Black. “Selene, show it you're best!”
Selene flew up to meet the Honchkrow as it soared through the air. They both floated for a moment, then Grimsley's Honchkrow suddenly made a viciously sharp downward turn and loop, swooping by Selene like a black, feathered lightning bolt. She fell down in a spiral and hit the ground. The others gasped in shock as Grimsley laughed. “You're fighting the Elite Four now, Black! The time for playing games is over.”
“That was a cheap shot!” snarled Aqua as she rushed forward. “But I'm not dropping my guard around you!”
The Honchkrow laughed as it made a quick turn to dodge a beam of water. “Cheap shots are what dark-types are all about, you silly girl. Stay in the light if the dark scares you!”
Octa decided not to point out her boyfriend used cheap shots all the time to great effect. He wondered whether she really did care for Selene and want them to win or was just pretending. Though Boreas' assurance she was on their side was a strong argument against it, he still bore some suspicion; while Boreas was the best friend he had ever had, he had been known to be wrong. He dearly hoped the Glaceon was right about Aqua, though, as the thought of his dear friend having to go through her betrayal was even more dreadful than the fear his family might expel him.
That thought was a surprise to Octa, but he realised it was true: he really had come to care more for Boreas than for his family, or possibly even for Toxica. Their friendship had come a very long way since Octa had rescued a little Eevee cub.
A loud clanging noise awoke him from thought: Aqua had finally hit the Honchkrow, along with the chandelier. Fortunately the chandelier didn't shatter or fall down, but the Honchkrow wasn't so lucky. A wave of water formed around Aqua and slammed into her enemy as she pounced it. She yelped when the Honchkrow stabbed her with its sharp beak, but it couldn't fly away, heavy with water, and was defeated soon.
Grimsley laughed as he switched out for a Liepard. “Not bad, it seems you do have some strength! This will be fun.”
As the Liepard appeared it made a little bow, saluting Aqua. The Vaporeon returned the gesture, and Liepard immediately flew at her, its claws stretched out, giving her eight deep red cuts into her side.
“Hey!” Boreas shouted angrily. “Aqua'll get you for that!”
Aqua reacted with similar anger and tried to capture her opponent in jets of boiling water. Octa thought Liepards were quite weak pokémon, but this one clearly wasn't: it nimbly dodged Aqua's attacks and, despite her own speed, occasionally clawed her. Boreas cheered her on, and Octa saw the completely smitten look on his friend's face. It would shatter him if she turned out to be a traitor. Octa sighed as she managed to inflict some damage on the Liepard with a beam of water. Things had been so much easier before she had suddenly dropped into Boreas' life nearly a year ago. Though it was great to see his friend so happy with her, it was also painful to see him hurt, and occasionally a little annoying how irrational it made him act and how much time he spent with her. Cold fury filled Octa's mind. If Aqua was just using Boreas to spy on them, if she was about to hurt the Glaceon so terribly... Lucius would be the least of her problems.
Octa became aware he had been staring angrily at Aqua only a moment after she felt his eyes burning with the stare his family had perfected so long ago. She succumbed to a nearly irresistible urge to turn around and look him in the eyes, and though Octa realised his mistake and quickly looked elsewhere, the momentary distraction was all the Liepard needed. Aqua screamed with pain as its claws dug into her. Her gleaming blue fur was rapidly stained with red blood.
“You'll pay for hurting her!” roared Boreas.
But Black said: “No! This is not the time to get angry, someone else switch in instead; Toxica, you go!”
But Boreas wasn't about to take no for an answer. Octa immediately wrapped around the advancing Glaceon, blocking his view as well so he wouldn't be able to use his ice attacks. “Calm down, my dear fellow! This is an official battle, we'll be disqualified if you and Toxica both switch in!”
Boreas squirmed against his grip. “Then I'll fight, that Liepard hurt Aqua!”
Octa sighed, having experienced this a bit too often with his hot-blooded friend. “Calm down, my dear fellow, Toxica is already fighting. If she retreats, we'll be another pokémon behind. And what's more: you're in no mood to fight. It's daft to fight with your mind clouded with anger in any case, but against a dark-type? Being a trickster yourself, you should realise just how stupid that is.”
That seemed to get through to him. “If I let you go, will you do something idiotic?” asked Octa.
“No,” sighed Boreas, “I suppose you're right. I'll go take care of Aqua instead, I guess.”
Octa let go of his friend and watched Toxica fight. To his shock she already had large cuts in her flower as well as in her body, leaking saps and blood. But not all was lost, as her flower was brimming with energy absorbed from the light. If she could make the Liepard stand still for a moment...
Toxica threw small Energy Balls from her hands. Octa wondered how much they would hurt Liepard even if she managed to hit it, but then realised they weren't meant for hitting, but for chasing: Liepard had been content to effortlessly dodge the Energy Balls, making Toxica waste her energy, but hadn't realised it had reached the platform's edge. It was too agile to just fall off the edge when it dodged and found no ground under one of its feet, of course, but it was still unbalanced for a moment. Toxica immediately aimed her flower at it, and Octa shut his eyes. His eyelids lit up bright orange seen from inside and he sighed in delight at the sudden influx of light to his chloroplasts. It was over a moment later, and Octa opened his eyes to see the Liepard completely scorched by Toxica's Solarbeam and everyone else rubbing their eyes. He applauded and cheered. “Splendid, my darling, simply splendid!”
She smiled happily at him, though he could see her weariness as well; Solarbeam was a very exhausting move. She winked, and Octa felt his heart beat in his chest and his leaves curl. It was with pain he remembered he was planning to break up with her. He couldn't bear to look her in the eyes.
“Good job, that's my two weakest down. Now let's see what you can do against Drapion!”
Octa's hope sank into his tail as he saw a monstrous purple scorpion appear. It wasn't much bigger than Toxica, but it had a terrifying presence that made it seem far larger. Octa felt an almost instinctive rush to draw his blade and jump between Toxica and the monster. He slithered a bit forward and put his hand on his blade before he halted himself. He winced in horror as Drapion's teeth burst into flame and it tried to bite Toxica. She jumped back but it swung its tail at her, slamming hard into one of her petals and piercing it. A noxious green fluid spread there. Octa could hardly restrain himself.
“Not so easy, is it?” said Boreas unhappily. Octa merely nodded, wincing at the effect it had on Toxica. She tried valiantly to fight back, but her attacks were useless and she was clearly hurt badly by the poison. Drapion made its final strike with its claws, and Toxica was defeated. Octa wanted to step in to defeat the Drapion, but as a grass-type he recognised he stood little chance against it. It was Lucius' turn instead as Octa took care of Toxica.
He jumped into the fray, spitting waves of fire that made an uncontrollable shiver run over Octa's spine. He suppressed the rest of his instinctive fear for fire, as he didn't want to give Lucius the silly idea he was scared of him. He was the single person on the team Octa just didn't like, after all. Though Selene could be rather annoying, Lucius was simply an unpleasant, uncivilised git; though Octa dearly hoped he could defeat Drapion now. He couldn't understand that Boreas seemed to almost like Lucius at times. But he supposed Boreas was more like him than Octa himself was; both lacking a certain respect. But while Boreas was shrewd and kind, Lucius was a simpleton lacking all grace.
Drapion jumped at Lucius, its pincers snapping at his head and neck, but the Houndoom jumped aside rapidly and tried to respond with a Flamethrower. Drapion swung its tail as it missed, impacting Lucius hard with a triumphant growl. Lucius yelped in pain as his shoulder was wounded and dug his teeth deep into the tail. Bleeding heavily, the Drapion tried to smash Lucius with one of its claws, only to find the fire-type's paws holding it back with similarly great strength while he belched a great torrent of fire right into the scorpion's face. A high-pitched squeal like a pig being roasted alive came from the Drapion as it let go of Lucius and fell down.
Lucius howled triumphantly, his mouth still running with the Drapion's blue blood and his poisoned shoulder with his own red blood. “Now who's the stronger dark-type, punk?!” he roared as Black and Boreas cheered. Octa found himself softly applauding Lucius. After all it had been quite impressive.
Octa realised the Drapion was only acting just too late, at the precise moment it knocked Lucius out from behind. “I am,” it said in a voice like gravel scraping over metal.
Octa winced. “Oh dear... My dear fellow, don't lose your temper; we cannot afford to lose another fight...”
Boreas nodded as he grimly stepped forward to face the burnt and bleeding Drapion. Only two of them remaining against four powerful enemies... Octa pondered that their challenge could be over with this very first battle. Black was biting his fingernails nervously. “Oof...” muttered Aqua, waking up again. “How are we doing? Any better than I am personally?”
Lucius had already wounded Drapion pretty badly, and so Boreas didn't have a very difficult first fight. It clumsily staggered towards him, and took only a few Ice Beams to be defeated. Boreas didn't let his eyes leave the fallen Drapion until Grimsley returned it to its pokéball.
“Slightly better now... Three of them left contra two of us.”
Grimsley threw a pokéball, and out came a bipedal lizard whose outer skin hung around its hips like baggy pants. It had a flat face with a permanently stupid expression that put Octa at ease. “Oh, it's only a Scrafty. Boreas can handle a dimwitted creature like that.”
“Don't you think that's a little arrogant?” asked Aqua snidely.
“I hardly think so; methinks Boreas is quite a capable Glaceon. Do you not have confidence in his ability?”
The battle between them began with Boreas firing two Ice Beams at Scrafty, but the lizard nimbly ducked under them and rapidly ran at Boreas on all fours, its head aimed at the Glaceon like a battering ram. He couldn't get out of the way quite fast enough and was hit in the shoulder, launching the fox off his feet, spinning rapidly. It wasn't all bad, though, since Boreas had the wits to create cold around him as he spun through the air, instantly making a powerful, rapidly rotating storm that threw Scrafty away. Both combatants landed poorly, needing a moment to recover from it.
“Of course I do,” said Aqua worriedly. “But it's arrogant to assume the Scrafty is stupid because its face is...”
Octa said nothing, unwilling to admit his mistake to her. Boreas raised himself back on three legs with a pained expression, while Scrafty got up a bit more nimbly and ran at him quickly. Boreas immediately fired an Ice Beam upwards, to the chandelier, hitting the chain that held it up. Octa expected the huge glass chandelier to drop and crush the charging Scrafty, but it just hung there. Then Octa realised why: since metal contained no water, it didn't snap-freeze like many other substances. It would get brittle due to the electrons giving it its elasticity settling down, but it was still as strong...
Boreas discovered this bit of physics in the form of a massive punch heading his way. Octa saw him try to stop it with his Frost Concussion, but the Brick Break wasn't stopped or delayed but hit him very hard, right in the face. Octa winced and Aqua gasped as Boreas made a half somersault from the force of the punch, landing on his back, seemingly defeated. But somehow he rolled out of the way of a finishing kick, blasted an Ice Beam right into his foe's face and, as the lizard howled out in pain and grasped his face, fired another one at his stomach.
Then however it seemed Boreas had to rest after the powerful punch into his face, and this gave Scrafty time to recover as well. They were on their feet again at the same time, though Boreas' bruised face looked worse than Scrafty's frostbitten one. Boreas enveloped himself in a snowstorm and ran at the lizard, but at the very same moment Scrafty jumped high into the air, far too high ever to hit Boreas. Boreas skidded to a halt and tried to run back, away from the chandelier: Scrafty jumped right by the frozen part of the chain holding it up and punched the brittle metal.
The chandelier fell terrifyingly in what almost seemed to be slow-motion. Boreas' desperate scrambling away was futile, the chandelier fell too fast. Octa let out a brief scream of horror for his friend's impending doom descending upon him in that special way only a huge glass chandelier can. Only Black's quick reaction saved Boreas, as he disappeared just before the chandelier crashed into the ground like a meteorite striking the Earth. It shattered into a million pieces of glass flying everywhere with a tremendous roar. Octa found a thin film of water protecting him and the others, stopping some of the glass and slowing the rest of it down to safer speeds. He gratefully nodded to Aqua.
Boreas reappeared looking very shocked. “Outwitted by a fighting-type...” he gasped.
“And nearly killed,” Octa added with equal shock. “But do not forget 'tis a dark-type as well. I made the mistake of underestimating it; a mistake I shall not readily make again.” Which is why I know the odds of my victory are smaller than an atom suffering from dwarf-growth.
He slithered forward and used two vines to sweep away the shards ahead of him. He regretted his lack of legs now, realising this would be far easier as a Servine. Scrafty had not just defeated Boreas: he had made manoeuvring as good as impossibly for Octa. “Impressive,” he complimented his enemy, who seemed in no hurry to get into melee in its weakened state.
Octa further extended his vines, reaching out to his opponent. It jumped away, seemingly trying to use the semi-darkness that filled the tower now that its main source of light lay in a million pieces, but Octa had no problem seeing it jump around. He caught it with his vines, and quickly drained the struggling lizard of what little energy it had left after Boreas. But now, he knew, came the difficult part.
Or perhaps not, as Grimsley sent out a Krookodile. Octa didn't like that one bit: while it was possible Grimsley sent out the Krookodile because his other remaining pokémon was also at a type disadvantage, it seemed more likely it was part of some scheme. Perhaps the idea was to make Octa underestimate his opponent, or maybe just to soften him up for the final pokémon. Or perhaps there was some other kind of trick. Octa felt apprehensive and worried. Victory depended solely on him now...
As the large, bipedal crocodile rapidly ran at him, Octa grabbed it with his vines and began draining its energy. The ground trembled with its every step, and glass near its feet, and probably under them as well, shattered to dust. Krookodile kept going, despite Octa draining its energy. He drew his Leaf Blade as he realised his opponent was going to reach him, and tried to parry its attack as it pounced him, claws and jaws spread and roaring like a madman. Octa parried one heavy claw with his Leaf Blade, but a phenomenal force knocked the blade out of his hand and sent it flying. Impacts like a collision with a sharpened train hit Octa, he was bitten with such force the pain was dull and sharp at the same time, and a crushing impact launched him. He squealed in pain as he landed on the scattered glass, and weakly struggled to keep his head away from the ground.
Krookodile raged and ran at him again, and he did something he hadn't done in a while: he made a Leaf Tornado. His increased power since he was a Servine, however, made it much more powerful: a phenomenal gale with sharpened leaves stormed over the battlefield, blowing most torches out and pelting Krookodile with leaves and glass as it swept the nearly-dark battlefield mostly clean. Krookodile struggled against the Leaf Storm to try and reach Octa, but it was powerless with the sharpened leaves and shards of glass cutting it. As it fell down, Octa stopped the storm and panted, exhausted from the powerful move. He grabbed his Leaf Blade and fervently hoped the final pokémon would be weak.
“Good, good!” laughed Grimsley. “This is more fun than I thought! Let's finish it, Bisharp!”
A red, metallic figure like a living suit of armour from another planet's mediaeval period appeared. It had large, sharpened claws on the ends of its arms and a ridge on its head that looked like it could cut through steel. Two tiny eyes seemed the only part of the man-high creature that was made of flesh and blood.
“A steel-type,” groaned Octa, “and I'm already so weary...” He held his blade in front of his face as a salute, then crossed blades with his opponent. He felt its strength reverberate through his weary, wounded body, but could handle it for the moment. He immediately redirected his blade to stop the attack of the other arm. They fenced rapidly, Octa's single Leaf Blade against two metal ones. It was an obvious disadvantage, and he almost never had time to attack, having to parry two blades. He could've made a second Leaf Blade, but since he had no experience fighting with two blades it seemed a very bad idea.
Octa had to slide back constantly, yielding terrain to dodge and parry his stronger, two-bladed opponent. He tried to strike Bisharp from behind with his tail, but it nimbly sidestepped. However, that gave Octa an opening to attack, and so he stabbed his blade, pushing the attempt to block it away, and hit the Bisharp right in the chest. To as good as no effect. Its strong armour held back Octa's blade, and he had to parry attacks immediately again, in the knowledge his own skin certainly wouldn't do the same to metal blades. Parrying several attacks from alternating sides each second, Octa tried to aim for his enemy's eyes whenever he had a chance to attack, but Bisharp protected them well. If you have only one weak spot to protect, you get quite good at that.
Octa was exhausted, panting heavily, and his muscles hurt. He began to slow down, and received a few small cuts from poorly-parried attacks. Suddenly he nearly fell off the platform's edge as he dodged back another attack. His enemy had him cornered. But an idea popped up in Octa's mind. He made a wild stab to his enemy's left eye, trying not to let the severe flash of pain as his enemy punished him with a deep gash with one blade while blocking with the other stop him. His enemy stepped closer to the edge as it parried, and Octa followed up with another careless lunge that Bisharp easily parried. But as it did so, it shifted its balance, and Octa's tail hit its back hard at the same moment. After a single moment of uncertainty, Bisharp plummeted over the edge with a metallic cry.
Octa was almost unable to believe it was over. They had actually defeated a member of the Elite Four! A part of him inside simply nodded and smiled and said “of course I did, I'm of the house Equinox.” Another part of him, however, a long-repressed part of self-doubt and fear, couldn't believe he had duelled an Elite Four's Bisharp while wounded and came out the victor. A part of him felt ashamed that this had looked like a beautiful civilised hall of a nobleman before the battle and now looked like a barbarian horde had ransacked the place. And finally there was a part of him that just wanted to scream at the deep cuts he'd received executing his little plan. He was tired and hurt enough that he'd most like to just lay down, but he desired to keep his dignity and instead calmly sheathed his blade and said “I believe we are victorious.”
“...But then the giant chandelier came down, just as I was about to defeat it! Of course, I saw it coming and was already running out of the way to safety, but just as I was about to jump out of the way... Black returned me to my pokéball. Otherwise I'd have easily beaten that Scrafty. But he thought I was about to die, so it's alright really. Besides, it gave Octa a chance to show off his mad skills with the sword. I mean, their swords were flashing so fast it was hard to follow it with your eyes when he fought that Bisharp! Octa, tell us about it again.”
Octa was shaken from thought by Boreas' request to continue the tale. He had told it five times already, but enjoyed it every time... However, he was rather preoccupied right now, and not really enjoying their little victory celebration any more. He quickly finished his drink. “Hmm? Why don't you tell it, my dear fellow? I think I shall be calling it a night, for we have another battle to fight tomorrow and 'tis late already.”
“Aww...” pouted Boreas. “But I guess you're right about that. We should be getting to bed...” He suddenly grabbed and kissed Aqua. “But that's no reason to stop celebrating, is it?”
“You're right,” giggled Aqua, “we should have a little private celebration...”
“Well, have fun then, but don't keep each other up too long, you'll need your rest for tomorrow.” Octa and the others left to go to their own rooms. Challengers were given quite luxurious accommodations at the League, as every pokémon had a room of their own. Lucius and Selene quickly disappeared to their own rooms, but Toxica walked along with him. “Kinda cute, innit,” she giggled, “seeing them so happy together. I don't suppose Aqua's room will be slept in tonight...”
Octa, rather preoccupied, simply said: “Hmm. I suppose it won't...”
In a low, flirtatious voice, she continued: “And what about my room? Do you suppose it will be slept in?”
They had arrived at Octa's room, but his conscience forbade him from letting Toxica come in with him while he considered dumping her, though the celebratory alcohol in his blood thought it was a great idea. “My apologies, my darling, but I want to rest for tomorrow's battle. For while our victory today was impressive, this was but the first of five battles we have to win. So methinks 'tis better if we sleep in our own rooms and rest well.”
“Well... We don't need to... 'Celebrate'. It would be very nice just to sleep together, cuddling. Literally just sleeping together, I mean.”
“My apologies, but I really think we should sleep in our own rooms tonight.” Octa took Toxica's hand and kissed it. “Goodnight.” He entered his room and shut the door, sighing.
“You made a wise choice,” said a voice.
“Entei's entrails!” cursed Octa. “Gaius! What in the name of Jirachi's little toe are you doing here?”
Gaius smiled. “I'm simply visiting my brother, and I'm about to congratulate him on a battle well-fought. I thought it best to speak to you in this manner, for I do not believe your friends like me very much, though this is partially my own fault for losing my temper.”
“I'm afraid it is,” said Octa, recovering from the shock.
“But enough about that. I wish to congratulate you. I truly believed you were going to lose, but you actually managed to defeat three opponents on your own. I'm proud of you, little brother: you showed the true skill and spirit of Equinox today. I must be honest with you: I had begun to doubt the strength of your blood. Evidently I was mistaken in my doubt, and I hope you can forgive me for that.”
“No, you weren't.” Octa sighed, realising this was the time to tell someone about his failure. “I dishonoured myself on Victory Road, Gaius...” He told his brother how he had cowardly given up hope, and his wish to increase the strength in his blood and even his idea to become more like his ancestors by following their ways... Including dumping Toxica.
Gaius smiled friendlily. “My brother, you are still a true Equinox. However, you are one who has strayed away from our traditions and rules by courting a commoner and disobeying his family. 'Tis to be expected such transgressions would cause your splendour to fade. However, I do not believe your mistake is irreversible. 'Tis time you listened to the wisdom of the family, Octa. Toxica may be quite decent, for a commoner, but she does not deserve you. Your courtship has to end, and the sooner the better, for the fate of Unova rests on your leaves.”
It pained Octa, but he knew his brother was right. Yet it was so final now that he had told his solution to Gaius... At least he could've backed out of it without anyone knowing before. “Yes,” he sighed. “I know it has to...”
I really thought Boreas was killed. Good call by Black to return him quickly.
The battle felt a bit rushed, yet it was still written good.
Octa's really having a lot of things in his head. I just hope he chooses Toxica though. =/
Now that would've been a surprising way to kill him off. It would really have given the story's title new meaning.
Chapter Sixty-Six: Courage and Fear
Diego was annoyed with himself. He had just watched a recording of Black's battle with Grimsley, and found himself rooting for Black. He had told himself it was just because he looked forward to defeating him and his pokémon personally, and even believed it. But then, the chandelier had fallen on top of Boreas, and Diego had actually been shocked and horrified. Somewhere inside his mind, the Flareon he had pretended to be for two months had cried out in shock at the apparent death of his brother, and then sighed in relief when it turned out he wasn't dead after all.
Diego was really beginning to hate his oh so clever plan to spy on the enemy by infiltrating them himself. Boreas' early memories that had been implanted into his mind, as well as the long time he'd spent playing Zeph, had made him weak and treacherous. In a way, Zeph was still inside his mind, making him doubt Team Plasma's cause and making him like Boreas. It would be easy enough to let Ryoku's Exeggutor remove the memories if he asked it to, but that would mean actually showing his mind to it, and in its current state showing his mind to anyone was the last thing he wanted. Exeggutor would be obligated to tell Ryoku, and then Ghetsis would learn of his weakness and probably think his friend was no longer loyal to him. Which was nonsense, of course: Diego's true self was unquestioningly loyal. Yet he felt a little spark of anger towards Ghetsis now as he remembered how much the enemy hated him and the other Sages and how much suffering he had caused. Diego was ashamed at his misguided anger towards the human who had saved his life, cared for him, became his friend, who had made him such an instrumental part of his plans.
He paced the corridors of Team Plasma's castle restlessly as he had these conflicting thoughts, and found himself wandering into N's throne room. “Diego!” greeted the human happily. “How did Black's battle go? I take it he won?”
N had been spending most of his time in the huge throne room since they had returned to the castle. Diego found it quite funny how seriously he took his role as king, even though he was no more than a figurehead. Yet he also felt a bit sorry for his friend. He was so misguided and naïve, thinking he was fighting for pokémon liberation when he was really fighting for Team Plasma's true goals. Diego nodded grimly. “He did.”
“Of course he did; a battle between Reshiram and Zekrom will happen to decide who's right once and for all.” N noticed Diego's troubled state. “Don't worry, Diego, this is meant to happen. Black defeating Grimsley is not a bad thing. It's unavoidable, since he'll eventually fight me.”
N misunderstood Diego's worries, but that was probably for the better. “N, do you ever wonder if we're fighting for the wrong side?” Diego heard someone say. He realised with shock it was him.
“Well, not really. How could liberating pokémon be wrong? Yet, if it somehow is, Reshiram will defeat Zekrom, and then we'll know. But I'm almost sure that won't happen. We'll win and prove our righteousness once and for all.”
Diego forced a smile. “Of course. You know, I've got some things to do, so I'll see you later.”
Diego left the throne room quickly. Idiot, he thought. Naïve idiot. He really thinks we're fighting to liberate pokémon. Well, I guess it's true in the sense that pokémon will be equals to humans when we win...
But that's just what I've thought him to think like. We need him naïve. But what's wrong with me? Asking something so treacherous? What if someone else had heard me? What if it makes N doubt our cause? I know what I'll have to do if he turns on us, and it's not something I'd enjoy...
But he could do it. He remembered what he'd done one day on Victory Road when he had been vexed by similar thoughts and wondered if he'd turned weak. He grinned as he remembered it and realised that when push came to shove, he would show no mercy to any enemy. It had felt as if he'd taken the thoughts he had come to think of as Zeph by the throat with an iron fist and strangled them. They had eventually returned, but he had proven that while there was weakness in him, his core was harder and stronger than steel.
Toxica woke up feeling quite well. She had been terrified about their first battle with an Elite Four, but now that they had defeated one, it felt like it wasn't such a stretch they could win another battle or three. She yawned, turned on all lights in the room, and let her flower absorb the light for a while. It was a shame the Sun was up so briefly and lowly this far north; she could really go for some nice morning sunlight. She sighed at the thought; morning Sun made for a great breakfast, bright but not too warm; she really longed for some after so much time away from the Sun.
She left her room eventually, as she really needed a normal breakfast as well, unable to live on sunlight alone this far up north. She went down to their dining room downstairs, passing the rooms of the others. She considered sneaking in and snuggling up to Octa as she passed his room, but decided against it, as she was quite hungry.
The dining room was empty; it seemed she was the first to rise. She realised as she had breakfast there was another reason she hadn't gone into Octa's room: he had been acting a bit strange lately. Though he usually didn't show it in public, he was often very affectionate and loving to her in private; yet he had lately grown more aloof and distant, and often seemed worried and lost in thought. Toxica didn't think he'd be that happy to find her with him, really...
It led to a scary thought: perhaps Octa was no longer in love with her. Maybe she hadn't turned out to be whom he really wanted, and now he was regretting their love... Even though she'd been trying to learn as much as possible of the things a lady of the house of Equinox should know, she knew she'd never be a true lady, and Octa had probably realised the same. She thought of Aurora and sighed in frustration knowing she could never be like her. Sure, she could try, but it would always be obvious to Octa she wasn't really fit for him.
There was a flapping of wings, and then Selene flew in. “Good morning, Tox.”
“Morning...” she said gloomily.
The bird landed. “You're looking a bit unhappy today... Are you worried about the battle?”
“It's not that, Selene, it's just...” Toxica felt tears sting in her eyes. “I'm not sure if Octa still loves me...”
Selene perched down next to her and put a wing around her back. “There, there... It'll be alright, Tox. Life is like a box of chocolates, you know. Sometimes you eat it, and sometimes it eats you.”
“Wh-what kind of chocolates are those?”
Selene kept on talking. “But when it eats you, you just have to turn the other cheek and let it eat that instead, because otherwise you may end up without a cheek to stand on; and that means you need a wheelchair to... Why are you laughing?”
“Oh, no reason,” giggled Toxica. “But thanks, that really helps me feel better.”
“Great!” Selene crowed happily. “I'm always glad to help a friend like you.”
Toxica ate a bit. Though she was still feeling worried Selene had made her laugh at least. “Well, you're a good friend for trying to help. I really shouldn't let it get me down so much; for all I know he's just worried whether we can really defeat the Elite Four. I know I am.”
“Well, at least today will be fun,” Selene said cheerfully. “We're fighting a ghost-type master today, can you believe it? It'll be great.”
Toxica felt as if the air in the room had disappeared and left her in an ice-cold vacuum. Horrific memories she had tried to push away flashed through her mind, reminding her of the worst fear she had ever felt. She had been fear as she was lying in a grave and had heard death speak to her while five terrifying ghosts discussed how they were going to torture her and give her a fate worse than death and hundreds of creepy Litwicks sang. Even knowing it had all been some sick joke in hindsight didn't soften the terrible memory, which had returned in her nightmares several times. She would rather fight a whole horde of fire-types than ghosts.
Toxica was light-headed and nauseous with terror. She pushed her plate away; eating was the last thing she wanted now, in fact she felt like she might throw up. Maybe I should, she thought. If I act like I'm terribly ill, maybe Black won't take me along for the battle... I would be useless against ghosts anyway, I'm too scared of them... And it'd be better than having my soul burned away, or eaten, or turned into a mummy... Even if those are obviously myths. Obviously.
“Oh dear...” she said. “I think I'm coming down with something... Not sure if I can fight today.”
“Well, that's no problem,” said Selene, “we'll just go to nurse Flatulence and let her have a look at you. I bet she can cure you.”
Oh, bugger. “Well, um... You see, I can't... Because... Well...” Toxica sighed and realised she couldn't think of an excuse. “Look, remember Celestial Tower? If I go to fight those ghosts, I'll probably end up doing exactly what I was doing there and just freeze with fear.”
Selene looked confused. “But you have to fight; if there's only five of us, then that's less than six. And these four elites are already difficult to defeat when we are both with six.”
“I know...” said Toxica, softly. “But I told you, I'll just be frozen with fear... I'll be useless.”
“But why? Why would you be afraid of ghosts, they're fun!”
Toxica was puzzled again by Selene's seemingly insane like of ghosts. “Well, how could you not be afraid of them? They're horrible, gaseous things that can get into your mind and do gruesome things to you... Plus, they're dead people's spirits...”
“I don't think that's true,” said Selene.
“How do you know?”
“Because I've seen ghosts hatch from eggs once. Gastlies.”
“That's... Right, you've got a good point there.” Toxica felt relieved; that made ghosts sound a lot more like a normal pokémon.
“Ghostly eggs, mind you. They're purplish-black and float, and are sort of airy and gaseous, but not quite a gas. Like really thick smoke.”
“That's kind of weird.” Toxica let out a little chuckle at the thought of a creepy thing like a Gastly hatching from such an egg.
“And when the Gastly hatches,” continued Selene, “the shell often becomes a part of its body, if it doesn't just dissolve into thin air. Also, they make fantastic omelettes; they're just tough to keep in the pan because they tend to float away or dissipate. And when the omelette is done, you don't eat it, but inhale it.” She smiled. “And then the world suddenly makes so much sense...”
“Well, that explains a thing or two,” chuckled Aqua as she entered as well, smiling. “Morning, ladies, I hope there's breakfast other than Gastly omelettes left, because I'm starving.”
She gracefully jumped down the stairs and onto a chair, then began giving herself breakfast. “So whawt waws awll this tawlk of Gastly omewettes?” she asked with her mouth full of bacon.
“I was just telling a bit about ghosts, because Toxica was afraid-”
“Because I was afraid I didn't know enough about them to fight them well,” interrupted Toxica. Though she liked Aqua a lot, she didn't really want more people to know how scared she was of ghosts.
Fortunately Aqua seemed too busy with her breakfast to notice the cover-up. “Wow,” said Selene, “you're quite hungry. Did you celebrate long with Boreas yesterday after we went to bed?”
Aqua blushed, and Toxica burst out in giggles. Selene could be very naïve sometimes. “Hehe, I guess we did,” she giggled.
As they had their breakfast, Toxica's mind drifted back to the ghosts. Selene had made her feel better about them, but a single thought of the things they were said to be able to do to you made her blood freeze in her veins. The stories about devouring people's souls, turning you into a ghost, or controlling your mind were probably just made up... But they were still terrifying. And if only one of them was true... Toxica didn't dare continue the thought.
Fortunately, she didn't have to, as Octa joined them. “Mornin', Octa!” she said happily.
“Good morning,” said Octa, without even looking at her. “Boreas and Lucius aren't here yet?”
“Yes, they are,” said Aqua, “they're hidden under the table.”
Aqua chuckled. “Well, ask a dumb question, get a dumb answer. Boreas is still lying in bed, he didn't feel like having breakfast yet. I guess Lucius is just being lazy.”
As Octa started having breakfast too, he still hadn't looked at Toxica. “Good morning, Octa,” she said, extra clearly. Yet he seemed to be more interested in his breakfast than in her. “Good morning.” he replied.
Several hours later, Octa still hadn't even made eye contact with her. Her annoyance over his weird behaviour almost eclipsed her fear for the ghosts, who – hatched from eggs or not – scared the living piss out of her. The dreaded moment when she'd have to face them came closer and closer. She tried very hard not to think of the horrible stories that were told about every ghost. Her feet felt like they were made of osmium, and cold and warm shivers alternated over her body. Her head, flower and body felt far too warm, yet her hands and feet were cold and shivery. She was too scared to look up at the purple tower as they walked towards it.
They went left immediately as they entered the main League building, into a dark tunnel. Toxica could hear herself breathing awfully loud and fast, but kept walking. She toyed with the idea to use the darkness to sneak away, but knew she couldn't. She was going to have to face whatever would be waiting for her at the end of this darkness. That was, as it turned out, slightly less darkness. She could see a large staircase spiralling around huge bookcases. Spider webs were everywhere and the murky air was ominously thick and dusty. She forced the voice in her mind that said she could be breathing in a Gastly already to shut up.
Wings flapped loudly, and then something touched her flower. “Get it off me, get it off me!” she screamed, trying to slap at whatever horrible thing it was.
“It's me, Tox!” said Selene.
“Oh,” said Toxica, feeling very silly, especially now that everyone was looking at her. “Er. Sorry. What'd you startle me like that for?”
“Yeah, you crazy bird,” said Lucius, “what did you scare her for? She's probably scared enough for what the ghosts could do to her anyway.”
“Hey, shut up!” snapped Toxica.
“Like turn her into a zombie, or-”
“Shut your trap, Lucius,” said Boreas, “scaring her really isn't going to help us.”
“And you shut up too, I'm not scared!”
“I'm just trying to-”
“Come on, guys,” said Black, “quit fighting and get on with it.”
Listening to their trainer, they stopped arguing, but Toxica was still furious that her fear was so apparent. Grumbling angrily as they walked up the stairs, she barely noticed their creepy creaking. The stairs went around the tall bookcases once, and then reached their top. There was a wooden floor illuminated by a purple lantern on top of the bookcases. At its far side a petite human woman sat at a desk, scribbling something in a book. Her hair and clothes were all purple, or perhaps that was just because of the purple light. She reminded Toxica of a cat.
“Welcome,” said Shauntal of the Elite Four as she looked up. “You must be Black. A curious name, just like the last challenger...”
“Yes,” said Black, “I am, and I've come to challenge you. But first I want to know why you protect N.”
Shauntal looked down into the book. “'Eyes brimming with dark flame, this man rejected everything other than himself in order to bring about one singular justice...' That is something I wrote just now, inspired by our new Champion. N has a righteous, selfless conviction that is rarely seen. He believes himself to be a hero, and in many ways he is. Whether I agree with him or not, he has my fullest respect, and I want to see what he can do if we let him.”
Black shrugged. “Well, at least you seem to have given it more thought than Grimsley.”
“N talked to me about you, you know. He believes you too are a hero.”
Black sighed, while Toxica slowly felt her anger subside. Fortunately, Shauntal didn't seem too scary. Yet she dreaded the monsters she might release from her pokéballs. “I'm not a hero, I'm just trying to stop Team Plasma. I have no interest in N's hero rubbish.”
“Fascinating...” said Shauntal. “You really do fit the role well. I'm sure your battle with N will be very interesting, but that's not for now. I will battle you right now and see whether you've got what it takes. We'll fight six against six, and all the usual rules apply.”
“Fine by me.”
From Shauntal's pokéball appeared what looked like an ancient sarcophagus with a dark hole in it. But malicious red eyes and glistening teeth glowed up behind the hole and four ghostly hands emanated from the coffin. Toxica froze with fear; it was said that if you come to close to a Cofagrigus, it would swallow you and turn you into a mummy. Fortunately Black didn't send her to fight, but Selene.
“Hey,” said Selene happily, “it's you! You were at Celestial Tower, weren't you? One of those fun ghosts!”
A voice like slime oozing out of a coffin emanated from the Cofagrigus as Selene flew over the battlefield. “What? Oh no, it's you, the Murkrow who's away with the fairies!”
Selene suddenly dived at Cofagrigus, her claws enveloped in dark, pointed shadows. A small, fiery light flew from Cofagrigus to her, but she dodged it nimbly and swooped at the ghost. Her claws did as good as no damage, of course, but the sharp dark energy that shot from each claw really seemed to hurt it. But as Selene flew away, she was hit by one of the ghostly arms and tossed hard through the air before she stopped her momentum.
“I don't think so,” said Selene, continuing the conversation as if there was no battle going on. “My friends like each other a lot, but I don't think any of them are fairies. Also, fairy is not a nice word, you should-” Then she squawked in shock as a swarm of fiery blue lights like the Litwicks that had helped these ghosts torment Toxica flew around, all trying to intercept her. She was forced to fly as fast as she could and change direction often to evade the Will o' the Wisps.
Toxica shivered at the ghostly fires, wondering if her opponent would use them too... She thought back to that horrible day when the ghosts had terrified her; she remembered Cofagrigus, of course, but also a cruel Froslass, a kind Golurk, a Jellicent, Drifblim, and finally the scariest one of them all: Chandelure and its infernal flames. She knew she couldn't battle any of them, except perhaps Golurk. She didn't dare fight the others, out of fear for the horrible things they might do to her.
Selene had no chance to attack Cofagrigus again with about thirty Will-o-Wisps all swarming about while Cofagrigus hurled Shadow Balls at her with its ghostly arms. Toxica wanted to shout something to encourage Selene, but all she got was a frightful squeak.
Cofagrigus' glowing red eyes turned to her and then it laughed, a sound like an ill badger panting. “If it isn't the little flower girl. Don't you think you're a little out of your league here? But by all means, go ahead and fight when it's your turn. We've got ways to use both your body and your soul...”
Toxica knew it was trying to scare her, but that didn't change a thing. The creepy voice, the creepy eyes, the creepy... Everything. It terrified her, and she wanted to get away as fast as she could. Selene, using her enemy's distraction, dived down and Night Slashed it again. “Hey, if you want to spook someone, why not me?”
The Will-o-Wisps had followed her and pelleted Selene and Cofagrigus itself. Purple, ghostly flames erupted from its hands, but Selene was hit too, and the purple flames danced over her. She dropped to the ground with a squawk and rolled around while Cofagrigus was flailing its hands about trying to extinguish the fire. Selene had extinguished the flames soon, got to her feet, and slashed her wing in the air. A shockwave of air, sharp as a knife, slashed at the ghost as it extinguished the flames, and two more followed immediately. It hit Selene with a dark, ghostly ball, and she staggered a bit, but continued attacking until the hands retracted into the sarcophagus and Cofagrigus fell over.
Toxica wanted to cheer for Selene as Shauntal sent out another pokémon: a huge, blue, bipedal creature, roughly shaped and with gigantic fists and feet. Toxica recognised the Golurk who had saved her from the other ghosts. It quickly nodded to her and Selene in recognition, then immediately showed why Shauntal had chosen it: it aimed both arms at Selene, and massive bolts of lightning came from them. Selene squawked as she was hit, dropping quickly with singed feathers, but she flew again before she hit the ground, firing a beam of darkness at Golurk as she rapidly flew at it, her claws stretched and dark energy flowing about her.
As Selene's attack impacted Golurk, however, its gigantic fist impacted the Honchkrow like an electrified wrecking ball, sending a bright flash through the dark tower as Selene was thrown back and crashed on the floor, skidding a bit further as a heap of smoking feathers. It seemed impossible she would recover from a Thunderpunch like that, yet a pulse of darkness shot at Golurk the next moment as Selene took off once again with surprising speed, avoiding another lightning bolt.
She made a very sharp turn, tucked her wings in, and accelerated greatly as great, fiery wind formed around her: she was trying to take both of them out with a Brave Bird attack. Golurk fired off its right leg and arm like rockets, propelling it to the left quickly to dodge the attack, but it seemed it had just been a ruse: Selene flew just by it, while shooting several Dark Pulses at Golurk. Golurk simply fell over.
As Selene flew up into the air again, Toxica cheered happily for her: they were two pokémon ahead already, maybe she wouldn't even have to fight! But then, the temperature dropped instantly as an elegant, feminine creature white as snow appeared. Ice-cold wind blew through the tower. Snow fell and the air became foggy. Selene dived for the Froslass, struggling with the icy winds she conjured up. Froslass let out a bone-chilling shriek and frigid wind roared through the tower, enveloping Selene in whiteness. The icy cloud she was in kept rushing towards Froslass, but the ghost sidestepped very nimbly, and there was suddenly a blade of ice in her hand. She stuck the blade into the cloud, and it fell to the ground, dissipated and revealing a collapsed Selene. Black swiftly returned her to her pokéball.
Toxica was shivering heavily in the icy, penetrating cold. It had probably been much colder on Victory Road, but she'd been wearing thick clothes then. “Well?” said Froslass, the blade disappeared again. “Which one of you dares to fight me?”
“I do,” said Boreas, stepping forth.
“Oh, an ice-type, how cute. You think you can beat me at my own game.”
An Ice Beam flashed over the battlefield like a bolt of lightning, but was handily parried by a wave of Boreas' paw. “Yes, I do.”
“Not bad,” patronised Froslass, “but what do you do if I do this?” The wind blew forcefully and very hard, and Toxica had to turn her flower into it to prevent being blown away. The snowstorm enveloped the battlefield, spinning towards Boreas, but it didn't hit him: it blew around him, spinning very fast, and then back towards Froslass in a straight line of a ferocious, icy gale, blowing her back. She calmed the storm down quickly. “Good, good,” she grinned, “this will be fun for me yet.”
“Too much fun, perhaps?” said Boreas, firing off a quintuplet of Ice Beams in quick succession to Froslass. She waved her arms and the storm focused around her in an instant, making her cloaked in the white snow and haze. The Ice Beams passed through without trouble, but as the thick clouds around Froslass dissipated, she was no longer there. Toxica stared wide-eyed in shock, but then saw Froslass was trying to stab Boreas with her ice blade. “H-how?” Toxica stammered.
“But can you do that?” said Froslass as her jab at Boreas was parried by a blast of ice-cold air coming the other way.
Boreas pushed the blade away with one paw and put the other to Froslass, releasing a shockwave of coldness from his paw. Froslass was thrown back and pelleted with ice and liquid air. “No, but I'm willing to learn. Can you do that?”
He pounced Froslass, cloaked in shards of ice like a comet falling to Earth, and was thrown up, tumbling, by an even larger pulse of cold, landing hard on his bum. “Yes, I can. Better than you, I might add.”
She flew through the air on the icy winds, trying to stab Boreas again, but was hit by an Ice Beam and plummeted to the ground. The wind and snow coalesced into Boreas' paw, forming a blade of ice in it, and he chopped at Froslass: just too late, as she had got up and parried with her own sword. She tried to stab Boreas, but he nimbly blocked her attack. While fencing, they were both trying to gain full control of the snowstorm that raged through the tower and had covered the entire battlefield in snow by now.
Both put forth their unused paw at the same moment, trying to unleash a pulse of cold on the other. The energy met between them, and both tried to gain the upper hand up the mighty pulse building up between them, frozen in position as they struggled. Toxica was the first to realise what would happen: “Get down!” she screeched as she dropped.
A tremendous icy explosion occurred between the two ice-types, nearly blowing Toxica away even now that she lay flat, and showering her with shards and droplets of something so cold it numbed her skin instantly. The storm blew outwards too, and hundreds of books fell from the bookcases below them. Toxica looked up, brushing the snow on her away, and saw they were still at it, though clearly hurt and even feeling cold. They were shooting Ice Beams at each other from a distance now, parrying each other's beams with pulses of cold and small flashes of dark energy. The crossfire went amazingly fast, yet they were both able to keep up with it as they resumed the snowstorm.
The storm began focusing more on Froslass, and then she was enveloped in white snow and mist again, hiding her white form. The Ice Beams stopped coming back from the cloud of snow. Boreas instantly jumped to the side, having been surprised by this trick once already, which meant the cluster of Ice Beams aiming for his head from the side where Froslass reappeared hit his flank instead. Boreas gasped with pain. “Argh, that is a nice trick...”
Froslass was determined to finish it now, barraging Boreas under attacks as they and the storm obscured him from view. Toxica winced as no Ice Beams returned from Boreas any more: it seemed someone else would have to finish Froslass.
Suddenly a comet firing off Ice Beams shot from the clouds behind Froslass; she was taken completely by surprise, hit several times, and pounced to the ground. “...So let me thank you for teaching it to me!”
She fought back with a blast of ice shards, but Boreas sent pulses of cold through her as he pinned her down, and she soon stopped struggling. Boreas was left wounded, tired, and partially frozen, but victorious.
“Woah!” gasped Toxica, “how'd you do that?!”
Boreas stuck out his tongue. “Magic.”
A dark purple balloon with tiny red eyes appeared in the air, and was instantly carried around on the stormy winds. “A Drifblim?” scoffed Aqua. “I'll bet you Boreas easily beats it.”
“I hope...” said Toxica, but she was really beginning to feel good about this. Selene and Boreas were really wrecking Shauntal's team, and if this kept up, they would win easily, and possibly without Toxica having to face a ghost at all. Boreas fired Ice Beams at Drifblim, who did nothing to dodge, but barely seemed harmed either. However, it emitted a cloud of little Will-o-Wisps that flew against the wind, straight for Boreas.
Aqua placed her tail on Toxica's shoulder friendlily. “C'mon, my cunning Boreas against a silly balloon that can barely control its own movements? It's no contest.”
Boreas fired a sustained Ice Beam right at the X that seemed to be in place of the creature's mouth, but it seemed to have no effect either. Then he had to run to avoid the swarm of Will-o-Wisps, while a new wind blew by him; it smelled dry and very old, like the stale air in a pyramid, and Boreas looked visibly weakened by it. A Will-o-Wisp impacted his tail as he blew the Drifblim about with stormy winds of his own. The purple flames quickly crept up it, but fortunately he quickly began rolling in the snow, extinguishing most of them.
But a foul voice emanated from the Drifblim, speaking in a strange and malicious language, and the flames rapidly spread instead, despite Boreas' rolling. He burst into ghostly flame, screaming in agony as he tried desperately to extinguish it with snow and ice. Terror filled Toxica again; terror for the gruesome ghost-type that could make you combust with just a simple Hex. Aqua's tail left her shoulder as she rushed forward, enveloped in a wave of water and running to save her lover.
“I retract Boreas!” said Black just in time before Aqua too would have been disqualified. The Vaporeon, now the centre of a wave of water and snow, jumped onto Boreas and fortunately the flames proved easer to extinguish with water. “Lucius,” said Black, “it's your turn, be careful!”
“Careful is my middle name,” said Lucius as he stepped forward.
“Don't you need a last name to have a middle one?” said Selene.
“Shut up,” Lucius said as a charred, wounded Boreas was helped off the battlefield by Aqua. “Let's see if I can hurt this thing.”
He took a deep breath and exhaled a huge torrent of fire that made Toxica take several steps back, catching Drifblim right in the middle of it. Heat spread through the tower rapidly, quickly heating up the frigid air and melting much of the snow. It was unbelievable, but Drifblim only looked a little charred by the inferno; barely damaged. A thin yellow beam of electricity hit Lucius. “Ack!” he yelped. “One persistent bastard, are you? Take this!”
The darkness of the tower focussed in a single pulse that fired from Lucius to Drifblim. Once again, there was barely any result.
“Drifblims are quite impervious to damage,” said Octa.
“Really, mister wise-ass?” snarled Lucius. “Hadn't noticed that yet! Argh!” He yelped as he was hit by another beam of electricity, making his fur stand on edge.
“I was merely explaining,” said Octa annoyed, “you have to keep hitting it.”
“Well, captain Obvious, then why don't you let me get on with it instead of distracting me?” Lucius began shooting another Dark Pulse at Drifblim as Octa grumbled angrily.
It was a surprisingly boring battle compared to the rapid exchange of attacks between Boreas and Froslass. Drifblim just bobbed around and would hit Lucius with attacks while Lucius continually fired flames and darkness at it until it finally went down. “About time,” grumbled Lucius.
A floating, pink, eldritch creature appeared. Its frilled tentacles, crown, pink collar, and kissy mouth made it look absolutely ridiculous on a certain level. But that level was completely overshadowed by the incredibly unsettling and creepy way it moved, the staring emptiness of its eyes, and the way it looked like only an impersonation of a living thing. Lucius ran for the low-floating Jellicent, his mouth opened and ready to bite the floating terror. He jumped, and Jellicent swirled around with amazing speed, catching Lucius in a powerful beam of water that hit the wall so hard it sounded like rocks hitting it. Lucius was launched back, caught by the water, and crumpled onto the floor, clearly out for the count.
Toxica was shivering, as much at the Jellicent's deeply unsettling appearance as the knowledge they ate souls, and that no ship that had ever gone into Jellicent-infested waters had returned. So when Octa drew his blade and slithered forth, she was scared for him, even if he had been a jerk to her today. A storm began once again, but this time it wasn't a cold one, but it was full of leaves sharper than knives being blown around. Aqua quickly put up a veil of water to protect them from the leaves, and Jellicent did the same. However, since the attack was directed at Jellicent, part of it still got through and hit it. It didn't even bleed: only water came from its wounds.
It struck back with a wave of toxic pink sludge. Octa slithered away, but it caught up with him, and Toxica could see his pain as the stuff burned his skin. Moving quickly, he reached his eldritch opponent and stabbed at her with his Leaf Blade, creating more wounds, though the Jellicent's face remained empty. Its attempts to strike back with its tentacles were parried with Octa's blade, and it received several more stabs. Suddenly Jellicent spun rapidly, its tentacles a blur of speed, and Octa was thrown back. He got up, shot a ball of green energy at Jellicent, and then suddenly froze. Toxica wondered what was going on, but then saw Jellicent's empty eyes glow red.
“Kyogre's fins, it's using a psychic attack!” Toxica saw Octa cringe and try to fight back.
Jellicent chuckled. “Well, well, you're planning to break up with the little flower girl? I can't say I blame you.”
Anger welled up in Toxica like a fire. “Hey, keep out of his head and stop lying!”
“But it's no lie,” said Jellicent as its eyes stopped glowing and Octa collapsed. “Is it?”
Octa lay on the ground, panting and defeated. He looked Toxica up, and she saw it in his eyes. “I... I'm sorry...”
Toxica was furious, devastated and speechless. Before she could ask Octa for an explanation, Jellicent finished him off. She trembled. Aqua looked her in the eyes. “I'll fight it. But you'll probably have to finish the battle; you have to regain your cool.”
Toxica realised she was right: Jellicent had brought the battle back to an equal standing, with each side having two pokémon left. Though rage against Octa filled her, she tried to distract herself by remembering what Shauntal's final pokémon was: she sighed when she remembered it was the scariest of all ghost-types, Chandelure. She really wished Aqua would defeat Jellicent, because Toxica would stand no chance against a Chandelure on her own.
The two water-types had been fighting for a while, flooding the field with water all the time. Jellicent was already weakened, but could use ghost attacks to great effect. Aqua resorted to trying to bite her opponent. She rushed towards it in the middle of a wave, launched herself up, and dug her teeth into the gelatinous abomination. As she bit, causing more water to flow from its wounds, Aqua was grabbed by Jellicent's tentacles. She fought against them, and bit down hard in one of them so the floating jellyfish retracted it, but there were too many. She was wrapped by the tentacles, and Toxica knew they would lose at that moment. There was no way she was going to defeat the Jellicent who had defeated their three strongest fighters, and then take on a Chandelure as well. It was better this way, she decided. She could just give up without having to face the ghosts, as she stood no chance anyway. It was much easier and less scary.
She felt rage coalescing into something very hard and very tough. Something that really wanted to hurt Jellicent for hurting her friend, show that git Octa what he'd thrown away, and prove that even if she was terrified of the ghosts, she could still kick their gaseous arses. She was terrified, to be sure, and would love to give up, but if she did, she knew the power she felt inside her would never forgive her. She walked forward resolutely as Aqua fell unconsciously from her enemy's tentacles and adjusted her flower with her hands so she was ready to fight. Two balls of glowing green energy formed in her hands.
“It's the little flower girl!” sneered Jellicent arrogantly. “You'd better give up right now if you don't want me to do horrible things to your fragile little soul.”
She kept walking resolutely.
“Even your boyfriend knows you're weak and mediocre, worthless compared to your companions; it's why he dumped you. And I just beat three of them. I could eat your very soul. Do you think a scared little walking flower like you is going to defeat me?”
“That's just about the size of it, yeah.” She threw the Energy Ball in her right hand, but Jellicent suddenly showed itself to be very fast, dodging the attack and racing for Toxica. She had got as far as lifting up her left arm to throw the second Energy Ball when she was stopped by an incredibly powerful mind assailing her own like the sea bursting through a crack in the dike and ravaging the land. She was aware Jellicent was right in front of her, but as the tremendous tidal wave of thought bashed the cold hard anger that had driven her away, she couldn't bring herself to attack the ancient ocean that was in her mind. It was futile to fight it; nothing could defeat such force; such depth. Her defiance was easily washed away, and the mind tore the layers of her mind away with ease. Her fear, her love, her anger, everything was torn away...
Leaving only her core.
She threw the Energy Ball right between Jellicent's eyes. A piercing scream was everywhere, the wave in her mind boiled away instantly, and her mind was once again her own as Jellicent collapsed, looking as pathetic as a beached jellyfish. She realised now how silly she'd been to fear it.
The sound of a pokémon appearing sounded, and the tower was bathed in blue light. She turned around. A black chandelier with a ghostly face floated, five bright blue flames burning off it. The Chandelure could probably incinerate her with a single attack.
“Surrender,” it said, “I'll burn your soul and leave your body a mindless shell. What's it going to be? Give up or-”
“No.” Toxica aimed her flower and shot a bomb of toxic pollen right at its head. It screeched and its flames burnt an angry green as Toxica quickly threw a pair of Energy Balls at it before she jumped away from the giant flames it spewed at her. The blistering heat from the barely-missed inferno hurt her greatly, and she wished she could use a Solarbeam. Unfortunately, it was impossible to take in enough energy in the darkness. She instead used Energy Balls and poisonous attacks, so determined to win she barely noticed the pain when she got hit; it only made her angrier.
Yet all the dodging of flames drove her to the edge of the plateau soon. As another wave of flame headed her way, she jumped down onto the circulating stairs, landing on the books that had fallen out of their bookcases by the battle. She picked a couple of heavy volumes up, ignoring the searing pain in her flower, and threw them right into Chandelure's face as it floated after her; it was knocked back by the heavy impacts.
She realised then the pain in her flower had gotten much worse and was spreading rapidly; she was on fire! She bashed her flower repeatedly into the empty bookcase to extinguish it, but made sure to absorb energy from the bright light of the fire at the same time. When Chandelure showed up again, angry, she pointed her flower and lit up the entire tower with a Solarbeam. Chandelure fell on the ground and she jumped on top of it immediately, smashing a heavy book on its head repeatedly. She kept smashing and smashing, until finally the ghost disappeared from under her. She looked around ferociously, and saw Shauntal standing with a pokéball in her hand.
“Amazing,” said Shauntal. “Absolutely amazing. I really wasn't expecting to lose. Maybe N is right about you...”
Toxica didn't listen to the conversation any more; she realised she had won! She had actually defeated Chandelure all by herself, and Jellicent too. Ghosts didn't seem so scary any more... She was about to put the heavy book down, but then she remembered Octa's face might be a better place to put it.
A very great chapter!
Before the battle, Selene was full of lulz. xD
The battle was very well done. Quick but still detailed and not even sounding rushed. Too bad, for it does look like Octa's going to dump Toxica... =/ Sigh...
Oh well, awaiting for the next chapter~
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was fun to just let my mind drift in crazy directions and have Selene ramble a shaggy frog story to Toxica.
Chapter Sixty-Seven: Brain and Brawn
Boreas burst into Octa's room. “We need to talk.”
The Serperior frowned. “The civilised thing to do is to knock on one's door and request entrance.”
“Yes, I know. But I'm bursting into your room and telling you we're going to talk and we're going to do it right now.”
Octa sighed. “I know what this is about, my dear fellow, and I ask you not to get involved in it. I already had a word with Toxica.”
“So I heard. As did the entire rest of the League. That shouting match also sounded like she didn't make you see reason, so that's why I'm here instead.”
“Do not presume to lecture me on reason,” said Octa icily.
“Look,” said Boreas, “this is really very simple. Do you love Toxica or don't you?”
“Of course I do. However, you are naïvely mistaken. My dear fellow, 'tis not as simple as that, and I'm afraid love has nothing to do with it.”
Boreas sat down. “Of course it is. And why would it be any less simple than you loving her and she loving you?”
While Octa seemed calm at first glance, Boreas could clearly hear the hint of suppressed emotion – probably anger and maybe sadness - in his voice. “Because much though I wish I could give in to my love for a commoner like her, there is too much at stake for it. Our love is detrimental to me, and has already eroded much of my nobility.”
Boreas rolled his eyes and gave Octa a disbelieving look. “You can't seriously be back to that rubbish again.”
“Rubbish?!” said Octa angrily. “Yes, I thought 'twas rubbish as well; you actually had me convinced of it. But now there is empirical evidence to suggest 'tis no mere rubbish.”
“My failure on Victory Road, of course. I'm sure you remember when I simply lay down and waited for death to come in the darkest hour.”
Boreas did remember it, with a pang of regret. It was not one of his proudest memories. “How we lay down and waited for death, you mean. Following my example... That wasn't your fault, Octa, it was mine.”
“Irrelevant. It makes my shame worse, as a matter of fact. I am of the house of Equinox; I should have led you on, never giving up hope. The fact I didn't shows how diminished I have become.”
“But it seemed certain we were going to die. It had all the looks that no amount of bravery would save us. And you even tried to get me to continue...”
“And then my heart faltered and I gave up too. The apparent hopelessness of the situation was no excuse; I should never have surrendered regardless; 'tis not becoming of one of noble blood.”
Boreas frowned. “So you blame Toxica for it.”
“No!” Octa almost shouted. “I blame myself! She is a truly wonderful lady deserving of love; however, I never should have broken tradition and courted her. 'Tis this breaking of tradition, my family's wishes, that caused me to diminish. An Equinox is nothing if he doesn't follow the rules. It was folly to presume to be wiser than thirty-four generations of my ancestors.”
“Octa,” sighed Boreas, “I've told you before: what's the point of following bad rules? You think following rules and being descended from the right people makes you a good person, but I think you're wrong. What's important is the choices you make.”
“Very wise,” sneered Octa, “but you are mistaken. And 'tis my life in any case; why do you interfere?”
“Because you're my friend, because Toxica is my friend, because I want you both to be happy, and... Because I promised Capella.”
“Yes, Capella. We found out about your family's habits shortly before she died, and promised each other we would get you together with someone you loved, not someone chosen for you. Since she's no longer around to help you with her wisdom, I'll have to do it on my own.”
“Ah, you promised,” said Octa sarcastically. “And merely a minute ago you explained to me the choices you make are important, not doing things because you are obligated to. And as you have clearly demonstrated in the past, promises are subject to this as well.”
Boreas frowned angrily. “If you want to play it like that, then alright: I choose to keep to that promise. Because I liked Capella greatly, and for some reason that escapes me right now I like you too. So I will make sure you don't throw your happiness away.”
“Then do not interfere in my life,” said Octa, “how can I possibly be happy if my relationship with Toxica makes me less noble?”
“Don't you realise that even if that were true, you are being very egotistic? You're breaking her heart because you don't want to make a bit of a sacrifice!”
Octa looked confused and surprised. “Well... I, I hadn't thought of it in that manner...”
“D'you know who you sound like with all this? Your great-aunt. But if you can't break your family's rules because it'll weaken you, why are you even talking to me? I'm just a common Glaceon, after all, with not a clue who his family is beyond his parents' names. Your ancestors would never consider me more than a lowly subordinate, our frienship is against your family's traditions too.”
“An obsolete idea only practised in the past and by those determined to repeat its mistakes.”
“Yeah, and so is the idea you have to love who your family tells you to! What's such an important distinction between friendship and love that makes one okay but the other not anyway?”
“You are unlikely to birth my children. I can't take their noble blood away from them. Now please,” said Octa, with almost breaking voice, “leave me alone.”
Boreas ignored it. “That's crap, Octa, and you've known it for ages! Your descendants won't be any lower for descending from Toxica! She's every bit as good as any member of your house.”
“YES!” Boreas startled heavily as Octa shouted furiously. “YES, SHE IS! BUT I WON'T BE IF I CONTINUE LIKE THIS! My love for her has embarked me upon a descent from greatness! If I continue like this, I'll end up cowardly, weak, and mundane... And so will my descendants.” Octa suddenly turned away from Boreas and added with breaking voice: “Leave me in peace now, please.”
“Oh, so your genes are actually going to change because of what you do in life? That's a form of evolution I've never heard of. You're not worried about your descendants, they'll have the same genes no matter what. No, the only person you're worried about is you.”
Octa was still turned away. “Leave me alone,” he said in a muffled voice.
“You're worried you won't be able to admire yourself in the mirror any more, you're worried the great Octavianus VII of the house of Equinox will be remembered as just some ordinary fellow. If you're remembered at all.”
“You're being incredibly selfish! And for no reason at all-”
“GET OUT!” Octa shouted, fury in his eyes. “LEAVE ME ALONE!”
Boreas was shocked by the sudden outburst and staggered back, but was determined to continue. “No, I won't! The only reason you're this furious is because you know I'm right, and it hurts!”
“Get out, or you'll be the one who is hurt!”
“I'm willing to be hurt to help you,” growled Boreas.
“I do not want your help!” snapped Octa.
“Octa, you don't like to lie. So tell me, honestly, that you don't love Toxica and that you're trying to preserve your noble blood for anyone but yourself! I will leave if you do!”
For a moment it looked as if Octa was going to attack him, but then the anger seemed to leave him and he looked deflated and weak, letting his head hang. “I cannot. Please forgive me, my dear fellow...”
Boreas was surprised by the sudden moodswing, but remembering how he had felt when he had discovered Aqua had joined N, felt more sympathetic towards Octa. “I can forgive you, but it's not me you should be asking for forgiveness; it's Toxica.”
“I'm sorry, my dear fellow, but I fear I cannot do that... You see, in life one has to ask oneself an important question: who am I? I have known the answer for a long time; I am a descendant of the great Equinox. It defined who and what I am, my behaviour, my thinking. I cannot give that up, for it is who I am.”
Boreas put a friendly paw on Octa's neck. “Nonsense,” he smiled, “that's not really who you are. You're my best friend. You're Toxica's lover. You're, well, Octa. The Snivy who took care of a little Eevee when he had no-one else in the world to turn to. Who's had my back ever since and saved my life many times. You've fought to help others from Team Plasma. You've always been there for me; that's who you really are, not the distant descendant of a long-dead hero.”
“Thank you, my dear fellow... But the reason I am who I am is my blood; it makes me who I am; therefore I can't relinquish it.”
“Landorus, Octa,” snapped Boreas, “you descend from Equinox by thirty-five generations. How much of his genes do you think you actually have? Tell me, how much is one divided by two to the thirty-fifth power?”
“Not much,” mumbled Octa.
“That's right, it's as good as zero. I'll bet you I contain about as much of his genes as you.”
“You're a different species,” said Octa.
“Oh yeah,” said Boreas. “So I am. Still, don't you see that 'blood' stuff you keep talking about is poetic rubbish? It's just simple logic.”
Octa was at a loss for words. “But... Please, my dear fellow, you are not helping. You're only lowering my morale with this.”
“No. I've never argued against your belief your ancestry makes you a better person, but now it's hurting you and Toxica, so I'm forced to try to end it. But let me tell you: you're a good Serperior. Not because of who you descend from, but because you choose to be. You choose to be utterly loyal to your friends, you choose to fight to try to make the world a better place, you choose not to give in to terror.”
“Tell me,” said Octa snidely, “for how long have you embraced this philosophy of choice you're spouting?”
Boreas blushed. “Well... To tell you the truth I made it up just now. But it sounds good.”
“Yet you will likely have forgotten about it in a week or so.”
“No, I won't.”
“You will; mark my words. However, I should know better by now than to question your chaotic nature. I shall take your words under consideration, for you may have made a good argument. However, right now I do think I should retire to bed, for it is late.”
“Fine,” said Boreas. “But I really want you to think about it.”
“I shall,” said Octa. “Goodnight, my dear fellow.”
“Goodnight.” Boreas slowly walked out of the room, concerned but happy he had made Octa think twice about breaking up. He sighed deeply as he closed the door behind him, suddenly overcome with exhaustion. He slouched back to his room, worried about Octa. He yawned loudly as he entered his own room and went straight for the bed. As he crawled under the big, warm blanket, a pretty blue face suddenly popped up next to him.
Boreas' worries seemed to melt away in front of Aqua's enchanting smile, though not his tiredness. “How did it go?” she asked.
He pet her face a bit, enjoying the feel of her soft fur. “It wasn't easy, but I think I got through to him. He's going to think about it...”
Aqua chuckled, a sound that made Boreas feel happy just like that. “You must've been very persuasive; I didn't think you could do anything after that lengthy shouting match they had earlier.”
“Well...” said Boreas, having trouble keeping his eyes open. “It took a lot of convincing...”
“And it tired you out. Well, go on, my love, sleep and rest here in my arms.”
Boreas snuggled up to her closely, relishing in the contact with her, and kissed her goodnight. “Goodnight... My lovely Aqua...”
As he drifted off to sleep, he felt Aqua softly petting him. On the border of sleep, he could only think of how much he loved her, and then felt regret remembering he still hadn't told her...
As they walked into the main League building, Boreas' mind was elsewhere. He had dreamt about the day they had teamed up with N that night. It had refreshed his guilt over his plans to kill Diego, but especially his guilt for not having told Aqua yet. As he woke up with her sleeping peacefully in his arms, he felt like he didn't deserve her love. But what if she felt the same? It would be terrible if she thought he didn't deserve her love too and broke up with him. Yet he loved her too much to keep deceiving her; he was going to tell her today. He just needed to find a good moment for it. It certainly wasn't when she woke up, nor during the incredibly silent and awkward breakfast that followed and involved Toxica shooting dagger-like glances at Octa.
They had reached Marshal's tower while he pondered this. The room inside was quite ugly and metallic, with a metal platform on rails that took them up; it felt a bit similar to a factory floor. There was a simple fighting ring at the top, surrounded by ropes and then tall fences. On the other side of the ring stood a huge, muscular man. He stood so still and was so huge he could easily be mistaken for a statue.
Black said: “My name is-”
A loud, deep voice like thunder interrupted him. “Do you wish to challenge me?”
Marshal's voice took Boreas back more than a year, to a fierce and stormy day in Nimbasa when he had heard that same voice say the exact same thing. “Well, well,” he chuckled, “I was wondering if we'd see him again here...”
“Well, yes,” said Black a little nonplussed. “I'm here to challenge you. Again. Like in Nacrene City, because I'm pretty sure that was you. But this time, I-”
Marshal roared a guttural battle cry and threw a pokéball, releasing a green creature with a long tail and a mushroom-like head. “Hold on!” interrupted Black. “Tell me what you were doing in Nacrene, and why you won't let me fight N!”
“Fight, don't talk!” roared Marshal.
“Fine. Selene, you're up first!”
Selene jumped into the air, and Boreas' hope soared with her. There was no way a flying type like her was going to lose to a grass and fighting type like Breloom. It would be good to start the battle off with an easy victory. Selene floated over the battlefield in preparation for an attack, leaving the fighting type chanceless to even hit her at all.
Or so Boreas thought. Because Breloom launched itself into the air, twisted around, and caught Selene hard with the heavy end of its tail, sending her tumbling into the roof with great force. Boreas cursed under his breath as she whirled down slowly, like a leaf in autumn. But just before she would hit the ground, Selene spread her wings and swooped rapidly at Breloom. The effect of her attack was incredible: Breloom was thrown across the battlefield and caught by the ring ropes. It hopped to its feet and tried to hit Selene with a Jump Kick, but the crow dodged it. Selene flew at it again, her talons ready, and scratched it. Breloom fell down and didn't get up again.
Wordlessly, Marshall withdrew Breloom and sent out Conkeldurr. Boreas was surprised with its small size; he remembered it being huge, but it wasn't much taller than he'd be if he got up on two legs. But the comically red-nosed creature was very strong regardless of size. It had taken out their entire team almost single-handedly last time, after all.
Selene once again swooped down at her enemy. But as she came close rapidly, Conkeldurr swung one of its concrete pillars like a baseball bat. Boreas groaned as Selene was swatted out of the air like a fly.
Toxica stepped in, an Energy Ball in each hand. Conkeldurr growled in pain as it was hit by them, and angrily tried to smash Toxica with one of its pillars. Toxica nimbly dodged the great piece of stone coming down and slapped Conkeldurr with a burst of green energy. She emitted a thick cloud of pollen from her flower, but then Conkeldurr caught her with a punch that sent her flying into the ropes. Bruised and hurt, she got back up and dived immediately to dodge her enemy's body slam. She jumped on its back, and roots grew rapidly from her feet. Conkeldurr jumped up, but Toxica hung from its back by the roots. Judging by Conkeldurr's face and pained growls, it didn't exactly feel pleasant.
Conkeldurr maniacally tried to pluck Toxica from its back, but its huge, muscular arms weren't agile enough to reach its back. It waddled idiotically while trying to pick her off as it got visibly weaker. Marshall shouted a command, and Conkeldurr dropped on its back immediately, crushing Toxica under it.
Boreas stepped forward; it was his turn. “Long time no see,” he said, “remember me?” He cooled the air in the tower as he talked, hoping he could keep the burly creature distracted with talk while he made the battlefield more to his advantage. “I beat you, and this time I- Articuno's oesophagus!”
Sprinting away while at the same time hitting it with a powerful wind were the only things that saved him from being crushed by the heavy stone pillar Conkeldurr threw at him. Yet he felt a vicious pain as he was pelleted by shrapnel from its impact. He noticed a massive fist coming at him, and so he immediately dived under the legs of his opponent so the punch harmlessly hit his tail instead.
Boreas dug his teeth into Conkeldurr's leg and ran for it, summoning a snowstorm as he did. A mighty impact to his flank that threw him off his feet painfully told him he wasn't fast enough. Spun around, he now faced the furious, roaring Conkeldurr, which lifted up its heavy fists, ready to crush Boreas. Boreas Ice Beamed its belly, making it flinch in pain and giving him a chance to dodge the punch. He ran for the other side of the ring, gathering a storm, as he realised he had no chance unless he kept his distance.
He heard his opponent run after him, however, so he jumped into the ropes instead of stopping and was bounced back by them, past his confused opponent. He lashed out and enveloped his opponent in cold from behind, cloaking it in mist. Conkeldurr charged him furiously, so he froze over the ground in front of its feet, making it slip and fall. Cloaking himself in a fierce blizzard, he pounced his fallen enemy, but was knocked away by a huge fist.
Groaning in pain, he tried to get up when he landed hard, but his battered legs didn't cooperate. Conkeldurr ran for him like a stampeding rhino by the time he got up. Thinking quickly, he focussed the snowstorm around himself, making sure he was as good as invisible to Conkeldurr, then simply sidestepped. Conkeldurr punched blindly into the icy haze, and Boreas simply sneaked out of the side, repressing the urge to laugh at the fighting-type punching into the cloud. He walked to its other side and aimed a strong Ice Beam right at its neck. He fired it, and jumped onto its back, holding on as he kept Ice Beaming. It responded furiously and violently, but quickly calmed down and fell over.
Boreas heard Aqua cheer for his victory, and winked at her quickly before facing his next opponent: a thin, elegant white creature with long, oddly-shaped arms. Remembering what had happened last time he fought the Mienshao, he instantly put forth his paws to use a pulse of cold: a good choice, as the ermine had run for him so fast he couldn't even see it, but was intercepted and knocked down by the pulse just in time. He pounced it, slashing at it with his claws and ice cold wind.
He put his paws on his opponent's shoulders and channelled extreme cold through them, seeking to disable Mienshao's punches. Unfortunately it punched him off and began barraging him with rapid punches. Yet their speed and power was lower than before, so his tactic seemed to have worked. Unfortunately the rapid punches still felt like a rain of heavy stones battering down on his body. He slashed at Mienshao with his claws and pulses of cold to knock it away, then instantly followed up with an Ice Beam to its face.
He cloaked himself in the snowstorm to try and escape the attacks, but unfortunately Mienshao was a lot faster and smarter than Conkeldurr. It got several punches to Boreas' head, which made his snout bleed and his mind go foggy. But he kept fighting back and caught it with several Ice Beams, making it go down first.
Battered, wounded, and concussed he wasn't in a good form to defeat the Sawk that appeared. The blue, suited creature deftly dodged his Ice Beams and closed in. When its powerful fist connected with Boreas' chin and his consciousness drifted away, he wasn't really surprised.
Boreas woke up in a soft, warm bed in his room. He decided to skip the obvious “Where am I?” and “What happened?” questions for now, and asked: “Did we win?”
“Well, well,” chuckled Aqua, “Sleeping Beauty finally woke up! Yes, we won, albeit only barely. No thanks to me, though, Sawk punched me out pretty quickly after it got you.”
“Oh, that's a shame,” said Boreas, though he was mainly happy they had defeated another Elite Four. “But I'm sure you'll do well tomorrow. I know you're very capable of kicking ass.”
With a graceful jump, Aqua landed on the bed and on Boreas at a right angle, quickly rolling over so she faced him in a flirty, sexy pose. “Yes, you found that out first-hand, didn't you?”
Boreas blushed for several reasons. “Yeah, I guess I did. It's not really an experience I'd care to repeat. That fight was probably the only day I haven't enjoyed your company.”
“I wouldn't want to repeat it either,” said Aqua, petting his face. “By the way, you're still very cute when you blush.”
“Thanks,” chuckled Boreas, “but I'm afraid I don't have time for fun now. I have to go pay Gaius a visit.”
“The very same. I figure it can't be a coincidence that Octa's being an idiot right after he shows up, so I'm going to make him stop his meddling.”
“What if he doesn't listen to you?”
“Well, in that case he'll find out you're not the only one in this bed capable of kicking ass.”
As Boreas entered Gaius' room, he briefly wondered how many pokémon had rooms of their own in the League. But this thought was quickly pushed away by more urgent matters.
“I do not have much time to waste,” said Gaius in a voice that sounded oddly like Octa's, “and only agreed to receive you at my brother's request. So please do not tarry and make your point.”
Gaius looked oddly like Octa, yet was also different. He had a far more impressive air of grandeur about him, although it was slightly mitigated because Boreas had only ever seen him look as if there was a rotten fish glued beneath his nose. Boreas faked a smile, remembering Octa had told him to be diplomatic to Gaius when Boreas had asked him to speak to his brother. “Good evening to you too. I'm not here to make a point, just to have a little chat with you about Octa.”
“I figured as much. However, I do not have any intention to discuss my brother with the likes of you.”
Boreas forced his smile to broaden. “Come now, who better to discuss him with than his best friend?”
Gaius snorted haughtily. “Any member of our house. 'Best friend' is an empty boast, so do not employ it, for you know Octa far less well than I do.”
Boreas gritted his teeth, but kept smiling. “If that's true, then surely you know even better than me that this ridiculous idea he has is causing him to be unhappy, and you'll help me convince him to apologise to Toxica?”
Gaius guffawed. “Now I see why Octa requested me to speak to you: he wished for me to have a good laugh. So tell me,” he said, suddenly serious, “why should I oppose Octa's wise choice?”
“I already told you: being with Toxica makes him happy; isn't that reason enough?”
Gaius smiled wryly. “What has happiness got to do with it?”
“What has happiness got to do with it?! Listen to me, you-” Boreas remembered he was trying to be diplomatic, “-brother of Octa, don't you see love has everything to do with happiness?”
“I see,” said Gaius, “you are speaking of your own experiences, aren't you?”
“Well, yes. I'm in love with this girl, and I relish every moment of being with her. She makes me feel completely happy whenever I'm with her, or even whenever I think of her. When she smiles or laughs, the world feels like a better place. How can you claim to love Octa and yet try to take that away from him?”
“Do you have any progeny, sir?” asked Gaius, surprising Boreas.
“Children,” Gaius patronised. “Offspring. Cubs. Spawn. Larvae. Whatever word you wish to apply to them.”
“I know what it means!” snapped Boreas. “You just surprised me, that's all. No, I don't have any.”
“Do you and your partner intend to have any?”
Boreas stammered unsurely. He couldn't remember ever having talked about it with Aqua. He didn't really think he wanted them himself, considering the enormous amount of time and trouble it would be to raise a child, not to mention how easy it would be to screw up and have some poor Eevee grow up with a bad youth. Yet there was also something appealing about the idea. “I... I... Don't think we do. I suppose we don't. I think. Probably.”
Now it was Gaius' turn to be surprised. “You don't... Know?! How can you not have an inkling about such a major choice? Surely if you have any plan for your life whatsoever this choice must be one of the most important ones?”
“I guess I'm not really someone who tends to make long-term plans. What has it got to do with anything, anyway?”
Gaius sighed. “Well, Octa does intend to have progeny. You probably don't understand this, but both Octa and I already love these hypothetical nephews and nieces of mine; and this is unconditional. Therefore, we want that which is best for them. Answer me this: what is better for them? To be born with the same gift of nobility we have, or to have it brutally robbed from them and have them be born Oddishes?”
Boreas gritted his teeth angrily. “The best for them would be to have a father and a mother who adore each other and them, not a pair who were forced to be together by a family who treats them like breeding stock!”
Gaius' face hardened. “How dare you, sir?!”
Anger exploded in Boreas like a seething volcano. “No, how dare you! You think you're better than the rest of us just because of who your ancestors are?! Because of something completely trivial like that, which you didn't even have anything to do with yourself?! At least Octa really has the greatness he claims, but because of who he is, not who his ancestors are! You, on the other hand, are nothing but a petty, control-happy tyrant who has stuck his head so far up his own arse he's well on his way to becoming a Klein bottle!”
“This discussion is over. Get out!” snarled Gaius.
“Fine! I can see you're blinded with arrogance and entitlement; there's no reasoning with you.” He stomped out of the room, then looked back. “One last piece of advice: don't ever get in the way of my friends' happiness again if you ever want to feel warm again.”
Gaius slammed the door shut, nearly catching Boreas' tail in it. He began to walk back furiously, making it hail from the clouds above in anger. At least he'd remained diplomatic for a while.
I already wrote my comment on dA, but oh, what the heck, right? xD
Good chapter. Kinda sad that the battle was cut, even though I was expecting it to be, since Boreas is weak against fighting types, and the story is viewed through him, except for the other parts of the previous chapters, of course~
Glad that Boreas gave Octa something more to think about. I really think his brother's too stuck to their tradition-whatever.
Anyway, awaiting for the next chapter~
And I have already answered it on dA, but what the heck indeed.
When Boreas finally got back from Gaius, he was clearly angry and tired, so Aqua gently guided him to bed and got into it as well. The great soft warmness of the bed was delightful as always. Even though she wasn't too fond of humans, she could easily get used to sleeping in one of these delightful things. But she couldn't wallow in the snuggliness now: Boreas obviously wanted to talk to her, but wasn't sure how to start. So she asked: “How did it go? Did that git listen to you?”
“No,” said Boreas, “it really went about as well as expected. I tried to be diplomatic, he was an elitist jerk, I lost my temper and ended up shouting at him. But he did say something... Well, something thought-provoking.”
“He asked... Well, it's a bit odd, but he asked whether we wanted cubs.”
Aqua did not expect that. “Cubs?”
“Children, offspring, progeny, sp-”
“Oh, thanks,” quipped Aqua, “I had no idea what that word meant.”
“Sorry.” Boreas smiled cutely and apologetically.
Aqua thought about it. She wondered what Boreas' own thoughts were. “Well...” she said unsurely. “I guess I've never really given it much thought. But we are both adults, and I do love you a great deal, so it's something to consider. I mean, if I wanted cubs, I would want them with you.”
“Well, do you want them?” asked Boreas.
“I'm... Really not sure. It would be neat to have little Eevees to raise together, I guess.”
Aqua grinned. “Neat?”
“Sorry,” Boreas chuckled. “Splendid, I mean. Splendid to have little cubs that we could raise together with love. But...” he trailed off.
Aqua nodded. “I know. It's a big responsibility, taking care of cubs. And it would take an awful lot of time. It'd practically be a matter of changing our entire lives.”
“And,” added Boreas, “while we're still fighting Team Plasma, it wouldn't really be right to have cubs. Either or both of us could be gone next week, after all.”
Aqua nodded solemnly. “You're right. We'd have to wait at least until this is over...” As Aqua considered both possibilities, she began to realise she liked a future with only Boreas over one with him and a family. Yet she also knew she could reconsider if Boreas did want it. Cautiously, she asked: “So what do you think?”
“Well...” said Boreas after long deliberation. “It'd be an enormous burden, and an even bigger responsibility. We'd be responsible for making another being's life turn out well. I think right now I would prefer not to have cubs. But I'm not sure, and if you-”
“I agree,” said Aqua. “I mean, look at it from the perspective of those cubs: you're impatient, impulsive, a little short-tempered, and occasionally reckless. So am I. Would you want to have me as your mother and you as your father?”
Boreas laughed. “I guess you're right, we'd probably make for poor parents.”
Aqua briefly imagined herself playing with their cubs and wondered if they were dismissing parenthood too fast... But then remembered the flip-side of it, and how much trouble she had been to her parents. She giggled a bit thinking of how much of a pain she had probably been to them as an Eevee.
That was odd: she could think of her family without feeling down. For a very long time, the thought of her family had been deeply saddening, as she longed back to them, but knew she could never return to them. They thought she was dead, and they might as well be dead to her. But no longer: she didn't feel sad thinking of them, and she knew why. She had found a new true home, where she was loved and never alone: at Boreas' side.
She hugged Boreas tightly and began kissing him, full of happiness that he was hers. Yet Boreas still seems concerned and preoccupied. “What's wrong?” asked Aqua.
Boreas sighed. “Well, there's something I've wanted to tell you about for a while, but I never could bring myself to do it. I might as well tell you now, but it's not really nice to admit... But you have the right to know who I am.”
“This is where you drop your illusion and reveal yourself as Diego?” joked Aqua.
Boreas frowned. “I'm serious, Aqua!”
“Well, it's actually got to do with Diego. You know we allied temporarily on Victory Road with N before you found us?”
“Well, what I didn't tell you is...” he took a deep breath. “During the alliance, I was planning to kill Diego. I wanted to attack him from behind during the battle and murder him by surprise. And then he... He saved my life. I would be dead if it wasn't for him, who I was planning to kill. In some way... I'm as bad as he is.”
Aqua considered this for a while. On the one hand, she thought he was overreacting a lot, yet for some reason something about it really bothered her. “I don't think you're worse than Diego,” she reassured him, still trying to work out what was nagging at her mind so badly. “In fact, I think it's a shame you didn't actually kill him, because he deserves to die after all he's done to both of us.”
Boreas was clearly surprised. “Really?”
“Really. The single good deed of saving you doesn't make up for all he's done before. Yet... This may not be important to me, but it clearly is to you.” Aqua began to realise what had bothered her, and it made her feel pretty annoyed, in fact.
“Well, yes,” said Boreas. “It was. I felt really bad about it for a while, but-”
“Yet you neglected to tell me,” snapped Aqua. “You've had two whole months with me since then in which you could tell me.”
“I... It was hard for me to admit. And I was terrified you'd leave me over it.”
“In the name of Kyogre's dorsal fin, Boreas, I can understand you not telling me right away, but two months? You thought this was so important, but you didn't bother telling me. Well, I'm only the girl you've just been talking about having children with! How many times in those two months have you told me you loved me, or kissed me, or made love to me? All the while keeping this supposedly enormous secret from me.”
Boreas cast his eyes down. “Sorry. I know I should've told you... But as you said, it's not that important; it's just Diego.”
“That's not the point! It doesn't matter that I don't find it that important now, what matters is that you did! You love me, and yet you keep major secrets from me.”
“Not secrets, just a secret,” interjected Boreas. “And now no more; I've told it to you.”
Aqua sighed angrily. “Until the next one! If we're going to make this relationship work out between us, I have to know what you're thinking.”
“You want to know what I'm thinking now? Well, right now, I'm thinking you're being overly controlling and a little invasive!”
“I don't mean your every thought, but when something major is in your mind, you need to share it with me, just like I would share it with you! Because if you want us to share our lives with each other, you'll have to com-you-nee-cate!”
“You don't have to talk to me like that!”
“Yes, I do, because it just doesn't get through your skull otherwise!” she realised she was shouting at him and took a deep breath. “Maybe I should sleep in my own room tonight!”
“Yeah, maybe you should,” snarled Boreas.
“Fine!” snapped Aqua as she hurried out of the room, slammed the door behind her, and stamped down the hall to her own room. Only when she was there did she realise she'd just gone from cuddling and kissing Boreas and talking with him about having children to fighting with him in just a few minutes time.
“And there's yet another reason not to have cubs together...” she groaned.
After an unhappy, lonely night, Aqua had to sit through an awkward breakfast. She wasn't really mad at Boreas any more, but she didn't feel like she had been wrong and should apologise either. He really should learn to confide in her more. Besides, she certainly wasn't going to talk things out with him while the rest was there.
So breakfast was uncomfortable. Toxica was still trying to murder Octa with her eyes, Boreas and Aqua avoided eye contact with each other, and Lucius and – to lesser extent – Octa gave her the occasional suspicious look, as always. They were still clearly suspicious of her, despite Boreas' assurance she could be trusted. Lucius was quite open and obvious with it, while Octa tried to pretend he had no suspicions, but she knew they both considered her likely to be a traitor. That thought had probably only increased after she had done poorly in the last two battles.
And in a sense, she really wasn't on their side. While the sight of humans didn't spoil her mood any more as it used to, she still didn't like them. She'd much rather see a world where pokémon were free from humans than one where they were still under the command of trainers. That said, with Team Plasma in power both humans and pokémon were no more than slaves, and that was far worse. Even so, she knew she didn't have the conviction the others had. Fighting for the least of two evils was far harder than fighting for what you thought was right. And, she reflected with a little bitterness, she was an expert at running away when things went bad by now. She would fight today, of course, but if they won and they had to enter Team Plasma's castle tomorrow, it remained to be seen what she'd do when Team Plasma pulled an inevitable nasty trick.
As she finished her breakfast, her stomach feeling delightfully full, Aqua reflected there was at least one other good thing about humans: they generally had lots of food.
As they walked to the great building with the five towers that was now surrounded by the ominous castle of Team Plasma, a snide voice suddenly said: “Hold it, Black!”
Black stopped in surprise and turned around, and Aqua instantly saw his face cheer up. “Cheren!” he greeted the other human happily. “Great to see you! It's been...”
Cheren smiled and shook Black's hand. “Half a year, yeah.”
“How are you? Why couldn't I reach you and Bianca? Is Bianca okay?”
“I'm fine,” answered Cheren, “it's a long story, and Bianca-”
“Yoohoo! Blaahaack!” a cheerful voice cried out as a human female came running at Black.
Cheren winced. “She's here too.”
The human female flew into Black's arms while unleashing a downpour of words. “Black, it's so great to see you, we've missed you so much, Cheren was sure you were dead when you took months to get out of Victory Road but I knew better, remember Elesa? She's so cool, and we've been helping her and the other Gym Leaders with the resistance against Team Plasma!”
“Honestly,” sighed Cheren, “can't you go anywhere without embarrassing yourself and others?”
“You're just jealous because I hugged Black.” Bianca stuck out her tongue.
“Bianca, Cheren,” said Black, “it's wonderful to see you both, but I've got to battle the leader of the Elite Four right now. I want to hear everything you've been up to afterwards.”
“Of course,” said Cheren. “We just arrived here to watch your final battles, and just wanted to say hi.”
“Good luck!” said Bianca.
As they walked into the great League building, Aqua giggled remembering Boreas' descriptions of those two; they had been spot-on.
Taking the final dark corridor they hadn't entered yet from the hub of the building, they emerged into a gorgeous chamber inside the purple tower. A beautifully calm surface of water that just begged to be swum in stretched out over the chamber's floor beyond the platform they were on, only betraying itself by its reflection of the gorgeous columns that rose from it. There was a semi-transparent staircase which spiralled around the columns until it went to the top. The black walls of the room were covered in what looked like stars, and as they walked up the stairs the ethereal quality of the place was breathtaking.
They reached a white platform, the other half of which was hidden by huge, fancy curtains. The curtains parted slowly to reveal an amazingly comfy-looking bed with a human female in a big pink hat in it. She got out of bed, revealing her blond hair to be so long it would drag over the floor if it didn't somehow float as if she was underwater.
“Who are you?” she asked, her voice oddly echoing in the chamber. “How dare you disturb my sleep?”
Black was clearly even more surprised by this all than Aqua, stammering: “Um. I'm Black, and I think I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere...”
“No, you haven't,” said the human, yawning. “I'm Caitlin, leader of the Elite Four, and I guess you're here to challenge me.”
“Weird...” mumbled Selene. “I thought she'd be someone we'd met before...”
“Yeah...” said Black, looking at her oddly. “Why were you sleeping here?”
“Because I was tired,” Caitlin said ditzily.
“Okay... Why do you want to battle me instead of letting me fight N?”
“Well, I guess because it's my duty as leader of the Elite Four...”
Those words struck Aqua: “Leader of the Elite Four”. Yet she seemed to be a somewhat stupid, airheaded girl with probably little skill. It had to be a trick, Aqua thought: behind that innocently smiling face a fierce intellect lurked that was trying to get them to underestimate her. “Don't fall for it,” she warned Toxica, “it's just a trick. Like Selene, she's way smarter than she pretends to be.”
“You think so?” asked Toxica.
“I am?” asked Selene.
“Yeah; she wouldn't be the leader of the Elite Four otherwise.”
Black and Caitlin had finished talking as Caitlin sent out a Musharna and Black sent Lucius to battle. The pink tapir floated gently, seeming fast asleep as Lucius arrogantly strutted onto the battlefield. “This will be easy as pie, it's not even awake.”
“Don't underestimate it!” warned Aqua. “Caitlin is smarter than she looks.”
“I don't remember asking you one damn thing!” snapped Lucius.
“Oh, I'm so sorry for trying to help you!” Aqua shouted back.
“I don't need your- Argh!” A shower of glowing, white rocks that disappeared after they hit Lucius magically fell from above. They clearly had the same effect as real rocks. Battered, Lucius escaped from the rain and spit fire at Musharna. It didn't even move in the inferno, but the rain of rocks followed Lucius, forcing him to stop it and run for his life. “You distracted me!” he shouted. “I knew you were a traitor!”
Aqua was really wishing he'd get caught in the rain of stones now. “I'm-”
“Shut your trap, Lucius,” snapped Boreas, “Aqua is not a traitor!”
“I can fight my own battles, Boreas,” said Aqua coldly. “So mind your own business.”
Boreas simply gave her an angry look. Aqua sighed; she wished she hadn't snapped at him like that for trying to help her, but he was just very annoying to her right now, the annoyance made worse by Lucius.
“Are you and Boreas fighting?” asked Toxica.
“Mind your o-” Aqua stopped and took a deep breath, cursing herself mentally for being so easily annoyed today. “Sorry. Yeah, we had an argument last night, and it's left me grumpy... More so with Lucius being an idiot.”
Fortunately, Toxica didn't seem offended. “It's alright, really. After all,” she suddenly started talking louder, “I know how it feels when your boyfriend turns out to be an idiot one day!”
Aqua suppressed a giggle over the Vileplume's lash at Octa. “Well, I guess I always knew Boreas was a bit of an idiot. But it's just a couple's argument, you know. We'll make up sooner or later.”
Toxica smiled humourlessly. “Lucky you. I'm done with Octa forever.”
“You don't know that,” said Aqua gently. “Boreas has talked to Octa and to his windbag of a brother, and I think he might at least have gotten through to Octa.”
“If he has, that's bad luck for Octa. Because he's shown his true nature to me now, and I don't want anything to do with him any more.”
Aqua tried to think of a counter-argument, but found it hard to, thinking of Octa: aloof, arrogant, cold, and elitist. “Well, I can hardly blame you for that. I mean, I think you should give him a second chance, but if you don't, I suppose you've still got your friends. It's not like you'll be all alone. We'll still be here for you.”
Toxica smiled. “Thanks. I know you- oh dear, well, he deserved that.”
Aqua turned her attention back to the battle, seeing Lucius was knocked out and badly bruised by now. “Yeah, I guess it does. We're one down, though.”
It was Boreas' turn, and Aqua couldn't suppress a smile as he showed his wits by entering the fray far more cautiously than Lucius, ready to dodge the moment the stone rain began, while never taking his eyes off Musharna. He clearly knew he, unlike Lucius, was in danger of psychic attacks as well as rocks. Aqua shivered as ice-cold wind started blowing.
“I hate it when he does that...” muttered Toxica.
Aqua wrapped her tail around her body for heat. “Join the club...”
Boreas fired an Ice Beam at the bobbing Musharna and kept firing it continuously, then suddenly stopped. His movement ended entirely. Only his face moved, looking completely focussed and resolved, but quickly tiring. Aqua wondered how he was holding up against the psychic attack, and briefly admired how handsome he looked, determined like this, before remembering she was angry with him.
Boreas strained to keep the powerful other mind out of his own. He could feel its thoughts pressing against his, trying to get in, and he only focussed on keeping them out. But it was a losing battle; the psychic was stronger than him, and it was only a matter of time before it was in his mind... Just like the Exeggutor. It getting into his mind had led directly to Diego impersonating Zeph... He tried to repress the anger at the thought, since it would hamper his focus, but then stopped as he had an idea. Instead, he thought back to how Diego had hung him from the Ferris wheel by his tail. His mind ignited with fury as he recalled the Zoroark callously breaking his leg and Aqua's back. He though back to Capella being caught in the disintegrating Hyper Beam, and he recalled the Zangeese killing his parents. He even reminded himself of his fight with Aqua the day before.
By the time Musharna's mind entered his own, it found a boiling sea of rage inside. It tried to grasp his thoughts, but since they were completely covered in fury, it was like trying to read letters that were ablaze. Boreas heard its voice in his mind, but his rage easily drowned it out. He lashed out at the foreign mind inside his own with an inferno of anger. It recoiled, trying to pull away, but Boreas kept unleashing his fury against it, grabbing a hold of it with thoughts like burning chains. YOU WANTED TO GET INTO MY THOUGHTS?! WELL HERE THEY ARE, TAKE THEM! AND THOSE!
Musharna escaped from his mind, and recoiled in reality, moving for the first time in the battle. Boreas pounced it in a rain of Ice Beams, driven by the blazing fury that still coursed through his veins. “Too hot for you?! Then let me cool you down!”
He kept attacking and attacking the pinned-down Musharna furiously until it finally gave up its futile counterattacks. Boreas laughed; it had felt very good to unleash his anger both physically and mentally like that. But his laughter faded when his next opponent appeared: a large, living bell with two metal arms. “Crap, a Bronzong...” muttered Boreas, fully aware of how little he could do to steel-types.
He aimed Ice Beams at the thing's red eyes, but even those were made of metal. The closest thing to pain the attack seemed to cause the Bronzong was a thin veil of white frost that appeared over its eyes. At least that would blind it. Bronzong lunged at Boreas with its entire body, and the Glaceon quietly sidestepped to dodge it. But he had counted out of Bronzong's psychic powers and received a heavy metal arm in the face for it. His head spinning and buzzing with pain, he was hit by the Bronzong's even heavier body while still recovering.
Though Aqua was still angry at Boreas, she was happy when Black switched her in after him so she could beat the Bronzong. She certainly wasn't going to allow anyone other than herself to hurt him. She flooded the centre of the battlefield; Caitlin jumped back on the bed so as not to get wet feet and hair. Bronzong flung its heavy body at Aqua, but she swam far faster than its attack. She formed a rapid whirlpool around the clunky metal pokémon.
She felt its mind attack her own, and dived underwater, swimming rapidly and allowing her natural colour to camouflage her. If she made sure to keep moving so fast it couldn't pinpoint her, it couldn't psychically attack her either. Aqua made the water around Bronzong boil, its heavy body helpless against the scalding whirlpool, its metal armour conducting the heat to the flesh within.
It took a while before Caitlin retracted Bronzong, but when she did, Aqua laughed victoriously. “That's what you get for hurting Boreas!” she looked around to see if Boreas had heard that, and breathed a sigh of relief as she saw he was still out.
Another mind pierced Aqua's with incredible force, and disappeared instantly. Aqua gasped with shock as she saw what had appeared in the whirlpool: a tremendous four-legged metal tank of a pokémon that didn't seem to be affected by the currents or heat. Its small red eyes looked at her from between a white cross on its face. “Kyogre preserve me...” said Aqua in despair. She had heard of the sheer power that was Metagross, and she knew right there the battle was lost. It would take most of the team to defeat this opponent, and even if they did more pokémon would follow.
Metagross lifted off on jets, flying straight for her, so Aqua did the only thing she could think of: she swam as fast as she could to stay away from the far more powerful pokémon. It jetted after her, through the water, and she kept swimming and swimming, even when her entire body was in agony as a psychic bolt hit her. The rest of Black's team was telling her to attack her enemy, but her fear told her to escape it; and did so even more when another psychic bolt weakened her. But then she heard what Selene shouted at her: “It's not what you think it is! It's an Alakazam!”
An Alakazam? If that was true, the psychic attack she had felt in the beginning had planted the image of the Metagross in her head, while the real McCoy had simply been sitting back and occasionally hitting her with attacks. As she thought about that, she realised Alakazam had been standing in the middle of the battlefield all the time, watching her swim around; her mind had just ignored it as someone else's problem. Her cheeks glowing with anger and shame, Aqua recreated the boiling whirlpool around her actual enemy, ignoring the fake Metagross, and collapsed it with Alakazam right in the middle.
Alakazam put up its arms a moment before it would be submerged in the boiling water. Its spoons glowed and a bubble-like forcefield protected it from the worst of Aqua's onslaught of water. She lashed out at it again, but the Barrier protected it well. Aqua had another idea that gave her a malicious grin on her face: she just created a powerful downward current in the water, keeping Alakazam at the bottom of the water in its bubble. Now it was just a matter of waiting. After a while, Alakazam realised what she was doing and attacked her mind. Aqua screamed underwater as her every nerve was burning with pain, but she didn't relent and kept at it. The pain was terrible, but eventually stopped as Alakazam gave up for lack of oxygen.
Aqua let go of the water, which flowed away rapidly while her unconscious opponent surfaced. She panted, trying to recover from the relentless psychic attacks, but she was still overwhelmed with them. A bizarre floating creature inside a translucent green blob appeared. The Reuniclus entered her mind with little resistance, and she felt herself fall asleep.
Aqua's consciousness returned to her bit by bit. Her sense of smell was one of the first things to return, and she smelled Boreas. She felt his fur too, so she gently caressed it as she opened her eyes. She saw Boreas, alright, but he looked at her oddly, uncomfortably. She wondered why he looked at her like that. Then she remembered, retracted her paws, and looked away.
Aqua focused on the battle instead of her faux pas. Selene was fighting a creature that looked like she had designed it herself. Aqua nudged Toxica. “What in Kyogre's name is that thing, and how long have I been out?”
“It's a Sigilyph,” said Toxica. “And you haven't been out that long; Selene beat the Reuniclus pretty quickly. You did well, you know. Even with the Alakazam.”
Aqua blushed. “It made me think it was a Metagross, and I panicked.”
An aerial battle was taking place between the bird and the flying thing. Sigilyph emitted waves of sharp air from the third eye on top of its head, while Selene swooped at it with claws wrapped in dark energy, trying to dodge the waves of air. Unfortunately she was too clumsy a flyer for it, and got hit time and again. While she got in a couple of good hits too, she eventually went down.
Black looked at his two remaining pokémon indecisively: they were both grass-types. “Um... Uh... Octa, please do your best, we can't lose this...”
“I shall do what I can, old chap.” Octa startled everyone by drawing his Leaf Blade, and immediately throwing it at Sigilyph. It was hit in the wing and came crashing down to the ground, where Octa rushed for it and wrapped it with his long body. Sigilyph flapped its wings trying to escape, but when that didn't work, its eyes glowed. Octa's face contorted in pain and he let out a whimper, but he wrapped Sigilyph only tighter. Despite the pain he was in, he didn't relent and drew his sword from the wing. He seemed about to strike, but stopped.
The Sigilyph and the Serperior looked almost as if they were doing a staring contest, locked in psychic battle in Octa's mind. Octa shivered and his facial expression changed. Aqua wondered what it was like inside his mind right now, who was winning. Incredibly, Octa was still moving the Leaf Blade closer to Sigilyph, bit by bit. He stopped, moved it back a few centimetres... And brought it closer to his enemy again. A small smile played around his lips as the sword approached one of his opponent's eyes.
The mental combat was suddenly broken: Sigilyph tried to dodge Octa's stab, but still received a deep cut even as it escaped from Octa's coil. It flew up, badly wounded, only to be grasped by Octa's vines and thrown back to the ground. It didn't fly up any more.
As Caitlin retracted it, Octa suddenly looked very tired and hurt from the psychic attacks. The pokémon that appeared was a black and purple humanoid that looked like it was wearing a dress. Octa lunged at Gothitelle wildly, but after a single cut he received a psychic attack and dropped too.
Aqua patted Toxica's shoulder with her tail. “Good luck, we're counting on you...”
Toxica took a few nervous steps, ducked, and shot a Solarbeam from her flower right at Gothitelle, ran instantly for it while her hands glowed with energy, and pummelled her fallen opponent with them.
“Yeah!” said Aqua, seeing her friend attack the Gothitelle so fast it had little chance to counterattack. Yet eventually it threw Toxica off and attacked her mind, but by then, it was looking very weak: Toxica had poisoned it with powder from her flower. It still attacked Toxica, but soon went down too.
“You... Won,” said Caitlin. “Somehow, you've defeated the entire Elite Four.”
“You're right...” mumbled Black. “We really did it!”
Caitlin gave a little smile. “Yes, you did. You will be allowed to challenge our new Champion tomorrow. Just check the statue in the centre of the plaza then; the way to the Champion will be open for you.”
Black's pokémon were being healed in the pokécenter when the unmistakable voices of Bianca and Cheren were heard.
“He did it! He did it, he did it, he did it!”
“I know, I saw it myself, it was very impressive. But will you stop saying that?”
“You're just jealous because Black gets to challenge the- Heeey, Black!”
“Bianca, Cheren, it's wonderful to see you again!”
“We saw everything!” yipped Bianca. “It was so awesome how you won!”
Cheren smiled. “You did well, Black.”
“Thanks!” said Black, blooming with happiness. “But now you have to tell me, what have you two been up to since I last saw you?”
“Well,” said Cheren, “for my part, I first stayed in Opelucid for a while. After Nacrene fell to Team Plasma and Drayden died, it took a while for Iris to be made the official Gym Leader, so I couldn't leave on Victory Road. When I finally defeated her, I tried to make it through the Black Mountains, but because it was so late in the year by that time the snowstorms ended up forcing me to turn back. I was lucky to make it back at all, really.”
“So what about you, Bianca?” asked Black. “Did you go onto Victory Road too?”
Bianca was uncharacteristically silent and sullen for a moment. “No, I didn't. I... I was scared out of my wits by all that was happening around me. Nacrene being conquered by Team Plasma was terrifying, but I saw that Opelucid was quickly being conquered by them too: not by force, but through people's minds. People would hiss horrible things at me in the streets, just because I had pokémon. Team Plasma was beginning to move freely and openly, and they got ever closer to ruling the city. People were scared and gloomy, and the city seemed to turn grey. I knew they'd soon get me, and I just couldn't handle the fear. I even considered liberating my pokémon... Not because I agreed with Team Plasma at all, but because I knew they'd at least be properly free that way, while if Team Plasma got me, they'd be enslaved by those hypocrites, while they would probably kill me...
I had to get away from it all; I wanted to go home. So I took the train south. But I didn't go all the way: for some reason, I got out in Nimbasa. I think it was because of the happy memories of staying there with you guys I had from a year back. I was so happy to see things weren't as bad as in Opelucid there. There were still trainers there, and the Gym Leader was well-liked, and people were still a bit happy. I decided to stay there for a while, but I soon found Nimbasa too was falling into their grip... The city was turning grey too.
When I called home, Mum told me things were just as bad there. I realised there was nowhere to run any more, and I despaired... I was in the amusement park when it overcame me, and I just sat on a bench, crying, and decided to liberate my pokémon. I tried to tell them to go, but they wouldn't leave. And then there was suddenly an arm around my shoulder, and a kind voice telling me not to do it, telling me there was hope left. It was Elesa, Black, and she helped me pull myself back together. She told me that though Team Plasma would soon indeed rule Unova, it would be temporary. Many of the Gyms across the land had been closed, and the rest would follow, but the Gym Leaders and Alder had been organising a resistance that was already fighting Team Plasma, and would continue to do so even when they ruled all Unova. When she told me about them, I knew I had to join them. I wanted to help in any way I could, even though it might cost me my life. Elesa wouldn't accept it until I had had a day to calm down and think about it, but even then, I chose to join.” She was smiling proudly by now. “Who would've guessed, right? I mean, me...”
“I would've,” Black smiled. “I always knew there was more to you than you thought.”
“Well, I didn't,” said Cheren. “It was a big surprise to me when I got back from Victory Road.”
“And good luck for him too,” laughed Bianca. “Elesa had taken me and two other members of the Nimbasan resistance to Opelucid to help Iris with a big thing. We were just in time to rescue him.”
Cheren blushed and scratched the back of his head nervously. “Well, my pokémon and I were starved and frostbitten by the time we got back to Opelucid. We found a grey city completely in Plasma's power, but we didn't exactly have a choice but to hope the pokécenter would help us. But we ran into Team Plasma, and in our weakened state, we were losing. And then suddenly Bianca and Elesa showed up and saved us. I joined the resistance too once they explained it all and helped me recover. But with our greatest hope – you – seemingly lost in the Black Mountains, things were looking bleak after a while. You can imagine how happy we were to hear you'd shown up at the League after all, two months after you were expected.”
“We took a little side-tour,” explained Black.
Bianca continued: “We wanted to go to you right away once we heard you'd turned up, but since the trains too are controlled by Plasma and they know the League is the last free part of Unova and our centre of operations, it's not exactly easy to get here. The train here is guarded very well. But we finally made it here, and here we are!”
“I'm glad you are,” said Black. “So what exactly does the resistance do? Alder has said a couple of things about it and the stuff going on in the rest of Unova, but not much.”
“We help people and pokémon, protect them from Team Plasma. They kill anyone with pokémon they find, and capture or kill any pokémon in the cities; they claim that's to protect people against the temptation of catching them. Aside from that, we disrupt Team Plasma's order as much as possible. To hinder them, but mainly to let people now we're there, and that the war isn't over. I mean, you've heard how I felt when I thought there was no hope left; we want people to know Team Plasma hasn't won. And right now, you are our best hope.”
“Yeah,” said Cheren. “Have you made any progress with Reshiram?”
Black drew the Light Stone from his pocket and shook his head. “Nothing. But I will fight N, legendary or no legendary on my side. And I plan to win. The question is, though, how much that will do to Plasma. I think N is the only one living in a fantasy world where this battle will automatically determine what's going to happen to Unova. He's just a figurehead; I'm pretty sure the Sages won't be fazed by his defeat.”
Cheren shrugged. “I don't know what they're going to do. But if you win and make N see things our way, that will mean the end of Zekrom's influence on everyone's thoughts. It will also show people Team Plasma's leader – figurehead or not – can be defeated, and therefore Plasma can. Elesa thinks a morale boost like that will be enough to get a lot of people on our side, and might end up being enough to win this after all.”
“I hope so... But do you think Plasma is actually going to let a battle with N happen at all if that's at stake? They can probably just make me disappear before I ever face him.”
“They know they need Zekrom,” said Alder, who had suddenly walked into the pokécenter. “Their control over Unova depends on its influence on people's minds for a large part. Without it, far more people would see what they're doing is wrong, and they would have more hope something could be done about it. It would give us far more support. But Plasma only has Zekrom as long as they have N, and to keep him on their side, they've got to play along. They have to let you fight him for that.”
Cheren stood up straight, as if he were a soldier. “Champion Alder!”
Alder smiled wryly. “Not any more, Cheren, I'm just Alder now. But if things go well tomorrow, your friend will be Champion Black.”
Black nodded nervously. “I hope so... I think you're right; the Sages are too smart to risk losing N's support by doing anything against me before I battle him. But say I win, what do you think they'll do?”
Alder sighed. “That's the big question. Much of the resistance is here, in our headquarters, and I've summoned as many more as can be spared. We're as ready as we'll ever be for whatever Plasma will do, but what that is, we won't find out until tomorrow. We've got your back, but remember that we'll lose if it comes to a full-on battle with all of Team Plasma.”
Black nodded nervously. “I'll have to win first, though...”
“Yes, you will. Do you understand your pokémon better now?”
“Yes, I do... But Reshiram still hasn't appeared.”
“That's not important. The most important thing is that you understand and know your pokémon, that they are your friends. Then victory will come to you.”
Boreas couldn't help ask: “Then why did you lose to N?”
Black suppressed a chuckle, but fortunately Alder didn't seem to have understood it. “Whatever happens during and after your battle with N, tomorrow will be a day to remember.”
“I hope we'll all still be alive to remember it...” muttered Cheren.
That made Aqua think. She quickly became lost in thought, not listening to the humans' conversation any more, as she realised they would enter Team Plasma's castle tomorrow, and possibly never come out again.
Aqua was in her room, nervously walking to and fro. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, a very dangerous day, and Boreas' second birthday all in one. She didn't even think he had remembered himself, but she had just realised it; it would be 25 January tomorrow. It wasn't that important, but what was important was that it could be the last day of either or both their lives. The last thing she wanted was to die while she and Boreas were quarrelling. (Though dying while things were well between them was probably the second-last thing she wanted to do) So she had to make up with him, and she knew she would have to do it today, or possibly never have a chance to do it. But it was hard; she felt reluctance to just go to him and-
“Aqua?” a hesitant voice outside the door said.
“B-Boreas?” Aqua blurted out, conflicting emotions filling her. “What are you doing here?”
“I... I have come to apologise to you...” he said.
Aqua quickly got in the bed, watching the door with a frown as if Boreas could see her through it. Maybe he can, she thought. There's a hole in the door for those things humans use to lock other things. He's probably looking through it. “Oh?” she said simply, finding it hard to think of something else to say.
“I wanted to tell you that you were right. I love you, and I really do want to share my life with you. You were right that that should mean not keeping secrets like this from you.”
Aqua felt her heart beating strongly for the lovely Glaceon outside the door, and partially wanted to run outside and tell him with a kiss that he was forgiven. Yet some pride held her back. “Look,” she said as level as possible, “you'll wake up everyone if you keep talking in the corridor. So why don't you come inside instead?”
The door opened so soon after she said that it was hard to imagine Boreas' nervous system had a reaction delay time. Boreas was beaming happily and walked to her, but Aqua said: “Hold it, I only said you could come in, not any closer.”
The look of disappointment on Boreas' face was too cute for words, and Aqua couldn't help but flash a mean smile. Boreas clearly noticed it, as he grinned. “Aww, what do I have to say so you'll forgive me?”
“Well,” said Aqua, unable to keep a straight face, “you could continue talking about how much you love me.”
Boreas made a mocking bow. “Of course, my lady. Anything else?”
“Well, then you could tell me how beautiful you consider me to be, and how I'm always right.”
Boreas grinned. “Alright then. Your fur gleams like the ocean, and your eyes are beautiful black gemstones. And your lips...” Suddenly he ran across the room, jumped, and landed on the bed on top of her. “Just beg for a kiss!”
“Eep!” Aqua squealed and laughed. “Get off me!” She covered his face in the blanket, and a playful romp ensued as she tried to throw him out of the bed while he tried to kiss her. After a lot of laughs and struggling, Aqua finally let Boreas win and lost herself in the wonderful kiss. She looked into Boreas' cyan eyes for a long time, feeling like nothing but he mattered in the world. She expressed her feelings in four simple words, but knew Boreas knew there was far more behind them.
“I love you, Boreas.”
Great chapter as always. :D
Already read it in dA but forgot to leave a comment.
Anyway, I wondered why Caitlin helped Aqua figure out that the Metagross was an illusion. She must've probably did that so Black could win so he could battle N?
Glad that Cheren and Bianca are back. :D
And the next chapter's going to be exciting. I can't wait~
I've been reading this story since the begging and I <3 it...
Can't wait 'till next chapter!
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I failed lulz
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Actually, that's Selene who told her that. Caitlin had nothing to do with it.
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.
Chapter Seventy: Black and White
“Black, we meet again!” N shouted theatrically. “At last this prophesied day has come! What I desire is a world for pokémon, and pokémon alone. I will separate pokémon and humans, so pokémon can regain their original power!”
The throneroom was huge and lavishly decorated. A long red carpet led in a straight path from the door to N's throne on the other side of the room, up on a series of steps. The throne was large, golden, and decorated with the shapes of various pokémon. To each side of the red carpet were two bodies of water like small indoor lakes. The roof was held up by series of huge columns at the sides of the room, and behind them were impressive statues of pokémon. Four pokémon stood before N's throne: Klinklang, Carracosta, Archeops, and Vanilluxe. There was no sign of any other human or pokémon. Other than the main door they had entered through, there were several other doors in the half of the room where N's throne was.
Aqua spoke up. “N, it's time to stop this charade!”
N stood up from his throne, surprised. “Aqua? So you really survived what those trainers did to you? Boreas told me, but I could barely believe it; this is great!”
“The only one who did anything to me that day was your friend Diego. He was the one who broke my back and tried to kill me, but I survived it thanks to human medicine. He and the Sages have been lying to you all along.”
“How can you say something like that?!” exclaimed N.
“It's simple, I'm afraid:” said Diego, emerging from behind N's throne. “She was captured and nearly killed in the battle by the trainers despite my efforts to stop them. They have brainwashed her, like they do to all pokémon, until she truly believed their lies. We should pity her, and try to help her. She truly believes her lies.”
“Shut your lying trap!” shouted Boreas furiously as they walked forward. “You know all too well what you did, and so do we!”
N and his pokémon walked forward as well. “As you can see,” lied Diego, “poor Boreas has also been brainwashed by our enemies. It's tragic.”
“You're right, Diego,” said N. “But we can save them, right?”
“Of course,” said Diego. “Once you free all pokémon, they will know the truth again.”
“I'm sorry, Aqua,” said N. “I shouldn't have sent you into battle... But I know you would be proud of me if you hadn't been brainwashed. I have brought freedom to so many pokémon already, and my victory here today will finalise that, and liberate all remaining pokémon.”
“N, have you ever looked at your new kingdom?” asked Aqua. “You can believe I'm brainwashed all you like, but the evidence is out there: just look at what Team Plasma has done to Unova! Pokémon should be free, but under Team Plasma they're no more free than under their trainers, but their taskmasters are cruel tyrants instead. Instead of giving pokémon their freedom, Plasma has taken away that of the humans! You're a good person, I know this isn't what you wanted. I've come to realise the true enemy isn't trainers, but the Seven Sages. It's not too late for you to join us; and after we defeat them we can truly liberate pokémon: but not just forcibly remove them from their trainers, but give them the choice whether they want to be wild or befriend a human!”
“That's not true!”
“You've been lied to all your life, N!”
“No,” said N. “It's you who has been lied to. But once you're free again, you'll realise I'm right. For now, I don't want to hear any more of this; it's spoiling this moment.”
“Well said, N,” said Diego. The two sides now stood in the middle of the room, between the bodies of water, only a few metres between them.
“N, she's right,” said Black. “But I can see you don't want to hear it. Maybe you will see reason if I beat you.”
“You're right!” said N. “It's time to settle this once and for all! My determination is absolute, and I will prove my beliefs. Since you've come this far, I know you are equally determined! Let Reshiram and Zekrom battle to decide whether truth or ideals are more powerful!”
“No,” said Black. “Reshiram won't fight, because it hasn't responded to me yet. But that's okay: I only need my pokémon, my friends, to beat you. I'll battle you with them.”
N made a face. “How disappointing. I actually kind of liked you a little. Through our many battles I got the feeling you might be a trainer who truly cares for your pokémon, like me. But I was kidding myself.”
Black chortled. “So because I choose to trust my own pokémon in battle instead of relying on the power of some legendary I never met before I'm demonstrating I don't care for my pokémon? Your logic is twisted up worse than the Gordian knot.”
N ignored him. “You have two options. Challenge me to a fight you can't win or leave this place and let me finish my new world where pokémon are free!”
“Do you ever shut up and listen to someone else?!” snapped Black. “I'm fighting you, and I'll win. Because my pokémon are my friends.”
A fierce white light emanated from Black's pocket. Startled, he retrieved the Light Stone from it: it was ablaze with light, shining like the Sun. It levitated out of his hand and grew enormously. As it grew, it slowly changed shape to the form of a dragon. Reshiram roared and the entire tower shook on its foundations. Boreas felt a powerful, fiery conviction they were fighting for the truth fill him with pride. They couldn't lose: the truth never did.
“YOU FIGHT FOR THE TRUTH,” thundered Reshiram's voice like a raging inferno. “I AM THE TRUTH. YOU SHALL FIGHT WITH ME, HERO, LIKE WE DID LONG AGO.”
All stood in awe, and Black threw a pokéball, making Reshiram disappear into it. It felt oddly undignified to Boreas, capturing a legendary pokémon like it was a Pidgey. Black carefully picked up the pokéball.
“...Maybe I was right about you after all,” spoke N. “Reshiram who lends its power to the hero who searches for truth has recognised you. It is finally as it should be. We shall finally battle, but the rules are that you can't have seven pokémon for an official battle like this. So we'll begin once you send one of your pokémon away to bring you back to six.”
Black looked at Reshiram's pokéball, trying to decide who to send back to the pokécenter. After a moment, he looked at Octa. Then he looked at Boreas, and Boreas realised what he was going to do. He nodded in agreement, though he wasn't entirely sure it was such a great idea. Black looked at his other pokémon one by one. Finally, he pressed a few buttons on Reshiram's pokéball and it disappeared.
“You... You made a mistake,” stammered N. “Reshiram was in that pokéball, you must've meant to send one of your other pokémon away instead.”
“No,” said Black. “I told you: I don't need Reshiram; I trust my pokémon.”
“But-but this isn't how it's supposed to be!” whined N. “Reshiram and Zekrom are supposed to battle! We're like the heroes of legends, you have to get it back!”
“I don't care how it's 'supposed' to be. My pokémon are my friends; if I loved power so much I'd rely on some legendary's power over any of them, I wouldn't deserve them in the first place. I'm sure these legendary pokémon are very powerful, but they're nothing else. Truly skilled trainers should try to win with the pokémon they love best, not with those acclaimed as powerful. I wouldn't be much of a defender of the friendships between humans and pokémon anyway if I forsook my own like that.”
N was speechless. Boreas felt proud and happy by his trainer's trust, yet also a little worried about Zekrom.
“If that's the way he wants it,” said Diego, “then why should that bother us, N? Zekrom will sweep him before you.”
“But...” stammered N. “What if he loses, but would've won if he had used Reshiram... How can I know the truth after this battle?”
“You already know the truth. We are right. You would win this anyway, so battle him!”
“You're right, Diego. It's time to create the future I desire!”
“Boreas,” said Black. “I know this will be hard. But you can do this.”
Boreas stepped forward, a lot less happy about Black sending Reshiram away now that he stood a good chance of meeting up with a teravolt of electricity soon. “Zek-”
“I've got an idea:” said Diego. “Why don't you save Zekrom for last? Give them a chance to at least save some face by battling the rest of your team before Zekrom obliterates them.”
“Good idea. I suppose they've deserved that respect from us.”
“You, Klinklang,” ordered Diego. “Grind him.”
Boreas felt relieved not to have to fight Zekrom, but wondered what Diego's game was. Did he think Boreas stood a chance at beating Zekrom, and therefore want to have him battle other teammembers instead? Or maybe he wanted to beat Boreas himself, but have this Klinklang weaken him first to ensure victory?
Well, if that was his plan, Boreas wasn't going to let it happen. Klinklang rolled towards him rapidly on its largest gear, clearly planning to roll over him. Boreas simply walked onto the water, forming ice under his feet to stand on, then grinned smugly at Diego. His metal foe shot a beam of electricity at him, but he parried it quite easily.
Boreas quickly formed a raging blizzard around his opponent. It could either get into the water to attack him, or allow him to slowly penetrate its metal with his cold. It fired metal spikes at Boreas, but he simply waved his paw and let a powerful gust blow them away. Another beam of electricity was parried by a pulse of cold before the Klinklang realised it could never beat him at a distance and rolled into the water, its metal body covered in a white layer of frost by now.
“Gotcha!” laughed Boreas, freezing the water under him entirely once Klinklang was in. It took a lot of energy, but now the metal creature was frozen in. Boreas could see and hear it still slowly grind its way through the ice, but he just moved away from it. He could afford to wait: he wasn't the one encased in ice.
Boreas smirked at N and Diego. “So now what?” he asked, expecting Diego to battle him personally now.
“Oh no...” muttered N. “I'll have to retreat it...”
“I'm afraid so,” said Diego, “looks like they- Archeops, Rock Slide right now!”
Boreas had mere moments before the rain of heavy boulders from the sky struck. He managed to protect his head, but got badly battered, his limbs aching and feeling bruised. And Archeops was already diving for him, its claws and jaws extended. Boreas crawled out from under the rocks and tried to stop his enemy, only to receive a deep slash from its claws that knocked him down. Boreas could barely focus with pain as his opponent turned around for another pass at him.
He lashed out with an Ice Beam and hit Archeops' wing more by luck than skill. Archeops instantly turned, keeping away from him in fear. It kept at a distance cautiously, scared of him. This allowed Boreas to regain his composure, letting him dodge Archeops' next few rock attacks from a distance as he created a snowstorm in the tower. Archeops soon had trouble flying, preventing it from attacking at all while he weakened it with the cold.
Boreas was about to end the fight with an Ice Beam, but Archeops still had some fight in it: it suddenly lunged for him, unconcerned with its own health, and caught him in a wave of boulders. He easily hit it with an Ice Beam, but couldn't dodge the boulders. His hip was hit very hard, so it was hard for him even to stand up again.
Boreas was sure Diego would come battle him personally now that he had been weakened so much, but instead the Zoroark ordered Carracosta to battle him. Boreas had trouble thinking of a reason why Diego would have the turtle fight him, until he had an odd thought: maybe Diego wanted to spare him from fighting Zekrom? Maybe the Zoroark was actually trying to save his life like he had done on Victory Road?
It was a strange idea, because Diego had never before shown any kind of compassion or remorse towards him. Could it be that the time Diego had spent impersonating Zeph - which paradoxically made Boreas both hate him more than ever and feel kinship to him – had affected Diego as well? Was it possible Diego still thought of him as his brother in an odd way?
Boreas was snapped out of his thoughts by a roaring wave rushing towards him with a sturdy turtle riding it. He instinctively extended his front paws and unleashed a powerful blast of cold to freeze it. He managed to do so and prevented the worst of the wave from hitting him, but he felt horribly drained and exhausted by it. Carracosta swum around the frozen wave and formed a powerful whirlpool around Boreas. He made an attempt to freeze the whirlpool too, but found himself on the edge of blacking out with exhaustion at the mere try. He swam weakly against the current, but even after all the time since meeting Aqua, he wasn't much of a swimmer.
He had one final idea and let himself go limp, trusting the air in his lungs to keep him afloat. His enemy should've just used the whirlpool to beat him then, but he was lucky as it made a mistake: it swam for him to use its claws instead.
Boreas suppressed a grin, waited for it to come close, and when it did he put a paw to its face, unleashed a pulse of cold to daze it, climbed onto its back, and froze himself to its wet shell. He nearly blacked out once more from the energy required, but this time he was firmly stuck to his opponent's shell and couldn't fall off. Carracosta clumsily tried to reach him with its sharp claws, but didn't even come close. Then it began wiggling to shake him off without much effect. Boreas had by now recovered enough that he could start sending pulses of cold through its shield into its body to slowly freeze it.
“Just dive!” snapped Diego. “Dive and drown him!”
Boreas took a lungful of air as he was forcibly submerged. Eventually Carracosta would have to resurface, of course, but words he and Aqua had spoken nearly a year ago echoed through Boreas' head: “I can hold my breath for five hours, you know.”
“I can hold my breath for five minutes. I hope.”
Since he had far less time than the turtle, Boreas gave it his all, sending pulse after pulse through Carracosta's shield until it finally stopped swimming and just floated limply in the water. Unfortunately Boreas' paws were still frozen to its shield. With no paw free to swim, he tried to stretch his neck far enough to reach the surface, but it was futile. Brilliant plan, really, freezing myself to a living rock while underwater...
Fortunately with Carracosta unconscious, the water flowed back into its ponds, eventually leaving Boreas coughing and wheezing on dry land. He finally managed to tear his paws loose.
“Woohoo!” cheered Aqua. “You beat half his team! “
Boreas wanted to say something back, but he could only cough up more water and gasp for air.
“N,” said Diego, “remember when I advised you to keep some pokémon with you and train them instead of relying on wild pokémon temporarily joining us?”
“Yeah, I do, but that would make me just as bad as our enemies, enslaving those poor pokémon.”
“You've never had trouble with having me with you,” muttered Diego.
“Well, you're different.”
“Of course I am.”
“Enough talk,” coughed Boreas, managing to stand on all four legs. “Come fight me!”
Diego threw him a sneer. “Vanilluxe, finish this.”
N asked Diego: “Don't you want to-”
As the Vanilluxe hopped forward it made a rapid snowstorm around the both of them, quickly freezing the puddles that had formed in the throneroom. Boreas chuckled: his opponent's failure to realise this could just as easily be used against it might just be his salvation.
“You think you'll be able to beat me at this just because I'm wounded, battered, and half-drowned,” stated Boreas.
Vanilluxe shot a powerful ball of icy energy out of its forehead; Boreas got the snow to fall in such a way it masked his movements; a very handy trick Froslass had taught him. The beam missed him as he dodged it. His opponent fired a few more attacks on the general region, but Boreas had already sneaked away and was now behind it. He pounced the icecream from behind, slamming its head against the ground hard and sending several pulses of cold through it. “Well, you thought wrong!” he laughed.
He was thrown off Vanilluxe by a powerful pulse that nearly blacked him out, but made sure to quickly use his Snow Cloak to hide from Vanilluxe again. Though he was pretty sure he'd hurt it more than it had hurt him there, he was so weak he couldn't afford even a small bit of damage any more. As he dodged his enemy's attacks, he instead counterattacked from a distance, firing Ice Beams and directing the storm against his opponent. It was clear these pokémon were poorly trained: all Vanilluxe would need to do to beat him was let the storm dissipate, robbing Boreas of his cover. Yet it didn't do so, and with its attacks all missing while Boreas could hit it it weakened soon, and Boreas defeated it too.
Boreas felt proud for defeating two-thirds of the enemy team by himself, but knew these were just a warm-up. Diego and Zekrom would be the true challenge. He was too weak to keep the storm going on his own; it quickly dissipated.
“If you want something done properly, you've got to do it yourself!” snarled Diego as he walked towards Boreas, his front paws enveloped in darkness. Boreas wondered if he should kill Diego if he won. In a sense, this was an official League battle, but then again, in a sense it wasn't. He had sworn to kill Diego, yet part of him didn't want to. Of course, it was unlikely he could beat Diego anyway.
“Then why didn't you?” Boreas challenged his nemesis. “Why did you hide behind those four? Are you afraid to face me when I'm not half-dead?”
Diego fired a beam of utter darkness from his paws. Boreas quickly moved his own paw to parry, but it was so powerful he only managed to weaken it. Sharp pain and nausea overwhelmed him as the beam of darkness hit him and he drifted off into darkness.
He woke up moments later with severe pain in his neck and squirmed against an iron grip lifting him up by it. “Afraid?” said two malicious purple eyes. “Why would I ever be afraid of you?” he tightened his grip, making Boreas gasp for breath. “You are nothing, you are weak! You are no more than an arrogant, pesky flee. I could snap your neck right now and end your pathetic life. I've grown far more powerful since our last meeting.”
“Yet,” Boreas gasped. “You still – haven't learned – to protect your – vulnerable spots.” He gave Diego a kick in the loins as hard as he could. The Zoroark howled in pain and threw him away, and as Boreas landed painfully hard he shot two Ice Beams at Diego; all he could still manage. He dragged himself away to seek cover behind a statue as Diego got up.
“You just don't give up, do you?” He breathed a wave of fire, and Boreas' way was suddenly barred by the searing flames. He winced back from the heat and faced the Zoroark once more.
“Never,” he growled as he shot another Ice Beam. A wave of Diego's paw, and darkness swallowed the attack.
A beam of lighting shot out of both Diego's paws. Boreas was exhausted and unable to do anything, except howl in pain as the electricity shocked him. He convulsed as it kept electrocuting him, until it finally ended. Diego approached him and put his foot on his head. Boreas was too far weakened to do anything. So, this is how it ends...
Then, for one moment, he had eye contact with Diego. His purple eyes didn't look like those of a merciless killer now, but Boreas almost recognised his brother in them. It was probably just the shocks playing tricks with his eyes, but he thought he saw regret in those eyes.
Diego took his foot off Boreas' head. “He's defeated. Send your next pokémon.”
Boreas reached out for Diego's leg and dug his teeth into it. He received a sharp kick in response, finally blacking him out.
Boreas regained consciousness. His body ached badly, but it was quickly getting better due to the potion Black had given him. The first thing he saw was unfortunately Black giving another potion to an unconscious, and partially burned, Octa. Boreas was startled Diego was powerful enough to beat his best friend, who was the most powerful member of the team.
Boreas thought about their battle. He was annoyed he'd lost to Diego yet again, but also intrigued. Diego could've killed him, yet he chose not to. It could just be because an execution wouldn't exactly be looked on kindly by the League, but he and N were planning to abolish the League anyway, and there were no cameras here. Boreas thought he'd seen compassion in Diego's eyes, possibly even regret. Maybe he had really been mistaken when he swore to kill Diego. He would certainly never turn his back to the Zoroark or consider him a friend, but giving him the benefit of doubt by no longer planning to kill him seemed reasonable. Because once he killed Diego, there was no longer any way to change his mind.
“Good job,” said N as Aqua finally defeated Diego. “You have fought very well, and are clearly powerful. But now, you will lose. Zekrom, show them the power of my ideals once and for all!”
Aqua had enjoyed finally fighting Diego again. She had once considered him a friend, and he had tried to kill her. That was unforgivable, just like all he had done to Boreas. He had tried to talk to her during the battle, but she had made it clear she had nothing to say to him by ignoring everything he said and wordlessly fighting him. It felt really good to finally beat him. And now she considered executing the unconscious Zekrom with a wave of boiling water when Zekrom appeared.
The black dragon's appearance filled Aqua with utter fury as old wounds were suddenly reopened. The pain when her grandmother had been killed by humans set her heart ablaze, and Lothario's lifeless body filled her mind. The weight of every single day she had been alone pressed on her mind, and Aqua was furious at the memory of every city she had seen: disgusting, filthy places where nature had been massacred and pokémon captured to make way for the cancer that was humanity. It had been a long time since she's felt like this, known she wouldn't rest until every human being was dead.
Aqua turned around, ablaze with hate, to join Zekrom and kill the horrible bald ape who was so arrogant he thought she was his to command. He was saying something in his annoying human voice, and she spit a powerful ray of water at his face, flooring him. She ran for him, planning to finish it. Other pokémon - misguided slaves of the human - said things she didn't listen to. They would thank her once she'd freed them from the human and tasted its blood.
Suddenly Boreas was in front of her. He had her attention even in her murderous rage. “Aqua!” he said. “My love, think! Remember why you joined us, remember what Plasma did! Black isn't your enemy: Team Plasma is!”
Aqua stopped as she recalled seeing a trainer and her pokémon murdered before her very eyes. It brought her no joy even now. She realised Zekrom's power had turned her against Black; it had twisted her ideals and strengthened them so badly she had switched sides. She quivered with horror at the treason she had almost committed, how easy she had been to turn to the side of evil. None of her friends had done anything like that; they had been strong enough to resist Zekrom, but Aqua hadn't. “Oh- oh no... I-I'm so sorry...”
Boreas firmly kissed her, bringing a moment of happiness to her. “He'll be alright, don't worry. I'm just happy you're well again.” Aqua began to protest, to tell him she was far from well, but he looked her in the eyes and said: “I know this is hard, my love, but you can do it.”
As she looked into his lovely cyan eyes while he spoke, she was filled with a new certainty that she could do it indeed. “You're right.”
That certainty coalesced into a single ice-cold point on her forehead as she turned around again and fired an Ice Beam at the legendary dragon. It probably wasn't nearly as powerful as one of Boreas', but it was enough to make Zekrom roar in pain. Aqua took control of the ponds of water and crushed the black dragon between two powerful waves.
“You'll pay for that! You made me betray my friends!”she shouted furiously as she tried to drown Zekrom in a whirlpool.
A terrific shock made her convulse in agony, set her fur on edge and made the water on her skin boil. “THAT IS IDEAL.”
“No, it bloody isn't!” she shouted as she fired Ice Beams at its head while making the water it was submerged in boil.
Zekrom struggled to escape and shocked her again. “IMPERFECT.”
Aqua's body was smoking from the electrocutions by now, yet she kept attacking. “Yeah, I am! If I've shown any trait in my life well, it's imperfection!”
Zekrom's head emerged from the water, and Aqua aimed another Ice Beam for it, hurting Zekrom again. The terrible shock she received in return made her jump, every muscle in her body cramp, her fur stand up in spikes, smoking, and brought her near unconsciousness. Her legs twitching, she lay on the ground powerless as the water flowed away from Zekrom. Her eyes showed random and painful flashes of colour and she struggled against the heavy sleepiness that tried to pull her under.
“IT IS DEFEATED,” stated Zekrom.
With her last strength, Aqua managed one last Ice Beam to her legendary opponent. “Sink into the depths,” she spat defiantly before one last sharp pain turned everything black.
“Stop fooling yourself, pup! She finally showed her true colours!” snapped Lucius.
“Are you mad?!” argued Boreas. “Didn't you see how she fought to the end?”
“After she attacked Black! We all felt Zekrom's power, but none of us did that!”
“So she's-” Boreas began.
“Gentlemen!” interrupted Octa. “Cease your arguing, this doesn't help! Lucius, Black ordered you to fight, now go and do so!”
“Fine,” grumbled Lucius. “I'll deal with the traitorous ***** later.”
Boreas ignored Lucius as he began to fight Zekrom, focussing instead on helping Black – who fortunately wasn't hurt too much by Aqua's attack - nurse his unconscious girlfriend to health. “I do not like to agree with Lucius,” said Octa softly, “but you have to concede he has a good point. None of us even came close to attacking Black, yet she did...”
Boreas forced himself to remain calm. “She was just overwhelmed by Zekrom's power, that's all... When I looked into her eyes, I saw only mad anger, nothing deliberate.”
“My dear fellow, the extent of her anger shows it wasn't created solely by Zekrom. She clearly harboured ill feelings towards Black anyway; a clear indication she is his, and therefore our, enemy.”
“Look, it's just some repressed feelings against all humanity for what they did to her.”
“And what is that?” asked Octa.
Boreas remembered when Aqua had broken down in his embrace long ago in her burrow by the river and told him all about the human hunters who had killed her previous boyfriend. He was also certain she wouldn't want him to tell that to Octa; he was likely the only person that knew about it. “I can't tell you.”
“Well, then it can't be of much importance.”
“Leave it, Octa,” said Toxica. “She's got a good reason to be angry, but you can trust her.”
Octa sniffed. “Were that I could believe you.” However, he turned his attention to the battle.
“Thanks,” said Boreas.
Toxica nodded. “She told me a bit about her past. Not much, but enough to guess more. I hate to see those two bein' such tossbags to her... Oh, bugger.” Lucius had been enveloped by a huge spherical ball of lightning after only getting off a few bites into his enemy. “I guess it's my turn, innit?”
“Good luck...” mumbled Aqua.
Boreas pet her face a little. “How are you feeling, love?”
“Like I've just committed treason and was then electrocuted...”
“It wasn't your fault, my love. It was Zekrom's power. It took your anger and gave you no choice-”
“But I did have a choice! I could've resisted it, but it seems betraying is just what I do... I shouldn't have joined your team, I'll only end up letting you down and hurting you...”
“No, Aqua,” said Boreas, his face closer to her, “you won't. You're far braver and more loyal than you think.”
Aqua gave him a disbelieving little smile.
“No, really, just wait and see. When it comes down to it, you're a far better person than you think. You fought Zekrom to the end. I believe in you, and so does Toxica.”
Aqua averted her gaze and got up, looking at the battle. “Toxica seems to be doing well...”
Boreas nodded, allowing her to change the subject. Toxica was indeed doing well. She had been shocked several times, yet was still fighting, her plant tissues making her more resistant to electrocution. Zekrom was poisoned by a large cloud of toxic powder, getting weaker by the second. Massive bolts of electricity and energy were exchanged between Zekrom and Toxica. Though Toxica was more resistant to electricity than most, the shocks were powerful enough to weaken her quickly. She fired Solarbeam after Solarbeam at her poisoned opponent, but it just kept on shocking her, demonstrating its incredible power. Eventually Toxica stopped getting up after a shock, defeated.
“It's up to you, Selene.” commanded Black, biting his nails nervously.
Boreas groaned. With Selene's type disadvantage, it was unlikely she could withstand even a single attack. Fortunately she flew right for Zekrom quickly, swooping around it so fast its first attacks missed. It tried to hit her as she spun rapidly around it, raining lightning bolts around randomly. Then Selene flew close to its tail, and it almost seemed like a powerful lightning bolt would fry her, but she made a sudden turn and with dark energy slightly bent the bolt's trail so it hit Zekrom's own tail.
Zekrom roared in anger and tried to physically punch Selene out of the air, but her movement was so quick it looked like she teleported away and Zekrom tripped clumsily. It got up, clearly weakened by the poison inside it, and spat thunderbolt after thunderbolt after Selene, who was moving quicker than Boreas had ever seen her do, seeming to be in multiple places at once, and never the same as Zekrom's attacks. Zekrom turned around and around to try and get her, but she was too swift, and Zekrom got clumsier each time, frequently hurting itself while the poison took its toll.
At last, Zekrom's tail flickered and it staggered weakly. “IMPERFECT.”
“Tell me about it,” said Selene before swooping down and slashing at Zekrom with wing and claw. Slowly the legendary creature toppled and fell with a titanic thud.
The flapping of Selene's wings as she landed in front of her team was the only sound in the tower. She looked at them for a moment before she was rushed by Toxica, picked up, and held in her arms. “You did it! You did it! You beat that thing, I can't believe it!”
Lucius laughed. “That thing was stupid enough to be beaten by you, huh, birdbrain? Whatever, you did really well.”
They were all congratulating Selene for a while and only after that was over realised N had been standing still and wordless like a statue. Silence fell until at last he spoke:
“Everything's ruined...” he said in an empty voice. “The dreams I had... My ideals... They were false after all...”
“No, N!” interrupted Diego, recovered from his wounds in battle. “You can't say that, you know it's not true!”
“But it is!” said N desperately. “They defeated Zekrom, even without using Reshiram...”
“Well, that doesn't mean we're wrong, it just shows they're stronger!”
“...But you've always told me the winner of this battle was right. I was wrong, that's all there is to it... I guess it was wrong to liberate the pokémon...”
“You can't reject Team Plasma!”
“But we're wrong, this battle clearly shows it... Black, you won. That means you were right and I was wrong... Pokémon should belong to humans, I suppose...”
Black sighed. “N, have you ever considered we could both be right?”
N looked at Black like he'd asked him kindly to saw his legs off. “Of course not, that's preposterous.”
“The world is a place with many colours; you should embrace its diversity, not paint it black and white. You were right that many humans treat pokémon as their property, or worse; and that's a bad thing. But forcibly liberating all pokémon to separate them entirely from humans is bad too.”
N thought for a long time. “Well... Maybe... when I grew up, I only met pokémon that didn't like humans... But when I began my journey, I began meeting pokémon that liked humans, including yours. I couldn't understand it, even if Diego tried to help me understand it as he told me they were brainwashed... But now I see: you, my friend, were just as mistaken as I was! Some pokémon really do like humans, and so we should allow them to choose whether they want to be with humans or not instead of liberating them all. Thank you, Black.”
“Well,” said N. “We'll need to change things. I may no longer be Champion, but I am still Team Plasma's king. And I see now that it's time for peace. This war was terribly misguided, and the remaining trainers should be allowed to keep their pokémon, and others too; though we should make sure pokémon never again suffer at human hands. And we'll begin making peace right here. Diego.”
“Yes?!” Diego startled, having looked lost in thought during N's speech.
“This enmity between you and Boreas ends now. We're all friends now, so I want you to shake his paw and forgive him.”
“Good idea,” said Black. “Boreas, I know he's hurt you in the past, but you have to forgive and forget now. Shake his paw.”
“But-” started Boreas.
“There's no way-” began Diego.
“I can't possibly-”
“Are you insane?”
“He tried to kill Aqua!”
“I'm not shaking his paw!”
“I won't forgive!”
“You can't make us-”
“Please, Diego!” pleaded N. “It's over now. Do it for the peace we'll build.”
“Come on, Boreas,” said Black. “N and I made up, now you have to do the same. This is our chance to end this war.”
Boreas and Diego stared into each other's face. Boreas still hated him. He was no longer planning to kill the Zoroark, but he had no intention to forgive either. “Fine!” snapped Diego, taking steps forward, his paw extended.
Now Boreas didn't feel he could refuse; that would make him be less forgiving than Diego. “Hmpf, alright then.” He placed his paw into Diego's. Diego squeezed far harder than he needed to and Boreas chilled Diego's paw down very rapidly, but they shook paws grudgingly before rapidly retracting them, trying not to wince in pain from what the other had done.
“Excellent!” laughed N. “Aqua, my friend, looks like you were right after all. I'm sorry for doubting you.”
“That's alright,” smiled Aqua. “I guess you've finally come to your senses now.”
“Well,” said N happily. “Why don't you go get Reshiram, and then we'll address Unova together, as Team Plasma's king and the Champion, and tell everyone it's time to stop hunting pokémon trainers. It's time we made peace.”
“No, it isn't.”
From each of the rear entrances to the throne room came one of the seven Sages, their entire teams with them, each with a single, mighty addition. Rood's fire-types were joined by a Salamence, ferocious and powerful. Gorm's water-types had been joined by a kinder-looking, but no less powerful, Dragonite. Bronius now had a Tyranitar, mightiest of all rock-types, and Giallo a cold, robotic Metagross added to his steel-types. Among Ryoku's grass-type ranks was a mighty, shark-like Garchomp, and Zinzolin's poison-types had a Hydreigon with them.
Ghetsis was the only one of them whose addition Boreas didn't recognised as a pokémon of almost legendary power. It was a strange, grey and blue creature with a vaguely draconic head; it seemed to be hunched over. It seemed a weird, almost pitiable thing, yet it frightened Boreas. Somehow it reminded Boreas of Reshiram and Zekrom, even though it seemed more like the antithesis of the powerful pokémon.
Boreas could've sworn he saw Diego flinch, looking almost pained for a moment, as the Sages entered, almost surrounding them.
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...
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.
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.”
“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...”
Chapter Seventy-Two: Love and War
“So what eventually got you to change your mind?” Boreas asked as they waited for Black to return with Reshiram in the Champion's tower.
“You know, I'm not really sure,” said Aqua ponderously. “I didn't want to let Diego get away with murdering N, I didn't want to leave you to fight without me, I wanted to give myself a chance to maybe prove Toxica and you right, and I know Team Plasma needs to be stopped. I don't know which one convinced me, really. Probably a bit of each. I'm glad I've got a friend like Toxica to get me back in any case.” She smiled and patted Toxica on her shoulder with her tail.
“So am I,” said Boreas, “though it would've felt safer not to have you part of this battle.”
Aqua gave him a sceptical look.
“I know, I know,” Boreas laughed, “you're probably more capable of staying alive in this thing than me, and you wouldn't turn back for my concerns anyway. I was just saying.”
“Yeah, you're right there,” chuckled Aqua. “Between the two of us, you're the one who needs his back watched. After all, you're always getting yourself into danger because you don't think ahead.”
“Hey, that's not true,” chuckled Boreas. “I do think ahead and don't need you to keep me out of trouble.”
“It's true, alright. You're reckless and silly.”
Boreas tried very hard to keep a straight face. “I'm not, which means you're just poking your pretty nose into my business.”
“Busybody.” Their lips softly touched, ignoring Octa's frustrated sigh.
Aqua winked. “I do think Octa's jealous.”
“I am not!” Octa enunciated. “However, I am frustrated, for our friends and allies are dying in battle right now while we have to wait for Black to retrieve Reshiram before we can join them; despite this, your minds are occupied by your courtship.”
“Octa, my dear fellow,” said Boreas, “my mind can use a little distraction right now. Besides, this could be our last chance to kiss; we might die soon, so why not make the most of things now?”
Boreas thought he saw something on Toxica's face at this, but then Black entered with Reshiram and interrupted the conversation. Pride and courage filled them all, knowing the truth was on their side. Fortunately, Reshiram didn't seem dismayed by Black's unceremonial dismissal earlier. “Come on, guys,” said Black. “Let's find Ghetsis, end this, and all come back in one piece. It shouldn't be too hard.”
Stepping out onto the bridge to Team Plasma's castle, they were nearly blown off by the storm and instantly soaked by rain. “Forgot about the storm!” shouted Black against the wind. “Get on Reshiram's back, everyone, we're flying!”
As he crawled on Reshiram's back, Boreas felt empowered and proud by the sheer touch of its soft, almost fur-like feathers. He was for a moment fully convinced by the sheer righteousness of their cause and pitying those misguided deniers of the truth out there, before he reminded himself not to be fooled by Reshiram's crap. “I had no idea legendaries were this annoying...” he muttered.
They were soon all on the large dragon's back, holding on to the white feathers tightly. “Go, Reshiram,” commanded Black. “Fly us to Kyurem!”
Reshiram spread its vast white wings and leapt into the stormy sky. Boreas held on tight as they soared over Team Plasma's castle. Little figures fought below them, in courtyards and on walls, their attacks little sparks of light in the deep dark tempest. Black shouted something at Reshiram, and they entered into a dive and swooped right over the fighting on a wall. Reshiram shone brightly with white light on the combatants, invigorating the resistance and breathing fire down on Team Plasma.
They were about to make another pass, but a bolt of lightning barely missed them, its thunderclap deafeningly loud. The stormwinds pulled hard on Reshiram and those it carried, making it clear the shorter they flew through the storm, the better.
“KYUREM IS IN THERE,” thundered Reshiram as they flew for one of the lower buildings, almost invisible through the thick rain curtain.
“Put us down at its entrance!” As they approached the building, an open courtyard in front of it became visible. Tiny figures were fighting even this deep into the castle, but they momentarily scattered as Reshiram descended like a bright, fiery falling star. Several seconds before it touched down, Boreas jumped from its back, landing on a Koffing floating several metres lower and taking it out, instantly jumped on, taking down a Flaaffy as well. A buzzing noise alerted him and allowed him to block a Beedrill's attack before it landed and respond in kind, grabbing the insect, sending a pulse of cold through it, and throwing it onto the Bagon that attacked him as well. A final attack took both down.
Then his friends joined the battle as well. Their allies were on the other side of the courtyard; they were surrounded by enemies here. Most of them were just grunts, and their pokémon were relatively easy to handle, but Boreas recognised a purple-robed old man with long, greying-brown hair and a goatee. With a shudder he recalled his disgusting and nearly fatal trip into the stomach of Zinzolin's Seviper. At least that Glaceon-eating monster was dead now, but the sage brought six powerful poison-types and a huge Hydreigon to the field.
“Ah, our new Shampion 'as honoured us with a visit! 'Ydreigon, show 'im your power!”
The dark, three headed serpent-dragon roared and attacked Reshiram with powerful pulses of energy from two of the heads, while the third devoured a Plusle that was actually on its own side. Reshiram took flight, wounded by the attacks, and flew at Hydreigon, spitting fire. The serpent itself leapt into the air, dodging the flames, and collided with Reshiram, two of its heads biting at the other dragon's throat while the third spit a beam of energy right into its face.
But Boreas had no more time to watch the titanic struggle between dragons: Zinzolin's team had reached them. A Drapion's powerful punch knocked him right into a soft, horribly stinky trashmonster. The Garbodor spit a wave of slime over him, but he blunted the assault by freezing it, then rapidly dodged its fist coming down. With an attack, he froze its oozy flesh in several places. But before he could continue, he saw movement faster than lightning from the corner of his eye. As he turned to parry its attack, he already realised he was too late; the Crobat was just too fast.
A solid beam of water knocked the bat out of the air and made it bounce off Garbodor. Boreas quickly nodded his thanks to Aqua and finished the momentarily grounded bat with an Ice Beam. He turned at the sound of Garbodor blobbering towards him, oozing sludge at him, and defended himself by freezing its every attack. The trashmonster was faster than it looked and Boreas had a hard time freezing the disgusting liquids it threw at him away, but was just fast enough.
An electric attack struck Boreas from somewhere just as he was about to freeze down yet another blob of goo. His muscles spasmed from the shock and made him miss his counterattack. Horrid, burning sludge covered his upper body a moment later. The goo felt like it was dissolving his fur and skin, so he tried to scrape it off with his paws, but he was hit by more balls of sludge, fully covering him in the nasty stuff.
A big wave of water impacted him strongly and washed most of the noxious goo off instantly. He was swept away in the wave, which soon turned into a rapid whirlpool with Garbodor at its centre before it retreated and left Aqua standing next to him.
“Really, my love,” she teased as she blasted Garbodor with a jet of water, “how many more times do you plan on having me rescue you?”
Boreas got up and suppressed the instinct to shake out his fur; it wouldn't matter in this deluge anyway. Instead he Ice Beamed Garbodor. “It's not as if I'm helpless, I just had a bit of bad luck! I don't need you to save me that often.”
Aqua elegantly dodged the Garbodor's slimy bulk as it launched itself at her. “Sure you do,” she chuckled, “you'd be helpless without me at your side.”
Boreas laughed as he froze the ground beneath Garbodor, making it slip as it got up. “Maybe you're right; so I'd better make sure I keep you there.” He suddenly had his best idea ever. “Let's get married.”
Aqua turned right in the middle of a wave that was about to crash down on Garbodor, missing it instead. “WHAT?!”
Drapion saw its chance and jumped at Aqua, surrounded by slime. Boreas' mind lashed out with the stormwind, suddenly increasing a blast of wind to a tornado's strength and thereby launching Garbodor away and knocking Zinzolin's Weezing out of the air with it. “It's a tradition of human origin where you promise your eternal love for-”
“I know what it is!” said Aqua bewildered. “But in case you hadn't noticed, we're a little busy at the moment!”
They both had to run from a mighty ball of fire from the duel of the dragons, but stayed together. “Aqua,” said Boreas as he parried a Vulpix's attack with one paw while carefully crystallising rain with the other into a beautiful flower made of ice, “this is likely our last chance. If I'm going to die today, this is one last thing I would like to have done. I love you,” he said as he completed the flower and gave it to Aqua in one smooth motion, “will you marry me?”
Aqua looked at him with a wonderful expression of love and befuddlement, but had to jump out of the way of a Gurdurr's girder, then swept it away with a single wave. “Boreas, you're insane!” she laughed. “And I love you for it! Of course I'll marry you!”
It was one of the happiest moments of Boreas' life, to look into Aqua's happy, laughing face and know she truly wanted to be with him forever. He rolled out of the way of a Ledian's punch, making it hit a Kling instead and screech in pain before he knocked them both out with a single pulse of cold. “Wonderful!” he said as his tail briefly touched Aqua's.
“Yeah,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes, “so, what exactly are we supposed to do?”
“Uhh...” Boreas realised he only had quite a vague idea of how a wedding was supposed to work; but he figured the details didn't matter as long as he and Aqua considered themselves married. “I think you're supposed to get a best man, to begin with.”
Aqua nodded. “Right, let's get them, then!” They ran back to the rest of the team, which they'd gotten separated from, dodging a few attacks together while holding tails.
“Octa,” said Boreas as he reached his friend, Ice Beaming the Drapion the Serperior was fighting in the face. “Will you be my best man? Aqua and I are getting married right now!”
“What the-” began Octa, using his enemy's cringe at Boreas' attack to stab it. “Of all the ludicrous ideas you've had, this has to be the worst! We're in a battle here!”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
“A yes, of course, my dear fellow!” Octa laughed.
“Toxica,” asked Aqua, “will you be my best woman?”
“I'd be honoured,” said Toxica, defeating Drapion with an Energy Ball, “but I don't think the bride is supposed to have a best woman too.”
“Half the guests to the wedding aren't supposed to be trying to kill the other half and the wedding couple either, but we have to improvise here!” Aqua quickly soaked an attacking Numel.
“Then I'd love to be best woman,” said Toxica. “This is wonderful!”
“Octa,” said Boreas, “could you pull double duty and ask us the questions? I think you know them best!”
“Very well, my dear fellow.” He scraped his throat. “Dearly beloved-” he parried a Pawniard's blade with his own. “And not so beloved, we are gathered here today to unite these two Eevees in matrimony! Boreas, do you-ack!” Weezing had emerged from under the unconscious Garbodor and was attacking them with dark clouds of smog. “Toxica and I can handle it, continue on your own!”
“Boreas,” said Aqua, shooting a jet of water at an enemy behind Boreas' back, “do you take me to be your wife to love and cherish until death do us part?”
“I do!” said Boreas happily, Ice Beaming an approaching Sunflora down. “Aqua, do you take me to be your-” The two dragons, entangled in mighty combat, were about to crash down on them, so Boreas and Aqua ran away together, jumping over enemies and quickly dispatching a few. “-Husband, to love and cherish until death do us part, which I hope will be in more than a few minutes?”
“I do!” said Aqua, creating a rapid flow of water circling around them, keeping enemies away.
Boreas looked, but saw Octa was too far away. “Then I pronounce us husband and wife.” he said with delight as he froze the wave.
Protected by the wall of ice, the battle's noise and chaos was at last gone for one moment. Aqua looked into Boreas' eyes with a happy smile. “You may now kiss the bride.”
Boreas hugged Aqua tightly and kissed her, feeling his limitless love for this wonderful Vaporeon in every cell of his body. Their kiss seemed to last an eternity, so lost in their love were they, it even continued for another second when the wall of ice shattered all around them thanks to the fighting dragons. Then at last they separated and took down the enemies around them together. “C'mon, hubby,” said Aqua with a smile. “Let's rejoin our best men.”
“Good idea, I think the guests might be giving them trouble.” They sprinted back to Octa and Toxica just in time to see them take down the Weezing. The two grass-types turned to them with happy expecting smiles.
“It's done,” said Boreas joyfully, “we're married!”
“Congratulations, my dear fellow!” Octa grasped Boreas. “Now this is something I would never have expected: you getting wed before me.”
They suddenly saw Sage Zinzolin running through the battlefield, pursued by Lucius and Selene, who had clearly defeated the sage's other pokémon. Octa extended his vines and made the robed human trip, then aimed his blade at the man's throat. “Sage Zinzolin, you have been defeated,” declared Octa.
“Damn right he is,” said Lucius. “Birdbrain and I took down the rest of his pokémon, and Hydreigon is getting its triple ass kicked by Reshiram. Kill him and let's get on with it.”
Zinzolin breathed heavily with the blade at his throat, and said: “You may kill me, but you will lose zis battle and zis war nonetheless. It is inevitable. Victoire à la Plasma!”
Octa kept his blade on the Frenchman's throat for a moment, then withdrew it and slithered back a little. “I cannot kill him.”
“Really?” asked Lucius after a moment. “That's good. Because I can!” He suddenly leapt onto Zinzolin, and Octa moved to stop him, but it was too late: Lucius bit at the sage's throat, and there was one final scream before he was silenced forever. Lucius got up, his mouth dripping with blood.
“How could you do that?!” roared Octa. “He was defeated, our prisoner! To kill him was an act of utter barbarity!”
“Get used to it!” snapped Lucius. “Remember, these bastards are our enemies, and they wouldn't hesitate to do the same to us. Remember what they did to Capella? This won't be the last of them whose blood I drink! We're here to kill another one of them in the first place, so quit whining!”
Though Boreas was rather shocked by the brutal execution, he couldn't really feel sad for Zinzolin's demise. “Come on,” he said to stop Octa from arguing. “We've got to help Reshiram defeat that Hydreigon.”
Reshiram was already winning on its own, however, the Hydreigon a lot more wounded. They were flying through the air above the battlefield, their intense beams flashing like the storm's lightning. Boreas shot an Ice Beam at Hydreigon's wings, and his friends joined him in attacking. It spit a great ball of fire down from one head; Boreas got the storm to blow them out of its path with intense force. They all landed painfully and in a heap, but at least they weren't incinerated. They wanted to help Reshiram fight Hydreigon some more, but the three-headed dragon saw its trainer was dead and rapidly dived away from its legendary enemy, flying rapidly over the battlefield. Reshiram was about to pursue it, but Black shouted: “Leave it, Reshiram! We have to go after Kyurem!”
Reshiram descended. “AS YOU COMMAND. THE TRUTH WILL ALWAYS WIN.”
“And Lucius,” Black scolded, “I don't want to see you kill anyone other than Ghetsis again! We take them as prisoners, understood?”
“Sure,” lied Lucius.
Boreas became aware of an enemy attacking him and turned around instantly, but too late: the Nidorino had reached him. But instead of a painful impact, there was dark flash and then it was thrown aside by a cute Umbreon. “Boreas,” she said, “it's been a while, hasn't it?”
“Febby!” Boreas blurted out in surprise. “It's great to see you again!” He saw now that White was greeting Black, and that she had her entire team with her. Boreas was momentarily annoyed with seeing Esper, before deciding it really was about time he stopped being so childish towards him. “I had no idea you were in the resistance!”
“Well, we've been with them only shortly,” she giggled, “White didn't want to give us up when Team Plasma took over, so she eventually went to the Gym Leader for help, and he got us into the resistance. It's good not to have to hide all the time. Oh, and here's Esper!”
“Hi, dude,” greeted Esper, “how are you?”
“I'm well,” Boreas said kindly. “In fact, I just got married.”
“You did?!” Febby blurted out with something between surprise, joy, and jealousy. “Who's the lucky girl?”
Boreas looked for his bride, and saw she was in trouble fighting a Scrafty that looked like Grimsley's. “Excuse me, just a moment.” He rushed for them, firing Ice Beams that hurt and distracted the Scrafty enough for Aqua to strike back at it. While it wasn't defeated, it retreated behind other combatants, unwilling to fight the two of them. “Looks like I'm not the only one in this marriage that needs the occasional rescue,” teased Boreas.
“Oh, shut up,” laughed Aqua.
“Anyway,” said Boreas, “I want to introduce you to Febby and Esper. Febby, this is Aqua, my wife.” That sounded very good, thought Boreas.
“Hello, Febby,” said Aqua with a mean little smile. “I've heard much about you from my husband.”
“Did you?” said Febby, suddenly grumpy. “I heard little about you.”
“Hardly surprising. I suppose the facts speak for themselves, don't they, my love?”
Boreas made eye contact with Esper and saw the Espeon felt as surprised and uncomfortable by the sudden hostility as Boreas. “Yes, yes, I suppose they do. Anyway, I think we should be paying more attention to the battle, and try to reach Ghetsis. But it was great to see you again, Febby.”
Aqua and Boreas ran through enemy ranks to catch up to their friends, who were already in the entrance to the building where Ghetsis apparently was, fighting in a long corridor full of grunts and their pokémon. “What'd you do that for?” Boreas asked in annoyance as he sidestepped to dodge an attack.
“Do what?” Aqua asked with all the sweetness of an apple filled with razorblades. “I was just having a nice girl-to-girl chat with Febby.”
Boreas snorted. “Sure, 'nice'. You were clearly trying to make her jealous.”
“Well, perhaps,” said Aqua with a sly smile. “After all, she was stupid enough to choose that Espeon instead of you.”
Boreas chuckled. “That's no reason to childishly rub it in. Funny thing is, I had no idea she had even had any interest in me at all until just now.”
“I'm not surprised she is, I married you after all. Would it have changed anything if you had known?”
“No,” said Boreas, without even having to think about it. “I mean, Febby is a nice girl and all, but you...” he searched for the right words. “Well, I love you.”
Aqua chuckled. “That's what I figured.”
“Dammit, it was about time you two rejoined us!” snapped Toxica.
“Sorry,” said Aqua, “we got a little caught up talking to an old friend of Boreas'.”
The help of the two newly-wed Eevees was very welcome, as Black's team was getting swarmed with enemies in the corridor. Fortunately there was no rain inside, and each enemy on its own was quite weak. But with as many of them as there were in here, it was hard not to be overwhelmed. Toxica already had several wounds, but they were slowly making progress through the corridor thanks to Reshiram, which made many of its enemies flee, and easily defeated them otherwise.
As Toxica fought against one enemy after another, she noticed Boreas and Aqua were fighting closely together in concert, always covering each other, their attacks working together brilliantly. It warmed her heart to see her friends like this. To see them get married suddenly was a wonderful, though strange surprise in this massive battle. It also made her wonder if she shouldn't forgive Octa. She knew the Eevees had done this because the chances either of them wouldn't live to see tomorrow were large, and they were no better for Octa and her. Boreas' words “we might die soon, so why not make the most of things now?” had hit home. But of course, she was still quite mad at Octa for what he'd done. Dying broken up with him was not an appealing thought, but neither was forgiving him, even if she was pretty sure his regret nor his decision to leave his House were fake.
Lost in thought like this, Toxica was fighting pretty much on automatic pilot. It was bound to go wrong sooner or later, and of course it did. An Absol was faster than her and swept at her with the razor-sharp sickle on its head. She fell back with a cry of pain and a deep cut in her chest. Absol pounced her to finish it, but found its sickle crossed by a Leaf Blade. “That was most unwise of you.”
To Toxica's great annoyance, Octa engaged the Absol and fought it, protecting her as she focussed on regenerating her wound. “Dammit, Octa, mind your own business, you nosy bastard! I can take care of myself!”
“I shan't,” said Octa defiantly, “for you evidently do need my help.”
“Piss off,” she snapped as she got up again slowly. “I know you're just trying to impress me, but you can forget about it!”
Octa defeated the Absol. “What I did was to help you; I would have done the same for any of us, even Lucius.”
“Codswallop!” snapped Toxica as their progress through the corridor went faster: it seemed White's pokémon were creating a distraction on the other end. “I know you still want to be with me, but it's over between us! I don't care that we might be about to die, or that you might've left your House for me, I'm done with you!”
She realised then she was sounding madder than Selene right now and forced herself to calm down and stop rambling. She was ashamed to have flipped out like that for so little reason. “I-I'm sorry, I-”
But they had finally reached the end of the army of pokémon in the corridor, the rest too occupied with fighting White. The grunts that commanded them had fled into rooms to the sides, so nothing stood between them and the hall where Ghetsis was. Reshiram rushed ahead and bashed the doors down, showing a grand, ornate hall. But Kyurem and the rest of Ghetsis' team still stood between them and the Sage.
Chapter Seventy-Three: The Tightening Noose
Ghetsis looked surprised to see them enter the huge hall. “If it isn't our new Champion. Good of you to have come and brought me Reshiram. It was about time poor Kyurem became a single pokémon again, wasn't it?”
“You'll pay for having N killed, monster,” growled Aqua with a look of pure hate on her face.
Ghetsis looked at her with amusement. “N was the monster, you know. He was created and raised as nothing but a tool to get me Zekrom, and that was all there ever was to him. He was a freak without a human heart.”
“You're one to talk about having a heart,” said Black,“after using and then killing your own son like that!”
“You clearly haven't understood the philosophy of the Seven Sages-”
Black interrupted. “You'd better make that Six Sages. Zinzolin is dead.”
Ghetsis seemed genuinely hurt for a moment before shaking it off with a shrug. “That's a pity, but no serious problem. You see, I'm about to kill you and reunite Kyurem fully, so I can do with one Sage less. I'll have a perfect pokémon for a perfect Emperor of Team Plasma, of Unova, of the world!” From beneath the huge mantle that was part of his robe, Ghetsis revealed a cane with the Team Plasma logo on it and banged it on the ground, snapping Kyurem to attention with the sound. “I am the most powerful Sage, and don't really need the help of my allies any more.”
“And what would your so-called allies say,” asked Black, “if they heard this?”
Ghetsis shrugged. “It's nothing they don't know. They would do the same if they were as brilliant, as wise, and as powerful as I am. As it is, they're content to bide their time and be my second-in-commands until they can replace me some day. Of course that day will never come, as I am perfection! And now, I've got four new Sages to replace poor Zinzolin anyway.”
“There's only one problem with your plan:” said Black, “you'll be dead soon.”
Ghetsis laughed. “What an incredibly predictable thing to say. Instead, you should thanks me: you got to be the sole audience member for one of my speeches. But fine, if you want to rush into things, then so be it. We both have seven pokémon, so at least you have some tiny chance against me.” He banged his cane to the floor, and his team began to move. Other than Kyurem, there were an Escavalier, Spiritomb, Bouffalant, Seismitoad, Eelektross, and Kingdra. Ghetsis clearly had the tactical insight not to base his team on any one type, but instead on pokémon with very few weaknesses. But Boreas reminded himself this battle wasn't about taking out the enemy pokémon, but the enemy trainer. If someone could just kill Ghetsis, Kyurem would be gone too... Boreas quickly looked around the hall, taking anything that might be useful in. On each side of the room, there was a huge statue of a Lugia on a stone pedestal three metres high and almost five wide.
“An even fight,” sneered Black, “are you scared yet?”
Ghetsis laughed. “You'll need at least another trainer on your side to make it even. Farewell, Black.”
Ghetsis banged his cane again and the battle started in all its deadliness. Boreas instantly aimed a powerful attack for Ghetsis, but the man jumped behind the pedestal of the statue behind him.
Mighty attacks flew over Black's team aimed for him, so he quickly did the same, seeking cover behind the statue's huge pedestal. Reshiram and Kyurem collided with terrifying might in combat in the middle of the hall, fighting each other with devastating flames, lightning bolts, and ice.
Boreas tried to run around the enemy team in the hopes of reaching Ghetsis, but found his path suddenly blocked by a huge wave of water. He tried to freeze it before it reached him, but was too late: it crashed into him with nearly bonebreaking force. He was submerged in a maelstrom of water. The rapid, chaotic currents prevented him from freezing any of the water, since the water near him would be far away within a second, and turned him so suddenly his neck felt whiplashed soon. The currents never allowed him to surface at all, so he was rapidly running out of air.
He caught occasional glimpses of a large, dragon-like seahorse with a sharp snout in the maelstrom, a bright white ball of energy forming on its snout. Boreas tried to attack Kingdra, but the currents were so fast and unpredictable his attacks mostly missed, and the one time an Ice Beam did hit his enemy it seemed to be hurt little.
All of a sudden, the currents held Boreas in a single place, but before he could capitalise on it a bright white beam of energy enveloped most of his body. He felt like he was on fire, his every cell burning with pain. He weakened the beam with powerful pulses of cold through the water, but it still felt as if the beam was disintegrating him layer by layer. He was unable to resist screaming in agony and so lost the last air in his lungs. The terrible beam ended at last, so Boreas attacked back and froze the water near Kingdra, then struggled to reach the surface as his lungs were desperately begging for air by now. Kingdra was too occupied with getting away from the suddenly encroaching ice to keep up the drowning currents, so Boreas could finally ascend in the water. His muscles burned and he had a dreadful headache, not even to mention the pain the beam had inflicted, but he spent the last of his strength to reach the surface while suppressing his breathing reflex. His front paw finally touched delicious air: he was almost there.
But hope died as a current pulled him deep under again. In the shock of the moment, Boreas' breathing reflex got the better of him and he inhaled deeply, but instead of liberating air, water reached his lungs. It was like inhaling magma: his lungs were in agony from the water filling them, and he instinctively breathed in and out quickly, more agonising water filling his lungs as his vision slowly faded to black.
Though his mind had raced to find a way to save himself, he finally realised he was truly drowning to death, and decided he didn't want his life to end thinking only of the burning pain in his lungs and the terror of not being able to reach the surface. He focussed only on Aqua, picturing her face when she had agreed to marry him minutes ago. Thinking of her he felt his mind slowly go blank. In his dying moments his oxygen-deprived brain dreamt of her grabbing him, her sweet face full of fear for his life, and kissing him. The pain, the panic, and the all-consuming need for oxygen faded as death embraced him. At least it was a good dying dream, Boreas thought through a densely fogged mind.
But the dream continued as Aqua swam rapidly through the currents holding him, and shielded him from another beam with her own body, screeching in pain underwater as she was hit. Moments later, Boreas was thrown out of the water and landed hard on the ground, feeling utterly horrible. He coughed and vomited up floods of water and wheezed to get air, but his lungs were still almost full of the horrible stuff and the air he breathed barely offered any relief. Between coughs and wheezes he was still drowning on dry land.
He was lifted by two large human arms that pressed hard on his chest and held him facing downward. It hurt, but made him cough up far more water than before. Boreas was vaguely aware Black was running, holding him while the enemy's attacks flew him around the ears. Boreas' breathing became slightly more effective, slowly removing the pain and fog in his mind as they dived behind the cover of a statue.
Boreas had no idea how long he coughed up water while Black pressed on his chest, but he felt himself slowly recover. “Tha-Thank you...”
“Are you feeling better now, little buddy?” asked Black full of concern. “I thought I'd lost you there for a moment.”
“Much- much better,” gasped Boreas, “still- bloody awful.”
Boreas tried to see how the battle was going, but hidden behind the pedestal he could only see the large blob of water he'd nearly drowned in: Aqua was still fighting Kingdra inside, but it was hard to see who was winning.
Suddenly an armoured insect with two sharp lance-arms, one of which was covered in blood, hopped around the corner. Boreas tried to get up to fight, but was still in no condition to do so, breaking out in a water-spewing coughing fit instead. “Don't worry, little buddy,” said Black, pulling his knife, “I'll defend myself.”
The Escavalier ignored Boreas as it lunged out at Black with its lances. The human fortunately dodged them and stabbed back, only for his knife to harmlessly bounce off the armour. Escavalier stabbed at him again, but Black dodged it.
A huge ball of fire from the battle of the legendaries hit the top of the Lugia statue and melted the stone there instantly, distracting Escavalier for a moment and allowing Black to put some distance between them. But followed and stabbed at him again: Black parried with his knife, but the powerful pokémon easily flung it from his hand. It stabbed with its other lance and pierced Black's leg all the way through.
Boreas got up, forcing himself past his weakness to go help his badly wounded trainer. He ran into Escavalier's back just as it was about to kill Black with another stab, making it miss. Boreas put a weak pulse of cold through his enemy. Escavalier wasn't hurt much and threw Boreas off, then turned around to finish Black. The human had tried to crawl away, but with his one leg pierced and bleeding heavily he was slower even than the armoured insect. Boreas tried to fight Escavalier again, but was felled by a dreadful coughing fit.
On the other side of the statue, Kyurem tried to hit Reshiram with an obliterating Hyper Beam, but missed. The beam hit the hall's roof instead, where a rain of boulders exploded from its impact as it knocked all the way through. One of the heavy rocks struck down Escavalier as it was about to strike, knocking it out, though its armour prevented it from being crushed completely.
Fortunately neither Black nor Boreas were hit, but the wound on Black's leg was bleeding badly. Boreas went over to him and softly breathed ice-cold air on the leg to slow the blood loss. “I'll be alright, little buddy,” said Black with a cringe of pain. “Go help the others, they'll need you more than me right now.”
Boreas nodded and, coughing up some more water, he walked around the statue cautiously. The first thing he noticed was how wounded Reshiram and Kyurem looked. Their titanic combat was still going on, massive fire and ice colliding every second, but they were covered in wounds and looking ready to fall. Instead of blood, their wounds oozed a strange gas that hung about them; white for Reshiram and black for Kyurem.
The next thing he noticed was that many of the other combatants were defeated by now; fortunately none looked dead. Aqua was now fighting Seismitoad in the big blob of water surrounding them, while Lucius spit fire at a Bouffalant charging him. With Ghetsis' remaining pokémon fighting his friends, Boreas quickly sneaked over the battlefield to the statue Ghetsis had hidden behind, planning to end this immediately. With heavy creaking and crashing, more parts of the ceiling came down, making a wide crack that let in rain and wind.
He walked around the pedestal's corner: there was Ghetsis, his robes partially torn by someone's attack, and all that stood between him and Boreas was a brown, bell-shaped stone. Boreas jumped around the corner and instantly Ice Beamed the Sage, but his attack never landed: a ghostly vortex of purple and green appeared around the stone and absorbed the beam. Boreas quickly tried to parry the Shadow Ball it fired back at him, but still found himself weakened by nearly drowning.
The other pokémon disappeared before Boreas' next attack hit, and then he was floating in a purple vortex. “We are Spiritomb,” said dozens of whispering voices at once, “you are now one of us.”
Terror struck Boreas as something was trying to enter his mind as they said this. “Y-you're just trying to scare me! The legends can't possibly be true!”
“Don't resist it, Boreas, it's not so bad to be Spiritomb,” said Capella's kind voice.
Boreas nearly dropped his guard in shock and the entities closed in on his mind. But he realised what they were trying to do and immediately unleashed all his icy power into the centre of the vortex, creating a Blizzard inside it. A hundred and eight voices cried out in agony, and he was suddenly back in the hall, the Spiritomb before him was pulsating furiously. “That is for abusing Capella's memory!”
He fired an Ice Beam at the stone: it cracked and there were more cries as the vortex shrunk away. “And that is for Black!”
“We are Spiritomb... We share our pain.” Boreas writhed in sudden agony as he felt his very life force drain away while the vortex grew again. “You cannot defeat us. You will join us.”
Boreas fired a continuous Ice Beam into the vortex's centre, shrinking it as his life force drained away. “And that...” he growled, “is for Aqua!”
The Spiritomb finally disappeared entirely, reduced to just the stone. Boreas collapsed, less strength left in him than in a slice of white bread. But he knew he had to kill Ghetsis and tried to get back up.
“Not bad,” said the robed human as he swung his cane and knocked Boreas out with a single hit to the head.
Blood dripped through Boreas' fur when he woke up again feeling like someone had run him over, but he instantly remembered what had happened. There was no Ghetsis behind the pedestal any more, though: only the stone of the defeated Spiritomb. He slowly got up and looked at the battlefield. To his horror, Reshiram lay defeated before Kyurem, and none of his friends were still fighting: they all lay on the ground either unconscious or barely able to move. Ghetsis stood behind Kyurem, laughing. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
Kyurem fired a Hyper Beam at the statue Black hid behind, shattering it in a huge explosion. This was too much for the heavily-damaged roof: it all came down. Ghetsis shouted a command and Kyurem used some kind of pulse that blasted Boreas away on its shockwave, along with the pieces of the collapsing roof, causing it to explode outwards instead. The hall was completely ruined and had no roof any more, but no-one was crushed by the debris. However, Black was completely defenceless against Kyurem now. He couldn't even flee with his pierced leg. Boreas rushed back as fast as his legs would carry him, which was unfortunately very slow. “Kyurem,” shouted Ghetsis, “Fusion Bolt!”
Huge electric shocks hit Black, and he squirmed helplessly as he was electrocuted. The dragon kept on shocking him on and on. Boreas managed to break out in a run: his only chance was to take out Ghetsis before Kyurem killed Black. He jumped at Ghetsis, firing off an Ice Beam as he did.
Boreas and the Ice Beam hit Ghetsis, knocking him down to the ground, but just as Boreas was about to finish it, Kyurem's head turned and spit a beam of light at him that charred his fur and knocked him back, landing hard on the ground. The blackness encroached on him and his legs were barely responsive. Don't let him down now, dammit! I HAVE to keep going!
But as much as his mind wanted to, his body was spent. It was nothing short of a miracle he managed to remain awake, let alone move. “No... No...” he muttered weakly as he squirmed with a front paw in an attempt to rescue Black.
The human lay on the ground now, smoking and still convulsing several seconds after the shocks had stopped. “Kyurem...” said Ghetsis as he got up. Boreas cooled his body down a little: he might be able to manage a very weak Ice Beam and his brain blazed trying to think of a way to save Black with it. “Kill him.”
There had to be something he could do, some idea that would stop Kyurem and Ghetsis right now... There had to! Electricity on Kyurem's body gathered at its snout in a fraction of a second as Boreas' half-conscious mind made overtime.
He had no idea. All he could do was look on, completely powerless, as a huge flash of lightning ended the life of his beloved trainer and friend. He wept bitter tears of rage as the fallen Reshiram's body immolated and glowed with light. It emanated huge spitfires that bent off their track and hit Kyurem instead as Reshiram curled up and became a floating white ball of fire and light. But just before it was about to explode, Kyurem emanated a big cloud of greyness that merged with the ball of white energy instead and mixed with it as it retook a physical shape.
Reshiram had become Kyurem-like. Its once pure white lower body was now covered in grey scales, and its head had become like Kyurem's empty face, but with Reshiram's white feathers on it as well.
“What is this?!” exclaimed Ghetsis. “They were supposed to become a single, complete Kyurem! How can they be two incomplete Kyurems?!”
Boreas didn't care at the moment, his mind in flames of hate for the evil monster that had murdered his trainer. He tried to drag himself to Ghetsis, even if all he could do was bite the man's ankles it would be better than nothing. But he was too weak.
“Hmm...” muttered Ghetsis. “Reshiram and Zekrom must have been apart for so long reuniting them has become very hard... So instead, a bit of Kyurem's spirit merged with each. But who am I to complain? Two Kyurems for the price of one!” he laughed and one by one returned the pokémon that were still out to their pokéballs. Boreas was still dragging himself towards Ghetsis, centimetre by centimetre, completely focussed on revenge. But he came nowhere close, as Ghetsis climbed on the black Kyurem's back and ordered them to ascend. The two Kyurems flew out of the ruined hall. Boreas' will gave out and he lost consciousness.
When Boreas woke up, he was under water again. After an initial moment of panic he realised he had clearly been breathing this water for a while, which meant it was Aqua Ring, and that meant Aqua was still alive and helping him recover. But even she couldn't help him recover from the horrible loss he had just suffered. He glumly let the veil of water restore his energy and lessen the pain of his wounds greatly.
When the veil disappeared, Boreas saw Toxica had taken Black's potions from his backpack and was helping the others recover in silence while Aqua did the same with her Aqua Ring. Boreas felt immensely alone. He slowly walked to Black's body. At least it didn't look nearly as gruesome as Capella's. The electricity had scorched him in a few places, and of course his leg was still badly wounded, but overall Black looked barely more than asleep now. Boreas touched his friend's head, and found it was ice cold like the storm itself. He wasn't used to others being that cold.
Just as Boreas felt the tears coming he felt a welcome presence next to him. He embraced Aqua tightly and cried on her shoulder. She rubbed his neck and back softly, trying to comfort him. “I'm so sorry...” she whispered. “I'm so sorry...”
Boreas' tears slowly stopped with Aqua comforting him, and his grief turned to fury slowly. He finally let go of Aqua and looked around. “Did any of you see where Ghetsis went?”
“I did,” said Selene solemnly. “I could see the highest tower, the one with the throneroom, from where I lay. He flew there.”
“Right,” said Boreas, “then I'll follow and kill him.”
“My dear fellow,” said Octa kindly, “I share your need to avenge this most grievous loss... But we must rein in our righteous anger and think of the greater good. Ghetsis has all three parts of Kyurem now: his death will no longer change much, and therefore we can't win. We have to alert the resistance and help them retreat.”
“Iris said the three dragons would have to become Kyurem again together for them to be a complete pokémon. For some reason, they've become two different Kyurems instead: therefore both are still missing a part of Kyurem and can't be stable without a... 'Hero'” he spat out the so very inappropriate word, “to bond with. We kill Ghetsis, and both of them do their exploding thing.”
Octa nodded pensively. “That is a very good point, my dear fellow... But can we be sure of that? If you are mistaken, many more might die. And even if you're right, we couldn't defeat Ghetsis with Reshiram on our side; how shall we ever kill him now that all three dragons are his?”
Boreas sighed. “I don't know. You're right: the six of us can't defeat his team. But maybe some of us can distract them, while the others go after Ghetsis?”
“A distraction within a distraction...” mumbled Aqua.
“Enough talk!” snapped Lucius. “I'm not gonna let those bastards get away with killing two of my friends! I don't care what you guys do, I'm gonna kill them all, right now!”
They tried to reason with him, but he rushed out of the ruined hall. “He'll get himself killed like this instead, I'll stay with him!” said Selene, flying off after him.
“Dammit,” cursed Boreas as he ran after the two dark-types. “We can't let ourselves be split up like this! Come on, we have to keep up with them!”
Boreas recoiled in terror as blazing heat blistered his skin and instinctively lashed out with wind to blow the heat away from him, which saved his fur from catching fire. He was clearly not going to be able to get past Rood as easily as most of the rest of the combatants.
He had followed Selene through the now abandoned, half-collapsed corridor and through the battlefield as fast as possible, but had slowly lost her anyway. Fortunately he knew where Lucius was likely heading: the tallest tower. All they had to do was go there, and they would hopefully run into their friends. Boreas had kept running, looking behind him to find he was completely alone only much later.
He didn't know where Aqua, Octa, and Toxica had lost him, if they'd followed him at all, but he'd realised the only place there was a good chance of them running into each other again was at the tallest tower. So he'd made his way through the battlefield alone, not interfering even when he saw the enemy's dragons easily destroy pokémon by pokémon. Even Hydreigon was still a threat: now that Sage Zinzolin was dead, it had gone rogue, slaughtering and sometimes devouring pokémon and humans from both sides with brutish glee. As he made his way through the battle, it became clear to him things were going poorly: they were badly outnumbered, and each of the six remaining Sages and the Elite Four was more powerful than as good as all the trainers from the resistance. Though most didn't know about Ghetsis killing Black and taking Reshiram yet, all could feel it. Boreas hadn't noticed it in his rage over Black's death before, but Ghetsis having all three dragons had an incredibly depressing effect on all the resistance, and invigorated the enemy. Many were scared and looked as if they were about to surrender or flee.
Despite that, a minor victory had been won in this part of the castle, as Elesa, White, and one other trainer had broken through the seemingly endless line of grunts. However, they had encountered Sage Rood and his fire-types leading half a dozen grunts in a maze of corridors, and Boreas had just run into their battle. It was on the only way to the tower, so he had no choice and had tried to get through the battlefield. But each attempt had been foiled, so it was easy to see he wasn't getting through without helping Elesa and White beat Rood. Since most of their team was busy fighting Salamence in a different corridor, that would be difficult.
After barely saving himself from being incinerated by Chandelure, he tried to blow it out of the air: to no avail, as the ghostly chandelier barely seemed to notice the wind. It blew a stream of fire at Boreas, but he handily parried it and responded with an Ice Beam, which had very little effect on the ghost-type. He dodged a powerful Flamethrower that made the floor sizzle after, and defended himself from multiple more fire-attacks.
He pushed himself against the wall and from this position fired an Ice Beam behind one of the decorative shields that hung on the wall, hitting the wire that kept it up there so it fell off, hitting Chandelure and crushing it to the ground. “Just like old times,” he chuckled.
But he wasn't done yet: Chandelure was only brought down, not defeated yet. A scorching burst hit his front paws from under the heavy shield, setting them alight. Boreas jumped on top of the shield as he cursed with pain and extinguished his burning paws quickly. He brought the shield down on his trapped opponent several more times, then took a moment to inspect his paws. His fur was scorched and his skin quite sore and full of blisters, but he could continue.
He ran around the corridor's corner, where he found Febby duelling Ninetales on her own, badly hurt already and completely on the defensive. Boreas recalled he had found this Ninetales very attractive when he had first seen her, that it was the first time he'd had an interest in a girl in fact. Now all he could see was Febby, wounded by deep cuts and a very bad-looking burn on her side, defending against a constant stream of attacks from the Ninetales.
“Hey, you!” Boreas challenged the fire-type, cloaking himself in a fierce snowstorm that filled up the corridor around him. “Keep your paws off her!”
He sprinted at Ninetales like a comet with the raging Blizzard around. Ninetales turned her attention from the wounded Umbreon to the roaring tide of white about to crash into her and breathed a powerful Flamethrower into it: missing Boreas, who was using his Snow Cloak to conceal himself. He pounced the Ninetales, firing an Ice Beam while lashing out with the roaring storm that overwhelmed the other fox like a tsunami.
Ninetales was strong, throwing him off rapidly, but he just followed up with more of the Blizzard, the winds of it heavy with a painful rain of liquid air. Boreas easily dodged another powerful fire attack, completely in his element in the icy storm, and surprise Ice Beamed Ninetales from the side.
Ninetales breathed intense, bright white fire, but not at Boreas: the fire instead coalesced into a fierce, hovering orb of intense light and heat like the Sun. Boreas tried to hold on to his storm, but the powerful heatwave washed it away, quickly dispersing it through the wide corridors.
Ninetales blew a wave of flame onto Boreas. He defended himself, but his pulse of cold weakened the inferno only a little. There was a searing pain and he was thrown against the wall, ablaze with the fire. Using his own powers of cold he quickly doused himself, but he felt roasted.
“Impressive weather, little snowflake,” said the Ninetales angrily. “But now it's time for you to melt!”
“Don't count me out yet!” With a flash of darkness, Febby collided with her, throwing her to the ground and lashing out at her with claws and teeth surrounded by dark energy. But after the initial surprise, Ninetales was still stronger and gained the upper hand, clawing at Febby with vicious claws until she bled heavily. As Boreas tried to fight again, Ninetales breathed fire right into Febby's face.
He roared in fury and tried to freeze Ninetales, but in the desert-like heat of the orb, his wounds made him quite weak. He tried to blow the orb away, but couldn't. Ninetales turned to him, getting off Febby. “Sorry about that,” she said insincerely, “but this is what happens to all those who oppose us. Now for you...”
She breathed in to incinerate Boreas, and was blasted away by a huge, powerful beam of green light. “Thank you for all this light,” said Octa casually. “'Tis quite rare this far north.”
Boreas had no time to thank Octa: he rushed for Febby. “Febby! Come on, let's get you to White!”
“B-Boreas...” she mumbled. “It's too late...”
“No, it's not.” Boreas chilled down her many deep cuts, slowing the blood loss from them. “C'mon, Octa, we have to get her help.”
“Right you are, my dear fellow. And you as well, if I might add. I'm glad I found you at all.” They began carrying her together.
“Where are Aqua and Toxica?”
“I don't know. Everyone was just running to catch up to each other, and I do believe we all got separated in the process...”
“Boreas...” muttered Febby. “Tell Esper I love him... And wish we had had more time together...”
It pained Boreas to see Febby like this, so he made sure they moved her extra fast. “Don't say things like that, Feb, you're not going to die today. You're going to have time enough to talk to tell Esper that yourself, because you're not going to die until you're really old.”
“A-and, love Aqua... Forever... I hope you'll both live happily ever after together...”
Boreas felt tearful, hearing Febby so fatalistic; it made him realise even if they got her to White, she would likely not make it anyway: her wounds seemed far too severe for potions to be much help.
As they turned the corner, an infernal battle waited. Elesa, White, and what was left of their teams were in a fighting retreat against Salamence, Charizard, Camerupt, and Arcanine. White was wounded herself, bloodied and clutching one arm as if broken, but instantly came to Febby's aid, and then lifted her up with her one working arm as Rood's pokémon advanced on.
Boreas and Octa joined the battle, but it didn't seem to change much: Salamence was just too strong.
“Boreas!” Esper was fighting next to him. “What happened to Febby? Will she be alright?!”
Boreas genuinely felt sorry for him. “That Ninetales got her... I don't know if she'll be alright, she was very badly wounded. She-she said she loves you, and wishes you'd had more time together...”
“Oh no, oh no, oh no,” said Esper panicky, “I don't know what I'd do without her, I couldn't live like that...”
They were driven out of one of the building's exits: this one led only to a large balcony looking out over the power portions of the castle. They were trapped. From their high vantage point, they could see the resistance losing everywhere. Many were closed in by far larger groups, others were already running away.
“Ahh,” said Rood, as he emerged onto the balcony behind his pokémon. “Now dat's a view I wouldn't miss even for dis rain. Team Plasma's final victory is at hand, Gym Leader. It's such a shame to have to kill you all, but your interference is too dangerous to be allowed...”
With that, Rood's pokémon attacked. Charizard flew at them, about to spit fire, so Boreas blew it wildly off its course and made it hit Camerupt. Right at that moment, Arcanine pounced him, but found its claws parried by Octa's Leaf Blade. As Octa engaged the Arcanine, Boreas Ice Beamed the Charizard's wings as it came over again, causing it to crash on the balcony, where Boreas jumped on its back and began Ice Beaming the back of its skull.
But an impact of Charizard's heavy, flaming tail threw Boreas off the dragon's back and set his paw on fire again: he landed in a sideways roll that extinguished his paw, but then Charizard opened its maw and a huge inferno shot towards Boreas – and met with a bright green beam of light from Octa that dispersed the flames with its sheer energy before they reached Boreas.
Charizard roared in fury and spit fire at Octa instead, and Octa fired another energy beam: the fire and the beam met in the middle between them. Boreas saw Arcanine rushing for Octa, enveloped in flame, and made sure he got there first, enveloped in a snowstorm, taking both the brunt of the impact and hurting Arcanine almost as badly. It was on its feet first, however, and pounced Boreas in blind rage. Only for its throat to meet with Octa's blade instead.
“Thanks, my dear fellow,” said Boreas in surprise, before chuckling as he realised Octa's idioms were finally beginning to rub off on him.
“No problem at all,” Octa smiled. “After all, you-”
Boreas threw Octa aside and created a powerful pulse of cold, protecting both of them from the worst of Charizard's Flamethrower. Octa fired a Solarbeam at it, and it actually retreated. Boreas laughed, but Octa directed his attention to the left. “'Tis not over yet.”
Salamence had defeated or killed most of White and Elesa's teams by now, only Esper and a Luxray still standing against it. Salamence turned its attention to Boreas and Octa as Charizard sat back and protected Rood instead. Boreas Ice Beamed the dragon, and it roared in pain and rampaged towards him, completely ignoring Luxray and Apollo attacking it, and even Octa getting in its path and stabbing into it was simply thrown out of the way with a single paw.
The metres-tall dragon rampaged towards Boreas, further attacks only making it angrier, and attacked him, thrusting its huge, sharply jawed head towards him. Boreas jumped out of the way just in time, but the impact next to him was like a meteor strike. Boreas was showered in shards of stone and thrown back, but Salamence wasn't even fazed by the incredible impact and tried to crush him with a claw. Boreas rolled away from yet another Earth-shaking impact by the mighty dragon, and ran back to the others.
Things were looking very bleak, as Salamence and Camerupt were together stronger than the rest of them, and the battle was going incredibly poorly for the rest of the resistance. But suddenly, down in the lower parts of the castle, a brilliant white-green light shone through the storm. The fighting stopped for a moment as all looked to see what this strange green Sun in the storm could be. Boreas squinted, and saw it wasn't a single source of light, but a whole cluster of them, shining brilliantly like green stars, and a single blue one.
Octa was teary-eyed with joy. “'Tis my family... The house of Equinox has come!”
Chapter Seventy-Four: Children of Equinox
Lord Publius Cornelius, leader of the house of Equinox, looked upon the battle, and the combatants looked back in surprise, momentarily pausing their fighting. Several pokémon and trainers of the resistance had been fleeing, but some of them took heart in the appearance of the house of Equinox and stopped, while others used the opportunity to escape. The resistance clearly wasn't doing very well. “Brittanicus, Livia,” he said, “we split our forces in three, you two take the flanks; I shall take the centre. We attempt to outflank as many enemies as we can.”
“Father,” warned his son Gaius, “there are too many for us to achieve victory. Besides, remember why we are here: not to perish in a battle that has already been decided.”
Publius did remember why they had come: the moment Gaius had returned with the news of Octa leaving their house, Publius had immediately left to convince his son to reconsider. Most of the family had joined him, of course: even Gaius had returned with them. None of them wanted to lose Octa. Aurora Invicta, now leader of the house of Quintillus, had joined them with a few of her kin. “I know,” Publius raised his voice, addressing the almost four dozen of those with him. “Equinoctes, we came here to give aid to one of our own in undoing his error, but he requires aid of a different nature now! He is not the only one: all those who fight Team Plasma now depend upon us! 'Tis true, I'm afraid: they are losing this battle, which means they require the valour of Equinox even more! Do we turn back in dishonour, let Team Plasma go victorious, and leave those who fight for justice and freedom to die alone while our magnificent ancestors twist in their graves in shame?!”
Lord Publius held out his Leaf Blade and slowly charged up a Solarbeam, letting his entire body glow with it as a battlecry. Those he addressed began to do the same one by one. Even Gaius joined in and began organising a dozen of them as lord Publius continued. “Or do we fight?! We shall do battle, for Equinox and honour, no matter the odds! We shall fight those who oppose civilisation itself and bring honour worthy of our ancestry to ourselves! Fight now! Fear death nor darkness, for we are children of Equinox!” Lord Publius turned his attention to the flabbergasted enemies, who had regrouped in face of these forty Servines and Serperiors, all glowing brightly with sunlight by now. “FOR OCTA!!!”
They charged their foes, blade in hand, striking them down by all firing their Solarbeams before they clashed with the endless ranks of the enemy.
The light of the house of Equinox washing over their enemies down below like a wave of light was brilliant, like the Sun had risen in the middle of the dark storm. Realising they had all stopped fighting to watch the spectacle, Boreas snapped out of his reverie and climbed up on the back of Salamence's neck. As it noticed him and began bending its spine wildly to try and shake him off, he sent pulses of cold into its head and throat.
With Boreas keeping the dragon busy, Octa managed to stab it in the side, but was thrown away by a powerful claw immediately. Salamence was momentarily immobilised as it mentally repelled Esper, allowing Boreas to regain his grip on its neck and climb up further to its head, holding on to the spikes there. Esper staggered back at his contact with the powerful draconic mind, but Altaïr the Luxray quickly took his place and zapped the dragon. Boreas was slightly shocked too, but its resistant body had already absorbed most of the electricity.
Salamence roared and hit Altaïr with a white beam as Boreas Ice Beamed its thick skull from behind. He kept his attack up in the hopes of knocking Salamence out or killing it, but it began rocking its entire neck and head back and forth rapidly to get him off. He tried to hold on, but one paw was loosened, and then he didn't have enough grip any more and flew off, hurtling over the balcony's edge. He made the storm blow him back with a mighty gust and landed hard on the balcony.
His Ice Beams had had their effect, though: Salamence was dazed and dizzy with its brain cooled down, having much trouble fighting Octa, Esper, and Altaïr, as it kept missing them. Boreas rejoined the fight from a distance this time, making the storm into a haily blizzard that struck hardest at Salamence. It spit blazing fire to try and keep itself somewhat warm and was almost completely focussed on that. Octa hit it with an Energy Ball to the face, making it recoil, and then stabbed his blade deep into the dragon's exposed chest.
They panted in exhaustion and victorious exhilaration, until Altaïr said: “Where did Rood go?!”
They looked around, but saw Elesa had caught him personally as he ran away and had knocked him out. It was so easy to just overlook humans in battle. Boreas felt great relief until he remembered Febby. He and Esper rushed for White, who was still administering to her, using potions and stitching her wounds to try to stabilise her enough to return her to her pokéball. White looked sad and panicky, and Boreas felt the same.
“How-” stammered Esper. “How is she?”
White gave him a quick pat as she continued treating the gravely wounded Umbreon. “If I can just stabilise her, she'll be alright... You two can give me a hand...”
Boreas carefully slowed Febby's bleeding while Esper used his powers to check her mental condition. “She's almost gone,” he said in horror, “she's in a deep coma... Please, you have to rescue her!”
Aqua and Toxica ran through the castle, looking for the others as they ran for the tallest tower. When Lucius, Selene, and Boreas had darted out of the ruined hall, they had all followed, but Aqua and Toxica had gotten caught up in the fighting and fallen too far behind. They had tried to shout to Octa, but he hadn't heard them in the howling winds of the tempest.
The pokémon they were fighting were mainly weak, but there were lots of them and they had slowly become overwhelmed. Then this mysterious green light had shone in the distance, and a lot of the enemies had relocated to a different part of the castle, which allowed the girls more breathing room and eventually let them slip through the enemy lines, leaving a path of beaten foes in their wake.
“D'you think I should forgive Octa?” Toxica suddenly blurted out.
Aqua was taken aback a little, as she'd been thinking about the battle, wondering how wise it was of her to run further into it instead of getting out while she still lived. “Uh- Well, I dunno, I-”
“I mean, he's left his house for me and all, so I think he really is serious that he's chosen me over it. And I know he loves me.”
“Umm...” Aqua tried to think of an excuse not to have this conversation. “Well, don't you think this is a bit of a poor time to be having this conversation? We're in a battle here.”
Toxica gave her a frowning, sarcastic look. “You just got married in battle, and my duty as best woman was basically keeping the guests off your back so you could actually kiss the groom, so don't accuse me of poor timing.”
Aqua laughed. “I suppose you're right. Well, I don't think I can give you advice, because to be honest I don't know what you see in him. But if you really do like him for some reason, then maybe you should take the chance? But if he leaves you again, castrate him.”
Toxica stared at her with a flabbergasted look, and Aqua met her gaze trying to keep a straight face. Then they both burst out with laughter so bad they had to stop running. “I-I'll keep that idea- in mihihind!” said Toxica through fits of laughter.
“Be sure to warn him first,” Aqua laughed, “that way you'll be sure he really does want to get back together.”
“Oh, hi, darling,” played Toxica, “I've thought about it and want to date you again, and oh by the way, if you let me down I'll-” she trailed off into another fit of laughter.
Aqua was the first to recover. “In all seriousness, though,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes, “you know him better than me. If you honestly think he's serious, then go ahead and forgive him.”
As Toxica had laughed out too, they resumed their run through the castle. “Thanks. That's not much of an advice, though.”
Aqua shrugged. “I know; but I can't really give any better than 'follow your heart'. You're looking at the wrong person for sage wisdoms, or just any advice better than what you could've thought of yourself.”
“I guess... By the way, which way do we take?” asked Toxica, but the maze of corridors they were in eluded Aqua too.
“I dunno,” she said. “I can faintly hear the wind in that direction, though, so that'll be a way out.”
They decided to follow the faint sound of the wind Aqua heard, and eventually ended up on a large balcony with many dark burned spots. Aqua jumped with joy and ran faster when she saw her husband – it really felt good to think of him as that. She was planning to pounce-hug him, but she saw his grieving face as White returned a pokémon between them to its pokéball and broke to a halt, approaching him more gently. She sat down next to him and softly huddled against him. Boreas startled, then gently embraced her, crying slightly.
“It's... It's Febby, Aqua... She's-” his voice broke.
Aqua hugged and supported him, suddenly feeling rotten for acting nasty to the Umbreon earlier in her euphoria. After a while, Boreas let go of her, his grief gone and replaced with determination. “Come, my love,” he said, “I've lost enough friends today. It's time we ended this.”
Boreas' voice was calm, but full of a conviction harder than steel that inspired Aqua and dispelled her last considerations of flight. “Alright,” she said as they stood up. “But we'll do it together. No running off this time.”
“Indeed,” said Octa, joining them. “The sacrifices made today shan't be in vain.”
“Well?” said Toxica. “Let's go get them, then!”
“White,” asked Elesa, “are your pokémon well enough to continue?”
White nodded. “Febby will remain in stasis in her pokéball, so if she has any hope of survival left she at least won't get any worse... Don't you think we should wait for Black, though?”
“I think something bad may have happened to Black, if his pokémon are here all alone without him.”
Lucius lashed out at the grass-types with the blazing inferno around him, cursing under his breath at being so outnumbered. “Stupid crazy birdbrain, you were supposed to make sure those other idiots kept up with me!”
Selene sat on his shoulder and fired bolts of darkness and knife-sharp waves of air through his flames at their enemies. “Sorry, my telepathy doesn't work well in a crowd, so I had no idea that's what you wanted.”
Lucius jumped into his own flames, throwing Selene off to fly for herself, as Cradily spit a barrage of rocks into their original position. Lucius punished it with a Flamethrower, but wished he could get closer to personally rip off its tentacles. “If it wasn't for your stupidity, we wouldn't be outnumbered seven-to-two now! Or I should say seven-to-one-and-a-half, since you've only got half a mind to begin with.”
“Well, surely your obvious genius counts for seven, allowing us to outnumber them?” asked Selene as she nimbly dodged aerial attacks.
“Hey! Quit mocking me!”
Lucius had sprinted for the tower, his thirst for revenge speeding him up. He had no way of knowing the others had had stupid for breakfast and lost him. Maybe Aqua had finally shown her true colours and turned against them? Lucius didn't know, and didn't care; even when he had found himself taking the wrong turns and going to a different part of the castle, because he had seen Ryoku fighting there, his Garchomp obliterating pokémon with every attack. Of course he had tried to kill the thin Sage; one revenge was as good as the other. But he had found himself outnumbered and outmatched, even though these were only grass types. He was lucky Garchomp was busy with other enemies.
The circle of intense flames around them protected Lucius and Selene from their enemies, most of which had to get within physical range to attack, while allowing them to counterattack. The flames also made it so warm not that much rain fell on them.
“Anyway,” boasted Lucius, “you're probably right. I can handle these idiots, with a little help from you. Fire beats grass any day.”
“Not if you're trying to choose what to sow a football field with,” said Selene, using a gust of wind to blow fire on Exeggutor. “Sowing a field with fire is a complete mess.”
“Shut your beak, you crazy b- Oh crap!” The Garchomp leapt into the air and flew rapidly at them with its wing-like arms, straight through the fire.
“Diego, my spare mantle please.”
Diego helped Ghetsis put on the long black cloak over his dark clothes, as the human's injured right arm prevented him from doing so himself. “Thank you,” he said, looking at himself in the long mirror he'd had brought to the throne room. “A pity that Houndoom managed to get close enough to damage my robes, I rather liked them. But I don't suppose torn robes are very fitting for an Emperor's first address to his people.”
“No,” smiled Diego, “I suppose they aren't. So when will you make your address?”
Ghetsis walked over to the throne. “Once the battle is won and the resistance crushed. I'll tell the people of Unova all about them cowardly murdering N and how we made them pay for it, and how I will rule in N's name and all that.”
Diego curiously felt no regret when Ghetsis mentioned N's death. It already felt like something that had happened to someone else. In a way it had. He had been in such mental turmoil, but his decision was made now. There was no turning back, as nothing could return N, and that made things so much easier. His loyalty was to his true friend, Ghetsis. After all, Ghetsis' arm and eye had been permanently wounded rescuing a young Zorua long ago. He had had nothing but loyalty for the human ever since he'd saved Diego's little sister at great personal peril, loyalty that soon grew into friendship.
Ghetsis looked at N's throne with disdain. “I know they wanted to make something impressive that would appeal to the boy and help him think he really was the king... But couldn't they have made this a little less overdone?”
Diego shrugged. “Don't you want an impressive throne to convey imperial power?”
“Power should speak for itself, not be shown off with ridiculous golden thrones. I don't imagine a golden chair sits well anyway.”
Diego hadn't thought of that yet. “I guess not.”
He was beginning to get a little sick of this talk of clothes and chairs, though; the battle raging outside intrigued him far more. He didn't want to be cooped up in here while their final victory was won. He wanted to personally kill some of the idiots who thought they could beat Team Plasma. Diego wondered why the resistance was even fighting at all, outnumbered as they were. Were they really so blind they couldn't see there was no way they could win? Most of all, he had unfinished business with Boreas and Aqua. He wanted to finally fix the mistake he'd made in Opelucid Gym, that he hadn't been able to right in front of N while wrecked with self-doubt. He wanted to see the light leave Boreas' eyes, to sever his last tie with “Zeph” and destroy a potentially dangerous enemy in one move.
“Are you sure you don't want to join the battle again?” he asked hopefully.
“I told you, my friend,” said Ghetsis, “I've fought enough for one day, and I don't want my new imperial robes ruined as well. That's why I had Giallo take my team instead in the first place.”
“I see,” said Diego, trying to hide his disappointment.
“However,” said Ghetsis with a smile, “I'll ask Giallo to send one of the Kyurems back here instead to be my personal bodyguard, so you can join the battle.”
“Thank you!” Diego exclaimed happily.
“You're welcome, my friend. But be careful, please.”
They walked through the empty parts of the castle behind enemy lines. The four members of Black's team were joined by White, her Braviary, and Esper. Elesa with Altaïr and her Zebstrika was also there: they had left some of their wounded pokémon behind to guard Rood, as they would only endanger themselves more in battle. Their journey to the tallest tower was quiet, as there were no enemies and the tension made them all go silent. Esper especially had changed a lot from the cheery and rather annoying Espeon he normally was.
The tower came closer, and Boreas now recognised where they were: on the path they had followed to the throneroom earlier. He knew after they left the tower they were in, they'd have to cross a big courtyard on the roof of a lower building, go through the building with N's childhood room, up an ascending path on a wall, and then they'd be there.
As Boreas - who walked in front of the troop - entered the courtyard he saw all of Ghetsis' team, and all of sage Giallo's steel-types in it. He jumped back before they saw him, bumping into Altaïr and Aqua. “We've got a problem. Giallo's there, and he's got Ghetsis' team too. There's the two Kyurems, Metagross, Steelix, and Kingdra, just to name a few.”
“Piss,” cursed Toxica. “At least I guess it means Ghetsis is defenceless if we can get to 'im.”
“Other than his cane...” muttered Boreas, remembering the heavy knock on the head he'd received.
After some translation difficulty, Elesa said: “Well, we'll never get through here with all these pokémon guarding the way, so we should turn around and try to find another way to Ghetsis.”
“I'm afraid that's not an option,” said Octa, “for there were no branching corridors any more past this point, ergo this is the only way to the throneroom.”
They contemplated what to do for a moment. “Then all we can do is fight them,” decided Boreas. “We don't stand a chance against so many strong enemies, but we have to try and slip past. Anyone who can get behind the enemy makes their way to Ghetsis as fast as they can and kills him. Hopefully before anyone else dies...”
They paused for another moment, gathering their courage. They all realised those who couldn't slip past the enemy would probably not survive against so much power. “All those steel-types... Where is Lucius when you need him? Or any fire-type for that matter?” muttered Octa.
“I don't suppose you could just fly to the tower?” Aqua asked Braviary.
It shook its head. “Not in this storm, the winds are far more dangerous above the ground and make it impossible to fly. I'll try to fly through their line as quick as I can, though.”
Boreas grabbed Aqua's paw and kissed her. “Good luck, my love. I'm glad I jumped off that boat last year.”
Aqua smiled. “Me too. But don't think you're off the hook yet: I expect you to stay in one piece for the wedding night.”
Boreas chuckled. “I'll try to survive if you do.”
As they were almost ready to charge into the courtyard, Boreas overheard Toxica whisper to Octa: “I love you.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I said I love you,” she repeated. “And I really appreciate what you did for me, leaving your house. I just needed a little more time. I guess now there's probably none left.”
“Do not be so pessimistic,” Octa said gently, “we may yet make it. You have certainly given me a reason to ensure our survival. We shall yet have our second chance.”
They were all ready now. “Good luck, everyone,” said Boreas. Then he ran into the courtyard, gathering the storm to him and freezing all the rain to envelop himself in a cloaking hailstorm while some of the others chose to attack the enemy from this distance. It seemed fortune was slightly in their favour, as the white Kyurem had disappeared from the ranks of their enemies and could be seen flying into the tower instead. Unfortunately that meant the chances of anyone making it through actually killing Ghetsis were much lower.
The enemy recovered from their surprise, most barely hurt with their tough metal armour, and counterattacked. Braviary was fried by a mighty bolt of lightning in mid-flight as it tried to pass Kyurem. Boreas managed to dodge another lightning bolt, hidden as he was in the snowstorm. It seemed like he might be able to slip through the enemy ranks until the gigantic Steelix slithered into his path. Boreas jumped into the air and created a powerful upwards gust at the same time, launching himself metres up as a colossal metal tail crashed where he had stood a moment ago.
High in the air, he found Braviary was right: the storm was much stronger and more dangerous here. It was a good thing too, as it blew him out of the way of Steelix's gargantuan jaws snapping at him; however, he put his paws to the side of the iron snake's head and froze them to the wet metal. Steelix tried to shake him off, and Boreas timed his letting go just right so he flipped through the air in a pretty arc and landed on the back of its head instead. Here he had easy access to the thinner armour of its neckjoint, where he began pumping pulses of cold into his behemothic enemy. Steelix screeched ear-piercingly and shook violently all over with pain.
With a speed belying its size Steelix jerked its body up violently, and Boreas didn't freeze himself to it. He was thrown high into the air, tumbling, while Steelix under him opened its titanic maw to catch him with. But Boreas wasn't scared, as everything was going according to plan. He stopped his wild tumbling with a gust of wind so his head pointed downwards to the gaping maw, exposing a fleshy throat and with it Steelix's greatest weak point. Boreas began by firing a few Ice Beams into it, then as it closed its mouth and cringed with pain he aimed some into its eyes for good measure.
Unfortunately the next stage of his plan didn't work out so well: he tried to create upward wind to slow his descent and land softly, but the air simply didn't want to do that. He thought quickly to find a way not to break most of his bones on impact, and luckily Ghetsis' charging Bouffalant volunteered to break his fall as it ran underneath to attack Altaïr. Boreas adjusted the winds to flip him back around with his feet down and to aim himself for the ungulate.
Bouffalant's fluffy head provided a surprisingly soft landing, though Bouffalant didn't find the falling Glaceon's impact to its skull remotely as harmless. It was knocked out almost instantly as Boreas bounced off and landed behind enemy lines with a roll. The wounded Steelix was busy losing to Aqua now, so Boreas knew it was time to proceed to Ghetsis.
His path was instantly blocked as an elephantine metal leg slamming down hard before him along with the entire tank-like creature it was a part of. He tried to defend himself, but a kick by a heavy metal leg knocked him down. The next moment Metagross was upon him, its crushing weight pressing down on his body, creaking his bones. He tried to release a pulse of cold into it, but it barely responded; he fired Ice Beams at its face, but it psychically blinked them out of existence before they hit. Metagross lifted up a solid steel leg and held it above his head, about to crush it like a grape despite Boreas' struggles. It didn't even flinch when a jet of water hit it from far away.
“An Equinox shall never stand alone! Attack!” cried a voice that sounded much like Octa's, distracting Metagross as it brought down its mighty leg, allowing Boreas to barely dodge it by pulling his head to the side. A blue Servine and six Serperiors, one of whom Boreas recognised as Gaius, had just joined the battle. Their leader looked a lot like Gaius too, except older and far more majestic. Another was almost immediately killed by a bright beam from Kyurem. The remaining snakes joined the battle, but unlike Metagross Boreas didn't stop to watch them: he used his enemy's distraction to fire Ice Beams at its eyes. Even in a creature where the eyes are made of metal, they tend to be a vulnerable spot, so the shock of being hit there made Metagross lift up its body in reflex. Boreas instantly rolled away from under it and jumped back to his feet. Metagross tried to Body Slam him with its entire metal mass, but he had jumped up on its head already.
Boreas froze his paws to his enemy, expecting it to try to throw him off, but instead he felt a mighty and alien mind invade his own. Neither will nor anger provided any defence against the sheer force the Metagross' robotic mind had. He was completely powerless, and soon his entire nervous system was on fire as Metagross overloaded it with tremendous amounts of energy. He was in agony and wouldn't last long under the mighty creature's attacks; but the pain stopped soon as Metagross' mind left. Boreas slowly opened his eyes, bright white sparks of pain still flashing in them, and saw Octa, Toxica, and the blue Servine were fighting Metagross, distracting it from killing Boreas. He fell off behind the steel-type and slowly got up. Though the grass-types were fighting three-on-one, they were still losing.
Boreas was about to attack Metagross from behind, but Octa made eye-contact with him, and he could tell clear enough what he wanted to say if it wouldn't alert Metagross Boreas was behind him: “Don't! Remember our mission, my dear fellow: you are behind the enemy, so go for Ghetsis, for we shan't win this battle either way as long as he lives.”
Boreas gave Octa an almost pleading look: “But I can't leave you here!”
Octa's glance was inexorable. “Yes, you can. Besides, this was your idea. Now go.”
Boreas nodded to his friend, both in agreement and as a goodbye. Octa nodded back. Boreas turned around and walked into the building behind the enemy, turning around one last time: he made brief eye-contact with Aqua and suddenly wanted to turn back. He had promised her they would do this together, after all.
Aqua looked at him, clearly saying something like “We are doing this together, as we'll provide a distraction. Go on, my love.”
Boreas nodded and they exchanged a smile as goodbye. Boreas wished he didn't have to go, as he had the horrid feeling they wouldn't see each other again.
Octa felt great relief as Boreas turned around and left the battlefield. He had feared the Glaceon's emotional nature would get the best of him. “Father,” he said as lord Publius too joined the fight against Metagross, “I am honoured by your presence, but-”
“Octa,” snapped Lord Publius angrily as a psychic attack knocked Toxica away, “you should not have left our house!”
“But I did, father!” replied Octa as he dodged a crushing, heavy leg. “I have chosen Toxica, and there is nothing you can change about that!”
“Stupid boy!” scolded Lord Publius, making Oct feel like a young Snivy who had accidentally hurt his sister again. “I do not want to change that decision, don't you even remember our conversation on this?! I support you in your choice, and your gratitude is to leave our great house?! That is the decision I wish to change!”
“Father, despite your support our house still does not accept my choice; in fact the part of me that considers its traditions holy does not support it! There is an inherent conflict between our house's traditions and my love; therefore the only course of action is to separate them; to separate me from our house.”
“Our traditions have changed in the past, and they shall change again. I would much rather change this tradition than lose my son.”
“I know, but not all of us agree.”
“Indeed we do not,” said Gaius as he dodged a great bolt of lightning by Kyurem. “For it is wrong to doubt the wisdom of our illustrious fathers and replace it with lack of traditions that brings us ever closer to commoners. Now we shall breed with them?”
“You forget your place,” said Lord Publius. “If Octa wishes to, then yes, he shall.”
“No, father. You may be our leader, but I have at least as much support as you, particularly with this débâcle ongoing. And I say it does not happen; therefore it shan't.”
Boreas walked through the building's long corridor. The sound of battle soon died away behind him. He passed N's childhood room and finally left the building on the other side. There was only the lightly ascending path over the wall left, but it was blocked by an unwelcome presence.
Diego looked as surprised to see him as Boreas was, but then he smiled maliciously and madly, like a hyaena at its prey. “Boreas, I didn't expect to run into you yet. I'm impressed you made it behind our lines, but why are you here?” Understanding dawned on the face Boreas hated so much. “Oh, I see. You're planning to kill Ghetsis to get rid of the Kyurems, right?”
Boreas tried not to react as Diego saw through his plan. If he warned Ghetsis he would surround himself with his team and make it impossible to kill him...
Diego smiled. “There's no point trying to hide it now. It's a bold plan, and explains why your entire resistance rushed into this battle, as it's the only way you stand a chance of victory. But it's not going to work.”
“You won't stop me,” growled Boreas.
“You've never stood a chance against me,” growled Diego. “I'll give you one opportunity to turn back and live. But of course, we both know you won't take it. So, it's time I did what I should've done a long time ago.”
“I was about to say the same thing,” replied Boreas. “You've made your final victim.”
“To the death, then.”
Chapter Seventy-Five: To the Death
The storm raged around them as Boreas replied: “Yes. I swore I'd kill you when you hung me from the Ferris wheel by my tail, and I was an idiot to ever relent in that. You're evil through and through.” He carefully took a step back, as he didn't want to fight so close to his much stronger enemy.
“You're indeed an idiot if you think I'm the one who'll end up dead here.” Diego cautiously took a diagonal step forward.
Boreas realised Diego was trying to get into the building behind him to prevent having to fight in the storm, which was an advantage to Boreas, so he sidestepped and blocked Diego. “Am I?” asked Boreas, trying to buy some time. “I survived all our previous battles, you know.”
Diego laughed unpleasantly as he took a step in the other direction, only to be blocked by Boreas again. “Only because I didn't want to kill you. In Nimbasa you weren't important, so I let you live out of simple kindness. In Icirrus, my plan was to infiltrate your team, not to kill you. And this morning, I let you live because N was there, and he had enough doubts already.”
A ball of fire suddenly flashed in the corner of Boreas' eye, shooting towards him. In a reflex he ducked, even as he realised it was a mistake. Diego dived past him at the very same moment; Boreas quickly twisted around to have his face to the Zoroark, who was now much closer to the relative safety of the building. But they didn't fight yet: Diego was still too exposed and Boreas too close to his enemy to want to start. “So what about Opelucid?” Boreas cautiously walked backwards as he talked. “Why didn'tyou kill me there?”
Diego seemed uncomfortable with the question. He slowly walked backwards too: neither of them dared to turn their back on their enemy nor walk backwards faster, because if they tripped the other would win with barely a fight. “A mistake,” he finally admitted. “I had spent so much time pretending to be Zeph I had become used to it, and in a moment of confusion felt compassion for you. But it won't happen again. I have dealt with that weakness by dealing with N. You'll get what Team Plasma's enemies deserve.”
Boreas had actually suspected something like that. He gathered the storm to him, cloaking himself in hail and snow. “What you call weakness, others would call having a heart. You're bad to the bone, and deserve death.”
Their duel began as Diego reached the building: Boreas fired several Ice Beams at him, content he was at a safe distance by now. However, darkness swallowed all of them with a wave of Diego's paw. Boreas had to dodge a dark beam, and then created a powerful icy wind to freeze Diego with. But the Zoroark retreated into the building. “I'll just go tell Giallo of your little plan so he can protect Ghetsis!”
Boreas cursed. It was obviously a trap, yet he couldn't just run off and kill Ghetsis: with white Kyurem protecting him, that'd take a lot of skill and guile; and he just wouldn't have the time if Giallo could arrive at any moment. He sprinted after Diego, cloaked tightly in icy winds to at least give him a chance to dodge the Zoroark's inevitable ambush. He sent the winds in ahead of him to curl around the perimeter of the door, where Diego was most likely hiding behind, waiting to break Boreas' skull. Then he sprinted inside, turning to the right immediately, gambling Diego was on that side.
He wasn't, though; and neither was he on the left. Realising where he was, Boreas rushed away just in time for the Zoroark's heavy foot to land on his shoulder instead of his head as he dropped from above. He was slammed hard to the ground, but as Diego went for the kill he rolled under him, dodging the Zoroark's foot trying to crush his head and Ice Beaming him in the crotch. As Diego howled in pain and folded double, Boreas grabbed him by the head and pumped a pulse of cold right through his brain. But then severe pain filled Boreas as a sharp kick broke at least one of his ribs and threw him clear of his nemesis.
Boreas managed to jump to his feet despite the agony in his side and rapidly took a few steps back, away from the enraged Zoroark. But Diego put out his hands and before Boreas could do more than be surprised, arcs of lightning hit him, his flesh feeling on fire wherever they hit. He screamed in pain and wished only for it to end. He had experienced many types of pain by now, but this sheer agony might just be the worst. It went on and on, and when the torment ended at last, Boreas' body and mind needed to recover. But there was no time, as he could hear Diego running towards him, planning to end his life. Boreas rolled onto his side and froze the ground before Diego, making him trip and fall on the back of his head. They were both left lying on the ground recovering.
“That... Always works,” panted Boreas triumphantly. “But Zoroarks can't even learn electric attacks... How did you do that?!”
Rubbing the bleeding back of his head as he slowly got up, Diego said: “Electricity? Just because it looks like electricity doesn't mean it is.”
No electricity, then. Boreas realised the lightning had only brought pain, but hadn't made his muscles spasm nor burnt him; maybe it was some kind of dark attack intended to cause agony to its victims. As Diego put out his arms again, Boreas instinctively froze his fur down to a reflective coat. When the strange lightning hit again, it was still agonising, but also reflected back to Diego, who quickly stopped as he screamed in his own lightning.
“Got anything better than fake lightning?” Boreas taunted.
“Yes,” Diego grinned. “Real fire.” He breathed a blazing ray of flames. Boreas dived into the room to his side to dodge the fire, and found himself in N's room. Boreas quickly cooled down the air in the large room full of toys and began forming a storm as he rushed for cover behind N's large, curtained bed. When Diego appeared in the door, Boreas threw a model train lying about, accelerating it with a strong icy gale to hit Diego like a comet. The Zoroark stood absolutely still when he saw the train speeding towards him, and knocked it to pieces with a perfectly timed chop of the arm just before he was hit.
“Come now, Boreas, aren't you too old to play with toys?” Diego mocked as he walked into the room. Boreas focused his small storm's full intensity on Diego now that he had no cover at all, using the full extent of his ice powers, which unleashed a huge cloud of mist that obscured the Zoroark for a few moments.
“Completely ignoring cover?” mocked Boreas as his view of Diego being pelleted by the rain of liquid air returned. “I thought you were smarter than this.”
Diego tried to continue on, but was rapidly freezing in the intense Blizzard, stumbling to his knees. Boreas was rapidly getting exhausted, but unleashed all his anger in the Blizzard, relishing the chance to finally give payback to Diego. The Zoroark's eyes froze over, and much of his skin was showing severe signs of frostbite as he finally collapsed completely. Boreas panted victoriously.
Too easy, way too easy! Warned a voice in his head, and at that moment his saw something big move fast from the corner of his eye and dived under the bed, receiving only a kick like the impact of a heavy mallet on his thigh instead of being entirely grappled by the huge Zoroark.
“Guess what?!” Laughed the Zoroark triumphantly as Boreas scurried away under the bed despite being teary-eyed with pain from his leg and side now. “I am!”
Boreas weakly Ice Beamed Diego's foot, too exhausted by the Blizzard he'd wasted on an illusion to do much more right now. He knew the Zoroark would probably throw the bed over soon, which would give Boreas a few seconds to either fight or flee, as it was toobig and heavy even for Diego to do so easily. But he did no such thing; he just stood there as Boreas breathed rapidly to regain his stamina, racing his brain to try and think what devilish scheme Diego might be up to this time. He felt very warm with exhaustion and his breathing barely seemed to offer relief. In fact, as some time passed, both got worse and worse. That bastard set the bed on fire! He suddenly thought and moved to scurry out from under the bed on the side opposite of Diego's feet. However, he changed his mind and went towards Diego's feet instead, confident they were illusions and Diego was actually waiting on the other side to kill him the moment he emerged.
His suspicions both turned out to be right: the bed was ablaze and Diego was on the other side of it, standing atop one of the chairs so his real feet couldn't be seen before. Boreas blew the fire on the bed with a strong wind, igniting Diego's arm. He yelled in pain and surprise and rolled over the floor while Boreas quickly climbed on top of one of the tall bookcases, gave a strong push against the wall, and jumped off onto another one as it fell. Unfortunately Diego was too quick and wasn't crushed by the bookcase as Boreas intended. He jumped off the new bookcase to dodge the Flamethrower aimed for him that ignited it, and hit Diego in the throat with an Ice Beam.
The larger fox collapsed, choking and clutching his throat, and Boreas jumped onto him, planning to finish it. But there was a flash of darkness just before he landed, his entire body flared with pain, and then an impact like a meteor to his stomach punched him away; he landed hard, model train tracks digging into his back and feeling dreadfully nauseous. Diego and Boreas both got up slowly, hurt badly. The entire room was wrecked by now, and most of it was on fire.
“How appropriate for you to ruin this room,” spat Boreas, “since it's where you ruined N's life with your brainwashing!”
Diego growled. “And what do you know about it? Nothing! I educated N to be our weapon, yes, but I always did so with kindness and friendship. N had everything he could ever wish for!”
“Except freedom!” snapped Boreas. “He was a sentient being, not a tool for you to use, no matter how many excuses you think you have!”
“N would never even have lived without us, have you considered that? He was born only because Ghetsis needed a 'hero'. Since Team Plasma gave him life, his service as our tool was just repayment. And he even failed at that task!”
“Every time I think there might be some good deep within you, you once again show me the monster I've sworn to kill far too many times.”
“Enough talk! I will enjoy seeing the light leave your eyes, Boreas!”
Octa was beginning to realise everything depended on Boreas. When a few of his family had managed to break through and joined them against Giallo, he had had hope the might of Equinox might actually bring them victory, or allow others to get behind enemy lines as well. But after the enemy's surprise wore off, they became very deadly once again. They would have stood some chance against Ghetsis' and Giallo's normal teams, but Kyurem and Metagross were terribly powerful. He had already seen two distant relatives get instantly frozen to the bone and then shattered by Kyurem's sheer power. Octa and his father were now fighting Kyurem together, leaving Metagross to Aqua and Toxica.
It was as if they were no more than annoying insects to the legendary, their every attack a hindrance at best, while Kyurem's were utterly devastating to them. They fought for their lives and those of everyone else, but could do little more than keeping it busy.
Kyurem's claw came for Octa, wreathed in deadly cold energy as he stabbed it ineffectively in the leg, but Kyurem flinched as it was hit by a powerful Energy Ball and Octa managed to barely dodge the lethal attack. It wasn't his father who had saved him, however, but his sister Livia, who was fighting Scizor.
Octa decided to help her defeat it, as it seemed they could with the two of them. “Thank you.”
“You're welcome, brother,” she replied as she parried Scizor's great claw with her blade. “Glad I get a chance to talk to you. Do we have any plan here, or is this a heroically doomed battle?”
“I do hope it's the first,” said Octa as he stabbed his blade through a small crack in the insect's armour; he had already explained the plan to their father, so he repeated it briefly to Livia as they fought Scizor together.
“I see,” summarised Livia as she nimbly dodged an attack. “So all we've got to do is keep our opponents busy so your friend can kill Ghetsis, if he somehow makes it past this other Kyurem?”
“Indeed,” said Octa. “I know 'tis unlikely, but it seems to be our best hope. Besides, my friend is sharper than most.”
Octa saw their chance and wildly attacked Scizor time and again, forcing it to focus on him, which allowed Livia to take advantage of the cracks in its armour and stab her blade deep into it. “I do not doubt it; 'tis still unlikely, but fighting for a good cause at unlikely odds is the duty of any Equi- of any good person,” she corrected herself.
Octa nodded. “Thanks. You do not oppose my decision then?” he asked as they slithered back to Kyurem, firing Energy Balls at it.
“Of course not, brother. I-” she had to dodge a huge Ice Beam, “-consider Toxica a friend, and could imagine no better choice for you to make. I do wish some pig-headed idiots wouldn't get all worked up about it, though. Once this is all over and we all have a chance to talk, I'll help you smooth things out.”
Octa was about to thank her again, but something horrifying happened: Lord Publius was hit by a gigantic lightning bolt from Kyurem. They furiously attacked it and rushed over, but it was too late: their father had died instantly from the tremendous shock.
“No!” cried Octa. “Father, no, you can't die!”
He felt agonising loss fill him with despair and fury. Enraged, he stabbed at Kyurem again and again, until it polarised itself so he got such a bad shock on his next stab all his muscles spasmed and he launched himself backwards. As he hit the ground away from Kyurem, he was snapped out of his rage and heard his kin say: “Lord Publius Cornelius is dead!”
As soon as they heard it, most of the house turned to Gaius. “Gaius, what are your orders? What do we do?” they asked, panicky.
Gaius looked at the battlefield with eyes wide-open with shock, looking at his father's corpse and Kyurem killing yet another family member with a single attack. “The day is lost!” he shouted. “There is valour in continuing to fight to the bitter end, but we have a duty towards our House! We cannot throw away our lives that might serve better later! Retreat! Retreat!”
The two foxes continued their duel even as the fire spread from N's room and lit much of the building on fire. Boreas' Blizzards only seemed to make the problem worse, as the wind helped the fire spread and the liquid air they produced fuelled the flames greatly. Boreas would have liked to just flee outside, as the fire terrified him and made the air painful to breathe, but he couldn't risk Diego warning Giallo of his plan. He had no choice but to fight wherever Diego chose to. However, even Diego had been forced to flee the burning room by now, and the corridor was rapidly becoming an inferno as well. Boreas fled into another room.
The fire had already spread to this room, but it wasn't entirely ablaze yet. The air was painfully hot as much of the carpet and decorations were burning. There was a balcony with a door to a higher floor and stairs going there, and a long, huge table in the middle of the room that was smouldering already. Diego nimbly jumped through the fire surrounding him, avoiding combustion, and clumsily stumbled into the room as well. Boreas dug his teeth deep into the Zoroark's leg, channelling cold through his mouth, let go and rolled under his opponent to dodge the attack trying to punish him, and Ice Beamed him into the small of the back.
Diego was hurt but not defeated and swirled around angrily, throwing a bolt of darkness at Boreas, which he parried, before spewing more fire at him. Boreas yelped and rolled to extinguish his smouldering fur, and was sent flying by a kick that broke another of his ribs. Standing up quickly as he tried not to let the pain overwhelm him, he saw Diego's terrifying visage as he approached; his dark-furred face twisted with hate and the fires reflecting in his malicious purple eyes. They stood before each other for a moment, then Boreas did what he thought his enemy would least suspect: attack him physically. He pounced the far larger Zoroark and dug his claws deep into the other's chest. Diego yelped in surprise and pain as Boreas drew eight long red cuts in his black fur. He jumped off the very next moment, before he could be grabbed, and ran for the stairs.
An agonising dark bolt hit Boreas from behind and his legs gave way for a moment so he tripped onto the stairs face-down. He rolled over instantly as Diego now ran for him, and Ice Beamed the Zoroark's already bleeding leg. Diego cursed loudly and tripped too; unfortunately right on top of Boreas. Eighty kilos of Zoroark landed on top of him and dug the stairs into his back like blades, crushed the air out of his lungs, made his broken ribs burn even more, and his spine feel near-breaking.
They both tried to recover first and hit the other, but breathing was impossible with his heavy nemesis pressing on his ribcage, so all Boreas could do was cool his body down to hurt Diego. But the Zoroark put both hands to Boreas' throat, ignoring the severe frostbite he incurred in doing so, and squeezed with incredible force. Boreas couldn't breathe at all as his windpipe was crushed, even when Diego shifted his weight off his chest.
“I win again,” said Diego with an evil smirk as Boreas tried futilely to unclench his hands. He couldn't die now, when his friends were counting on him! He didn't want the final thing he saw to be his own suffocating reflection in two malicious purple eyes.
Boreas stopped struggling against Diego's iron grip on his throat and instead went for his left eye, putting his claw into it. It felt oddly tomato-like as he touched it, pressed hard, and violently tore his claw across Diego's face. Diego screamed in agony as his destroyed eye released a splatter of blood and clutched at his bleeding face with both hands. Boreas drew a breath, restoring his own energy, and blew his enemy away with a violent pulse of cold.
Diego lay on the smouldering ground, screaming and clutching his face as Boreas panted through his crushed throat, working hard for each breath. He tried to get up, but his entire oxygen-starved body protested and barely responded to him; he was only half up by the time his infuriated foe, his face drenched in madness and blood, sprinted at him. “MY EYE! MY EYE! MY EYE!” He cried like a madman. “I'll personally kill all your friends for that, once I'm done with you!”
Boreas didn't have the energy to attack and fled up the stairs, dodging lightning, but his furious enemy followed him. As he neared the top of the stairs, a tremendous impact to the back of his shoulders sent him sprawling. He looked just in time to see Diego's fist coming before it hit his face. In that instant he realised he would need to use an attack, as he would black out anyway, and would be skinned alive if the furious Zoroark wasn't taken care of. He used all his energy for a powerful blast of wind, Diego's fist hit his face with a terrible impact that sent fragments of his teeth flying around in his mouth, and just before his consciousness left he saw the Zoroark falling backwards as the wind blew him away, off the stairs, and hitting the burning table three metres lower on his back. The already weakened table collapsed and Diego disappeared into the burning wreckage as Boreas blacked out.
Lucius dodged beams and tried to keep his footing against the shaking Earth as he fought with Garchomp. The great dragon was an incredibly tough opponent, and he and Selene were just being overwhelmed by it. Some resistance guys finally fighting Ryoku's other pokémon at least took them off Lucius' back, but it wouldn't be long before the dragon killed him if this went on.
Boreas stumbled through the corridors as fast as he could in his disoriented, concussed state, with his shoulders, face, and a leg hurting very badly. As he had woken up in utter pain and with the world spinning around him, he'd seen Diego rise from the burning rubble that was the table like a furious demon. Parts of his fur had burnt off and showed bad-looking burns under them and one of his arms bled and hung limply, but the Zoroark's one-eyed face was one of pure hate and determination. Boreas knew he could finally risk fleeing from his opponent and taking the battle outside, as there was no way now Diego would just let him walk off while he went and warned Giallo: he would obviously do nothing rather than murder Boreas in the most painful way possible.
But even standing was hard for Boreas, and he'd had to spit out many broken teeth, the salt flavour of blood constantly in his mouth. His face bled at least as badly as Diego's and the world wobbled like a ship in a storm as he made his way through the corridors of the building's upper floor, which weren't burning yet. He hallucinated strange glowing orbs floating past and heard a mumbling noise as he stumbled into a wall. He was very lucky Diego was badly wounded too by his fall on the burning table, slowing him down.
He stumbled through corridors and rooms, looking for an exit, the bloodthirsty Zoroark always in pursuit. At last Boreas found a window, opened it, and climbed through, ending up on the building's roof. The storm had free reign here, making its wet and loose roof tiles even more dangerous. The roof was pretty irregular, with some higher and some lower parts. The strong gale of fresh air at least partially cleared up his mind and made it spin a little less. He could see the great battle being fought far down, as well as the tallest tower. The clouds were dark and boiling, taking on all shades of black, dark blue, and purple. Low in the south, there were brighter and yellower spots, showing the Sun was in fact up.
But he had no time to admire the view as Diego was climbing out of the window too. Boreas added strength to a gust of wind and slammed the window shut hard, making Diego's hand go through its glass. His arm got cut by it, and some glass-shards remained stuck in it. Unfazed, Diego stepped onto the roof. Boreas tried to make him slip, but he kept on walking, keeping his balance. Boreas Ice Beamed him, and his only response was to quickly wave his paw and block it with a dark-attack. Boreas felt terrified; he had never known Diego to be this determined and quiet and hateful, and he knew he would pay dearly for the eye once the Zoroark reached him.
So he cooled the storm down, making it snow and hail, and gathered it to him, both cloaking him and preparing for a very powerful Blizzard. Diego did the same as he approached; the little light there was just died near him as both his paws were enveloped by ink-black darkness. Diego stopped when there was about five metres between them. “That hurt,” he said simply, “very badly. But I'll make sure Aqua suffers at least ten times as much before I end her miserable, treacherous life too.”
The storm around Boreas went faster and faster, like an icy tornado. “You evil git, what has she got to do with it?! She's not the one that hurt you!”
“True,” said Diego. “But I will kill you quickly, as I can't wait to snuff you out. Her, on the other hand, I will have the time to have some fun with...” He grinned for the first time since Boreas had taken out his eye.
Boreas was disgusted and horrified. “To think I thought only this morning there might be more to you than pure evil...”
“I think I'll start with the eye. Except in her case, I'll remove it a lot more slowly. Starting with pulling out her eyelashes one by one. Then her eyelids. Only then will I take out her pretty black eye. Then the other one. Next, I'll break her paws. Slowly, of course, starting with each of her claws, and then-”
“Enough!” interrupted Boreas. “You can talk about your sick plans all you like, but it won't happen anyway. In a moment, you'll be dead.”
“Wrong,” said Diego, “but one of us will be anyway. Goodbye, Boreas.”
Boreas made the storm lash out at Diego with all the cold he had in him as Diego threw the sheer darkness formed around his hands. The tremendous force of Diego's attack made it like attacking a wall with his storm to Boreas. He cringed and strained to make the icy hurricane blow harder towards his enemy, as the wave of black approached. He blindly fired a few Ice Beams into the massive clashing of energies, and from the other side the dark lightning responded, poorly aimed and missing him. Boreas had to remain focussed on giving his all as the battle turned to a clash of wills. The front where his Blizzard had collided with Diego's Dark Wave was a raging, crackling freakshow of energies that slowly moved away from him when he really tried his best, and towards him when he let his focus slip for even a moment.
Keeping it up was incredibly taxing, but Boreas had no other choice. If he stopped, Diego would win and he probably wouldn't survive being hit by the front. But this stalemate was clearly bad too; he felt his energy drain by the second. He very cautiously moved a step back, and the front instantly moved towards him. He strained hard and managed to stop the raging clash of energy about two metres in front of him. He felt with his rearmost paw that the roof ended right behind him: it suddenly dropped very steeply, almost vertically. He jumped back, despite the risk of falling to his death, began to fall down, grabbed a roof tile on the sheer face of the building, just below the edge he'd fallen over. The front flew over him, leaving the air smelling of ozone.
Boreas' handhold was slippery from the rain and he had to struggle not to fall until he remembered he was a Glaceon and simply froze his paws to it. He hung to the roof's side, waiting for Diego to either come look over the edge or turn about and leave. He could hear Diego's heavy footsteps come closer and got ready to blow him off the edge and make him fall to his death the moment he checked if Boreas had really fallen. The wind howled, rain pattered, and thunder roared, making it harder to hear the Zoroark's steps, but Boreas knew he would be close soon.
A heavy thud and accompanying pain shook Boreas' brain, made him yell out in pain and surprise, and made him involuntarily loosen his paws. He realised he was falling and quickly put his front paws to the roof tiles that were passing acceleratingly fast, freezing them to it. He hang almost three metres below the edge of the roof now, his rear legs dangling in mid-air as the side of the roof ended at navel-height, only a sheer depth beneath him.
There was a cold laughter and Diego looked over the edge, holding another roof tile in his hand. “How stupid do you think I am, Boreas? I knew it wouldn't be that easy.”
Boreas' head was full of a ringing noise, and he felt blood dripping through his hair, but he remembered his plan: he made the storm suddenly blow from behind Diego. The Zoroark wasn't blown over, though.
“Really? I'm kneeled, you know, because I already knew you were going to do that. You've been getting predictable.” He tossed the roof tile a little into the air and caught it again. “Leading to your death. Don't worry, I'll tell Aqua you loved her before I kill her.” He threw the roof tile at Boreas, who had to make a very powerful wind to blow it off course before it hit him, tiring him further.
Boreas fired an Ice Beam at the one-eyed grin he hated so much, but Diego simply retracted his head for a moment, then threw another roof tile. “You know,” he said, “I could just hit you with a Dark Pulse now, but somehow it's funnier this way. A tricky fellow like you killed by a brick to the head?”
“If it's a triumph of brute force and stupidity over brains you want,” retorted Boreas, trying to reach the roof with his rear legs, as he couldn't climb with only his front legs: he needed both to keep himself hanging, “just you beating me in general would be a big one.”
Boreas managed to get hit in the shoulder instead of the head by Diego's next projectile. “Big words from a small Glaceon,” sneered Diego. “Especially one who is about to be nothing but a red smear fifty metres below. Or maybe I'll just leave you hanging here? You can't climb, so I'd give you the choice of death by hunger or falling.”
“Don't count me out yet!” Boreas tore his paws loose at the same moment he created a great upward wind, making him fly up rapidly, Ice Beam and kick the flabbergasted Diego in the face. He froze the ground under him and made the wind he was carried by spiral around, dropping Boreas on the roof's edge and blowing Diego off, aided by the slippery ground.
But the Zoroark grabbed Boreas' tail and his great weight pull him over the edge as well. Boreas pressed all four paws to the side of the roof and froze them to it, and both his tail and paws nearly tore off from Diego's weight. The ice creaked and seemed to let him go a little more every moment, as did the skin of his paws, with felt like it was getting torn off. Diego dangled in the depths under him, holding his tail with both hands. “Let go of me!” Boreas yelled as he tried to hit the Zoroark with an Ice Beam; but it was impossible to aim in that direction.
Diego's hands slipped down a little on Boreas' tail, and he struggled to climb up. “Sure, I'll just heroically sacrifice myself for the one who just took out my eye!”
Boreas felt a big hand grab a hold of his hip and dig its claws in as Diego tried to climb up. But at that moment their combined weight was too much: Boreas' left front paw tore loose from the ice, and his other paws quickly followed. Everything accelerated upwards rapidly as they were suddenly weightless. Diego grabbed Boreas tighter, realising the Glaceon's command over the winds was his only salvation, while Boreas fought to unleash himself.
Boreas tried to put his paws to Diego's head to take him out with a pulse of cold while creating a powerful upwards wind to slow their fall, but Diego intercepted one of his paws and headbutted him hard in his broken ribs. He also spread out his legs, increasing his air resistance to make him fall slower, which caused him to end up on top. Realising Diego was planning to use him as a pillow to break his fall, Boreas made the wind spin them around so he was on top, before also hitting Diego in the chest with a pulse of cold.
They had reached the ground at the bottom of the building, which was a very steep slope. Diego hit the ground first making him slightly cushion Boreas' fall; he bounced off diagonally, spinning, and hit one of the small wooden sheds here, crashing through it and hitting the ground on his back.
The impact was strangely mostly painless, but completely knocked the air out of him and filled him with nausea and a severe sense of weakness. The pain was strangely very dull, like a very bad headache. Yet he felt drained and weak and nauseous. He looked down and saw a sharp metal spike, died red now, protrude from a bleeding hole in the right side of his chest.
“Oh, not good...” he groaned. He now realised the spike had impaled him all the way through the chest and was still stuck to the ground on the other end. It was about two centimetres thick and protruded fifteen centimetres from his chest, and as Boreas moved a very slight bit, the dull pain it caused him increased sharply. He was panting rapidly, each breath giving much less oxygen than normal. He considered lifting himself off the spike, but immediately realised its presence like a plug in his body was all that kept him from instantly bleeding out right now.
He looked around shed, which had collapsed from his fall. It seemed to have been a shed for storing tools for outside construction before Boreas' fall destroyed it; spikes of the same type that had impaled him were used to mount the storage boards inside it. Boreas grabbed the spike with both front paws and very cautiously tried to see if he could break it off under his body. There was no movement to it, and only a throb of nauseating pain as he tried. “Bugger.”
While the spike's painful pressure inside the wound kept him from bleeding too much, he did realise he really had to get medical attention soon if he wanted to survive this. He carefully lifted his torso a centimetre, whimpering at the agony it caused, and directed a cold wind under him, hoping to make the part of the spike that was still attached to the ground brittle with cold so he could break it off.
After a minute of trying to free himself like this, his teeth clenched in pain, he saw Diego stumbling towards him. The Zoroark had clearly broken an arm, and possibly a leg as he walked very poorly, but laughed as he saw Boreas' predicament. “Bad luck, huh? I have half a mind to just leave you there. On the other hand... I want to kill you myself. So I'll just liberate you from that spike instead.”
Boreas grabbed the spike himself, hoping he had made it brittle enough to break off, and gave it a strong yank. Tears of pain streamed through his fur and Diego approached, but the spike wouldn't break at first. Only when Diego was almost at him, there was a breaking noise, and Boreas could move again; enough to stand up anyway. Since Diego was so close by and surprised, Boreas froze a long, sharp point of ice to his left paw and slashed at his enemy, cutting a deep red cut into his already wounded leg. Every movement Boreas made hurt and made him lose more blood, but he was determined not to be killed by Diego, even if he wouldn't survive much past his archenemy. Diego managed to dodge his second slash and jumped back, but hadn't counted on the wounds to his legs and collapsed, falling onto his back.
Boreas tried to jump onto Diego to finish him, but hadn't counted on his injuries either. He cringed in mid-jump as the spike sent a terrible jolt of pain through his body and fell to the ground too. Diego got up. “You're much worse off than me,” he said, “so just surrender and I'll give you a quick end.”
Boreas rolled onto his side weakly and fired an Ice Beam at Diego. “Never! It's not as bad as it looks!”
Diego blocked his beam with a bolt of darkness. “You're right, silly me, being stabbed through the lung is quite alright; you've got a spare one after all, right?”
Boreas slowly got to his feet, panting rapidly and gritting his teeth against the pain. “Yeah, I do. And it's all I need to beat you.”
Diego shrugged. “Fine with me. But you don't seem to realise all I need to do to win is wait until you've bled to death.”
Diego limped away, his back actually turned to Boreas. Boreas saw his chance and Ice Beamed his neck, but Diego turned around and made his Ice Beam disappear at the very last moment. “So very predictable, Boreas,” he taunted as he walked away again. Boreas walked after him, groaning in pain and exertion with every step. His right front paw was closest to the spike and consequently hurt the most to move; he switched to a limp instead, slowly following Diego on three legs. He had to wheeze as if he was running a marathon just to keep going at this snail's pace, and had absolutely no air left to fight with. Diego, on the other hand, though he was limping, was in far better condition and moved fast enough to easily keep ahead of Boreas. At one point, he even stopped to hit Boreas with the lightning again; though it didn't feel that awful compared to the spike through Boreas' chest now.
Boreas really considered not following Diego any more, but what else could he do? He still couldn't get to Ghetsis without beating Diego, so his only alternative was going back all the way to the pokécenter; but Diego was faster than him and would just kill him from behind. He was simply forced to play Diego's game, even though he felt weaker with every step as he left a red trail. Even cooling down his wounds to slow the bleeding wouldn't work, as his blood, unlike that of others, wouldn't flow slower as it got colder.
Boreas followed Diego back into the building they'd just fallen off, trailing him slowly up the stairs, and felt his life slowly leak away with his blood. He felt very cold, but in an unpleasant way, and his paws were starting to feel numb. Unfortunately the gaping hole in his chest only felt worse. They slowly ascended back to the floor Diego had set on fire, now mostly burnt out and ashy. Boreas walked through the carbonised corridor and left the building again for the path to the tallest tower on the ascending wall. Diego was waiting for him in the same place again, but this time he wasn't surprised. Boreas wanted to say something, but he needed air so badly he could only gasp and try to stay upright.
“Did you enjoy our little walk?” Diego asked with a cruel smile.
Boreas couldn't answer, gasping for air.
“I hope you did, because it was your last. You don't look like you have much time left in the first place, so I suppose I should put you out of your misery now.” With his non-broken arm, Diego fired a beam of sheer darkness at Boreas.
Boreas parried with a pulse of cold. Diego looked mildly surprised Boreas still had some fight in him, and more so when Boreas parried another attack. Angrily, he tried a third time, to the same result as Boreas pushed himself to the limit to keep on fighting. “Why won't you die?!” he snapped.
Boreas wondered the same. It would be much easier to accept his defeat and let Diego put an end to the dreadful pain than to make it even worse by futilely fighting a far stronger enemy. “Several reasons, really,” he said calmly. Then:
“Because I swore to be with Aqua until I die, and postponing that moment even a little is worth any amount of pain.” Drawing strength from that thought, he managed to Ice Beam Diego in the shoulder to the surprise of them both. He parried the Dark Pulse Diego paid him back with, and Diego narrowly dodged his second Ice Beam, while he parried another lightning attack.
“Because I want to have many, many more arguments with Octa.” Walking forward slowly to take him closer to Diego, he created a small snowy tornado around the Zoroark, sidestepped a beam, and riposted with an Ice Beam to Diego's bad leg.
“Because,” he panted, fighting against the exhaustion and pain to keep going, “I don't want to give up the world to scum like you, and because I want to see places stranger than I ever imagined possible!” They rapidly exchanged beams, parrying and riposting as Boreas walked even closer.
“In short:” said Boreas finally as he looked down to Diego's bad leg for a moment, then instantly Ice Beamed his throat instead as the Zoroark protected his legs, “because I want to live!”
Diego gasped and choked as Boreas hit his throat and Boreas immediately followed up with a lengthier Ice Beam to the Zoroark's upper legs, and then his shoulder to disable his limbs. Then another to his throat. Diego fell on his back and Boreas jumped on top of him, pinning him down as long as the muscles in the his limbs were disabled with cold. He Ice Beamed Diego's neck again to make sure he was entirely powerless.
Diego tried to fight back, to escape, but found he could do absolutely nothing now, entirely paralysed from the neck down by his frozen nerves. Boreas saw the realisation that by the time he regained control of the rest of his body, he would be dead in his enemy's face. “That's impossible... How can you beat me?!” He trembled, took a deep breath, and calmly looked into Boreas' eyes. “Fine. Do it, then.”
Boreas took a deep breath. He had won, at long last. Now was finally the time to pay Diego back for the hours he'd spent hanging by his tail from the Ferris wheel, for making Aqua join Team Plasma and trying to kill her, for the abuse of his brother's memory, and for brainwashing and killing N. He deserved to die, and freezing his brains with a continuous Ice Beam to the face really was far more merciful than he deserved. But it was what he was going to get.
So why did Boreas feel so untriumphant about it? This should be a happy moment, when he finally got rid of his greatest enemy, but it wasn't. Diego wasn't begging to be spared or trying to negotiate his surrender with Boreas; the calm look on Diego's face as he bravely faced death reminded him little of the cruel monstrosity who had done all those horrible things. It reminded him of his brother. Not his brother, he corrected himself; the Flareon he recalled Zeph as had never existed; was never more than an illusion. Yet he had many happy memories of him. He recalled the Flareon as his brother and friend. He had come here to kill Ghetsis, not whatever there might be left of that Flareon inside this horrid Zoroark.
“No,” he said, standing up. “I'm done with you. You were once my brother, and I know there's some good of him left in you, deep down. I'm not here to extinguish that little hope you have, but for Ghetsis.” He began to walk in the direction of the tower. “Leave Unova, right now. If I ever see you again I won't be so merciful.”
Boreas hoped sincerely whatever had been in Diego's mind when he was playing Zeph would win out. He knew he would always hate the Zoroark, but maybe he could become a good person somewhere. Of course, it was far more likely he was getting up right now as his nerves thawed. He would right now be looking at Boreas slowly limping away and sneaking up on him, planning to attack and kill him from behind. Boreas walked on, then suddenly grabbed a rogue wind, spun around on the spot and made it rage rapidly around him.
Diego, who was indeed standing only a metre behind him now, was surprised entirely by the sudden wind hitting him and was blown against the fence on the side of the wall, which reached to his waist. For a moment he was between falling and standing, then he lost his balance and fell over the edge. “So very predictable, Diego,” said Boreas.
The pain and exhaustion finally caught up to him and he collapsed on the spot.
Diego fell. He was furious the little runt had so completely predicted what he would do and surprised him, yet something in him knew it was no more than he deserved for betraying this chance he had been given. This time he fell much faster than last, without Boreas' power over air to slow him down, into a part of the battle. The ground came near so fast...
Right before he hit the ground, the Hydreigon fighting here jumped to its side. He landed on it, striking it down with the impact. It was a hard and painful landing, but he had escaped death. There was no time to feel triumphant, though, as Hydreigon's three heads roared angrily and one of its necks coiled around his wounded body.
“I'm Diego, a special emissary of Sage Ghetsis,” commanded Diego. “You are to follow my orders. Fly me to the throneroom; Ghetsis' life is in danger and he has to be warned.”
The Hydreigon's middle head roared angrily.
“I apologise for hitting you,” said Diego, “but it saved my life. Now fly me to the throneroom; that's an order in name of Sage Ghetsis!”
It slowly smiled, showing its thousands of teeth, and licked its lips. Diego suddenly felt afraid. These kinds of pokémon were very proud and hard to train; it was a small miracle they followed the orders of the Sages at all. Now that Zinzolin was dead, it was very likely this Hydreigon was basically a wild pokémon again and wouldn't follow Ghetsis' orders if he was here personally.
“On the other hand,” said Diego, showing no fear, “why don't you go back to fighting? I'll just walk.”
He tried to escape from its grip but it only tightened its hold. It now looked at him with distinct hunger and opened its mouth wide, showing rows upon rows of dagger-sharp teeth and a hungry throat. Diego let his fury over having lost to Boreas flow through him, channelling it into his hand where it became dark lightning. But the fight had left him badly weakened and the mighty Hydreigon barely felt it.
As the thousands of teeth came closer, Diego finally realised he hadn't escaped death at all.
Chapter Seventy-Six: The Last Chance
Lucius bit the Garchomp's wing pressing hard against his throat, pinning him up against the wall about a metre off the ground. It was hard to bite through the rubbery scales, however, and Garchomp just ignored him drawing blood. As its thousands of teeth came closer and closer to bite off his head, Lucius really wished he could breathe fire into the dragon's face, but that was impossible as he couldn't breathe at all. No amount of struggling against the wing moved it.
A black flurry of feathers hit Garchomp in the face, surprising it so it stopped pressing on Lucius' throat for a moment. He fell down, drew a big breath, and exhaled flames all over Garchomp's lower body, but the dragon was barely harmed by his fire. Lucius growled: that stupid Selene was actually doing more damage than him, scratching around its head while it tried to catch her. Not wanting to be outdone by that airhead, Lucius dug his teeth, infused with dark energy, into Garchomp's tail.
The sharkdragon tried to shake him off, thrashing its tail about, but he hung onto it by his teeth. But when it stamped its feet on the ground and created mighty shockwave, he was knocked away and floored, along with half the other combatants.
As Lucius scrabbled back to his feet, Garchomp managed to catch Selene in its jaws, shook her around violently, and threw her away, a bloody little heap of bird. Lucius ignited in rage and furiously attacked Garchomp again and again, biting, scratching, and breathing fire while his anger took the form of copious amounts of darkness striking at his enemy. He relished every wound he inflicted, every drop of blood he spilled, and the clear pain he caused Garchomp. His sheer fury took it aback and made it take a while before he was finally hit by its heavy claw which rent his side. He still continued, like a living inferno of fury, until the ground itself rose up against him in a great earthquake and threw him several metres away, where he landed hard. Garchomp wasted no time and pounced at him to kill him.
As Octa's family rapidly retreated from the battle, leaving them with only a very few against the overwhelmingly powerful enemy, Aqua's instincts told her it would be a really great idea to follow them. The urge to do so was quite overwhelming in fact, even though she knew they had to buy Boreas time. But they had bought him so much already, and he was up against a Kyurem... Maybe he was dead already, and she could just flee?
She chewed herself out inwardly for such a thought. Boreas couldn't die; she'd kill him if he did. Yet her legs were about ready to run for her life as she tried to keep Lucario, Klinklang, and Escavalier at bay with a rapid vortex of water. Octa's sister Livia was the only one of the house of Equinox who hadn't retreated. “Sorry to state the obvious,” she said to them, “but we really need them to get back here.”
“Yeah,” agreed Toxica. “Octa, can't you say anything to them? Tell 'em not to listen to Gaius or something?!”
“I'm sorry, my dear,” said Octa, “but I doubt they'd listen to me over Gaius. I left our house, remember? Half of them consider me an apostate. However, my dear sister, you are still a part of the house. Couldn't you challenge Gaius?”
Livia tried to fight Kyurem from afar. “I may agree with you on most things, but I owe Gaius my allegiance as our new leader, Octa. I can't just challenge his authority directly like that!”
I'm going to die because these two nitwits can't take a stand against their own brother. Aqua sighed and dodged a swing of Escavalier's arm that nearly cut her in half. “Well, I'd happily challenge him, but they have no clue who I am, so they're hardly going to listen to me! Maybe I can get through to them if I kill him?”
Octa frowned. “Hilarious. Perhaps you would be so kind as to quit the poor attempts at humour and let me try and convince my sister?”
“Look,” said Aqua, trying to keep calm, “we're all going to die, so I'm just trying to cope with it using humour.”
“Hey, bunch of spineless cowards!” shouted Toxica. “I guess the house of Equinox's talk of honour and valour is just talk, no more!”
“Subtle,” groaned Octa, defending against Eelektross and Spiritomb. The Serperiors actually came to a halt.
“How dare you insult the great and noble house of Equinox?!” asked Gaius lividly.
“The way I see it, it's not me insulting it, but you. Running away from a good fight just because your dad died? It's obvious the house of Equinox is nothing but a mewing bunch of cowardly hypocrites!”
“Who the hell do you think you are to insult us?”
Toxica laughed. “I'm Toxica.”
“I know that.”
“Just Toxica. Toxica of no bloody house; I don't even know who my parents are and am farther away from nobility than anyone you'll ever meet. Yet here I am, fighting on for a small chance of victory, when you muppets are running for the hills. And I'm not alone either: Aqua here is fighting just as hard and is also a very ordinary girl, and so is Esper, and Altaïr and the others here. But you guys just run off, despite all your talk of great heroic ancestors.”
“How dare you?!”
Toxica's speech certainly had an effect, as the Serperiors talked amongst themselves, and two of them even rejoined the battle, taking a bit of pressure off everyone's shoulders. “She is right, Gaius,” said Octa, “so please, give the order to rejoin the battle; don't force me to do something we'd both regret.”
“I shan't. You are a traitor to our house and 'tis not becoming of our new leader to be ordered about by you.”
“You're not their new leader yet, Gaius.” Octa raised his voice so the others could hear him. “Equinoctes, hear me! Toxica is right; Gaius' orders to retreat were cowardly and mistaken, and I do not believe he is fit to be your leader. I urge all of you: stand with us! Let us fight for victory or death, as the great Equinox would have us do! The day is not lost, in fact if our valour can stand through this darkest hour, we can achieve great victory!”
“Do not listen to Octavianus. He is...” Gaius' voice trailed off as he realised the others had joined Octa, ignoring him fully.
“I'm sorry, brother,” said Octa.
Boreas knew he had little time left. The only reason he wasn't dead yet was the same spike that had stabbed him all the way through the chest in the first place: it was like a plug in the wound, keeping most of the blood inside. But he was still losing an awful lot of it, much of his fur dyed red by now. He was terribly cold, especially in his paws, and had to pant rapidly to get enough air. He rose up very slowly on his terribly weak paws, clenching his teeth against the constantly worsening pain in his chest, but nearly blacked out from exertion and fell back to the ground.
Just lie there... The pain will soon go away... He felt so dreadfully tired. His approaching death felt like a sweet, restful sleep that his body craved for. Maybe he should just close his eyes...
He spread his eyes wide open. He couldn't die! He had just told Diego how much he wanted to live; to just throw away his life a minute after he fought so hard for it was the stupidest thing he could do. He would rest once he got to the pokécenter; rest for days in a row, but not for eternity! Holding on to the thought of Aqua's tearfully happy face as she'd see he was still alive, he forced himself upright. Panting, he managed to stand on four legs. A scarily large puddle of blood had collected where he'd lain by now, but he had to have enough left to get back. His head spun and his vision teetered with black spots, but he remained standing, wobbling in place. He took a step forwards; so far so good. He took another, but his knee just gave away and he fell to three legs. He slowly prodded himself back up. He had to keep going.
Except... Another thought gripped his weakly-beating heart like an iron claw. Maybe I shouldn't go on? Maybe I should turn around? I came here to kill Ghetsis, and I haven't done that yet.
What a silly thought. No-one could expect from him that he'd just throw away his life like that. Risking it, yes; he had no problem risking his life, but it was very different to throw it away. He slowly took another step away from the tower. If he didn't get to the pokécenter as fast as possible right now, he'd die. It was that simple. Someone else would have to finish it.
Who else is there? The very annoying thought that he was the only one who had made it past the enemy gnawed at him. Maybe someone else would break through too? But that was as ludicrous as thinking he'd survive if he went on to kill Ghetsis; the enemy were with far too many and were far too strong. The only reason Boreas had gotten through was luck. If he didn't kill Ghetsis, no-one would, and everyone who had died today would've died in vain. Black, Febby, and all the others.
He took another step. It didn't matter to the dead, after all. Killing Ghetsis and winning the battle, possibly the entire war, wouldn't bring them back. Only the living mattered; and he was still barely among them and intended to stay that way. He would just have to make his way back and tell his friends and anyone else who was still alive to retreat. He was planning to leave Unova with Aqua to see the rest of the world anyway. Who would ever blame him for not going on in this condition?
I would. It was true; he would never forgive himself if he had thrown away the last chance Unova had. If the entire continent continued to suffer because of him he could never forgive himself.
But he would be alive. And in time, he might get over it, journeying through far away places. It would be far easier to live with the guilt of the state he'd left distant Unova in than to die. Particularly since it wasn't actually as simple as just going into the tower and automatically killing Ghetsis; not in Boreas' current state, with white Kyurem guarding him. He would most likely just throw away his life in vain instead of at least doing it for a good reason.
And yet... He couldn't let Team Plasma win. He was the only person in the world who had a chance to make a difference, to finally beat them. Wasn't that worth his life? He knew Octa would say it was his duty to go on and kill Ghetsis, but Boreas didn't believe in that. He simply had a choice, and what he chose was his to live with or die from. But whichever way he chose, he had to do it now, or he'd bleed out on the spot and make neither choice.
Capella's face came back to him, at the very moment she realised she could only save him or herself. Capella had smiled in the knowledge of her approaching death, gladly died for her friend. He should be like Capella and make the right, heroic choice. But he also recalled her life had ended seconds later and what her corpse had looked like, and how she was now gone, completely unable to enjoy life any more.
He made his choice and continued on his way to the pokécenter, slowly dragging himself away from the tower. He couldn't make that sacrifice. He was not Capella, and he was not a hero. He was just a badly wounded Glaceon who wanted to live on with his new wife. He wasn't going to sacrifice himself just for a whole continent full of random people he didn't even know. They'd just have to take care of themselves.
That sounded like something Diego would say. Team Plasma didn't care that they were ruining the lives of millions of nameless others as long as it benefited them. And here Boreas was, doing the same thing. And he slowly began to actually imagine what people would have to go through for many more years if Team Plasma's rule was allowed to continue. It was easy enough to ignore them when he thought of them as a number, but they were real people; human and pokémon. He sighed, realising he couldn't abandon them to Team Plasma.
“Dammit,” he sighed as he turned around. “I'm sorry, Aqua...”
Gritting his teeth against the pain and barely keeping himself up, he slowly, step for step, stumbled to the throneroom. He had to take the chance he might be able to kill Ghetsis, even though it meant accepting his death.
Garchomp moved towards Lucius for the kill. He tried to run, but was still lying on the ground and hurt by the earthquake. He tried to get up, but he was slow and the speedy dragon's maw was nearly at him.
A sudden beam of darkness from behind Lucius struck Garchomp and Selene landed in its face, more jumping than flying. Distracted, the dragon's heavy head struck the ground next to Lucius instead of the Houndoom himself, who managed to dodge. He grabbed his chance and sunk his teeth into Garchomp's suddenly exposed throat. Even here, the reptile's skin was very tough and hard to get through, but he quickly tasted its delicious salt blood.
A heavy claw threw Lucius and Selene back onto the ground, but Garchomp was badly wounded now, its blood leaking out of its bitten throat. Lucius roared in triumph even as he was in pain.
Garchomp's every breath gurgled and bubbled in its wounded throat. It looked at Lucius and Selene, spread its wings, and took flight, making up for its small wings by its speed. Ryoku shouted at it to return, but it ignored him and fled for its life. “Hell yeah!” Lucius roared triumphantly. “You'd better run!” He turned his attention to Selene, hiding his concern as he prodded her. “Hey birdbrain, you okay?”
Lucius helped her to her feet, worried about the big red stains in her black feathers. “Broke my wing,” she said, “but I'll live.”
“Right, then let's kill that sucker Ryoku and avenge Capella.”
But there was one problem, Lucius discovered: they were now fully surrounded by the Sage's team, as most of the other combatants had fled.
Aqua laughed as her wave swept Ghetsis' Bouffalant off its feet and carried it along. It was like a river around her, and she could control every bit of the water like it was a part of her body. With Octa's family joining them again, things were a little less dire. They would still die if Boreas wouldn't succeed, but at least it wouldn't happen immediately. In fact if she didn't look at Metagross and Kyurem, things didn't seem too desperate.
Bouffalant was strong and fought against the current, clearly unwilling to submit, and Aqua would've continued attacking it if she hadn't glimpsed Metagross blasting away one of Octa's family members and leaving Toxica fighting it on her own. The mighty metal creature seemed ready to crush her at any moment, as she was completely busy dodging its powerful attacks: flashes of bright metallic light, psychic bursts, and physical attacks.
Aqua gave her all to the current to make Bouffalant wash far away in the hopes someone else would engage it, then raced for Metagross. Toxica screeched as a Flash Cannon attack hit her shoulder and threw her back. Metagross launched itself to crush Toxica, so Aqua rushed to save her in a rapid jet of water. She collided with her friend, shoved her out of the way, and just managed to evade the robot's heavy bulk coming down herself. But before she could turn around to fight it, a massive metal leg came down and shattered her thigh. The extreme pain had just begun to register when Metagross lifted another leg to crush her with.
A Solarbeam and an angry Vileplume hit Metagross as Toxica fought it. Aqua gathered water to her, as she could far more easily swim than walk with her broken leg, and rejoined the battle as well.
Suddenly both of them were caught in place as Metagross' eyes flashed and its powerful, mechanic mind assaulted theirs. Aqua tried to focus to hold it back, but it easily tore her defences to shreds and mercilessly continued its destructive path straight into her mind.
Boreas was dying. Every step he took was agony, and harder than the last. His body was almost entirely numb and cold as death, except for the wounds on his head and especially the one on his chest, which tormented him. Yet his resolve became stronger with every agonising step. If the last thing he was going to do with his life was killing Ghetsis, at least it was something worthwhile. The pain would at last be gone once he was done with this. He had accepted his fate.
He stumbled into the throneroom. Gravity seemed so much stronger, but he couldn't fall despite his dizziness, as he probably couldn't get himself up again if he did. Ghetsis was sitting on N's throne wearing a black suit and a long cloak, with the large white form of Kyurem passively standing next to the throne. While N had sat on the golden throne itself, Ghetsis had added some thick pillows to it. Boreas felt he should be feeling hate for the man who had begun this all, murdered Black, and now would lead to his own death. But he was out of hatred after his fight with Diego. He had to protect Unova from this man, that was all.
Kyurem approached menacingly when it saw him, but Ghetsis called it back. “What is this?” he said in surprise. “What happened to you, Glaceon?”
Boreas wondered if he should keep his purpose secret, remembering a pokémon master like Ghetsis could understand most of what a pokémon said. But he had a better idea. “My name... Is Boreas... I've come to kill you.”
Ghetsis laughed. “Poor thing, you're in no condition to kill anyone, save for yourself. I'll call someone to have you taken to our doctors.”
“No,” said Boreas, choosing the few words he could get out among his ragged breathing wisely. “You are a dangerous, evil man... You have plunged... Unova into your cruel tyranny... If I have to die to kill you, then so be it.” He spoke between rapid breaths.
Ghetsis smiled pityingly. “Why don't you just calm down? You're Black's Glaceon, right? The one who tried to attack me earlier as well. It was nothing personal what I did to your master, you know. I just needed Reshiram.”
“Yes, you stole it. Very dishonest.”
Ghetsis rolled his eyes. “How did you get that wounded anyway?”
“Diego,” said Boreas.
“I see. And where is he now?”
“Dead.” Boreas smiled triumphantly.
Ghetsis' arrogant façade broke and his smile disappeared. “What? You killed him?”
“I see,” he said icily. “You shouldn't have done that, you know. He was a loyal, useful ally and a good friend.”
“He was an evil git and just a tool to do your dirty work,” Boreas retorted.
“There's no point with me arguing with a pokémon that's nothing but a simple tool for an already dead man. Kyurem, kill it slowly.”
Boreas knew he was in no condition to defend at all and clenched his teeth as the flames hit.
Octa found himself fighting Kyurem again, feeling frozen to the bone as its deathly cold enveloped him. Even the warm feeling of pride he'd had when his family had heeded his speech and stayed wasn't enough to stop its biting cold. Massive, icy claws hunted for him, and he knew it was only a matter of time before they'd catch him in the intense blizzard. But there was no-one here who stood a chance against Kyurem; Boreas was their only hope if he was still alive. It seemed unlikely he was, with how long it had been since he broke through; the Glaceon had probably fallen to the other Kyurem. But if he hadn't, Octa refused to see anyone else killed while they were buying him time; and the best way to prevent that right now was to engage Kyurem himself, even if it would most likely be his death.
Octa's skin was numb with cold and every one of his joints hurt to move, but he couldn't stop. If he stopped dodging and stabbing Kyurem for a second, he'd be dead and it'd move on to its next victim, and neither of those prospects appealed to him.
Things were going much better than could be expected when a single Serperior fought a Kyurem, really, even if he was slowly freezing. Dodge, slash, dodge, slash, dodge, slash. Slash after slash, Kyurem's legs became covered in cuts oozing a dark gas instead of blood. Octa half-expected it to continue like this until the cold made him too slow to evade his enemy's attacks, but it wasn't so: at one point the moment his blade touched Kyurem's leg a megavolt jumped through the blade into Octa.
He found himself lying on the ground a few metres away, every muscle feeling cramped and his body smoking after slightly while white spots danced in his eyes. They didn't hide the furious legendary about to maul him, though, nor the fact he had lost his Leaf Blade and certainly had no time to make a new one.
Kyurem was about to kill Octa when a bright Solarbeam hit it from the side. It looked around, more curious than hurt, and saw Gaius. Octa quickly bolted back upright and rushed for his Leaf Blade. They both engaged Kyurem again.
“Thank you,” said Octa, “but why?”
“Because I have made a terrible mistake,” said Gaius, moving faster than Octa as he hadn't been half-frozen yet. “Several, in fact. Our house joining you made me realise how right you were: flight was an act of cowardice. I may not be worthy to lead our house. I'm sorry brother. For everything I've said.”
There was no more chance to talk, as Kyurem was enraged and they were in position for an attack. The bitter cold around the legendary intensified. Octa and Gaius raced to get away from the focal point of its Blizzard, but the cold was horrible and made even the worst Boreas had ever done feel like an oven. Octa's skin and eyes froze within seconds, which felt oddly like being on fire. He would have screamed if he could open his mouth. He could still move a little, but the crackling feeling made him worried his frozen skin was breaking into little pieces as he did so. But not half as worried as he was about the feeling of the cold cutting into his body like an icy blade. His bones felt frozen and his muscles responded sluggishly.
The very air froze down with a noise like sixty nails scraping on a blackboard. Though his sense of touch had thankfully disappeared after the burning pain of his skin freezing and his vision was vague and blurry through his frozen eyes, Octa still noticed the air depositing as a lethally cold hail. Then he was simply unable to move at all, too cold. His mind too was rapidly shutting down as ice-cold blood reached it.
The big, vague shape of Kyurem stepped towards him, casually passing by Gaius, who had suffered a similar fate to Octa's grief. He tried to think of anyone who might save them, but all the others were in almost as bad a position fighting the rest of the pokémon here. Kyurem put its large foot on top of him, about to crush him. Octa realised this was the end. He just hoped Toxica would survive.
Lucius breathed a sea of fire over the Ferrothorn about to crush Selene as she cut off branches of Shiftry with slashes of sharpened air. He saw Lilligant coming for him, but had no time to defend and received a long, deep cut in his side from its sharpened leafarm. His jaws found its other arm before it could cut his throat as well and he breathed fire right into its face. Using its tentacles, Cradily threw a barrage of rocks at both dark-types, who were hit several times.
Lilligant wasn't defeated yet and slashed at Lucius' feet. He cursed as he dropped to the ground and was instantly set upon by his badly burnt enemy. It no longer looked anywhere near cute with many of its petals carbonised and its face burned, showing its bare animal-like flesh in a mad, nightmarish fury. Two blade-like leafarms tried to stab him in the chest and throat so he grabbed them both tightly, while a smouldering facial petal wrapped around his maw to prevent him from using more fire. However, he slowly fought-back the razor-sharp leafarms, as he was stronger than his enemy.
That is, until myriads of roots sprung from its feet and crawled up along his body. They pierced his skin like a thousand needles as they kept growing and travelled up along his body, quickly wrapping him in a growing cocoon of the stuff. Wherever the roots pricked through his skin, they began draining him. The entered into the wounds he already had too, reopening them. The pain was terrible. His strength was rapidly drained and he began losing against the knife-like leaves. Yet Lilligant didn't kill him with them, though it easily could: it enjoyed draining him alive far too much, its roots reaching up to his shoulders by now and pain and weakness overwhelmed him as they began to grow over his head.
Boreas writhed to keep away from the small flames all around him. It was useless, as there was no escape from the tormenting fire, but he couldn't resist it. He did manage not to scream, though. It would only waste the tiny bit of air he had, and he had less and less from the exertion and inhaling smoke. The need for oxygen quickly became even more painful than either the spike through his right lung or the flames roasting him like hot coals. His mind and lung burned as he slowly blacked out and asphyxiated.
“Kyurem, give it a moment to catch its breath,” ordered Ghetsis.
Boreas lay on the ground panting and recovering from the torture. He had to act quick now. “Reshiram,” he said to Kyurem between rapid breaths, “remember me? I fought with Black, just like you.”
Kyurem slightly turned its head as it looked at him.
“Remember, Black?” continued Boreas. “The 'hero' you came out of that rock for? Who 'fought for the truth', as you called it?”
“Good. Then do you also remember how he died? Kyurem killed him, ordered by Ghetsis!”
It was quiet. “I AM KYUREM.”
“Kyurem, continue,” ordered Ghetsis.
Boreas couldn't suppress a whimper of pain as the horrible flames continued to dance around him and roast him with their terrible heat; though they never touched him and his fur didn't combust. He squirmed to stay away from them as much as he could, but it was still like being fried alive.
Ghetsis watched him, sitting on his throne in his dark suit, with a malevolent grin on his face. “Poor Glaceon,” he said mockingly. “So much suffering. I'll be merciful and order Kyurem to make it end if you beg me for it.”
Death sounded very appealing right now. Any end to the agony did. But he had to take Ghetsis with him, he had to convince Kyurem. He weathered the torment in silence, looking into Ghetsis' eyes defiantly. Again, he slowly and agonisingly suffocated until Ghetsis ordered Kyurem to stop. Boreas lay there, recovering a little.
“So you're a defiant one?” said Ghetsis. “Well, then I'll just continue this little exercise until you give up.”
Boreas ignored him and turned to Kyurem, talking as fast as his breath would allow. “If you are Kyurem, then that means you're the one who killed Black. The hero who fought for truth.”
“GHETSIS FIGHTS FOR TRUTH.”
Boreas rolled his eyes. “Reshiram said the same about Black. But Black and Ghetsis were enemies; how can there be two conflicting truths?”
Boreas thought he detected a pause and uncertainty in Kyurem's voice. “GHETSIS FIGHTS FOR THE TRUTH.”
“You keep saying that. Maybe you're right. But then, answer me this: what did Black fight for when Reshiram was with him? And what did Ghetsis, who he fought against, fight for? Does the truth change?”
Kyurem was quiet. Boreas barely dared hope he had put the legendary in doubt.
“Kyurem,” ordered Ghetsis, “continue.”
Kyurem didn't instantly move, lost in thought, so Boreas talked quick in the hopes of avoiding another round of torture. “Was Black wrong? But then, how could Reshiram consider him the hero? You fought for the truth with Black and you fought for the truth with Ghetsis, but they can't both be right!”
“Kyurem,” ordered Ghetsis, sounding worried, “kill it, right now! It's lying to you.”
Saying Ghetsis was the one lying to it was a bad idea; it would be Boreas' word against its master's, and Ghetsis would win that. “The problem is: there is no truth. No absolute truth at least.”
Kyurem snapped to attention and looked angry. “THAT IS A LIE. I AM TRUTH.”
“Reshiram claimed it was the truth. But you just said it yourself: you're Kyurem.”
“I AM RESHIRAM.”
“You claim to be truth, yet you change your mind all the time. If there is absolute truth, answer me this: are you Kyurem or Reshiram? Was Black right or is Ghetsis?”
Kyurem was quiet.
“You are not a personification of truth, as there's no such thing. What you are is a confused being with illusions of grandeur, created from the original Kyurem by people who thought in black-and-whites and threw away all doubt. But they were wrong to do so: there is no absolute truth, and doubt is precious. I'm certain of it,” he added with a chuckle.
“Kyurem, it's lying, kill it!”
Boreas got to his feet, feeling recovered with his last energy now. Kyurem just stood there and stared, locked in inner conflict as it tried to conform this logic with its inner philosophy. “It won't kill me, Ghetsis. You've lost.” He cooled his body down with his last energy to end Ghetsis' life with a continuous Ice Beam to the head. His wounds burned and he was so very tired and heavy, but he had to do this final thing. Then he could rest.
Ghetsis didn't even get up. In fact, he still smiled. “Have I? I admit, it's impressive you managed to talk Kyurem into this, but you haven't thought things through. If you kill me, all the energy in Kyurem will be released in a huge explosion. Even if you were healthy, you couldn't get away in time; as badly wounded as you are you won't even make it out of the throneroom before it happens. Kill me, and you'll kill yourself.”
“I know,” said Boreas, walking closer. He couldn't afford to miss, as he certainly wouldn't have energy for a second try. Ghetsis might hit him with his cane again given such a chance, too. “I accepted that I would die when I entered here.”
There was a momentary crack of fear in Ghetsis' calm façade. “Brave. But you're not the only one who would die. Giallo's last report indicated he was fighting a bunch of pokémon. Some of which seem to be your late trainer's other possessions... A Serperior, a Vileplume, and a Vaporeon, among others. Were you good friends with them?” Boreas tried to keep his appearance neutral as a terrible fear came over him, but Ghetsis clearly saw through it and laughed. “Very good friends, clearly. Perhaps there's even a lover among them? They're fighting the other Kyurem right now, and if you kill me, they'll die in its explosion. Even if they're quite far away from it; these are legendaries and contain immense amounts of power. Kill me, and you kill them.”
That was the one thing Boreas hadn't thought of yet. He was fully prepared to die and to go through any amount of pain, but he had hoped, almost expected, his friends to survive to see the results.
“We can do this differently,” continued Ghetsis. “I don't want to die, and you don't want your friends to die. So let's make this deal: you surrender to me, and I order Giallo to stand down and have our pokémon fight only to defend themselves. Then we go down there together and you convince them to surrender as well. One of our medics takes a look at you, and then we put you all in a boat to anywhere outside of Unova you want. None of you dies and you all get to live out your lives in a place where you'll never see Team Plasma again.”
Boreas knew he should just kill Ghetsis. He would help millions throw off Team Plasma and live in freedom if he did. Those millions were up against the lives of a few, and that would be an easy choice if it wasn't for the identity of those few. “How do I know I can trust you?” he asked to win time to think.
Ghetsis shrugged. “Because I've got no reason to lie. It will cost us as good as nothing to let you and anyone else you choose live and leave Unova. There's no point to me breaking my word.”
Boreas felt Ghetsis was speaking the truth. And he couldn't refuse the deal. He couldn't live with the idea that he would kill Aqua. The freedom of millions easily lost against her life.
Kyurem's world was entirely focused on the horrible green snake. And now, at last, it had its revenge. It was about to crush the now-frozen Serperior underfoot when it saw something deeply disturbing through its telepathic bond with its other self in the throneroom: the life of the hero was threatened by a Glaceon! And Kyurem's other self wasn't doing anything about it for some reason.
Kyurem forgot its fury against the Serperior and spread out its wings wide, flying up to the throneroom at top speed to kill the Glaceon who threatened the hero.
Lucius was being drained by a thousand roots no matter how hard he fought against them, and was beginning to black out. His vision of Lilligant's terribly burnt visage slowly disappeared as roots began to grow over his eyes. But then a ball of ruffled feathers landed on it and drew its claws through the badly wounded face. Lilligant screeched, but Selene had jumped onto its legs and cut through its roots before it could retaliate.
The agony of the roots draining him ended instantly and many broke off quickly. As Lilligant had turned its attention to Selene, Lucius was free to move, shook off much of the dying roots, and bit its throat before it could get Selene.
His skin was still leakier than a colander and he felt terribly drained down. Selene wasn't much better off: fighting the other grass types had drawn a heavy toll on her and her feathers were more red than black by now. Ryoku's remaining pokémon still surrounded them and were about to attack as well, and Lucius realised this was the end. Even though they were both strong against grass-types, they stood no chance, outnumbered, surrounded, and wounded as badly as this. He looked into Selene's eyes, and saw she knew it too. She hopped onto his shoulder as he managed to partly get up.
“It's been fun,” she said as Tangrowth spread out its huge mass of vines threateningly.
“Yeah.” Lucius gave her feathers a gentle pet with one paw as Tangrowth's writhing forest of vines was nearly upon them. “Let's get this last one.”
With their final strength, Lucius breathed a sea of fire and Selene slashed and cut through climbers, fighting together to the last as they disappeared into the mass of strangling and draining vines.
As Kyurem was about to crush Octa, it suddenly stopped mid-movement. Its head turned and looked up at the tower, and then it spread its wings and flew up, leaving him there. The cold air was rapidly blown away by the storm, which felt like a desert wind by comparison. As frozen air sublimated, rain that felt boiling hot fell on Octa's frozen skin and heated him up. He managed to get up and looked around in bewilderment, wondering what was going on. In the south, a large golden spot in the sky showed the Sun breaking through the clouds.
Kyurem flew up on massive wings, distracting Metagross for just the moment needed to break its devastating psychic attack. Aqua used her chance to blast it with her strongest Hydro Pump, using the copious rainwater to make it easier. Despite its massively heavy bulk, Metagross was pushed back by the attack. It braced itself against the ground with two legs and began to tilt over by the water's sheer pressure, giving Aqua an idea: she gathered water to her in a big wave and let it give the balancing Metagross the final push, flipping it over like a horseshoe crab on the beach.
Aqua was exhausted, but Metagross was stuck for the moment and Toxica used that handily: she jumped onto the meal spider's belly and sprouted roots, searching for any crack in the weaker armour here. Metagross had to let it happen while it worked to flip back the right way up: its legs slowly turned upside-down by their joints and then activated their powerful electromagnets to levitate by.
Toxica released her roots and jumped off her enemy and made thick grass grow rapidly under Metagross that knotted around its legs and pulled it back to the ground. Aqua created a big wave to wash over and submerge the steel colossus, staying behind herself instead of staying in the wave. With good reason: when Metagross was fully submerged, the electromagnets on its legs, at their most powerful as it tried to get loose from the grass knots, shortened out in the water, which conducted their powerful current right around Metagross and through the now-widened cracks in its belly-armour. The water fizzled and flashed and boiled as Metagross electrocuted itself.
Toxica and Aqua were left exhausted and wounded, but victorious. “Woah,” said Toxica.
“Yeah,” said Aqua.
“C'mon,” said Toxica, running ahead, “we have to see if Octa's okay.”
Ghetsis grinned without any fear. He clearly knew Boreas wouldn't sacrifice his friends and that he was in no serious danger. The freedom of the entire continent was simply no match for the lives of his cherished newly-wed wife and the best friend he'd had as good as his whole life. Living in some place faraway with them and trying to forget Unova didn't sound too bad.
But what would they think of this? They were both willing to wager their lives to make his plan work. They would probably be none too pleased that he had decided for them not to make that sacrifice. He hoped they would forgive him, but even if they never wanted anything to do with him and considered him a traitor, at least they'd be alive. That was good enough.
But they'd have to live with a strange kind of complicity in the defeat today. If it wasn't for them, Boreas would have killed Ghetsis and completed his plan. Because, come to think of it, it was his plan that had made the resistance fight this futile battle. Everyone who had died in the battle had eventually done so to give him this last chance for victory. Black, Febby, and all of the other dead whose bodies now lay here in the castle, possibly even Lucius and Selene, had died for his plan. If they hadn't fought this battle, if he hadn't pushed for his terrible idea, they would still be alive. The resistance would've fled the League and remained much stronger, still able to eventually beat Team Plasma by other means. But now, they were crushed. So many had died, and many more would die in the flight from the lost battle. The survivors would be few and completely powerless. If he didn't kill Ghetsis, they wouldn't just have died in vain, but they wouldn't have died at all if it wasn't for him. He would be just as responsible for their deaths as Team Plasma if he didn't do what he came to do. It wasn't just a choice between Unova and his friends.
“Well?” asked Ghetsis impatiently. “Have you decided yet, Glaceon?”
Thinking of it like that, his choice was clear. His death, Octa's death, even Aqua's death, were all acceptable. They had all been willing to wager their lives for his plan, and he owed it to everyone to finish what he had started.
“Yes,” he said calmly, “I have.”
Cooling his body down with his last energy, he shot an Ice Beam right between Ghetsis' eyes. The human's smug, sure expression changed to one of fear and surprise and he tried to get up, but Boreas kept up the Ice Beam and he fell back on the cushioned throne. Within seconds, Ghetsis stopped moving and blacked out. Boreas continued the Ice Beam to give him a soft death by cooling his brain down.
He ended the beam and felt an immense weight fall off his chest. Kyurem's body was already ablaze and still it stared apathetically as white and grey smoke oozed from it. Boreas looked at the throneroom's exit and considered running for it, but he knew he couldn't get away in time; he could barely walk at all. Instead, he laid down calmly, almost with happiness. This was the end of his life, he could do nothing about that, and he would rather spend it thinking one last time about the good things from that life that with a panicky, futile flight.
He had made the right choice, he knew, and it was great relief. Even though it would cost him his life and probably that of his friends, it was the right choice. He just hoped Lucius and Selene would make it, wherever they were. He chuckled, imagining Selene annoying Lucius while sitting on his shoulder and Lucius insulting Selene, quibbling with each other as always. They certainly had the strangest friendship Boreas had ever seen.
He reminded himself of the annoying, childish Oddish Toxica had been, too, and how irritated and jealous he'd been whenever Octa spent time with her instead of him. He giggled as he recalled her attempt to impress Octa by imitating his accent really poorly. She had grown into a good friend as they had both grown out of their childish quibbling, and into a very fun Vileplume to be with. He was glad she and Octa had made up before the end.
It was with a warm smile on his face that he recalled his time with Octa. He had been like both a father and a brother to the lonely little Eevee he had rescued, and though they could fight like beasts, he had never had a dearer friend. They had stared death in the eyes together so many times and seen all of Unova together. Octa had distracted Boreas from his grief by telling him stories of his own family, followed him into Team Plasma's base even when they were fighting, they had gotten drunk together to celebrate their victory over the Gym Leader, and played in the pokémon musical together. Octa had listened to him talk on and on about Aqua in the days when he first met her and prevented him from killing himself when his whole life had collapsed around him not much later. They had come to blows about Octa's refusal to act on his feelings for Toxica, yet ended up laughing together and had fought for each other's lives deep underground. Boreas had supported Octa when he was deeply ashamed about giving up and argued with him to stop that shame from making him do stupid things. Finally he imagined Octa as he had last seen him: fighting bravely to make Boreas' plan work and telling him to go on, no matter what. Every memory with Octa was in the end a happy one.
As Kyurem became a floating ball of grey, fire and ice, Boreas thought about Aqua. He had never known it was possible to love another person so much. Imagining her laugh or her eyes was enough to set him on fire inside. He laughed heartily as he recalled a foolish young Glaceon jumping off a boat to talk to a pretty girl. He recalled how his cheek had burned when she had given him a peck on it and how perfect the world had seemed after she had first truly kissed him. He had stayed the night with her to support her as she told him about her dark past and they had passionately reunited after their violent breakup. Her disbelieving look when he had asked her to marry him and her delight when she realised he was serious, and how they had improvised their wedding on the spot and kissed in the middle of the great battle. The joy he felt whenever he was with her was life itself.
He looked up at the ball of energy about to explode and realised it had been a good life. He couldn't have asked for a better one.
There was a bright flash of light.
Octa stared up in amazement. Kyurem hadn't killed him, for reasons best known to itself, and while he was incredibly cold, he was still alive against all odds. Kyurem flew upwards, to the tower, at top speed.
Suddenly, it roared and writhed in mid-flight, flying chaotically as lightning, visible in the murky storm even from this distance, danced over its dark body. Octa gasped. He could barely believe it, but Boreas had really succeeded! Kyurem seemed to go mad in mid-air as lightning, ice, black and grey energy, danced over its body and seemed to dissolve it. It lost its shape and stopped flying on, hovering in mid-air as it turned into a sphere of black and grey.
The Sun broke through the clouds with amazing timing. The rain-filled sky reflected the Sunlight brightly like a thousand drops of gold, as did the top of the tower and the floating ball of energy that was once Kyurem, all gleaming with painfully bright gold to their dark-adjusted eyes.
Kyurem exploded in an enormous flash of energy and light, and a second later an ear-piercing explosion and shockwave hit and threw everyone to the ground. Octa's heart erupted with triumph. “BOREAS!” he shouted, holding up his blade in a triumphant salute into the tower's direction. “He did it! He did it!”
Toxica flew into an embrace with him the moment she got up, cheering happily and inarticulately for their friend. She even pulled a laughing Aqua into the hug as well, and after a moment of hesitation Octa hugged her too. He had been wrong to suspect her of being a traitor after all.
They let go of each other. “Wonderful,” said a smiling Aqua. “My clever Boreas has really done it...”
The tower exploded with an immense fireball, blowing up completely and raining rubble over the battlefield. Octa's heart, ablaze with triumph and pride, froze instantly. He could only stare at the collapse of what little was left of the tower, along with the wall leading to it. “No... No...” He saw the horrified, shocked looks on Aqua's and Toxica's faces, and felt a tear trickling down from his eye. He wanted to tell them Boreas might've gotten away in time, to try to convince himself of it, but he knew it wasn't true. He knew it in his mind, but mainly felt it in his heart. It was even worse than his father's death, which hadn't truly sunk in yet. Boreas was dead.
Even the sight of Ghetsis' pokémon fleeing despite Giallo telling them to get back, the fiercely bright Sun shining on his back, and the disappearance of the suppressing feeling of the two legendaries on Plasma's side couldn't dispel the horrible sense of loss he felt.
But there was no time to grief now. He raised his voice to address everyone left on their side: Aqua and Toxica, his house, Esper, and Altaïr, most of whom were just staring up at the collapsing tower in wonder. “Everyone!” he spoke. “My friends, my family! An incredibly brave Glaceon died to give us this last chance of victory! The enemy is in disarray; they've seen their commander killed and no longer have the Kyurems to bolster their morale! Even the Sun itself is on our side, shining in their eyes and on our backs! This is our chance! Fight now! Fight for victory!” he lowered his voice, talking only to Aqua and Toxica. “Fight for Boreas.”
Aqua echoed him as she wrapped herself in a wave, golden with the bright Sunlight's reflection, and together they charged Giallo's remaining pokémon, who were confused and scared by the tower's collapse and had to look straight into the low Sun to even see their enemies. Toxica was barely behind them as her flower greedily took the sunlight in as she ran, barraging their enemy with Solarbeams as they charged. “For Boreas!”
All the others followed them too, charging the terrified and half-blinded enemy with the bright Sun in their back and a conviction they were going to win in their hearts.
Chapter Seventy-Seven: The Day that Changed the World
It was almost impossible to believe, but they had utterly defeated Team Plasma's far more powerful forces. As the low Sun shone on the Pokémon League and Team Plasma's castle, there was no-one there who wasn't amazed by how the battle had turned out.
Many had died. There wasn't a single person, human or pokémon, who hadn't lost someone. Trainers, pokémon, friends, family members. In all that death, Aqua didn't think it was possible anyone felt worse than her. Yet there was only one word for it.
Team Plasma still held all of Unova in its grip, even now that its headquarters were captured, and the resistance was nicely cooped up here in the Pokémon League for them to destroy. Yet, it was a stunning, crushing victory. Ghetsis, Zinzolin, Ryoku, and Bronius were dead, while Gorm, Rood, and Giallo had been taken prisoner, along with lots of grunts. What exactly had happened to the Elite Four, no-one knew. There were multiple stories going around about them, the most common of which was that they'd switched sides again when the Kyurems exploded, and had then quickly fled the battle before anyone could hold them accountable for their actions. Where they had gone, no-one knew; only that they weren't among the prisoners or the dead.
The greatest change was perhaps that everyone could feel the Kyurems were gone. For eight long months, the legendary on Team Plasma's side had pressed hard on everyone's minds, discouraging its enemies, encouraging its allies, and convincing those on neither side to support Team Plasma, and now suddenly its influence was gone. Aqua saw it in her allies. They finally had hope again.
Hope had rekindled the moment they saw the tower blow up. Most had no idea Boreas was in there, and wouldn't have cared much if they'd known, but everyone knew Ghetsis was in that tower. With the influence of the Kyurems suddenly gone along with Ghetsis, their courage had soared, while the enemy was in panicky disarray without their leader. Up near the tower's base, Ghetsis' pokémon had fled and left Giallo with his remaining steel-types, all of whom were almost blinded by the bright, low Sun behind their enemies. In the glorious charge of hope and fury Octa had led, they had captured Giallo himself.
Everywhere in the castle, the same scenario had taken place. Fleeing members of the resistance had caught their courage again and returned to fight once more. With the added luck that the castle lay north of the League and therefore in most places the Sun's blinding light was to their advantage, team Plasma found itself in a much harder spot than before. Aqua and the others who had just taken Giallo prisoner had descended the castle to attack the enemy from behind: as much as they'd wanted to look for Boreas' body, they knew they had to press their advantage and honour his sacrifice by delivering their victory. Finally, somewhere in the western part of the castle, a grunt couldn't handle it any more and had been the first to flee. His fear had infected others, and soon a huge part of Plasma was routing. Apparently some had even switched sides in the midst of battle and joined the trainers against their former comrades.
Sage Ryoku, fighting in the eastern part of the castle, had declared himself Team Plasma's new leader and regained control over much of their forces for a while. The grunts in this part of the castle regrouped and fought well, and for a moment it had even seemed as if Plasma might win after all. But then the news had come that Ryoku was dead, and chaos had broken out in the enemy ranks. Even now, Aqua wasn't sure how Ryoku had died, but the important thing was that the enemy had routed, and the remaining Sage surrendered not long after.
Aqua tried to focus on the great victory and their new hope, like everyone else. She tried to share in the triumphant feeling that was going around. It was easy enough to pretend she was glad they'd won; she'd always been good at acting cheerful even when she felt bad. Even so, if she was honest, she would have rather had a defeat Boreas had survived than this victory without him. On some moments, she felt numb inside and didn't believe Boreas was dead at all, half-expecting him to stand just around any corner with a smug, mischievous grin on his face, asking her if she had really thought he was dead. But on other moments the horrible truth began to sink in. She would never see him again. She would have to live her life completely alone, and a black pit of despair opened before her. Her broken leg with its improvised cast didn't hurt remotely as badly as that knowledge.
She tried to cheer herself up: she wouldn't be completely alone. Toxica was still here for her, and even if she was no substitute for Boreas she was a good friend. But she was all Aqua had left; even Selene had disappeared. Her body hadn't been found yet, but with every second the chance she and Lucius had survived lowered.
Aqua had been unsure of what to do, overwhelmed with Boreas' death, and had so far just walked after Toxica a bit, and Toxica had been helping Octa find the rest of his family. They had many dead to mourn, among them Octa's father and his brother Marcus Aurelius, and were generally quiet and sombre, which fit well with Aqua's own mood.
Gaius was addressing the others on a large courtyard in the castle, and Aqua really couldn't bring up the attention to listen to him. Her thoughts went to Boreas instead every time. She'd never see his cheeky grin again. She'd never have to wonder if he had gone insane again, like when he had asked her to marry him in battle. She'd never share a laugh with him again.
Anger welled up in her. Idiot humans. Why had they drawn Boreas into their stupid conflict? If it wasn't for them, he would still be alive... But she knew that wasn't fair. This was just as much about pokémon than about humans. She sighed. If only he had been a little less heroic. She felt so horribly alone without him, she wanted to follow him. She knew they wouldn't be together that way... But at least she wouldn't have to go on without him.
She tried to distract herself from these thoughts by listening to Gaius. It seemed he was admitting he was an idiot to everyone, which she supposed was a good thing. He said he would refuse any nomination of him as the new leader of their house, which she also supposed was a good thing. She really found she couldn't care less about all this, though.
“Hey,” whispered Toxica, “how are you holding up?”
“I've been better.” Aqua was a bit startled at how bitter she sounded.
Toxica softly touched her shoulder. “I'm so sorry for you... You'll really feel better eventually, you know, even if it seems now that you'll never stop being sad. Time heals all wounds, even this one. Eventually, things turn out alright.”
“Yes,” said Aqua to stop Toxica's babbling, while she inwardly thought: ********. This will never be alright. There was no way a world without Boreas would ever be a happy place. And he wouldn't be coming back either, so the only way this would ever be alright would be if she could travel back in time and experience the blissful year she'd had with him again. Although she had wasted far too much of that time fighting with him and not being there. She should've cherished what little time they had together, stayed with him all the time. She would never get over her loss... And if somehow she did, if she eventually ended up feeling over him the way she had gotten over Lothario, wouldn't that be even worse? It seemed so terrible to just forget him like that. She couldn't imagine herself being so unfaithful she'd stop feeling horrible about it and maybe even love someone else...
She realised she was crying about him for the first time. So far she had kept her grief hidden inside, but now the tears ran through her fut. She quickly dried them and took on a neutral mask. She really didn't want to cry in front of Octa's even smugger relatives. She tried to pay attention to them instead. It seemed they were discussing who should be their new leader. Some names were mentioned, but no-one actually nominated anyone, and no-one no-one put themselves forth either.
Until Livia spoke up. “I nominate my brother, Octa!”
The word “What” was uttered by a lot of people. Octa among them. They all talked through each other. Someone pointed out he wasn't even a member of their house any more.
“Who cares?” said Livia. “Today we reached victory because of Octa and Toxica! Octa is braver and wiser than anyone else here, and Toxica is every bit as noble as any of us. I believe he would make a great Lord if we reinstated him, and would cause a fresh wind to blow into our house at last.”
“Livia,” said Octa, “I am very grateful for this, but I do not want this honour. I'm not even a part of the house any more.”
“We need you, Octa,” said Livia. “We need your fresh look on things, we need your bravery and your wisdom. We wouldn't have won today without you and Toxica. Who else wants Octa as our new leader?!”
There was a moment of silence as they thought about it, then agreeing voices spoke up. More and more of them. Soon, most of them were cheering for Octa, though a few were booing him.
“See?” said Livia. “We want you to be our leader. Will you let us down?”
Octa looked around unsurely and made eye-contact with Toxica, who nodded. “No,” he said finally, “I shan't let down my house-”
“Long live Lord Octavianus the fifth!” cheered Livia, and many voices followed. “May his days be blessed.”
All of them bowed for their new leader, who looked around in amazement. Toxica too made a bow, with a smile. “Congratulations, my lord,” she teased.
“Please, I am honoured, but let me finish speaking,” said Lord Octavianus. “I shan't let down my house, but I do not want this honour. I left the house not just to escape the judgement of others, but that of myself. If there is no other way I shall accept this honour, but I ask you to elect an even more suited candidate.”
“There is no-one better suited!” Livia argued.
“Yes, there is, my dear sister: you.”
“Yes, you. Livia is far wiser and braver than me, and has the advantage of actually being a member of the house. I believe she, like me, is willing to let a new wind blow through our house, but she also has a healthy respect for our traditions. When the order to retreat was given, she was the only one who remained with me. If you are willing, have her as a leader instead.”
After they considered it for a moment, there were many cheers, so Octa said: “Then I resign as our leader and nominate Livia as my successor.”
Livia squinted. “Don't think you're rid of it that easily. I want your help and your advice. Yours, and Toxica's. I will accept only if you promise you'll help me.”
Octa and Toxica both agreed.
“Very well, then I accept.”
Now it was Octa's turn to start a cheer. “Long live Lady Livia the seventh! May her days be blessed.”
There was much cheering again, this time with much less booing mixed in. Livia was about to begin giving some kind of speech when Octa quietly said to her:
“I'm sorry, my dear sister, but I have to leave for now. It is time I honoured the hero who has truly brought us this victory. I shall go find his body, that we might bury him with the greatest honour.”
Lady Livia nodded. “I understand. Go quickly; I have to think of something to say to them.”
Octa retreated quietly amidst the cheers, and Aqua followed him. “I'm coming with you,” she said.
“I do not think it would be wise,” said Octa sadly. “Boreas' remains are likely to be gravely maimed after that explosion... I don't think he would want you to see him like that. Go to the pokécenter and have yourself healed, that you may remember him as he was in life, rather than in death.”
Aqua rolled her eyes. “No, Octa, I'm coming with you. I want to see his corpse, no matter how badly mangled. Or I'll torment myself with the idea that he could still somehow be alive until the end of my days. Besides, I owe him at least this much.”
Octa nodded. “Alright, I understand.”
Aqua clambered through the grim rubble that filled a courtyard. She and Octa had been searching for quite a while. First they had searched in the ruins of the tower itself, but they had only found the Light Stone and the twisted remains of N's golden throne and Ghetsis there; no Boreas. This was not all too unusual, as the explosion had scattered debris of the tower over a large area and Boreas was presumably among it. It just meant a larger area to search. Aqua and Octa drew comfort from each other while searching, even though they said as good as nothing to each other. They had never really gotten along, but right now their love for Boreas bound them.
“I wonder if he suffered much...” said Aqua finally as they combed through the rubble in the courtyard bit by bit.
“I doubt it...” said Octa. “The explosion would've killed him before he even felt the pain. I'm sure his death was quite painless...”
They passed one of the large, ornamental shields that hung on the walls everywhere; it was blackened and dented in from the explosion. They nearly passed it by when Aqua suddenly noticed it was lying on top of something. She felt ice-cold. “Octa...” she said, pointing.
A single, badly burnt, broken hindpaw and a burnt tail which missed its tip stuck out from under the shield. Aqua suddenly couldn't hold her tears in and wailed loudly. The true extent of her loss only now hit her. Boreas was gone forever, only this burnt piece of meat left of him.
Octa bowed his head solemnly. “Farewell Boreas, brilliant and brave,
a Glaceon too good to be stuck in a grave...”
A very small giggle almost made it through Aqua's tears; how like Octa to think up an epitaph for him on the spot. She wanted to say something, anything, but was too torn up with grief and tears to do so. Octa softly embraced her, and they cried together. After a moment, he let go.
“Why don't you go back?” he proposed tearfully. “You have seen his body... But you needn't see all of it. I shall take it back myself.”
But Aqua couldn't leave from Boreas' side. She shook her head firmly.
“I see,” said Octa kindly. “You should do this the way that feels best to you... Help me move the shield off of him...”
They slowly moved the heavy, charred piece of steel off of Boreas, expecting to see something resembling meat that's been left on the grill far too long below. But instead they found Boreas protected from the heat of the explosion by the shield, his body still intact. The end of his paw and tail were only burned because they had stuck out from under the shield. The rest of his fur was still blue and unburned.
However, a metal spike had stabbed right through his chest, which was died red with blood. He had many smaller wounds too, including a bad-looking over on his head, and much of his body was bruised. Lying below him were the remnants of several large pillows; they had been partially burned and ruptured by the impact and were flat now. Despite his many wounds, Boreas' face looked peaceful; there even was a small smile around his lips. Seeing him looking more or less intact, Aqua's heart made a jump of joy, and she held her own breath as Octa rushed to listen to Boreas'. But far too much time passed. Octa shook his head sadly and got up, and Aqua sank into despair again.
“Clever to the very end...” said Octa, indicating the protective shell of the shield and pillows Boreas was encased himself in. “The explosion's shock was still too great to survive, however...”
Or he died of his wounds while we were wasting time fighting and listening to Gaius talk... added Aqua in her thoughts, which made her feel even more horrible. She wondered how he'd received those wounds in the first place... And how he had managed to win from Kyurem. But most of all, she wondered if he would still have been alive if they'd been here earlier.
“I-I wonder what his final moments were like...” said Aqua, crying slightly. “He looks so peaceful...”
Boreas looked up at the ball of energy about to explode and realised it had been a good life. He couldn't have asked for a better one.
There was a bright flash of light. It came from outside, and a moment later there was a huge, thundering noise and the tower shook. Boreas wondered if it was the other Kyurem exploding; this one would do the same any second now, and he was at peace with that. However, looking up at it, he saw something else: behind it hung one of the large, ornamental Team Plasma shields. He had an idea, incredibly enough, and got up, cringing against the pain. He was at peace if he would die now, and knew it almost certainly wouldn't work, but the small chance of staying alive was worth not lying down and spending his final moments in a somewhat pleasant way. He would probably still die, but at least his body might be preserved better and still be recognisable, which might help Aqua move on if she was still alive.
He pulled Ghetsis' body off the throne, grabbed the two large pillows, and dragged them over to the wall. He fired an Ice Beam behind the shield, snap-freezing the wire that held it up, so the shield fell down. Knowing he had only seconds, he put the pillows behind him, up against the wall, and drew the shield up in front of him, hiding behind it entirely and freezing himself to it and the pillows. The shield would absorb most of the blast and he might be thrown clear of the explosion as it destroyed the tower instead of being crushed against an unbreaking wall. Maybe he would even survive the impact on the ground if he landed on his back, where the pillows would offer some protection. It was a huge long-shot, but there was little harm done with it.
If he didn't make it, it had still been a good life. A moment when he and Aqua had laughed about something until they cried came to mind. He couldn't eve recall what they had been laughing at, but it was a happy memory.
There was a blindingly bright light, a terrible impact, searing heat, and then nothing.
Aqua felt overwhelmed with sorrow. She really would have to face this life alone. She just couldn't think of anything that would ever make her happy again. Crying loudly, she embraced Boreas' lifeless body, sobbing on his cold shoulder, her ear in his neck. “What will I ever do without you?” she cried. “I can't live like that...”
Of course, he remained silent. As he always would. Aqua grieved, now softly, still holding him. If she let him go, it would somehow make it even more irreversible, and she just couldn't face that right now.
Very faintly, on the edge of her hearing, she imagined hearing an incredibly weak thump in his neck. Why did she torture herself like this? The more she had these kinds of thoughts, the worse the truth hurt. She was all alone in the world.
But she perceived another thump, and another quickly after. She held her breath and pressed her large, sensitive ear even closer to his neck. It took almost three seconds, but there was another weak thump; and it wasn't her own heartbeat, as it was much louder and faster. Boreas' was incredibly weak and irregular and seemed like it could just stop at any moment, but it was there!
“By the depths!” Aqua instantly sat up and formed an Aqua Ring around Boreas. She had to keep him alive as long as she could, and this would give him some energy to survive a little longer. “He's alive! Octa, go get anyone with medical skills, right now!”
“Aqua...” said Octa, in terribly sad voice. The smug git clearly thought she was crazy.
“NOW!” she shouted. “His heart's still beating, but won't be for much longer, so GO!”
“I'm sorry... But 'tis-”
“No, it's not my imagination, I really heard his heart beat! My ears are a lot bigger than yours, so trust me, please!”
“I shall.” Octa at least wasted no more time, giving her the benefit of the doubt and racing off.
Aqua was left alone with a near-dead Boreas, working hard to make the healing veil of water as strong as possible. It was obviously nowhere near enough to save him, but it might just be enough to keep him alive for an extra minute or so needed to reach a nurse. It had to be. “You're going to be alright, Boreas,” said Aqua. “Really, you are. Your heart is going to keep beating until the nurse comes and rescues you, do you hear me? You're not going to leave me behind, you'll stay with me. You're going to wake up and give me that charming little smile of yours.” She rambled on like this, trying to convince herself it would somehow help.
Boreas woke up. That was strange. Opening his eyes in wonder, he found himself in a comfortable bed in the pokécenter. He was alive! He could barely believe it. An annoying pain in his chest let him know for certain: he really was alive. He took a deep breath, finding it incredibly enjoyable to have two working lungs again.
Boreas startled and looked for the voice's source. An attractive Umbreon lay in the next bed in the room. “Febby?!” he said joyously. “You're alive?!”
She smiled. “Don't sound so surprised, I'm not the one going around blowing up legendary pokémon while he's in the room with them.”
Boreas began to laugh, but felt the laughter die in his throat as he realised Aqua, Octa, and Toxica had probably not been as lucky as Febby and him. “Yeah... I knew you might survive, but your chances didn't seem good.”
Febby shrugged. “Seems lady Luck was on both our sides. Anyway, I shouldn't be wasting your time when the others are ageing ten years every second with worry.” She shouted: “He's awake!”
Boreas tried to quench the hope that rose in him, fearing disappointment. “What... Who?”
Febby just smiled and winked and pointed to the door.
Boreas turned to look, but at that moment a heavy weight fell on top of him and before he knew what was happening he was being passionately kissed by a pair of blue lips. His heart was overflowing with joy: Aqua was alive too! As their lips parted, Aqua and Boreas laughed and babbled incoherently, too happy to pay attention to what they or the other were saying, interspersing with more kisses. Finally, Boreas' chest began putting a bit of a dampener on his joy. “My love, I'm so glad you're alright... But I don't think I'm quite recovered yet. Could you get off me?”
Aqua rolled off of him with a mirthful laugh and put her front paws around him. “As long as I still get to hold you.”
“Well, then perhaps you now have time to notice us too?”
Octa and Toxica were standing next to his bed too. He said their names in sheer joy and big grins appeared on their faces. The next moment he was hugged from three sides and trying his best to hug back with only two arms. “Wonderful to see you again! What happened? How did you all survive Kyurem exploding?” He had never been so happy.
“My dear fellow,” laughed Octa, “Kyurem began flying to the throneroom moments before it began exploding. It must've known the danger to its master when a hero like you approached!”
Boreas chuckled and blushed. “Don't call me that.”
“But you are,” laughed Aqua as she nuzzled him, “and if you ever do something that heroic again and survive it, I'll kill you.”
Laughing and celebrating with his friends, Boreas suddenly realised they weren't all there. “Where is Lucius?” he asked with sudden fear. “Where is Selene?”
Octa sighed. “Well, I'm afraid they're-”
“Right here, pup,” said Lucius, coming through the door with Selene on his shoulder.
“-alive as well.” Octa rolled his eyes theatrically.
“You finally woke up,” said Selene. “It was about time, that was a really long nap.”
“He was-” began Lucius, “oh, never mind.”
Boreas greeted them warmly, happy in the knowledge so many of them had made it. If only Black hadn't died... “This is so wonderful,” he said. “I have so many questions for you all! Lucius, Selene, where were you?!”
Selene said: “We were going to the tower, but got l-”
Lucius interrupted. “Figured you guys'd have Ghetsis under control and decided to go after that bastard Ryoku instead.”
“We did?” said Selene. “Of course, I remember now. We looked for Ryoku.”
Lucius grinned. “Found him too, we did. He was beating a bunch of guys, but we came in, chased off him Garchomp, and killed a bunch of his grass-types. It was easy, really. But then we were surprised by his Tangrowth...”
Lucius fought against a thousand vines. They pulled Selene away from him and wound around him. He had burnt a great many to a cinder already, but Tangrowth had a seemingly endless supply of the things. They had quickly wound around his neck and each of his limbs, choking him to death despite his struggles. They pulled hard on his limbs, making it feel like they were going to tear off. He fought hard but couldn't breathe and quickly began to black out.
But then, the vines writhed and let him go as they were suddenly on fire. Lucius was too weakened to do much and fell on the ground. Tangrowth took a few steps back and he was out of the mass of vines, able to see what was going on: Tangrowth was on fire. It was fighting a Charmeleon that had seemingly come out of completely nowhere. It wasn't the only thing that had suddenly appeared: more pokémon and their trainers were fighting Ryoku now as well.
Lucius looked for Selene, and crawled to her when he saw her lie about as well. She was still breathing. “Hey, birdbrain, d'you know what the hell's going on?”
Selene looked around in bewilderment. “No, except- don't you see something unusual?”
“Precisely. What you don't see is the tower, which is gone.”
Lucius looked at where it should be and saw nothing. “Gone?!” he laughed. “Mew's splanch, I guess Ghetsis was in it too! That's why all these idiots came back to fight, and why those grunts are fleeing!”
“Yeah,” laughed Selene, “I guess the glove's on the other foot now, hmm?”
“You said it. C'mon, let's get them.” Lucius tried to get up, but fell down again, nearly asphyxiated as he was and with his legs still poorly bled through. “In a moment. I think these guys have things under control right now.”
Selene agreed. “Yeah, I don't think we should be stealing their glory.”
At first, things seemed to go their way. But Ryoku barked orders both to his pokémon and to fleeing grunts, and Plasma's disarrayed forces got more organised again and struck back against the trainers. They were soon starting to get driven back, past Lucius and Selene. Lucius began to get up to fight with them, but he felt a wing on his paw. “Let's play dead for a while,” said Selene.
“No,” grunted Lucius.
“C'mon, it'll be fun.”
“What's wrong with you? This is no time to be goofing off.”
“Just play dead; trust me.”
“Hmpf, fine,” grumbled Lucius as he lay down. “Can't believe I'm following your advice, I must be just as mad...”
“Quiet, here they come.”
The trainers and their pokémon rapidly retreated past the Houndoom and the Honchkrow, some of them fleeing, some still fighting the enemy. Team Plasma's pokémon passed them by too.
Ryoku was ordering several grunts about now that they had pushed the resistance back. “Tell everyone you find that I'm taking over command of Team Plasma, and order them to stand their ground and stop fleeing; those who don't will be considered traitors. Remind them we outnumber the enemy.”
Lucius growled angrily, hearing Capella's murderer organise Team Plasma. If he was allowed to continue, Plasma could still win, as they did indeed outnumber the resistance; they were just losing because they were panicked without their leader. Now this jerk was going to take Ghetsis' place? Lucius so wished he could get to Ryoku to avenge Capella and prevent the battle from turning again in a single move, but of course that was impossible with Team Plasma's pokémon between him and...
Actually, he realised there was nothing between him and Ryoku: the pokémon had all passed by him and Selene, thinking they were dead. He looked at Selene, astonished she'd actually had a plan and done something smart.
She chuckled and nodded. “Well, go get him, then.”
Lucius grinned meanly and got up, approaching the skeleton-like Sage ordering grunts to spread the word that he was their new leader. Lucius surrounded himself with a big ring of dark fire as one of the grunts pointed to him and made Ryoku turn around in fear and call for backup. But it was too late for him.
“This is for Capella, you son of a *****.”
Boreas felt slightly put off by the obvious glee in Lucius' voice as he retold how he had killed Ryoku. He supposed he shouldn't judge, as he had killed Ghetsis himself; but he couldn't imagine himself telling about killing Ghetsis with such joy. In fact, he now noticed he felt a little guilty about the killing itself. The memory of Ghetsis' fear as Boreas froze him to death was one that filled him with odd regret.
“Are you alright, my love?” asked Aqua. Boreas noticed Lucius had stopped talking and they were all looking at him.
As he looked at his friends, all alive and well, he felt happiness dispel his regret and realised this wasn't the time to feel bad; they had won, and except for Black they had all survived it. He smiled. “I'm going to be just fine.”
They all talked much more about all that had happened to them and told him about their parts in the great battle as Boreas ate a breakfast. Boreas too told his friends about how he had duelled Diego to within a hair's breadth of death, how tempted he had been to give up, and how he had gone on and killed Ghetsis. The others told him much more, and they all talked mirthfully, glad to still be together. At first Boreas kept up with their stories but after a while the words of the others went into his one ear, and out again the other. They slowly turned into a background noise.
Boreas woke up with a sleeping Aqua's arms around him and his friends gone. He felt a little ashamed that he'd apparently fallen asleep while they were talking, but they'd probably understand. After all, he had quite a number of wounds to recover from. He was glad Aqua had stayed with him and hugged her back gently. She stirred a little and mumbled softly, half-opening an eye.
“Shh,” he said softly, “go back to sleep, my love.”
“Hmm...” she mumbled half-asleep, sounding worried. “Boreas, stay with me...”
“Of course,” he whispered, “I'll stay with you always.”
She cuddled him a little tighter and smiled beautifully in her sleep. “...Good...”
Closing his eyes again, Boreas whispered: “We'll be together forever.”
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, yet also the day of the great victory; a day of great sorrow when hope died along with its heroes, and great joy as unexpected other heroes rekindled it from its ashes. A day of death, but also of life.
The resistance had many dead to mourn, and Black was probably the greatest loss. The new Champion had been a beacon of hope to them all, but his loss was felt strongest by his pokémon and his friends Cheren, Bianca, and White. He was buried by them in a small ceremony on the edge of the mountain pass with the Light Stone. Three of the Gym Leaders hadn't made it either, and many more lives were to be mourned.
Yet their victory was great. They had captured Team Plasma's headquarters and their entire leadership. The first thing that was done after the battle was to truly liberate the thousands of pokémon found in the depths of the Castle, who had been used to build it, to power it, and some were trained to fight for Team Plasma. Many of these pokémon decided to join them, and many of them found a friendly new trainer who had lost pokémon in the battle. Some of them even found their old trainers, who had thought them lost forever.
Unova was still ruled by Team Plasma, but they were in disarray without the Sages. At the same time, the disappearance of the influence of the legendaries made many of their supporters turn away from them, and the crushing defeat Team Plasma had suffered at the League showed everyone they were not invincible.
With the Sages dead or captured, many Team Plasma members with higher functions declared themselves to be the new Sages. In fact, several of them did so in each city. How many self-proclaimed Sages there were a few weeks after the battle of the League, no-one could say, but there were at least fifty of them. Ironically, thanks to the information captured with the castle, the resistance knew far more about Team Plasma than any of these new Sages did. The only thing all of them saw eye to eye on was that the resistance had to be destroyed, and a day after the battle of the League, the trainline with Opelucid was cut off as Plasma intended to hunger the resistance out, trapped as they were now in their distant stronghold in the middle of the wintry Black Mountains.
Fortunately, there were several months worth of supplies at the League, but even so the connection had to be restored. A plan was hatched to send a small force south through Victory Road to Opelucid in order to restore the train again. To their surprise, Boreas and his friends found themselves volunteering for a second trip through a wintrous Victory Road, and Cheren, Bianca and their pokémon went with them. The journey was hard, but this time they knew the way and didn't get lost. Since spring was approaching the landscape got less barren near the end. On a lovely day in April, they once again saw the rough, but pretty landscape of Route 10. Boreas found he could easily joke with Aqua about his stupidity the last time they had been here now.
After a journey through the wild canyons, dense forests, and flowering fields of Route 10, they came upon Opelucid. Team Plasma's rule had weakened significantly over the past three months; most of the people who had proclaimed themselves the new Sages were dead by now, usually assassinated by their peers as Team Plasma had fallen to infighting and split into many different groups all calling themselves Team Plasma. The populace of Unova no longer supported them and protests and resistance were common, held back only by the fear of retaliation.
When Boreas and his friends found Opelucid so tired of its incompetent, quibbling Team Plasma taskmasters, they began work to organise a revolt. The northern train station, where passengers and goods had once regularly gone back and forth to the League, was under heavy guard despite all Team Plasma's troubles. While fomenting an uprising, they also worked to play out the different factions of Team Plasma in the city against each other.
On the final day of April, their plan came to fruition. A conflict between three factions of Team Plasma escalated an hour before the uprising started. Team Plasma found themselves not only fighting each other, but also having a full-scale revolution on their hands, and were forced to draw most of their guard away from the northern station. This allowed Boreas and his friends to defeat the remaining guards and send a single train north to the League; at that point it didn't matter if Team Plasma reconquered the station, as the train could be powered from the League just as well, and even if they sabotaged the tracks, the rest of the resistance - returning in the train - would just stop the train a few kilometres before the city and walk the rest of the way.
With the city rising up against them and the resistance on their way, most of Team Plasma fled Opelucid. When the train arrived the resistance was welcomed as liberators into an already free city. The celebrations lasted many days.
With Opelucid liberated, the resistance could finally get out of their besieged Pokémon League. The Gym Leaders decided to return to their own cities in secret to help them throw Team Plasma off, just like Opelucid. Some of the others decided to stay in Opelucid, some to defend it and some because they were tired of fighting, while some spread out over Unova to help the Gym Leaders reclaim the cities, or to help the smaller towns throw off Team Plasma. There was fear for a while that Opelucid would be directly attacked by Team Plasma, as many of the new Sages said they would do so, but in the end all the various splinters of Team Plasma were far too busy with their internal power struggle and keeping some amount of order to commit to such an attack, even though there was less infighting between them now that they had all been frightened by the liberation of Opelucid.
It was now for the first time that Boreas and his friends had to split up. Octa and Toxica had given Livia their word they would help and she called on them to help her take back their home, which had been confiscated by Team Plasma after the house of Equinox had come to the resistance's aid. Lucius and Selene went with Cheren to liberate the capital while Boreas and Aqua decided to go to Nuvema Town with Bianca, as there was no Gym Leader there to organise the liberation.
It was the first time Boreas had seen Nuvema Town since his brother had showed it to him on the day his family had died. He recalled it far happier and more carefree; now there were now no pokémon at all in the town and most people stayed fearfully inside. Team Plasma had a heavy presence here, but the population was too small to be of much help against them. With Bianca and professor Juniper they tried to find a way to chase Team Plasma from the town, but their progress was slow. For a while, the task seemed impossible; Unova was so big, most of it could still be in Plasma's hands ten years from now.
But then hopeful news came, as Nacrene and Nimbasa had liberated themselves. It strengthened everyone's hope, but a true solution to their problems didn't appear until Octa arrived in Nuvema, about half his house with him. With their help, Team Plasma could finally be removed from Nuvema.
Boreas found himself staring at the forested edge of town. It was evening on a day in early June with strong wind and variable weather. Yet the occasional shower hadn't put a dampener on the town's celebrations; it had only been yesterday that Sage Pete had been forced to lay down his command over the city, after all. Bianca and professor Juniper were hard at work to get people used to the idea of being friends with pokémon again, and were going to teach them how to handle pokémon well. Boreas, Aqua, and Octa would move on tomorrow, going to Castelia to help Lucius and Selene. But for now, they could relax and enjoy themselves at the celebrations.
And Boreas kept looking at the forest. He had done so a lot during the month he had been here, always wondering if he'd still know the way, and what his family's old burrow would be like now, but he'd always been too busy to act on such curiosity. But now was the perfect time.
“Aqua, Octa,” he said, “will you excuse me for a while? I need to see something.”
Octa raised an eyebrow. “What do you need to see, my dear fellow?”
“Home,” said Boreas.
“I understand,” nodded Aqua. “I'll go with you, if you want.”
“So shall I, my dear fellow.”
Boreas smiled. “Thanks. It would be nice to have you there too.”
They walked to the town's edge. Boreas looked for the house he had stolen a sausage from, but almost didn't recognise it. “Looks so much smaller,” he laughed as he finally saw it. He could now easily have climbed through the window by himself to steal sausage if he wanted.
Feeling like a little Eevee again, Boreas ran up the grassy slope to the shrubs at the edge of the forest. He had to be quick, of course, as the humans would turn him into cheese and eat him if they saw him, he recalled with a chuckle. The origins of the tasty yellow stuff from a picnic basket their mother had once stolen from a bunch of humans had been a frequently debated topic among him and his brothers.
The shrubs hadn't shrunk, oddly enough; they had been allowed to run rampant in the past two years and grown huge, and would still easily let him hide himself. He looked back to the celebrating town basking in the evening Sun. “Look,” he said with a wink to a laughing Aqua and Octa, “a herd of humans.”
He led them on through the forest. He could still easily recall the way, though he felt like a giant and went about as fast walking as he could've run as an Eevee, so he proceeded quickly. Left at this tree, a little right at that tree, and over this small hill...
Was a beautiful patch of flowers. There was no sign remaining of the massacre that had occurred here so long ago. The small hillock was overgrown with gorgeous flowers of many colours that enjoyed the summery heat. The burrow was still there, modified heavily and showing the signs of several species of pokémon inhabiting it at different times. It didn't smell like anyone lived there right now, but something clearly had last spring.
Octa and Aqua stood next to him. “It's beautiful,” said Aqua.
“Indeed,” said Octa. “To think this is where we first met each other...”
Boreas nodded. He almost wanted to ask Octa to go stand where he had stood then, but he didn't; he figured it might bring back bad memories, as it hadn't been a joyful moment. He smiled happily at both Octa and Aqua, glad to have come back to this place and seen it once more. “Come,” he said, “let's get back to the party.”
Chapter Seventy-Eight: Selene, Lucius, Toxica, Octa, Aqua, and Boreas
A gentle spring breeze whispered through the tall grass of Route 7 and the Sun shone down warmly on a generously decked table full of delicacies. At the table sat six pokémon, close friends of each other. The meal they were sharing was a very special one; not just because it celebrated the end of the Plasma war, but because it was the final one they'd share. Tomorrow an end would come to their team after three years of hardships and joy, fights and friendship. Each one of them had saved the life of each of the others at least a dozen times, and felt like killing that person at least as often.
As Boreas looked around at his friends, he realised the good times easily outweighed the bad ones. He had a special bond with each of these five pokémon, and to think they would part tomorrow felt unreal. It was sad to part, yet they were all happy with where they were going next.
Boreas smiled and lifted his glass. “To our new League Champion, and to the newest members of his team.”
Five glasses tipped against his and they all took a sip. “Hear, hear,” said Selene, “but Iwho is this new Champion? I didn't hear anything about a new Champion.”
“He's talking about Cheren, birdbrain,” said Lucius. “And he's gonna be the new Champion, 'cause we're gonna make him Champion.”
“Oh, right,” said Selene.
“It's stupid we have to go through Victory Road again, though,” grumbled Lucius, “we did that twice last year, why do we have to go again?”
“Well, those are the rules,” said Octa. “One isn't allowed to challenge the League unless one arrived there by Victory Road.”
“On the positive side,” said Selene, “we've been getting really familiar with Victory Road this way; I can't wait to meet some of my favourite rocks again!”
“Guess at least one of us'll be having fun.”
“It's not as if it'll be as bad as the last two times for you either,” Boreas pointed out, “since it'll be spring this time, instead of autumn or winter. I hear the Black Mountains' climate is relatively temperate in spring.”
“Yeah,” Aqua chimed in, “average temperatures only fifty degrees below freezing instead of a hundred. Positively tropical. If you're a Glaceon, at least.”
Boreas laughed. “It's not that cold on Victory Road, you know.”
“It sure felt like it,” said Aqua. “And I should know about cold; I'm married to a Glaceon after all.”
“Don't be so silly,” chuckled Boreas, “it's not as if I ever expose you to cold, knowing how sensitive you are to it.”
“I am not!” said Aqua in an overdone way. “Just because I don't have some kind of Glaceon-superfur that keeps all the cold out...”
“Sure you are,” said Boreas, cooling a paw down to below freezing and poking her stomach with it, eliciting a loud squeal. “See?”
Aqua laughed nervously as she recoiled. “That's not fair, I'll get you for that!” She lunged at him and tried to tickle him, but was interrupted by Octa scraping his throat loudly.
“I do apologise if my having dinner interrupts your canoodling.”
Boreas and Aqua broke it off and blushed sheepishly. “Sorry,” said Boreas, “got a little distracted.”
“Oh no, please don't let me interrupt you,” spoke Octa snidely, “continue acting like animals all you like.”
Toxica giggled. “You're not jealous of them, are you?”
“Of course he is,” Lucius joined in with a grin, “after all, it's his anniversary.”
“Oh yeah,” laughed Toxica, “it's the third anniversary of you and Boreas' first meeting, darling. Hope you didn't forget to get a present for him.”
Boreas and Aqua laughed along with them. “Yeah, Octa,” teased Boreas, “I hope you didn't forget or thought just this dinner would be enough.”
Octa struggled hard to keep a straight face and couldn't quite manage it. “Oh, do be quiet, you dreadful barbarians. I long for the day I shall be in civilised company again. Which just so happens to be tomorrow.”
“Don't count your blessings yet.” Toxica nudged Octa. “I'll be back in a week or two, and you haven't managed to civilise me yet.”
Octa laughed heartily. “Ah, the horrors I exposed myself to when I consented to be given to a trainer. How shall I ever escape the barbarity I was immersed in?”
“I don't know,” chuckled Toxica, sipping her glass, “but marrying a barbarian was probably not the best way to go about it.”
Octa looked pensive. “Hmm, that might have been my mistake, yes...”
Octa and Toxica had wed on a beautiful day in October, soon after Castelia had been liberated. Team Plasma's hold on the capital had been strong, as all its factions agreed Castelia had to stay in their hands at all costs, actually working together for a change. When Boreas, Aqua, and Octa had joined Toxica, Lucius, and Selene there to help defeat Team Plasma the day after the victory in Nuvema Town, another four difficult months had started. Even as other cities threw off Team Plasma's yoke, their grip on Castelia remained tight, realising holding the capital was their final chance to win the war.
By the time the resistance had finally prevailed, Boreas was exhausted and tired of fighting and wanted nothing more than some peaceful rest. So when Octa had asked Boreas to be his best man, Boreas had expected his friends' wedding to be a welcome repose after the hard work. Little had he known that fighting Team Plasma was easy compared to fighting Octa's family. The entire thing was meticulously planned out, and absolutely everyone, living or dead, had gotten involved in some way. Boreas and Selene, as best man and maid of honour, had automatically been forced to join in on this circus of planning, to the great amusement of Aqua and Lucius who instead used the time to relax.
Still, the wedding itself had been utterly wonderful and made it all worth it, though Boreas had often felt like killing Octa and/or his entire family in the weeks leading up to it. Octa had surprised Boreas with how passionate he had kissed Toxica when Livia had proclaimed them husband and wife; Boreas just didn't know him to get that emotional.
After the wedding, it had been time to fight Team Plasma again, as usual, but without Castelia, its remnants had been chanceless. They had lost city after city, until by the end of the year only Lacunosa and Striaton were left, and a few days later Striaton was Team Plasma's final stronghold. The final splinter of Team Plasma in this city had proven surprisingly hard to vanquish, but on 26 February a free Unova could finally celebrate the end of the war. It had been quite a small war in terms of life lost and destruction wrought, yet its impact was enormous. There were far fewer trainers now, but there was something different about them too other than their dwindled numbers that Boreas couldn't put a finger on until Aqua pointed it out to him.
In a sense, N's dream had come true as the remaining trainers looked on their pokémon differently. It made sense, in a way: with the threat of death from Team Plasma and Zekrom's influence on the minds of all, most trainers had released their pokémon. The only ones that didn't were those who cared about their pokémon a great deal and were willing to fight for them and to risk all; and Team Plasma members. Since the second group was mostly behind bars these days, the remaining trainers were exactly those who treated their pokémon very well and realised they were more than just weapons or tools. To add to that, these had all gone through very difficult times with their pokémon and fought hard for them, which only increased their bond. Of course, with Team Plasma gone, the number of trainers was once again slowly increasing. Boreas hoped the example the current trainers set would be enough to avoid a return to the more mixed bag of trainers there used to be.
Boreas was snapped out of his thoughts by Lucius talking to him. “You know, pup, you're pretty good in a fight. Why don't you reconsider leaving and join us on Cheren's team instead? I'm sure he'll gladly replace some of the other losers there with you.”
Boreas had actually considered that briefly, but it didn't really appeal to him. While he had gotten along decently with Cheren while they were in Castelia and it had been nice to have a trainer in charge of the team again, Cheren wasn't Black. He didn't like him that much. But more importantly, he felt it was time to move on. He had become quite restless lately, and looked forward a lot to seeing more of the world. “No thanks, Lucius. Been there, done that.”
“Sure, but that's no reason not to do it again; it's a challenge after all. Plus, this time, when Cheren is Champion, he'll actually get to keep the title instead of, y'know, dying a few hours later. So we'll have to defend the title against challengers.”
“Yes, sounds terribly exciting,” scoffed Boreas, “waiting around in a single place for challengers to come to us and probably beat them easily. And it gets even better, because for half the year they won't come at all since Victory Road is too dangerous in winter. Sounds great.”
“There's more to it than that! Champions get to fight in the world championship, and they have all kinds of other duties and tasks.”
Toxica giggled. “You're not saying you'll miss Boreas, right?”
Lucius sniffed. “Miss him? Me? I just think he would make a good asset to Cheren's team. The same goes for the rest of you, by the way; I'm sure Cheren could be convinced to have you on his team.”
“No, thanks,” said Octa. “While it is an intriguing possibility, I wish to be with my family for now. I promised to, after all.”
“You've seen what this place is like, Lucius,” said Toxica. “They really need me. Besides, I'd rather not have my honeymoon on Victory Road like Boreas and Aqua. I'll be happy just to settle down with Octa.”
It was quiet for a moment as Aqua slowly realised Lucius looked at her. “What, me?” she blurted out in surprise. “You want me to join Cheren's team?”
“W-well, not you in particular...” grumbled Lucius.
Aqua raised an eyebrow. “Me in general? Just any of all those Aquas I represent?”
“No, what I meant was... Just, anyone in the team, including you. Because you're all good fighters. And you're pretty okay, I guess.”
Aqua smiled, genuinely surprised. “Was that a compliment I heard? What have you done with the real Lucius?” She chuckled as Lucius struggled for words. “Thanks. But no, I have no interest in the Pokémon League.”
“Don't worry,” said Selene, “you'll still have me.”
“Yeah, that's exactly what I'm afraid of.”
A content silence fell about the table. They had all finished eating a while ago, but none of them saw any reason to get up already, enjoying the evening and each others' company.
“Aqua, Boreas,” asked Toxica, “do you know where you'll go yet?”
Boreas looked at Aqua. She shrugged. “Not a clue,” grinned Boreas. “Isn't that wonderful?”
“Well, if you say so,” said Octa. “It sounds quite dreadful to me.”
Boreas chuckled. “Where's your sense of adventure, Octa?”
“I don't know, my dear fellow, but it's quite satisfied after all the adventure we've been through.”
Boreas shrugged. “Not mine. We haven't been to a new place in over a year, just revisiting cities we've been through to get rid of Team Plasma. I'm just about dying to see new places.”
“I don't think I shall ever understand you, my dear fellow. But it does not matter, whether I understand you or not, I have never had such a good friend before. I shall miss you, my dear fellow. All of you, for that matter.” He scraped his throat and lifted his glass. “Here's to friendship. May ours last a lifetime.” Six glasses met.
The early morning Sun shone upon the roofs of Crimson Village, demonstrating the source of the village's name. Six pokémon walked slowly through the nearly empty streets. Even knowing someone was waiting for them, they were in no hurry, as they were about to part.
Boreas walked in silence, even though part of him wanted to use these final minutes to talk as much as he could to Lucius and Selene. But it was as if he had said everything he needed to say. He just wished they could all stay together... But it was alright this way. They had spent three great years with each other, and now it was time to move on, as they each wanted to do different things. Soon there would be only memories left of their team, and it would be enough.
As they reached the village's small train station, they saw Cheren and his four remaining pokémon waiting for them. Far away, a train's sound could be heard. “Ah, there you are,” said Cheren, “just in time. Are you ready to go?”
Lucius turned around to look at his friends, and Boreas' heart suddenly ached with the knowledge that this really was the end. “C'mon, birdbrain, get on my shoulder. It's time to go.”
Selene hopped down from Aqua's shoulder and embraced her with her wings. While they said goodbye, Boreas felt he had to say something to Lucius. “Well, I guess this is goodbye.”
“Yeah,” said Lucius. “I guess so. Or it could be your last chance to change your mind.”
Boreas shook his head.
Lucius shrugged. “Figured as much. It's a shame, it'd have been a blast.”
“Yeah,” said Boreas, “I guess it would.” He was surprised to find tears stinging behind his eyes. He had barely realised how attached he had become to Lucius. He was an annoying jerk and never missed a chance to make a sour remark, but Boreas would truly miss those remarks and how they occasionally made him laugh. He was about to say something when Selene's claws gripped his shoulder and Lucius went to say goodbye to Octa.
“No more playing on Ferris wheels, alright?” said Selene. “It's all fun and games until you end up hanging from one by your tail without Selene there to help you.”
“Alright, I'll be careful.” Boreas grinned, petting Selene's feathers. “Thanks for making my world a little stranger every day.”
Selene gave him an undignified look.
“Alright,” he laughed, “a lot stranger.”
“That's better,” she grinned.
“Never stop doing the same to Lucius, okay? It really annoys him, in a good way.”
Selene looked ignorant. “I don't know what you mean.”
“Sure, sure,” said Boreas.
“But,” Selene continued with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, “if I ever figure it out, I'll follow your advice.”
Boreas grinned. “Good.”
Selene hopped onto Lucius' shoulder. “I'm all ready to go!”
“Then what are we waiting for?” chuckled Lucius. He turned to Boreas one last time and gave one of his rare smiles. “Have fun out there, pup.”
“Good luck to both of you.” They stood in front of each other for a moment, and then Lucius and Boreas moved forward and hugged each other briefly. Selene, sitting on Lucius' shoulder, gave Boreas' ear a friendly nibble. They released each other, and Lucius nodded to all of them. “See you around, guys.”
He turned and walked to Cheren, who was quite impatiently waiting at the train by now. Selene waved at them with her wing as they boarded the train.
Four pokémon sat at the station, talking merrily. They had to wait an hour for the train to Driftveil, but they didn't mind, as it allowed them some more time together. When the train came, Octa would take Boreas and Aqua to Driftveil, while Toxica would stay behind to take the next train to Opelucid; she was going to travel Route 10 too, as far as the gates of Victory Road to spend some more time with her friend Selene. But since Cheren wouldn't leave Opelucid rightaway, she had chosen to spend a final hour with Aqua and Boreas as well. They were reminiscing together, and Toxica just finished an embarrassing story about Boreas.
“So,” said Aqua slyly, “you were jealous of Toxica, hmm? Funny how you forgot to mention that to me when you told me all about your past...”
Boreas blushed. “Well, I did tell you she annoyed me. I just didn't go into endless details about the reasons...”
“I wonder what else he didn't tell you,” giggled Toxica. “Did he say anything about Febby?”
“Not at first, no. He told me about her later, though.”
“What about the time he got drunk and kissed me?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Toxica burst out in laughter. “Just kidding, just kidding. You should've seen all your faces!”
Boreas had to laugh too now. “Poor Octa, getting stuck with you forever.”
Toxica stuck out her tongue. “Poor Aqua, getting stuck with you forever.”
“I'm not sure which of us is to be pitied more...” said Octa.
“Well,” said Toxica, “you would never have been stuck with me if it wasn't for Boreas.”
“I was barely involved,” said Boreas. “I just gave Octa a little push in the right direction.”
“As well as a few punches in the right direction...” grumbled Octa.
“Well,” giggled Boreas, “you needed them, so I gave them. Not just because I'm your friend, but also because I had promised Capella. Well, I didn't promise to punch you, that was my own input.”
“I wonder,” said Toxica, “what Capella would think of us if she was here now.”
Boreas thought of his old friend and her kind smile and eyes that told you you could trust her with anything. Always kind and altruistic, and she had always been there when you needed her. “She'd be happy for us, I think. She'd be delighted you and Octa got together, and that we finally beat Team Plasma. And of course that we're all still alive against all odds.”
A glad silence fell. “I wonder with whom she'd have gone...” said Octa.
“Maybe she'd have gone off on her own?” wondered Toxica. “Back to her old home in the river in Nacrene, perhaps.”
The train could be heard approaching in the distance. Boreas felt a stab of emotion, knowing it was time to say goodbye to Toxica. “Remember when we first met?” said Boreas.
“How could I forget?” said Toxica with a smile. “You wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible, if I remember correctly. Looks like you got your wish at last.”
Boreas smiled too, though tears stung sharply. “Yeah. Took me almost three years, but I finally did it.”
“You did,” she said, her voice breaking, “you must be very h-happy.”
Feeling his own tears break through as well, Boreas hugged Toxica tightly. “O-only happy we became such good friends. You're like a sister to me, Toxica: we're very different and argue and annoy each other a lot, but it doesn't change anything about how much I like you.”
“Th-thanks, brother,” grinned Toxica, letting him go and drying her tears. “I hope you'll have an awesome time, wherever you're going.”
As the train reached the station, Toxica said another heartfelt goodbye to Aqua. Boreas found himself crying again as he boarded the train. It was bizarre how attached he'd become to the bratty little Oddish. Boarding the train too, Octa kissed her. “I'll see you in a few weeks, darling.”
Toxica nodded and waved her goodbye to them as the doors closed. Boreas and Aqua sprinted to a coupé and looked out of the window to see Toxica running along with the train, waving at them. They waved back until she finally began falling behind and disappeared from their view.
Three pokémon sat in the train and watched landscapes scroll by rapidly as they chatted about everything and nothing. Boreas knew the hardest goodbye of them all was yet to come, but didn't let it bother him. It was barely imaginable, really, that he would soon leave Octa. Rather, he used their final hours together to their fullest. They laughed and talked and talked. Aqua mostly stayed outside of the conversation, understanding their need to spend some final time together.
They talked much about Black and laughed at the memories of how bad he had been at understanding them at first. The number of times he'd managed to correctly interpret his pokémon before Victory Road could be counted on one paw. Yet they also remembered how much he had cared for them and how brave he had been. It was easy to underestimate Black as a teammember, but he had been at least as important as any of the pokémon. When Boreas' life had fallen apart in Chargestone Cave, coincidentally underneath the hills they were passing over, Black had been all he had left.
From Black the conversation turned to other things, from the adventures they'd had together to astrophysics. They discussed Cheren's odds of becoming the new Champion, things Octa and Livia were hoping to change, and much more. Boreas realised most of his happiest moments with Octa had been spent like this, talking about all kinds of things and enjoying his friend's enormous knowledge and wit. Those that weren't spent making up after bickering like an old couple, at least.
Slowly, yet way too fast for Boreas' tastes, the train came to Driftveil. It pulled into the city's old station, and together they got off, heading through the familiar city to the docks.
“Was it difficult to convince them to give you a boat as a token of gratitude?”
Boreas sighed. “'Difficult' doesn't even begin to describe it. It was difficult to make it clear I wanted a boat, and I hadn't even got to the convincing part yet. You know how hard it is to make humans understand you.”
Octa nodded. “It is. So how did you do it?”
Boreas shrugged. “Well, I decided to convince Alder, since he knows well what happened in Plasma's Castle, and can actually understand pokémon. Well, he understood me after a few tries, at least. Then he took some more convincing, but finally he talked to other people, and eventually I got my boat. I guess some people along the line must've looked at him really weird when he told them he wanted to give a boat to some pokémon.”
“And that instructor looked at him really weird too when he was teaching us to use the thing,” recalled Aqua. “Pretty sure she thought it was a joke.”
“It's not that surprising,” said Octa. “It's one of your sillier ideas, my dear fellow. Were you perchance unaware of the existence of ferries and planes? 'Tis not uncommon to have pokémon travel onboard those, you know; you don't need your own boat to travel.”
“True,” said Boreas, “but it's a lot more fun when we can pick where we go ourselves. And we can get to places ferries don't go.”
Boreas shrugged. “I'll know when I get there. There's that lost continent inhabited entirely by pokémon, for example...”
“That's just a myth, my dear fellow.”
They had reached the water now at a familiar-looking small pier on the river. Boreas was flooded by memories and blushed a little. “Look, my love, that's where we first kissed...” He pointed to the water next to the pier.
“I remember,” giggled Aqua, “I was expecting you to kiss me at some point all day, and had been looking forward to it quite a bit.”
“Well, I was really nervous... You had me completely enchanted by then, and I was terrified of messing it up. You might've given me more signs you wanted me to kiss you.”
Aqua burst out into laughter. “Because I really was incredibly subtle about fancying you, you're right.”
“Alright,” laughed Boreas, “I guess you gave me a fair few signs.”
“Fair few? I practically had giant red neon letters “I FANCY YOU” around my head. I'm almost embarrassed thinking back to it and how strongly I was coming on to you. The long loneliness got me a little funny in the head, I think.”
“Well, to be fair you've stayed a little funny in the head ever since I've known you.”
As they walked by the river's shore, they saw a small blue ship lying ahead. It had a single mast and two sails, which were currently under wraps, as well as an engine. It was small enough to controlled by two, yet large enough to comfortably house those two for long periods of time in its cabin.
“You both are,” said Octa kindly, “which is why I believe you'll be together for as long as you live.”
“Octa,” said Boreas, “what got you feeling so prophetic all of a sudden?”
“The fact that it's become time to say farewell to my best friend.”
Octa continued. “My dear Boreas; Aqua. You shall only have each other to rely on for now, therefore heed well my words. Be patient with each other. Always let there be love, not anger between you. Let the other be your all and take care of them before yourself, and you should be alright. When you fight anyway, never give up, but stay at work to repair your relationship. Never forget the love you carry for them.
My dear fellow, you have one of the finest minds I have ever had the pleasure of encountering, and as long as you use it, you can get out of any problem. Aqua, it has admittedly been a mixed bag, knowing you. I used to suspect you of treason, to think you were a bad influence on Boreas, an annoyance, and a bad person. However, I have since discovered I was mistaken.”
Aqua smiled. “Thank you.”
“You are, in fact, a good person and a great influence on Boreas. Moreover, I have eventually come to think of you as a friend. Will you accept my apologies for my behaviour in earlier days?”
Aqua embraced Octa. “Of course. I had almost forgotten it by now.”
“Thank you. Then I shall simply wish you nothing but happiness eternal.”
Aqua nodded and let go of him. “Thanks. Take good care of Toxica, alright? She'll enjoy being with your family for a while, but eventually she'll want to leave.”
Octa nodded. “I know. So, admittedly, shall I. We do not intend to help Lady Livia forever, nor shall she need our help forever.”
Octa and Aqua nodded to each other as a final greeting, then Octa turned to Boreas. Aqua left, saying: “Take all the time you need; I'll get the ship ready.”
Octa and Boreas were left looking at each other. Bores suddenly realised this really was the last time he would see Octa in a long time and he couldn't stop the tears. There was no-one in the world he knew as well or as long as Octa, not even Aqua. He could barely remember not knowing him. “O-Octa...” he said. “I-I think maybe I don't want-”
Octa grasped him and resolutely cut him off. “No, you do. I have seen you look forward to this for more than a year, my dear fellow. Do not let the difficulty of parting stop you from doing the right thing. You didn't let it stop you in Team Plasma's castle, and you shouldn't let it today. The world awaits you and your bride, my dear, dear Boreas, and I know you shall have an utterly wonderful time there, even without me. All good things come to an end, my dear fellow, even this friendship.”
Boreas nodded; he knew Octa was right. “You're right, Octa. As always.”
Octa smiled even as tears rolled over his cheeks too. “And don't you forget it. My dear fellow, what more can one say on an occasion such as this? 'Tis very sad to lose you, yet I'm glad you'll finally get to do what you truly like to do. I hope you shall see things beyond your wildest dreams, which I know are pretty wild.”
“T-thank you. I hope you'll cherish the time you spend with your family... And then live happily ever after with Toxica. You've deserved it after all you did for me.”
Octa gave an uncharacteristic sign of modesty as he tried to brush off the compliment.
“No, really,” insisted Boreas. “I won't even get into the life-saving; you've basically educated me all by yourself, and you've always been there for me. I know you'll get the happiness you deserve. You and Toxica will be happy together for a long, long time, and you'll have lots of cute little... sprouts together. Parts of your family will object, of course, but in the end it'll just help them see it's a new time now.”
“Thank you, my dear fellow. I hope you're right. I would say something similar to you... But I know what you and Aqua think of children, therefore I know you shall be happy with just the two of you instead. With that... I-I believe 'tis time to say farewell.”
“Y-you're wrong, my friend. It's time to say goodbye.”
Octa's face cheered up greatly. “It is?”
Boreas laughed and hugged Octa tightly, holding on to him. “Of course it is. You didn't think I would leave a friend as dear to me as you behind forever, did you? We'll meet again.”
“You're right, my dear, dear fellow,” said Octa softly as they embraced, “we will meet again, though I do not yet know where or when. Be warned, though, that I shall want to hear your every adventure to its tiniest detail that day.”
“Of course. And the same warning goes to you.” He let go of Octa and looked him straight into the eyes. “Goodbye, Octa. I've never had a friend better than you.”
“Until we meet again, my dear fellow. May your heart be full of joy and your eyes full of wonder.”
They nodded to each other a final time before Boreas slowly turned around and jumped into the boat. Aqua embraced him softly, seeing his eyes were wet with tears, and he got behind the mainsail she had unfurled. They sailed south, to the river's mouth and the sea. After a while Boreas looked back and saw the distant figure of Octa smile his goodbye. He smiled back as the Serperior disappeared behind a bend in the river.
Boreas looked at Aqua. Octa was right; now that the goodbyes were over with he realised this was going to be great fun. “Now,” he said with a happy smile, “let's see if we will find something wonderful... Or if something wonderful will find us.”
I already commented in dA, but I feel like posting here as well.
This is a very wonderful story, and I thank you for giving us a very nice ride.
It had very wonderful characters, and I grew really attached to them.
Sad to see this fic finally reached an end, but it was a wonderful journey. :3