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Old November 28th, 2012 (5:13 PM).
apenpaap apenpaap is offline
    Join Date: Oct 2011
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    Originally Posted by destinedjagold View Post
    I already wrote my comment on dA, but oh, what the heck, right? xD

    And I have already answered it on dA, but what the heck indeed.

    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~
    Well, I could've switched to another character mid-battle or simpl had him wake up sooner. It's not much of an excuse really. But I won't be using it this chapter.

    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~
    Chapter Sixty-Eight: Forgive and Forget

    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.

    “...Do you?”

    “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!”

    “Sorry. Continue.”

    “Well, it's actually got to do with Diego. You know we allied temporarily on Victory Road with N before you found us?”

    Aqua nodded.

    “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.”
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