Loyalty

Chapter 16: Souls

Agatha's mansion had a prominent tower in its center. The tower was directly above the chamber were the exorcism was being conducted, with an opening on its floor that served as a tunnel of light going all the way down to the chamber. Agatha looked at the tunnel, seeing the glow of Chandelure below, dimming and brightening at a steady rhythm, everything was finally in place. It was time to try again and this time, it had to be enough. Even if all others failed before her, and her as well, this had to be brought to an end. "It's time for me to fulfill my promise... Agatha whispered. "This time it will either work, or end in an absolute tragedy, their freedom or their death... because of who they are..."

Laiki shuddered visibly as she and the other three inhabitants of the top room of the tower gave her wide eyed expressions. The tower was gray on the outside, decorated with shades of purple and violet. On the inside it was a majestic ivory with lavender swirls. The vertical tunnel that led to the chamber below faded from white to gray to black. "You're really creeping me out..." Laiki commented. "Oh if only I had a hot man to hold me in his arms! I'm sure that would distract me."

"Indeed," Agatha gave Laiki a warning look. "But this is not the right time to complain about such things. Please maintain your quietude."

Laiki nodded her head; she didn't want to mess anything up. "Got it, I'll be as quiet as a tomb!" Another shudder ran down her spine. "Let me rephrase that, I'll be as quiet as a very quiet living human."

"Good enough," Agatha agreed, then she sat next to the tunnel in the northern area. "Are you ready?"

"Pika! Chu!" Pikachu was facing Agatha from the southern area. He nodded vigorously; ready to do whatever it took.

Agatha then looked at the other two. He was at the west and she at the east. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes," Jessie replied with unbreakable determination. "My body still needs to recover, but exorcisms are about the mind, right? I'll be fine."

"Same here," James asserted. "We're Rockets too and Ash risked his life for us. We need to help him in any way we can. Delia and Meowth can take care of Johnny for a while, then we'll return to them with good news!"

"Very well, if you're certain," Agatha agreed. "However, you must not underestimate this task. Even if your bodies are perfectly still, the mental strain will be great. This may be far more difficult than the past attempt, which failed... but it is our last chance... because of who they are..." Agatha made a pause and everyone waited for her to elaborate. "But even so, Ash wields the power of aura, that is a sign of the possibility of success, so let us strongly believe!" Agatha began to chant a spell with ancient words that only she could understand. All of the participants of the exorcism began to glow along with their ghostly companions. "Everyone... Focus on your wish to help Ash and give that power to me, so that I may pass it on to him..."

xoxox xox xoxox

At first there was only silence for Ash, then he heard the soft waves of the sea and felt a gentle breeze. He curiously opened his eyes and found that he was no longer in the dim black chamber, but instead he was at a beach in a stretch of land that looked like the tip of a peninsula. He looked towards the ocean, then back towards the land. There was a tall volcano further to the north with smoke reaching to the sky.

Someone approached walking along the beach quietly. "I see you cannot get your mind off it. I am the same way, Blaze."

Ash looked at the woman who had spoken; her eyes were a pure blue and her hair a long brilliant red. She was dressed in elaborate tribal garments in shades of blue with golden jewelry that held many pearls and small seashells. "Aquamarine," the name escaped him before he could stop himself. This was Misty, he knew it, but he had called her Aquamarine. She had called him Blaze and somehow he knew the name belonged to him. He was there, but at the same time he was someone else, someone from a distant past. That's when he realized that he too was somehow dressed for the era in a tribal style, with predominant shades of red.

It looked like Misty had been completely overtaken by this other persona, a persona of the past. For a split second an echo of the past attempt at an exorcism could be seen by Ash. He saw a man much like himself, Blaze, and a woman much like Misty, Aquamarine. Beside Blaze stood Giovanni, his advisor and beside Aquamarine was her advisor Tidus. Then he knew, his aura could perceive it. The shaman of the past was not a man at all; it was a woman by the name of Aquamarine. The chosen one for vengeance and the enemy seeking reconciliation were the advisors that had to make the two leaders reconcile, the princess of the Azure tribe and the prince of the Crimson tribe.

This time however, Ash and Misty had not appeared as advisors next to the spirits of the past. They had taken the forms of Aquamarine and Blaze because of who they were... Words rung out clearly in Ash's head. 'For centuries to come, the grudge shall remain, as strong as the sun, with unforgiving blame. It is not of anger, of fear or despair; it is because of...' The voice was ominous and echoing, the sounds distorted yet clear. Then the voice faded away into silence.

"Blaze," Aquamarine called once more. "This is no time to be distracted. Our tribes are at an unrest," she approached him nestling in his arms. This was Misty, but she had the mind of Aquamarine.

Blaze's mind wanted to surface, yet Ash's aura permitted him to stay in control. "Allow him a moment..." Agatha's voice rung out in Ash's head.

Ash closed his eyes for a moment an allowed Blaze's consciousness to resurface as if it was another facet of himself... and it was, because he was Blaze's reincarnation. Blaze wrapped his arms around Aquamarine. "The Volcano Master demands a sacrifice. My tribe left Mount Cinnabar to chase after the Ice Spirit and sacrifice it to the volcano. I do not agree with this, but if it's not done, the Volcano Master will drown this land with lava."

Aquamarine looked distressed. "The Ice Spirit is friends with the legendary Ocean Master, who will be terribly angered if the Ice Spirit is sacrificed. Please, even if I am an outsider, guide me to the Volcano Master, perhaps I can negotiate..."

"It's too dangerous!" Blaze protested. "Only high ranking members of the Crimson tribe are allowed there. The volcano master won't tolerate someone from the Azure tribe trespassing."

"I have to try!" Aquamarine insisted. "Please, Blaze, do you not trust me? I know we were both distrusting of each other when your tribe first left the mountain and came to the shore. But has that not changed during these past few months? Have I not earned your trust?"

"Yes," Blaze replied, "that is why I worry for your safety, because you've earned my trust and my love..." The secret lovers shared an affectionate kiss.

Agatha, who was watching the scene unfold, felt Ash's energy ripple through the psychic link. She chuckled in good humor, though only Ash could hear her. "Be still, grandnephew, allow your past self to show us what truly happened." Ash's energy settled and he didn't steal control back from his past self.

xoxox xox xoxox

That night, the members of the Azure tribe and the Crimson tribe called for a meeting. The Crimson tribe wanted to sacrifice the Ice Spirit, while the Azure tribe feared the vengeance of the legendary Ocean Master should the dear friend perish. Agatha's voice reached Ash again and only he could hear her. "Last time, I could barely see what was happening. It is because of your aura that I can see clearly now. It makes me wonder about what really happened back then. It seems Aquamarine and Blaze were lovers, but I could not perceive that before. They're love is forbidden by their tribes and thus they did not show it with their advisors near by. This time instead of playing the parts of the advisors, you play the parts of the tribe leaders, because you are their reincarnations."

Agatha's psychic voice continued. "I was counting on your aura to make this easier. I was also fearing that Misty's consciousness would be consumed by Aquamarine's rage. Now I must confess I am confused. How could such affection turn to anger? How did Aquamarine end up hating Blaze? Or was it something else that happened. This legend that birthed so many other legends is unclear, but we must solve it. The fact that you two have reincarnated and found each other is no coincidence. It is a sign that this must be settled once and for all!"

xoxox xox xoxox

The debate between the Azure tribe and the Crimson tribe continued late into the night and a consensus was not reached. In the past, the advisors had also failed to appease the animosity of the two tribes. Unknown to Giovanni and Tidus, the advisors of the previous exorcism attempt, late into the night after the debate had ended, Aquamarine and Blaze journeyed to Mount Cinnabar, where the volcano was the highest peak. This was something that had remained unseen by Agatha last time, as the disaster of the sinking peninsula at dawn had taken them by surprise and the exorcism failed. As a result, Tidus was completely overtaken by the past's need for vengeance.

Blaze and Aquamarine stood atop the volcano, the burning hot lava boiling below. "Oh great Volcano Master, hear my call and appear before us!"

The ground shook and a thick cloud of black smoke rose from the volcano as a flaming being emerged from the lava with a menacing roar. The creature known as the Volcano Master would later be called Magmortar by the pokemon research community. "Crimson Prince, where is the Ice Spirit?" The powerful being spoke.

Blaze seemed surprised that the pokemon could speak his language, but reacted quickly and apologized. "Please forgive me, Volcano Master," Blaze bowed, with Aquamarine following the motion. "I have not been able to locate the Ice Spirit."

"Bring me the Ice Spirit!" The angry Volcano Master demanded.

"Please, oh great Volcano Master, I beg you to tell me what drives you to seek vengeance upon the Ice Spirit? What can we do to quell your anger?" Aquamarine offered.

"Foolish humans! You understand nothing!" The Volcano Master growled. "I remained here so that my flames would not consume your village. I remained here so that the volcano would not erupt. Yet you make such foolish assumptions and are unable to grant me this one wish? I care not for your tribes; I will abandon my task here and find the spirit of ice myself!"

"This is it!" Agatha called out to Ash through their psychic link. "This is what truly happened; this is what initiated the disaster. The legend we knew, it was not completely accurate, this is the truth. Magmortar left the volcano, the volcano erupted and the flames consumed the land. The Ice Spirit must have died because of his heartbroken haste or maybe for a different reason... The legendary ocean master blamed the Volcano Master and the humans and in his grief for the loss of his dear friend, thus he destroyed the peninsula, yet the tribes blamed each other. Now is the time, you must appease the Volcano Master!"

Blaze's body began to glow as Ash pushed forward his current consciousness. Aquamarine gasped in surprise as he witnessed the scene. "Volcano Master!" Ash called out. "Please explain everything to me, you and I are similar... we both have the aura!"

The Volcano Master glowed in return. "Because the request is from a fellow wielder of aura, I shall tell you," he agreed. "It is the Ice Spirit, my dear Froslass that I seek. But it is not because of vengeance, for she is my beloved. Ever since my appearance changed," when he mysteriously evolved from Magmar to Magmortar. "My flames have driven us apart for I would harm her without wanting to do so. Yet I have managed to obtain a measure of control, I wish for my love to return to me, but if I leave the volcano to search for her, it will erupt."

"So that's the reason..." Ash realized. "Please be patient for a little longer, I will find Froslass and tell her what you've said. I'm sure she will return then. Please stay here, don't allow the volcano to erupt!"

A terrible wail of agony pierced the air as a group of people from the Crimson tribe arrive with an injured and dying Froslass. "Blaze!" They cried out in anger. "You have defiled our tribe's sacred ground by bringing the enemy here!" They fiercely accused. "It is us who have saved this land with this sacrifice!" They threw the injured Froslass to the volcano.

"No!" Magmortar shouted in agony, but it was too late. Froslass was already dead when he caught her. "My beloved!"

"The Volcano Master, he speaks!" The Crimson tribesmen exclaimed.

That's when Ash realized that Blaze had no way of understanding the words spoken by Magmortar. Aquamarine had never seen the Volcano Master before, so she was not shocked by his ability to speak, as she was expecting anything from the volcano deity. Ash concluded that the reason why Magmortar could be heard in the human language now, was because the pokemon's aura resonated with his. The Volcano Master was aware that there was someone else there along with Blaze; he could somehow identify who was in control. Yet at the same time, they were the same. In the past, Magmortar's wish had been terribly misunderstood and in the reenacting of the exorcism it was happening again.

"No!" Agatha exclaimed through her psychic link with Ash. "It's happening again, we are failing!"

"Misty!" Ash couldn't allow her to be consumed; he couldn't allow her spirit to be killed like this. In a surprising twist, Blaze's consciousness resurfaced, pushing Ash's mind back and taking control once again to protect Aquamarine from the angry mob.

Magmortar abandoned the volcano, rushing down beside Blaze and Aquamarine without touching them and setting the tribesmen in flames that rapidly consumed them. The angry Volcano Master rush to the base of Mount Cinnabar and burned everything in sight as the ground shook and the volcano began to erupt. There was lava, molten stones, ashes and smoke everywhere. Aquamarine and Blaze took on a ghostly appearance as they floated above the disaster, unable to stop it. The truth was so much more violent and cruel to witness than what they had previously thought had happened.

The legend had been lost in time and the truth was a shocking twist. The land was being destroyed and its burning inhabitants cried out in pain and agony. Lugia, the Legendary Ocean Master answered their call, blaming Magmortar and the humans for the death of his dear friend Froslass. Unleashing his great power, Lugia created massive tidal waves that sunk the peninsula, which had already been destroyed by fire. When it was all over, only the peaks of the highest mountains remained above the sea.

The restless spirits of the people of the Azure and Crimson tribes had a terrible vast anger against each other. They blamed each other, they blamed their leaders and they would become terrible vengeful spirits. "They are our responsibility," Aquamarine sadly voiced.

"Yes," Blaze agreed.

The powerful Lugia appeared before them. "You claim to take responsibility for the foolishness of your fellow humans that you failed to lead? If that is so, then what will you do? My anger has been appeased by vengeance; I have no further business here."

"They're darkness..." Blaze spoke seriously, "clean their spirits and give their darkness to me."

"No, give it to me," Aquamarine argued.

"Cleaning their spirits so that they may pass on will take many years. From time to time their anger will surface. I shall give their darkness to both of you in a way..." Lugia decided and in a brilliant flash of light everything faded into an endless white nothingness leaving only Lugia's voice to echo. "For centuries to come, the grudge shall remain, as strong as the sun, with unforgiving blame. It is not of anger, of fear or despair; it is because of the love that they share." Blaze and Aquamarine had taken the burden of the violent souls of their tribe into themselves because they loved their people and each other. "When fire becomes ash and water becomes mist, only then shall they be freed..." Lugia's final words to the tragic lovers were a prophecy and a promise.

xoxox xox xoxox

Epilogue

When Ash woke up he was at one of his father's mansions between Kanto and Johto. His parents were there and he understood why they couldn't tell him about the exorcism earlier. They needed to get things ready with Agatha and analyze the dangers with the little information they truly had. They knew he would have rushed things if he found out and they were trying to protect him. "Where are Misty and everyone?" He sat up, noticing Pikachu on the bed, sleeping next to him.

"Misty's okay," Delia assured. "She's resting in her home at Cerulean City. It is the end of the Azure Alliance and everything was resolved in relative peace. As long as they don't anger Team Rocket again, everything will be okay. Jessie and James are taking a vacation and focusing on caring for their son for the time being. Gary went back to Pallet Town to rest and Comet and Pixel are resting at Viridian. Agatha is at her house, they're all alright, just tired."

"Tidus died during the failed exorcism," Ash realized. "Coral couldn't accept that, the traitor wasn't even the real Tidus..." He paused looking at his father. "You knew that... and I think Misty understands it too. Then Coral was consumed with anger and grief, she wasn't possessed, but she wasn't herself. I don't think the Waterflowers will pursue vengeance anymore."

"You better be right," Giovanni replied somewhat sternly, but Ash could see in his eyes that he was relieved that his son had come out of all the dangers alright.

"I know it..." Ash assured. "What about the angry souls that Misty carried?"

"They have been absorbed by Spiritomb," Giovanni revealed. The pokemon's purple vortex had become blue and instead of green spheres it held pink spheres in its swirling energy. "Most of them have already passed on, the rest will remain in Spiritomb until they are ready to let go."

"Then it's finally over..." Ash breathed. 'Just like Lugia said...' he thought.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days later, Misty and Ash met at a private cafe in Pewter City, left undisturbed in the most secluded corner of the VIP section. "Does your father know you're here?" Misty took a sip of her strawberry shake.

"Probably," Ash moved the straw around his chocolate shake before taking a long drink. "He has a knack for knowing things no matter how much people try to keep them a secret. Besides, I'm sure he expected us to meet up at some point. As long as you're not picking a fight with Team Rocket, I don't think he minds that much."

"I don't agree with everything they do, but I think I can learn to be tolerant... So please, when you do take over, make it better." Misty smiled.

"You know that's what I intend to do," Ash grinned back. He wasn't sure how he would accomplish it, but for once he wouldn't rush things. This time he would take things one step at a time.

"I'll help, if that's okay..." Misty offered.

"If it's okay with you..." Ash left the statement hanging.

A short moment of calm and pleasant silence passed until Misty inquired. "Do you remember anything from the exorcism?" There was a slightly pink tint on her face that for once, didn't escape Ash's notice.

"Um..." Ash remembered the kiss, he remembered Blaze's feelings for Aquamarine and he remembered his own feelings when he worried that Misty's soul would be lost. He laughed casually and finally replied, "total blank!"

Misty chuckled, "figures," she teased playfully, as if she knew that he did remember. She was only a spectator unable to control Aquamarine's actions, but she saw everything and felt everything. "Maybe you'll remember someday."

"Maybe you'll remind me," Ash whispered playfully, albeit quietly enough so that Misty didn't quite catch what he said.

Misty glanced at Ash curiously, but he only smiled back. She looked at her watch where a Seel's fins, one longer than the other, bent at an odd angle to indicate that it was one forty five in the afternoon. "Brock's sculpture exhibition will be starting soon; we should be on our way to the gym."

Ash speedily finished his chocolate shake and stood along with Misty. "How many sculptures of Lily do you think he made this time?"

End

When Agatha mentions that the legend has birthed other legends, it's a reference to the legend of the volcano princess that is explained in Don't Give Me Diamonds. There was another reference in the past chapter. Comet's mission is the same one that happens in the Diamonds continuity, except Ash wasn't there. Comet did manage to finish his mission, but Zangoose died in that version. It led him to reevaluate everything and become a better training, just as it happened here, but in Loyalty, it happened without the sacrifice of Zangoose. Later in Diamonds, when a tragic event occurs, Comet tells Ash about what happened and they establish a similar trust like what they have in this continuity. As promised, I opened a round robin series at Pirates Board Fiction called "Loyalty Timeline". If anyone wants to post in it, you're welcome to do so.