The Pikachu took a deep breath and spun the blade inwards until it grazed the white fur of his chest, and deeper still, until it made contact with his skin. Then he jumped. The dagger! He could feel it! It was cold, the point of the blade made him shiver. But whether it was because of the coolness or the fact it was barely mere millimetres from his heart, he could not tell. “I can feel the blade!” he exclaimed to Darkrai, who nodded at the Pikachu’s outburst.
“It is ready to give you life, boy. All you must do is strike your heart. Plunge deep, swiftly, and it will be done.”
Altair’s grip tightened on the blade, but he hesitated, sweat gleaming across his forehead. “And you? What will happen to you?”
Darkrai presented a slight shrug. “I am in the Underworld, the depths where you imprisoned me. What can I possibly do from here?”
Altair thought through gritted teeth. Of course he did. But if he did not go through with this, things could turn out a lot worse. Then something occurred to him. “The dagger won’t work on you?”
Darkrai’s upper lip curled with disdain. “I am trapped from your stupid
intervention. The spells woven on me do not allow it. They are stronger than the power contained in that blade.” He loathed admitting it; that much was apparent.
I bet he wishes he could just kill me and be done with it
, Altair reflected. Of all things, why was Darkrai choosing to help him? The Pikachu shook his head. There would be time for consideration later. Deciding that it was now or never, before his resolve vanished, he swallowed through the lump in his throat and thrust the dagger through his pelt.
His first thought was that it cut like butter; the blade slid so easily into his heart, where he could now feel a million tiny stings growing with intensity. It was unlike anything he had felt before. It was the worst pain imaginable and then magnified tenfold. His second deliberation was that he was bleeding. Profusely. Sanguine liquid poured from the wound he presently inflicted, and his paws slipped off the hilt of the dagger as he held them out before him in stunned silence. Crimson laced his once white coat as it began to change hue, seeping from the point where the serrated edge of the dagger had entered his body. Yellow – it was now yellow. Just as he was before he became a Light Pokemon. The two stripes that crossed his back to the sides were no longer grey, but a dark brown. Altair noted that the white circle stayed on his tail, however. The distinct mark of a Light being.
So this is it,
he thought sluggishly. The Pikachu’s mind was becoming clouded. He was filled with so much pain, so intense, so close. But when he tried to scream no sound came out. It was a meagre gurgle. He was unsure of when his body hit the ground, but was shocked that he could feel it through the darkening haze that quickly washed over him.
Yes, this is it.
The cavern began to disintegrate, peeling back and flaking away into a million pieces. The obscurity lightened, and its intensity only grew. Too bright!
Altair tried to raise a paw to shield his eyes from the illumination, but found he could not. Much too bright!
And just when he thought the white-hot light was going to consume him, it changed hue. A dark sky-blue greeted his vision as it cleared. Puffy wisps of grey slowly took form, afloat in front of his eyes, dancing across the blue expanse. Stars littered the night sky with fervour. With a jolt of disbelief, he sat upright.
The white Pikachu held his paws outstretched before him. No, that wasn’t right. In the dim moonlight they shone yellow. He gasped and patted his chest, expecting matted crimson blood. But no, it was dry and fluffy – not a single cut to be found. And what was strange was that he could now feel
his fur. It was soft, so very, very soft. The breeze that blew by rustled it slightly, and he shivered. It was cool, but not overly so. And he had felt the breeze! He actually felt it!
“I…I’m alive…” he uttered with incredulity. He felt woozy; his head swam. It was too much. His throat was parched, burning. And yet…he was truly alive. Everything paled in comparison to that. He had been given another chance.
Altair laughed and cast his head towards the sky, almost ecstatic to see the outline of a flock of Pidove that flew by overhead. “I’m alive!” he shouted at them, and was pleased to hear their song in response to his words. But they hardly reached him now, for his mind was far away. Yes, he had been given a second chance indeed. This time he would set things right, he would atone for his past sins. Deoxys would be cast back to the underworld. He would be the debt Altair now owed. All he needed to do was find Zanna.
The Pikachu’s lips curled up in a smile at the thought. Oh, to see the look on her face when she saw him! A babbling sound came from his left, and thoughts snapped close. Altair noted he was by the base of a large waterfall, and something was bubbling just below its surface. Ripples were cast outwards as the figure rose to a float. As the Pikachu squinted his eyes to see through the moonlight, it became apparent that the object buoyant on the water’s surface was a Pokemon. And it wasn’t just any Pokemon. When the face turned towards him, Altair flinched, all colour dissipating from his visage.
The apparition blurred my eyes. Or was it the water? I couldn’t tell. My mind grew thick and clouded. I had a desperate need to breathe air, but my body couldn’t find the will to force itself upwards. My paws still held the Orb of Sorrow clutched securely to my chest, but even they were beginning to drift outwards, fingers slipping from the cool surface. I couldn’t move. I was numb.
The Orb of Sorrow had shown me the vision I needed, and it confirmed my fears. Altair had wounded himself in order to be transported to this world. But I was sure of it. He would die before he even reached here. There was no way Darkrai would ever allow him to live. And with Altair gone from the Farplane, who was to say Darkrai couldn’t escape? There was no one to keep him in check. What a fool the Pikachu was, for believing such a thing. A brave, idiotic fool.
Not like it would matter. If I were to die here Altair would never encounter me. His attempt to stop Deoxys would be in vain after all. His plan would ultimately backfire. Stupid Pikachu.
That was the last coherent notion I could form before my eyes closed from the pressure. Water filled my lungs as I caught my last breath. Then I simply ceased to exist.
A shout came from above me. No, a whisper? I was convinced it was a shout, though, since it was growing in volume. Something soft gripped the edges of my face as I began to regain feeling once more. My throat burned, and I found strength from within to retch, casting up all the water from my system. I coughed and spluttered past the fire in my lungs, taking in slow, sharp gasps of air. I was conscious of the fact I was on soft grass, resting on my side. Someone had pulled me from the lake.
“Zanna…thank Arceus you’re alright.”
I felt tender arms encase me, holding me tightly, but safe, not enough to hurt. It wasn’t suffocating. It felt oddly warm and familiar. The voice I heard also belonged to a male, but it was not one I knew. Then why did I have a feeling I had heard it before? I willed my eyes open, to see the figure before me. It took a while for the world to come spinning into focus, and even harder to distinguish because of the dark night sky, but my eyes slowly made out a form.
“Am I dead…?” My voice came out in a rasp; I wasn’t even sure it was my own. I had never sounded so bedraggled. I tried to swallow, but it caused too much pain.
“No,” the voice laughed softly. “No. You’re very much alive.”
“Altair…?” My eyes narrowed, making out a Pikachu in the darkness. I thought it was Altair, but something was off. This Pikachu appeared to have a yellow hue to its fur, akin to my own. The Altair I knew had white fur since he was a Light Pokemon. The very first, in fact. “No,” I dismissed the thought aloud. “You can’t be. Your fur is all wrong.”
“Zanna,” the intonation greeted me again with zeal. “It is
me. I’m alive.”
“You’re WHAT?” My eyes flew wide open, fully adjusted and honed in on the Pikachu before me. It did indeed look like Altair. If the visualisation I had seen was true, if Altair really was here, then…could it be? But my throat protested at the outcry, and I raised a paw feebly to rest beneath it. “Altair?” I tried again after a moment, frowning. I removed the paw from my throat and reached out to cup the side of the Pikachu’s face. His eyes closed on contact and he leaned into it, his soft strands of fur tickling my palm. Through the contact I felt a slight humming, which only grew the longer it lasted, until I felt it as clearly as a thousand thrumming Beedrill. The draw of a Light Pokemon; my other half. He was alive.
I could scarcely believe it. Pushing myself upwards feebly, I flung my arms around the Pikachu, burying my head into his chest. Fresh tears stung my eyes and I was aware they must already be red and puffy from my near-death experience. But I didn’t care. Neither of us was self-conscious now. Altair was alive; I was alive. He had saved my life. This was a time to be joyous. He held me for as long as I desired. Not a word was uttered, not a single sound. Through the embrace alone we communicated, and it was much more than any word could describe.
“How are you here?” I muttered against his body. “And your fur…it’s yellow. Why is that?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied, just as quizzically as I had asked. “To both of your questions. But does it really matter? I can help you now. I can protect you from here. Zanna…” Altair let out a sigh of relief. “It feels so good to be alive again.”
But as I grew more conscious, my brain began to focus. I had a deep feeling of dread that I just couldn’t seem to shake. “But Darkrai, he said there was a debt you would owe so the balance would not be skewed. It could be anyone, Altair. What will happen if…what if it’s me? Or one of my friends?” I blurted, then slammed a paw over my mouth for ruining the once-happy atmosphere. That’s me, ever the optimist.
I felt Altair’s face grow grim. His mind was obviously along the same wavelength. “I thought about it,” he told me in a hushed tone. “In the worst case scenario, it ends up being you, and Talzere is most likely doomed.” He paused, as if to clear his head of the ridiculous notion. “But I won’t let that happen. It will not happen. This I swear to you.”
“But you don’t know that for certain!” I cried up at him, drawing back enough that he was able to see my face clearly. “You made a deal with Darkrai, Altair! Do you know how every deal with an evil being has ended up? You can hardly expect to come out of this unscathed.”
Altair looked shocked. “I had thought you’d be happy,” he whispered meekly, distantly.
“I am,” I stated, perplexed. “It’s just that I don’t think–”
We both withdrew automatically, stunned by the sudden appearance of a Pokemon we had not noticed, too wrapped up in our own world. And if I thought things couldn’t get any worse, here was the living, breathing proof. My other, other half.
“Rye, I–” But my words cut off there, for at that moment the Elekid decided to launch himself forward and send a paw flying straight into Altair’s face. I screamed, which only served to agitate my raw throat once more. The Pikachu stumbled back and flailed as he fell into the water, feet unable to keep a stable grip on the slippery edge. “Rye! What are you doing?! Leave him alone!”
Eager to get him to stop before he caused anymore damage, I dashed in front of him, gripping his raised paw with every ounce of strength I had – granted it certainly wasn’t much at this point in time. Most likely I was making as much impact as a feather would to a brick wall. Rye cast a glare towards me, eyes wide with fury, pupils contracted into thin slits. “Let go of me, Zanna. He deserves much worse!”
“No!” I pleaded, swaying my head fiercely. Rye tried to shake me free but I hung on tight. Altair had reappeared behind me in the water, treading below its surface. I knew this because the splashes alerted me, and his breath came in ragged gasps.
“Let him go, Zanna. He’s had this coming for a while now. I’ll make him pay for what he did to you. Tenfold!” He growled past me towards Rye, a real menacing sound. But all this fighting – all this confusion. Hadn’t I been through a great deal already?
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” I screamed into the night, and the air reverberated with my cry. Birds flew from the trees, scattering in every direction possible but this one. No one wanted to be within striking distance of me right now; that was certain. I shook with rage, still grasping Rye’s paw. I was vaguely aware my claws had dug into his skin, but I didn’t feel an ounce of concern. Not a single bit. Rye cast me a final glance and shook my paws from his roughly, stepping backwards and folding his arms. He panted with the exertion of energy, ready for a fight. Altair was much the same.
I leered up at Rye, hurt. “This was the last straw,” I told him through gritted fangs. “I do not want to talk to you right now. I don’t even want to see you.” I strode straight past him, paws clenched, without even feigning a glance in his direction. Altair hoisted himself up from the water and made to follow me. Rye didn’t even glare as he passed, just stood there blankly. My words had cut deep. I hated to harm him any further, but he had crossed a line. He had already wounded me enough, and now he wanted to hurt my friends, too? Unforgivable.
“I’ll see you at the meeting,” Rye called out to me, finally gathering his voice. I paused for a second and then continued right on walking. I didn’t even bother to offer a reply. If he was going to be there, then I most certainly was not. Let the others deal with what was going to happen, at the moment I wanted no part in it.
Altair had pursued me to my quarters, where I allowed him to enter, seeing as he really had no other place to go. I wanted to keep him out of sight until morning, or for as long as possible. His appearance would only stir uproar amongst the land, and I sensed that was the very last thing he wanted at the moment. I also avoided discussing anything relating to his visit to Darkrai, or his more recent ‘death’, if it could be called that. I knew this was a time to be cheerful, but my mood couldn’t seem to lift. It was stuck trailing in a puddle of mud. A really, really big puddle. I seated myself on the end of my bed and stared down at the marble floor.
I hadn’t noticed Altair once he’d crossed the threshold, but when I looked up to find him, I saw he was holding a paw to his face gingerly. I was suddenly aware that there was a rather large cut on his cheek, no doubt from Rye’s energetic outburst. The bleeding had stopped, but it was beginning to dry and matt his fur.
“That Elekid,” I growled sullenly under my breath. “Here, I have something for that.” Altair watched as I rummaged around in the drawers by my bedside for a bottle of ointment, some berry juice to cleanse the wound, and some cotton pads. Made from Mareep wool, they were some of the finest the Missionary had to offer. When I’d had the time the past few days, I managed to acquaint myself with most of my room, and the insides of the Missionary itself. I now considered myself to be pretty knowledgeable if it ever came down to reconnaissance.
As I gathered the objects within my arms, I gestured for Altair to sit on the end of my bed so I could do this appropriately. He obeyed silently, and I placed the assembled paraphernalia beside him. As I began to clear away the dried blood with a damp cloth, Altair winced. He was trying really hard to be brave, not to show any emotion. But I could see he wasn’t used to pain, and this was hurting him.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “It was Rye’s fault, if that makes you feel any better.”
Altair smiled gingerly. His trademark lopsided grin. “It’s not too bad, this will just take some getting used to. And that does make me feel somewhat better.”
I continued to dab at his face, removing the last of the bloodstains. “You don’t mind me treating you?” I queried. I knew some guys would have their pride badly wounded if they had to be tended to by a female.
“Nope.” Altair winced slightly as I applied a small amount of acidic berry juice to the lesion, to flush out any contaminations that might be brewing. “Although I do wonder why you don’t just heal me with the powers I gave you,” he commented.
“I don’t go around flaunting them carelessly,” I replied. “I’d rather save them for more pressing situations. It’s actually pretty taxing, you know.” Mister big shot.
“That’s only because you don’t know how to tap into them properly.” The Pikachu gave a diminutive shrug. “If you know how to harness your reserves of energy, tapping into your Light powers should be a cinch. You’re probably letting out too much excess, and that can be dangerous.”
I frowned at the superiority he placed in his words, but ignored it. “How come exactly?”
“Because others can find you,” he said simply. “Those who are accustomed to the flow of natural energy – chakra – could find you in a heartbeat.” Altair paused and raised a single finger to the light bulb that lit the room. “Simply put, you’re like a flashing beacon to them. Anyone could locate you.”
My insides lurched at this realisation, and it was enough for me to halt my movements. “Then…has that how Deoxys has always found me? What can I do about it? I didn’t know!” My words floundered in the air. “You can teach me, right? There has to be a way I can mask my presence from others!” My breathing was growing at an alarming rate. Maybe I was thinking too much about this. But if others could find me whenever they wanted simply because I was broadcasting myself like a lighthouse, I certainly wanted to be able to do something about it. I was putting everyone at risk.
“Relax, it’s alright. I can teach you.” He grinned up at me warmly, then cocked his head to the side and arched an eyebrow. “But you know, with your luck, you might just end up making things worse.” Altair laughed, and I swatted him on the cheek with a paw.
The Pikachu appeared stunned, astonished that I’d actually hit him. His brow furrowed in contempt, but then disappeared as he realised I, too, was laughing. I placed a paw over my mouth as the sound flowed from within. I wasn’t used to laughter anymore, especially not from myself. It was both astounding and startling, but also a relief to be able to do so. I hadn’t laughed in so long. It seemed I wasn’t as far gone as I had believed.
Altair smiled once more, tentatively stroking his face. “See?”
“See what?” I enquired through a series of chuckles, trying to regain my loss of self-control.
“You can be happy.”
I stopped right there. Okay, amusement gone. My forehead creased once more, and I shook my head at his words. “I used to think so. I was, once. But so much has happened in such a short span of time. I…I don’t know what to think anymore. Happiness is a rarity I just can’t afford right now.”
[continued in next post]