Chapter 26: The King of Time
The darkness gave its evil instruction
To bathe Earth in utter destruction
But the Storm rose to save the world
That the future's light might be unfurled
As the sun dipped below the horizon, Sparktail and Lute clung to Kyogre's back, holding their breaths as they passed under a heavily damaged Nugget Bridge. A foul odor reeked from the contaminated ruins of Cerulean City above Thick puddles of toxic waste tainted the once-proud city in the mountains, pools of acid searing wide holes in the pavement and houses.
Hundreds of humans were on their hands and knees, crawling through the sewage and the ruins, weak and desperate and hungry. Every last building in the azure town had been leveled, obliterated, reduced to scorch marks and piles of rubble. "Death has visited this place," said Lute quietly as Kyogre cruised on.
Up ahead, Mount Moon loomed over the tiny waterway, its ancient dome untouched by the war in its shadows. Its basalt surface was as white as the day it fell from beyond the heavens, betraying no sign that a fallen god made its lair on its summit.
Passing a crumbled archway, Kyogre continued around a corner and entered a steep ravine. As the Leviathan reached the end of the waterway, Sparktail could see the mouth of a great tunnel, just a short walk away. "This is as far as I can take you," said Kyogre quietly. "Few have faced the King of Time and won--but few have survived this long."
As he and Lute dismounted, Sparktail glanced back to Kyogre. The Leviathan's eyes were fixed on him, watching his every motion. A chill ran down the Raichu's spine. "Good luck," hissed the ancient Pokemon.
In the shadows of Ilex Forest, Thalia and the Wild Alliance followed the forest's shadowed trails confidently, their eyes shining bright as they passed through the dense foliage, no sunlight to warm the Leafeon's pelt. And yet she felt something mystical in the air, a strange energy she had not felt the likes of since before the Exile's war.
"Johto is a land that has preserved its culture over the decades, a snapshot of traditions in older times," said Shock whe she asked. "Every land has its own legends and stories, of course; but nowhere will you find a more uplifting mythology than in Johto; not in the mountains of Sinnoh, not in the jungles of Hoenn; not in all the plains of Kalos."
The Leafeon listened as Shock told her a story of two bell-towers that had stood in Ecruteak City, a temple decorated with tin as a temple for Ho-oh, and a temple decorated wtih brass as a temple for Lugia.
One day, a lightning storm set fire to the tower of brass, a fire so terrible that Lugia fled into the sea, and three Pokemon perished in the terrible flames. But because they had devoted their lives to prayer, Ho-oh resurrected the trio and anointed them as sacred guardians of the land, protectors to roam the wilderness.
"Each of the three Alphas are direct descendants of those legendary beasts," said the Manectric as the pack continued on into the dark woods. "For centuries, the Wild Alliance has defended the wilderness from its enemies, human and Pokemon alike..."
Historically, Mount Moon had been a dark, twisting maze that challenged many young spelunkers, but the main tunnel had been widened for ease of access since the days of Ethan Gold. The pendant--no, the Adamant Orb--glowed brighter as they continued up the tunnel. At each side passage and crevice, Lute paused to check for any signs of his allies. "Not here," the Absol muttered each time. "But we're getting closer."
As they reached the lush, green meadow on Mount Moon's uppermost summit, Sparktail reached to his back and squeezed his sword's hilt, scanning the sky for Primal Dialga, the Orb on his neck glowing brilliantly. He had never seen the likes of the demon awaiting him, though he knew that River and Saffron had faced it three thousand years ago.
There was an odd vibration in the air that set Sparktail's fur on end. "I can feel it," hissed Lute as he and Sparktail stood in the crescent-shaped field, dotted with blue-petaled flowers. "There's powerful forces at work here, unnatural and alien to this world..."
The Absol fell silent as he and Sparktail noticed a pentagonal-shaped pool of glowing water cut into a round patch of dark-gray stone in the center of the meadow. Surrounding the pool were six unlit tiki torches, each stained with smoke as if they had once burned bright with cursed flame, but were now out.
His fur bristling, Sparktail drew his sword and padded towards the glowing pool. "The lunar gate," whispered Lute, his eyes widening. "It's said that Clefairy tribes dance around this pool under a full moon, hoping to be reunited with their ancestral home."
Clutching his sword tight, Sparktail knelt down beside the pool and stared into the mystical waters at his own reflection, his heart pounding and his tail lashing at the grass. Throat growing dry, he saw that his cheeks had taken on the shape of thunderbolts, eyes a dark sage, his body leaner and fitter than he remembered. A chill ran down the Raichu's spine as he saw his reflection's empty paw where his sword should be. Was this how the others saw him, now?
As the last rays of sunlight dipped below the horizon, an odd ripple swept over the pool's surface--and the reflection changed, emanating a soft aura of mingled reds and blues. In place of his reflection, Sparktail could see a world of floating boulders and darkness, caught adrift in a swirling vortex of shadows.
He swallowed as he saw a dark figure standing upon a field of blue-red stones. Two red eyes glowed in the helmet of an armored creature with blue scales, golden veins, and a crimson jewel embedded in its chestplate. The shadow glared at him with hatred-filled eyes, the eyes of Primal Dialga, light turned to darkness.
Three thousand years ago, two Pokemon had confronted Primal Dialga atop a collapsing tower, a Mudkip and a Vulpix, two Pokemon fighting for the fate of the world. They had stared into the eyes of death, knowing that if they died in battle, the world would turn to dust. But River and Saffron had fought on, not just for their own sakes, but for the sakes of all Pokemon, and for the sake of their vanished friend... Elias.
Sparktail glanced up as Lute gave a shout from the other end of the field. "Another passage!" exclaimed the Absol, standing in the mouth of another cavern, his eyes lighting up. The Raichu stared as Lute poked his head into the tunnel "Roathaus, sire? Is that you?"
As the Absol padded into the tunnel, Sparktail looked back to the lunar gate. Though he'd never seen Primal Dialga before, it seemed fitting that he confronted the monster from his childhood. For Elias, for River and Saffron. For Thalia. Destroy your fears, and fear them no longer. Sheathing his sword, the Raichu took a deep breath, and plunged into the pool.
In the forest clearing ahead stood an old, wooden shrine, an ancient tabernacle with a curved roof. In the shadows of the woods, Thalia could make out a wooden plaque nailed to its front surface. "This is a sacred place to both humans and Pokemon," said an Eevee nearby, his voice faint but reverent. "It is said that the Celebi roam near this shrine."
The Leafeon blinked. "You mean there's more than one Celebi?" asked Thalia, staring at the shrine, trying to read the ancient runes carved upon the shrine's plaque, but to no avail. "What is this place? And... and what do those runes say?"
"This is the Sacred Forest Shrine," replied the Growlithe next to her. "According to legend, after banishing the Exile far from our world, the human hero Aluxiver signed a pact with the leader of all Pokemon, forging a bond between our two races. It is because of that ancient pact that we can coexist with humans."
"Not very well, it seems," said the Zigzagoon next to him darkly. "What with all these wild Pokemon killing humans by the dozen and burning down their cities, I wouldn't be surprised if the humans want to wipe every last one of us out now."
Sparktail fell through the air, the winds of chaos blowing past him. There was a shining square of light high above him, the portal which led back into Reality. Earth and sea and sky swirled around the massive Void which lay at the very depths of the Distortion World, drawing all things towards it.
There were immense chunks of the earth's surface suspended in air, mountains and hills and rivers and waterfalls all revolving around the great maw which greedily swallowed the chaos. Boulders appeared and vanished as Sparktail fell past them, his body disoriented by the unstable and irregular forces of gravity.
Sparktail landed atop a massive, floating stone platform of gray marble and faintly glowing lines. He landed upright on his hind paws, legs folding to absorb the shock from his fall. The faint movement of some ethereal being caught his eye. Sparktail slowly turned around, watching the ghosts of Giratina's countless victims floating in the air, wandering through Distortion for some final rest.
In the center of the platform, Sparktail could see a familiar diamond-shaped symbol. He glanced up to see a great stairway composed of many large, flat slabs of stone hovering in midair, the lowest step floating beside the stone platform. At the top of the steps was another massive chunk of earth, suspended in the air.
He sprinted up the steps towards the floating hill where the beaset awaited him. As he reached the top of the stairs, Sparktail stepped forward onto the giant floating platform of stone. The platform's edges were lined by massive, jagged boulders.
Looming high into the air was Primal Dialga, fallen king of time. His eyes and the jewel in his chestplate were blood-red, the light-blue veins a venomous yellow. Primal Dialga breathed heavily like a wild, untamed creature, bestial and savage. He glared at Sparktail, a gurgle and screech erupting from his maw at once as he stomped towards the center of the massive floating plateau.
With an indecipherable, vicious roar, Primal Dialga shot a beam of blue-white energy at Sparktail. The Raichu sprinted away from the dragon pulse, his footsteps carring him in a circle around Dialga. Sparktail fired a thunderbolt a Primal Dialga as the insane king turned around to face him. Dialga hissed as the lightning struck across his side.
Still turning, he spat a thick jet of dragonflame in a wide arc around him, engulfing Sparktail. Gritting his teeth as the searing pain of his adversary's vicious dragonbreath, Sparktail struck Dialga blindly between the eyes with another thunderbolt as he ran. Dialga brought his helmeted head crashing down with a roar, deflecting the thunderbolt off into Distortion.
His golden veins glowed brightly, and the ground flared up in front of Sparktail. Sparktail skidded to a halt just in time to avoid the earth power attack, the grit of stone shrapnel painfully slicing at his flesh, and then lunged at Dialga, his sword outstretched. Primal Dialga swung around as Sparktail slashed, bringing the wing-like steel plate on his back up to meet Sparktail's sword.
Sparktail slammed a thunderpunch into Dialga's side, ducking as a massive paw slashed at him. He slashed at the ancient dragon's neck as it raked its claws down Sparktail's leg. Dialga lowered his head and stabbed with the prongs of his helm at Sparktail, who leapt back and then sent a Thunder attack into the crimson gem on Dialga's chestplate. Primal Dialga gave a great shriek of agony, an invisible force suddenly hurtling Sparktail back from the dragon to skid brutally against the stone floor.
Sparktail sank to one knee, his body shaking, blade aimed up towards Primal Dialga's throat, the wing-like plate on the fallen King's back began to glow sky-blue. Eyes widening, Sparktail quickly scrambled back as the beast lifted his head to the sky and let out a mighty roar.
Heart pounding, the Raichu stared up into the cursed sky towards the tainted blue energy rapidly gathering above him, his heartbeat like the tolling of graveyard bells, powerless beneath the temporal god's wrath. Every muscle in his body seemed to convulsce, his paws tight as Roar of Time came crashing down upon him. "Thalia--I'm sorry--
The wind rippled Thalia's leaves as the three Alphas padded up to the shrine. "As the legend goes, the sacred pact was written on a pair of stone tablets," said an Eevee next to Thalia, picking up where the Growlithe had left off. "One of the Celebi, known as the Vigiliant Spirit, promised to guard the tablets, and supposedly placed the tablets inside the tabernacle."
The Leafeon's eyes widened. "You mean, they're inside the shrine?" said the Leafeon, staring at the Eevee, incredulous. "Those very same tablets... the one with the sacred pact... they're in the exact same construct that we're looking at right now?"
The Growlithe chuckled. "Pay him no attention; he's obsessed with ancient history," said the hound softly. "The point is, this is a very special place for both humans and Pokemon. And if we're really going to stop the Exile's warpath, then this is a place from which we can draw hope and strength."
"That's enough," growled Shock as Suicune, Entei, and Raikou bowed their heads; the Manectric motioned with his paw for the others to do the same. "You've heard the stories that we pass down to our young, Thalia; now watch, and see how much truth there is to it!"
Suddenly, a blur of black and white fur barreled straight into the Raichu from behind, sending them tumbling head-over-tail to the edge of the platform as Roar of Time blasted the terrain underpaw, leaving a ghastly smoking crater where he'd been moments ago. "Lute?!" gasped Sparktail, his voice barely audible above Primal Dialga's snarl as he rose to his paws, every muscle tightened against the howling chaos. "What're you doing here?!"
"Let's just say, your diversion worked," said Lute as the two warriors stood before the mad king. Pawing at the ground, he lifted his defiant eyes to meet Primal Dialga's furious gaze. "Primal Dialga! The powers of the moon have tainted you and turned you against your purpose. You know that you are a builder, not a destroyer, Dialga! Begone, vile spirit!"
With a snarl, Primal Dialga brought a burst of light down upon the platform, obliterating it. Blades raised, Sparktail and Lute sprang off the edge and onto a floating boulder streaking past them, then onto another, from slab to slab they raced as Primal Dialga chased them across civilization's graveyard. Racing up the side of a floating skyscraper, Sparktail hissed as his paw sank through a window, recieving nasty cuts from the glass on his paw as he pulled himself free and raced after Lute. All the while, hatred and senseless wrath churned in the form of Primal Dialga behind them, tearing up the skyscraper into glass and steel in wanton destruction.
"Enemies... all of you... forever cursed!" roared the beast as Lute and Sparktail landed in an uprooted forest clearing--and began to fall sideways, as if on a treacherously lethal hill-slope. "Forever... cursed! Never free!" screamed Primal Dialga, erupting with dragonflame beneath the duo as the long-horned Absol grabbed Sparktail and sprang off. The Raichu's mind was numb as Lute sprang from spur to spur of rock, each more treacherous than the last. "ALl things die... Die! Die! DIE!"
Sparktail yelped as he and Lute collapsed on a large square platform, hitting the ground and winding him while Lute easily sprang to his paws. Coughing and gasping, the Raichu rose to one knee and drew his sword, the dead skies above and below filled with a black light, a gleaming shadow, a pair of blood-red eyes that sent terror down Sparktail's spine. Swearing, he and Lute scrambled out of the way as Primal Dialga crashed down in the center of the square stage with a bloody cry.
Hearts thrashing, Sparktail and Lute staring at the murderous beast, the fallen king snarled to the darkened heavens. "Time... TIME!" " snarled the beast as he chased the pair with bursts of flame, eyes ablaze, the platform shuddering and cracking-ever-so-slightly beneath Sparktail's paws. All things one... All things cursed... CURSED! CURSED! CURSED!"
"Thunderstorms, hurricanes, eruptions," cried Suicune, pawing at the ground and raising its white muzzle to the covered sky. "We three lords, who wield the powers of the elements in our paws, have answered the cries of the Silver Summoner and brought forth the Wild Alliance. Come forth, divine spirits of the corners of the universe, and aid us now in our battle!"
Thalia watched as each of the hounds' bodies began to glow with the colors of their fur. The three stepped back four paces with perfect unity, a glowing white ring of light materializing to connect them in a perfect circle. Suicune, Entei, and Raikou sat back on their haunches and raised their muzzles towards the canopy-obscured sky.
The forest shook beneath Thalia's paws as the three Alphas let loose a unified howl. Out of the corner of her eye, Shock and the Growlithe both cringed as the faint tremor swept under them, and the runes on the forest shrine's plaque glowed with green energy.
The Leafeon frowned as she felt heat radiating from her pack, and she chanced a peek back over her shoulder to see the Lustrous Orb's pale pink light flickering from the corner of her bag, pulsating. Tugging the leather flap down, she kept her head low, hoping that no one would notice the faint hum of the crystal sphere.
At that moment, there came a great roar in the distance, far beyond the darkness of the woods. Startled, Thalia and the other Pokemon glanced up to the sky, beyond the treetops on the clearing's edge, to the titanic figure rising in the distance, beyond the woods and the foothills. "Look! The fallen Sovereign has risen from death," whispered Ketrail, pointing with a paw towards the mighty figure who cast a shadow across the lands.
They stared at the massive dragon, whose scales were like with two round pink crystal spheres embedded in its elbow plates. The dragon's claws were perfect spikes, each claw's tip so piercingly sharp to snag the threads in the fabric of space itself. As the Alphas reached the conclusion of their ritual, offering their prayers heavenward, the Wild Alliance rose to their paws, preparing to march eastward after Palkia, resurrected Sovereign of Space.
"Sparktail! We haven't much time before this thing shatters!" barked Lute as the entire platform shook. "We've got to free Dialga!" Blinking, sword raised, the unnerved Raichu followed the Absol's gaze to the crimson jewel on Primal Dialga's chest. "Aim for the chest! NOW!"
Blades raised high, the duo lunged at Primal Dialga, who knocked Sparktail aside with a swipe that left his head ringing as Lute slashed at Dialga's flank. No time to think about Thalia--sparks shot from his cheeks and struck Dialga's helm before psychic force flung him away. Rushing again with a spiraling leap to slash at Dialga's throat, Sparktail's blade clanged off the neck-plates.
Lute blocked a paw and spun with another block before slicing underneath the King of Time's paw. His fur grew soaked with sweat beneath the heat of dragonflame as he slashed towards Dialga's chest-plate again and again, his stomach churning as the platform continued to shake, the glowing-blue cracks slowly widening as the clash drew on.
Gasping, head ringing, he ducked as another paw swept at him, dropping low and rolling aside as brutal paws thrashed at him from every direction, his blade glancing off Dialga's armor. "Got to--do this--for Thalia-" swore Sparktail through clenched teeth, tail lashing at the crumbling ground, rolling aside as a column of light shot down from the sky and blasted the ground where he'd stood moments ago.
As Sparktail and Lute raced at Primal Dialga again, the entire platform suddenly began to collapse beneath their paws, pieces and chunks sinking beneath the Raichu's weight as they lunged once more at Primal Dialga, whose eyes burned red as he summoned down another Roar of Time. With battle cries, Lute and Sparktail sprang up, and together thrust their blades into the crystal on Dialga's chest.
Time came to a standstill as sword and horn shattered the gemstone and elicited an excruciating screech from Dialga's maw, the senseless chaos of Distortion seeming to slow all around them. Freezing in mid-stab, Sparktail and Lute exchanged glances as the entire world began to flicker to black and white, the vast swathe of senseless color turning to gray. The storm brewing within Sparktail throbbed harder than ever as the wild gale nipping at their pelts died, the cold drab platform no longer crumbling underpaw, his sword and Lute's horn still buried in the center cavity of Dialga's chestplate.
Primal Dialga's eyes erupted with burning red outrage, screaming and spitting and snarling as its tainted soul was pierced, and the duo struggled to hold the king still so that it would not rip Lute's horn from his head. Then, howling in agony, Dialga's entire body went rigid as the cavity in its chestplate began to glow with streaks of blinding light that stung Sparktail's eyes as he and Lute quickly pulled out their blades.
As if sensing its owner's pain, the Adamant Orb in his bag began to throb and pulse. His body aching from the dragonflame burns, his fur ragged and torn, the Raichu sank to one knee beside Lute, chest heaving for breath as blue-white energy flowed from the Adamant Orb into the chest cavity. The tainted golden veins on Dialga's flanks and helm began to glow as well, flashing white with sheer power that Sparktail couldn't bear to stare at, flashing brighter and brighter and brighter--
At last it burst into a mighty geyser of light up into the shadowed heavens, unleashing a bright shockwave that engulfed Sparktail and Lute both, exploding with waves of color that drove out the cold monochrome of time-stasis, spurring the untamed winds and the churning hell-pits into their chaotic motion once more--and guiltily, Sparktail had never been so relieved to see chaos and destruction, if only it meant time still moved...
When the light finally cleared, and Lute's eyes were no longer dazzling (Sparktail being more accustomed to bright lights, as a Raichu) the two warriors shakily rose to their paws, found themselves staring at an unconscious-but-unmistakably-alive Dialga crumpled on the platform floor, his chest rising and falling steadily with breath. The veins and tribal markings had been purged of their gold luster; they now shone purest sky-blue. "He--he's free," breathed Sparktail, lowering his blade, staring at the pristine gem in Dialga's chest--
**A golden silouette appeared in the sky overhead, its face like the full moon, its wings translucent pink like the delicate rings of Saturn herself. Gilded flesh and azure eyes were intertwined in the mysterious spirit's soul, and enchanting melodies flowed forth like golden honey, calling the Raichu towards the ether, to forsake the cruelties of the flesh, to embrace the void of eternal light. Sparktail cried out and tried to raised his sword as the golden being descended upon him, but his sword had vanished and he was exhausted, and there was no hope, no hope at all...**
Suddenly, the entire platform lurched, and both Lute and Sparktail froze. "No!" shouted Lute as the edges of the rock stage began to crumble, collapsing into dust all around them, swiftly approaching their paws. Eyes widening, Sparktail and Lute scrambled back until they backed up against Dialga, the stone quickly disintegrating. "Damn, damn, damn-"
Then right as the stones beneath Sparktail's paws began to sink, the remnants of the platform underneath suddenly flashed with pale blue light and locked into time-stasis again. Going rigid, Sparktail and Lute glanced back over their shoulders to see Dialga standing tall and proud, everything glowing bright with blinding radiant light.
The King of Time's eyes were powerful and hard as the spellbound warriors stared back up at him blankly. With a shudder, the platform shifted slightly, and began to rise up towards the light-blue window in the magenta skies.
"Hear me, warriors of the Conclave," declared the King of Time, his voice growing in strength as they ascended. "I stand before you today as a reborn god, shining star of time, fallen from the sky. From this day forth, I stand freed at last from the Adversary's hold; and once again shall the river of time be my right!"