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The Legendarian Chronicles [Revision 11]

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Chibi Pika, Oct 2, 2011.

  1. 3DSRed

    3DSRed Alias RedAgent14

    Sebastian in a disguise, no doubt.

    Jokes aside: this chapter seems very fast-paced to me compared to the other Legendary and Rocket battles up to now. There were times where I had to go back and reread to make sure that I was following the flow of the action correctly. That being said, I feel like the fast pacing works to convey how Jade needs to keep up with all of this action going on around her.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  2. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Ok the story behind this is too funny and I'm just gonna quote what I said to Dragonfree:

    "I wanted to put more rockets on flying-types and then consulted the list of rideable flying-types and realized "wow this is kind of small without giving grunts pseudo-legends" or having the 8 billionth pidgeot in the fic. then I realized "hey I should be giving more people charizard to finally lend some credence to the whole 'no one would see any reason to connect the rebel team leader having a charizard back to the johto commander' thing" except this has now spectacularly backfired thanks to the law of conservation of detail."

    Yeah, it was tricky to balance how disoriented Jade felt with the need to describe things to the reader. But I'm glad the fast-pace came through strongly!

    And now, Chapter 39. The instant you see the title card, you'll know exactly what's about to happen. But I kinda like that. Enjoy~



    ~Chapter 39: Burning Spirit~

    [​IMG]

    A bright quarter moon pierced the sky overhead, which was now reddened with twilight. Our group—me, Ajia, Starr, Rudy, and Darren—had just arrived at a large cabin deeper in the woods west of the Ranger Union HQ. I was riding with Ajia on Aerodactyl since all three of my fliers were out of commission. I’d basically felt numb ever since we left Indigo, and was looking forward to not doing anything for the rest of the night. The day had been far, far too long. Watching Rudy’s last preliminary match this morning felt like it had happened a lifetime ago. In a way, it had. I was chosen now. That life was in the past.

    “This watch station isn’t currently in active use, so we should have some privacy,” Ajia explained as we all dismounted the fliers and made our way inside. “Dad said we could crash here since the tournament site is still an emergency zone, and probably won’t be cleared for a while.”

    The cabin was two stories tall with an array of antennas and platforms on the roof. Inside was a cozy interior with a common room to the right, a kitchen to the left, and a wall covered in belts, tools, and other gear just ahead of us.

    “Just don’t touch any equipment or anything,” Ajia added with a wink.

    Darren elbowed Rudy, who had just picked up some kind of colorful, remote-like device from a shelf. It looked a lot like the ones that rangers used to calm raging Pokémon on TV. (Granted, it probably didn’t work anything like it did on TV, but the device itself was real.) Rudy hastily set it down, then opted to go raid the kitchen cupboards for whatever nonperishable foods had been left here. I considered following him—I was pretty ravenous after all—but exhaustion ended up winning out. I shuffled over to one of the common room chairs and sank into it, feeling vaguely lightheaded. Absentmindedly, I reached for my Pokéballs, only to remember that they weren’t there.

    I’d dropped my team off at the main Ranger HQ healing station. My memory of the encounter was a bit fuzzy. After the adrenaline from the mission had worn off, it’d been replaced by a wave of sheer panic as I’d rushed straight there and made them swear that they absolutely would not open Swift’s Pokéball until they were ready to stabilize him. And they’d reassured me, over and over, that yes, they’d be able to handle it, and yes, from my description of the injury and the speed he’d been recalled, he was almost certainly going to recover. And now, an hour later, their words were starting to stick, and I could feel myself relaxing slightly. But the mental image of what had happened still burned, leaving a sickly anxiety worming through my insides.

    <You really shouldn’t work yourself up so much about it,> Lugia had said. <Didn’t they say he was going to be fine?> And I knew that it was right, but my brain didn’t want to listen to that right now. Especially since it was coming from Lugia.

    I could have died. My whole team could have died, and having contact with Lugia hadn’t helped one bit. I wanted to say something, but what was there to say? We’d all known, going into that mission, that the Legendaries wouldn’t be able to fight by our side. Obviously that meant that they couldn’t step in to save us without putting themselves at risk. But we were the ones risking our lives to save them. It wasn’t fair.

    But that was what I’d signed up for when I agreed to be chosen.

    Looking for something to busy myself with, I found myself idly reaching for my bag, which was currently sitting on the coffee table. At least Mew had managed to recover our stuff from the hotel in Indigo. Something told me that returning to the emergency zone a second time for such a stupid reason would be slightly frowned upon.

    I dragged the bag closer to my chair and started digging through it, like I was looking for something. I wasn’t really sure what, but I continued to shove the bag’s contents to the side until I reached the bottom. And there it was. Like I’d been looking for it all along. The strange metallic orb that I’d recovered from the basement of the Midnight Island ruins. I’d been carrying this thing around for nearly a year now, and I still had no idea what it was. I slowly clasped my fingers around it, feeling its cool, airy surface, a metallic tingle running through my fingertips.

    When I’d first gotten it, there wasn’t anyone I could ask about it other than Stalker. And I’d never gotten the chance to ask him. But now? I was acquainted with multiple Legendary Pokemon, all of whom were familiar with the chosen pact. They’d definitely know something about the orb, right?

    Something else prodded at the back of my mind. What had that pedestal said? That the alliance between human and legend… would fail? I hadn’t paid it much thought at the time. But now I’d seen the proof that the alliance itself was more than just a myth. Now the idea was a lot more unpleasant. Lugia and Mew didn’t seem to be under the impression that our efforts would fail. And we’d just had a major success too…

    Something bumped my chair and I glanced over my shoulder to see that Starr was leaning against it with her arms crossed over the headrest.

    As expected, Starr’s mood had bounced between outrage and worry ever since we’d gotten back from Indigo. It wasn’t as if I could pretend we hadn’t just hurled ourselves into another deadly situation when she wasn’t looking—the evidence was written all over my arms. In between her ranting over the way we’d just up and left the moment her back was turned, she’d dragged me off to the medical office so I could get my arms bandaged up. None of the cuts were too deep—not like the bullet wound from last year. Still, it was probably good that she made me do something about it, because I sure as hell wasn’t in the mood for it after what my team had gone through.

    “I still can’t believe you guys just went and did that,” Starr said with a rather unimpressed tone. “Could have at least told me.”

    I rubbed the back of my head. “I thought Ajia tried to.”

    Starr opened her mouth to speak but then froze. “Yeah. She did.” Something in her voice told me that fact didn’t really make a difference.

    I exhaled slowly through my nose, unsure what I was supposed to be feeling right now. I hadn’t meant to just turn my back on everything I’d said to her when we were back at the Ranger HQ. But… becoming chosen kind of changed things a bit.

    “I’m guessing it went alright?” Starr asked, trying too hard to make it sound casual.

    I blinked. “Well yeah—like Ajia said, we did it. We freed Moltres.” We freed Moltres. We freed Moltres. Saying it out loud made the reality of it sink into my mind a bit deeper. In spite of everything, we’d succeeded.

    “I know that,” she said with a slight huff. “But you’re okay, right?”

    “I mean…”—I gestured to myself—“I’m here, aren’t I?”

    Starr groaned exasperatedly and rubbed her knuckles against my scalp. “Alive and alright are two different things. Quit being dense.”

    Okay, she had a point there. I’d made it back from all the Rebellion missions alive too, but… not entirely alright. And the various injuries I’d received were nothing compared to the anxious nausea from what my team had gone through.

    “Yeah. I’m fine,” I said, my mouth dry.

    She seemed to realize how I’d said it. “But someone else isn’t?”

    I wrapped my arms around my knees, pulling them close to my chest. “Swift was… injured.” Everyone was injured, but… not like that.

    Starr paused. “Is he gonna be alright?”

    “The rangers said he would be, but…”

    “But you’re worrying yourself about it ‘cause that’s what you do,” she finished.

    I tilted my head back to look at her directly. “Kinda like what you’ve been doing.”

    To my immense surprise, she let out a snort. “Got me there.” She sank against the back of the chair so that her chin was resting on the top of my head. “Just tell me we’re done for the day, alright? No more surprises.”

    Given the fact that I had absolutely no desire to do anything else for the rest of the day—heck, the rest of the week—I said, “I’m okay with that, yeah.”

    Eventually we’d have to deal with the fallout from all this. Eventually, Mew and Lugia would come up with the next plan of action, and I’d have to help them with it. But for now, I was content to just stay here like this.

    There was a knock against the wooden doorframe. I glanced around the side of the armchair to see a ranger now standing in the entryway. My heart leaped for a moment upon seeing a Pidgeot behind her. But no, it wasn’t Swift—darker belly, longer markings, shorter crest. The moment I gave it a second thought, I felt like an idiot for getting my hopes up. Obviously he wouldn’t have recovered yet. I don’t know what I was expecting.

    “You really are something else, you know that, Ajia?” Kari said. Her voice was half accusatory, half reluctantly impressed.

    Ajia spun around to face her. “Oh yeah?” she asked, in a tone suggesting that she knew exactly what was coming.

    Kari leaned against the doorframe, arms folded. “It’s pretty obvious you guys are working together with the guardians. No idea how, but it’s the only way you could have pulled that last mission off.”

    Ajia grinned sheepishly. “Saw through that, huh?”

    The Rockets had seen through it too. What was it that Ender had said? ‘We’ll have to take that into consideration next time.’ I didn’t like the sound of that.

    Something else was bothering me. From what the others had said, Raven and Ender were the only executives at that mission. Only two. Two top-class, legendary-handing executives, sure. But only two? Where were the rest of them? Did the Rockets really care so little about that mission? They’d taken a huge gamble by putting Moltres in such a vulnerable position… there had to be a good reason.

    Kari’s expression turned darkly serious. “How long have you all had contact with the guardians? Was it since before the Viridian attack?”

    Starr stood bolt upright. “Yeah, hold up. That’s Ajia’s deal, alright? The rest of us aren’t insane.” I found myself sinking lower into my chair.

    Kari’s gaze slid back to Ajia, looking weary. “Please don’t tell me you had contact with them during the attack.”

    What? She didn’t seriously think that we’d just stood by and let that happen, did she?

    I threw myself around the side of the chair so that I was staring straight at her. “We tried to stop the Viridian incident! If all it took was just talking to the Legendaries, don’t you think we would have tried that?”

    Kari paused, considering me closely. “…Fair. Sorry for jumping to conclusions.”

    I sank back into the chair, still feeling a bit on-edge. The Legendary I had just made an alliance with… was one of the ones responsible for the attack on Viridian. And I didn’t feel remotely comfortable talking to it about that. Besides, Mew had been 100% against the attack. Mew had confronted Lugia about it, right?

    I was chosen now. I was supposed to protect the Legendaries. Even if...

    “So, looks like the big secret is out… again,” Ajia said, looking more relieved than anything. She’d been holding onto Legendary secrets a lot longer than I had. It had to be getting tiring, especially having to hide things from friends or allies.

    At the point I finally noticed Rudy standing at the entrance to the kitchen, staring at Ajia with his mouth hanging open. And from the looks of things, he’d been like that for the past minute or so.

    He blinked a few times to regain himself before saying, “You’ve been working with the Legendaries?”

    Ajia gave him an amused smile. “What’s with that look? You’ve helped save them yourself, haven’t you?”

    He shook his head. “That’s not the same. It’s not like I’ve ever talked to them.”

    “Guess this explains why you guys were so sure we could pull off freeing Moltres, huh?” Darren asked me with a sideways grin. “Seemed like a crazy plan otherwise.”

    “You went along with the plan,” I pointed out.

    He shrugged. “Never said I was smart.”

    “Okay, hang on,” Kari said, putting a hand to her forehead like she was still trying to work something out. “The guardians. If you’re working with them, they’re still nearby, aren’t they? What about Moltres? Are you actually keeping it here? Where is it?”

    Whoa. Okay, this was a lot of questions, how were we supposed to explain any of this? We couldn’t just tell everyone about the chosen pact. But now Rudy, Darren, and Kari were staring at Ajia expectantly. And heck, even Starr of all people was giving Ajia a curious glance, waiting to see what her response would be.

    Kari walked over to Ajia, staring her straight in the eyes. “Where. Is. Moltres?”

    Ajia let out a defeated sigh. “Alright, alright. I’ll show you.”


    ~~~~~


    The five of us trudged through the darkening woods on our way to a nearby clearing, where Latias had apparently released Moltres from its Master Ball. Mew led the way, trotting in front of us as an Espeon. I kept expecting someone to question why Espeon of all people knew where the Legendaries were, but no one did. As for me, I was just conveniently going along with the fact that Starr had pinned the blame on Ajia to avoid bringing up the fact that I was chosen as well. Not that it did much to stave off the avalanche of questions from Rudy.

    “This is nuts. I can’t believe your friend knows Legendaries. Which ones? How did she meet them? Have you met them?

    “Look, one thing at a time, alright?” I said, though I wasn’t exactly sure which one to start with.

    “Yeah, give Jade time to make something up,” Darren added with a chuckle. I glared at him and he just gave me a wry grin.

    It also didn’t help that I was having a hard time thinking on account of Lugia complaining in my head the entire time.

    <It’s not like we have a choice,> I reminded the legend. <They’re not going to leave us alone until we give them answers.>

    <Of course you have a choice,> Lugia snapped. <You can refuse to tell them anything. Simple.>

    I rubbed my eyes in frustration. <How are we supposed to explain why?>

    <They do not require an explanation.>

    <Um, yes, they do. If you want someone to help you then they have to be able to trust you,> I said flatly.

    Lugia paused, unwilling to agree with what I’d said, but also struggling to think of a shutdown. It finally settled on, <Well… those two interlopers are one thing, but what about the others? What about her?>

    I raised an eyebrow. <You’re gonna need to be a little more specific.>

    <I’m not good with human names,> Lugia mumbled. <The one that you and Mew’s chosen are close to.>

    I tensed up, feeling uneasy. <Starr? What about her. She already knows about the chosen pact, remember?>

    <I’m aware,> Lugia said sharply. <That doesn’t give her the right to be privy to our plans. Particularly considering her… colorful past.>

    I bristled. So Lugia knew about that. <Look, I don’t want to have this conversation. Starr betrayed Team Rocket. I trust her with my life.>

    Lugia was silent for some time. Scattered bubbles of frustration drifted through its thoughts, but it didn’t put any of them into words. <…Fine,> it said grudgingly, and then its presence retreated into the corner of my mind where I had a harder time feeling it.

    I let out a deep sigh of relief, already feeling a lot better. Dealing with my own emotions was one thing, but getting a double dose of anxiety was too much to handle.

    “Oh crap, is that it?” Rudy said, suddenly breaking into a run.

    I squinted. Some fifty yards ahead of us, a dull orange glow was visible through the trees. We emerged into a warm, brightly-lit clearing, and there it was. The gigantic firebird lay on its side, flames flickering gently on its head, wings, and tail. There was something oddly peaceful about it. I was so used to seeing it flying overhead, raining down death and destruction. I’d seen it used to kill escaping rebels. Earlier today, I’d barely escaped from it with my life. And even though I knew none of that was its own doing… it was still hard not to feel uncomfortable being so close to it.

    The ground had been swept free of any leaves, needles, or other forest debris, which made it all the easier to spot the purple shards that lay next to Moltres. So Latias had destroyed the Master Ball. Well, of course she had, that was the only way to deactivate the mind control. She also must have healed Moltres, as most of its battle injuries were gone. Was she still nearby, guarding the firebird invisibly? I couldn’t help letting my eyes scan the air above the clearing, hunting for the telltale distortion.

    Rudy was slowly inching closer to Moltres with a look of disturbed fascination. Meanwhile, Starr was glancing around the scene with a disapproving look on her face.

    “So we’ve just got the Legendary bird of fire unconscious right here, huh?” she said. “No big deal, right?”

    I gave her a look. “You’re acting like this is the first time you’ve seen Moltres.”

    “Yeah, well, I am not letting myself get desensitized to this crap,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “This is not normal, okay?”

    Kari and her Pidgeot hadn’t moved since we got here. The former was staring at Moltres with a somber look. Pidgeot’s head was lowered, eyes trained on the ground. It was easy to forget that those two—and most people, for that matter—weren’t used to being in the presence of Legendaries. Starr was right. We really had gotten desensitized to it.

    After a minute of silence, Kari straightened suddenly, turning toward Ajia. “So what’s your plan?” she asked. “Moltres gonna be staying here or what?”

    Ajia laughed. “No way. The other Legendaries are gonna explain the situation to Moltres when it wakes up. And… I guess it’ll go with them.”

    Kari gave her a sideways glance. “So what, does everything go back to normal now? Moltres is free, the day is saved, no more Legendary attacks?” From the look on her face, it was obvious she didn’t trust that for a second.

    Ajia rubbed the back of her head. “Not… exactly. But Indigo should be safe now.”

    Kari nodded distantly, not taking her eyes off Moltres. “Don’t suppose you know where the next attack is gonna be?”

    “The next one?” Ajia said, looking confused. “I mean… the goal is to prevent this from happening again.”

    “Hm,” Kari just said, absentmindedly running a hand through Pidgeot’s crest. “Well. I guess I’ll let everyone know that there shouldn’t be any more trouble from Moltres. I should be getting back to base anyway.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “God, this is gonna be hard to explain. And you haven’t even given me half of it, I can tell.”

    The ranger motioned to Pidgeot, who leaned forward for her to climb onto its back. She paused, glancing over the five of us in turn. “You know there were news crews at Indigo, right? I dunno if they saw you, but… whatever you’re hiding, word’s gonna get out eventually.”

    “We’ll deal with that when the time comes,” Ajia said simply.

    Kari was silent for several seconds. Finally, she threw one last glance at Moltres before nodding. “Alright. Good luck,” she said with a small wave. “And try not to cause any more trouble.”

    With a few powerful flaps, Pidgeot took off from the forest floor and the two of them flew off into the twilight skies.

    “You two seem like real great friends,” Starr said dryly.

    Ajia waved a hand dismissively. “Ah, don’t worry about her, I’m always getting into trouble and making things hard for her, and she’s always giving me crap about it. It’s kind of our thing.”

    Starr just shrugged. Still, despite Ajia’s casual tone, I couldn’t help feeling bad. It was another reminder of just how badly this whole Rocket mess was stressing the rangers out. We could fight the Rockets, but they were the ones that had to deal with the fallout.

    I was jolted from my thoughts by Rudy’s voice: “Oh crap, it’s waking up.”

    What? Moltres was—?! I threw a hurried look back at the firebird, whose eyelids were twitching. Its head shifted slightly. Flames burned a bit brighter. Ajia glanced sharply at Mew, and the two of them nodded to each other for a bit while they talked mind-to-mind.

    Starr took a few steps back, raising both arms. “Allllright, I’m good. I’ve seen enough. Heading back to the cabin now. I do not need to be near that thing when it wakes up.”

    She turned and walked off into the forest, making it abound thirty feet before pausing like she’d just realized something. Then she turned to look back at me expectantly, waiting. She was expecting me to follow her. But if the Legendaries were going to be explaining the situation to Moltres soon, wouldn’t it be best if the chosen were present for it? Not that I could say I was chosen, but…

    I gave Starr a helpless shrug that hopefully conveyed the fact that I wanted to follow her but couldn’t. She scowled and turned away, walking further away until she was out of sight.

    I sighed, turning to face Rudy and Darren. “You two should probably head back too.”

    Rudy gaped at me like he’d never been more insulted in his life. “What? Why are you allowed to stay here, then?”

    I was spared the trouble of having to invent a reason when Ajia jumped in with, “At least hide then, we don’t want to freak it out, alright?”

    Rudy paused, still looking dissatisfied, but struggling to think of a counterargument.

    “Come on, let’s listen to her,” Darren said, grabbing the back of his shirt and dragging him off toward the trees, ignoring his protests.

    Ajia and I were the last ones to step back, leaving Moltres alone in the center of the clearing. Well, alone except for Mew. She threw a glance back at us to make sure we were all out of the way, then vanished. Several seconds passed. And then, in a flash, she reappeared—in her normal body—with Lugia and Ho-oh. Even though I’d been expecting them, it was still jarring to see two gigantic birds suddenly appear out of thin air, making the clearing feel that much smaller. I couldn’t help letting my eyes slide over to Rudy who was now gaping at the trio of Legendaries in stunned disbelief.

    Ho-oh nodded toward us, then took a slow, cautious step towards Moltres, leaning down to tap its beak against the smaller firebird’s shoulder.

    “Can you hear me?” it asked.

    Moltres stirred slightly. “*What’s going on…?*” it mumbled. “*Everything hurts…*”

    “Easy,” Ho-oh said in a calm, measured voice. “You’re safe now.”

    Moltres took several slow, shuddering breaths, struggling to fold its wings and pull its talons under its body. Then its eyes shot open. “*Wait, what?*” It glanced down at itself frantically, flames intensifying with a crackle. Then it threw an incredulous look back at Ho-oh, eyes wide with shock. “*I’m… how?*”

    “The humans no longer control you. You are free now.”

    The flames slowly lowered to a calm smolder. Moltres blinked a few times, lost for words.

    “How are you feeling?” Ho-oh asked.

    Moltres opened its beak to answer, but then it tilted its head at Ho-oh, squinting at the larger phoenix like it had only just realized something. “*Why are you speaking as though—?*” And then the firebird paused sharply, its eyes tracing the clearing and the humans standing nearby. It tensed, letting the flames on its body flare up once again. I felt a sudden desire to melt into the ground.

    “Ah. That would be why,” Moltres said dryly, and it took me a second to realize that it had switched from Pokéspeech to common. “Seems we have humans in our midst.” It turned back to face Ho-oh. “Why is this acceptable?”

    “These humans freed you from your capture,” the larger phoenix replied simply.

    Moltres glanced back at us once more, narrowing its eyes. “I see. I would like to leave now.”

    “You can if you must, but I would quite prefer if you’d remain,” Ho-oh said, closing its eyes matter-of-factly.

    Moltres didn’t respond to that. But it also didn’t move. It just sat there, eyeing us suspiciously. I kept my eyes on the ground to avoid making eye contact.

    Ho-oh turned to face the rest of us, the four humans standing at the edge of the trees. “I must thank you all for your assistance.” Its gaze fell on me, and I couldn’t help shrinking back a bit. “I don’t believe I’ve made your acquaintance,” the phoenix said, bowing its head. “You are aligned with my sibling, are you not?”

    I blinked in surprise. It took me a second to realize it was talking about my chosen pact with Lugia. “Oh, uh, that’s right.” Unsure of what else to do, I bowed back and said, “It’s nice to meet you?”

    Ho-oh nodded. “Likewise.”

    “Where are my siblings?” Moltres spoke up suddenly, its expression somewhat conflicted.

    Ho-oh shifted its wings uncomfortably. “Articuno is still within their grasp. We weren’t given an opportunity to free them like we were with you.”

    Moltres was silent for several seconds. “I see…” it said, the emotion in its voice hard to place. It then glanced at each of the Legendaries in turn. “And what of Zapdos? Were they not a part of this effort?”

    Ho-oh’s face fell. It glanced back at Mew imploringly.

    <Zapdos has… not been speaking with me,> she said softly, curling her tail around herself.

    Moltres blinked, and this time it was easier to see the heaviness that had taken hold in its eyes. But then its gaze hardened and it said, “Never mind them. What happens next?”

    <Well… now that we’ve freed you, we’ll be setting our sights on freeing the others,> Mew said. She gestured for Ajia to step forward, who did so with all the confidence of someone who wasn’t surrounded by Legendaries.

    “The Rockets still have four Legendaries in their possession,” Ajia explained. “We’re not going to stop until we’ve freed them all. If we can pull it off, that will definitely prevent the war, won’t it?”

    <That’s optimistic,> Lugia said with a snort.

    <We need the optimism,> Mew replied, giving the dragon-bird a hard look.

    “Well, that’s one way of looking at it,” Ho-oh said, considering her carefully. “But we must also prepare for the worst—if we are unable to prevent the war, we must ensure that the pact is completed. It may become difficult to locate more suitable candidates. We will have to take that into consideration.”

    Moltres glanced between the other legends, mulling something over in its mind. “Still aiming to fulfill the chosen pact, are you?”

    <Of course,> Mew said, as though nothing were more obvious. <Why would we stray from that path now?>

    “Hm,” Moltres just said, disapproval crossing its face. “And how do any of you know that your… selected humans will remain by your side when this conflict escalates and their small lives are threatened?” I couldn’t help but notice its eyes briefly slide toward me.

    Mew shook her head. <Moltres. You are like the rest of us. You’ll have to select an interloper eventually.>

    The firebird narrowed its eyes. “So you say. I still am not convinced that humans possess the resolve necessary for something like this.”

    <The humans freed you,> Mew pointed out.

    Moltres tossed its head indignantly. “Your point? It’s one thing to naively charge forward into danger with no grasp of what it means. It’s another thing to see the reality of it, and to continue putting one’s life on the line.”

    I… hated to admit it, but Moltres’s words did strike a chord inside me. It had been easy to agree to joining the Rebellion, knowing that it was dangerous, but not truly grasping the reality of risking my life for this cause. It had been a lot harder to keep pressing on after seeing that reality firsthand. But… I’d done it anyway. And I wasn’t exactly the strongest-willed person around. That had to count for something, right?

    But no one had said anything to the contrary, so Moltres gave a smug grin and went on, “Humans don’t have the resolve necessary for something like this. They lack passion.”

    “You’re wrong.”

    Just those two words brought the world crashing to a halt. Everyone’s eyes widened in shock, even Moltres’s. I whirled around to locate the source… and saw the one person whose expression was one of anger rather than shock.

    It was Rudy. Rudy was the one who had said it.

    Moltres blinked, clearly not used to having a human talk back to it. “Excuse me?” it said, slowly striding across the clearing. I felt a chill run through me as the great firebird towered over Rudy, bearing down on him.

    Rudy took a deep breath to steel himself and then said, “You’re wrong about humans. We’re not gonna run away just because it’s dangerous. We already know what’s at stake. We’ve been a part of this for too long.” There was pain in his words. That heaviness that I knew all too well.

    “There is no true reason for you to be involved in this war,” Moltres said, waving a wing dismissively. “I cannot expect you to risk your life for this cause when you could leave at any time with no personal cost.”

    Rudy clenched his fists. “What’ll it take for me to prove it?”

    Moltres tilted its head at him, bemused. “Is… is that a challenge?”

    “I guess it is,” Rudy said with a forced laugh. Like he wasn’t really planning on it, but wasn’t about to back down now.

    The firebird stared blankly, almost like it was having a hard time processing his reaction. “Do you… honestly believe you can defeat me?”

    He scoffed. “Like that matters to me.”

    Moltres paused, and for once, it didn’t have an immediate comeback. Several seconds passed. Then, the firebird began to laugh. “I like that. Alright. Come at me, then.”

    Rudy was going to fight Moltres. What even was any of this. My brain refused to accept it, even though I’d seen the entire conversation leading up to it.

    <Is this really necessary?> Lugia asked, taking a step forward.

    “You’re invited to keep quiet,” Moltres snapped. Lugia rolled its eyes, but said nothing.

    Rudy spun around and let out his team. Six Pokéballs opened with a flash and materialized into Fearow, Raichu, Tauros, Nidoking, Ebony, and Pupitar. All six of them immediately snapped their attention to the huge fiery Legendary standing right in front of them, varying degrees of fear and awe crossing their features.

    “In case some of you didn’t know, we freed Moltres from the Rockets,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder unnecessarily. “Except now it apparently doesn’t think we’re good enough to help it.” (Moltres raised a brow at that, but didn’t interject.) “Who wants to show it that we know what we’re getting into?”

    Ebony’s mouth hung open, stars in her eyes. Raichu gave a devilish smirk, sparks leaping from her cheeks. Nidoking cocked an eyebrow but put up his fists just the same. Pupitar didn’t complain, which was about as close to a yes as she ever gave. Tauros glanced uncertainly at Moltres. He hadn’t been on the team during the Rebellion days; seeing Legendaries in person was totally new to him. And the idea of fighting them had to be equally weird. But after several seconds’ hesitation, the bull’s eyes sharpened. He pawed the ground and let out a snort, leveling his horns at the Legendary.

    And then, in the midst of it all, Fearow glanced back and forth at her teammates incredulously. She drew herself back, ruffling her feathers. “*I’m out. This is crazy.*”

    Rudy closed his eyes. “That’s fine. I’m the crazy one here,” he said, taking her Pokéball in his hand. He gave her a soft look. “But I don’t want you to have any regrets.”

    Fearow scoffed, turning away dismissively. But then she glanced back at him out of the corner of her eye with just the slightest bit of uncertainty. Rudy held out her ball, and she snapped her gaze to him.

    “*Stop,*” Fearow said sharply. “*You’re right.*” She took a deep breath, throwing a sideways glance at Pupitar. “*No regrets this time.*”

    Rudy nodded forcefully, replacing her Pokéball on his belt. Then he spun around to face Moltres and said, “We’re ready.”

    Such conviction,” the firebird said mockingly. But then it crouched low and spread its wings, flames intensifying with a crackle.

    Rudy pointed forward and the team leaped into action—Nidoking and Raichu firing off bolts of lightning, Fearow letting blades of wind fly from her wingtips, Ebony barking out a pulsing wave of dark energy, Tauros charging powerfully, sparks coursing through his mane. Moltres lazily waved a wing to raise a wall of flame in front of its face, blocking the attacks. It then swept both wings forward, unleashing a hail of fireballs from its blazing feathers.

    “Fearow, Nidoking, shield the others with Protect!” Rudy yelled.

    The two of them banded together in the center with practiced coordination, and everyone else didn’t waste a second ducking behind the duo. Flames spilled out around the pair of shields, the entire group of Pokémon flinching from the waves of heat that scorched the air. I stepped back instinctively, but the fireballs rebounded off a psychic barrier that Mew had raised to keep the forest around us from catching fire.

    “What sort of conviction does it take to risk your companions in a pointless battle?” Moltres called out. “What does this say of you?”

    Rudy clenched his teeth, glaring at the Legendary. “They’ve got the same conviction as me. We’ve all got each other’s back; we all make each other stronger.”

    “Such statements are meaningless,” Moltres said with a scoff. “Any risk you would take is borne by them, not you!”

    The hail of fireballs lessened. But before any of them could prepare for another attack, Moltres swept its wings together, and another wall of flames burst up from the ground, right in front of Rudy’s team. The firebird stared down at them with a smirk as though daring them to break past the wall.

    “Fearow, carry Raichu over the flames!” Rudy yelled.

    Fearow paused just long enough to let Raichu leap onto her back before flapping harder to gain altitude. The electric-type leaped down from above, landing on Moltres’s back and discharging a flood of lightning. The firebird squinted for a moment as the electricity surged through it. It began to glow. Then a beam of red shot forward, dissolving Raichu just seconds before flames erupted from the spot where she’d been standing.

    Rudy re-released Raichu next to himself. Moltres snapped its attention to the two, starting slightly upon seeing that its target was standing right next to him. Then its eyes narrowed.

    “You think I’ll hold back simply because you’re in the way?” it demanded.

    Rudy smirked. “It made you pause, didn’t it?” Did he seriously just say that?

    Moltres’s eyes went wide for a second. And in that moment’s hesitation, Nidoking burst up from the dirt, horn already crackling with electricity. A bolt of lightning shot through the Legendary. Moltres kicked the ground-type away, annoyed, but then Tauros slammed into it at full force, sparks leaping from his mane.

    “I’ve made that mistake before,” Rudy muttered, staring downward, fists clenched. “I put my Pokémon at risk when I wasn’t willing to do the same for him. I’m not letting anything like that happen ever again.”

    Moltres tilted its head incredulously, but then the corners of its beak turned up. “Oh? Then how will you protect them? How will you protect anyone? What strength can the legends possibly derive from you?”

    “I…”—he grit his teeth—“I can’t answer that.”

    Moltres smirked. “Better find an answer, then.” It unleashed another torrent of fire. “Before my patience is through!”

    This time Ebony leaped in front, struggling to shield her teammates. Her pelt glowed red, absorbing the flames, but it was too much for her. Fearow flapped her wings, trying in vain to blow away the wall of fire. Raichu retaliated with bursts of lightning. It wasn’t enough. Ebony let out a whimper and sank to the ground. Nidoking struggled to raise a Protect, but it hadn’t been long enough since the last time he’d used it. The barrier flickered with the heat of the flames, then sputtered and died. The lineup broke, Nidoking retreating underground and Raichu hopping on Tauros’s back to escape the Flamethrower.

    “I suppose you think that teaching this lot a few amusing tricks makes you worth something, is that it?” Moltres asked, eyes lit with anticipation. Like it couldn’t wait to see how he’d respond.

    But Rudy didn’t give an answer. He just kept his eyes on his team and called out, “Tauros, power up Raichu; Fearow cover them with Mirror Move!”

    Sparks coursed through Tauros’s mane, this time flowing into Raichu. She used the boost to fire off another lightning bolt, twice as thick as the last one. Moltres’s eyes twitched from the hit, and it swept another wing forward, sending more fireballs raining down from above. Fearow copied its motions exactly—a shimmering, reflective surface trailed from her wings, spawning an identical barrage to intercept Moltres’s attack. Nidoking used that opportunity to emerge from underground and fire off yet another Thunderbolt at the Legendary.

    “Enough!” Moltres snapped, stamping the ground with a talon. The dirt began to glow.

    “Get back!” Rudy yelled.

    Fearow shot back to him with a Quick Attack while Tauros and Nidoking dashed after her. Seconds later, flames erupted from the ground where they’d been standing. Rudy staggered backward, shielding his face from the waves of hot air rushing outward. Even from where I was standing, the heat was stifling.

    Finally, the flames cleared. I could see Tauros panting hard, Raichu clinging to his mane. Nidoking holding a tuckered-out Ebony under one arm. Fearow landing next to them, feathers scorched. They were still standing. But only because Moltres wasn’t remotely using its full power. How long until it got bored with this game? What would it do then? It wouldn’t… actually attack Rudy, would it? Mew would put a stop to things if it came to that… right?

    Moltres chuckled lowly. “Such passion you instill in your comrades. Truly a sight to behold.” Its eyes scanned Rudy’s battered and tired lineup… and settled on Pupitar, who hadn’t moved this entire time.

    “What of this one?” Moltres asked, cocking its head. “Has your stirring inspiration failed to move them?” It would’ve been easy to miss the way Pupitar’s eyes twitched slightly at the Legendary’s words.

    Rudy scowled. “Leave her alone, she can do what she wants.”

    “Oh? What happened to your talk of shared conviction?” Moltres asked eagerly. “Clearly you are not the great motivator you believe yourself to be.”

    Rudy opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but then clenched his teeth and remained silent. His team glared daggers at the firebird, but none of them had the strength to do anything about it.

    At least, not until Pupitar hopped in front of all of them, facing down Moltres alone.

    Rudy stared. “You don’t…” he struggled to find the words. “You don’t have to if you don’t wanna.” But Pupitar didn’t acknowledge that he’d said anything.

    “Am I wrong?” Moltres asked her. “Why don’t you show me?”

    Without warning, Pupitar fired a burst of gas and shot forward, plowing into the firebird’s belly. Moltres stopped laughing. The Legendary opened its beak and retaliated with a vicious Flamethrower, completely enveloping the rock-type in an overwhelming blaze.

    “Use Protect!” Rudy yelled.

    A shimmering white barrier formed around the pupa’s body, but the swirling torrent of fire completely surrounded her on all sides, immobilizing her. It was only a matter of time before the Protect shattered from sheer force of it, and then what? Moltres grinned wildly, adding more and more fire to the vortex. Flames spilled out around the barrier relentlessly. Pupitar’s armor glowed white-hot from the heat.

    Wait. That glow. It wasn’t the heat—Pupitar’s body was glowing by itself. Suddenly, her armor split open with a resounding crack. Arms and legs shot out, claws digging into the dirt. Rows upon rows of spikes erupted though the shell. Moltres paused its fire breath, staring down at its opponent with intrigue. Where there had once been a limbless pupa, a rock-armored beast slowly raised herself from the dirt, shaking bits of broken armor to the ground. Her eyes snapped open. She looked down at herself, flexing her claws experimentally.

    She’d evolved. She’d evolved!! I didn’t think she’d have the strength to pull that off for several more months. Maybe it was the sheer pressure of fighting a Legendary. Maybe it was the force of taking Moltres’s attack. Maybe it was determination alone. But however it happened, she’d evolved.

    All five of her teammates suddenly broke into wild cheering—Ebony practically jumping for joy in spite of her burns and Nidoking pounding his chest wildly and Raichu firing sparks into the air. Rudy stared at the dinosaur, eyes wide with awe and pride. Finally he jumped several feet into the air, throwing both arms up. “I told you you could do it! I told you! You did it!”

    And then Pupitar, or rather Tyranitar—who had always looked perpetually bored with everything, even battling—flashed a toothy grin back at them all and said, “*I like this.*”

    And then she charged forward. Every footfall sent jagged blades of stone ripping up from the earth, and for the first time, I saw a flicker of alarm flash in Moltres’s eyes before the Stone Edge dug into its body. The firebird recoiled backwards, screeching in pain and rage before unleashing an explosive burst of flame from itself, shattering the stones to bits and consuming Tyranitar in a whirlwind of fire. The rock-type stood her ground, pushing on through the raging inferno, raising both arms straight up, calling a hail of boulders up from the dirt and sending them crashing into Moltres.

    But the tips of Tyranitar’s spikes had started to melt away. The rock-type sank to her knees. She glanced back at Rudy, and his hand hovered over his Pokéball belt.

    Tyranitar shook her head. “*Not yet. Took this long to get this body. Might as well see what it can do.*” She stomped the ground again and more rocks exploded up from under Moltres. The Legendary easily could have avoided the rocks. But it didn’t. Almost as if it was making a point by sitting there and taking them. Stones dug into it over and over, but it kept up the relentless stream of fire, waiting until Tyranitar was doubled over, panting hard. The dinosaur screwed her eyes shut, digging her claws into the dirt. One last rock ripped itself from the ground, smacking Moltres in the side of the face. Then another fireball and she was down. Sprawled out on the dirt, the faintest trace of a grin still visible on her face.

    “You were badass, Tyranitar,” Rudy whispered before recalling her in a beam of red light.

    They’d lost. Well, there was never any question that they would. But Rudy didn’t seem bothered by that fact. He’d known full well there was zero chance of him coming out ahead, and he’d done it anyway, and he obviously wanted it to mean something, though I wasn’t sure what.

    Moltres took several slow, menacing steps forward, eyes glued to Rudy the entire time. Part of me wanted to run over to him, but the other part was glued to the spot, unable to do anything but watch.

    “I should kill you for such a foolish move,” it said poisonously, looming over him.

    Rudy craned his neck upward to glare at the phoenix, defiance written all over his face. “I thought you wanted to see some passion. Now you’re saying it’s foolish?”

    Moltres laughed, and the sound echoed around us with an eerie reverberating quality.

    Rudy wasn’t fazed. “I want to make a difference. So if you won’t believe me, then let me prove that humans aren’t weak.”

    The firebird tilted its head back, looking genuinely surprised. “Such conviction… but I wonder… will it be able to endure the flames of war?”

    Rudy grinned. “We’ll find out, won’t we?”

    Moltres opened its eyes wide as though it had been slapped, but then immediately broke into reverberating laughter once more. “Speaking as though I have already decided?! Ha! Very well! Let us see how you handle it!”

    And in a flash, Rudy was completely engulfed in flames.

    “Rudy!!” I screamed, eyes wide, but then Ajia held me back with a knowing look.

    “Just watch,” she said quietly.

    Just watch?! Just watch as Rudy was—wait. The flames swirled around in a vortex, sending waves of heat radiating around the clearing. Every few seconds, a gap appeared, and I caught a glimpse of him in the center. Face scrunched up in pain, but still standing, not charred to ash. And then I saw myself in his shoes, that moment when I felt myself torn apart as Lugia and I were joined together.

    Mew had to stop Rudy’s team from rushing in to pull him from the flames. They all stared at her wide-eyed as she explained something to them. Rudy was on his knees now, fists clenched at his side. Moltres’s eyes were closed in deep concentration. A faint red glow emanated from the firebird, visible even through all the firelight.

    And then, in a flash, the flames cleared. Moltres’s eyes snapped open. Rudy fell forward onto all fours, breathing hard. At once, his team crowded around him, Nidoking helping him stand while Ebony nuzzled his side.

    “What… what the hell just happened?” Rudy asked, sounding dazed.

    Moltres folded its wings, peering down at him. “You wanted the chance to prove yourself. You have gotten it. You are now my chosen. You will fight by my side until the end of the war.”

    He grinned weakly. “Sounds good.”

    “Do not take this commitment lightly,” Moltres snapped, its voice heating up.

    Rudy’s expression sharpened. “That’s not it. I know it’s a big deal.” His eyes slid to the ground. “I just… I know I’ll be able to help out a lot more if I combine my strength with yours. This is my chance to do something right. I wanna feel good about it.”

    Moltres considered his response carefully. Finally it nodded and straightened itself, glancing around at the rest of us for the first time in a while. All of us were frozen, staring at the two of them with varying degrees of shock.

    “So. I’ve sealed my pact, as you wished,” Moltres announced, throwing a sideways glance at Mew. “Does this satisfy you?”

    Mew chuckled slightly. <There’s no need to put it like that,> she said with a smile. <But yes… I’m glad.>

    Lugia gave an unimpressed snort. <So I suppose we are completely throwing secrecy to the winds, then?>

    Mew curled her tail around herself. <For our missions to work from now on, we might have to. It was a great advantage in rescuing Moltres, but now the Rockets know that their enemies are getting help from the legends, one way or another.>

    Lugia squinted at her. <Need I remind you that you were the one so insistent on keeping the secrecy in the first place?>

    <I know…> she said, closing her eyes. <Times have changed.> She refused to look at Lugia.

    <Why are you so worried about secrecy, anyway?> I asked Lugia privately. <I understand that it’s dangerous to let too many people too close, but everyone in our group has already proved they’re trying to help, haven’t they?>

    Lugia was silent for some time, its mind flitting between two different things. It felt conflicted. <With humans, you can never know when they will turn on you. The Order has already learned that lesson the hard way.>

    I blinked. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to take that. <So what you’re saying is, you don’t trust us.>

    A prickle of annoyance. <You have had more dealings with humans than I. Can you honestly say that they have never betrayed you?>

    I paused. Memories from last year surfaced in my mind. I’d trusted that Stalker wanted to help the Legendaries, and that had turned out to be a lie. Lugia must have sensed my doubts, because I felt a wisp of self-satisfaction from it.

    <No. I can’t. But…> But I didn’t have a good argument. There wasn’t much point in continuing this conversation, so I decided to drop it for now.

    “Today has brought us not one, but two great victories,” Ho-oh said, nodding toward Rudy and Moltres. “I wish you both nothing but the best.”

    The latter tossed its head indifferently. “So what next?”

    Next? After everything we’d been through today, the idea of there even being a ‘next’ was too exhausting to think about.

    Fortunately, Ajia was on the same page. She jumped in with, “We’ve all had a long dayWe should call it a night; worry about tomorrow when it comes, alright?” She looked up at the Legendaries imploringly.

    Mew nodded. <I agree. You all deserve rest.>

    Thank god. Even if we’d be sleeping in tiny cabin bunks as opposed to the plush beds in the hotel room back at Indigo, it still sounded like heaven after all this. And… some of us had gone through more than others.

    I glanced back at Rudy. He was giving his team a reassuring smile as he talked with them, having to hold Ebony down from licking his face repeatedly.

    “You guys were awesome, you know that?” I said as I walked over. Ebony beamed up at me while Fearow closed her eyes with just the slightest bit of a self-satisfied grin. Rudy smiled faintly, holding a hand against his temple. I couldn’t help noticing him swaying a bit, like he might lose his balance at any moment.

    “Hey, so… congrats,” I added, unsure if that was an appropriate thing to say in this situation. “How you feeling?”

    “It’s wild,” Rudy said distantly. “I saw… things.” He closed his eyes and shuddered. All the negative emotions associated with the fight, all at once—that’s what he’d just had to endure. Having gone through that myself, I couldn’t blame him for feeling out of it.

    When Rudy finally opened his eyes, he forced a smile. “I made a lot of stupid mistakes, huh?”

    “We all did,” I said slowly. “You could say that joining the Rebellion was the stupidest mistake of all.”

    Rudy shook his head. “That’s the one thing I don’t regret. I mean… I know what it led to. But that was my fault. Just joining the team in the first place? I don’t regret that.”

    I paused, meeting his eye. “Me neither.”

    As we walked toward the edge of the clearing, I happened to glance over and see Darren leaning against a tree, hands buried in his pockets and an awkward look plastered on his face.

    “Right, so… this is a thing, I guess,” he said with a forced laugh, his eyes tracing the various Legendaries still standing around the clearing, discussing things amongst each other. He then looked back at me. “Should I really be here?”

    “Why the hell not?” Rudy asked heatedly. “You’re on our team, aren’t you?”

    Darren chuckled. “The Rebellion ended a long time ago.”

    “That doesn’t matter,” Rudy said, waving a hand like he didn’t want to hear it. “The Rebellion’s over but that Rocket mess is still happening, yeah? That didn’t magically go away.”

    Darren gave a noncommittal shrug. Then his eyes fell on me, and he gave me a curious look. “So Jade… you’re obviously one of the ones who’s allowed to be here, I guess. Did you… make a deal with one of them?”

    I swallowed. No point in hiding it. “Yeah.” Rudy snapped his head toward me in surprise—he must not have pieced that together yet.

    “Which one?” Darren asked.

    “Huh?” I hadn’t been expecting that question to sound so casual. “Oh, uh… Lugia.”

    He folded his arms behind his head and gave a crooked smile. “You know, that’s pretty sweet.”

    My brain had a hard time framing it like that, but... yeah. It kind of was.

    “Wait, seriously? You’re partnered with Lugia?!” Rudy exclaimed, and his tone ripped me back to a distant time. Back when he’d gush about meeting Legendaries and proving himself to them. Back before the weight of the world had crashed down on us.

    Unsure of how else to respond, I just said, “Yeah.”

    “Why didn’t you tell us?” Rudy demanded.

    I almost laughed out loud. “Why do you think? I wasn’t allowed to, that’s why.”

    He scowled. “That’s dumb, why not?”

    I opened my mouth to speak… and then realized that Moltres really hadn’t explained much of anything about the chosen pact to Rudy. Maybe it planned on doing so privately later. Either way, silly as it was, Rudy had a point. While it made sense that we couldn’t go blabbing Legendary secrets to the world, I was absolutely fed up with keeping secrets from friends and allies. No more.

    “You’re right. I guess it was dumb.”

    Rudy nodded sharply like he’d sure showed me. Like I hadn’t just agreed with him.

    “C’mon, let’s head back now. You look like you’re about to pass out,” Darren said.

    “I’m just fine,” Rudy snapped. Nidoking rolled his eyes at that, as he was probably the only thing keeping his trainer standing.

    It had been a very, very long day. But in the end, I couldn’t help feeling pretty okay about how it had all turned out.






    ~End Chapter 39~

    Next Chapter: Sebastian's here. And he has news for everyone.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2019
  3. 3DSRed

    3DSRed Alias RedAgent14

    This chapter made me appreciate Rudy more than I realized. Though the "anime protagonist"-esque origin of Rudy's character is still present, you've developed him in a way that (to me at least) results in Rudy's being Chosen not coming off as a generic "Shonen good guy becomes super powerful" trope.

    Also: If Darren ends up being Chosen to complete the trifecta of Ajia-related Chosen, I expect Raikou.
    (I'd personally like to see Starr get Chosen given how adamant she is about her position, but said position would probably compel her to refuse.)
     
  4. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Rudy is absolutely this fic's anime protagonist. xD But he had to endure more than his fair share of misery to get here.

    Honestly, at this point I'm 100% aware that the mystery is not "who will be chosen" but rather "who will be their patrons." :V I'll be curious to see people's guesses! (Though I do think the identity of two of the chosen will be surprising.)

    ~Chibi~
     
  5. NebulaDreams

    NebulaDreams A Dense Irritating Miniature Beast of Burden

    Review of Chapters 1-4 (including Prologue)

    Okay, so I thought I'd check this out, seeing how I've been interested in LC's progress for a while. While I heard a lot of good things about it, I also knew that it would constantly be under revision, and that I should probably wait to jump in until then. And 11 revisions, holy crap. So, now you've started revising it from the start again, I figured it was a good time to get started, and I'm glad I did, since this fic has so much potential and so much stuff to build towards. I can tell this is going to be one hell of a ride already.

    There's some foreshadowing from Lugia at the beginning, which, while verging on exposition, provided a nice and atmospheric opening to the fic as a whole. And when we go into Jade's segment, I instantly identified with her and her worries with the trainer school, as well as how that sets up things for the later chapters with Starr from what I can tell. Certainly some ominous stuff going on there, but anyway. We get time to see what Jade is like by letting her bounce off the other characters as well as just enjoying herself with the bike ride and Swift. We know her goals as well as her fears, as her friends are all leaving her to go on their trainer journeys. All in all, it was a pretty peaceful way to start things off. Surely, nothing can go wrong here, right?

    Welp. Crap.

    Okay, so the pacing of this story has been relentless so far. Of course, it has a good reason to be, and the early chapters do a great job to establish that this version of Team Rocket isn't ****ing around. They have guns. They have experiments. They have plans of world domination, but they now have the means to do it, and we see the effects of just what they're capable of. There is a constant feeling of peril here, from how desperate they are in their quest to capture the Legendaries, as well as the stakes of the fights so far. This makes fight scenes all the more exhilarating, and also makes Jade easier to relate to, as she's suddenly thrust into a desperate situation while she's pretty much at the mercy of her teammates or the grunts antagonising them. That isn't to say she hasn't proved useful so far, as she does great with the tools she's been given. Overall, the choice of her as a protagonist has proven smart so far, as it eases readers into what's in store for future chapters to come while keeping that sense of danger. The side characters have been nice counterpoints to her, and I especially like Spencer. Even though he is a fountain of corny one-liners, I can't help but love him for it, and he alleviates some of the tension of the battles without being too annoying, since he's able to think on the fly under pressure.

    The Pokemon characters have been great so far as well, especially the Zapdos-Pikachu experiment (however edgy he seems so far), and while there's still time to flesh them out of course, I'm interested to see where it will go and how much focus they're given as the story goes on. Still, I like it when Pokemon are actually given personalities of their own in fics, and they're definitely done justice here so far. It's actually the first time I've seen this take on Pokemon speech in a fic, but it's also refreshing, as the casual mentions of it in the trainer school segment establish how seriously the subject is taken and how they're pretty much essential for Pokemon trainers to learn. I also like how the Pokespeech mechanic is used and how little nuances like body language help readers to infer what they're saying without needing to be translated all the time.

    I get the feeling that things have only just started for our characters though. These opening four chapters feel like an introduction to the world, since we've only seen a small part of it, given how the escape from Team Rocket's ship has been stretched out for 3 chapters. While these have been great so far, I'm hoping the chapters after this will provide more of a breather to develop the characters and the worldbuilding. Still, the confrontation was a good taster for the fic, providing enough stakes and action to keep the readers on their toes while also not being too harsh on the characters with Ajia's convenient intervention. From here on out though, I can only expect things will go downhill from here, and that the enemies will be much harsher the next time around.

    Still, I'm really enjoying this, and have high hopes for the rest of the chapters so far. Good luck with the rest of the revisions.
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.
  6. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Thanks for the review, @NebulaDreams ! Already replied to ya elsewhere, but your comments were a lot of fun to read and it's great to have you on board! ^^

    Now then, with this chapter, we've hit an important milestone. LC is officially halfway done. I've said that the whole thing is gonna be 80 chapters, haven't I? It's wild to finally be at this point. The next four chapters after this one are all one big mega fight, and I'm really excited to finally write it for real (NaNo doesn't count.) Is everyone ready? Let's dive in~



    ~Chapter 40: Crisis in Hoenn~

    [​IMG]

    By the end of the night, Mew had teleported the other Legendaries back to their respective homes. It was kind of strange to feel Lugia’s restless, distracted mind slowly settle into a calm, gentle flow, almost like a river slowing down. The feeling was… relaxing in a way. If Lugia could sleep soundly, then so could I.

    Ajia showed us the barn behind the cabin, which was set up as a Pokémon sleeping quarters, and everyone let their teams out for the night (with a few exceptions like Pichu, who preferred to stay with their trainers). Then we were finally free to head inside and get ready to crash. My head hit the pillow and I was out almost immediately

    Then, what felt like seconds later, a high-pitched cry jerked me awake.

    “What the heck…” I muttered to myself, burying my head under the pillow. The noise didn’t stop. And then, for whatever reason, my brain finally processed that it was Latias’s voice.

    “Latias?” I blurted out, sitting up straight and blinking in the darkness. Then the light switch flipped on and I had to shield my face from the sudden brightness assaulting my eyes. Squinting through nearly-closed eyelids, I could just barely make out the crimson dragon flying circles near the ceiling.

    “*There’s an intruder!*” she cried.

    An intruder? What? Who? The Rockets? How did they find us here? Did they follow us? Were we under attack?

    “Who is it?” I asked her.

    “*It’s him! The one who stole my brother!*” the dragon cried.

    My heart skipped a beat. Stalker? Stalker was here? No way. I hadn’t seen him in over nine months. I was hoping I could just forget about him. What on earth was he doing here? Why now?

    I rubbed my eyes aggressively until I was finally able to see, then threw a glance at Ajia and Starr. Ajia already had a look of deep concentration as she spoke mind-to-mind with Mew. Starr’s eyes were screwed shut and she looked tired enough to murder someone for more sleep.

    “Someone gonna tell me what the hell is—”

    “Sebastian,” Ajia cut in.

    Starr’s eyes snapped open. “What the hell is he doing here?” she said.

    “Guess we’re about to find out,” Ajia said, jumping to her feet. She paused long enough for Pichu to leap onto her shoulder before bolting out the door. With a heavy groan, Starr followed.

    I leapt out of bed and glanced around for Chibi… and then remembered that he and the rest of my team were back at the main ranger station. Dammit. I mean, I’d had to, they were injured, but still, dammit. Then again, it wasn’t like we had any reason to expect a fight… right?

    I rushed down the stairs, my head a confused, distorted mess of conflicting emotions. Stalker was here, and I had absolutely no idea how I was supposed to feel about that. Wary? Anxious? Scared? Angry? This wasn’t how I’d imagined things would be the next time I saw him. But what had I imagined? That we’d somehow get the chance to talk things out and come to an understanding? Of course that was unrealistic. But had I wanted that?

    Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I registered the fact that we were running downstairs to confront a Rocket commander while wearing pajamas. So now embarrassment could get added to that pile of conflicting emotions.

    My footsteps slowed as I reached the ground floor. The front door was open, light spilling out into the front walkway; Ajia and Starr were out on the steps. And there he was, right in front of us. Former leader of the Rebellion. Current head of the Johto combat unit. The one who’d used us for months, playing with our lives, all just to serve his power play with the Kanto force. Standing at our there in a long, white executive’s coat, arms folded behind his back, Charizard sitting calmly at his side. He raised his hands disarmingly, casting an amused glance around at the lineup of both human and Pokémon that had rushed out to confront him.

    “I believe congratulations are in order,” he said. “You all did quite the masterful job stealing Moltres from the Kanto force.”

    Part of me wanted to say something. It had been over nine months since I’d last seen him. Nine months since he’d abruptly gone from trusted ally to cold manipulator in the span of a single night. But the words wouldn’t come.

    “What do you want, Sebastian?” Ajia asked, her voice tired and exasperated. Pichu punctuated her words with a jolt of sparks.

    “Wait… Stalker? He’s the one you’re all so worked up about?” a voice called out.

    I spun around to see the two faces that weren’t scowling at him. Rudy gaping incredulously and Darren squinting like he was trying to put together what was going on.

    “What are you doing here, man?” Rudy asked, taking a few steps forward.

    “More like what the hell are you doing here,” Starr snapped.

    Rudy froze, staring at her in bewilderment. He glanced back and forth between Stalker and me, waiting for answers.

    Oh geez, he didn’t know. I’d never told him. He had no idea that Stalker wasn’t on our side after all. On top of that, I could now see a couple of Rudy and Darren’s Pokémon inching into view from around the side of the cabin, looking equally confused. Ebony and Weavile in particular were frozen mid-step, like they’d been about to run over and say hi until everyone started acting so hostile.

    I made eye contact with Rudy and frantically shook my head back and forth while swiping a hand from side to side. But he just stared back, completely oblivious. Darren seemed to realize what I was getting at though. He grabbed Rudy’s shoulder, and when the latter turned toward him in confusion, he just shook his head and put a finger over his mouth.

    “There’s no need for hostility. I’ve just come to talk,” Stalker said.

    “You’ve got some nerve showing up here like this and expecting a warm welcome,” Ajia said cooly. Starr distinctly looked like she was holding back from saying much harsher things.

    And then out of nowhere, Latias shot forward, stopping right in front of him and staring him straight in the eyes. “*Let my brother go!*”

    Stalker stared back, unflinching. “I’m afraid that I can’t do that. I still need to utilize his strength for my plans.”

    “*How is what you’re doing any different from what they’re doing?!*” she cried, voice breaking slightly.

    Stalker closed his eyes in frustration. “I am not going to explain this again. I need Latios. Now do you want to hear what I have to say or not?”

    Latias drew herself back, eyes wide and shining. And for a second I was half-convinced that she was about to attack him. But then she screwed her eyes shut and bolted away from him, ducking behind Mew, who was hovering over Ajia’s head, watching him carefully.

    “I believe your other Legendary allies will want to hear this. Why don’t you bring them here?” Stalker offered.

    “You really think we’ll fall for that?” Ajia asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “They have nothing to fear from me,” he said simply. “I’m the one who’s outmatched here.”

    It didn’t… seem like he was lying. After all, what could he possibly do to us when he was so ridiculously outnumbered? Heck, even without the Legendaries, all Starr had to do was snap her fingers and her team would be on him in an instant. And from the look on her face, she was about five seconds away from doing that.

    Ajia let out a sigh, then glanced over at Mew and nodded. The psychic cat considered her carefully, then nodded back and vanished. Several seconds passed. I felt a sudden spike of irritation in the back of my mind as Mew no doubt had just invaded Lugia’s sanctum. Another minute passed, and Mew suddenly reappeared, this time joined by three gigantic birds—Lugia looking cross, Ho-oh concerned, and Moltres intrigued.

    “Who is this human?” Moltres asked once it had gotten a good look at the standoff. “If he has stolen the power of a legend, why do we not simply kill him?”

    Stalker stared unflinchingly up at the firebird. “Killing me won’t free Latios. It would only ensure that you never find him. And I have information that you require.”

    “Bold of you to assume I would not kill you anyway,” Moltres said coolly.

    “I would not have come here if I hadn’t prepared for that possibility.” The unspoken implication was clear—he knew for a fact that his life was not in danger.

    Moltres considered him for some time before drawing itself back, looking satisfied. “Very well. Say what you have to say.”

    Stalker turned to face the rest of us, surveying the faces on our group. “I’m sure by now you’ve all realized the purpose of the Rockets’ attack on Indigo.”

    I hesitated. I thought we knew, but hearing him say it like that, I was suddenly unsure.

    “They were… using it as bait to capture the other Legendaries,” I said, eyeing him closely.

    Stalker folded his arms behind his back. “That’s one reason, certainly. Far from the main one, however.”

    “So quit playing your dumbass games and tell us already,” Starr spat.

    He made eye contact with Starr briefly, looking vaguely amused by her wording, before turning his gaze back to Ajia. “It’s more that they wished to draw attention away from something else.”

    “So it was a distraction,” Ajia said flatly. Stalker nodded.

    Nothing but a distraction. God, that explained everything. No wonder the mission didn’t make any sense. Trying to lure the others into a trap and capture them? And sending only a single squad of Rockets with two executives to do it? What a joke. Of course the Rockets didn’t really have an agenda at Indigo. No wonder it felt like the attack just kept going for hours with no end goal, more about putting on a spectacle than actually accomplishing anything. We were idiots.

    “What are they really planning?” I asked, a sinking feeling building in my stomach.

    Even after all this time, I had no trouble spotting that subtle gleam in his eye when I asked that. Like he was already relishing the chance to explain. I hated it—all it did was remind me of how I used to know him.

    “The attack on Viridian last year put the Rockets in a dangerous position,” Stalker began slowly, carefully watching for our reactions, “and without Mewtwo, it would be too difficult for them to proceed with their plans, unless they manage to obtain a weapon on par with Mewtwo.”

    A Legendary Pokémon… on par with Mewtwo? Did such a Pokémon exist?

    “What, so like Mew?” I asked, looking back at the psychic cat.

    “Mewtwo was engineered to be stronger than Mew,” Starr cut in, folding her arms. “And Mew is too difficult to hunt down. Trust me, it’s not Mew.”

    <Some Legendary Pokémon are more powerful than others,> Mew explained, gesturing to Lugia and Ho-oh. <They are the higher legends. It’s likely that Mewtwo matches even them in strength.>

    That some Legendaries were even stronger than the rest… the idea had honestly never even occurred to me. Then again, it made sense, thinking back to when Lugia had attacked Viridian—Articuno and Moltres had barely been able to put a scratch on it. But somehow it was comforting that, as powerful as Mewtwo was, he wasn’t stronger than the higher legends. His power wasn’t unprecedented.

    <Let them try for me. I dare them,> Lugia said coldly.

    Ho-oh gave the silver bird a tired look. “It’s not wise to tempt fate.”

    Stalker shook his head. “Fortunately, neither of you is the target,” he said matter-of-factly. “The Rockets have set their sights on Hoenn.”

    A heavy silence fell over the surrounding. Slowly, each of us turned toward Latias, whose eyes had gone wide with dread.

    “*What do you mean?*” she asked, her voice quivering slightly.

    Stalker paused for several seconds, waiting until all eyes were back on him. Satisfied that he had everyone’s attention, he went on, “They’re going to reawaken Groudon and Kyogre.”

    Groudon… and… Kyogre? I’d… vaguely heard of them. Ancient gods of Hoenn, or something like that? Not exactly the kind of Legendaries that anyone ever saw.

    Latias was still staring. “*But… how? They’d need the red and blue orbs, but... those are…*”

    “Currently held inside the Magma and Aqua bases, yes,” Stalker finished. “The Rockets aim to steal them.”

    “Wait, wait wait wait,” I said, grabbing my forehead while I tried to make sense of this sudden revelation. “What the heck are you guys talking about? Orbs? Reawaken?”

    Latias paused, realizing that the rest of us had no idea what they were talking about. She tapped her claws together and said, “*Two years ago, there was a terrible event in my home region. You might have heard of it—the humans called it the Hoenn weather crisis.*”

    Okay, that definitely sounded familiar. Memories of seeing footage of a crazy weather catastrophe on the news suddenly drifted back to me. Supposedly caused by a gang of environmental extremists, although how exactly they’d been able to cause such a thing had always been conveniently danced around.

    “*Two rival organizations sought to shape the Hoenn region in their own image,*” she went on. “*One sought to expand the land; the other, the sea. So they set their sights on awakening the ancient gods Groudon and Kyogre, to realize their dream.*” She paused, shivering. “*But… that dream would have been nothing but an unending hell for the world.*”

    I stared at her, a chill running down my spine. “Are you saying that Team Rocket’s trying to recreate that disaster?”

    “Only as long as it takes to capture them,” Stalker said simply.

    I gaped at him, still struggling to process the weight of it all. “And these Magma and Aqua guys… we’ve gotta deal with them now?”

    Latias frowned. “*I… don’t believe so. When the Hoenn region was in crisis, both teams’ leaders saw the error of their ways, and lent their efforts toward sealing Groudon and Kyogre once more. After the crisis was resolved, they announced that they wished to make amends, and to push their organizations in a more respectable direction. Latios and I kept a close eye on them—the Hoenn region has not seen any trouble from them since.*”

    “Well they’re gonna be in for a nasty surprise when the Rockets shows up on their doorstep,” Ajia said grimly.

    “The Rockets have been sending agents to Hoenn, gathering information for months,” Stalker went on, pacing slowly in front of us. “The Indigo attack was only to hide the fact that their entire combat unit began mobilizing yesterday. The mission is already underway. They’ve sent squads to both teams’ headquarters, as well as to the mountain where the two Legendaries now sleep, so I’d recommend splitting up.”

    I jolted. “Hang on, what? Right now?! Why didn’t you tell us sooner?!”

    “You sent Lexx to warn us but you couldn’t tell us that it was all just a goddamn distraction?” Starr snarled. “You wanted us to fall for it!”

    Stalker stared at her, his gaze cold and unyielding. “I need you all to make things more difficult for them. But it wouldn’t do me any good if you stopped them outright before they even started.”

    “The hell?!”

    Ajia shook her head. “Just like the good old days, huh?” Her tone was disappointed, but unsurprised. “Getting everyone else to do your dirty work. Is that ever going to change?”

    “I still need to appear loyal to the boss,” he replied, holding both palms up. “It would be a complete waste if I gave myself away now.”

    I was speechless. I wanted to say something. Hell, I almost wanted to lash out like Starr. But all I could do was stare at him in stunned disbelief. It shouldn’t have been surprising. It shouldn’t have. But part of me had still been hoping that Ajia and Starr’s perception of Stalker had been… had been wrong. That the person I’d known on the Rebellion had been real. But no. Stalker was fake. It had only ever been Sebastian.

    “You know, I’m surprised to see all of you here together,” Stalker said offhandedly. “Or rather, I’m surprised to see the Legendaries willingly accepting help from humans. Of course, I’m sure at least some of you are here by contract. I wonder which ones.” His eyes lingered on me a little longer than they should have. I kept my expression perfectly neutral.

    “Anyway. I have business I need to attend to,” he said, turning to walk away, Charizard following close behind. “I expect I’ll be seeing you all in Hoenn soon. After all,”—he turned to face us one last time—“the clock is ticking.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “What the hell was any of that?”

    Rudy’s voice echoed throughout the yard, the only words anyone has spoken since Stalker had left.

    “Like, I don’t even know where to start,” he went on, bracing himself against the side of the cabin. “Why was everyone treating Stalker like a bad guy? Why was he talking like that? What the hell is going on?”

    “Your precious rebel team leader is the leader of the Johto combat unit,” Starr muttered, rubbing her eyes. The anger from Stalker’s arrival had largely worn off, and she mostly just looked exhausted.

    Rudy gaped at her. “But… that doesn’t make any sense!”

    I felt a nudge at my side; Darren had sidled over to me when I wasn’t looking. “Hey, quick question: when did you find out about that?” he whispered.

    I jerked my head toward him. “Eh?”

    “Well, you obviously already knew,” he said with a knowing look.

    Oh. I guess it was obvious, yeah. I swallowed hard and said, “Last year.”

    Darren clicked his tongue. “You could’ve mentioned it.”

    I put a hand to my forehead. “I didn’t want to think about it, alright? I was hoping I’d never have to deal with him again, but then all this stuff happened and… yeah.” God, I’d turned into Ajia. When had that happened?

    Rudy was pacing back and forth in the driveway, arms swinging at his side. Finally, he snapped his head toward the rest of us and asked, “So what are we gonna do about what he said?”

    “Excuse me?” Starr said, staring at him incredulously.

    He glanced back and forth between us like we were all insane. “We’re not just gonna let them catch Groudon and Kyogre, are we?”

    “Yeah, why don’t you just charge right into an obvious trap. Sure,” Starr said, throwing her arms in the air.

    “Starr, I’m not saying we should trust Sebastian or anything—” Ajia began carefully.

    “But you’re all just gonna play into his hands like usual,” Starr finished, not bothering to hide the disgusted tone in her voice.

    “Look, I was just chosen, alright!” Rudy shot back, giving her a fierce glare. “And I don’t really get what that means yet, but I know I can’t ignore this.”

    I was in the same boat as him. I’d only been chosen for… geez, only about four hours longer than him. God, it felt weird putting that in perspective.

    “Guess this means we’re getting the rebel team back together then,” Darren said, crossing his arms behind his head. “Unless you don’t need my help? I dunno if I can really measure up now that you’ve got Moltres.” He gave Rudy a sideways glance.

    “You’re not getting out of it that easy,” Rudy snapped, grabbing the back of Darren’s shirt before he could walk back inside.

    Starr stared at us, shaking her head. “So what am I supposed to do?”

    Ajia gave her a soft look. “I’m not gonna pressure you to help us,” she said. “It’s up to you.”

    “If I may interject,” a booming voice suddenly said. I looked up to see Ho-oh focusing its large, amber eyes on us. “If you wish to help your companions, you should say so.”

    Starr stared up at the legend incredulously. “I don’t want to. I want nothing to do with this stupid war.”

    “If that were true, you would not be here,” it said, with a rather matter-of-fact tone.

    “The hell do you know?” she snapped.

    Ho-oh’s expression was calm, unyielding. “My apologies,” it said, stepping back from us.

    Starr’s eyes flickered back and forth between the various Legendaries, eyes narrowing suspiciously. Then she spun around to grab me by the shoulders, and I flinched.

    Please tell me you’re not going to do this,” she said, her voice breaking.

    I stared back, feeling my heart crumple inward. I didn’t want to do this to her. I really didn’t. But I didn’t have a choice.

    “I have to,” I said weakly.

    “It’s this stupid chosen thing again, isn’t it?” she asked, her voice low and cold, but with blades of anger digging into it. “Tell me the truth. You were chosen too, weren’t you?”

    There it was. She’d already guessed, so there was no use denying it.

    I swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

    Starr clenched her fists, muttering various obscenities about the Legendaries. She glanced over at Ho-oh. Then to Ajia. Then screwed her eyes shut with a pained expression. “Then. I’m going with you.”

    I opened my mouth to speak, but she cut me off with, “Don’t say anything before I change my mind.”

    Unsure of what else to do, I just nodded. There wasn’t anything I could say that would make things better anyway.

    “Where are we going, exactly?” I asked, throwing a glance over at the Legendaries. Lugia tilted its head sort of like a shrug and then gave Mew an expectant look.

    Mew put a paw to her chin. <Latias, do you know?>

    At those words, Latias slowly drifted out through the cabin’s front door, eyes glued to the floor. (She must have hidden inside at some point.) Several times, she opened her mouth to speak, only for the words to fail. Finally, she managed to say, “*The Magma building is on the slopes of the great volcano, and the Aqua building is off the northeastern shore. I can show them to you, but…*” Her words trailed off. She stared downward, trembling slightly. “*I should have known about this. My home region is under attack and I didn’t even know. What kind of guardian am I?*”

    I blinked. “Hey, hey this isn’t your fault,” I said, gently touching her shoulder.

    “*This is all so much… I don’t know what to do,*” the dragon cried, burying her face in her claws.

    I flashed a helpless expression at Mew. She flew down and embraced Latias, wrapping her arms around the dragon’s neck, and I took a few steps back to give the two some space.

    For some time, no one said anything. We just stood there, awkwardly avoiding each other’s eye. It was a weird feeling—the first time an imminent Legendary mission had seemed so… personal.

    Ajia watched the two with a solemn look on her face, then turned to the rest of us. “We don’t have much time. Let’s get ready.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    After we got dressed, Mew teleported us over to the main Ranger HQ. It was 4 in the morning, so Ajia first had to get someone on night shift to wake her dad up, then he woke up all the other senior rangers onsite. I wasn’t entirely sure, but it looked like she was having him break the news to the others so that she wouldn’t have to explain to everyone why we even knew about this in the first place. Being on a first-name basis with the Johto commander was hardly something to be proud of.

    My half-asleep brain was still having a hard time processing the fact that we suddenly had to travel to a region clear on the southern end of the archipelago. It was nuts. The sun wasn’t even up yet, and we hadn’t gotten to fully recover from yesterday, and now this? Why the hell did we have to deal with this now? A voice in the back of my head said that was exactly the reason the Rockets had chosen to execute this mission in the dead of night after mobilizing all their troops while the entire region had its eyes on a Legendary attack. It made perfect sense, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood to admit that.

    While struggling just to keep my eyes open, I spotted Starr making a break for the coffee pot, pouring herself a large cup and downing it almost instantly, without even adding any sugar or anything. I wandered over to her, and she must have mistaken that as me wanting to get coffee too, because she poured a second cup and held it out to me.

    “I’ll pass,” I said, sticking out my tongue.

    “I’ll take it,” Rudy said, suddenly appearing from behind me.

    Starr raised an eyebrow, but handed it to him anyway. “Aren’t you like twelve?”

    “I’m fourteen,” he snapped, shooting a glare at her.

    Starr rolled her eyes—it was clear that she didn’t really see the difference.

    “You like that stuff?” I asked, gaping at him as he started chugging it.

    He grimaced. “No. But I think I’m gonna need it.” He did proceed to drown it in sugar, though.

    Ajia broke off from the gathering of rangers and jogged over to us, moving far more quickly than anyone should at this hour. Her eyes held an obvious tiredness though, like she was forcing herself to be more energetic than she really felt.

    “Okay, they’re gonna contact the Sootopolis rangers, have them start evacuating the city. So that’s all good there, I’m gonna see if I can snag some healing supplies for us,” she said, gesturing to a nearby closet. “Something tells me this is gonna be a long fight.”

    Good. The last thing I needed was to be stuck with my entire team incapacitated like yesterday. I didn’t exactly have a stash of revive crystals lying around, given how expensive they were. Not that it would have done much to heal the massive wounds that my team had sustained… although it probably would have helped Chibi.

    Speaking of my team… I glanced over at the healing station and… yes! A ranger had just walked behind the counter. I practically flew over to it, slamming both hands on the countertop and loudly asking, “Is my team healed?” It had been ten hours or so—that was enough time, right?

    The ranger blinked at me in tired confusion. (I guess it was kind of weird for a trainer to be using this facility.) “...Your name?” he asked.

    “Jade Arens.”

    He shuffled through the Pokéball trays behind the counter before finding a tray with six balls, one of them the telltale black experiment ball.

    “Looks like their wounds are closed up, for the most part. They were due for a few more hours on the machine to be back at 100%, but it’s safe to let them out, at least.”

    No sooner had he set the tray down had I grabbed all six balls—three in each hand—and ran outside. All six of my Pokémon appeared in flashes of light, and I found myself immediately inspecting them for signs of damage. Jet, Chibi, and Stygian were okay—they’d gotten off easy. Firestorm and Aros had some raw skin where their wounds had closed up but not fully recovered yet. Swift… looked completely fine. Feathers clean, eyes alert, no sign of what had happened.

    “Are you guys alright?” I asked.

    Swift gave me a curious look while Firestorm stretched widely and yawned.

    “*Still sore,*” the Charizard said, inspecting the wingtip that had been torn yesterday. “*At least we all made it out okay.*”

    Chibi fixed me with a serious look. “*What about the mission?*” Right, it wasn’t like he could ask the rangers how it went.

    “It went fine, Moltres is free, everyone else made it out okay,” I said quickly.

    The hybrid eyed me closely. “*Something’s wrong. What is it?*” Of course he’d noticed right away. I don’t know why I expected anything less.

    “I’m going on another mission,” I said flatly.

    “*Another one?*” Stygian asked, raising an eyebrow.

    “Stalker showed up, turns out that the entire Moltres situation was some kind of BS distraction,” I said quickly, trying not to think about it too much because it only made me feel even more frustrated about the way he’d played us for fools. “Two more Legendaries in the Hoenn region are in danger. I need to know who’s not feeling up to it so I know who’s okay to send out.”

    “*Which ones?*” Firestorm asked, frowning.

    “Groudon and Kyogre.”

    Most of them showed no reaction to the names—stories of the two weren’t very common in our region, and that must have gone for both humans and Pokémon. At least… aside from the Floatzel now staring up at me with starry eyes.

    “*We’re gonna rescue gods now?*” she said, mouth hanging open.

    Ughh, I didn’t want to encourage that line of thinking, but I didn’t have the time or energy to shut it down.

    “Yep, we’re rescuing gods. Big important stuff. Is everyone in fighting shape?” My eyes lingered over Swift. He tilted his head quizzically, and I quickly broke eye contact.

    “*Well I’m fine,*” Jet said, sticking her nose in the air. “*That Gengar’s Thunderbolt wasn’t that bad.*”

    Stygian closed her eyes. “*I’ve had worse.*”

    “*You got off easy,*” Aros muttered, flicking her with his tail fan.

    I stared at the Flygon, unsure of how I was supposed to take that. “So were you wanting to sit out or…?”

    “*Who the hell do you take me for?*” Okay, never mind, I’d just failed at reading him again, that was fine.

    “*I guess we don’t have a choice,*” Firestorm said, tapping his claws together. “*We can’t just let those two get caught.*” He paused for a bit, flame crackling. “*But we didn’t exactly stand a chance in that last fight,*” he went on, grimacing. “*This isn’t just gonna be a repeat of that, is it?*”

    At his words, all six of them looked back at me, waiting for my answer. The answer I wasn’t sure I could give. Of course I didn’t want it to be a repeat of last time, but…

    I swallowed. “We won’t be alone this time, we’ll have the others for support,” I said firmly. “And the Legendaries. They’ll actually be able to help us this time.”

    The Charizard considered me carefully. “*Alright.*”

    So that was everyone. I grabbed their Pokéballs and recalled each of them… and then found my hand frozen when Swift was the last one out.

    “You’re… sure you’re alright?” I asked. It was hard to look at him without imagining that gaping wound across his neck. Even if it had only been for a few seconds… they were some of the most terrifying seconds in my life.

    “*I’m fine,*” Swift insisted. “*You recalled me so quickly that I didn’t lose much blood. And it was a clean slice—easy to mend.*”

    “Okay.” I took a deep breath. “I really don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.” Wait. That almost sounded like—“Not that I’d be fine with losing any of the others, that’s not it at all!” I added quickly. “I just…”

    “*I know what you mean,*” the Pidgeot said, pressing his forehead against my arm.

    I exhaled slowly, wrapping my arms around his neck.

    “*But… I do worry,*” he said, shuffling a talon against the dirt. “*The possibility of losing any of us is a very real one. We can’t pretend otherwise.*”

    I let go of him, glancing away. “I know that. I’ve always known that, I’ve just… shoved it aside. Rudy had to learn that truth the hard way, and here I’ve been hiding from it.” God, it hadn’t even been a full day yet, and here we were marching into mortal danger again. And I’d already accepted it as an inevitability. How screwed up was that?

    “Do you… think maybe we shouldn’t be doing this?”

    Swift paused, mulling the question over. “*It’s like you said. You were chosen. It’s a commitment you cannot back down from.*”

    I rubbed my arms, eyes sliding to the ground. “Yeah, but… the rest of you aren’t bound to that or anything.”

    He gave a patient sigh. “*Each of us has our own reasons for being here. And we’re not going to abandon you in your time of need. This is too important.*”

    I knew that. I’d always known that. And yet there was still that small part of me that doubted it. That worried they were just going along with it because I was their trainer. Even if half of them were the sort to immediately call me out on that sort of thing.

    “*Also, you really shouldn’t have recalled me while you were on my back,*” Swift added, giving me a look like he didn’t know what to do with me.

    I smiled weakly. “I knew one of the others could catch me.” It was still a pretty stupid move, yeah. Just waiting the few extra seconds for Swift to glide down so I could recall him on the ground wouldn’t have resulted in that much more blood loss. But in the moment, it had just been the obvious thing to do.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “We’re gonna have to split up. Have half of us tackle the Magma base and the other half do the Aqua base,” Ajia announced once we’d all regrouped back at the cabin, where we could talk with the Legendaries without catching the eye of every ranger in the union.

    “So, what, me and Jade take one base, you and the twerps take the other base?” Starr asked, with a tone that was trying too hard to be casual.

    Rudy gave her an incredulous glare. “What? No way, the three of us are mission partners, you’re not splitting us.”

    “That supposed to mean anything to me?” she said flatly, giving him an unimpressed look.

    “It means,” Darren cut in, before Rudy could say anything hasty, “that we trained together and our teams already know how to support each other.”

    “Yeah, well, if both of you come with me and Jade, then Ajia’s stuck by herself, and—”

    “Look, our teams are gonna be uneven no matter what since there’s five of us,” Ajia said carefully, giving Starr a meaningful look. “Since those three have trained together and the two of us are more experienced, why don’t we just split it like that?”

    Starr was silent for some time. “Fine,” she said grudgingly, folding her arms and glancing away. Though she hadn’t said so, it was pretty obvious that she was only coming along because she didn’t want me to get myself killed. But Rudy, Darren, and I had faced the combat unit together before. Our teams were a whole lot stronger now, plus we’d have Legendaries backing us up—actually backing us up, not like that crap from yesterday. I’d be fine without her.

    …Somehow, I already didn’t believe that.

    <Now it’s just a matter of which of us should go where,> Mew said turning to face her fellow legends. <Obviously, patrons and chosen will want to stick together, but—>

    “Forgive my interruption, but what of the island where Groudon and Kyogre rest?” Ho-oh asked. “It seems reasonable to assume that the most powerful enemy forces will be the ones preparing to confront the legends directly.”

    Ajia paused to consider it. “Actually, wouldn’t it work best if you and Lugia take that one? You wouldn’t be able to come with us inside the bases,” she pointed out.

    <My abilities will be best utilized at sea anyway,> Lugia said simply. <And separating from my chosen will allow our groups a line of communication.>

    Ajia tapped a fist against her open palm. “Alright so me, Mew, and Starr will hit the Aqua base. Lugia and Ho-oh will guard Sootopolis and make sure no one comes close.”

    Rudy nodded sharply. “Then me, Jade, and Darren will hit the Magma base, and Moltres can be our backup.”

    Moltres gave Rudy a sideways glance. “Time to prove that you’re not all talk, eh?”

    “That’s the plan,” he replied shortly.

    “*What about me?*” a small, high-pitched voice asked. I glanced over to see Latias hovering off by the bushes, her posture small and restrained.

    “Are you… feeling up to it?” I asked cautiously.

    The dragon’s eyes sharpened. “*I want to help. My home is in danger. This is my responsibility.*”

    Mew gave her a soft smile. <Of course. We’ll be glad to—>

    “Go with these three,” Starr cut in, gesturing toward me, Rudy, and Darren.

    I blinked. “Eh?”

    She fixed me with a hard stare. “You’re not gonna have your… ‘patron’ or whatever. And his will be stuck outside,” she added, jerking a thumb toward Rudy and Moltres. “So you three could use more firepower.”

    Latias glanced at Mew, unsure, but the psychic cat gave her an encouraging smile. “*Alright. I’ll do it.*”

    <Very well. Are you ready?> Mew asked, holding out her tail.

    It took me a few seconds to realize that was directed at our entire group, and that this was it—she was seriously about to teleport us to Hoenn. I barely had time to process that reality before me, Rudy, Darren, Moltres, and Latias were all crowded around the tiny psychic cat. I grabbed hold of her tail tip.

    And with that, our surrounding melted into distorted light before immediately reforming into a rocky, sloping terrain. If the sudden lack of trees didn’t give away how far we’d travelled, the stiflingly warm, humid air would have done it. Not to mention the volcano peak towering over the horizon. Smoke gently drifted up into the sky, blotting out the stars, and the moon had long since set.

    And then I saw it. Not too far from us, built into the side of a sheer rock face, was a large, black and red building. A bright red light flashed angrily over the front entrance. From inside, I could hear the muffled sound of an alarm blaring. My stomach curled in on itself. The Rockets were already here.

    Mew stared at the building, concern etched all over her face.

    I took a deep breath. “Go on. The others will need you,” I told her.

    <But…>

    “The situation with the Aquas has gotta be just as bad. Go!”

    She paused for several seconds, then nodded. <Good luck.> Then she vanished.






    ~End Chapter 40~

    Next Chapter: The race for the Red Orb is on.

    ~Chibi~
     
  7. 3DSRed

    3DSRed Alias RedAgent14

    "You can fall in line or step aside, but don't get in my way." -Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 2 (I couldn't resist)

    That's an interesting way to look at it.

    aka Lugia

    Looking forward to seeing the giant battle to come in the next chapters!
     
    Chibi Pika likes this.

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