Legend of the Exile, Chapter 33: Tell Me The Truth
A blade untouched by victim's blood
The earth is drenched in weeping flood
Fear and hatred brew from hellish heart
This clash shall rend the stars apart
"Slick? But that's impossible!" cried Thalia. Sparktail looked around the Champion's room. Rush, Insyte, Lyther, and the other Retriever leaders stared at Sparktail, stunned. But the shock in Thalia's eyes was the most painful for the Raichu to take in.
Thalia began to pace around. "No, no, this can't be," said the Leafeon angrily, a tear trickling. Her body shook, her leaves trembling. "How can he... how could he? He's a human, too! Even if he liked us more than his own kind... Putting them in camps! Razing town after town! Slaughtering them in dozens!"
Silence. Sparktail's chest constricted. Insyte and Lyther looked down. "It makes sense," said Rush reluctantly. "Slick didn't have that many human friends. Like you said, Thalia, he was never very attached to his own kind. That's how he ended up in Hoenn and Sinnoh, after all." The Swampert's fists clenched. "Just running away, again and again. Could I have saved him...?"
A choked sob from Thalia. "It fits the facts," said Lyther, clutching his spear. "There's no denying that Giratina's behavior turned erratic, even unstable, after Sootopolis fell. Even so... to think Slick's ghost could usurp the body of a god..."
"I wish he was a trick," said Sparktail quietly, staring at the floor. "But..." To think Slick's eyes could burn with such hatred, such misery. But it was Slick, the Slick he remembered. There was a sour taste in the back of his throat. The Raichu glanced up at the others. "He hates us now... our own trainer. In his eyes, we abandoned him. He'll kill us for that, won't he?"
"To claim the Exile's mantle is to take two thousand years of misery upon yourself," said Lute darkly. The others turned to the long-horned Absol, startled. "Do not stare at me like that. The way of the wilderness is untamed and lawless, and no one should ever fear to live so long."
"Why not?" asked Lyther, frowning at the Absol. Sparktail and Thalia exchanged confused glances, while Rush, Shanala, and Shock all nodded grimly. "What are you talking about? What does that even mean, 'the way of the wilderness'?"
"A Pokemon who has lived its whole life beside humans would not understand," said Suicune. "For a wild Pokemon, your life is up to chance. Eat or be eaten. There are no certainties." He closed his eyes serenely. "In the wilderness... your very survival is at the whim of the world."
"Is that Giratina's vision for this world?" said Insyte. "How can you hope to rule over such chaos? Without some sort of hierarchy, even a tyrant may become prey."
Suicune's eyes narrowed. "Giratina's vision? How ignorant," said Suicune coldly. Next to Suicune, Shock shifted uncomfortably. "Such is the natural way of things, without divine providence to unite it. Such is the will of the wild."
Ears drooping, Sparktail slumped to the floor, his head throbbing. A world of endless fighting. The venom in Slick's eyes. Human or not... was this really what Slick wanted?
Thalia stared at her paws. "The way of the wild, huh?" she muttered. She remembered what it was like to be wild. To hunt for prey. So why should Giratina's deeds fill her with such revulsion?
Rush cleared his throat. "In any event, we can't stop here," said the Swampert grimly. "We've pushed Giratina back, but the war's not over. Indigo's still in danger. There's no way the Exile will give up, when he's so close to purging Japan."
"In fact, our situation is as precarious as ever," murmured Lute, eyes narrowing. "Right now, Giratina holds the Four Virtues. Who knows what misfortune may follow?"
"Nay, Lute, the Virtues shouldn't be a concern," said Suicune. "You, Sparktail, and Thalia eliminated Giratina's energy reserves in the Void. Without those, Giratina cannot touch the Virtues' light without excruciating pain."
Sparktail flinched. The Exile's face flashed in his head. Desperation, pain, rage. The betrayal in Giratina's eyes as the light of the Virtues burned him.
"Perhaps pushing north now may be too hasty," said Rush, turning to Ector. "Any updates on the southwest front?"
The Skarmory lifted his head. "The Red Dragon's meteor showers subsided shortly before the attack on Indigo," said Ector. "Scouts over Shioko are keeping watch on Hoenn's coast as we speak, but no major movements yet."
Shock blinked. "Great Suicune, this could be a valuable chance to gather gather recon," suggested the Manectric. "If we can eliminate the Red Dragon—"
Forsaken by the gods; reduced to a beast that took delight in slaughter. No trace of humanity left, yet unmistakably Slick. Sparktail clutched his head. If only he could silence these echoing thoughts, these flashes—
Rush grimaced. "Even with the meteors out of the way, Hoenn won't be easy to reenter. Gastrodons roam the sea, and there's no telling if the wild Pokemon are on our side."
"I'll lead the patrol myself," volunteered Shock. "I've been wondering what's been happening in Hoenn ever since Rayquaza appeared—"
Vulcanites, Swordwrit, Lyther's camp. Elias dead, the Conclave in shambles. Bodies floating in Sotopolis. The Hexwraiths, Altaria's tears, the Red Dragon's claws. Jirachi's parting gaze. Rhyperiors and Mismagii, the weapons of light, Giratina, Slick, Giratina, Slick, Slick, Slick—
Suicune closed his eyes. "Very well, Shock, I shall allow it," said Suicune. "Even so, you may not be able to return so easily—"
"Excuse me," said Sparktail, getting up. Startled, the others looked up as the Raichu turned and walked off, fur bristling with static. Watching in a half-daze, Thalia smiled bleakly as Sparktail left the hall.
Stepping out onto the stadium, the Raichu breathed in the cool night air. He stared up at the night sky, still scarred with streaks of Distortion. Why, Slick, why? How could you do this to us?
He crossed the stadium, the fight replaying itself. His blade striking the Exile's. Ducking low as bursts of shadow darted over his head. The dark flare that flung him off his paws. Slick's furious rants against him, against the others, against humanity. The tip of Slick's blade digging into his neck. The flash of Ferricia's wings. The seething shrieks of Giratina swooping down upon him...
He blinked and stopped in his tracks. Looking up to the sky, he though he saw a red shooting star cross the heavens, once more; quickly, it vanished into the cosmos. But this time, the Raichu was certain it hadn't just been his imagination... Had it really been there? Or was it just another illusion, another false symbol?
He approached the altar at the stadium's front, where the seven Orbs rested in stone indents, forming a circle around the Champion's hammer. The Orbs that Thalia, Insyte, Elias, and so many others had fought to protect. Adamant and Lustrous. Phoenix and Dream.Red, Blue, Delta...
Suddenly, a blur of violet sludge shot past his ear, accompanied by a series of gurgling cries from behind him. His eyes widening, the Raichu quickly dropped low to the floor as anot-her sludge bomb streaked past his head, whirling around to meet the eyes of three Grimers standing in a row before him.
"Griiii!" rasped the three Grimers as they slithered across the velvet-green floor towards Sparktail, their oozing forms wobbling like gelatin. Squirming out of Sparktail's line of fire as the Raichu shot three rapid thunderbolts at them, the slime-bodied creatures advanced upon the electric mouse with sludge bombs and painfully acidic sprays.
How did they get into the stadium unnoticed? wondered Sparktail panickedly as droplets of acid seared at his fur, lashing out furiously with streaks of lightning at the Grimers as he back away. "The sword!" hissed one of the Grimers as it swept a wave of sludge at Sparktail, who gritted his teeth and sprang aside to dodge the violet mud-slap attack. "It's the mouse with the sword! Take him!"
Alarmed, the Raichu hastily leapt back with a backflip as three simultaneous sludge bombs shot from the Grimers' hands and impacted on the ground where he'd stood moments before with a tremendous violet splatter. Reaching for the sword on his back, he stared at his jiggling foes and drew his blade. Narrowing his eyes, he dashed forward and slashed wide to hack through all three Grimers' bodies as he sprang over their heads, dashing their slithery violet insides across the stadium floor with a battle cry.
Landing on the ground as the Grimers' essences spread out in a puddle behind him, Sparktail sank to his knees dazedly, tightly gripping the hilt of his sword and panting heavily in the shadows of the night. The Raichu's heart pounded in his ribcage with adrenaline and anxiety as he stared off into the darkness that surrounded him, breathing frantically and glancing around the stadium in fear, unable to shake the phantom of Aurton Silversky from his memory.
Hazily, he stared down at the sword in his paw, frowning. A weapon of light. A blade forged by Lugia, Ho-Oh, Dialga, Palkia, Groudon, Kyogre, and Rayquaza for the hero of mankind to slay Giratina. The symbol of a champion, of Slick's legacy. A blade of lightning to cut through a world of darkness.
The Raichu gazed uncomprehendingly upon the lustrous sword in his paw that shone like purest crystal. Why hadn't the weapon of light destroyed Giratina, purged the darkness-consumed Exile from the world, struck down Slick Silversky? Wait. Slick had been trying to tell him something, something about his sword and about Lugia, right? A pit of fear opened within him...
High overhead, Sparktail heard the mighty flap of Lugia's titanic wings descending upon the stadium, and he warily turned his eyes up towards the rapidly approaching Silver Summoner, whose silver feathers easily cut down through the evening sky. "Greetings, Sparktail," spoke Lugia as he came to hover before the lightning mouse, with mystical blue eyes that seemed to pierce Sparktail. "Something troubles you, I see?"
"L-Lugia," stammered Sparktail as he stared up at the tremendous winged beast above him, tightening his grip on his sword. His fur shook in the wind as he stood before the divine presence, his resolve faltering, words failing him. "I- well- it's nothing, nothing at all."
"Do not lie; your anxiety brews like the raging tempest," said Lugia sternly as he beat his mighty wings, a wind lifting the night air. The Silver Summoner's voice grew maddeningly calm. "Surely, Sparktail, you do not harbor doubts about fighting the Exile? Not now, when the war has finally turned in our favor? He is still very much dangerous, Sparktail, and he must still be stopped."
"I know," muttered the Raichu under his breath, reluctantly lowering his sword and staring at the ground. What lies have Lugia told you?
He felt sickened to admit it, but Slick had struck a nerve; some part of him hadn't trusted Lugia, not completely. "Did you... know that Slick was Giratina?" he asked finally, staring up at the legendary beast.
To his dismay, Lugia nodded. "But- why didn't you say anything?"
The Silver Summoner's gaze was like hardened steel as he gazed down at the warrior. "It is not your place to decide what must be known and what must be kept secret, mouse," answered Lugia, his voice divine yet cold as he hovered in the sky overhead. "I am the divine light in the darkness, the lone keeper of truth, and it is my right to divulge truth. Who else can claim to understand the will of the heavens as I do?"
The Raichu didn't understand Lugia's words. The nightmarish duels in the last few weeks—the Hexwraiths, Primal Dialga, Slick-as-Giratina, Giratina-as-Slick—had taken physical, mental, and emotional tolls on Sparktail. "I just... I wish I had known who I was really fighting," he said, staring across the dark stadium. "I just wish that- that I'd been able to-" His voice dropped to a hoarse whisper. "...to kill him."
Amused, Lugia gazed down at Sparktail as he rose up into the air. "You thought to use the sword that I gave you to slay Giratina," said the Silver Summoner with infuriating calm, causing the Raichu's fur to prickle. "Do you truly think that sword can slay a god? Let me ask you, Sparktail: Sparktail, Slick's Lightning; Spark-Tail, Ilun's apprentice; Sparktail, friend of Insyte; Sparktail, little Retriever... What sort of light would I be if I gave you the power to kill as you pleased?"
At first, Sparktail was confused; he still remembered the enemies that he'd killed with his sword. But then, he thought back to his missions, and to what he had done, and where his endeavors had led him. "So we're not champions, or chosen, or anything," said the Raichu, staring up at Lugia. "Why didn't you tell us anything? She... no, we could all have died!"
"Do not forget that you ultimately chose the weapon for yourself," declared Lugia above the rising wind, beating his wings. "Your mind is too confined by reality, Sparktail, even though it drifts so easily. Know this, Sparktail! I did not arm you and your allies that you might sow chaos. You have never done more with that blade than I intended you to do, and you never shall!"
"I see," muttered Sparktail, his cheeks crackling angrily. "We were never cut out to be champions, were we?" Turning, he fled the stadium. Slick was Giratina. Lugia had manipulated them from the start. What could he trust now?