Chapter 20:

Fairy-Tale Creature Absol

"Well," Latios said, examining me, "Everything seems to have healed up. There's still some bruising, but nothing serious. Bet it's really going to be sore though. So, since you nearly killed yourself yesterday while you were working and today would be even harder for you, I'd suggest you rest for a bit now. The soreness should kick in shortly."

"Great…" I groaned, "Just what I needed."

"If we don't get out of here soon, that'll be the least of your worries," Z grunted.

I tossed a glare his way. "Gee, thanks for reminding me," I said sarcastically. Seeing my friends' (and Lady Glacier's) worried looks, I added, "What are you all staring at? I'm not dead yet!" They recoiled slightly. I mentally berated myself for snapping at them. So I did the natural thing and snapped at our ally to show that I was an equal-opportunity jerk. "Hey, Latios! When's that Yamask getting back here?"

"He'll be along shortly," Latios replied, ignoring my disrespectful tone. Still, it probably wasn't wise for me to tick off our only ally. I tried to rise, but he pushed me down, surprisingly solid for someone who was dead. "No. Just rest. We'll come get you when he shows up." I relented. Next, he turned to Syoran. "As for us, we'd better get to work," he said with a nod toward the construction area, "If you do escape, Giratina's going to be furious and probably take it out on me. Which means-" He held up his claws, raising one at a time as he listed off the consequences of our escape. "-one, I'll be tortured ruthlessly until I'm a screaming mess. Two, I'll then be put in a cage for all to see, kind of like a trophy, as an example to everyone else. And three, when he calms down a bit and gets tired of using me as a punching bag and one of those things humans call 'stress balls', he'll probably make me work twice as hard as I am now. So, you're going to help me get some of that work done before you escape."

We stared at him with wide eyes. I mean, what else can you do when someone tells you that they're going to be put through a quite literal Hell for helping you? Latios looked vaguely uncomfortable under our concentrated stares. "All that," Lady Glacier said slowly, "And you're still willing to aid us?"

"Hey now, I got here by sacrificing myself for others," Latios said with a wry chuckle, "It's too late to change that part of me now." He clapped his paws together to signal an end to the conversation. "So, let's get to it, shall we?"

Syoran nodded in agreement, coming back to his senses. "You go ahead, everyone," he said, "I'm going to tend Spirit a bit. But we have a wall to build, so I expect you all to be helping Latios when I get there. Though I wonder if we can plant a bomb in it so that, when Giratina passes, it will explode."

We chuckled at the thought. Slowly, the others got up and left. "Don't worry, Latios," Pikablu said as they went, "When Arceus learns about all this, he'll personally smite Giratina into dust. You won't be tortured."

"Pikablu," Latios sighed, "I was a fairly young Legendary when I died, but even I know that nothing is certain when it comes to us. Take my sister, for example. One time, Mew came to visit. I still haven't fully recovered my sanity from when they…" His voice faded as they turned a corner.

And so I was left alone with Syoran in the room we had slept in the night before. After feeding me some medicine, which made me drowsy, he messed around in his bag, finally pulling out his phone. "No signal, of course," he muttered, "Not like anyone would believe me anyway. And not like the police could get here if they did." He chuckled. "Imagine, they'd need some sort of inter-dimensional teleportation device that probably costs billions and people willing to travel to the Reverse World, fight a boatload of ghosts, and defeat Giratina all to save one Trainer and his Pokémon."

"Ethan would do it," I pointed out with a yawn as I curled up for a nap. If I was going to get an opportunity to rest, then I was going to take it.

Syoran chuckled again. "You know, your voice still sounds…"

"Girly! I get it! Shut up already!" I snapped, adding a little growl for extra menace, "And you smell like milk that's been sitting out for too long." He blinked in surprise. "Oh, and you're a complete idiot! Seriously, do you think I can't figure out that I should, I don't know, dodge that giant glowing fist that's directed at my face? I like my face! I don't let things hit it for no reason!"

"Um…" Syoran didn't quite know how to respond. "It's more of encouragement, I suppose. Everyone does it."

"Well, shall I tell you what I think of the things all you humans do?" I said with a glint in my eye.

"No, that's okay," he said, waving his hands in an attempt to pacify me.

"Well, too bad! You were so happy to be able to understand me before, so now I'm going to talk!" I said gleefully, "You humans are so stupid that it takes magic for you to understand us! You don't know the first thing about stealth hunting! And you rely on your tools for everything! Even relieving yourself! Seriously, who pees in a perfectly good drinking bowl? That's simply disgusting!"

Syoran's eyes widened and he nearly forgot how to breath for a moment. "A…a what? You drink out of the toilet?"

"Not after you peed in it," I muttered.

"Well," Syoran said, crossing his arms and frowning at me, "Who can't even open the door to a closet without someone's help? I believe he's an Absol whose name is a synonym for soul."

I bristled. "I wouldn't have to open doors if you hadn't captured me!"

"If I hadn't, then I you wouldn't have met Nine!" he said cheerfully.

I glared fiercely at him. He had better not be implying what I think he was implying. I just might have to hurt him if he was. Nothing major. Only a hand. Or two. Maybe a foot for good measure. Just in case, you know? "What's that supposed to mean?" I asked, lacing my voice with more venom than a Seviper's bite.

"Oh, nothing," he said with a knowing smile, "I just heard you talking last night and…"

"Oh you did?" I growled, "So what? We weren't professing our undying love for each other. You've watched too many of those sitcoms things. You've become delusional."

"Well, I'm not sure about that…" he said.

"Sure you are! You captured me without a second thought and then expected me to be happy about it!" I snapped, "All humans live in this fantasy-land where all Pokémon exist to be caught or used as punching bag for the Pokémon they already caught!" I narrowed my eyes and fixed him with a withering look. "Now that I think of it, there's a question I always wanted answered. So, now that I can do so, I'm going to ask you to explain exactly what was going through your head when you threw that Poke-ball at me."

He sat absolutely motionless for a long moment, staring at me in silence. Then, with one deft motion, he flipped the top of his pack open and began digging through it. "I just remembered I hadn't brushed you in a while. This seems like a good time to do it. Where's that comb? Ah, here it is." He pulled it out and approached me, avoiding my glare.

"You're dodging the question," I said flatly, "And you're not even doing a good job of it either."

"Right." He sighed heavily, beginning to run the brush through my fur. "I needed another Pokémon," he said, "A stronger one as well. I was hunting for Team Rocket, you see, as I had been ever since Caddie…died." He choked a bit as he said that. "Anyway, I was going to take the Abomasnow, but when I saw you I changed my mind. I didn't recognize your species at first, since your kind is so rare, but I'd heard stories. Some of them elevated you to nearly legendary status. I know the rumors all said that Absols brought disasters, but I didn't believe that. There are older stories about you and your species and those are the ones I tended to believe. In short, I knew you would be a better choice than any other Pokémon on that mountain. I'm sorry that I had to be a little…rough and inconsiderate, but I hope you've come to forgive me."

"Yeah," I said with a shrug, "Mostly. Though the steak and grooming sessions help." He laughed at that and I joined in quietly. I hesitated before I asked him the next question. "What was the story you'd heard about my species?" I queried after a moment had passed.

"Well," he said, "give me a sec. I'll show you." He began digging around in his backpack again. I watched him curiously, especially when he pulled out an old, tattered book. I'd been getting better at reading human script, but I still couldn't make the title out it was so worn. "It's called 'The Book of Fables'," he said by way of explanation, "It's what inspired me to be a trainer and I carry it with me everywhere. Here, let me find the story of with the Absol."

He shifted so I he was beside me and I could peer over his lap and see the book. He flipped rapidly through the book until he was a little way past the middle, muttering to himself. " 'Mew and the Shoemaker', funny, but it was past that. 'The Golden Magikarp'. 'The Sky Warrior', back a little. Jirachi and the Duke of Evergrand. Now that's an interesting one. Basically, he wishes to know what his courtiers think of him and it turns out to be a huge mistake. He starts executing them left and right and then they rebel. He dies in the end. Ah, here we are, 'The Absol's Sacrifice'."

He cleared his throat. "Long, long ago, there was a far-away land to the west. Further even than Kalos is from here. In this land lived a beautiful princess…Well, that bit's not quite as important. Basically, the land was plentiful and wonderful and everyone loved the king, queen, and princess."

"Just tell the story!" I snapped, "Seriously, you'd make a terrible bard!"

"Right, anyway," he said, throwing me an annoyed glance, "The land was beautiful and sunny and Arceus smiled on it. 'Nuff said. There was only one creature that was not allowed to share this bounty."

"Let me guess," I growled, "An Absol."

Syoran nodded. "The Absol was turned away from every door and soon grew to hate the people of that land and heap curses on their head. However, one day he was walking through the forest and spotted a young girl heading to her grandmother's house. He decided to follow her and see if he could steal from her or spite her in some way. But when the girl saw him and how thin he was, she instantly opened her basket and gave him half of the food she had. She made a habit of passing through that forest and bringing the Pokémon food and, after a few months of this, the girl and the Absol became best friends. In return for her kindness, he watched over her house, keeping the wild packs of Pokémon that roamed the land away."

"Meanwhile, the land continued to grow in wealth and abundance. But then, when its prosperity was at its highest, disaster struck. A greedy sorcerer, desiring the kingdom for himself, released Legion, the ten-thousand evil spirits sealed by the first Ninetales in the form of a Spiritomb. They ravaged the land, possessing the body of the sorcerer and the whole royal army. The people were thrown into chaos and there was great slaughter. At the very end when all hope seemed lost, the girl pled with the Absol to do whatever he could to save the land and, for love of her, he agreed. To the people's great surprise, as the strongest warriors fled, he went to meet Legion in battle. Ten days he fought the possessed army until he finally came face-to-face with the sorcerer who had caused this calamity, now himself a tool of Legion. The Absol fought with all his might, but his strength was already gone. He lost.

"But as Legion moved to possess his body too, the Absol gathered his strength and sang in a strange, haunting manner. Legion was entranced and made no move to stop him. Other voices joined in, adding their strength to the Absol's song. The wind sang of far-away places. The water sang of hidden depths in the earth. The earth sang of the passing of the seasons and of mortals. And the fire sang of the heights beyond the stars. Legion found its strength draining away like water flowing over a waterfall. He moved to smite the Absol and struck him down, blasting him through the heart with a bolt of magic, but the song did not stop as the Absol fell to the stone floor. It grew and grew until Legion found himself utterly destroyed. Then, the melody faded away into nothing once more.

"The people returned shortly, curious about what had transpired. The girl saw what had happened to her friend and immediately went to him, weeping. She told the people of that land what he had done for them and they repented of their ill treatment of him. They erected a statue in his honor, which still stands even today. Every year on the anniversary of that fateful day they celebrate his sacrifice, strewing the ground around the statue with food and flowers, the gifts the girl had given to him so long ago. And it is said that, if you listen closely, the wind, the water, the earth, and the fire will whisper the song he sang to you, though few still have the skill to hear it."

I sat in silence for a long moment. That song, it could only be one thing. One of the greatest powers of my species, even greater than our blades, is in our voices. Every father teaches it to his children when they come of age. Which meant that I did not know it. My family had been killed before my father could teach me. Syoran patted my head. "Well, what did you think?"

I did not reply at first. "It is certainly possible," I said, "I don't know whether it's true or not, but my species has always believed that it is better for one to perish than many. So it's even likely that this was at least based on fact."

"You want to hear another?" he asked, patting the book.

"Sure…" I said with a shrug, "I'm apparently not supposed to go anywhere."

"And I'm not looking forward to building that wall!" Syoran said with a self-deprecating laugh, "Although I suppose someone should keep watch over you while you are resting, just in case." He flipped through the book, searching for a good one. "Oh! 'The Seven Trials of Sir Lance'! I love this one!"

I nodded, bemused, and my head sank lower and lower as he read until I fell fast asleep. And for once, I did not have a single nightmare, just deep, peaceful rest.

"Hey! Wake up Spirit!" It was Rio's voice that brought me back to myself. "Seth is back!"

I opened my eyes, groaning when I realized just how sore I had become. Latios was right! It was hard even to push myself into a sitting position. Glad I hadn't been working when this started or I'd be in sorry shape right now. Speaking of Latios, he was back along with all my troupe and Seth.

"Glad you could make it," Latios quipped, "Have a nice flight? Any turbulence?"

"Not really," I muttered, flinging a glare at Rio, "But the landing was a little rough." After they were done chuckling, Pikablu turned to Seth.

"So, how are we getting out of here?"

The ghost shifted uncomfortably. "Well…" he said nervously, "I…I've encountered a small pr-problem."

"And that is?" Syoran promtpted.

Seth shrank back, placing himself behind and to the left of Latios. "E-e-escape i-i-is imp-p-possible…" He hid behind Latios immediately after finishing that statement. There was a moment of stunned silence. Then, ignoring my protesting body, I rose and stalked up to him, circling Latios and growling from the back of my throat.

"Listen up, Ghost-boy," I snarled, "My life is on the line here! You'd better not be messing around with me or I will…"

"Spirit," Syoran said firmly, "Heel. At least let him explain before you try and tear him apart." I sighed and walked back to where I had been sitting, painfully aware of Latios' watchful glare on my back.

"Go on, Seth," the deceased dragon encouraged. Seth took a moment to recover his courage before emerging from behind Latios and speaking.

"All the exits are guarded," he said, slipping into almost the role of a teacher giving a lecture. The one upside to it was that he lost his stammer. "If you were dead, you might, might be able to slip out, but you're not and killing you would be…pointless since that's what you're trying to escape."

"What about the window?" I asked, indicating my sleeping place from last night.

Seth sighed. "H-here, I'll just show you…" I noticed with a touch of annoyance that his stammer was back. He pulled a golden amulet out of his chest. I wish I was kidding about that, but he actually reached inside himself and pulled it out. He ignored our creeped-out stares and rapidly began fiddling with it, pushing, pulling, and shifting the various components of it around. Suddenly, a light flashed and it split into four quarters, each of which raced to a different spot over our heads. A three dimensional map appeared between them, showing the fortress spreading over the mountain like an Ariados on a small web. In the center was Giratina's tower surrounded by several lines of walls and four causeways like the points of a compass. Seth tapped thirty different points along the outside wall and they lit up like beacons. "These are the watch towers," he said, "The g-guards never sleep, can see very well in the dark, and can watch every inch of the exterior wall. The instant you stepped out, y-you'd be caught. A-and even if you did escape, y-you'd need to get to a portal a-and even I don't know where they are kept."

"Are there any more guard towers on the inside walls?" Rio asked, staring at the map in fascination and reaching for it. Seth looked mildly annoyed and snapped his fingers, causing the map to return to him. Rio looked very disappointed.

"Well…yes there are," Seth answered, "b-but they aren't important since the only escape from in here is at the top of G-Giratina's tower. You'll never reach it."

We all slumped in disappointment. "There has to be a way we can get to it…" Nine muttered.

"There is no way!" Seth declared, "My research is never wrong! There is no possible way anyone, other than Arceus himself, could force his way into…" We glared at him with such fire it immediately cowed his outburst. "…into…that…r-room."

"There has to be!" Syoran declared, "We can't just let them kill Spirit!"

"Thank you!" I said emphatically.

"Could we sneak up to it?" Z asked quietly.

Seth sighed. "R-Rotom would catch you. He's integrated into all the security systems."

"Well then, we forget sneaking and fight!" I declared, determined to find some way out of this mess.

"I like that plan," Pikablu agreed, cracking his knuckles and letting a few sparks fly.

"Against all the ghosts?" Lady Glacier snapped, "We'd be outnumbered ten-thousand to one!"

"We could ask the shades to help," Psi said softly. We fell silent and turned to him as if we all had one mind. "I mean, I don't think they like Gira'ina. Then we'd ou'nummer them. Right?"

"Latios?" Nine said, passing the question along.

The dragon sighed. "They wouldn't do it. They fear Giratina's might too much. He would punish us after you were gone. I'm afraid we're on our own."

We lapsed into grim silence. Syoran was the only one who still seemed to hold out hope. His face was thoughtful, as if he was solving a great riddle. Then, he grinned. "So," he said, "Let me get this straight. The only way viable way out of here is in Giratina's tower, but we can't sneak past him without a fight and the shades won't help us because they can't leave and he would punish them afterwards?"

"That's correct," Latios answered.

Syoran nodded, still smiling. "Then it would be wrong to even ask them to sacrifice themselves for us. So…" His grin spread even wider, the light of determination igniting in his eyes. He clenched his fist and raised it defiantly to the sky. "…we'll drive him out instead."

There was a stunned silence before we all burst out laughing. "D-drive Giratina out of his o-own fortress?" Seth said giggling uncontrollably, "That's even m-more impossible!"

Syoran wasn't giving up so easily. "Latios," he said, turning to him, "You said Giratina would punish you. But if he's driven out, then you wouldn't have to worry about that! And Pikablu, if we can remove his stranglehold here, then your friends can swoop in and defeat Giratina while his forces are recovering."

Latios smiled mischievously. "As for myself, I don't really care what happens to me anymore. Though it would be nice not to have the imminent threat of torture hanging over my head…" He paused. "I think the others would agree to help with this. They might not be willing to fight for you as I am, but they would fight for themselves if we could show them a reasonable chance of victory. That's the trick, though, to convince them that we have a chance. Not many would be willing to face Giratina himself."

"If we could distract him, we wouldn't have to," Pikablu said, "If we could get a message to Mew, he could do it. Believe me, he is a great distraction when he wants to be. If he could lure Giratina out of here and take most of his army with him, we could mop up what remained and be ready to hold it when he returns."

"That's great," Lady Glacier snapped, "But how do we send him a message?"

Pikablu's cheeks sparked. "You're just always coming up with problems, aren't you lady?"

"Maybe I am, but only so you can fix them, little mouse," she said with a honeyed voice.

"Shut up, you frozen little…"

"Enough!" I snapped. The two glared at me.

"MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, SPIRIT!" they shouted in unison before returning their glares to each other.

I growled. "You know, it's not wise to tick off someone who has a sharp blade on the side of his head," I reminded them, "Besides, why not just promise to fight Giratina ourselves? It's not like we have anything to lose. I'd be dead anyway."

"And the rest of us would soon follow," Nine sighed, "Well, that may be our only option. We just have to make it work somehow."

"Ha! I'm in!" Pikablu said, letting off more sparks in enthusiasm, "I'll fry him to a crisp!"

"I see no alternative," Lady Glacier sighed, "Besides, I promised I would not abandon you. I have no intention of going back on that." Pikablu looked startled at her admission; probably because they were suddenly agreeing after the argument they had just moments before.

"If he's a ghost, I can't do much," Rio sighed, staring at his spiked paws forlornly, "But I'll do my best!"

"Same," Z said, "Though if they try and use their creepy magic on me, I'll tear it apart with my claws. I'm not scared of that rot and it won't affect me either."

"I'll fight too!" Psi cheered, "I just need an attack…"

Syoran grinned at us. "Okay," he said, "Sounds like a plan. Until someone figures out how to lure Giratina away, we'll just plan on defeating him."

"Well, if you're all agreed…" Latios said. We nodded resolutely in reply. "Very well," the dragon said, a small, hopeful smile gracing his lips, "I shall go talk to the leader of the shades. I'll see if I can convince them to join us. Regardless of their decision, I at least will."

"You're all crazy!" Seth said, a trace of fear in his voice, "Y-you'll all be killed! Even together you can't defeat Death!"

"Seth," Latios said calmly, "Whose side are you on anyway?"

Seth looked surprised by this question and blinked. "Y-yours, Latios," he answered, "You're my friend."

"Then stop worrying!" Latios laughed, "As long as we do what's right, who cares if we lose?" I put a paw forward, the equivalent of humans raising their hand. Latios raised an eyebrow at me.

"If I die, I get stuck here forever," I explained.

"Well, let's not lose then!" Latios said perkily. He turned. "I'm off to talk to the other shades. They're on their rest cycle now and the guards won't be watching them. If I don't come back…run like all Hell is chasing you, because it probably is."

"And on that pleasant note," I muttered as he disappeared into the hall.

"My thoughts exactly," Pikablu grunted.

"Well," Syoran said, jumping to his feet, "I'm sure you can all guess what comes next." We gave him sharp looks which only seemed to fuel the impish smile on his face. "It's time for our first extra-special session of Syoran's Super-duper Ghost-Busting Training Regimen!"

"Oh dear Arceus, preserve us…" Nine muttered under her breath.

"No…just no…" Z groaned, "Training's fine, but call it something else."

"Yes, please do!" Rio agreed, bobbing his head fervently so those dreadlock things on the side of it waved back and forth.

"Nope!" Syoran said, rocking on his feet with that cheesy grin still in place, "Now, follow me my faithful Pokémon! And…others…We have training to do and a Legend to beat!"

Imagine a place that is perfectly white. You can't see any walls, ceiling, or floor, just white, but you know you are standing on something. Now, in a sudden flash of even brighter whiteness, a blue and white dragon appears with a bow. His name is Latios, the Eon Pokémon. He was once the guardian of a human city, but Team Rocket attacked and he sacrificed himself to save it. Very noble, but he is now very dead.

Latios: But I can still talk.

Rolf: Yes, we know. Now, if you wouldn't mind?

Latios: Of course! (He clears his throat, if he can do that since he is dead. Regardless, he makes a sound like clearing his throat so we shall act as though he actually did so.) Rolf would like to thank all the people who have read this far into the story and those who reviewed even more so. He would also like to ask that you keep it up and suggest two additional storied written by two friends of his. The first is 'The Importance of Freedom' by Redstripe. It is somewhat similar to this one, but at the same time different enough so you won't think much of it. And drop him some reviews too, please, because he wants to improve as well. Secondly, he suggests you read "The Path of the Aura: Intertwining Crossroads." It is much longer and (dare I say it? I think I will) even better than this one. It is so unique that Rolf considers it a must for aspiring writers to read because it demonstrates exactly what you can do with the Pokémon Universe when you put your mind to it. Plus, it's a great story. Thank you for your attention. That is all. And stay tuned for next time as Syoran's 'training' kicks into full swing. (He shivers) Why in the world did he give it that absolutely awful name?

Rolf: Who knows, Latios. Who knows.

Latios: You do, right.

Rolf: LATIOS! YOU'RE GOING TO BREAK THE FOURTH...

CRASH!

Rolf: ...wall...

Palkia: WHO DARES DESTROY THE BARRIER I CREATED TO PROTECT THIS DIMENSION?

Rolf: Aw crud...RUN LATIOS!