Legend of the Exile, Chapter 50: Will of the Wild
Sprint to the skies and share your tale
Let light shine past your tattered veil
Know this legend that you made bright
Now listen close and claim your light
He stood on a lonely peak towering above the world, gray stone flecked with minerals. His body ached and his head throbbed; but those sensations were muted, detatched. The blue lines on his body had vanished, his fur tingling where they had been. Behind him lurked the shadows of an ancient forest, its scents familiar and yet long-gone.
Instinctively, he reached for his sword, but it was gone. He turned to see Mew approaching him, her long, whiplike tail waving in the breeze. "Hello, little Raichu," said the Virtue warmly, with large, unblinking blue eyes. "You and Thalia have had a long, long journey."
He stared at the Virtue, her body immaculate and unblemished, no sign of the leaf arrow that pierced her. "I... where am I?" asked Sparktail weakly. He smelled Thalia, almost felt her presence, but saw no sign of her. An alarming thought crossed his mind. "Am I... dead?"
"You are alive, Sparktail—barely alive," assured Celebi as he glided out from the trees, eyes carefree and wide. "From the Dreamer's Perch, one can see all the worlds that once were, and all the worlds that might one day be."
Forest and village, valleys and hills, rivers and seas; this was a Mount Silver that had never known the chill of snow. "Thalia," said Sparktail finally, forcing the words out. "Thalia... Shock... the others..." He tried to sift through blurred memories. "Are they all right?"
"Your fellow Retrievers are alive and well," said Jirachi as he and Shaymin emerged from the woods. "Giratina's rifts are no more. Here we meet, at the world's edge, to consecrate the passing of old to new. We have given our lives, so that the world might continue."
Looking out across the sky, Sparktail saw Elias on Ferricia's back, flying off into the horizon. A lump rose in the Raichu's throat. "Soon, we shall pass into the Void," said Shaymin, padding over to the edge. "And as all who have died before us, we shall return to the Aether, where even Giratina cannot touch us."
The Raichu stared down from the precipice, the world too vast and intricate to grasp at once. Foes clashing in the woods, lovers in moonlit fields, echoing howls of packs; he felt detached from it all. "What did we unleash? Under the temple... where did such power come from?"
"From the world." Startled, the Raichu looked up at Celebi. "From every last human, every last Pokemon who fought and died to protect their homelands. From every battle, every march; every confrontation, every desperate stand. From all who eat of the earth, who drink of water, who breathe the wind."
"When the Orbs shattered, Kyogre and Groudon descended into the primordial chaos that once birthed them," said Mew. "Only then, could they regain the strength that Giratina sapped from them. And only when summoned in a time of crisis, could they unleash their full power at the behest of the worthy champion."
"This was the unseen power that you all fought to protect, that we swore to nurture and instill," said Shaymin, eyes glinting. "The power that once saved the world from the Invaders of old, which each of you struggled to find in your dark hours. That which alone gives meaning to life, the most basic power of all—the desire to continue existing."
The wind began to rise, slowly but surely. "So long as you failed to believe in yourselves, you could not hope to stand strong before your enemies," said Mew. "Thus, your blades were reforged, so that your spirits might too be restored."
Mythic's words. Warrior and blade must be one in battle. "By the storm's fury, by the unrelenting sun, you and Thalia united contradicting forces, and turned then upon the Exile's champion," said Jirachi. "And, as champions in your own right, you invoked the essence of the divine heavens."
Champions? All his mistakes came back to him: every hesitation, every impulse, every missed opportunity. "Dialga said... Slick was your champion," he stammered. "That we needed to be champions—follow Slick's footsteps. But I didn't even—I didn't know what I—how could could I really—"
"A champion is neither wholly civil, nor wholly wild, but both," said Mew. "He who seeks to manipulate the ways of the world cannot embody the natural spirit. But in your desperate hour, you and Thalia bridged opposing forces and opposing worlds, and closed the wounds in time and space."
"You, who were raised by civilized minds, but conditioned to act on instinct, faced the challenge of upholding sentience in the face of feral spirit," murmured Celebi. "While Thalia, who suppressed the wilderness with utter judgement, faced the challenge of accepting that ferocity with civil paws."
His eyes widened as Kyogre's markings glowed a deep sapphire-blue from beneath his fur. "Together, not as two allies, but as one dual entity, you are the worthy champion of Hoenn," said Jirachi solemnly. "The champion who must tame the wilderness. Who must stand above the world."
"This is what the Exile failed to understand," said Shaymin. "This world is far too great to master through brute force alone, for the world shall always seek balance. Truly, Slick had so little of the spirit that he instilled in you and the others. Forever Elite, never Champion; he shall never know victory."
Sparktail shook; Shaymin's words echoed Omega's accusation. Had Slick ever been the master that Sparktail remembered? Or had he only been human to his Pokemon? He didn't cry; but now he wished he could, if only to expel this sadness, this regret.
His eyes widened as Mew's body began to disintegrate. "Cherish every moment, Sparktail," said the Mystic of Hope with a warm smile. "Do not be like the Exile, reborn from hatred into hatred. Embrace life and all of its joys..." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "And you will have peace." With a soft sigh, she closed her eyes, and faded away.
Trembling, Sparktail stared as Shaymin padded to the cliff's edge, fur becoming transparent. "Now, you must be the sword of the wilderness," said the Seed of Prosperity. "As long your world desires to exist, the sky shall always protect you." Lifting his eyes to the sky, Shaymin smiled and vanished into the wind.
It was happening too fast; Sparktail struggled for words as Jirachi and Celebi gazed out over the world from the cliff's edge. "Hoenn is freed, and the Exile is in retreat," said Celebi quietly. "What will you do now, Sparktail? Will you pursue Giratina into the north? Or will you rebuild Hoenn, and restore hope to its people?"
"I... I don't know if I can face Slick again." Aurton-as-Slick, Slick the protector, Slick the trainer; the parent, the brother. Old regrets and meaningless doubts resurfaced. "I thought I understood everything. And then Slick died, and I realized... I never understood anything." He cringed, shook his head. "I just—I wish things were like they used to be."
Both Virtues stopped, and Sparktail blinked, suddenly realizing what he'd just said. "Is that what you truly want?" said Jirachi calmly, taking a wish tag from his headpiece. "There is just enough time to grant one final request. If you wish it, Celebi can turn back time, send you and Thalia into the past."
Sparktail's eyes lit up. He could go back? What if he could stop Slick from dying, from becoming a monster? What if he could warn others of Giratina, predict the apocalypse? What if he could travel at his master's side, play with Thalia as before, live without constant fear of attack?
But then, he thought of all that had happened since. The bonds he'd made. The enemies he'd fought. The cities he'd seen. The skills he'd gained. And in that moment, the Raichu realized that he could never really go back. That no one could truly return. "No... I don't," said Sparktail reluctantly. "That... that's not my wish."
Somewhere out in the world, the Exile was still seething... but his warpath had been halted, his long conquest turned back. Thalia, Shock, Lyther, Rush; Pokemon who were still alive, who made his life meaningful, who would always make it meaningful.
Changing the past—no one really knew how that would reshape the world. Giratina would always exist, would always rage. And though the world had paid a terrible price for Giratina's vengeance, something in the Raichu's heart told him that the storm was breaking at last.
"What I want... what I really wish for..."
The Raichu felt alive inside, a steady current running through his veins. Against the odds, he'd survived the Exile's wrath by the skin of his teeth. He could do this. They could all survive. They could rebuild the world, without erasing the past.
"...is a future."
Both Celebi and Jirachi smiled at him, satisfied. "And a future you shall have," said the Star of Wisdom as Sparktail's wish appeared in glowing letters. "Now, fight well and always—for the world is in your paws." Accepting the wish tag with a shaking paw, the Raichu stared as the duo dissolved into light, and were gone.
Smoke rose from trampled woodland and scarred, grassy ridges. Across the ruined isle of Ever Grande, Pokemon gathered their dead and tended to their wounded, clearing away debris, wandering the wreckage in silence. Old enemies passed each other by, exchanging harsh looks at most, but nothing more.
On the hilltop camp, Lute clutched a charred flower as the Swordians laid Klesr and the other fallen warriors to rest, consecrating each grave with dragon fangs. Behind him stood Roathaus and the full assembly of the Swordwrit, undivided for the first time in twenty-five years. Old and new; as warriors of the blade, all bowed their heads together, and mourned for their fallen allies.
From a high ridge, a Swampert stared helplessly over the destruction, clutching the charred Griseous Orb. "I thought we could win without the power of the gods... that we could win of our own volition," whispered Rush bitterly, looking down at the shriveled, smoking charm. "But I failed to act. I was weak, when I should have been strong..."
The Swampert closed his eyes as Insyte and Lyther padded up the ridge to join him, tufts of grassy turf sticking to her paws. "Our world can be redeemed," said Insyte firmly. "All of us can be redeemed. All wounds, no matter how terrible, can one day be healed."
Far above, Rayquaza wove across the vast, blue sky in a spiraling dance. In the distance, Rush could make out Lugia and Ho-Oh, perched at the edge of the far cliffs, staring out to sea. "Though we call them gods, even they are not infinite," said Lyther quietly. "Even the gods have an end..."
He felt coarse blades of grass under his back, an earthy taste in the air. Sitting up, Sparktail took a long, slow breath, filling his lungs with sweet, clean air. Still clutching the wish tag, he stared around the Champion's gardens for the first time in years. It had never felt so good to be alive.
"You're finally awake," said Latias nearby, watching him with calm, golden eyes. No, she wasn't just Latias; she was the Herald. The one who carried them, watched over them, fought beside them, stood by them always. "Are you all right?"
One paw up to shield his eyes, the Raichu stared out over the glittering sea, the breeze flapping past his ears, his fur humming faintly with the air's charge. "I- I think so," he managed to say. How did she hold so much pain? How had she held herself together? "How long- where's everyone?"
"Two days. Shock and the others are at the temple. Thalia has your sword." Tiny pointed stones formed the garden's edging, ocean waves breaking on the shore far below. Behind Latias, a set of low stone steps led down the ridge towards a side entrance at the back of the Grand Temple. "Want me to fly you there?"
He shook his head and smiled weakly. "No... it's okay." Two days! The world had nearly collapsed in a single hour; every moment felt precious to him now. He looked around the garden once again, green shoots flourishing in the shade of withered trees.
Warm, strong blood pulsed through Sparktail's body, despite the brisk wind filling his fur. In the distance, he saw the mist-shrouded battlefield, somber and lonely. "I suppose I should tell you what I've told the others," said the Herald as they descended the ridge. "You must be curious about... well... me."
Even knowing her true identity, he couldn't help feeling anxious. Why did they always yield to the Pokemon of legend? "Who are you, really?" he blurted out, immediately regretting his words.
She flinched, but quickly recovered. "This is my true form, the body into which I was born," replied the Herald. "From birth, I was my father's messenger, his emmissary. It was... for my dear Cumulus... that I took the form of an Altaria."
Sparktail stopped and frowned at her. In a flash, he remembered the red shooting star on the night of Slick's death. "The- that red star, at Mount Pyre," he said, trying not to sound nervous. "That was you, wasn't it? And when you found us at Floarama... were you watching over us?"
Latias smiled sadly, painfully. "It was... the only thing left for me to do," said the Herald, her voice strained, lowering her head. "I failed to protect my mate, my father. I had hoped... perhaps... I might be able to salvage the legacy of Hoenn's Elites, at least." Fur tingling, the Raichu reached out and gave her paw a small, grateful squeeze.
They approached the Hall of Fame's back entrance, walls battered but standing. The air was cool and stable inside, silent except for his paws and tail crackling against the blue steel floor. Ancient murals, pitted tapestries, tablets with lists of forgotten heroes; on the walls hung the incomplete shreds of Hoenn's long-buried history, its missing chapters lost to the ages.
So many lives swept up in war, around him and before him; survivors, casualties, all warriors. "Latias?" he said tenatively. "Shock said... you knew the Orbs were stolen?" The Raichu struggled for words. "I—even though it worked out—I shouldn't have taken them. Do I really belong—"
She looked him in the eyes, neither smiling nor frowning. "That's enough of that," said the Herald sternly, resting a paw on his shoulder. "Didn't you feel the raw storm that guided your lightning, the parching light that empowered Thalia? The wilderness is alive, Sparktail; and you proved your worth, not by design, but by instinct."
The doors opened with a ripple of static, flooding the room with light. Emerging from the sanctuary, Shock padded into the Hall of Fame, followed by Delia, Fabian, Amber, Wyrn, Ketrail, Lane, and Razor. They were all right! And yet, there was an odd look in their eyes as they saw Sparktail, who stepped back nervously, worried what they thought of him now.
"Battle after battle, you and Thalia wove yourselves deeper and deeper into this conflict," said Latias as Shock stepped towards the speechless Raichu. "From the moment you accepted my aid in Lyther's camp, you allowed your fates to be intertwined with the will of the wild."
Marked by the unrelenting sun. Marked by the storm's fury. Sparktail stared down at his wish tag again. "I'm not sure if I'd call you friend, exactly," said Amber, looking the Raichu up and down. "But it seems these islands matter to you. So we have something in common there, I guess." Next to Amber, Magik chirped eagerly.
"Do you think it was sheer luck, that we faced each crisis at the crucial hour? Luck, that Kusaan couldn't steal what you claimed from Kyogre?" said Shock. "You and Thalia... the feelings that you have, for each other and with each other... The two of you came together as one, and invoked an even greater power."
The Raichu shifted uncomfortably, avoiding their searching gazes. He'd wanted recognition for so long; but now that he seemed to have it, his tail bristled with anxiety, his ears tense and flat. How did Shock know so much? "I wish I knew what I was doing," he stammered finally. "I mean.... If you hadn't... I wouldn't have known—"
"That's right; no one ever accomplishes great things alone, whether for the benefit or the detriment of the world," said the Manectric swiftly. "That's what it means to be a part of the world." His eyes narrowed. "Don't misunderstand; what you did was very dangerous. You endangered the world--and yet, simultaneously, reinforced it."
The charge in the air grew stronger now. "Perhaps Giratina is right about us. Perhaps, we Pokemon truly are savage at heart, until humans taught us civility." Shock looked out to the gardens, to the scarred world outside. "Perhaps there's a part of me that relishes savagery. But that doesn't make it right."
Sparktail stared at the Manectric; there was more to him than he'd realized. "Now, I've watched you for months," continued Shock. "Now, I understand how you fight, how you think." His eyes glowed. "Now, I know you're sentient. That you understand the difference between slaughter and war. That you could step out of hiding... that you could help rebuild this world."
Finally, the Raichu looked at the others—but instead of the hostility of strangers, he saw reserved, watching looks. "I don't see you as a killer, Sparktail," said Wyrn coolly, not quite friendly but by no means hostile. "Still... I wish that someone... anyone... could have been there to save Sheltur."
"There's no way you trust me," said Sparktail quietly
"Damn straight," said Shock. "But we'll trust that we can trust you someday, eh?"
Their expressions... they were the same expressions that Slick or Rush always had when observing him train. Reserved approval, stern chiding. And only now, did he realize just how much he missed seeing that. "E-everyone," he managed to say, paws and tail tingling, staring at the wish tag. "I'm sorry, for causing so much trouble. Thank you... thank you so much..."
The Swampert moved through the flowering meadow quietly, passing Bellossoms and Vileplumes, avoiding the eyes of working Roselias. He could still taste the ashes of violence on the wind. Kusaan was right; he had brought war to this sacred isle.
He blinked. In the clearing ahead, where Kyria's protegees tended to the rows of the wounded, the Gardevoir watched from the shadows of a tall elm tree, humming softly and cradling an egg in her arms. At her feet lay several dozen more eggs, gathered in a neat pile.
Several Kirlias glanced up as Rush emerged from the foliage, steeping into the sunlight. "General Rush," said Kyria, rising to her feet as he approached, meeting his clouded eyes with her calm gaze. "You're not staying here, are you?"
He smiled sadly. "There's no need to call me a general, anymore," said the Swampert humbly, hands open to the air. On the edge of the meadow, he saw Foam beside Heroc, helping the Breloom to sit upright. "I intend to return to Kanto tonight..." He frowned. "But where did so many eggs come from?"
The Gardevoir gently ran her hand over the rows of eggs. "Some were abandoned in haste and fear; others, orphaned by violence," said the healer, watching the three Kirlias tending to the wounded. "And some... were judged unworthy by the Exile."
The Kirlias tended to friend and foe alike, the divisions between Exile and Retriever now erased. Rush gestured to the egg in her arms, a yellow shell with thin brown stripes. "And what story does that egg tell?" asked the Swampert.
She closed her eyes and patted the egg affectionately. "This one was found by Shock's patrol," said Kyria, looking up to the wind. "I will raise this egg as my own. Even in the ashes of war... the faintest ray of hope can give us the strength to go on."
Hope. The Swampert's eyes widened, shifting toward the sound of crashing waves on peaceful, sandy beaches. "Hope can come from the smallest things, Rush," said Kyria, watching the young Kirlias checking on each of the wounded. "No matter how bruised, how weary... we shall always find hope."
The charge in the record hall swelled as Thalia peeked out from the Champion's room. "Hey, Sparktail?" she called nervously. The Raichu's heart leapt as he heard her. "Can I talk to you for a moment? Alone, I mean."
He automatically took a step towards her, then hesitated and looked back to the Retrievers, as if awaiting approval. Amber and Delia both snickered while Shock nodded the Raichu to the door, amused. Smiling gratefully, Sparktail dipped his head to his captain, then ran off down the steps.
Hurrying across the battle-stage, Sparktail caught up with Thalia as she reached the top of the stairs, the sun's rays playing down from the stadium overhead. "Are you okay?" she asked, feeling her heartbeat in each pawstep.
The stairway felt different as they descended this time, less precarious, sturdier, almost familiar. "Yes," said the Raichu softly, his tail swaying, clutching the wish-tag tight. "What about you?"
"I'm all right now." Pausing on the steps, she looked back at Sparktail with a warm smile, though there was a tinge of anxiety in her eyes. "Hey. I'll show you where I've been staying."
In the fourth Elite's room, they passed the black altar, the floor jagged and torn. "The island's a mess, between the meteors and the rifts," said Thalia quietly, gazing out past the collapsed walls, across the scarred battlefield. "The Exile's army deserted him. Enemies... friends... no understands."
Sparktail felt a lump in his throat. "And... the rest of—the others?" He meant the rest of Slick's Pokemon, but Thalia stopped him with a paw before he could clarify, understanding.
"Rush's been quiet since the battle," said the Leafeon. "As for the others..." She told him about Insyte and Scar, Lyther and Manaphy, and Lute and Blusabre. "Omega knew just where to strike. No... Slick knew just where to strike."
She smiled and wiped her eyes, holding back a sniffle, taking a deep breath. "I just... I'm really glad you're awake," said the Leafeon, clutching his paw tightly, trying to hold herself together. "I was just afraid, that you might not wake up..."
Sparktail looked up at Thalia, his fur rippling at the small glint in her eyes. He would do anything to protect her from such pain. "I... I shouldn't have told you to stay back," said the Raichu sadly, reaching out to touch her shoulder. "Not at Lilycove... not here... not ever. I'm sorry, Thalia."
She smiled, but shook her head. "That—that wasn't it, at least, not just that," said the Leafeon, her fur tingling at his words. "I guess I just wouldn't mind if you, well, at least explained what you were thinking, beforehand." Words spilled out of her mouth, a flood of emotions. "But I know that's not always practical on the battlefield, so..."
Taking him by the paw, Thalia led Sparktail over to the destroyed wall, eyes watering but smiling. "I... I still remember there was a time once, when we didn't need words to talk," murmured the Leafeon, resting her head on his shoulder, her breath quivering. "When we knew, from a look..."
He could barely speak, could barely breathe, but it wasn't the familiar anxiety; it was something more subtle, something in the way her fur and leaves and eyes moved. "Because we spent so much time around each other," whispered the Raichu, squeezing her paw gently, looking out to the sky. "We didn't need words."
She smiled. Perhaps they still had that. "I... I know the world's scary," said Thalia softly. "But... if we're going to do this... Don't just shut me up with a kiss, okay?" The words weren't coming out right, but she knew from the look in his eyes that he understood whas she was trying to say. "Keep all your kisses safe... for a time like this..."
He knew what she meant. It was all right to talk to her. He didn't need to, shouldn't need to, was wrong to keep secrets from Thalia with the excuse of protecting her. "I won't be scared of you," he promised, meaning every word. "No more secrets. We'll do this, the right way."
She felt breathless as their eyes met, her heart fluttering. "I... I guess I'd rather hear what's going on in your heart," she stammered, unable to hold back a purr from the edge of her voice. "I mean..." Her cheeks grew hot; he could see a faint red tinge through her fur. "You've always been there for me."
She leaned in towards him, her tail rippling as she felt his warmth. "It's hard to believe that we can wake up tomorrow, and not fear death," said Thalia. "It's like that day when I found you; when we stepped out into that blazing sunset." She smiled at him. "Do you remember what you said, then?"
Yes. One of his most precious memories. He still remembered the look in her eyes. "You were afraid, that you had nowhere left to go," said Sparktail, his heart pounding, his breath growing quick. "And... I said... that you didn't ever have to be alone..."
Looking up at him, she sat back on her hind legs and touched a paw to the Raichu's ribcage, just over his heart. "That's what I want you to know, Sparktail.," said Thalia in a fierce whisper. "You don't ever have to be alone... not ever again."
Overcome with desire, he hugged her close and kissed her sweetly on the mouth, her paws and vines wrapping around his crackling body. "I love you, Thalia," he murmured into her ear.
Her eyes closed with bliss as she pressed herself into his arms. "I love you too, Sparktail," she whispered back happily, gently resting against his shoulder. "Let's build our future... together."
And as they held each other tightly, fur to fur, flesh to flesh, the glowing markings of Groudon and Kyogre reappeared on their bodies, red lines crossing Thalia's back and legs, blue lines spreading out over Sparktail's paws, champions and lovers, two hearts forever united as one.
As the Cinnabar Vulcanites joined him atop the hill, Insyte gazed toward the northeast horizon, to the distant silver mountain where his throne waited. "My king!" protested Torrid as the ranks of Mount Chimney gathered on the slopes. "You mustn't go!"
The golden fur plume on Insyte's brow rippled in the wind, the setting sun at their backs. In the sky, Ho-Oh watched with fierce eyes as a formation of Charizards approached from across the sea. "It's what must be done, Torrid," said the Flareon. "You desire freedom, don't you? You of Lavaridge understand each other, far better than I ever would."
One by one, the Charizards landed on the grass before Insyte in a row. Riding the lead Charizard, Marrow exchanged a smile with Shanala. "But see the deeds you have performed," pleaded the Blaziken. "Don't you know the hopes that we placed on you? We awaited your arrival for decades..."
Moving down the slope, the Vulcanites climbed up onto the Charizards' backs. "I will always be your hero; but not your king," said Insyte, looking back to Torrid, the setting sun's rays playing across his features. "How can I rule Hoenn fairly? How can I properly meet your needs, from across the sea?"
"Torrid," said a low, powerful voice. Startled, Torrid turned as Hephaestus emerged from the crowd, drawing Vulcanite gazes, the earth vibrating with each step. "This is Insyte's wish, Insyte's law," said the Camerupt sternly. "If we truly trust in him... then we will respect his decision."
The Blaziken stared at the Camerupt, shocked. Then slowly, he nodded, and sank to one knee before Hephaestus and Insyte. "I apologize, sir," whispered Torrid, bowing his head low, voice blurred and confused. "Insyte Faldsem... May you find fortune in your endeavors always."
Chuckling, Hephaestus and Insyte dipped their heads to each other respectfully, not as master and servant, but as fellow leaders. "You have fought hard to stay upon this precarious path of light, Insyte," said the Camerupt. "Mount Chimney shall always be an ally of Cinnabar. Go now, young king."
Smiling, Insyte joined Shanala on the Charizard's back. "Cinnabar, too, shall always be a friend of Mount Chimney, in war and peace," said the Flareon, eyes shining blue as he looked up at Ho-Oh. "Take care, Master Hephaestus."
At a cry from the rainbow Pokemon, the Charizards rose up into the air together, wings beating in unison. Silently, Torrid and the others watched as Ho-Oh and the Vulcanites departed for the sky.
"So, we're champions now," murmured Thalia, her breath returning to normal. She held the Raichu's wish tag up to the light as he massaged her back. "Then... Hoenn is our responsibility?"
Sparktail smiled. "There's just one problem," he said sleepily, resting his cheek on her shoulder. "I... I don't know if I can lead. Not like Rush did. Not like Insyte and Lyther will."
Chuckling nervously, she looked up into his eyes adoringly. "I don't think I could, either," admitted Thalia, touching a paw to his soft belly. "I guess... we'll just have to find someone else to do it?"
Cheeks growing warm again, the Raichu gently stroked her leaves, tracing her eyes and nose and mouth. "Shock, perhaps?" he said tenatively. "He seems to understand Hoenn..."
"Maybe he can be what Slick never was," she agreed, laying her head in the warmth of his soft, white neck fur. "I'm sure he'd make the right decision..."
Together, they sat and stared up at the translucent ceiling, tails twined. Once the disused room for the Hoenn Elite, Slick Silversky, trees with crystal lights loomed over the battle ring once more like protective arms, branches framing the glittering sky.
The Raichu gently nuzzled the Leafeon under the chin, and she gave his cheek a small lick, purring. "I never wondered... 'why' Slick died, at first," admitted the Raichu, hugging her close. "I just thought it was... something beyond our control."
"Now... I know his death meant something. And that there are things worth dying for—but even more importantly... worth living for." Looking her in the eyes, he didn't have to explain that he meant her. And she knew, too, that he also meant the vast wilderness sprawled around them.
For he saw now that they'd both come to admire Hoenn, in all of its savage beauty—that they could live the rest of their lives here without regret, without shame, without fear. That some day, they would see every dark corner of Hoenn's isles—every dark corner of their new homeland.
With a splash, Rush dove forward into the sea, leaving his master's homeland behind him.
At the far end of the island, the legendary Lugia waited in a high, churning lake that cascaded down into the sea in a majestic waterfall. "The Exile has shown me my true nature, Lyther," said Lugia softly as the Lucario approached. "Man have called me intelligent; but I am no less dangerous than the ancient spirits of this land."
Stunned, Lyther stared at the Silver Summoner. "Once, I believed that my intelligence made me superior to the ancient Pokemon of these isles," continued Lugia. "But though it freed me from the bonds of instinct, intelligence served to foster pride, to justify my unjust actions."
Removing his cloak, the Lucario shook his head. "That's not true," countered Lyther, all eyes turning to him. "You held secrets from us, because you knew the truth would devastate us. Even Sparktail knows that, now."
The corner of Lugia's mouth twitched. "Such are the justifications I oft repeated to myself, that I might come to believe them," he said, his voice echoing across the lake. "But secrecy is not the answer to painful truth; confession is the answer to secrecy. Some day, all of you shall understand."
He looked out to to the east, toward the Silver Conclave. "But I must seal myself away now, as my kind always has," continued Lugia without sadness, without regret. "The world no longer needs me, as it once did. Some day, it will need my successor. But I, an individual, have fulfilled my duty."
Skarmories gathered on the shore with the Conclave's allies on their backs, the Iron Fleet's ranks diminished but still proud. "In the course of my duty, I raised the spirits of some, and broke the spirits of others. I witheld truths to protect the ones who feared them most. Perhaps I did what was right, and perhaps not."
Securing his staff to his back, Lyther climbed up onto Admiral Ector's back, looking to the other Skarmory riders. "No one is perfect," whispered the Lucario, looking to his followers, to the Meowth, the Linoone, the Ampharos. "You've done as well as anyone could expect."
The Silver Summoner gazed out over the shattered, broken isle that would some day heal from the Exile's scars. "The worthy protector of this world would feel confidence," said Lugia solemnly. "Would feel the courage to act. And would not hide his decisions behind a silver veil, no matter how difficult."
Gracefully rising up from the waters, the Silver Summoner spread his wings to the sky, preparing to fly. "Now, Lyther del Rio," whispered the great Pokemon, his eyes gleaming. "Let us go forth, unto a new era."
Rushing out from the temple's entrance, Shock and Amber stared as the Iron Fleet and the Vulcanites rose up into the sky after Lugia and Ho-Oh, following them home. "Without you, we could not have succeeded," whispered the Manectric as the factions and their patron Pokemon vanished into the horizon. "Thank you, Ho-Oh... Thank you, Lugia..."