A/N: After nearly a year of no updates, I've finally finished this chapter! And wouldn't you believe it, I'm hoping to finish The Prince and I next chapter! Gotta make sure it counts! Hope you all enjoy the possibly semi-final chapter!
A gust of wind tossed my skirt up slightly as I sat on the front steps of the castle. Not an ideal choice of clothing for a battle, but it would have to do. The grunts would become suspicious of me if I wore something more casual. Then again, maybe it would have been best to draw attention towards myself to keep wandering eyes away from the infiltration team. Then again...
I turned my head around to front doors only to notice the grunts missing from their posts. No one would have noticed if I was wearing something not so typical of the queen since no one was around to begin with. I hadn't heard them going back inside. Did something happen? Dear Arceus, surely the team didn't start the operation without me and got caught? Then again...
"They just went in a minute ago. I wonder what happened?" Mildred tapped her feet on the concrete anxiously, one hand securely in her pocket, obviously fumbling around with the key-card in her uniform pocket.
Mildred was still here with me so there would be no way for the others to have gotten into the Meta. And besides, there was only one way that they could get in through and that was the front door.
"Go and check to see if anything's wrong. Just pretend like you're getting me some lemonade."
Mildred nodded, slipping the key-card out of her pocket and into my hand. "Just in case Anthony finds out." With that she scurried off into the castle.
Sooner or later Anthony would find out. I knew that she knew this. But she wasn't scared, and even if she was I'm sure she would do the right thing anyway. She loved Anthony unconditionally, but that wouldn't keep her from saving Genesect. And poor little Jessica. She was caught in between two opposing sides. She and little Chris were one and the same. But while little Chris was safe and kept away from the fighting, Jessica would be right in the middle of it. Hopefully Mildred had found a way to keep her out of the mess. A child shouldn't be forced into watching their parents fight. I only prayed that her eyes would be as safe as little Chris'.
My eyes darted around the surrounding rocky terrain for even the slightest hint of a white tunic. Where could they be? I couldn't wait any longer.
Another gust of wind brushed passed me, blowing a cloud of dust my way that grazed the crook of my neck. On a day like this with Mildred gone, I felt very much alone. The air felt colder with no one beside me. Ghostly echos of the breeze filling the nearby caves of Victory Road seemed to whistle more ominously than before. I sat between a barren wasteland of sandy loam and the thick, cold walls of the castle.
It was clear to me. Only one person would face N today. No one would be holding hands. No one would be babying. Only one person would walk up to the throne of the king as the rest of the world looked on. Team Plasma. The goddesses. The Shadow Triad. Ghetsis' single red eye would turn his blind on the others to watch the battle of a lifetime. And only one thing would stand there before him.
LONG LIVE THE KING!
My isolation broke at the sound of the voice from the heavens. I looked around in a daze. Was it too late?
"Mildred?" No sign of her anywhere. No sign of the others either. I was still alone, but that voice had been so loud and clear.
The breeze blew in once again. A stronger gust soon followed close behind. Rushing behind it blew in a clamor of cries and calls. Shrieks and claps whistled through the air in a confused rattle. Crashes and crunches harmonized with the multitude of screams that swirled up to the sky like souls bursting right out of hell itself. Chaos.
I felt my arms unconsciously grasp at the railing of the stairs. Maybe my body felt like those souls would drag me back down with them into the chaos. Would they? Would they keep me from doing what I needed to do? Was N going to be unattainable now that madness had ensued within those walls?
The doors trembled before me, no doubt feeling the same fear. Screams were getting closer along with a sudden crash. A trickle of water seeped from a small crack in the doorway.
What the hell was going on in there?
The sound of panting also seemed to be nearing from behind. "Miss White!"
I jerked my head in the direction of the voice only to feel relief at the sight of the infiltration team.
Shirley pulled herself up the stairs first, breathing heavily. "Thank goodness you're alright. We thought you'd been caught!"
My mouth curled awkwardly as I handed her the key-card. "I'm just glad you all made it here safely. I thought YOU all got caught."
I barely recognized Black as he stepped up next to Shirley, looking right at home in the grunt uniform she had disguised him in. "We thought we were when we heard that guy on the intercom."
"And lucky we weren't," Cheren chimed in with a scowl on his face, pulling at the collar of his uniform uncomfortably. "What was that anyway?"
I shook my head. "I don't know. But something's going on in there." My gaze returned to the doorway where the barrage of noises continued to sound off.
Bianca now grasped tightly to Black's arm, shivering as her own gaze locked onto the door. Black slipped his other arm around her shoulders, patting her softly to calm her down. "We'll fight 'em together."
She nodded against him, looking over at me with determination. "Go get him Whitey."
Giving her a reassuring nod, I turned my attention over to Alder and the Elite Four. "I gave the key-card to Shirley so she'll show you the way."
Marshal cracked his knuckles promptly. "Thanks a bunch for that. But even if we lose it, I'll make sure we have a door into that lab, even if I have to make it myself. I mean with all that mess going on in there, who would notice?"
"Only as a last resort. We'll keep as close to the dark as we can." Grimsley tapped his fingers against the pokeballs at his side.
Shauntal seemed to look at me an assuring grin. "Get to him quickly, Lady White. We need to see this through to a happy ending together."
The ever introverted Caitlin gave a silent nod in agreement.
Alder made his way up to me, placing a kind, callused hand on my shoulder. Just like that day those many years ago on these very steps. "Let's go, girl."
Black was already dragging Bianca up the stairs with him as Cheren walked closely behind with his students. His hands pressed against their backs in that same way as before.
I wanted to get this all over with. I was ready to go with them. Nodding to Alder, I turned on my heel and ran up the stairs behind them. Alder's warm laugh rang behind me as he and the Elite Four shuffled over to the top.
Muffled screeches wafted through the door as Black and Cheren each took hold of a handle.
"On the count of three!"
They pulled and the massive doorway heaved open.
What I saw was a sea of blurs. A kaleidoscope of purples, browns, reds, and whites all danced in a dizzying pattern of chaos. Grunts pitted their pokemon against each other, throwing their cries across the endless hallways. Patrats gnawed on the tails of foe Purrloins. A Krookodile rammed its massive tail into a Scrafty, sending it flying into fragile vases, only for the Scrafty to slowly rise from the shattered pieces and struggle on. Trubbish spewed acid into the faces of Woobats, making them drop to the ground as bright swatches of green glowed around their noses. Who were friends? Who were foes? Was this Ghetsis' half and N's half? Which ones were which?
As soon as a grunt lost, they would proceed to slam themselves into their opponents, crushing them into the thick stone pillars. Fists flew and faces fell to the ground. Fallen grunts tripped others over and continued their fight on the floor.
All of this...for Ghetsis?
A sudden force pushed me forward into the crowd of brawling grunts. The slightest sound of a muffled "Go!" in the sea of raging screams was enough to send me rushing down the hallway. My feet set themselves to autopilot, dragging me forward toward the first flight of stairs. A quick glance behind warranted that the others were no longer behind me. I was alone in this now. In my peripheral vision, I could see Bailey socking another grunt in the face. She had no time to spot me in the crowd as I made my way up the stairs to the second floor.
My body swerved around the corner, nearly tripping into the fountain against the wall. Two grunts scuffled under the waterfall as another tried to help their friend get out. Water splashed onto the carpet as the soaking rescued grunt gasped for air. As another grunt lifted his leg to stomp on them, a Liepard lunged forward, knocking him back into the fountain. The Liepard sank its teeth into the grunt's uniform, ripping away some fabric as it clawed away at the rest. I pushed myself off the fountain and threw myself up the next flight of stairs.
"What did you do with it!"
For a split second, Anthony came into my vision. His voice became lost in the gurgling growls of a Garbodor as it shot a thick stream of sludge from its tentacle arm. I couldn't see her, but the surprised sound of my name escaped the lips of Mildred from behind me as I ran on. It was the inevitable. Loved one against loved one. He really was on the other side. I didn't want this to happen to her, but it did. Poor baby Jessica. I only hoped that in the aftermath of all of this she'd be able to live a happy, peaceful life with both of her parents.
Their voices faded out as I reached the next floor. Just as a group of battling grunts came into view, I felt a strong pressure against my side. My lungs burned as they scrunched up. I gasped for air, trying to make out what happened. Glittering dark blue filled my vision. It wasn't water. Was I on the tile? Light burst into my vision as the pressure that was keeping me on the ground was quickly lifted off of me. A gloved hand slipped around my wrist, pulling me up to my feet. As my sight returned, white hair and a black skin tight suit began to take shape. A Shadow Triad member. At their feet was a hunched over grunt.
"The battle must take place. The queen will fight the king with no obstacles in the way." They quickly scooped the grunt up with one hand, pulling their arm back slightly before throwing them into the wall with ease. An agonizing hiss escaped the grunt as they passed out, crumpled on the floor.
The Shadow Triad member turned back to me. "We will take you to Lord N."
We? I blinked in confusion, suddenly sensing a presence behind me. Whipping around, the other two Triad members came into view. Each took hold of my wrists and in an instant, we stood before a crowd of maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of Plasma grunts, crying out a messy mixture of cheers and curses. The throne room felt even more massive than on my wedding day. It was even scarier now than then, as even though millions must have been watching on TV, all I had to do was recite a few lines that I'd practiced the day before.
Now? We had a practice of this event. Only it had been a decade since.
N stood at the further edge of the battle ground. The Shadow Triad let go of my wrists, motioning me forward. As I took steps closer to N, he slowly mirrored my movements, taking his place at the center of the room. I stopped in front of him, letting my right hand graze the pokeballs at my side. I wanted to glare at him for keeping the secret of Genesect from me. I wanted to ask him why he would betray his own wife and child for that monster. Why did you listen to him? Was it true that you didn't know which side of Team Plasma was loyal to you and not him? Were they just too powerful for you to handle? Did you not want to get anyone else involved and solve problems on your own?
My bottom lips quivered.
Why did you wait until now?
But nothing came out of my mouth. My voice stopped in its tracks as N stared intently into my eyes. His lips remained still, but his eyes and forehead scrunched up. He swallowed, tilting his head down a little, his gaze never leaving mine. I could see it in his eyes that he wanted to tell me something. However, it was something that couldn't be spoken in front of everyone. I responded with a questioning look and he returned a knowing look, making a subtle motion to himself as if saying "listen".
"You know." It wasn't a question, but he seemed to be confirming to himself that I was aware of Ghetsis's plans and his involvement. "Why would you be here if you didn't?"
The cheers and curses ceased as N spoke. Pockets of whispers sprouted throughout the crowd as others hushed them.
Another look from N told me to listen well. "Hero of Truth, you shall speak the truth."
Was he trying to sound fancy or something? It sounded a bit funny, but he wanted me to listen.
"Who has come to fight alongside you with your pokemon?"
I blinked in surprise. Did he know about the others?
N seemed to notice my surprise, looking a bit baffled himself. He rephrased the question. "I mean, who will fight me in this battle alongside you and your pokemon?"
Now I was even more confused. "Nobody, of course."
N nodded. "So you know who will win this battle, correct?"
Whispers filled the crowd once more. Even they were as confused as I was. Surely N didn't think that playing mind games would prolong the waiting for the battle. Unless...he didn't want the battle to happen in the first place, too? But if so, did that make him an ally? But then again, he told me to listen.
I must've looked even more confused because N decided to speak again without an answer from me. "The Hero of Truth speaks the truth. You have spoken, correct?"
I have spoken? I gave him no answer. I never said who would win the battle. "What do you-"
"You've spoken the truth," he repeated. N gave me nod as if telling me I had given him the answer. But I hadn't. I'd only answered one question. I told him that nobody would help me in the fight.
Wait...N. Was he asking me...?
My eyes widened as I looked back up at him. "You mean-"
"So you know your answer?" I could see the giddiness behind his eyes even though he kept a straight face. He was glad that I understood what he meant. Now he was asking me if I would agree. If it was that outcome, then maybe Ghetsis could be foiled again. And since Team Plasma was taking sides, this could keep both sides in check.
However there was a risk to it. Maybe the plan would fail and madness would erupt again. But as long as Genesect was released, Ghetsis would have fewer options to work with. Maybe everything would work out in the end.
After all, everything worked out the first time.
I gave him my best look of determination. "Yes!"
"Then show me your truth! En garde, my queen!"