Chapter 14 – Chasing a Rumor
Esaax rushed recklessly through the streets of Convergence, which were fortunately more or less deserted at the time. Most of the local pokémon were diurnal, and with sunrise approaching, most of those who didn’t keep daytime hours were likely getting ready to go to sleep.
The kwazai found what he was looking for fairly quickly, recognizing the squat box of a building that was the Hope Institute right away. He entered the parking lot and parked the car at an odd angle across two spaces, then jumped out of the vehicle, landing less than gracefully and struggling for a couple of moments to keep from toppling over.
Esaax didn’t bother making his way around to the front door. He could sense living presences just a couple of yards past the wall that lay before him, two of whom were familiar—one of whom was his target.
He fired a sustained reflux into the barrier in front of him. As soon as enough of the wall had been weakened to admit him, he stepped forward right into it, causing the weakened portion to crumble into powder around him as he passed through it.
It turned out that there was another wall between him and his quarry, but this fact didn’t faze him; he simply decided to repeat the process that had gotten him into the building in the first place. His body seemed somewhat less willing to oblige this time. There was a slightly longer delay than usual before the black beam came to his summons, and when the dark energy began pouring from his outstretched hand, his senses faltered a bit, his vision briefly dimming, the raised voices from the other side of the wall temporarily drowned out by a ringing in his ears.
Just as he’d done the time before, Esaax pushed his way through the wall and into the room beyond it as soon as he could. He was met with the sight of a small crowd of glalie bearing dark blue protect auras, and he could sense DeLeo’s presence behind them as the human used them for cover—but before he could try to leap over the glalie and get at his quarry, there was a loud crack
, and he was down in an instant.
DeLeo stood and made his way over to the now unconscious kwazai, then looked down at him and sighed. “You could have just knocked, Esaax.”
* * *
When Esaax awoke, he was greeted by the sight of a long, spindly, robotic arm that extended from somewhere above him to a point right in front of his face. It clutched a now-darkened revive crystal in its metal fingers. Esaax considered biting the arm and tearing it down as he watched it ascend rather swiftly away from him, but lingering grogginess kept him from acting on that idea before the arm had vanished into its source.
It was then that his senses reawakened enough to detect the two familiar presences from earlier very nearby: those of DeLeo and Solonn—the former of which got a very strong reaction from him. His eyes and oculons both locked on to the human before him, and his exhaustion seemed to shatter into pieces; he promptly rose and began snapping and swiping at the wall of glowing, green energy that separated him from DeLeo.
In the next moment, however, he found himself suddenly no longer interested in trying to break out, lowering his arms and sinking to his knees. A calming gas had been released into the field with him from above while he had been so distracted by the sight of his target so close to him.
“Shh… it’s all right, Esaax,” DeLeo said. “You’re exactly where you need to be right now. I’ll bet you’ve got a lot of questions about what’s happened to you, and I’ve got all the answers.”
DeLeo looked at him expectantly, but Esaax only stared back. The kwazai still entertained thoughts of attacking and killing DeLeo as he looked upon him, but no longer felt any need to act upon those thoughts.
DeLeo approached the containment field then. He came to a stop right in front of it and leaned against the glowing wall as if it were ordinary glass. Doing so apparently didn’t hurt him in any way, just as it had not hurt Esaax.
“You probably didn’t know you could evolve, did you?” DeLeo asked. “I know most wobbuffet don’t. So I’m gonna tell you a little story, Esaax. One that’ll explain why this has been kept from you—and why you shouldn’t be scared of it. No, you should be anything but
scared…” he told Esaax with a note of what sounded like awed excitement in his voice.
DeLeo took a step back then, clasping his hands in front of himself. “There’s a legend,” he began, “hundreds of years old, about a king of the Mordial region named Asotura. His reign was glorious but short—he was killed by an assassin who was never found.
“The king’s body was discovered by his most faithful pokémon friend. And that friend was a kwazai, Esaax. Just like you are.
“Anyway, according to the legend, this kwazai refused to let the king be taken from him, and so he called on his ‘ultimate inner power’—and actually raised Asotura from the dead
“Now, that was the good news for the king. The bad news was that his people decided they didn’t want his reign to continue. They didn’t exactly like the tale of Asotura’s resurrection, you see. They called it unnatural, and they called him an abomination.
“And the kwazai became demons in their eyes. The ancient Mordialans decided to just slaughter every single kwazai they could find. And they did the same thing to wobbuffet and wynaut, too, in order to make sure the kwazai were exterminated completely. Asotura’s own army even sided with the public. They went against the king’s orders to put an end to the killing and instead joined in the effort to eradicate your species. Doesn’t it just make you sick
Esaax neither said nor did a single thing in response. His two eyes and four oculons continued to hold the human in a dead, silent stare.
“Well, anyway…” DeLeo resumed, “as for Asotura himself, there wasn’t anyone around who didn’t want him dead—and permanently this time. But when they stormed the castle, he wasn’t anywhere to be found. Nobody knows how he got away, but he did, and he also managed to rescue a handful of your kind along with himself.
“After he escaped from Mordial, he looked for a place where your people could continue to be protected for generations to come. Apparently one was provided right here in Hoenn by a legendary pokémon—nobody knows which one. Whoever it was, it gave its home to the refugees and used its powers to hide their new sanctuary before taking off for who knows where. You might’ve heard of this sanctuary, Esaax. These days, it’s known as Mirage Island.
“Anyway, the people of Asotura’s former kingdom tried to keep his story and the secret of your people’s final evolutionary form from surviving the ages. But their efforts ultimately proved useless, because that story was recorded—supposedly by Asotura himself—on a little something called the Tablet of Asotura. The tablet went missing for centuries, but it was eventually found by a human explorer from Pacifidlog. But before he could go public with his discovery, well… you know what happened fourteen years ago,” he said quietly.
“Luckily, though, one of the explorer’s pokémon bothered to take care of the tablet after the explorer passed away. That pokémon eventually decided he wanted to see kwazai brought back into the world, and ultimately he found us and sought our assistance in that matter. Once he told me the story of Asotura and what his kwazai could do… well, there was no question about it. None. I knew I had to help him.”
DeLeo stepped back up to the containment field. “Do you remember what I told you earlier, Esaax?” he asked. “About why I founded the Hope Institute? This—” He gestured toward Esaax. “—ties into that. We turned you into this for a very special purpose, Esaax. A very, very
An expression that managed to look sort of hopeful and pained at the same time overtook his features. “I know what you’ve lost, Esaax. I know exactly
what you’ve lost,” he said, and his voice cracked audibly on those last six words. “I’ve lost the exact same thing—the exact same people. But we’re gonna bring ’em back
, Esaax. You’re
gonna bring ’em back, as soon as we’re sure you’re strong enough.”
DeLeo pressed his hands against the wall of energy between him and Esaax once more. “You’ll see,” he half-whispered, sounding slightly crazed, his smile broadening. “It’s gonna be just like the old days. Only better
He then turned away from Esaax and made for the room’s exit, striding past Solonn as he went. Solonn had kept silent the entire time that DeLeo had been speaking to Esaax, and DeLeo had actually managed to forget that the glalie was there until he walked past him.
As he spoke the voice command that opened the doors before him and then ushered Solonn out of the room ahead of him, part of him noticed that the glalie was wearing an expression that was severe-looking even for those of his kind, his large, luminous, blue eyes burning rather brighter than usual. DeLeo gave this detail next to none of his mind, however, too absorbed in thoughts of how close he was to finally accomplishing the goal toward which he’d been striving for more than a decade, a goal that meant more to him than anything in the world.
A few seconds later, however, a low voice from behind him cut into those thoughts.
“How could you do such a thing?” Solonn demanded, sounding both angry and hurt.
DeLeo stopped in his tracks and turned to face the glalie. “…What? What’re you talking about?”
“You did this to him,” Solonn hissed, shaking slightly as he spoke, “without his consent? Without even so much as his awareness
that he could be changed in such a way?”
DeLeo blinked at him, bemused. “What… what’s it to you?”
Solonn’s eyes narrowed. “You have no right to inflict a change on someone who doesn’t ask you for it first,” he said, moving even closer to DeLeo, causing the human to take a step back involuntarily. “No one
has that right. You disgust
Fear began showing through DeLeo’s expression insofar as it could. “Look… I’m sorry you don’t like how we’ve gone about this whole kwazai business, okay? I really am. But… don’t you understand what we’re trying to do here?” he asked, pained frustration managing to come through in his tone. “Were you even paying attention to anything I said in there other than the parts you didn’t like? We’re trying to restore lives
, Solonn! And let me tell you something: once we’ve restored certain lives in particular, I promise you Esaax is gonna be so happy that he’s not gonna care that he didn’t have a say in whether or not he evolved.”
“And what if this legend you spoke of is just that—just a legend?” Solonn asked. “What if it turns out that you’ve only been chasing a damned rumor all this time? Did you consider that possibility for even a second
? Did you consider what it might do to Esaax if he were told that he can bring back people whom he cares about when in reality he can’t
, to find out that he was subjected to a change—one that has obviously upset him very much—for nothing
DeLeo only stared at him at first. Then his face twisted in what was as much of a look of anguish as it was capable of producing. “…It’s more than just a legend,” he insisted. “I’m sorry you can’t see that… and I’m not gonna let you get in the way of our proving it!”
With an inhuman speed, DeLeo’s hands swung out toward Solonn and split down the middle with a faint click
, each of them simultaneously opening up like the covers of a book and exposing dark, metallic nozzles. In very nearly the same instant, jets of fire came roaring out from the newly-revealed weapons—only to dissipate harmlessly against the dark blue aura that their intended target had conjured around himself just in time.
Solonn hissed and recoiled in reaction to the fiery attack despite its futility. His eyes then blazed a bright white, and a crack
echoed through the hallway as he unleashed a sheer cold attack on DeLeo.
The strike hit its mark—DeLeo immediately fell unconscious and dropped to the floor. Solonn briefly looked down upon him in lingering disbelief, still shaking in primal fear for a few moments, then called out to his co-workers in the Hope Institute, not comfortable with the notion of leaving DeLeo unguarded despite the human’s present condition.
He couldn’t undo what DeLeo had done to Esaax. But he was determined to at least see to it that the human paid for it.
Next time: Esaax’s pursuers run into some trouble… See you then!
- Sike Saner