Legend of the Exile, Volume III: The Legends Rise
Chapter 21: The War Rages On
Abandon not, O glorious warrior-king
Your subjects left behind in darkness
They await your shining torch of liberty
And long for the day of peaceful dawn
Rush couldn't remember having seen the skies so clear in a long, long time. From the rocky beaches of the Silver Conclave, the Swampert stared out across the sea as Insyte, Thalia, Sparktail, and several others packed their leather satchels--courtesy of Shaymin, to replace Thalia's vine-bags. As his old allies prepared themselves for the missions ahead, the great warrior thought back to the days of old, to those eight years he had spent at Slick's side, the trainer's first and greatest Pokemon of all.
He remembered peaceful afternoon conversations around a crackling campfire, passing out berries to the others. He remembered the glory days of Slick and the laborious struggles of the would-be champion, his hopes and his dreams. The Swampert swore on his dead trainer's body that he would be the commander that his old master had been.
"You all know your proper missions, correct?" said the warrior as he strode up and down the Skarmory line, his eyes bright. All nodding in unison, Sparktail, Thalia, and Insyte took their places by their respective Skarmories. "Good... . Any last thoughts?"
"No," replied Insyte confidently. Sparktail shifted uncomfortably, then shook his head. But Thalia looked down at her paws uncomfortably, then padded over to the Swampert. "Rush?" she began hesitantly, her voice quavering. "I kinda have a question."
Rush chuckled. Time travel or not, Thalia would always feel like the youngest member of his family, the innocent-but-naive little sister who always asked him for advice. "Go ahead, Thalia," encouraged the Swampert.
The Leafeon looked back to Sparktail--who was out of earshot--then back to the Swampert, looking embarrassed. "It's sort of a really personal question," began Thalia nervously. "Umm... have you ever been in love? Like... with your best friend?"
Rushing River was thoroughly taken aback. What sort of question was this? "Only once," replied the warrior gravely, glancing between Thalia and Sparktail, his golden eyes narrowing. "Thalia. What is going on?"
The Leafeon gulped, then reddened even more. "I'm not sure," said Thalia, quailing. "I... I used to be able to talk to Sparktail about this and that, and then something happened, and I can't talk to him like before, and..."
She trailed off, her head drooping so that Rush could barely hear her. "I think I might like him... a lot... as more than just a friend. He once promised not to go too far, but I... I kinda want him to."
Just out of earshot, Sparktail frowned at them, but Rush paid him no attention. "Thalia," said the Swampert gently, patting the Leafeon as she looked at him with confused, worried eyes. "Don't be afraid of your emotions. Everyone goes through this once in their lives. Listen to yourself. You sound like a wreck. Don't be sad for this. Be happy. Love isn't supposed to be sad. It's supposed to be happy."
But Thalia only looked more confused. "I can't talk to him about this," she whispered, looking back to Sparktail worriedly. "What if he doesn't understand? What if he doesn't feel the same way?" She looked down at her paws. "What if he just becomes afraid, and pushes me away?"
The Swampert's eyes narrowed. "That's enough," he said firmly, looking her in the eye. "What good is love, if you keep it to yourself? What if one of you should die, never knowing the other's feelings? He deserves to know, Thalia."
Out of the corner of his eye, Rush could see Sparktail looking back to Thalia worriedly. Just a little longer, Sparktail, thought the Swampert. "Take a chance," he urged the Leafeon. "Talk with him. It doesn't have to be now--but you'll have to tell him soon. All right?"
Thalia still looked uncertain, but she nodded reluctantly, and returned to her Skarmory.
Smiling, Rush watched as the three--Sparktail, Thalia, and Insyte--mounted their respective Skarmories. "Do you think they will succeed?" asked Lyther, joining the Swampert, watching as their allies flew off into the horizon. "They are brave, but they stand against many."
There were so many Pokemon out there in the world, in the forests and the fields, by running waters, on rocky slopes, more Pokemon that the Swampert would ever be able to count. All it took was a hero, a symbol, an example, a role model; and the rest would follow like a roaring wave.
Chuckling, the Swampert looked back to the Lucario. "They know what they're doing," replied Rush, patting Lyther on the shoulder. "They're far more than the average wild Pokemon, after all. I've known them for years and watched them all grow, and I'm confident that they'll do what must be done."
From the observation deck of the Goldenrod Radio Tower, Johto's Champion Ethan, known as Gold, watched the Houndooms and their savage dance around the burning train station. His Feraligatr and his Typhlosion stood on either side of him, while his Meganium was behind him, its head leaning over Ethan's shoulders.
Ethan stared as smoke from the train station passed the observation deck on his right, brushing the glass walls but not affecting it. What could Ethan say in his final moments of life, to Johto as a whole? In these last few minutes before he died, could he offer Johto some final hope against Giratina? Could he make a difference?
Ethan reached for the microphone which lay in its stand before him. He took the microphone and raised it to his lips. "This is Gold, the Champion of Johto," he began. Ethan shook his head. "No... that's not right. My true name is Ethan. I grew up like any of you, a young boy in a world of Trainers and Pokemon. I admired other Trainers, and sought to follow in their footsteps. And soon, I surpassed them as 'Gold.'" He paused.
He paused. "'What is Johto? We are an old civilization in a changing world, yet we take pride in who we are. In each and every city and town of the Johto region, people preserve the ancient traditions that we have always lived by. From father to son, from daughter to mother, we pass down the legends of ancient times. We are a people who draw our strength from our roots."
"Do you remember the story of the Burned Tower? How three Pokemon perished in the wreckage of a terrible fire, but were raised from the grisly ashes, stronger than before? We are a proud, undying people. We are Johto; and we cannot, will not die. Even if this is my final hour... know that I still live, that you still live, in the hearts and minds of our descendants--"
A massive thunderbolt blasted the radio tower, the windows shattering all around the young Champion, the lights overloading and bursting as Zapdos descended from the sky with a piercing shrill screech. Flashing cyclones of lightning flew from the great bird's wings, ripping through the earth and tearing up the streets beneath the shrieking people below.
Lifting the black-and-gold baseball cap from his head with a shaking hand, Ethan crawled on his hands and knees over to the edge of the observation deck, staring down towards the mayhem unfolding below, cracks forming in the mighty skyscrapers surrounding him.
Breathing hard, Johto's finest Trainer stared in wordless shock as Zapdos rushed upon him with a gleaming beak and razor-sharp feathers, its wings brimming with light more dazzling than any human lamp. Wayward lightning bolts flung Ethan into the air as the furious avian crashed into the observation deck, shrieking like a banshee, thick jets of electricity streaming from its body until the Radio Tower's spire exploded into sizzling light.
Thalia could feel the weight of a week's worth of rations in the leather bag on her shoulders as she trudged up the beaches of Route 40. She glanced up at the sky to the Skarmory who had dropped her off on the beach, and then continued onwards towards the abandoned Olivine City. With each thump on her flank that she felt, Thalia was reminded again and again that she was alone on this journey.
Well, not entirely alone, she thought to herself, a vine tapping her two new swords, stored safely in a pair of scabbards lashed into an X on her back. One of the swords was blue and the other one was red, but they were about the same length, a little longer than a leaf blade. They were also better for cutting than stabbing. Coiled in one of the Leafeon's vines was a map of the Johto region, marked on the places where significant coalitions of the Wild Alliance were said to be gathering.
The Wild Alliance gave her the chills. She didn't know a whole lot about it, being that it was composed of wild Pokemon, and she really hadn't spent a whole lot of time learning about wild Pokemon society. According to rumors, the packs of the Wild Alliance were so fierce that they were the main reason that human parents always warned their children not to wander into tall grasses.
It scared the Leafeon a little to think that she was going to be dealing with these sort of ferocious hounds. But compared to Insyte's and Sparktail's missions, her task didn't seem too hard. She just needed to go around and help recruit wild Pokemon who didn't like Giratina. Simple, right?
Thalia entered the abandoned city, looking around warily. Up on the bluffs in the east, she could see the silhouette of the once-proud Glitter Lighthouse. The marketplace lay deserted and empty, the wares abandoned or washed out to sea. Olivine City's famous harbor was smashed to pieces, with the bows of the SS Tidal and the SS Aqua poking up out of the foaming waters.
There was a slender hiss behind the Leafeon, and she whirled around to stare as an Arbok reared up over her, its eyes dark red, its fangs white like cracked bone. Eyes wide, Thalia stumbled back as the leering cobra advanced on her, the vivid red-yellow-black pattern on its torso twisting and shifting with every movement of its coils.
Just then, a burst of thunder erupted from behind Thalia, streaking past her and blasting the Arbok, reducing it to a sizzled corpse in seconds. "Now, now, what have we here?" growled a voice. Startled, Thalia turned around to see Shock approaching, followed by a Zigzagoon, a Wartortle, and a Zangoosem
"Sheltur, check for survivors," ordered the Manectric, motioning with his muzzle to the other Pokemon. "Ketrail, run back to the cave, tell them what we found. Zangoose, you're with me." Nodding, the Wartortle and the Zigzagoon ran off--the Wartortle inland, the Zigzagoon towards the lighthouse. "As for you, Leafeon boy--"
Thalia's cheeks went red. "I'm a girl," she protested, stepping back as the Manectric and the Zangoose approached her with stern, predatory eyes, sand crunching beneath their paws. "What's all this? I don't understand--"
The Zangoose made a throat-slitting motion with one claw, and Thalia went silent. "Doesn't smell like the Exile's, but you never know," muttered the Zangoose, sniffing at the Leafeon's pelt. "Shock, there's something else. Something metallic--"
"I came from the Silver Conclave," said the Leafeon, frowning at the Manectric and the Zangoose. They thought she might be an Exile soldier? "Hey, Shock. You're that one dog, right? From Turnback Cave. You helped break us out of there."
The Manectric's eyes narrowed. "So, you all got past the storm walls safely," said the electric hound coolly. "Just in time for the fireworks to blow this world to hell. Well, miss Leafeon, I don't believe I ever got your name. Or are you maybe a spy, disguised as a fugitive?"
"I'm Thalia Leaflight," said Thalia, her fur prickling beneath their gazes, listening to the steady slosh of ocean waves against the murky beach.Later, when this was over, it would just be a story to laugh over with Sparktail. But for now--what was she getting herself into? "I swear, I'm not a spy. Listen--the Conclave was attacked--"
Frowning, the Manectric motioned with his head for the Zangoose to step back. "Captain Shock of the Wild Alliance," said the canine, his voice not quite a growl, his gaze relaxing slightly, though his voice still carried a hint of suspicion. "You look several years older. But I guess we all do--"
"Sir! The Tentacruels are attacking again!" shouted the Wartortle, sprinting up the beach towards them. Her leaves rippling, Thalia glanced out to the frothing, polluted sea, the skies dark overhead as glowing red gel-sacs bobbed on the surface of the ocean.
Shock's eyes flashed as the Wartortle joined them. "Where are the others?" barked the Manectric, eyes scanning the stormy shore. "Everyone, get back to the cave!" He glanced to Thalia, looking half-apologetic, half-suspicious. "You, come with me. Suicune'll want to see you!"
Thalia gulped as she and Shock reached the top of the steps, the darkened lighthouse looming above her, Pokemon emerging from a cave at the base of the bluff. Down below, the sea frothed and churned, the steady hiss of Tentacruels breaking the surface of the oceans, advancing upon the abandoned harbor city.
At the end of the ledge stood Suicune's magnificent form, his long indigo mane flowing out behind him in the rising wind, white ribbons streaming like the peaks of white foam in the hungry sea below, his radiant blue head-crest bright against the bleak sea-scape... "Sire," said Shock, padding forward. "I bring you a Leafeon from the Conclave--"
Suicune turned to look at them, his piercing gaze catching Shock and Thalia off guard. "Indeed, not a hostile," said the great beast, gesturing with his head for them to join him at the cliff's edge as the Pokemon from the tidal cave gathered along the beach below. "Come, and I will show you a hostile!"
Thalia felt her heartbeat picking up as she approached the edge, eyes staring out to the black-and-grey clouds churning overhead until her eyes could not distinguish them, the Tentacruels approaching the shore to face Shock's patrol.
There was a deep, rolling rumble, and the three Pokemon dug their paws into the rocks as a great whirlpool began to form in the middle of the bay, drawing the waters down into a swirling vortex. Eyes wide, the Leafeon stared as a Wailord rose up and out of the oceans from the heart of the great vortex, sending massive rolling waves that crashed against the shore, drenching the Pokemon on the beaches as the Tentacruels rose out from the sea.
Confused, afraid, Thalia stared in terror up towards the monstrous whale towering above the cliffs from the sea, the impossibly massive Pokemon in the sea who dwarfed houses and islands in its shadow, stirring images of man's greatest supertankers as it scanned the sea with dark, forbidding eyes. Every swish of its great tail tore up the seas
"Thalia, you said you came from the Silver Conclave," shouted Suicune above the Wailord's bellows, his icy-blue eyes narrowing as Pokemon battled the Tentacruels on the beaches below. "I ask--have you ever faced the likes of such a beast?!"
The Leafeon whirled around to face the magnificent dog. "No sir, never," gulped Thalia, staring incredulously at Suicune. "Usually I'm running the other way..."
There was a dangerous gleam in the azure Alpha's eye. "Wonderful! Because it's never too late to start learning," said Suicune grimly. "You'll be helping me take this beast down, girl. Now listen up! You too, Shock!"
There was a roar as the Wailord crashed into the remnants of the pier, smashing it to bits. "Both of you, turn around and look up to the top of that lighthouse," said Suicune, white ribbons dancing across his flanks.
Blinking, Thalia turned to stare up at the tower's spire, towards the darkened glass panes at the lighthouse's top floor. "There's usually an Ampharos who generates the light. Unfortunately, when Olivine fell, Amphy fell ill, and eventually died. You two will climb that tower and use it to hit Wailord with a focused burst of light. Got it?"
Shock bowed his head to Suicune. "With all due respect, sir, I can accomplish this on my own," said the Manectric, his hard blue eyes darting to the Pokemon struggling on the beaches below. "I have no need for this Leafeon!"
"It takes two to operate it," replied Suicune, turning back to face the edge, watching as Wailord smashed forward into the shores, the houses nearest to the gargantuan collapsing. "You will be the power source, while Thalia adjusts the glass panes! Do you understand--"
The dog broke off as Wailord's tail struck the base of the cliff, the force sending Thalia reeling to her paws, cracks forming in the bluff all around them, the lighthouse creaking behind him. Alarmed, Shock stared up as cracks formed in the tower's side. "I will distract him," breathed Suicune. "Get up top before he wrecks the tower!"
Letting out a how, Suicune leapt off the cliff and landing neatly on the water. Hurrying to the edge of the cliff, Shock and Thalia stared as the Alpha broke into a run over the water's surface, his paws dancing across the churning sea, sprinting over the rolling waves, down troughs and up over dark rolling peaks.
Heavy wet raindrops sloshed down from the skies, waves crashing down on the shore below. "Ketrail! You all right?" called the Wartortle as an icy torrent burst upon the beach, shoving the turtle and his allies onto their backs. "Ketrail? Where are you?"
A few feet away, a brown furry head poked out of the soup-like mud, globs of wet sand falling from the Zigzagoon's fur and whiskers. "Still alive, sir!" replied Ketrail as he pulled himself up out of the sand, shivering and grinning weakly.
The wind swept through the cracked tower as Shock and Thalia sprinted up the spiral stairs towards the lighthouse's top, frantic paws against damp stone steps. All the while, heavy wet raindrops pounded against the cracked tower walls, the steady drip of falling moisture from ceiling to floor, the air thick and stagnant and yet chilling at once.
Streaking across the ocean, Suicune leapt from the peak of a wave past a Seaking, his crystal headpiece cutting straight through the great fish's horn. With a swish of his head, the magnificent warrior deflected an octazooka shot straight back at an Octillery, sending it plummeting down into the sea. And all the while, the legendary beast sensed the thrash of Wailord pursuing him, always ten yards behind.
At the lighthouse's peak, the powerful wind hammered Thalia and Shock, assaulting them with icy cold rain, drenching their pelts, pressing their fur flat against their bodies. Half of the roof was torn open to the storm-wracked skies, exposing them to the fury of the elements as the battle raged in the seas below.
In the middle of the room, beneath a ring of glass panes, there stood a wired pedestal on which lay the emaciated, shriveled body of an Ampharos. "Thalia! Search the room for the controls," shouted Shock as he darted forward to drag the great sheep's body down from the pedestal. "Rest in peace, brave Amphy--"
Lightning ripped across the sky from the east, splitting the storm-clouds in a blinding flash before the heavens crashed together once more. Slamming a hind kick into a lunging Sharpedo's jaw, Suicune whirled around as the dark oceans heaved behind him, Wailord's monstrous form rising high above the great beast, water sloshing back into the whale's massive jaws.
Wrapping her vines around the handle of a large winch, Thalia gritted her teeth, set her paws on the steel bar, and turned the handle as best as she could. Shock's eyes narrowed as rectangular lenses and mirrors lowered from the ceiling in a ring around him, each angled perfectly to catch the slightest speck of light and magnify it tenfold.
With every sweep of the Wailord's tail came a frigid, rolling wave that struck the beaches and sent the Wartortle and the Zigzagoon reeling to the ground, the wet swish of Tentacruel barbs swinging with their every move. Dropping to one knee, the Wartortle swung around to smash his armored back against a red gel-sac, which burst beneath his shell and splattered across the sand.
Retracting her vines, the Leafeon grabbed a lever and pulled until it clicked, locking them to the center pedestal. Through the ridges and convex lenses of the glass panes, Shock stared down to the struggle on the shore, his pelt bristling as Thalia threw her weight against the spoke of a control wheel. Suicune struggled frantically as the seawater beneath him tugged at his paws, the waves sweeping him back towards Wailord's waiting maw--
As Thalia stared out from the lighthouse, the storm-clouds overhead were cleft in two, bathing the ruins of Olivine in hot sunlight. A deep, rolling roar rippled across the beach as the Wartortle helped Ketrail to his paws again. Climbing up onto the waves again, Suicune backed away as Groudon burst out from the sea before the Wailord in his full, terrifying glory.
The sun's rays beat down on the old lighthouse and the chilly beach, casting light across the waves as the Wailord recoiled from Groudon's swiping claws. "Keep turning!" urged Shock, his eyes gleaming as Thalia pushed hard against the wheel. It was easier now; the rain-slicked floor was rapidly drying, sheets of water turning to mist around then. "Keep turning--with Groudon here, this just might work after all--"
Around and around, the massive titans in the ocean fought with each other, the behemoth battering the great whale, sidestepping each lunge. "Okay," breathed Shock as mirrors and lenses locked into place. "Now, Thalia--have you performed a Solar Beam before?" Shaking her head, the Leafeon got up on the pedastal as the Manectric moved next to one last lever.
Down below, Groudon caught Wailord by the tail and swung the massive Pokemon high into the air, boiling rain dashing across the sea around them. "Now!" barked Suicune, light gleaming off his headcrest. Nodding, Shock shoved his weight against the lever. Thalia's eyes widened as shutters in the ceiling opened, letting sunlight pour down into the room.
Fierce light flashed between mirrors and through lenses, reflecting in every direction, converging on Thalia, her leaves flaring to catch the sun's rays. The Leafeon's eyes widened. This light should burn her, should bring shriveling pain. But the warm sun swelled her leaves and fur, spurring her to life, every sense flaring.
A single projectile of focused light shot from her body, reflecting through glass panes and down from the lighthouse, striking the Wailord in midair. The Wailord gave an agonized scream as the concentrated sunlight blasted its belly, burning straight through the thick gray tissue.
Eyes widening, Suicune and the other Pokemon on the shore quickly moved up the beach, hurrying inland as the larger-than-life body plummeted down into the bay with a tremendous splash, throwing out thick rolling waves that crashed against the sandy coast.
Down from the tower and from the beaches, they raced to Suicune's side, the storm clouds slowly lifting, an awful red haze filling the foaming bay. A few feet away, Ketrail gripped the Wartortle's paw tight as they approached the Wailord's corpse, drifting belly-up in the ocean. "We slew the beast," whispered Suicune as Thalia and the others gathered around him. "The largest Pokemon in the world... and we triumphed."
Low, heavy breathing filled the air. Shock, Suicune, Thalia, and the others turned to stare up at Groudon, towering high above them, his golden eyes gleaming. "Be strong," said the ancient Pokemon as the sunlight receded to normal, the ground trembling with his voice. "Strive always, to protect your legacy. Strive always, to act in the moment of necessity."
Turning away, the great behemoth dove into the sea, and was gone.
Down through the air, the Electrodes fell towards their destination. Faster and faster they fell, their spherical bodies spinning in midair. Sparks flew from their bodies as they collided, prepared to create waves of devastation upon Kanto. More Drifblims and Dusknoirs filled the sky around him, still unloading their destructive cargo upon the city.
The Electrodes impacted the first of the buildings in Saffron. Explosions shook the entire city and cracked its streets, accompanied by shockwaves and thick plumes of smoke. Buildings shattered and collapsed as several hundred Electrodes rained down upon the city. Slowly, the once-proud metropolis was transformed into a terrible, charred wasteland.
Giratina gave a fiendish, sinister grin as he looked down upon the wailing and screaming of the tortured, dying humans below. Humans who he had once accepted as his own; humans, who had brought a crushing end to the reign of Pokemon. Dipping his head, the Exile brought together the tips of his six tentacles, and black rain began to fall upon the broken city below.