Vines of Deceit

BY : Manifest Destiny
Category: Pokemon > General
Dragon prints: 11588
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon. Pokemon is copy write by GameFreak, INC. and Nintendo. I make no money from this story, nor do I seek any.

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Chapter 13: Cocoon of Glass

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Central Unova—a peninsula created by twin parallel rivers that spilled out into the ocean to the south—is home to two of the region’s largest cities. Along the water to the south, Castelia City stands as a sprawling cityscape of skyscrapers and ports. Business and residential buildings dominate the southern city, its streets and roads nearly filled to capacity at all hours of the day with people living their lives a mile a minute.

Closer to the center of the region, Nimbasa City shines brightly as the region’s premier entertainment hub. From musicals, to sporting events and even an amusement park, people from all over the region travel to there to enjoy themselves—a task made easy by the central subway station also located in Nimbasa.

Perhaps it was because of all the attention that these two cities received over the many years that caused the area between the two metropolises to fall into such a debilitated condition.

Unova’s Route 4 finds itself in vast contrast to the rest of the region. Neglect, overuse and draining of the natural resources for the surrounding cities has left the area in a barren, arid state. Winds from the sea cause near constant sandstorms, sending grit and dirt into the air and obscuring the two cities from each other.

Direct travel between the two cities along this desert route was taxing, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous for those walking on foot. Ground and Fire type Pokémon now lived in the sands along the slowly developing road linking Castelia and Nimbasa. It was no surprise that with these challenging conditions that the area has seen little construction over the years. However, Pokémon Trainers saw the harsh environment as a golden opportunity to hone their skills and toughen themselves and their Pokémon.

While the development in this desolate place wasn’t impossible, it became clear that progress would be agonizingly slow.

A sentiment that was shared by Tristan Blake, a Pokémon Trainer sitting in the gatehouse that connected Castelia City to Route 4. He leaned back in a chair at a table, carefully balancing it on two legs, and stared up at the ceiling. The air-conditioned building felt unquestionably amazing to him; the heat outside was beginning to become maddening. Sweat dripped down his face the back of his neck, matting his hair. Any movement he made sent sand spilling down onto the floor from where it clung to him. He never could shake himself completely clean after a trip out into that hot, gritty wilderness.

In the two weeks since Tristan had hastily agreed to help the strange young man named “N” find the supposed whereabouts of the legendary Dragon of Truth, they had accomplished little else than collect sand in their shoes. During his outings, Tristan would take the opportunity to train his Pokémon, something he felt that he had done less than enough since becoming a trainer in the first place. Thanks to the many repeated battles in the sandstorms, his three Pokémon were now much more powerful. Jeremiah—the name Tristan gave to the Sewaddle that N had entrusted him with—was now a Swadloon. Tristan idly wondered if the evolution to the shrouded bug was influenced not by battle experience, but necessity to take cover in the sandy terrain. His Whirlipede, Cole Train, seemed well on his way to evolving to his final stage.

“Still?” came a groan next to him.

Tristan lazily looked to his left, a weak smile slowly spread across his face at the sight he knew only he could see.

Draya the Zoroark sat and grumbled as she cleaned herself with a brush that Tristan had bought for her after their first trip into the desert. Stroke after stroke sent tufts of fur and sand falling down to the floor. She cared for her large mane of red fur more carefully, also combing it with her shiny claws.

“I’m never going to be clean again…” Draya sobbed. She slumped over the table stared at her human companion, begging for sympathy with her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Tristan offered his hand out toward her, which she gripped weakly. “I had no idea this is what he had in mind.”

“Please…” she whined. “Please let today be the last day! Let us be done!” She pleaded to no one in particular.

Tristan couldn’t give her much of an answer, but he was starting to share her impatience.

“Hey, I have an idea,” Draya perked up in her seat. “Let’s just leave! We can run back to our room, grab our stuff, and never step foot in sand again! We can take that underground train you talked about!”

“Draya…” Tristan scolded. “As much as I hate it, I did promise N that I’d help him. If you don’t want to keep going out there, you can stay behind. I really won’t mind.”

“Are you kidding?” Draya asked, putting a clawed hand on Tristan’s chest. “Our afternoons out there have been some of the only times we’ve actually been alone together. Even if it’s gross and uncomfortable.”

In addition to their quest, Tristan and Draya did their best to keep their newfound romance alive. Wanting to keep N in a cheerful and productive mood, they decided it best to keep it secret from him for the time being. It wasn’t in their plans to continue sharing their hotel room with the seemingly sheltered young man, but they took any opportunity they could to enjoy themselves.

“Those are nice,” agreed Tristan. “But I keep telling you we should spend more time searching and less fooling around so N can be on his way. I would like to actually spend time together without worrying about being caught.”

“And I keep telling you that I can make that happen.” Draya waved a hand and sent a glittering wave of purple energy cascading throughout the seating area of the gatehouse. “No one can ever interrupt us in here.”

“N already knows what you really are,” Tristan said. “He’ll know something’s up if we’re not where we’re supposed to meet up. Plus I don’t want him asking any awkward questions.”

“Fine…” Draya relented, reigning in her illusory field to affect just their table in the corner of the building. “He’ll know where we are.”

“Yeah, he always seems to, doesn’t he?” Tristan drifted off in thought. “Says he has eyes everywhere…”

“Hey,” Draya stood and sat on human’s lap, straddling him. She held his face between her paws, “Don’t spend our alone time thinking about N. I,” she kissed him, letting it linger for just a second before pulling away, “am right,” she kissed him again, “here.”

“I can see that,” Tristan smiled, letting his hands fall to her waist. “Believe me, I’d rather focus all my attention towards you.”

“Then why don’t you? Why are you so insistent on helping him?”

“Because I’m curious about him and this legend he is so convinced that I’m a part of. N showed up in my life right after we left Nuvema Town and he keeps meeting us wherever we go. Maybe he and I are fated to fight one day, but before that happens I want to learn more about these dragons, and why N is so obsessed with them because I might need to know about them sometime.”

“No, don’t start making sense, it makes it harder to argue against you,” Draya teased. She closed her eyes and began to close the distance between them slowly until they were suddenly joined at their table.

A tall man wrapped in thick cloth and a hood sat in a seat across from the one Tristan and Draya were sharing. At their sudden arrival, Draya rushed back to her own chair and let Tristan make himself look presentable. A small nod from him, and the Zoroark let the cloaked man into her illusion field.

“So, no luck?” asked Tristan.

The other man pulled back the hood he wore and shook his long green hair free from the restrictive clothing. N sat and stared at the empty table for a few moments before responding. His eyes were heavy and lacking any of the enthusiasm he had shown for the past few weeks.

“No,” he simply said. N slowly pulled off the extra layers he wore to protect him from the fierce sandstorms that whipped through the desert.

“Well, we’ll just try again tomorrow, right?” offered Tristan.

“I fear there might not be a point anymore,” N said with a somber voice. “I’ve spoken to so many Pokémon in this area and none of them could tell me where the castle is.”

N had revealed to Tristan that he had discovered information that said the previous Hero of Truth had lived, and eventually died, in a castle that was supposedly somewhere in the vast desert of Route 4. Convinced this was enough information, N and Tristan spent days splitting up and exploring the wilderness separating Castelia and Nimbasa.

Unfortunately the remains of an extravagant castle buried under the sand proved themselves to be much harder to find.

“I wished to accomplish my quest on my own,” N started. “But I was unable to do many things along my way. So I’ve asked for help from many Pokémon and they’ve guided me this far. Now I’ve asked you to help me as well, but I seem to be coming up with nothing to show for it. I have nowhere else to go.”

“Right now, maybe,” Tristan said, “but there could be another place the Hero lived that you don’t know about yet, right?”

“No, you don’t understand. There are no more trails to follow, no more leads. I’ve done my research, tracing back the history of the two heroes and their battles, and this is the end of the road. The last recorded battle ended here, at the heart of the kingdom at the time. I’m sure of it.”

Tristan considered the situation for a moment. “I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit. You’ve gone and done a lot of work to find what you’re looking for. If you’re that sure of what you’ve learned, then maybe it’s time to pick someone else’s brain.” He nodded over to the group of construction workers who had taken seats on the opposite side of the rest area.

“That construction company has been trying to do work in this area for a long time, but the area isn’t the best for human development.”

“I’m aware,” N said, a hint of distaste in his voice. “On my trips into the desert I’ve steered clear of their sites; they’ve displaced many Pokémon from their homes. They’re—”

“You’re right,” Tristan stopped N before he could continue, “but what I was getting at is that before anyone starts a big development project, they inspect the land and see if it’s suitable for their needs, and if they’ll be disturbing any sort of burial sites or ancient ruins.”

Tristan watched N’s face light up at his words. The excited young man stood and went over to where Tristan was sitting, gripping his shoulders. “Please! You must ask them if they know anything!”

“Whoa, okay then! Calm down!” Tristan pushed N off of him. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s just…” N looked around the lobby. “This task has to be done by you. Until now, I’ve been doing this for Pokémon and seeking help from Pokémon. I cannot let humans be who guide me to Reshiram. It conflicts with my entire quest to find and revive them!”

“Well, what about me? You asked me for help. I’m human, you know,” Tristan had trouble understanding the things N even on the best of days, he wondered if the desert heat was beginning to get to him.

“You are my equal and opposite,” N said, as if it were an obvious statement. “The Heroes of Truth and Ideals are never enemies outright, they often rule in harmony for years. I don’t have any reservations if you and your ideas help me along.”

“You keep saying that I’m linked to this legend, but I’m still not convinced,” said Tristan. “Well, if you’re sure that you’re not violating your own ‘code’ or whatever.”

“I encourage it, truly. Plus, I will be happy to return the favor someday. In fact,” N held his chin as he thought, “if I’m not mistaken, tales and records say the final battle ravaged the castle, but they weren’t clear on who had emerged victorious. It was your idea to ask Draya to create the illusion of Zekrom to escape from the terrible events on Liberty Garden Island, and now your intuition leads us elsewhere. Perhaps my leads have been pointing us toward your fated meeting with Zekrom?”

“I’d honestly feel bad,” Tristan laughed sympathetically at the thought. “You’ve really worked hard to find this dragon of yours.”

We have,” N insisted. “Even if we haven’t found anything yet, you and your Pokémon have given your time to better my cause. I will not forget that. Now, if you please?”

“Right, right, I’ll go ask them.”

N sat back down at the table and watched Tristan ask the construction workers his questions. He shook his head violently, sending sand flying around their corner of the room.

“Hey!” Draya complained. “Watch it! I’ve been trying to clean myself for ages…”

“Apologies,” said N. He began to shake his clothes of sand in a more discrete manner. “I must say, despite myself, you’ve picked a very… respectable human to ally yourself with,” N said to Draya. “You seem happy.”

“Thank you,” Draya grinned. “I am. We’re working out quite nicely.”

“I feel I must ask; should the balance of power in this world shift against him,” N said with a stern voice, “what will you do? Will you stand by him?”

Draya crossed her arms and looked away, annoyed. “What kind of question is that?”

“An honest one, but I believe I already know the answer.”

—————

Just as Tristan had suspected, and just as N’s research had pointed to, there were in fact old, buried ruins in the desert. The construction company had extensively surveyed the land between Castelia and Nimbasa City to see how much development could be made in the area. In a large canyon to the northwest of Route 4, dubbed the Desert Resort by travelers, remains of human civilization had been found toward the cliff that overlooked Unova’s western bay.

To both of their surprise, the ruins were located much farther than either N or Tristan had been in their recent excursions, so the two decided to rest and gather supplies for the remainder of the day.

After hearing Tristan’s good news, N was adamant that they start their long journey first thing the following morning. He said he had something in mind to make the trip easier on the group, but didn’t go into details at the time.

On the morning in question, Tristan woke up in his hotel room and found that N had already left. A hastily written note was left lying on the floor where N had slept while he shared the room with them, but Tristan could hardly make out any of the words.

“[Go…] or [Gone to find… help… friend]?” Tristan attempted to read the note out loud, hoping it would somehow become clearer in his mind.

He dropped the paper when a pair of fur-covered arms crossed his chest and pulled him backwards back onto the bed. Tristan turned himself over in Draya’s loose grip, his face almost covered entirely by the thick black fur on her chest.

“I didn’t say we were done in bed yet,” Draya scolded playfully. “When are we going to get to ‘the main event’? You don’t want to bore me, do you?”

“Well not now,” Tristan regretfully said, “and I hope you understand that I’m not meaning to be boring, or slow. Things just keep popping up, and—”

“Don’t be dumb,” Draya pushed his face deeper into her fluffy chest. “I’m just teasing. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.”

For lengthy and extensive traveling through the desert, Tristan and N had sought out appropriate clothing; cloaks made of a light, but durable fabric with a hood to keep the sun from beating down on their heads for the long walk ahead of them. The cloth draped over Tristan’s normal outfit and his backpack full of supplies with ease and didn’t impede his movement. Before leaving the hotel, he double and triple checked his supply of water, hoping he wouldn’t need any more than he already had. He had no real idea how long it would take for them to walk to these ruins, or how long they would have to search them for the famed Dragon of Truth.

“I’m not walking out there with you two,” Draya said defiantly.

“Are you going to stay here then? Should I keep the room for another night or two?” asked Tristan.

“No, I’ll go with you, but I’ll go in my Poké Ball.”

“Really?” Tristan was surprised, knowing how much Draya preferred to stay outside with him. “You didn’t even want to do that when I went to talk to Burgh.”

“This is going to be a lot longer than an afternoon chat,” Draya said. “I want to be with you in case anything happens out there, but I’m absolutely done with cleaning sand out of my fur.”

Tristan smiled, stroking her red mane from her forehead and behind her right ear. She grabbed his hand with a paw and squeezed it, pulling him closer to her.

“Don’t go getting all frisky with me now if you’re not going to follow through,” Draya warned playfully.

“Alright,” Tristan said. “Want to walk with me until we get to Route 4, or do you want to be in your ball until we find what we’re looking for?”

Draya decided to stay with Tristan until they met up with N. The two of them left the hotel room and headed out onto the already busy streets of Castelia City. The early morning air was cool as it blew from the sea behind them, a feeling they both agreed they would miss as the day went on. As they walked, they kept up mild, innocent conversation with each other.

“Are you still a Serperior to everyone else?” asked Tristan.

“Yeah,” said Draya. “Why?”

“Just making sure. I need to remind myself that you’re not a Zoroark to other people,” Tristan said. “I don’t want to spoil your secret by accident, you know?”

“You’re so sweet when you care,” Draya hugged his arm, nuzzling his face as they walked. “I’m glad I picked you.”

When the two finally reached the gatehouse that separated Castelia City and the wilderness beyond, they still hadn’t come across N. When they stepped out underneath the covered doorway of the gatehouse and looked out into Route 4, they found their answer as to why.

N was standing in the sand a few feet away from the partially constructed road. He was wearing the desert clothing he and Tristan had bought the previous day. Noticing that they had arrived, N walked over to Tristan and Draya. Behind him floated a strange looking Pokémon; what looked like an orb that had sprouted thin wings, forked arms, and three eyes bobbed up and down in the air as it followed N. The sound of wind chimes seemed to ring out from the creature as it flew.

“Good morning you two,” N said. “I trust you read my note?”

“Kinda,” Tristan said with a shrug. “I couldn’t really read your handwriting.”

“Really? I tried very hard to keep it neat… In any case,” N smiled as he introduced the Pokémon behind him, “Sigilyph has agreed to accompany us on our journey through the desert, and it has a very helpful ability!” N stepped back out from the canopy of the gatehouse’s exit, guiding the strange flying Pokémon to follow him.

N’s clothing didn’t ripple or wave in the wind, nor did it look as if he was being hit by the sand that it blew his way.

“Isn’t it remarkable?” N called over the wind. “It doesn’t help with the heat much, but the sandstorms are no longer a variable in this equation!”

“Ooh, nice!” Draya said. “Now I can come with you guys.”

“I’m afraid not,” N cautioned. “My friend here is a Psychic Pokémon, and can’t shield us if you are around.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“You’re a Dark type Pokémon, Draya,” Tristan explained. “You’re just going to mess with whatever it does to block the sandstorm.”

“Oh yeah?” Draya asked. “I’ll show it what’s what. Watch.”

Draya defiantly stepped out into the sandstorm and approached the Avianoid Pokémon. As she got close, it clanged its strange feathers together as a warning. When Draya didn’t relent, the Sigilyph flapped its wings at the ground in front of the advancing Zoroark, sending an Air Cutter attack into the ground. The blast of sand covered Draya from head to toe, stopping her in her tracks.

“I… did warn you,” N offered as Draya violently shook herself of as much sand as she could.

“Fine…” the Zoroark grumbled. She stomped back toward Tristan, reached her hand into her trainer’s cloak, and recalled herself into her empty Poké Ball.

To Tristan’s surprise, most of the sand that had covered her did not follow her into her capture sphere. He chuckled to himself, “She’s gonna be pissed when I tell her she could’ve done that to get clean all this time.”

Tristan threw up his hood to shield himself from the already hot sun and walked out to meet N and the Sigilyph. As he stepped into the wide field of Psychic energy that repelled the sandstorm, it looked to Tristan as if someone had placed a glass bubble around them. The outside world warped slightly as he peered around in the sphere.

“Come, Tristan,” N said. “We should get moving.”

“You got it.”

Following a map they had drawn up the previous day, N and Tristan began their journey toward the Desert Resort, and hopefully, the ruins that might lie there.

—————

The sun had risen high into the sky, now shining brightly at its uppermost point. Noontime in a desert cranked the heat up to excruciating levels. As the two humans traveled in this unforgiving canyon, their footsteps would sink deeply into the sand without warning or reason. They helped each other back up onto stable ground when the other would get stuck, delaying their travel and expending precious energy.

Sweat dripped down Tristan’s face—among other places, he could feel—and he longed for a cool gust of wind to cool him down.

Just as the thought crossed his mind, N’s Sigilyph seemingly picked up on the desire with its telepathic ability, and sent a gentle breeze through the protective bubble for the two humans. N and Tristan took the opportunity and allowed a moment to rest and drink some much needed water.

Through a stroke of luck, or perhaps just a result of his persistence, N had finally come across a wild Pokémon that knew where the ruins that they were searching for were located. A Sandile that had popped up out of the ground inside of their bubble—which had instantly ruptured and sent a blast of hot wind and sand blowing at the two travelers—apparently knew the ruins very well and agreed to show them the way.

N reluctantly pulled out a Poké Ball and recalled the Sigilyph, vowing to release it once their time in the desert was done, and let the Sandile guide them toward their goal.

Thankfully for the two humans, they happened to not be very far away from the entrance to the ruins, which made itself known by a few broken, stone columns that jutted upward from the sand dunes. A stairway made of stone led down underground and into darkness. N and Tristan stood at the entrance for a moment to take in the moment.

“Reshiram…” N muttered before stepping down into the ancient passageway.

Once inside, Tristan pulled back his hood and surveyed the low ceiling entryway. Stone pathways quickly gave way to more sand, which he was uncertain whether it had blown in from the outside or had been in the ruins to begin with. He noticed that N was examining some equipment that had been left in various places in the chamber. It appeared to belong to an archaeological survey group. Small digging tools, cameras, and even a basic lighting system had been affixed to the walls and ceilings.

“What is all of this?” N asked. “These don’t belong here.”

“Looks like people are starting to explore these ruins,” Tristan explained. “If it’s halting construction, they’re probably going to want to know how big this place is.”

“Then people have already gone through here?” N seemed worried.

“Well, look,” Tristan pointed down one of the passageways that continued on from their location, “the lights don’t go very far, and there isn’t anyone around. They might’ve just started excavating, and we got here between their expeditions.”

N contemplated his words, “You are correct. If nothing else,” he paused to listen to the silent ruins. “We are the only ones here. Since the lights only go so far, then I should—”

“I can take care of that, actually,” Tristan offered. He grabbed a Poké Ball from beneath his cloak and released his Swadloon. He bent down and picked up the Leaf-Wrapped Pokémon in his arms. “Jeremiah can use Flash once it gets too dark. Come on.”

At his words, another Poké Ball opened itself in the dimly lit room. Draya materialized inside Tristan’s cloak, hugging her human companion from behind. She whispered from beneath the cloth, “I hope you weren’t going to forget about me, babe.”

“I wasn’t,” Tristan said. “This might get a bit dirty, you know.”

Draya emerged from behind him, defiantly walking further down the dark hallway.

“I’m fine, this isn’t going to be like the windy desert, I can—” In the blink of an eye, Draya’s lost her footing and slipped, falling from view and tumbled down a pit of sand. Tristan watched in terror as she slipped beneath the sand and disappeared beneath them.

“Draya!” Tristan would have leapt in after her if N hadn’t grabbed him by his clothes.

“Tristan, wait!” he pointed off to the far side of the room. “There is a path leading down, we can likely get to Draya without putting ourselves in harm’s way!”

“Okay, I get it,” he shook N’s hand off of his shoulder, carefully walking along the edge of the sinking sand trap.

On N’s command, their wild Sandile guide dived down into the pit to find Draya. The two humans carefully made their way around the sand pit to the stairs and descended them quickly. They reached the floor beneath the entrance, and the light had completely faded from the sunlight and artificial lights the researchers had set up.

“Jeremiah!” Tristan called.

At his trainer’s command, the Swadloon’s eyes began to glow with white light, and opened up its leafy covering, shining a bright light that illuminated the entire second floor of the ruins. The light from the Grass type Pokémon seemed to cling to the walls and ceiling, persisting even after Jeremiah had finished casting the technique.

N’s friendly Sandile turned a corner ahead of them, getting their attention. Tristan and N raced to meet up with the Desert Croc, but didn’t need to go far to find where it was leading them.

Draya was lying unconscious on a pile of sand that constantly grew as grains trickled down from the floor above. Tristan rushed to her aid, pulling her from the dirt and holding the Zoroark in his arms.

“Draya! Draya wake up!” Tristan shook his Zoroark gently, but she failed to respond to him.

“Calm yourself, my friend,” said N. “Look, she’s seems to be breathing. She must have hit her head on the way down.”

“I need to get her help!”

“Tristan, please. Take a deep breath.” N knelt in the sand next to Tristan. “You have her Poké Ball, and you can administer medication while she is inside it, can you not?”

“But—”

“Can you not?” N asked him again, bearing down on him. “Her health is at stake, so please do not delay.”

“R—Right…” Tristan gently brushed away some of the sand that still lingered on Draya’s face, watching her breath slowly but steadily. He gathered himself and recalled Draya into her Poké Ball. In emergency cases, Poké Balls were equipped with small amounts of medicine and had an indefinite life-support system capable of sustaining a Pokémon’s life until proper medical care can be received. The medicine would need to be replaced and refilled once Tristan could reach a Pokémon center, but Draya would be able to be kept in stasis and her condition would not worsen.

Tristan held her Poké Ball as it rumbled and blinked, doing what it could to treat the Zoroark inside before it locked itself and shrunk in his hand. He checked his Pokédex and examined what the Poké Ball had to say about her status.

“How is she?” N asked.

“She was knocked out by the fall, she has a concussion.” Tristan stood up, brushing some sand from his clothes. “Let’s hurry up and look through this place. I want to get her out of here soon.”

“I agree,” N said. “Are you alright? You don’t look well.”

“I’ll be fine once we get out of here, okay?” Tristan snapped back.

“Very well.”

Tristan and N walked through the eerily lit passageways of the Relic Castle in a tense silence for some time. N had bid farewell to the wild Sandile after it told him everything it could about the Castle. It warned them about the lower floors, saying they were dangerous but didn’t say why. Apparently no wild Pokémon went below the first three floors. It wasn’t until they had decided they had searched the second floor and enough and moved on to the third that Tristan spoke up again.

“How much longer are we going to be wandering around in here?” he asked.

“I don’t want to leave any stone unturned if I can help it. I take it you are anxious to leave soon?” asked N.

“I’m just worried about Draya, that’s all. I need to make sure she’s going to be okay,” Tristan said.

“I see.” After a few more moments of silent trudging through the sand, N spoke up again. “Pardon the sudden change in topic, but do you think me a fool?” he asked.

“I’m sorry?” Tristan’s mind spun to try and figure out what N had meant.

“I’ll put it another way. Do you think that I do not notice what is very plain to see?” N didn’t seem offended or to be accusing Tristan of some insult. Genuine curiosity and sincerity were plain on his face. “I speak of the change between you and Draya.”

“We’ve changed?” repeated Tristan. He shrugged and continued down the sandy hallway. “I mean, it was a shock to find out she wasn’t a Snivy, but—”

“So you do take me for a fool,” he shook his head. “I mean the fact that you and Draya are courting each other. That is why you are so insistent that we leave here.”

Tristan stopped in his tracks, subconsciously clenching his fists. The light in the corridor slowly started to dim as the effect of Jeremiah’s illuminating Flash began to lose its strength. Before Tristan could mutter an order to replace the light, N called upon the Sigilyph he had to brighten the hallway.

“I’m right, aren’t I?” N asked expectantly.

“No, I’m just worried about her as her trainer,” Tristan said.

“So you say, but when your Whirlipede was knocked unconscious during your Gym Battle against Lenora, did you rush to give it aid, or continue on with your business?”

“I…” Tristan looked down and away from him. He had been caught and had no way to refute the claim. “Well, so what if we are ‘courting’? It’s fine, isn’t it?”

“Absolutely not.” N crossed his arms and leaned forward, “You are a human. The two of you are incompatible from the most basic of parameters. The two of you simply cannot be.”

Tristan felt as if he were backed against a wall. This was the most open opposition N had ever shown to him since Tristan had met him. Before now, N always seemed to respect, if maybe begrudgingly, Tristan and his life as a Pokémon trainer, only going so far as to point out their differences and go no further.

“Why do you care so much? You don’t get to decide whether or not we can be together,” Tristan said.

“Perhaps not now,” said N, shaking his head, “but when I rise up as the Hero and bring Truth to this world, humanity and Pokémon shall no longer be intertwined.”

“You’re saying you’ll split us up?” asked Tristan. “Make it illegal for humans and Pokémon to be together?”

“I will admit, after meeting you, I will regret separating all Pokémon from humans. You are the first trainer I’ve ever met that I deem worthy of living with Pokémon, but… mating with them?” N shuddered. “I cannot understand it. How could you push your desires upon your Pokémon?”

“‘My’ desires? You think I’m preying on her, or taking advantage of her?”

“Of course. There have been many documented cases over the years that—”

“I don’t care what you’ve read about or what you think is going on,” Tristan stepped forward and grabbed N by the collar of his cloak, “but I am not that kind of person! Besides,” he let him go, deciding he had gone too far. He took a breath to calm himself, “She came onto me. Not that I mind, really, but that’s what happened.”

“She… what?”

“Yeah, it was sudden and unexpected, but once she evolved she became super forward with feelings I guess she’d had for a while,” explained Tristan.

“But… how can that be? A Pokémon courting a human for their mate is…” N drifted off in thought.

“I’ll bet you looked over those kind of relationships when you did your research.”

“I hadn’t found any evidence of anything of the sort,” N muttered. “She really ‘came onto’ you? She instigated it?”

“Yes.”

Tristan stared back at N’s disbelieving face, watching him struggle to come to terms with what he was being told. N would begin to say some sort of rebuttal but stop himself, his words catching in his throat.

“I never imagined…” he said.

“Well, start to.” Tristan put a hand on N’s shoulder, gripping it tightly. “I… have real feelings for her. I may not have known her very long—I’ve known her real self even less than that—but that doesn’t change anything. She showed up and brought me up out of a bad place, let me live my life when I wanted to. Since then, we’ve grown and bonded together. What we are is very real.”

“I see.” N gathered his thoughts before speaking again. “Forgive me. In topics I am unfamiliar with, romance is perhaps foremost on the list. I was not there for the beginning of your ‘relationship’, I do not have all the variables. For Draya, or any Pokémon for that matter, to be the one to initiate the situation is something I never considered. In the future, I promise I won’t jump to any conclusions.”

“Well, thanks, I guess,” Tristan said, offering a smile.

“But all the same, my point stands. If my world becomes true—”

“You’ll split humanity from Pokémon?” Tristan asked. “Then I will strive to protect my ideal world; one where Draya and I are together.”

“I expect nothing less.” N extended a hand. “Before then, I’ll agree to no longer fight you on this if you’ll grant me some peace of mind. Please do not treat her as you might a human girl. She is a Pokémon, and that means she has a side to her that humanity will never reach. Respect that.”

Tristan took his hand, gripping it tightly.

“I will.”

—————

With their bad blood behind them for the time being, N and Tristan moved further beneath the sand and deeper into the Relic Castle. Scouring empty room after empty room, going from floor after floor, they found nothing that seemed to point toward their elusive goal.

The air was getting stale and unpleasant to breathe the further they descended into the ruined remains of civilization.

Soon after they found themselves on the fifth floor of the castle, the soft sounds of the two human’s footsteps ceased in a startling fashion; someone had stepped on something very fragile. The loud crunch and crack stopped Tristan and N in their tracks.

“What was that?” Tristan asked, looking around. “I didn’t see anything on the floor but more sand.”

“It was sand.” N pointed down to his feet, which were still ankle deep in the sand, but around his foot and leg were shards of thin glass scattered in the sand. N carefully picked up a sliver, turning it around so the light reflected on it as he showed it to Tristan. “When sand is exposed to tremendous heat, it melts into glass. And look,” he pointed further down the corridor. The path beyond began to sparkle as the light from Tristan’s Swadloon and N’s Sigilyph shone down the hallway.

“This may be very thin,” N said, snapping the small shard of glass between his fingers, “but do you see? It thickens.”

“I don’t get it,” Tristan said. He began to run his hand along the smooth crystalline coating that spread along the sand. Early on it would break easily, but soon could withstand pressure of a simple press of his hand. He assumed further along they could walk upon the surface if it continued to thicken. “What could have caused this?”

“Legends say that when the dragons of Truth and Ideals leave this world, they expel all of the energy left in their bodies wherever they might be in a terrifyingly destructive, or maybe, transformative way.” N visibly shook with excitement. “We might have just found where Reshiram died.”

“It looks like the sand was melted in waves. If we find where the waves begin…”

“…We’ll find what we’re looking for,” N finished for him.

The two young men did their best to avoid being cut by the sharp pieces of glass they made as they moved further down into the underground ruins. N’s Sigilyph used its psychic power to break apart the thin glass ahead of their movements as they walked until they found they were able to walk on the hardened surface that coated the floor. Dull thuds replaced the soft crunch of sand as they moved their way down the eerily lit hallways. The light emanating from their Pokémon splintered and refracted off the crystalline surfaces. The waves of cool, melted sand washed past them as they tread carefully over them. They came across entire rooms blocked off by the hardened glass, but decided it would be a bad idea to try and break into them.

“This stuff is everywhere; if we try and break some of it, the whole ceiling of glass could come raining down on us,” Tristan warned.

“Agreed,” said N, though it was clear he was unable to completely leave the rooms without investigating them. He took a small knife from his pocket and carved small symbols into the surface of the blocked off rooms. “Perhaps later…”

The sound of cracking glass caught their attention immediately—it was beginning to thin again. The doorway to their right had a unique pattern in its waves of melted glass, like ripples in water. From inside the room, and ominous orange glow poured out into the hallway they stood in. Walking inside slowly, Tristan and N came upon what might have been a throne room in the ages past. While the crystal growths grew and spiked up the columns that held up the ceiling, light that came from the Pokémon waiting by the entrance and the unknown source danced and clashed together as they sparkled and ran along the even pillars.

Tristan scanned the room, looking at the waves of melted sand emanate from the back of the room. He took a few more steps forward before N gripped the back of his shirt abruptly.

“Wait!” he said in a hushed voice. N called his Sigilyph forward and focused its light ahead of them.

The glass began to bundle and spiral upward into a bulbous growth that seemed to be attached to the back wall. Tendrils of molten glass spread outward from it, anchoring the heavy mass in place on the stone. Inside the cocoon of glass was some sort of creature, but the constantly shifting and refracting light made it difficult to tell what exactly slumbered inside. Veins of red-hot liquid glass pulsed outward from it in a slow and calm manner. Beneath the diamond-like chrysalis, strange shapes of red and orange, a mass of black and blue, and what might have been white fur could be seen, breathing in time with the fiery growths surrounding it.

“What… is that?” Tristan asked in a quiet voice. “Is it… alive?”

“I believe…” N’s voice was heavy with fear. He began backing away from the shining structure with caution. “I may have made a miscalculation… this is not the beast we seek awaken, nor is it one we would want to.”

Tristan followed N’s actions, but tripped on his own feet and slipped, falling hard on the smooth surface that coated the floor. A loud crack carried out around him, growing up the pillars and toward the menacing glowing beast.

The two humans held their breath, neither daring to move.

A heavy chunk of glass broke off of the cocoon, revealing the creature’s bright blue compound eyes. It shuddered, using its curving red horns to break away more of its splintering casing. It chattered, fluttering its wings and taking to the air. Small scales flew off of its wings as it hovered in the air, igniting as they dropped, burning hot enough to melt through the hardened glass surrounding it.

“The beast of the sun is awake!” N hauled Tristan to his feet. “We must run now!”

The fire-spreading moth took notice of the two intruders in its nest and screeched, flapping its wings hard and sending a wave of heat that sent N and Tristan falling backwards toward the entrance. The beast, Volcarona, floated menacingly in place, melting the glass around it.

“Run?” Tristan asked. “Where do we go?”

“Come!”

The two got back on their feet and ran out of the throne room. Tristan carried his Swadloon in his arms, while N’s Sigilyph floated quickly behind them. They heard the chattering calls of the newly awoken Sun Pokémon coming from behind them. Tristan almost ran into N as he abruptly stopped at a blocked off room that they had overlooked previously.

Much like the throne room where Volcarona had slumbered, waves of thick glass flowed outward from the doorway, but in a more abrupt and erratic pattern.

“Sigilyph, I need you to carefully break down this obstacle! Then reseal it behind us once we are all inside!” N commanded.

A blue aura of energy began to silently crack and find its way inside the blocked off doorway. Smoothly and neatly, a section of the glass covering slid out, leaving a round entrance to the room available. At the sound of another screech from their pursuer, the two humans and their Pokémon made their way inside the room and canceled their Flashes. N’s Sigilyph replaced the glass just before the fiery moth passed by.

Tristan breathed a sigh of relief as the chattering calls quieted.

“I apologize for putting your life in danger,” said N. “I did not know such a creature had taken up residence here.”

“What was it anyway?” Tristan asked, letting Jeremiah re-cast his Flash technique. He looked around and saw an unnatural hole in the floor, ringed black with a heavy scorch mark.

“Volcarona,” N said with reverence. “A being of fire and heat believed to be born from the sun itself. Their numbers are few, but incredibly powerful.”

“So, you don’t think there would be another one in this castle, do you?” asked Tristan.

“No, I do not believe that is likely.”

“Then what made this burn mark? Or this room’s glass anyway? It’s different than the outside,” Tristan explained as he pointed around the room, finally pointing to the hole leading beneath them. From what the two could tell, and from what the light from Jeremiah could reveal, the room beneath them was large and still deeply buried in sand.

“Something…” N said quietly. “Else.” He began to glow with blue light and his Sigilyph carried him into the air, slowly lowering him down into the dark room below. N’s Pokémon followed down shortly after.

“Wait, shouldn’t we worry about that Volcarona?” Tristan asked down the hole.

He received no reply.

“N? Are you alright down there?” Tristan called.

Silence greeted him once again.

“Hey, come on! Say something!” he yelled down.

This time, Tristan was answered by a blue glow appearing over his body. The psychic power of N’s Sigilyph lifted him up and lowered him down into the room below. The levitation faded and Tristan landed softly in ankle deep sand, though it felt as if he might sink more if he moved much more. It was dark in the room, apart from the dim glow coming from Sigilyph. Tristan could see the faint outline of N standing a few feet in front of him, with his back turned.

“Jeremiah, a little light?” Tristan asked.

The Sewaddle shifted momentarily in his arms and spread light throughout the room once more. The ceiling was high above them, nearly touched by tall piles of sand that sat in the corners of the room. Old items could be seen half buried and scattered throughout the place. Tristan guessed this might have been a basement used for storage when the castle was in use.

“Tristan…” N said, looking over his shoulder at him.

“What is it?”

“Look at her…” N slowly turned around to face him, revealing something he cradled in his arms. It was smooth, round, and about as large as a basketball. Its creamy white surface was unmarked apart from three deep, evenly spaced, oval shaped grooves. N smiled down at the item in his arms warmly, gently stroking the white sphere. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“What,” Tristan started, confused at what he was seeing. “What is that?”

“It’s Reshiram, of course! Look!” N held out the orb with excitement. “Look how she’s survived down here all this time!”

“N… that’s just… a rock. You said we were looking for a dragon.”

“And I also said that dragon had died, did I not? This is what remains of the beasts of Truth and Ideals when their time comes. Their form coalesces into these stones, one Light and one Dark, waiting to awaken once more…” N pulled the Light Stone closer to himself and embraced it.

“Great, now we can finally get out of here, right?” asked Tristan. He began looking around the room for an exit. “I think that Volcarona is somewhere close by. It’s getting hotter by the second in here.”

“It is?” N asked, genuinely surprised. “I feel no change in temperature. It’s quite pleasant here, if I say so myself.”

Tristan began breathing heavily, struggling to take in air. Sweat began pouring down his face, and he began feeling very uncomfortable in his clothes. He looked back to N and found the source of his discomfort.

“N! Drop the stone!” Tristan yelled. He had to stagger backwards toward the edge of the room, the heat was becoming unbearable.

“Why should I?” N asked.

How can he not notice!? “That thing is red hot! It’s burning up!”

N looked down at the heavy orb in his hands, seemingly unaware of the incredible heat it was clearly giving off. The bright red glow increased and faded into white the longer N held onto it. The sphere began to hum and burn the air around him, the waves of heat distorting his image. The Light Stone sparked and erupted into a flurry of white fire, engulfing the room the humans stood in.

Tristan averted his gaze and recalled Jeremiah, fearing for his Pokémon’s life. The heat was incredible, he could barely stand to look back in its direction.

When he finally did, Tristan saw N standing before a mass of pure white flame that grew and expanded, burning away and reducing the sand and ancient relics that were buried in it into nothing. The mass slowly began to take form; the vague shapes of wings spread themselves out from the main body, a head rose from the neck, legs planted themselves on the stone floor. Finally, a pair of bright blue eyes shone brightly and peered at the two humans.

“Your spirit calls to me, you who embraced me with all your heart,” a voice rung out throughout the nearly empty room. It seemed as if the white fire was absorbing the sand and debris into itself for fuel. The being of fire lowered its head level with N’s.

“Do you see the Truth in the world?” the voice was cool and calming, despite the heat its owner radiated.

“I do,” N said.

“Show me.” The flame beast spread its burning wings and lowered its head, never taking its eyes off of N. “Show me what you know to be True.”

N smiled, reaching out with open arms, and stepped forward to hold the incomplete dragon’s head in his arms.

“N stop!” Tristan yelled through the hot air. It burned his throat to do it. “You’ll be burned alive!”

“No, I won’t, my friend.” N wrapped his arms around the muzzle of the burning form of Reshiram, resting his head against its brow.

A bright flash of light, brighter than the light from Sigilyph’s or Jeremiah’s Flash, engulfed the chamber, consuming everything. Tristan could not bear it and had to turn away again. As the heat rose even higher, Tristan feared for his life, afraid of being sublimated like the sand and stone around him.

When the light finally faded away, so did the sweltering heat. The air felt so cold in contrast that Tristan shivered. His vision was blurry and filled with spots for a few moments, but he could hear something.

A low rumble, a content growl, came from the middle of the large, and now entirely empty room.

Tristan strained his eyes to look to see what had happened to the young man who had been swallowed up by the white fire.

N was much in the same position as he was before the bright flash of light, but in his arms was no long a shifting mass of white hot energy.

The flame had cooled and became a beautiful beast of brilliant white feathers and fur. Two long trails of fur flowed off its head, billowing gently in an otherworldly wind. Two shining silver rings circled its neck, while two more confined its massive tail. Much like the rings, its claws shined and shimmered in the remaining light in the room. Large feathery wings supported its body along with its legs.

N lovingly rubbed the snout of the dragon in his embrace, holding its head close to his chest.

“I knew in my heart you would never harm me,” said N. “I finally found you.”

“I exist to see that Truth prevails where lies reign supreme. You hold many truths close to your heart, little one.” Reshiram backed away from her human, and rose to her full height to survey her surroundings. “I recognize this place, but such a state it is in saddens me. It has been long since I last took breath.”

“Yes! It has! And the world needs to be shown the light, Reshiram! Together, we can show them!” N held his arms out high to the dragon that towered over him.

“And we shall, my young champion.” Reshiram finally took notice of Tristan standing some feet away, staring up in awe at her form. “I sense you do not believe what you see before your own eyes,” she said to him. “Does this form offend you?”

“N—No, not— I just…” Tristan had trouble finding the words. “I just never believed that the stories were… true.”

“You align yourself with strange companions, little one,” she said to N. The Vast White Pokémon closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I see my brother still sleeps.”

“Yes, but I believe Tristan here to be my counterpart. I know he will awaken Zekrom one day, and one day soon,” N told her.

“Optimism and realism rarely last long together, little one, but I am willing to humor the idealist if you are.”

Tristan couldn’t believe he was being mocked by a dragon.

“N… I,” he started. “I’m sorry I doubted you… It’s all real, isn’t it?”

The taller young man turned around to face him, smiling. “Yes, it is.”

“I tire of this place and the memories it holds,” said Reshiram. “Shall we take our leave?”

“Wait, how are we getting out of here with… well, a gigantic dragon?” asked Tristan.

“Take it from one who saw the construction of this place; these bricks are brittle.”

“You want to break our way out of here? How? And you can’t just destroy it, this place is—”

“A place is just a place, and it has served its purpose. I can remove us from this dark dungeon with ease. My champion?” Reshiram lowered her head down to his level. “What do you desire?”

“Let us leave, but don’t destroy what you can help. History and its connections led me to you, so I would like to preserve it,” N said.

“Sentimentality can lead to hesitation. This is nothing more than an empty grave now. We must act.”

“Yes, you are right.” N turned to Tristan, “Come, there is nothing left for us here.”

“Still though, don’t bring the whole place down, please. Wild Pokémon live in here.”

“Too true,” N said. “One such may be wreaking havoc above. We should hurry.”

“Very well, I shall use a low flame,” Reshiram said, inhaling. As the white dragon began building up energy, the tips of her feathers began to glow red and an inferno started to build within the turbine-like tail. Reshiram reared her head back and let loose a white hot flame upward, cutting into the stone above them, tearing through floor after floor.

In its wake, a wide, circular hole in the ceiling led straight up into the outside air.

It took Tristan a moment to realize it was now almost nighttime. Cool air flowed down the hole into the basement they stood in. He shivered again, but it wasn’t from the cold.

“Well done!” N praised his new friend. “The castle still stands, and now we can leave.” N stepped lightly over to the dragon and climbed up onto its back. He extended a hand down to Tristan, “Come, my friend. Let us leave this place.”

After a terrifying moment, Tristan willed his legs to move toward the beast that seared its way through so many feet of stone and sand. He slowly and carefully climbed up onto Reshiram behind N, gripping the feathery fur tightly in his hands.

“Fear not, little dreamer. I will not drop you,” she told him, looking over her back at him. “You are my hero’s companion and friend. We are allies.”

Without another word, Reshiram lowered herself closer to the floor, raising her large white wings, and took off into the hole in the ceiling. In seconds, they reached the night air, shooting up into the sky. The speed of it all shocked Tristan to no end.

“Well now, who is this pretender to my throne?” asked Reshiram. She held her place in the air above the desert, looking down at a trail of fire that was scattered and smoldering off in the direction of the nearest city.

“That Volcarona…” Tristan said. “It’s headed for Nimbasa! They have no idea it’s coming!”

“All the lights and sounds must have attracted its rage,” N said. “Reshiram! Innocents are in danger. We must go and remove the threat.”

“So say you, my Hero of Truth…” Reshiram built up another flurry of energy in her tail, preparing to take off toward the shining city. “Let us show the world the truth you hold most dear to your heart.”

—————

To Be Continued…

—————



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