Chapter 12: Moonlight Master
The being chose its heroes with care
The Virtues with their spiritual air
The Columns to make the world free
And one for all time to forever see
A Flareon. Insyte had become a Flareon. Sparktail stared blankly at the fiery warrior standing proudly in their midst with blue-gray eyes, whose fur was like rippling flames in the shadows. The Flareon looked both older and younger at the same time: wiser and more mature, but also youthful and bright.
Grinning, Rush lifted Insyte up in a warm bear hug while Lyther smiled and nodded approvingly. Shanala stared at Insyte with unreadable emotions, before moving forward to congratulate the Flareon. But Sparktail held back, not sure what to think now. Tail flicking at the ground, he glanced to Thalia, who looked as bewildered as he felt. "Wow, were they always that friendly?" whispered Thalia. The Raichu simply shrugged.
At that moment, a great shadow swept over them, silver song floating into the evening air, deep and mysterious. The Pokemon backed away from the center of the hill, staring at the the white figure descending from the sky. The legendary Pokemon's eyes were darkest blue, feathers sleek like the ocean and pale as moonlight. Lugia, thought Sparktail numbly, feeling small and insignificant before the legendary's power.
Like a glowing star, Jirachi circled around Lugia as the great Pokemon landed gracefully on the hill. Slick's Pokemon watched with silent apprehension as Shaymin leapt down from Lugia's back, Jirachi landing next to him. "Pokemon of all regions, I bid you welcome to the Silver Conclave," greeted Lugia, his voice calm and grand, his cool gaze sweeping over them. "You have traveled far and wide to reach my sanctuary in these troubled times, O children of Mythic."
He dipped his head in respect, and Shaymin and Jirachi followed suit. Blinking, Rush stepped forward and bowed his head, prompting for the others to do so as well. "I welcome you as well, star-tellers," continued Lugia as Solus and Lunus stepped out from the shadows. "I am honored to receive you both. There is a cave where you may stay, where the moonlit pools shine."
"We are honored to receive such hospitality from the Silver Summoner," said Solus, dipping her head slightly, crossing one paw over another in an elegant curtsy. "But these Pokemon carry the keys of time and space, great Lugia. It is they who you ought to be proud to receive."
Smiling at Insyte, the Espeon and the Umbreon bowed their heads once again, then turned and padded off down the hill. "The world's fabric grows frayed indeed, if anyone can see our light," murmured Shaymin, frowning after the duo while Slick's Pokemon exchanged glances. Then, the Seed of Prosperity looked to Thalia and Sparktail. "Ah, yes; you two. Please, show the Orbs to Lugia."
Lyther's eyes narrowed while Shanala stared at Shaymin; Sparktail and Thalia exchanged mystified glances. "For what purpose?" muttered Rush, eyes darting between Lugia and Shaymin. Only Insyte looked unsurprised as the Raichu and the Leafeon held up the Adamant and Lustrous Orbs.
Lugia's eyes glowed as he saw the gleaming Orbs, and he stepped toward the duo. Feeling that he should say something, anything, Sparktail opened his mouth to speak, but his throat went dry as he saw the Summoner's eyes, vast and dark like the starry sky overhead. "Do they know of the Tanuki?" asked Lugia, his voice deep but audible.
Sparktail and Thalia exchanged glances. "Tanuki?" echoed Lyther, staring up at Lugia, eyes hard and suspicious. Insyte gave the Lucario a stern look—perhaps for being disrespectful—but Lyther paid him no heed. "Tanuki ceased to exist long ago. The legends themselves have been lost."
"All answers will come," replied the Silver Summoner calmly, his wings gracefully sweeping across the ground on either side. "Former allies of Slick Silversky, we live in a time wracked by an age-old war, whose roots have festered for eons. You have emerged from a broken land; you have survived the Exile's wrath. All of you stand on the cusp of destiny; from this point onward, there is no turning back."
Thalia shifted uncomfortably under Lugia's hard, precise eyes, but stood her ground. Images of Giratina's cruelty flickered before her eyes. She couldn't accept a world like that. "We'll listen," said Rush, speaking for all of them. "There's no turning back for any of us." The others nodded in agreement.
Sparktail watched as Shaymin and Jirachi turned around and sat down at the edge of the hill's ledge, gazing down towards the Conclave below. "The story begins eons ago," said Lugia softly, landing on the rocks. "Long before this world of humans and Pokemon, these lands belonged to the Tanuki. Their civilization was bright and prosperous, a shining city upon a mountain."
Now Jirachi took up the story. "One night, the high priest of the Tanuki saw blazing lights in the sky," said the Virtue. "Celestial travelers from beyond the stars. They claimed the world as theirs and invaded, destroying the Tanuki people. Desperate, he prayed to the spirits. On that day, the Original One was born."
Ancient images flickered in Sparktail's head as Jirachi spoke, a long-haired creature prostrate before a white egg. "To defend our world, to save the Tanuki from destruction, the Original One chose eight champions. Three summoned from earth and sea and sky. Two annointed of courage and serenity. Three constructed from time and space and darkness. Thus, the Eight Columns were formed."
"Together, the Eight drove off the invaders, and a new world began," said Lugia. "But Arceus was not satisfied. Fearing that chaos would one day again envelop the world, he named the eight as Columns, for they were the foundation of the world. From the remnants of the Tanuki, he chose four leaders and named them Virtues, for they and their descendants would uphold virtue."
"Six thousand years have passed since the age of Tanuki, but our responsibilities are the same as our ancestors," said Shaymin softly. "The Columns would protect the world from beyond... but the Virtues would protect the world from itself."
"At first, the world needed no protection," continued Lugia. "The world flourished easily without guidance, and we took to reclusion. Kyogre to his trench, Groudon to his volcano, Rayquaza to the skies; Dialga to his tower, Palkia to his rift, Giratina to his chasm; Ho-Oh to his high perch, and I to my isle."
"That is not to say that there was no malice in this world, of course," added Jirachi. "Good and evil, light and darkness, ambition and generosity, resolve and compassion; they flowed freely in the world as in the worlds before it, both as natural as the other, neither in opposition with each other."
"As long as civilization advanced faster than it regressed, prosperity would outshine decay," said Shaymin, nodding. "Honor and institution formed to tame the feral wilderness, no matter how strict such institution might be. Morality were inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. And so, we became accustomed to our vigils."
"But Giratina saw this as a waste of the Original One's gifts," said Jirachi. "He grew restless as the years passed, his claws yearning for battle. He came to despise the advance of civilization, calling it an abberation from the world's natural state. Most of all, he disdained humanity, which had advanced to the point of separating itself from Pokemon. Thus, when humanity arrived in these lands, Giratina brought his rage into the open."
In the distance, Sparktail thought he could make out smoke rising from a forest in thick clouds. "For eons, we had not intervened with humans," said Lugia solemnly, staring out to sea. "We were unprepared for Giratina's attack. He was as cunning as he was violent. Preying on mortal minds, he soon gathered an army of supporters."
"The world has forgotten the wars of its many scars, but tales of Giratina's violence linger to this day," said Jirachi darkly. His wish-tags swayed as he floated up to Lugia's line of sight. "Dialga and Palkia fought Giratina in a vicious battle for the world's will, a War of Legends that cast all lands into turmoil. Dismayed by Giratina's intentions, Ho-Oh and Lugia allied themselves with Dialga and Palkia."
He paused and looked to Sparktail and Thalia. "You would know of these conflicts, for you spent your childhood in those times." Thalia shifted uncomfortably, and Sparktail glanced down at his paws. After many years with Slick, those memories were so long ago that it felt like they were someone else's memories. If not for Elias, he could've sworn that they never happened.
Lugia cleared his throat. "Ultimately, the Virtues, not the Columns, ended the war," said the Silver Summoner. "Upholding the legacy of Tanuki, the Virtues rallied humanity to defend themselves. Humans and Pokemon joined forces against Giratina and cast him into exile. And since that time, our world's foundation has not been eight columns, but the bond between humanity and Pokemon."
There was a long silence. Sparktail stared at Lugia, speechless. Was this the secret of Giratina's rage? An infinite cycle of backlash and revenge? "That must have been a true marvel of efforts," said Rush finally. "To rally the world against its darkest enemy... and not an outsider, but one of your own." Insyte and Lyther stared at the Swampert as he stepped forward, features grim. "Can it be done again?"
"It can be done, if you match Giratina's haste," said Lugia, sharp eyes moving to Sparktail, sending an odd tingle down the Raichu's spine. "From the moment he escaped, Giratina targeted us. Ho-Oh's temples have gone dark. Palkia has been struck down. Dialga has been taken imprisoned. Only I stand against him now."
Sparktail felt as if he was standing on the edge of a cliff. "But on the day when your trainer was slain and Hoenn fell, Giratina claimed a far greater prize," said Jirachi, closing his eyes. "For he took control of the three great spirits of the wilderness: Kyogre, Groudon, and Rayquaza. He has enslaved his fellow Columns, and forced them to ravage the very world that defines them."
"That's terrible!" cried Thalia as she leapt to her paws and advanced towards Lugia and Jirachi to stand beside Rush with widened eyes, drawing startled glances from Lyther, Shanala, and Sparktail. "Isn't there any way that we can free them?"
To this, Lugia slowly turned around to gaze out upon the Conclave, and did not give a reply. "There is... one way," began Jirachi, floating forward to speak in Lugia's stead, his eyes flicking around to each of the Pokemon, hovering sorrowfully for a moment upon Shanala. "But it depends on a single question, a lone test of wills and the past."
"Kyogre and Groudon are intimately connected with the Red and Blue Orbs," said Shaymin quietly. "After all, they seal the power of Hoenn, the untamed wilderness. And yet, you are all Slick's Pokemon; you walk in the footsteps of an Elite." He closed his eyes for a moment, smiling. "Rush, will you go and retrieve the Orbs for which your friend and master Slick died?"
"I'll do anything to stop the Exile," said the Swampert after a moment. "But I don't want to risk everything for a fairy tale." His fists tightened. "Look how many Pokemon fled here. Look how many reject the Exile. Surely, if we could just unite them... we could make a difference."
Lugia's eyes narrowed, but Shaymin nodded. "Such resolve is scarce in these times," murmured Shaymin. "Perhaps, even among this desperate crowd, you can find others who share your will. May the divine wind guide you, Rush." Grateful, the Swampert bowed his head.
Thalia raised her paw. "I'll go," said the Leafeon, stepping forward with narrow eyes. "I saw what Giratina was doing, back in Sinnoh. I saw death... I felt death with my own paws." She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. "I... I don't want that to happen again."
"I- I'll come too," said Sparktail, moving forward to join Thalia. He felt a chill in his chest as Jirachi locked eyes with him, stirring all the fear and anxiety that he'd tried to suppress. "I want to help." The words were hard to form; he struggled to force them past his throat. "Slick... he wouldn't want the world like this."
Rush, Insyte, and Lyther all stared at Sparktail and Thalia. "You must understand, dear Thalia," warned Jirachi. "We are at a crucial point; the Exile's army rises as we speak. We cannot afford to waste our efforts on seeds that will not bloom." The Leafeon went rigid, her leaves quivering.
"And you, Sparktail. Still carrying the memories of the past. Still playing the same role through all these years." Stung, Sparktail backed away from the Virtue and the piercing eyes that seemed to stir up all the anxiety he tried to hold back. "Can you do this? Do you think you can offer what your betters cannot?"
The Raichu looked at the others for support, but Insyte nodded reluctantly while Lyther looked at him pitingly. Thalia stared back numbly, rigidly. Fury crackled within Sparktail.
Sighing, Jirachi closed his eyes. "Even so, light shines from the tiniest cracks," said the Star of Wisdom, wish tags swaying in the breeze. "Go to Hoenn, if you two so desire. Perhaps then, we shall see your potential." Eyes lighting up, Thalia looked at Sparktail eagerly.
"Lyther, Insyte, the two of you have proven yourself hardy survivors," said Shaymin, his eyes shining as he gazed upon the last two Pokemon. "Will you aid Rush's efforts? Will you help to rally the resistance against Giratina? Will you take up the mantle of justice, and help stop Giratina?"
Insyte nodded fiercely as Lyther raised a paw to his heart. "And I'll help too, however I can," said Shanala firmly, though her eyes were clouded with sorrow. Rush gave a growl of approval and cracked his knuckles. "Giratina's crimes... against both Pokemon and humans... are too numerous to ignore." She lowered her head. "Let us fight... for Slick."