Antumbra: a phenomenon seen when the moon appears to almost entirely swallow the sun in an eclipse, leaving only a thin thread of light encircling the dark void. This is my first story on this website. Forgive my inexperience, and please tell me if there is anything that needs changing.
This tale begins roughly a week after the events in Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai, and follows Alice and Darkrai through the difficult times that follow.
True fact: Every single time I tried to write 'legendary beasts' in this chapter, I ended up misspelling it as 'legendary beats.' The movie would have been far more entertaining, I think, if Palkia and Dialga nearly destroyed the town in the passion of their furious rap contest.
With that imagery in your head, enjoy the story.
Alice walked through the garden, watching the Pokémon at the waterfront laughing and splashing in the pond as she crossed the path towards the forest. A family of Marill and Azumarill arced through the water between the delicate pillars that held up a gazebo stretching across the pond, and a recently-evolved Quagsire she'd nicknamed Blooper splashed his tail and let out a friendly croak at her as she passed. She smiled and raised a hand in return as she walked past.
It was a warm, quiet afternoon, a rare day off in between her studies and the now-popular balloon tours that took up most of her time now. She'd become somewhat of a celebrity after the near-destruction of Alamos town, and after the spectacle at the clock tower, it suddenly drew ten times more visitors and sightseers, all clamoring for an airborne panoramic tour of the massive building. Luckily, though, the townspeople still showed little interest in Godey's garden. It was relatively boring to them. To her, it was her very own private, peaceful pocket of refuge in the bustling town, where she knew she could get a breath of fresh air and some solitude.
But today, she had a mission in the forgotten area. Namely, the Pokémon that had been at the start—and the end of—the disaster that struck the town just a short week ago. Darkrai.
She'd been blown away with surprise when she learned that the mythical Pokémon had apparently been living in this garden—her garden—since before she had even been born. She had never even heard the name, much less caught a glimpse of him. And yet, the instant the town was threatened, there he was, lending all his strength to help them (though not without horrible misunderstandings first).
Every time she visited this garden, familiar Pokémon faces smiled back at her. She could recognize almost all of the huge garden's residents. A pang of guilt went through her. She'd once proudly claimed that all the Pokémon in the garden were her friends. But apparently, she'd missed one. And he ended up saving her life. The very least she could do was repay him. She wasn't quite sure how she was going to go about that, but tracking him down seemed like the logical first step.
Only, she had no idea where to start. She'd kept a close eye out in the garden as she walked, but everything looked as usual; no wayward shadows, no sudden whooshes of cold wind. She'd even called out his name a few times, to be rewarded with silence and the sinking feeling that she looked like an idiot, shouting to thin air. She'd wandered these grounds since she was a child, and still, she had no clues that could point to where the shadowy Pokémon dwelled.
Was he truly all right, after being battered to the brink of death by those two legendary beasts? If he was, why hadn't he reappeared since then? Was he simply going to slip back into the metaphorical (and literal) shadows after all he'd just done for them? Had... had their sight of him standing tall on the clock tower that sunset been real?
A familiar voice brought her attention across the courtyard. "Gallade!" she said, recognizing the face of the green-and-white Pokémon waving at her. Gallade grinned and bounded across the stone walkway towards her. A dainty, unfamiliar Kirlia trailed behind him. She took her friend's outstretched hand. "You look well. And who is this?" Alice asked, looking at his companion. "Don't tell me you have a girlfriend!" The Kirlia blushed and ducked behind Gallade. "Oh, get out of here... when did this happen? I thought you were the proud bachelor!" Gallade gave a bashful grin and shrugged, stepping back and putting an arm around Kirlia. "Well, it's very nice to meet you, Kirlia. I hope you can keep Gallade out of trouble for me." She bowed politely. The Kirlia peeked out from behind Gallade long enough to flash a shy smile.
"Gallade, I actually have a favor to ask you." Alice said, getting down to business. Gallade frowned and cocked his head curiously, sensing her change in mood. "Do you know where I can find the Pokémon Darkrai?"
At the sound of the Pokémon's name, the Kirlia gave a soft cry of alarm and shrank back. Gallade shifted backwards as well, surprise and worry on his face. Alice frowned at their dramatic reactions. Darkrai had supposedly been living in this garden for generations, and was apparently low-key enough that she'd never even known he was there. What could possibly be so frightening about that?
Gallade was looking at her now with a mixture of concern and alarm. He spoke a few words in his staccato language, worry obvious in his voice, shaking his head. He didn't seem to want her to go.
"It's all right, Gallade. He knows me. I just want to speak with him for a little while." Alice said soothingly. "Can you show me where he is? Or at least point me in the right direction?"
A deep frown still creased Gallade's face as he eyed Alice. He turned to the Kirlia, and spoke a few words in a low voice, bumping his forehead against hers in an affectionate gesture. She chirruped an anxious reply, and let go of his arm. When Alice was done, she was going to have to tease Gallade about how adorable he looked with his new sweetheart. But not now; he seemed too upset. Gallade looked back at Alice, and motioned for her to follow him. They set off together, the Kirlia staying behind in the courtyard.
The splashing and laughter by the water's edge faded as Alice followed Gallade down a twisted garden path. He hopped effortlessly through the trees, keeping silent. She'd known Gallade since he was a Ralts, and she'd almost never seen him look this serious. She wondered if he had fought with Darkrai before. He had a vain tendency to get into tussles with other Pokémon in the garden over the most trivial affronts to his dignity, whether real or imagined. But if he'd tried to pick a fight with Darkrai, it was no wonder he was frightened of the Pokémon. Alice had a feeling that even his formidable blades were no match for those pitch-black, frighteningly strong attacks she had seen Darkrai unleash.
They were traveling deep into the center of the garden; Alice rarely came to this area. Then Gallade took a right, and they were standing at the entrance to the deep forest.
Nobody came this way, not anymore. Few people even remembered it existed, tucked deep in a corner of the garden. In the past, the forest path could have been a meticulously groomed walkway, showcasing exotic plants on either side between the well-trimmed trees. But over the years, it was forgotten, glossed over in favor of the more modern parks and tourist areas, and nature reclaimed it. Well, devoured it, more like. The path was uneven, and weeds overran the barely-visible outlines of what had once been neatly-divided squares of garden soil on either side. Even in the bright afternoon light, the path was dim, steeped in darkness.
Alice had only rarely ventured down this particular path. None of the Pokémon she knew frequented this place. She remembered, years ago, she had gotten an inexplicable urge to explore the area and had ventured inside once or twice, but had quickly given up. She hadn't been able to place what exactly bothered her about the forest, but there was an uneasy feel to the air that had made her skin crawl and sent her scurrying back outside, into the sunlight and warmth.
Apparently, this was where Darkrai made his home.
Gallade dropped from the trees and landed beside her, glancing about before stepping into the dim shadows of the forest. Alice followed, keeping close beside him. As they ventured inside, the cheery ambient noises of the garden were muffled by the trees, as if the forest were swallowing up the lighthearted sounds. Branches arched overhead, and thin, frail threads of sunlight struggled to pierce the dense shadows.
She remembered the events that had ravaged the town just a few short weeks ago. The distortion of the garden; so unnatural and frightening at the time, but nothing but a harmless prelude compared to what came afterwards. The thrill that ran through her body as that Pokémon of darkness had materialized before them, warning them away. Fear, confusion, and... the dim warmth of recognition, as its piercing blue eyes locked onto her. She would never forget those eyes for as long as she lived. The terror, as the town was torn apart by the legendary beasts. And yet, at every turn, he was there... a supposedly evil creature, deflecting the attacks that would have seared the flesh from their bones, drawing the legendary Pokémon to attack him instead of the town... and even when he had exhausted his strength and could barely get up, he still fought, throwing his body against the onslaught in a last-ditch effort to protect them.
As they'd fought to resurrect Oración and stop the warring legendaries, she had slowly remembered who he was. Meeting him, all those years ago, in the garden... the sensation of falling stopped by gentle, strong arms. More than that, his presence; she could recall many times now, feeling eyes on her in the garden and not knowing who was there. Now she knew. He remembered too, she was sure. She saw it in the way he glanced back after stopping an attack, sweeping his gaze over the townspeople, stopping to rest upon her for a fraction of a second that stretched on forever. The way he hovered in front of her, fierce and unyielding, putting his body between her and the danger.
His efforts, his near-death (or had he really died, in those horrible moments before the town was restored?) hadn't just been to protect the town. They had been for her.
They were deep in the forest, now. She noticed that the usual background noises that should have been commonplace in the forest—the rustle of Pokémon foraging in the grass, birdsong from the trees—were eerily absent. It was as if everything living had forsaken the area.
Suddenly, Gallade stopped. Alice paused, and looked at the path ahead. She couldn't see anything out of place, just the worn dirt path, being slowly swallowed by weeds and brush. No, it wasn't something visible; it was a feeling, a stomach-turning promise of horrific consequences should they take a single step further. The invisible miasma of malice hung rank in the air just ahead of them. The sensation was so strong, it might as well have been a barbed-wire fence strung across their path.
She recognized the sensation almost immediately. It was the same threatening aura she had felt rolling off Darkrai in waves when he'd first appeared before her and the others, trying—though they didn't know it at the time—to ward off the legendary beasts from the town. It had been so overwhelming; it was no wonder that the trainers had attacked Darkrai almost out of instinct. But knowing the source of the sensation didn't make it any less terrifying. She swallowed despite herself and looked at Gallade, hoping for some kind of guidance. "He... he's down the path?" she asked, feeling slightly shaky.
Gallade nodded and pointed further on, saying something solemn to her. He didn't look like he was about to accompany her down this stretch of the journey, years-long friendship or not. Alice didn't blame him.
"Thank you, Gallade." She took his hands. "You're a great help." She looked down at the path. It somehow seemed ten times as dark as the rest of the forest. "I don't want to keep you any longer. Your girlfriend might get worried, after all." She forced a joking grin on her face, and Gallade gave a half smile and touched her hands to his forehead in one of his typical chivalrous gestures. She pulled back, and turned back towards the path. "I'll talk to you later, then."
And gritting her teeth, she steeled herself and stepped through the fog of menace. A pang of sudden fear shot through her, seemingly out of nowhere, but she forced herself to ignore it. She had helped Darkrai, and he'd protected her. He wouldn't hurt her... right? She pushed onward, only allowing herself a small peek back before she rounded the corner of the path. Gallade still stood there, at the border to the dark space, watching her with worry.
Alice forged onwards, deeper in. The sensation of fear and anxiety was lessening as she moved further inside. It was just a forest, after all. Just trees and grass. And one fearsome nightmare Pokémon, but she was on good terms with him. Or so she assumed. She lifted her head and scanned her dim surroundings. Nothing stirred. There were only shadows, and the occasional faint bar of sunlight seeping sluggishly between the branches.
She opened her mouth. "Darkrai!" she called. She quickly shut her mouth again. Her voice sounded too loud, out of place in this subdued area, like a raucous kid in a graveyard. The forest was still and silent around her. She glanced about. Nothing.
She tried again. "Darkrai, are you here?" No answer. She was starting to feel silly. He might not even be here. She was just shouting to the trees like a crazy person. But then she heard a faint noise, like a breath of wind over the branches behind her, and she turned to see a faintly luminescent, piercing blue eye gazing at her from the shadowed base of a tree.
A smile broke over her face, and she felt a rush of relief flow through her body. It was him, just as she remembered. "Darkrai..." she said, "You're here..." She walked off the path into the brush, anxiety forgotten. The Pokémon materialized from the darkness as she approached, putting one clawed hand on the tree bark and pushing himself up, the rest of his body seeming to flow from the shadows around him until he was fully visible, floating in midair like a wisp of smoke given form.
She stopped a few feet away from him. He hovered in place, regarding her with a cautious look. There was no wind in the air, but the wispy hair on his head and the tatters of his black cloak still billowed behind him as if carried by an invisible breeze.
Alice. His voice—was it really a voice, or more of a thought?—reverberated around her, imposing despite its neutral tone.
"Yeah, it's me again." she said, suddenly at a loss of what to say. She paused, but he didn't say anything further. He seemed to be waiting for her to do something. Which made sense, since she had been the one to seek him out. But for some reason, her previous confidence had vanished and she was suddenly tripping all over her own tongue.
"I..." she fumbled, "I wanted to make sure you were all right. I mean, you seemed all right after the town came back, but..." she trailed off, fidgeting with the hem of her skirt. How was she supposed to put it into words? That sick feeling, as I saw your battered body lying motionless in the shallow water, too weak even to lift your head above the surface... as I fought down the urge to scream, "Why would you do this for us?"
Darkrai raised his arms slightly and looked himself up and down, as if to say, hmm... yes, all body parts accounted for. Alice let out a choked laugh. "I'm... just glad you're okay." He was all right. He wasn't dead, or dying. The horror of a week ago was just a memory. She had no idea why she'd gotten so attached to the Pokémon after such a short time of knowing him. Bonding through trauma, maybe. She just couldn't stop remembering the way her heart seemed to shatter when she had watched him 'die.'
Darkrai's one visible eye flicked back to her face. He began to lift a hesitant hand toward her, then seemed to think better of it and let it drop to his side.
"Why didn't you come back!" she finally burst out. Tears pricked her eyes. "I thought you were dead! I was so worried about you!" She glared at Darkrai, torn between bursting into tears and punching the elusive Pokémon. She'd be damned if he tried to claim that showing a glimpse of himself from halfway across town counted as 'coming back.'
But he didn't reply. He just stared at her, a perplexed look on his face. "Don't give me that look!" she cried. "Friends are supposed to let each other know they're okay!"
Darkrai jerked back at her sharp words. His surprise startled her into silence. What had he...
His voice echoed through the trees again. Friends?
Her eyes widened. "I... oh." Then she mentally kicked herself. She didn't need to be apologetic for her words. "Yes. You've saved my life, several times." she said. "And you protected the town I love. Maybe I don't know you very well, but I consider you my friend."
Darkrai stared dazedly at her like a fish that had been tossed out of its pond. The smoky tatters of his 'robe' fluttered in an almost nervous way.
"What about you?" she asked, looking straight into his eyes. "Darkrai, will you be my friend?"
Darkrai didn't respond for a long time. Alice was beginning to wonder if his brain had locked up when he slowly, hesitantly raised one taloned hand and held it out to her, palm forward. She understood the gesture. Touch, the universal symbol of trust that spanned across all species, Pokémon or human. He stared unblinkingly into her eyes with a solemn gaze that was so intense, so searching it made her want to turn her face away.
But she didn't. She leaned forward, not breaking her gaze, and pressed her palm against his. Her entire outstretched hand barely spanned his huge palm. His skin felt like silk stretched over cool stone, and she felt a dim sense of déjà-vu as her fingertips brushed the living shadow.
Darkrai closed his eyes, bowed his head. Alice smiled.
"Thank you, friend."