With every passing year, I felt more and more confident to be a part of the Universe. As I spent more time with Dialga, I eventually spent more time with Lugia and Rayquaza. I felt as though I finally had a place to be. Both Lugia and Rayquaza took a liking to me, and eventually we hung out without Dialga at times. To my delight, they did not have a very strong liking for Ho-oh or Palkia, either.
"There's just something strange with Palkia," Rayquaza told me once as we sat at the Launch Pad. We had coiled in the light of the Sun, talking about Earth. "He's a loner and we like to invite him to watch the meteor showers on Earth sometimes, but he just…doesn't pay any attention to Lugia or me. He's always trying to get Dialga's attention."
I quirked an eyebrow, though I wasn't truly confused. I always knew Palkia had a soft spot for his brother, and wanted nothing more than to impress him. Even though we were all born at the same time, Palkia acted more like a "little" brother to Dialga, than an equal. Whenever Dialga and I had alone time, Palkia would find us, and show Dialga how he made stars. Dialga would always simply humor him, gazing in fake awe of the trick he'd seen thousands of times before. I wouldn't bend so easy and always floated in place with a sour look on my face. Palkia never cared for my approval, but he did care that Dialga got closer to me, laughed more with me, and generally spent more time with me.
"Yeah, now that you mention it, I've noticed that, too," I told Rayquaza. "I always hoped it would wear off, but it seems it never will."
I shook my head, and Rayquaza giggled. Like Dialga, Rayquaza would tell me often how he enjoyed the time we spent together. Unfortunately for him, though I found him a valuable friend, I didn't feel as strongly about it. When he said it, I didn't feel as genuinely happy as when Dialga said it.
However, it was still nice to have real friends, finally, even if the annoyance and badgering from my enemies never let up. For that, I had Dialga.
As time ticked ever closer to the Great Meet and Greet, Ho-oh and Palkia appeared more and more trying to give me reasons not to attend. My meetings with Palkia were always the same, as if they were scripted or I had a very bad case of déjà vu.
The pearl dragon would stomp his feet as he passed me in the hall as he ensured that the rotation of the planets were correct, and that no meteors came within many light-years of the castle, in preparation for the Meet and Greet. He was always angered by the sight of me.
He would then mutter, "Better not see you there."
And I would say, "Why not?" as if I hadn't a clue.
He would then whip around, furious. "Because we don't need you! You have to stay up in your tower and make sure no stars die too close to Earth!"
I would chuckle and reply, "Then I suppose you'll be on guard duty for pesky asteroids?" That would truly ruffle his wings, make him ball his fists, and swing his tail around. Usually he'd just walk away defeated, but one day, that didn't happen.
Instead he stood his ground, got right up in my face and grit his teeth, "Actually, it's because no mortal wants to meet the goddess of evil and death."
My mouth was agape, but no words came out for a few seconds. This was truly unlike Palkia to come up with lies on the spot. As much as we disliked each other, I respected Palkia in that he was simple - not in an unintelligent way, but unpretentious. He knew what he wanted, and instead of beating around the bush, lying, and coming up with complex excuses, he'd simply tell it to your face, no matter how insulting it might sound. In all the years we had been getting under each other's scales, never once did Palkia say something to only be mean. His comments were usually rude out of his wanting his way, and he was obviously new at the game, for it only took me a second after the shock to retaliate.
"Oh, so, now I'm the ruler of death, too? Says who? Mew never said anything about it," I quipped sarcastically.
"Well, think about it," he said, gesturing in my direction, an invitation to do as he suggested. "You're the goddess of antimatter, which is the opposite of matter. You know what happens when the two come together, right?"
"They both disappear," I answered, not amused. Little did he know that I had been close enough to Dialga for us to touch, and so his theory crumbled when I tapped him on the head with my tail.
"I guess that solves that mystery," I informed him.
And like all other times, as I floated away, Palkia was left grumbling with balled fists and gritted teeth.
Though I should have taken my strange encounter with Palkia with a grain of salt, I forgot about it quickly. I was more concerned about where I was going than the things plaguing me in my past.
I was heading to a part of the castle that was seldom walked through. This particular hallway was usually dark and was out of the way if one wanted to go to the Fountain Room, Arceus' chambers, or the Launch Pad to Earth. As I ventured deeper, memories of a younger Universe invaded my mind with thoughts of a simpler time when strife was not yet something I owned, and calm quiet swept across the tiles like a lonely apparition. It was a cold place, lost in time, but it was comforting for me, as well as for Dialga. As I approached the hall's only stretch of windows, I could see the diamond dragon there waiting for my arrival. Despite how forgotten this section of the castle was, it was the best for star-gazing. At night, the windows faced the most spectacular constellations and gave the best view of every meteor shower that visited the Earth below.
These meetings of ours were secret – not even Lugia nor Rayquaza knew of them. We were simply alone in a place only we knew of. These encounters came to be simply by accident. It came to pass that the hallway brought us back to simpler times, and the time we spent here began as idle chatting space, somewhere not even Palkia would think to look. As we got to know each other more and more, the awkwardness in our tones faded and soon the talking minimized to nods and smiles. We would test each other, getting closer, brushing up against one another more, until sitting apart was a foreign way to be.
This night was not unlike all the others. As I approached, I quietly greeted him, the lights turning on in our eyes. I nuzzled up to him, our crowns meeting with sighs of relief and thankfulness for the other's existence. Life in the castle wasn't easy for either of us. Those meetings and our feelings had to be kept secret if we intended to keep Palkia and Ho-oh at bay. We didn't want rumors. We didn't want taunting or questions. We just wanted peace, alone, with one another.
In the light of millions of stars, the quiet hallway echoed with our giggles, but never gave us away. As I cuddled closer to him, I felt as though I could be at ease, and I could melt and shed my tough outer exterior enough to allow him in. He nibbled at my neck gently and surrounded me with his thick front legs. He clutched me tighter as we fell into our normal positions, and my heart skipped a beat as a heavy sigh pressed his chest close to mine.
The strangest part about these meetings is that feelings were never spoken about; no long and painful explanation about what was happening here was exchanged. It just so happened that my undying thirst for his embrace was returned whole-heartedly. Whenever we caught each other's glance, we would stop suddenly, hearts still racing, breathing still heavy, and exchange a silent understanding about what these feelings really were.
The best part about the whole ordeal is that the hallways acted as a second dimension, and we were never discovered.
Unfortunately, all deep dark secrets get out one way or the other, and I could understand why. From an outsider's point of view, my friendship with Dialga was not like any other friendship in the castle. For one, we were the only ones whose best friend was of the opposite planetary calling, for which we now understand as gender. On top of that, the way we interacted was closer and inadvertently more affectionate. Thankfully, most of the other deities chalked it up to be nothing more than a brother caring for his sister. All except one, of course.
"Oh, ladies, there she is. The dragon girl who associates with Mars," Ho-oh would laugh and shout, every time I drifted into the Fountain Room. I would ignore her and join Regice for a cool, wake-up bath. Unbeknownst to Ho-oh, most of the other deities did not pay any attention to her, except for the rest of Lugia's flock, who were her target audience anyway.
"Just ignore her," Regice would say. "She's just jealous of you because you're so pretty and she's not." The little iceberg was always so sweet, but I also knew that she was doing her best to make me her best friend.
It made sense. Besides Lugia's Flock, and Mew, most of the other deities were male, and often congregated by the Launch Pad. Cresselia was a familiar face in the Fountain Room, and though she probably would have made a better friend to Regice than me, she wanted nothing to do with any of us. It wasn't that she didn't want friends, but Ho-oh's boisterous attitude probably scared the lunar swan away. Cresselia did not want to be friends with Ho-oh, but she also did not want to be on the other end of her taunting, which was where Regice and I called hell. I would also learn many centuries later that she had forged a relationship with Darkrai, much like the one I had with Dialga, so it's really no surprise she kept herself quiet and separate from all the other females all those years.
"I don't know about you girls, but I certainly don't want a girl like that overhearing what we talk about!" Ho-oh continued. "She'll just go and spread the gossip at the Launch Pad, where she really hangs out!"
The rest of Lugia's Flock nodded in nervous agreement, and they hung on every word that came out of Ho-oh's beak. Over the centuries, Ho-oh had turned Lugia's Flock into her own. Lugia would often complain about this, but eventually he found as long as he had complete command, it didn't bother him what his harem did on the side.
Regice turned towards Ho-oh, and motioned her stubby arm up and down to shoo Ho-oh away. Though she lacked much of a face, Regice did her best to scowl at the rainbow bird.
"It's all right," I murmured to the iceberg, scrubbing my golden plates with my tail spikes. "I have dealt with this for millennia, and the best course of action is to make no action at all."
I shook off the excess water, and attempted to leave the Fountain Room. Unfortunately, Ho-oh had overheard me, and she was not one to be taken lightly. Full of herself, she stopped me in the hall.
"I will not be ignored," she growled at me from behind.
I answered against my own judgment, "What else do you expect of me? I will not sit down and cry as you make a mockery of me. I am above petty bickering."
Ho-oh chuckled, and though I tried not to let her see it, this made me uneasy. She squinted her eyes at me with a malevolent smirk.
"Oh, so you think you're unlike the rest, do you?" she challenged me, "You think I can't bring you down?"
"You have in the past," I admitted. "But with time comes strength. I'm tired of your trivial arguments and undying need to be on top. If you want to push someone around, I will not be a scapegoat for it."
We glared at each other. I was prepared to demonstrate to her how much I knew about her, even if she herself didn't realize it.
"So, you know me so well, but," she lingered and waited until I was hooked to continue. "I know you just as well."
"Yes. You're a loner and no matter how many how many friends you have on the outside, the truth is, you're only interested in one," she read me like a book. "I know what you're up to with Dialga."
"Really? Do you, now?" I asked nonchalantly. I could tell she was just trying to scare me. Dialga and I were aware people had their opinions on what we were, but no one could possibly know the extent to which our friendship went.
"I do, actually," she assured. "And I'll let everyone know about your bizarre relationship."
I tried to brush it off, "How bizarre could it be? So, we are each other's best friend. We may be of opposite planets, but-"
She cut me off, "Oh, it is bizarre! I see the way you two act around each other. How you stare, how close you get to one another, how you touch. It is more than just an innocent sibling bond, and it is well beyond a friendship."
I growled at her. Of everyone to question the façade we attempted, it had to be her. I suppose I should not have expected any less. Ho-Oh was desperate to get dirt on me, and she probably watched me very closely, looking for anything unusual she could bring up in her gossip.
"So, what do you think it is?" I asked her, knowing full well that no one had been informed as to what a relationship like the one I shared with Dialga was.
Furrowing her brow so that a lump of feathers stood up against her hard beak, she said, "I haven't a clue, and Mew was no help. She'd do anything to protect you."
I smirked, having defeated my foe once again.
"Don't think you're out of the storm, yet, dragon girl," she hissed. "If you'd like to keep things the way they are, you'd better not show your ugly face at the Meet and Greet. No mortal wants to meet the goddess of death, I'll have you know."
That sounded familiar. I shook my head, "And I've been meaning to ask, why does the Meet and Greet mean so much to you? Why are you so obsessed with trying to keep me away from it? You even have Palkia working for you!"
"I'm not admitting anything to the likes of you," she said. "But if you need a hint, I hate you and I don't think anyone else should have to be in contact with you."
I rolled my eyes. Well, of course that was the depth of the reason. Though it was apparent Palkia didn't want my attendance for fear that I might look better than him, for Ho-Oh the notion wasn't so deep. It was petty loathing on her part, for the simple fact that, unlike all of the other deities, I didn't bend to her will. I saw through her and exposed her, and she hated it. To her misery, the Meet and Greet would be an ample place for mortals to see her true colors and mine. Her vanity had gone to her brain the moment she popped into existence. She was an attention seeker, above all things and she knew the mortals would be more interested and give more attention to Arceus' children, the ones who control all basic aspects of their world, than to the bird that seldom made rainbows for them. That was the one and true reasoning, even if she never admitted it.
Now that she had a leg up on me, though, she felt like she was in control, and she was half right. It was true no one could describe what Dialga and I had, so her threats were pretty meaningless. On the other hand, I didn't need to deal with the strange looks. I didn't want people to start reevaluating what they thought was going on with us. I simply wanted to be left alone, but that could never be. Not with Ho-Oh breathing down my neck.
I turned to float away, attempting to leave the assumption that I would or would not attend the Meet and Greet up in the air. Ho-Oh stared after me, waiting for an answer I wouldn't give.
"You better not show up if you know what's good for you," she hissed.
I didn't answer.
I did, however, go straight to my tower, and to my relief, Mew appeared from the window. She looked happy to see me, and plopped down on my back as I lay curled up on the floor.
"I haven't seen you in ages!" she started, folding her short leg over the other. She lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling with her arms folded, acting as a head rest.
"At least I've made more friends," I said to her. "You had been so busy, I didn't want to bother you."
"I was busy," she said distantly. "But not anymore! I'm all done!"
I was shocked. Mew had been working for eons, to the point where I thought her work would never be done.
"So I suppose that means the big Meet and Greet thing is right around the corner," I said, though I don't know why. It was the last thing I wanted to talk about.
"Yes, it's very soon," the little feline told me. "In fact, that's why I'm here! I've been going around telling everyone that it's in two rotations of the Earth and we'll be having it in Arceus' Great Hall."
I swallowed. So much for having time to decide on whether I was going to appear at it or not.
"Is Arceus making it a mandatory event?" I asked after a small pause.
Mew got up and looked at me hard and confused at the question. "I didn't think he needed to say."
I sighed. It was time to buckle down and make Mew a female friend I could entrust my secrets to. "You know I have been having trouble with Ho-Oh, right?"
Mew nodded, but then said, "Wait, I thought you tried to make amends with her."
"The key word there is 'tried'," I muttered. "She wouldn't hear of it, and I've been taking the brunt of her never ending torment."
Mew winced, probably feeling as though she could have done more to help me. What she or anyone could have done, is still beyond me, though. Ho-Oh was capable of doing anything to ruin me, inside and out; to my face and behind my back.
"And now, she and Palkia have made it their top priority to get me not to go to the Meet and Greet," I explained.
"That's ridiculous," Mew quickly responded. "She can't force you to-"
I cut her off, "And then she can. Apparently my friendship with Dialga is much too bizarre for her or anyone obtuse enough to listen to her."
"Well," Mew started, deep in thought. "Is it?"
I sighed in frustration. I was immediately regretting bringing this up. "Yes…no…I don't know! Our friendship is different, but I don't see how it's anyone's business."
I began again after a long pause. "When I'm with Dialga…it's a different experience than when I'm with Rayquaza, or Regice, or Lugia. I feel freer. But even before we started spending time together, I always pined for him. All I ever wanted was to be near him."
Thinking back to those days when I would dream about the amorous times I eventually had with Dialga, a slight and soft smile spread across my face. Such nostalgia overcame me, for I felt as though all of this bliss would end soon. We could not be as long as I had enemies.
I giggled half-heartedly at how ridiculous and how hopeless I had become.
"It came to be that…he felt the same way," I ended my confession.
Mew nodded. "Yes, I knew all that."
My eyes grew wide. "Then…why…why didn't you say something?"
She chortled, "It's so much healthier for you to say it out loud, though."
"Yes, true, maybe," I said in a panic. "But I spent the last millennium confused about these feelings…which I still can't describe, thank you very much."
"You and Dialga are in love with each other," Mew explained, in a dreamy sort of way as she lay back down with her arms folded under her head. She was obviously enjoying this. "You have been since the universe began, though I don't think Arceus intended for it to happen."
I gulped. It was exactly as I feared.
"How did you know?"
"I'm psychic, remember?" she joked. "But, one doesn't need to be psychic to notice it between you two. There was always this force of fate pulling you together, and that was something I found truly unique and inspiring. Despite all of the uncertainty, the intense want for the other…love is bliss. So, it's something I instilled in all Mortal Pokemon, with Arceus' approval of course. It will allow them to enjoy life to the fullest, and fill the Earth with their kind."
Though Mew's take on it and inspiration was truly interesting, I still couldn't get over that my feelings had a name this whole time. For all I had been through, love was not just a term, it was a state of being, and my entire existence had been enthralled in it.
"But, like I said," Mew interrupted my thoughts. "I don't know if Arceus intended for us deities to feel that way. He seemed to only see a use in it if it meant enticing mortals to proliferate. Deities have no need to proliferate. He may just find it useless and an obvious distraction."
I sighed, frustrated and helpless. Everything Mew was saying were things I had already thought about. "I honestly don't want to lose this," I told her at last.
"I know, but Arceus also doesn't want anything to go wrong at the event," Mew informed me. "You should tell him about Ho-Oh and Palkia. Perhaps he can-"
"You know I don't want to do that," I said sternly. "Either way, I lose in this mess, which is, excuse my immaturity, unfair! I haven't done anything wrong, yet I will undoubtedly have the most precious thing to me taken away."
"It's the only way to get past the Meet and Greet without any hiccups," she urged.
Despite my selfishness and best efforts to think of excuses, I eventually agreed with Mew.
The very next morning, as the Universe castle passed between the Earth and the Sun, I quickly made my way to Arceus' chamber, located in the middle of the castle, an offshoot from the main hall where Mew and I first met. I was careful not to engage in any chitchat with friends, and took great care to slip into the shadows and sneak past Palkia and Ho-Oh's notice.
As I entered Arceus' main chamber, I became nervous. I hadn't spoken to my Father in eons. There was never any need, and I was, even at that point, too proud to admit I needed help. Like my Father, I truly wanted this event to go off without a hitch. Despite what really happened, I wanted to enjoy the party, converse with mortals, and make everyone see I wasn't the monster my enemies made me out to seem.
Arceus' main chamber was open to all – no doors closed off access to him, yet I still felt as if I didn't belong there. The room inside was large, but contained, and I noticed Arceus floating inside, meditating. His plates circled him, and he was concentrating – on what, I'll never know.
Feeling as though I was probably about to disturb him, I made the motion to turn away and forget the whole thing. Come what may, I decided. Unfortunately, he knew I had been there, and spoke to catch me mid-slink.
"Is there a problem, my daughter?" Arceus asked with a nuance of exasperation.
"Father," I bowed to him. "Yes, there is. For many hundreds of years, I've been tormented by Ho-Oh, and I fear our differences may negatively impact the Great Meet and Greet."
"Is that so?" Arceus opened his eyes. "Funny thing. Ho-Oh was just here herself and said the same of you."
I gulped as he approached closer, and squinted his eyes in scrutiny.
"Excuse me, Father, but she is a liar," I tried, to ultimately no avail. "Both she and Palkia, for the past hundred years have tried everything in an attempt to force me to skip out on the event."
"Well, we can't have that. You must attend. And you will not cause uproar at this event."
I shook my head in disbelief. This couldn't be happening. "Father, I'm afraid that if I go, the two of them will introduce me to the mortals as a goddess of death. They will try to make everyone afraid of me."
"Giratina," he started, his patience running thin. "You are my child, and Ho-Oh is of Mew. You cannot put yourself on her level for it is lower than yours. You are her deity. Do not waste your time on her, for she is not as strong as you."
Though his words were encouraging, it became apparent to me that Arceus truly knew none of us. We were acquaintances at best. Although it was flattering that he believed I was infinitely stronger and more respectable than Ho-Oh could ever dream to be, it was obvious that notion had no foothold in reality. Though I always hated to admit it, Ho-Oh was truly much more persistent and cunning than I. I was her prey as she hunted my weaknesses.
I nodded to my Father, giving up what was always a pipe dream that he'd step in and help me. I was on my own, as always.