Author: Default Red
Flakes swirled thickly through the air. My breath came in ragged, steaming gasps as I plowed relentlessly onward through the waist-high drifts, one arm raised as a shield against the whipping snow. It was a little surprising, really. Route 217 was famous for its blizzards, and I’d braved more than a few of them during my time in Sinnoh, but this one seemed… more intense, somehow, stronger. Unnatural. I gritted my teeth as I stumbled over a rock hidden beneath the thick snow cover, and continued. If I was having this much trouble getting to Lake Acuity, then the road would be impassible for Dawn and Lucas, somewhere behind me in the storm. They were probably frantic by now, crazy over the fact that their friend was in trouble, and they could do nothing but wait for the storm to clear. They were counting on me to get through.
Abruptly, the wind died to a low whistle, and the snowfall trickled off to a light dusting. With a sigh of relief, I picked up my feet and broke into a run. I had reached the lakefront. Briefly I regretted having spent so much energy in the day’s prior battles. My side still throbbed dully where the hooked fist of Commander Saturn’s Toxicroak had snagged it, and the bite marks of Mars’ Purugly stood out, livid and red, on my exposed hands. I could sense the strength of my three partners flagging, as well. They were strong, yes, but none of us could keep going forever. One last battle, I told then silently, loping forward through the rapidly thinning drifts, one more battle, and then we can rest, guys. Let’s not screw it up this time, ‘kay? Luca’s assent drifted into my mind, and I glanced down at her Pokéball to meet her burning stare. I could tell by the fierceness of her eyes and the burning of her aura that she was just as troubled as I that we hadn’t been able to prevent the capture of the Lake Pokemon, Azelf and Mesprit, despite our best efforts, and that she didn’t intend to make the same error again. Giving her a small nod, I let myself grin, just a little, turning my eyes back toward the road. We just might have a chance.
A sudden bust of light rising above the trees startled me into awareness, and I broke into a dead sprint, Luca’s alarm raging through my mind. Team Galactic had beaten us to the lake, and judging by the strength of the attack, they had a high level officer with them. That was a Hyper Beam… I thought, gritting my teeth as the throbbing in my side increased, damn. Hang in there, Pearl. As I dodged around a snow-covered boulder and hopped clumsily over a fallen log, the lake’s shore itself came into view. Pearl knelt in the snow next to his fallen Infernape, an expression of despair on his face, and standing over him, a tall, imposing-looking figure with a Skuntank by her side, was just lifting a finger to point at the stricken boy. Putting on a final burst of speed, I tore through the trees and skidded to a halt in front of him, bellowing, “STOOOOOOOP!!!!”
Pearl gasped and stared, eyes wide, but the woman merely smirked, bringing her finger to rest on me, and purring in a venomous voice, “Ahhhhh, Winter. How…nice of you to join us. I knew you’d come. Never could resist the chance to play hero, hmmm?” “Jupiter,” I returned, my hand going instinctively to my belt, “I should have known. Leave the boy alone.” “I’ll take it from here,” I added over my shoulder to the dumbstruck Pearl. “Aw, and I was just starting to have fun, too,” she pouted, sticking out her bottom lip and popping her finger into her mouth, “I’m not about to stop playing now.” “I suppose I could let him go,” she mused, narrowing her eyes and fixing me with her python’s stare, “If you’d play with me instead.” She drew a long, blue-bladed sword from behind her back; an Aura Guardian’s blade, and powered up, hands flaming with purpley light. I dropped my first Pokéball, releasing Luca, and powered up my aura, drawing my own blade from its sheath across my waist. The Lucario emerged with a roar, cocking her fists and wrinkling her muzzle at Skuntank, who growled low in his throat in response. “Your move… old friend,” I murmured quietly, keeping my eyes fixed on her.
We circled for a few minutes before she feinted left and dove at me, blade extended to strike. Beside her, Skuntank slammed into Luca, and the pair rolled over through the snow a few times before righting themselves. As Jupiter and I crossed swords, Skuntank unleashed a Flamethrower, which Luca narrowly missed taking the brunt of. She stepped back, shaking her smoking fist and glaring. The problem with battling another Aura Guardian was, I reflected, the fact that most commands were relayed silently through the trainer’s thoughts, making the battle unpredictable. Luca narrowly avoided another Flamethrower, and leaping nimbly over Skuntank, slammed her fist into his face in a powerful Force Palm. Skuntank staggered, momentarily stunned, but quickly recovered, launching a third Flamethrower which badly singed Luca’s hip. She staggered back just as Jupiter, taking advantage of the distraction, drove the hilt of her sword into my face. Gasping in pain, I staggered back to stand beside Luca, clutching what was probably a broken nose. Need to end this, I thought desperately as Luca panted beside me, cringing under a Burn status effect, but how? The answer came suddenly as a flurry of flakes whirled across the lake surface in a fleeting gust of wind. Luca, picking up on my thoughts, grinned through her pain and nodded. Scooping up a double pawful of snow, she gritted her teeth and charged toward Skuntank, rolling the heap between her paws. The Skunk Pokemon smirked, opening his mouth for a final, point-blank Flamethrower. Just as the blaze began to form in the back of his throat, Luca pitched what was now a sizeable snowball into his gaping mouth. Skuntank choked, eyes widening, as the unexpected missile socked between his teeth. Luca skidded to a halt and fired an Aura Sphere directly into his face. The poison-type gave one final gasp, and keeled over in the snow, as Luca dropped to one knee, then collapsed beside him, overcome by the burn at last.
We paused, recalling our fallen Pokemon, Jupiter snarling and wiping at her face where my blade had sliced her cheek. I silently thanked Luca, reaching for my next Pokeball. There would be time for sentiment later. Right now, I had a job to do. Jupiter’s Pokéball snapped open to reveal a Bronzong just as I released Yuki. “Your Snorunt’s grown up, I see…” commented Jupiter, pointing to my waiting Froslass. I nodded. “Looks like your Bronzor has, too,” I returned, priming an aura sphere between my hands. “Let’s see if it’s gotten any stronger,” she jeered, preparing one of her own, “You certainly haven’t.” With a yell of anger, I launched the sphere just as Yuki powered up a Shadow Ball and hurled it at Bronzong. Jupiter’s attack collided with mine in mid-air, and we rushed each other again as Bronzong folded into a Protect, the Shadow Ball bouncing harmlessly off its iron hide. Yuki frowned, flowing forward and blasting out a spray of Shadow Balls which Bronzong shrugged off, unleashing a Gyro Ball right into Yuki’s face. The ghost-type flew backwards, letting out a soft cry of pain before gliding forward once more, anger rolling off her in waves. “Iron Defense” smirked Jupiter, arms shaking under the strain of trying to hold me back, “Your attacks won’t do anything.” My mind raced as I shoved Jupiter away and winced as the pain in my side returned. Bronzong. Bronz-ong. Bronze. Bronze conducts electricity... I bit my lip and glanced at Lake Acuity’s frozen surface. It was a crazy plan, but, what choice did we have? The last Lake Pokemon had to be protected.
I broke from the fight, racing out onto the lake’s frozen surface with Yuki right beside me and Bronzong hot on our heels. Jupiter shouted angrily, racing toward me, but I barely heard her as I knelt on the ice and, focusing every ounce of aura I had left, struck the surface with flaming palms. For a moment, nothing happened. Nobody moved. Then, the lake gave a low groan, and I hurriedly scrambled onto the shore as the entire ice sheet shattered, exposing the frigid waters beneath. Jupiter gasped. This was all the time Yuki needed to act. Her Avalanche slammed Bronzong into the water, and before the bronze bell Pokemon could right itself to counter, she called down a mighty Thunder attack, electrifying the whole lake with a loud crash. “Bronze conducts electricity,” I muttered wearily as Bronzong surfaced, very much charred, and motionless, “And wet bronze conducts it even better.” Jupiter recalled Bronzong, grinding her teeth, as Yuki floated back over to join me, panting and drooping but still conscious. “It’s over, Jupiter,” I announced, flicking my blade up to point at her, “You’ve lost.”
At first, she said nothing. Then, she chuckled darkly. The sound sent a shudder down my spine. “Lost? I think not,” she hissed. Her voice was deadly and quiet. She reached behind her, and retrieved a third Pokéball from her belt, one I hadn’t seen or counted on. “No, it’s you who’s lost, Winter. You lost when you abandoned Team Galactic, twelve years ago.” Pearl gasped behind me, and I closed my eyes wearily. The truth was out, no matter how much I hated it. “Call out your last Pokemon, Winter,” sneered Jupiter, pitching the ball into the air, “You’ll need it.” The ball burst open, and my heart leaped into my throat before plunging into the depths of my stomach with a cold splash. The source of the sinister blizzard from earlier had suddenly become all too clear. Hovering in the air before me was a creature torn directly from legend, the fabled titian of ice itself. “A-A-Articuno….” I whispered fearfully. My knuckles tightened around my sword, turning white with the force of my grip. The bird fixed me with its icy glare before sweeping its wing forward. “D-Delphi!” I shouted, releasing my final Pokemon and taking up a defensive stance. It was not enough. The power of Articuno’s Frustration knocked Yuki unconscious in one hit and sent me flying through the air. I slammed hard into the trunk of a pine tree and dropped to the ground, winded and dazed. My sword flew from my grip, landing in the snow several yards away. Delphi buzzed frantically around my head as Jupiter strutted forward. “See what kind of power you gave up? See what you could have had?” She sneered, laying a hand on the bird’s side. “Di-Discharge,” I wheezed to Delphi, dragging myself to my knees. The little Porygon-Z hummed with electricity, firing off a bolt which barely ruffled the titian’s feathers. With a huff, it reached out, slamming Delphi into the ground and knocking it out cold, and then seizing me in its talons. I cried out as they dug fiercely into my stomach. In the center of the lake, a light began to pulse. “You’ve failed,” drawled Jupiter, glancing toward the light, “Uxie will be captured shortly, and then nothing can ruin Cyrus’s glorious new world.” She smirked, giving me a look of false pity. “Too bad you won’t be around to see it.” Articuno gave me one final squeeze, and then hurled me through the air, into the lake. Failed... I thought dimly as I slammed through the water’s surface, I’ve failed... Above me, the light grew more intense, even as darkness began to swallow me up. My last conscious thought was that Sinnoh was about to get colder. A lot colder.