- Lightning -
Since the moment I evolved, I knew the wild was the place I truly belonged.
When grandfather set the evolving stone upon my chest and sent me away, he said to me that no one in the world would truly hold authority over my choices. Though I would be taken somewhere far away and placed under the guidance of a mentor, he told me how my mentor's rules and commands were only suggestions, and that my new habitat might only be a starting point – for as long as I understood the risks and the consequences, I could cast off the reins of my new life and flee in search of something more.
So I did.
I'll admit, working on a farm wasn't something I felt ashamed of. There were the boring moments, certainly, but it wasn't nearly as exhausting as I first feared. I was part of a team, and we all had our roles to play: Luxray would make the decisions, the Scyther twins would harvest, Wartortle and Floatzel were in charge of irrigation, Donphan and Sandslash did the digging and ploughing. As a Jolteon, I was the fastest sprinter of the team, and so Luxray gave me a fitting task: once every three days, I would patrol the fields to keep an eye on the crops. There were forty-six acres' worth, sowed with sprouts of berry bushes, squash, and apple trees. Our produce was to be shipped to cities so far beyond the horizon that, in all the many seasons I stayed there, I didn't meet one passing visitor from the outside world.
On those days I worked, from dawn until dusk, I would dash between the rows of tilled soil and cast my gaze upon every speck of green in the field, checking for dry patches, pest damage, and crops ready to be harvested. I enjoyed those days most of all, because it was on those days I learned how to run.
But there came a day, while I was inspecting the nomels at the very edge of the properties, when I felt something change within me.
I felt a shiver, starting at the tip of my nose and sweeping through my chest and into the muscles of my legs. Though I wasn't cold, I shuddered as though I had climbed out from a hot bath. I felt invigorated in a way I did not understand. In that moment, I felt as though I could dash three times as fast, were there only a wilderness wide and open enough to welcome me. I knew the wild was calling; I remembered how it had called to me on the day I evolved and I knew it was only a matter of time before it grew impatient and demanded me to finally come.
I peered out into that wilderness beyond the farmland, at the soft green-and-yellow fields curving downward and dotted with lakes, and at the mighty blue mountain crags far beyond. And I saw, far above the shallow peaks, a dark squall of fearsome clouds encroaching upon the land, thick and tall as a cliff, yet dancing and rolling as a bonfire. It stood as long and endless as the horizon itself, its shadows casting the prairie into the depths of midnight. The might of the gods flashed and sparked within the dark boils, the bolts of lightning furious and eager to cast themselves down upon the earth in numbers rivaling the raindrops.
The great storm was upon me, the first of its kind in the time I worked on Luxray's farm. The temperate winds blew in from the northwest, bringing with them great downpours to cast away the draught and let the crops bloom and flourish, just as Luxray had anticipated. Even so, I could not have anticipated the majesty I saw that day, and for many long moments I stood humbled before the mighty display of power, truly believing that Arceus himself, donning his thunder-plate, was charging across the sky and kicking up a storm to remake the world anew.
The low-pressure front pressed closer, decompressing the air around me and filling me with such an awesome wealth of energy and endurance that I wondered if I had undergone a second evolution. I felt, for the first time, the true power of the Jolteon form. I felt my heart racing, my legs coursing with a fiery desire, and I cast myself over the metal fence and away from the farm without a passing regret.
I am Dandelion, the flower which belongs in no garden; the flower which grows tall and bright, only to drift away into the wind at the summer's end.
Driven by some primal longing to join the storm in celebration and bask beneath its shade, I galloped, fierce and strong, through the weedy grass of the prairie. Never had I felt such a thrill in my life, a thrill of sprinting beyond what I thought were my capabilities, of feeling as though I could outrun even the mighty raptors who swoop down from the sky. I raced towards those blue peaks, some miles and miles away, thinking nothing of the distance or of finding my way back. The muscles in my legs burned with such tension, and I wanted so much more.
As I drew nearer, I saw how the mighty gusts of wind spread and rippled through the prairie grass, the surface of the plain turning to river-rapids as each blade bowed to me in turn. The first gust pummeled me in the face and momentarily drowned me, taking my breath away as I felt it pounding at my ears and the nettles of my fur. Yet, it could not slow me. I took the challenge, lowering my head and bearing against the sweeping force of the blast, eager to see what other great forces the storm had planned to show me.
There was someone, or perhaps something, I wanted to see… something I knew within my heart to be there, somewhere, in the depths of the storm.
As a cub, I remember one particular night when the family cowered in the den from the wrath of a dark storm. I had been peering outside, watching the forest floor turn to puddles of mud, when a bolt of lightning struck a tree just above the den's chamber, bringing with it a startling sound I had never known in my life. In my fit of panic, I nestled myself into the loving embrace of my grandmother, asking her what type of creature had come to destroy our forest, and what mighty power it might wield. I had not yet come to understand that lightning is something which merely happens, something which the little creatures of the earth could not prevent or control.
And I remember, my grandmother thought to calm me by telling me the stories of the legendary gods who guarded the land, sea, and sky. She told me the storm could be the work of the majestic Raikou, or the mighty Zekrom. But she told me not to fear, because Raikou and Zekrom were guardians of the land, not destroyers; their purpose was to cast great storms over the land to give it nourishment and water, and to protect the smaller creatures who lived up on it, like the little foxes who lived in dens.
I can think of no other reason I felt trust in the storm that day, rushing beneath its wings just as desperately as I rushed to my grandmother's side in times of fear. Perhaps I thought Arceus, or Zekrom, or Raikou was really there, and I could not bear to miss the chance to witness their legendary wrath with my own eyes.
Though it had only been mid-afternoon, the color and light was drained from the land, casting everything into shades of gray, like the final hours in the early morning just before dawn. The violent winds hit me with no relent, their touch soothing and exciting me in ways difficult to describe. The hot rain came down in an angry swarm, falling sideways. I welcomed it happily, feeling it tickle upon my ears and drench my hide.
A mile fell behind me in mere minutes, and I felt no weaker than when I had first begun.
As the storm consumed me from every side, the light of the horizon sealed away, I heard the sound I had been waiting for: the deafening snap of a thunder god, just as I had heard it in my youth when the storm would strike a tree so close to our den. With the sound of a cannonball, sudden and without echo, a streak of lightning descended upon a tree at the edge of my vision, washing the land in pale whiteness for a moment.
In the bright flash, I beheld something so breathtaking I lost interest in sprinting and I trotted to a halt.
A great vortex spun in the sky, as though a sorcerer had opened a passage to another world. Wind curled in strange shapes, taking streams of cloud with it, mixing them together in swirls of gray and white. The shapes threatened to funnel together and descend to the earth as a twister large enough to swallow the farm whole. I watched and waited, staring intently at the spectacle, thinking nothing of the pecha-sized raindrops falling onto my open eyes. I knew I had finally found a god, some mighty creature of myth shrouding itself in the center of that vortex. It had called to me. I prayed to it, silently and fervidly: Zekrom, great guardian of the earth, show me your power!
And Zekrom answered me; for at that moment, a subtle sting of energy ran through me, tingling and invisible, paralyzing me in place and making me feel faint… While my eyes were fixed onto the sky, I felt as though I was rising, the vortex claiming me.
Before I could take another breath, the storm released a bolt of lightning upon my forehead.
It felt as though I had fallen into the most vivid dream. My ears went quiet, shattered from the great blast I do not remember hearing, and my eyes were blinded, my vision replaced with the shining burn one gets when staring at the sun. My skin became scalding hot, as though a thick poison was poured over me, and my innards became terribly cold. I remember stumbling about, dizzy and visionless, as the tingle of energy stabbed around inside of me, desperate to escape its new prison. Eventually I collapsed into the muddy grass, vaguely feeling the sheets of rain still petting me in rhythm.
Many other creatures would have been gravely wounded. Some might have been killed instantly. But I am Jolteon, and I, like all of my electric-type brethren, are made to withstand and accept such potent currents into ourselves. We can contain and compress ions within our bodies, creating voltage inside of a mysterious internal organ. Some call it the reactor, or the battery. I prefer to call it the inner spark, for it is the source I draw upon when I am weary or desperate. And like some other electric-types, I possess another power, a failsafe; when the spark is overcharged and can accept no more of the surge, the remainder becomes regenerative white-energy which spreads throughout my body and heals me. Therefore, no matter how powerful the live current, it will never harm me; it will only make me healthier.
I will confess, I never cared to learn of the science behind lightning. Even until this day, I know how lightning feels, and I know how it is useful; the rest is trivial details, understood only by my subconscious instinct, as it is with most electric-kin. The very extent of my knowledge, given to me by Luxray, is that there exists a strain of aura known as "positive ions," and another known as "negative ions," and that if the two forces are placed within enough proximity from one another, they will rush together against all odds, to cancel one another out and become nothing. They might pass through certain types of materials, or even arc through water or air, just to satisfy the great urge to balance. And it was through my own inner spark that I could collect the power of "negative ions" and harness it for whatever purposes I desired.
In the coming years, I would learn to hunt lightning as I would hunt food; I would spend afternoons standing on my hind legs like a Furret beneath the overcast sky, calling to the clouds for an ionic charge. But I still remember the first bolt I caught, that day in the foothills north of Luxray's farm. It changed me. For the first time, my inner spark held great power, and though I didn't understand what to do with it, I felt as though the guardian Zekrom had given me the bolt as a special gift to harbor within myself and to help protect me. And as the storm passed over me as an Eon may pass over an earthworm, I rolled onto my back with a contented smile on my face, blissfully drifting away into my sightless, soundless world.
Sometime later, before evening had fallen, I awoke to a drenched world in the wake of the storm. Gray clouds still covered the sky, though sunlight passed through them in streams, and I could clearly see my new surroundings, the place I had run away to.
Nature stood around me as a watered garden, with raindrops still clinging to leaves and blades of grass, and standing puddles dotting the mud. Though lightning no longer flashed in the sky, the wonderful tension was still there. Whether by temperature or pressure, the air forced upon me an electric aura, an excitement even in the calm after the storm, and my heart fluttered happily to it.
After a good stretching, I found my hide more brown than yellow, and so I waddled into the nearest pond and shook off the mud which covered me. Afterwards, I sat in the shallow end of the pond and gazed into the blue mountains, wondering what I would hope to accomplish in my new world, or whether I had been overtaken with stupid exuberance and should return to my life of obligation.
As I rested, I felt a particular tingling under my skin as the charges in my fur tried to let a current out into the water. I still felt the bolt of lightning within me, somehow, pulsing and burning from my core and breathing life into my form. I found it difficult to believe that this great power from the storm had now become one with me, that I had swallowed enough "negative ions" to flood and overfill my inner spark. But I felt my muscles twitch, and my heart race; I thought perhaps my energy had become bottomless. I thought perhaps my sense of eyesight had become enhanced, and that my ears had grown in sensitivity. I wondered if I finally understood how a storm-god would view the world, having captured the power of one inside of me.
And I wondered, at the time, if it could be of any use. I considered trying to discharge the energy into unknowing prey for an easy kill, or if it could be used to enhance my speed of running if the energy could propel me. I decided I wanted to try it; I emerged from the lip of the pond and shook off the excess water, beginning my hunt for some simple-minded wild who would become the victim of my experiments.
The sight I witnessed next did not make sense to me. Even after gazing upon the violent hurricane in the sky and the hallucinations induced by welcoming a lightning bolt into my body, I saw something which gave me pause.
Before my eyes, a cloud from the storm had descended to the land. Perhaps it was a trick of the sunlight or the shade, or an illusion created by the hilltops pressed against the sky, but a piece of the storm drifted down from above, billowing blue and white, and took shape as a corporeal creature.
Though I blinked repeatedly, and focused my attention at the sight, it didn't go away. The creature remained, tall and magnificent as it peered over the top of the neighboring hill, its colors blending into the sky above, its great mane blowing in time with the remnant storm-clouds.
And for just a moment, I locked eyes with the creature, the ruby-eyed incarnate spirit of the storm. It set upon me such an intense glare of resentment, as though I had seen that which I was not worthy to see, trespassed upon the holy presence of a legendary being. It considered me for just moments, frozen in indecision, cocking its head to let the clouded sunlight glint from its eye, before jerking away from my sight, shrouding itself behind the crest of the hill.
My heart told me to give chase.
I burst into sprint, giving no thought to the muddy flatlands which blurred past or the droplets of water I kicked up from the soggy grass, keeping my sights fixed on the hilltop where I had last seen the creature. I put my heart into my stride, drawing upon my inner spark and taking any energy it would afford me.
The moment I leapt upon the summit of the incline, I caught another glimpse of the being as it disappeared into the rocky lands at the foot of the blue crags. I was startled at the sheer distance it had covered in the mere moments it had taken me to reach the place I had seen it last. It was a fast beast; faster than even the raptors of the air or the ghosts who could phase through solid objects.
I should have believed it was hopeless; I knew, in that moment, that by the time I could reach the crags, the creature would have gone in any direction it wanted, and I would have never seen it again. But no; my heart said, "Chase it! You have boundless energy and lightning within your chest; let us see just how swiftly your legs can carry you. Perhaps you can match the speed of the gods, if only you'd try."
And so, humoring my naïve heart, I obeyed. I fixed my sights again, this time upon the mountain which must have stood some ten miles away from me, and at the rocky lands at its base, a maze of boulders and protrusions that the storm-creature was hidden within. Like the forces of ion, I was determined to close the distance at any cost. I clenched my teeth into a snarl, lowered my ears against my head, and launched myself forth into the wide open wilderness with rapid, growling breaths of air passing through my snout in rhythm with the pads of my paws against the earth.
My speed once again astounded me, for I had covered miles in just minutes, enough to outrun any creature I held knowledge of. But when I fell onto the last stretch of land between myself and the shadows of the cliffs, I felt my strength waver. My limbs burned with the twinges of weariness, mere suggestions of weakness, but threatening to grow at any moment and overwhelm me.
Fearing I would stumble, I drew upon my inner spark and the lightning which resided within, asking it to empower me to cover just one last expanse of land.
But my spark responded in a way which I had never before felt. As it released energy into me, I felt shards of ice forming within my belly, and the sting of molten heat against the surface of my skin. My ears rang, drowning out the sounds of the world and the gallop of my feet, and a smearing light appeared across my vision. As I began to fear for my health, I felt my spark ask me a simple, wordless question. Though it was merely a biological function begging for release, its meaning was clear: "Are you certain you wish for this power?"
"Yes," I replied to it. "Yes! I need the power! Show it to me!"
My inner spark did just as I asked, bursting apart and letting the lightning flow into my veins. It consumed me, engulfed my entire being, forcing itself even outside the confines of my own skin until I was coated in an aura of yellow. It blinded me, turning the landscape into a white silhouette against a light that was as bright as the sun. I had no choice at that moment; I had given my spark permission to release itself, and so I relinquished control, letting it do what it willed.
It was as a free-fall, filled by the rush of terror one gets before hitting the ground at full-force. Even my legs were ineffectual; I believe I had lifted them from the ground, and I had flown forward in a single giant leap.
Three heartbeats later, I found myself standing, motionless, in a dark valley between two monstrous cliffs.
I did not understand what had happened. I held no memory of the journey, yet I was there, standing in just the place I wished to be. My inner spark vibrated with warmth, and I sensed it was spent; the bolt of lightning I had caught from the storm had disappeared.
In fact, I had become the bolt of lightning; for just a few fleeting moments, my body had disintegrated, becoming nothing but a cloud of negative ions held together with only a soul, just as the Vaporeon becomes a stream of water when it wills. It was not until later that I came to understand this; the powers of the Jolteon body eluded me at that time, and I had only begun to ponder the implications of what I could do, and just how fast I could run when I needed to.
Before I could lose myself to my dazed thoughts, a scent wafted into my nose. Against the mist and mold of the cliff crevices around me, I knew the creature I hunted was hiding nearby. It smelled of the rainstorms. I followed the smell, careful to keep my balance on the broken stone floor, until I found the place the creature had taken refuge within.
It was a long, narrow dent in the rocks; a sizable shelter created by an overhanging formation, with a small opening for safety and a slanted ceiling for stability. Before I turned the corner to enter the puny cavern, I stopped to listen. I heard the beast's breaths as they passed through enormous lungs, and I shuddered, knowing from the reverberations I heard, that it was a beast many times my own size, one which could perhaps stamp me underfoot if I didn't have enough sense to move. But the growling sounds were pained; betraying weariness and desperation, and perhaps fear. I wondered if the great beast sensed my presence and prayed I would come no closer.
But nothing would stop me. I bowed my head and entered the shadowy crevice, creeping carefully in fear of an ambush. I only needed to take four steps before I beheld the sight of the most beautiful creature in the great wide world.
In the small shaft of sunlight which fell around the corner from the tiny cave opening, I beheld its glory, but also its fearsomeness. It had the form of a fox; it was a four-legged beast, with a white underbelly and a massive pointed horn crowning its head. As I feared, it was many times my size, and even the size of Luxray; though it sat upon the stone floor, its flank bared to me as though it was a mother curling around its eggs, I balked at the size of the beast, at how high it held its regal, godly face above mine. I knew, in that instant, I had witnessed a deity descending to earth, perhaps one of the servants of Arceus himself, taking cover in the wilderness to hide from the unknowing societies of people.
As I stood, frozen in its presence, it reared its head away from me, its face contorting with terror and rage. It snarled, showing me its fangs, each nearly as large as my own legs. Before I could even consider the thought of backing away in fear, it boomed to me in a strong, motherly voice, saying, "Leave me, Jolteon! If you value your life, leave me!"
And she roared at me, her voice pure and crooning like a youngling, yet terrible as the thunderstorms, and I leaped out of the cave like a windswept leaf, disappearing around the corner out of its sight and collapsing upon the opposite side of the wall in utter astonishment. I panted hard, just as hard as I breathed when sprinting, my eyes terribly widened and my mind attempting to comprehend the reality that a storm-goddess had just threatened me with her wrath.
And I sat upright, staring at the waning sunlight that filtered through the cliff rocks, and I wondered what one should do with a cornered storm-goddess, especially one civil enough to speak. Only one thought was certain in my mind: I was not going to leave well enough alone.
For the six days which followed, I stayed outside the lip of the cave, out of the creature's sight, as some kind of wayward sentry. Every night, I would sleep out in the open with my side pressed against the cave wall. Every afternoon, as soon as the sun was at the proper angle to light the cave, I would peer inside to wish the goddess a good day, only for her to repeat her warning to me and roar me away. On the third day, I grew hungry, so I told the goddess I was going to hunt for something. A couple of unfortunate Rattata later, I returned to my post and informed her that I had eaten, and she only sent a low, resentful growl in return.
On the seventh day, I grew curious; I wondered why this great beast, surely one who could wield the power of the storm-clouds, chose to reside in such an atrocious, grungy corner of the world. Surely, she deserved to live in a castle of clouds at the side of Rayquaza and Lugia, or perhaps in a wide, expansive lair with glimmering crystals of all colors, the place where Heatran had lived in a story which was once read to me. But she chose to dwell in a tiny crevice of solitude. Even when I left to hunt for food, she had not moved. If she had feared me, I had given her plenty of opportunities to leave undisturbed, yet she had taken none of them, choosing to remain seated in the same place at the end of the cave. I decided to ask this of her, in as gentle and unthreatening a voice as I could achieve, but she only replied with an annoyed grunt.
I tried to talk with her a dozen times or more, and each time, she replied with just a violent roar, as though just the sound of my voice caused her great pain. But I learned to ignore it; I tried to call to her from outside of the cave, asking her, day after day, time after time, all the questions which filled me. Who was she? Why did she descend from the clouds? Why would she refuse to leave the cave? And why would she refuse to speak?
It seemed to be of no use; the goddess was stubborn and fickle, and though I had tried a litany of different ways to approach her and help her open up to me, she would not have my company. So, on the eighteenth day, I was silent. At high noon, just as the shadows slid away and allowed the single stream of sunlight to extend into the darkness, I stood in hesitation. It was the moment when, for the previous seventeen days, I had entered the cave and wished the goddess a good day. But as the light dawned upon the cave, it also dawned upon me that I was merely just a mortal little Eon, fit not for the affairs of the legendary beasts, and that the most polite mercy I could show this goddess was to leave my post as her sentinel and disappear.
Though I would not have left immediately – I venture to guess that it would have taken at least four more days to lose hope and wander off again – I grew saddened at the unfortunate reality, and I bit down on my tongue, leaving her to silence.
But as I did so, the unthinkable happened – she called to me, instead.
"Jolteon?" she said in a weak, vulnerable voice. "Jolteon? Are you still out there?"
My heart skipped many beats, and I called back to her in a startled voice, "Yes, I am here."
"Come here," she demanded of me.
I approached her with honor and grace, covering my eagerness with a persona of humble curiousness. I followed the beam of light as it fell upon her, the tall sapphire monster who had not budged from her place against the far wall of the cave. As I rounded the corner, she watched me with those ruby eyes of hers, as though wary of me, yet willing to bear my company. And I looked up at her, perhaps worried for her, knowing weeks had passed and she had not eaten. And upon her face, I saw something frightening; though she, too, wore a persona to me, one of firm authority, it was a flimsy one. I saw upon her face an emotion of defeat, of utter despair, and I wondered what had troubled her so.
"What is your name?" I asked to her, keeping the squeak in my voice contained. "How may I address you, great one?"
"I am Samurott," she replied, bowing her great head and speaking softly, carefully, to me.
I had never met a Samurott before, although I had heard of their kind and their power over water, I never expected to see them commanding the power of a rainstorm as I had seen this great beauty before me. So I bowed to her, just as I would before a king or an elder, and I said to her, "To what do I owe the grace of your presence, mighty Samurott?"
"Why do you stand outside, day after day?" she asked me, her tone troubled but calm. "Why will you not leave me be?"
"Because I think that a goddess does not deserve to be alone," I tried, digging within my heart to find the most polite and gentle words I knew. "Especially one who chooses to bury oneself in such an ungodly stone tomb. Surely… after so many days, you must be hungry. Or perhaps you are lost. Or grieving the loss of a loved one. Or fleeing from a foe. Whatever the case, I know, if I were a mighty servant of Arceus cast down to the earth's surface under the same circumstances, I would enjoy the company of a mortal for the time being, if it were the case that my fellow gods would not want my company."
"Your flattery disgusts me, Jolteon," the stormy beast snapped at me, breaking my pride. "I do not need your patronizing, or your pity."
"Fine, then," I said to her, shaking away her bitterness and pacing farther from her. "Then I will be honest, and only honest. I stand outside your door because, for all my life, I have desired to see you. That is to say, since I was a cub, when I first heard the stories of your legendary kind, I became fascinated with the nature and the ways of you and your fellows. I listened to the storytellers and heeded their every word as they described your might and majesty, and the terrible things you have done, whether to keep the world in balance or to threaten to destroy it. I have always felt you watching me, and I have yearned to meet one of my great divine caretakers, to converse with them, and perhaps to befriend them. Believe me when I say that it is of the highest honor to have been invited into this cave, and to speak with you, and to be spoken down to by you. You, a creature whom the mortals tell stories of, but never see with their eyes. I, rightfully, can now say otherwise; now that I have seen you, I know that you are everything the stories have claimed, a figure as breathtaking as the sunset, mighty as the torrents from the darkest clouds, and more beautiful than any creature I have ever met, or could have imagined. That, good Samurott, is neither patronizing nor pity, but the very truth."
Alas, for all my charm and guile, I could not win her trust, or her respect; she turned her eye from me and stared at her paws, growling, "You know nothing about me, Jolteon. Do not claim to respect and honor what you can't comprehend… you know nothing of those you call the gods."
"Then tell me," I begged, as a child begging to know a secret. "My ears and my heart are open, willing to learn; can't you see? Tell me, please, great one, everything which I do not comprehend."
Carefully, unthreateningly, I stepped closer to her, begging for her trust, but she turned to me, her eyes aflame, and threatened me: "Keep your wretched lightning away from me, monster."
I gazed upon her, as she lay there like a cornered kitten, her hissing scowl lowered at me, cringing back at every inch I closed between the two of us, and I began to understand. She was afraid of me. Perhaps not of me, but of my lighting. Indeed, she was unmistakably a creature of water, and I of electricity; perhaps a stray spark, like those which popped from my fur on dry days, could bring her harm.
My jaw fell open as I contemplated the reality; this, a glorious godly beast, was afraid of me, a tiny Eon, because of my affinity with electricity. Though I meant her no harm, I understood her hesitance; she could not know if I would betray her, or if I would remain harmless. Perhaps even I did not know if I were to suddenly become startled and release a bolt which might arc through the air and attach to her on the other end of the chamber. But as I tried to formulate a response that could make her understand my harmless intentions, I saw how she continued to stare at me, untrusting, spiteful, as though she was expecting something from me.
At that moment, I realized her threat had not been a threat, but a bargain. She was demanding that I keep my spark under control, in exchange for her trust.
And I burst out to her, saying, "I promise! Great Samurott, my lightning will not harm you. And should I break my promise, may you ground my current, and then may you ground me, under your paws, until I am nothing but dust and ash."
I meant every world; should I betray her, I would offer my life as sacrifice to her. Because I knew not what more I could put on the line to make her see that I cared for her safety, and to make her understand how dearly I wished for her to speak.
The goddess responded with silence, as she usually did, glaring down at my diminutive form with the electric wrath in her eyes, her persona of hatred and repulsion… I waited, motionless, for her judgment to pass, for some sign of trust or relent for her stubbornness. Though I tried to calm myself, my limbs nervously rattled beneath me, my heart filled with the stabs of stray currents from my inner spark.
Then, without even a sigh of humility, or a tear to fall from her holy eyes, she removed her persona, bowing her head to stare at her forepaws. Without a word, she lifted her left limb, letting me see what she had hidden.
Her right front paw was a bloody, mangled mess. Jagged bone protruded from flesh; scars and scabs mixed with the glistening of fresh blood. Her majestic sapphire skin was warped, turning every color of the sunset as the structure of her limb wrinkled and collapsed nearly a third of the way to the base of her shoulder.
It was a gruesome wound to see on such a perfect creature, and I could only imagine the stings of pain she must have felt since she had taken shelter within this cave. Though I knew it was not enough to cripple her, as even a fox could lose a leg and still live happily, I knew this wound had broken the goddess to the core, flooding her with regret and humility which she struggled to hide from me. I knew she must have cleaned it profusely, applying saliva from her tongue and lapping at the stray blood, enough to mask the scent from me.
I searched for the strength to accept this gruesome sight which I had been allowed to see. I stood close to her, standing in the shadows so the light could shine upon the wound, and I appraised it; I wondered if the limb could be saved.
"It has not been healing," the goddess said to me in a heavy, quiet voice. "I do not understand why. My wounds have always healed, even those worse than this."
"How has this happened?!" I gasped, breathless at the gory sight. "Were you harmed in a fight?"
"It does not concern you," she hummed sternly. "It came from falling. I fell from a great height on accident, and the paw twisted underneath me."
"I understand," I said, my mind racing through possibilities. "Is it painful? Even now?"
"The pain has faded since I fell, but I still feel… as though… there is fire in the wound," she said to me callously, betraying no shame. "It is a fire I cannot see, and though I can put it out for a time, it will always return."
"Does it burn now?" I asked her, tenderly and carefully.
"Yes," she said simply, turning her eye away from me. "In my belly as well… I hunger…"
I swallowed hard as I drew very close to the horrendous wound, and she did not move to stop me. I peered close to the broken flesh, glimpsing many swollen traces of infection. Though I shuddered to imagine telling the great storm goddess that it might be best to sever her lower limb altogether, I clung to a hope that something more could be done for her, if only I could imagine exactly what that hope could be. Soon, I was so very close to her that we nearly touched, and I tried to keep my head lowered, my gaze down and away from her intimidating scrutiny.
When I was close enough to reach out and touch the wound with my very nose, a force of tension swept through me, and again I listened to the impulse of my heart. I lifted my paw, so carefully and so gently, and I motioned upward, past the wound and farther up the limb to where it was healthy and unbroken.
Just as I feared, the goddess shirked back and admonished me before I could make contact. "Don't touch me, Jolteon," she warned. "I hold you to your promise."
"But I can put out the fire," I told her, enraptured by my sense of confidence. "If harm comes to you, then crush me beneath your body and I will not so much as struggle. But I will not harm you. Please, Samurott, let me have your trust, if only with something as small as this."
She did not answer, but again I tried to draw my paw close to her, to press it on her sapphire limb. I could feel her wrath growing, I could feel her breath falling upon my back as her breathing deepened, and I could see her tension. My electricity, truly, was her greatest enemy; she feared it as she feared teeth upon the neck, or a pointed spike through the chest.
I hoped to show her that my electricity could also be a friend.
She allowed me to touch her, wincing at the first contact but remaining still and resolute, and I focused into myself, finding whatever remaining power my inner spark held, and asking for release. With such great care, I drew the power from my chest, into the tip of my paws, sure to apply just as much as was necessary, and not enough to cause discomfort to the goddess of the skies. At last, when I was certain of my abilities, I released the charge, feeling the sparks enter her and spread throughout her limb.
She recoiled at the sensation, emitting a displeased growl from the primal depths of her throat. A moment passed when I feared for my very life, but the moment was soon gone, and I withdrew once I realized the great Samurott had spared me.
Hopeful, I peered up at her. "Does the fire still burn now?" I inquired.
"The fire is gone," she told me calmly. "What have you done to me?"
"Paralysis," I explained to her. "I have shorted the nerves in your limb; for perhaps an hour, they will not function, and you will have no feeling from the wound. Be warned, though; while you don't feel pain, you might still injure yourself further, but you wouldn't know. Please keep the limb still, and enjoy the relief of pain while it might last…"
Though I waited for her expression of gratitude, or her compliments at my nurturing abilities, none would come. Instead, she sniffed at the numbed wound, and said to me, "And when the fire returns, you will paralyze it again?"
"Yes, if you wish," I said to her. "Although, we will soon need to make it heal. It cannot heal because the bone is broken, and so the flesh cannot seal itself, because it does not touch with the rest of the flesh in the correct way. Also… it appears to be poisoned; by what poison, or venom, I cannot tell, but the cysts of infection are apparent."
"Do you know how to make it heal, Jolteon?" she asked of me, condescendingly, hiding her weaknesses from me until the bitter end.
I knew her meaning in the question; she wanted no one else to find her here in such a vulnerable state; she would accept the company of no healer or doctor to betray her. She needed to know what I, and only I, could do to help her.
"I know of no healing spells," I confessed to her. "But..."
And in that moment, an idea formed in my mind. There was a possibility, however faint, to heal the broken goddess and return her to her former glory, her throne in the sky. It would involve questions I could not answer on my own, and decisions I would need to make quickly, but I decided that I needed to try. For what else would I do? What other purpose did I, a wayward Jolteon who had run away to the wild, serve? I had pledged myself to her health; I would need to follow through.
"…perhaps with medicine," I said, finally completing my thought. "I know of one who knows of the herbs and their many effects; I believe, with the correct types of berries… both applied to the wound, and fed to you… and if we can set the bone in place and hold it… we might heal the wound. Completely."
"And you would bring these berries here to me?" she asked incessantly, anger returning to her voice.
"Yes, of course," I reassured her. "I will find them, in just the right proportions and varieties, and I will fill two saddlebags with them, and bring them here to you in secret, great one. Is this acceptable?"
"Acceptable, yes," she sighed, staring away from me and fixing her eyes on the flat of the wall. "Please go, and return soon to me. I will want you here if the fire returns."
I balked for a moment; I hadn't expected her to shove me away so fast. Although I guess I could not blame her; if I had such an injury, I, too, would want it addressed as soon as could be. But I suppose I was waiting for something; perhaps I was expecting something from her in return for my efforts and my fidelity. I reminded myself soon enough that she was a goddess and owed me nothing at all, and I gathered what strength I had and prepared to retrace my steps back to Luxray's farm.
"I will return before the following dusk, if I find my way in time," I promised her. "Very well, then. Rest well, mighty Samurott, and remember that the wounds upon your mighty form tarnish not the proud spirit within you. Stay safe, and have hope."
As the column of light from the sun waned and drifted out of focus, hiding the legendary beast in her safe shroud once more, I gave her my deepest bow and trotted for the cave opening, eager to carry out her wishes. But just as I saw the world of the outside open before me and the great blue cliffs rise above me, I heard the goddess call for me again, saying, "Jolteon!"
I paused, having expected such an interruption, and I turned to her. Though I could not see her in the shadows, save for the glint of her fiery eyes, I paid her my full attention.
"Thank you," she said to me. "Thank you for not asking about the fight."
"I will ask about nothing more, if you so wish," I assured her. "I can only imagine how incessant I must seem; a mortal, demanding enlightenment from a legendary god, as though your thoughts are rightfully mine. No, Samurott. There will be no more questions from me. I am happy with what you have already said."
And though it was dark, and though I may have imagined it, I thought I might have seen the great beast smile at me.
It took until the dawn of the following day to return home, although I began to resent referring to the farm as my 'home' after I had grown accustomed to nurturing the goddess for so many weeks. The journey might have taken an hour or less if I'd had the sense to remember the landmarks I had passed the first time; but as it was, each foothill looked identical to the next, and when I had reached the flatter lands, each lake appeared as though it may have been the very one I had bathed in after channeling the lightning strike. I feared I would pass the farm entirely if I chose just one direction to run, so I searched parallel to the mountains at great lengths for a sign of the farmlands. Though the trek was long, I didn't falter. I had earned favor by a higher power and was bound by a promise I intended to keep, and I valiantly searched all through the night. By some stroke of luck, the horizon turned to metal before the sun was fully free from the earth, and I leaped over the fence and found myself standing amidst the blooming sprouts of thousands of berry plants.
As you may imagine, I was not entirely thrilled by the idea of approaching Luxray after my extended absence. I had spent the return trip weaving an excuse of legendary proportions for him, but I could not seem to keep the details consistent, and the temptation grew to just tell the truth. I would need to decide whether or not I could trust Luxray, and perhaps the rest of the team as well, with the knowledge of who lived in the mountain caves just a day's walk to the north.
As I took the time to perfect the words I wanted to say, I paced between the rows of crops, just as I had done when it was my duty once every three days. Though I had memorized the names of all the varieties of berry and the various shapes of bush upon which they grew, I did not know how each one of them tasted, and I certainly did not know the medicinal effect of each type. I figured the goddess could find some comfort from the common berries; I could bring her orans to help regrow her skin and bones, or pecha to counteract the infection upon her wound. I feared, however, these would not have a substantial effect to a creature as large or as unique as her, and that I would ultimately require something a bit more exotic. It seemed likely that one of the varieties of berry we owned could be of greater benefit to the goddess. As I strode between the field of salac and the field of rindo, I wondered if a professor of medicine would have prescribed either of them for such a special case.
To my dismay, just minutes after I had returned to the field, I found myself in company. I barely perceived a rustle among the salac stalks before I was ambushed by a swift, stealthy creature, one whom I happened to recognize. It was a Scyther, one who answered to the peculiar name of 'Death' for reasons I can't fathom. His brother was 'Life,' even more oddly. I always suspected they had given themselves their names as a joke, but I didn't discount the possibility that Luxray had renamed them to his own liking, perhaps because their native names were too complex to shout at a moment's whim. It was a treatment Luxray had given a few other members of the team.
My first instinct was to shirk away, until I remembered that Death had no hands with which to detain me, and that I could likely defeat him in battle, or at least outrun him, if things came to violence.
"So it is you," the Scyther cried in amazement, blocking my path. "Good to see that you weren't actually dead. Lux wondered if the storm blew you away."
"In a manner of speaking, that's exactly what happened," I told him awkwardly. "I suppose I can explain later."
"I'm afraid 'later' may not cut it today, Dan," Death said to me. "Lux gave us orders to send you directly to him if we saw you. Good luck explaining to him why we're all out here doing your job for you."
"Thank you; luck is something I might need," I said with a long sigh. Inside, I was tempted to merely substitute for luck the true story of what I had found, if it would win sympathy from the one who could help me select the proper medicine for my needs. Before I began my unenthused sprint back to the den-house, I asked the Scyther, "Is he furious with me?"
"Depends on whether it was an accident or not," the Scyther answered with a wry grin. "Also depends on if you're planning to leave again. Shame I can't be there to see what happens myself. Got to finish checking the salac."
I took his answer as a "yes" that the farm's owner was understandably displeased with me. Though I was not worried for my safety or livelihood, as I was not bound to the farm in the end, Luxray's wrath was not pleasant to witness in full-force, even to one who would not be harmed by his lightning.
I mused, as I approached the tiny thatched farmhouse I once lived within, that sometimes, shame proves to be just as painful and real as a blow to the head.
Before I arrived at his door, I resolved to stand my ground and not be spoken down to. I had an important mission, a duty to the Samurott, and I would not let him tell me otherwise. I held my posture tall and proud as I approached the door, hiding my shame deep within, and wore a strict persona of confidence.
As if by chance, the large wooden door creaked and swung open as I considered approaching, revealing to me the Luxray whom I had called "master" some days before. It only occurred to me hours later, after I had come and gone, that he had likely used the power of his eyes to see through the door, removing any element of surprise I thought I could use to introduce myself on my own terms. But in the heat of the moment, I stumbled before him with both my tongue and my legs, groping for some string of words to make a good impression upon him. He seemed patient enough to wait for me to speak, and eventually I settled to say, "Master Luxray, I am glad to see you. I have traveled far to return here."
The great blue lion eyed me down as he had always done, but it struck me that his gaze was not nearly as cutting or as powerful as that of the storm goddess whose favor I had won. In realizing this, I was inspired to hold my confidence and not back down.
"Welcome back, Daniel," the Luxray spoke, in his grumbling voice, so deep that it almost did not hold a melody. "Will you be returning to your duties?"
I flinched at the sound of the nickname he had given me; since my true name was not one easily spoken at a moment's notice, Luxray had chosen instead to call me Daniel, a name of fewer syllables. At times, I considered it demeaning to have my name rejected by another, for I favored the title of Dandelion, and wore it proudly. But I chose not to press the matter, instead, telling him the truth of what was on my mind.
"I am afraid not, Master," I told him, keeping my voice calm and unbreaking in my rebellion. "Come this evening, I will be gone again. I have come because I am in need your help."
"My help…?" the great lion said, mocking my words. "You neglect your duties to me seven times, and now you are pleading for my help? Hnnnn, I do not know what to make of you, Daniel..."
As I began to ramble some promise of an explanation, the Luxray interrupted me, tilting his head to the sky and releasing a powerful, gravelly roar which rivaled the thunderclouds. I understood this particular cry of his; I was conditioned to respond to this sound when working in the fields. It meant that Luxray needed our attention immediately and that we were to drop our work and return home at once.
"I am willing to hear you out," the lion told me, sternly, after having recovered breath from his roar. "But it had better be important, and if it's important, I will need the rest of the team to heed the news of the matter also, don't you agree?"
At first this edict confused me; but before long I realized it was a challenge. Luxray was inviting the whole of his workforce to listen in on my tall tale, so that all may have a laugh at my expense if I could not justify my absence. I returned a sly grin to him, knowing that my story would impress him regardless.
"Of course I agree, Master," I told him pointedly; I would have wagged my tail had I still owned one.
After a moment of impatience, my team and I assembled in a lazy circle before the storage barn, the place where Luxray traditionally gave orders to us at the start of the day. We were all there, all nine of us: Life and Death, the Scyther twins; Floatzel and Wartortle; Sandslash and Donphan; and, of course, Myself and Master Luxray. The ninth creature was a peculiar addition to our group: it was a Swellow, a strong and speedy bird, whom Luxray had struck one day with a discharge of his lightning. We had failed to imprint upon it so that it might become intelligent, but he kept it as a pet, a tamed wild, and trained it to return to him at the sound of his great roar.
At once, I saw that all eyes were upon me, most of them unamused with my antics. But I wasted no time; as soon as Luxray had passed the floor of attention to me, I explained my issue.
"In the Gatorback mountains, to the north, there lies a wounded goddess," I said with eagerness and frankness. "A legendary being, fallen from the sky. I was drawn into the storm to catch a lightning bolt, and I witnessed her descent. She fled from me, into a cave at the base of the cliffs, where she nurses a broken ankle."
I paused for emphasis, noting the glances of surprise and interest which my workmates were now giving me. It was a pleasant change from the looks of annoyance and skepticism they had held just moments before. I smirked at Luxray, as though to tell him that I had won his challenge.
"A legendary? So close to the plains?" cried my Sandslash friend. "What kind was it?"
"Yeah, Dan! What was it?" cried the Wartortle. "What did you see? What did it look like?!"
Soon, the six of them were shouting at me, begging me to account for what I had witnessed. I smiled, my inner spark beaming with confidence, as I began to strut into the center of the circle like some pretentious storyteller, digging into my memory for all the most glamorous and unnecessary words I could remember from the stories I was told as a cub. Then, I began to ramble my praises of the goddess.
"A splendid being, she was," I began. "The paragon of the foxlike, she stands, so gracefully upon four legs, with regal hide of sapphire and white. Upon her head sits a stunning horn of crystal, great enough to impale even the mightiest of beasts. And her eyes, like radiant ruby stones, pierce through your heart and soul. Her name: the majestic Samurott!"
Against my better judgment, I struck a pose when I finished my monologue, and beheld my companions staring in disbelief, many of their mouths gaping in pause. I put a smug smile upon my face, awaiting the inevitable reaction of praise and astonishment… but as soon as the moment had passed, my companions, in unison, burst into laughter. Horrified, I shirked back from my place at the center of the circle, cringing as I beheld their roars of mirth; Life had been so amused at my words that tears formed in his eyes, and Floatzel's spasms proved so great that she fell to the ground. Even the pathetic bird chirped mockingly at me, as though the laughter was contagious.
Luxray, however, did not laugh. He continued staring down to me, grave displeasure upon his face, as though I had betrayed him. It was his gaze which hurt most of all.
I simply did not understand it; the creature had been a goddess, there was no doubt in my mind. And though I had heard many tales about the gods, never did it dawn upon me that Samurott was not one of them; I knew Samurott was a rare breed, rare enough that I had only ever heard its appearance described to me perhaps once or twice…
But before I could feel the remainder of my dignity drain from my paws, Luxray sounded one of his deafening roars, not caring that we were all in such short distance from him. The laughter ceased immediately.
"Daniel, this Samurott…," he growled, strutting between the others in my direction. "By any chance… did it happen to have diamonds upon its flank, the same color as its underbelly?"
"Yes, Master, it did," I replied meekly.
"And did this Samurott have a mane the color of amethyst? And did it not have the tail of a fish, but that of a fairy, with streaming ribbons sprouting from its back?"
"Yes, Master," I replied, resisting the reflex to paw at the ground to relieve my awkwardness.
"Hnnn," he grumbled, standing over me. "So, you have seen Suicune."
At last, the congregation erupted in a gasp, the very gasp I had tried to evoke from them on my own. Suicune was a name I recognized, the mythical canine-god of water, although I had never heard a description of her, or seen a drawing. When the identity of the goddess finally sank into my heart, and when I began to realize she was so much more powerful and important than even I had anticipated, I felt my heart drop into my hindquarters. I planted myself on the ground, my ears drooping in disbelief, my mouth as wide open as those of my friends.
"Suicune," I mouthed to myself, testing the sound of her true name. It puzzled me as to why she had tried to betray me like this, covering her identity from me. I wondered if she had attempted to keep her presence a secret from me and perhaps anyone else I would tell.
Once the team was stiff and stunned, their legs planted in place, Luxray padded past me and stared into the northern berry fields, and the mountains beyond. "How bad is the wound?" he calmly asked of me.
"Infected," I informed him. "Very large; it has claimed a good portion of her leg, and the broken flesh will not heal beyond a raw sore."
"And the fracture, is it jagged, or clean?" he asked, not looking at me.
"Terribly jagged, I'm afraid," I said. "I suspect I might need to set the bone, but I fear it will be too complex."
"If it must be done, it must be done," he told me. "You could feed orans to her until she vomits, but if the bone does not match, it will not grow properly. Slash, Daniel will need a pouch to hold his medicine. Find one suitable for him. Tails, Daniel will also need material to create a splint; find a wooden peg at least a threepaw in diameter, and two spans of flag-cloth. Meet me in the western fields when you have done so. The rest of you, kindly finish Daniel's chore for him. He seems to have much more important task set before him than watching the fields here. And Daniel… I want you to follow me."
The team scattered at once, and I warily followed my mentor into the farmland.
He walked slowly, as though contemplating something; his gaze jumped from bush to bush, and I wondered if he indeed knew which type of berry to give to me.
"Very noble of you, to help a legendary heal her wound," Luxray grumbled to me. "What do you hope to accomplish from it? Are you looking for her favor?"
"You could say so, perhaps," I admitted, walking at his side. "Perhaps she will live ten thousand more years, and never forget me. Or, perhaps… I feel I am doing a work of good, by letting one of the guardians of the earth fulfill her duty as guardian. Perhaps cities are collapsing, or people are in panic, in the absence of her power to calm the chaos and restore balance."
"You are motivated by goodwill, then," he hummed. "Did you forget the work you have done for me? What of the berries we grow here? These are consumed by the whole continent, and have cured just as many sicknesses and healed just as many wounds as your Suicune might have done in her lifetime. Why do you think I was driven to grow these berries in the first place? We are all plagued by a crippling desire to help the world around us thrive in widespread ways. Some of us find a way to fulfill that desire. I had hoped, in bringing you here, that you could share in my satisfaction."
"Yes, but I do not know where our apples or our berries go," I confessed to him. "Their effects are not real to me. I have never seen them used and I do not know their effects firsthand. And perhaps most importantly, I cannot witness the happiness they bring."
"Seems as though that is about to change," Luxray grumbled. "Seems you'll get your chance to see their effects, firsthand, with your Suicune friend."
As we passed through the passho field, odd blue berries in yellow leafy shells which grew on rusty red stalks, he lowered his head and uprooted one, dropping it before me. "You will need these," he told me as I sniffed at the fruit. "I do not know how much Suicune might weigh, or how much blood she carries, but twelve or so of them should suffice. They will help a water-type's regeneration immensely once they enter the bloodstream."
Then, after some consideration, he showed me to the hondew field, filled with sprouts of the ridiculously-shaped green berries, each dotted with rows of yellow seeds. "These will help with the infection," he told me. "Break one open to rub it onto the open wound, and make her ingest the rest. These, along with your standard fare of oran and leppa, are the best I can offer to your goddess."
When Slash and Tails found us, we spent an hour packing the bags with the supplies and berries Luxray had prescribed. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for his assistance and his understanding, and Slash apologized for his outburst of laughter. Once I was sure my burden fit snugly, I left them again, heading away into the sunrise. I knew it would be a good day's walk back to the mountain cave where Suicune lay, especially since I could not dash with reckless abandon in fear of losing that which I carried. But I was fairly confident, if I never stopped walking, except to drink from a pond occasionally, I would fulfill my promise and return to my fallen goddess by dusk.
My encumbered journey was not nearly as enticing as my blissful rush into the storm; it reminded me how an obligation to responsibility does not match the thrill of spontaneous rapture to emotion. It was why, after all, I had been driven away from the farm life in the first place. Subjugation to authority, I had told myself, does not suit me. Appointed tasks, even those which saved thousands of lives, held no meaning to me, if they were already to be expected. Or so I had thought.
Why then, I wondered, was I offering assistance to the Suicune? Why, now, even after it had changed from a spontaneous, fateful encounter, to that of a chore, fetching her supplies? Why had I allowed the Suicune to hold authority over my actions, and so freely, when I resented offering the same gestures to my erstwhile team leader? It was a difficult question, and one which I asked myself each time the icy wind sent a chill through my back, and each time I thought my legs would break beneath me from the weight of my payload.
Two-thirds of the way through the walk, as I slogged among the shallow lakes and hoped that I would not stumble into a mud puddle half my size, the gray sky began to spit upon me. When I felt the first of the chilly raindrops, heard the miserable sound of them popping and bursting through the surface of the lakes, I stopped in my tracks and perched on my hind legs, and I asked the cloud to bless me with another bolt of lightning to help empower me upon the rest of my journey. Sadly, there seemed to be no lightning within the cloud, and it rejected my pleadings.
I found the hilltop where I had first glimpsed her, and the memories of that night returned strongly to me. With them came my sense of direction; I remembered every step I had taken, and even the particular set of cliffs which she had disappeared within the night I had first glimpsed at her. It was fortunate for me, as the evening fell fast, leaving me to roam through the rain the dark. At midnight, I finally arrived to the cave within the crags, exhausted and drenched, and with no feeling in the tips of my ears or my nose. I cursed the sudden cold-air front which had interrupted the season's pleasant weather, as I had no more strength for rational thoughts, and prepared to deliver the medicines to the fallen goddess at last.
I entered the cave carefully, knowing not if she remained. Without the beam of light from the afternoon sun, and without even the moonlight shining through the overcast sky, I wondered if my goddess had hobbled off somewhere else, somewhere she deemed safer. Perhaps she expected me to find her again, I mused to myself. Her stubborn personality made it seem likely.
I was afraid to call out to her, in fear of waking her from sleep. But I did not need to, in the end, for she called to me, "Jolteon?"
"Yes, it is I," I said softly to her, for through my own weariness I could not raise my voice. "I am sorry; the journey was long, but I have brought medicine…"
"I have stayed awake," the goddess said to me, with a wobble in her voice that told me she was on the verge of collapse. "I remembered your promise, that you would return… so I did not lose myself to the void… Please, may you put out the fire again? It has returned strongly…"
Relieved that I at least still found favor with her, I slid the baggage from my body and groped the darkness, searching for the invisible form of the goddess. I released a small charge from my inner spark, allowing static to flicker across my fur, and in the flash, I caught sight of her, the wounded Suicune. Though her form was as beautiful as ever, I felt a new sense of apprehension to approaching her, knowing now who she truly was and what sort of powers she commanded. Ignoring my hesitance, I crawled forward, whispering reassuring words to her as I searched for her mangled limb. Once I had found it, I produced another pulse of energy to paralyze it, disabling the nerves which brought her pain. The charge backfired and ran up my leg through the water in my soggy fur, but to my relief, it did not leap out of my control.
"What did you bring?" she demanded of me as soon as my work was done. "Is it effective medicine?"
"Yes, and materials to set your bone back into place," I whispered to her, as though we were hiding from dark predators perched outside the cave. "However, I cannot try to set your bone in the dark like this… we must wait for noon of the next day, so I may work in the light. Perhaps then we may feed you the medicine, and hope that your bone heals itself in the right way."
"Good," the goddess said. I felt gratified at hearing the word; it was the closest so far I had gotten to a complement from her.
Though a part of me was disappointed, I once again remembered that I was a mere mortal Jolteon, and she was Suicune, forged from the very hooves of Arceus with the power of a hurricane and the striking beauty of the northern auroras; she had no obligation to thank me for anything in the end, so I told her that I was weary and that I would return to my outside post to slumber for the first time in two days.
Butat that moment, just as I would have drawn away from her and padded outside into the rain, the great beast blocked my escape, catching me with her paw and pulling me into an embrace against her chest. Perhaps I could say that my world shattered within that moment; I was paralyzed with terror, fearing for my life. When I regained the sense to move, I tried to struggle against her and break her hold on me, but she did not relent; she held me securely, yet comfortably, against the crook of her neck, lowering her head to rest on the ground so close to me that I felt the pulses of air from her snout sweep through my fur. So warm, her breath felt upon me, and so pleasant it was, after all the hours I had spent with the icy showers bearing down upon me, trickling through my fur and stinging my skin…
"I— are you sure this is wise?" I gasped, despite my speechless throat. "I might shock you… not on purpose, but… current can run through me…"
"I am sure you won't. I trust you," she told me plainly. "But if the fire returns and wakes me from my sleep, please put it out again…"
"Yes… my goddess…" I said, stricken with tension and awkwardness. "Anything… anything you wish."
I tried one last time to break her hold, but it was of no use. Her paw was firmly cupped around my chest, beneath my neck. She must have faded into slumber soon afterward, for her breathing softened and she did not otherwise move. I tried to quell my panic, which would surely be my doom if I were to release a charge into her brain on accident.
As I calmed myself, the reality of the situation struck me. For my simple act of kindness, I had truly found favor with Suicune, a deity of myths. When I felt as though I had wrestled control over my inner spark, and the anxious worry faded, it was replaced by a warm tide of honor, as warm as the soft underbelly of the great beast who held me by her side. In part, I wished to remain awake, just to savor her divine breath upon me for the countless hours she would sleep, but I could not; my weariness from the day's travels claimed me and my eyes soon fluttered to a close.
The following day, I awoke as the shaft of light, the one which would breach the cave every day at noon, struck me directly in the eye and refused to let the world of dreams drift back to my attention.
I attempted to move and stretch, only to find that I could not; the Suicune still clutched me as tightly as ever, with a grasp that felt roughly as though I was trapped beneath a fallen tree trunk. Wondering how long a goddess would need to sleep, I turned my eye to the cave entrance and tried to judge how much sunlight remained for the afternoon. Despite the bliss of sleeping under the care of a goddess, I knew I could not let her sleep all day if I wished to doctor her.
My eye caught the bag which I had left near the cave entrance the previous night. There was motion. A stray rat, likely one who had followed the scent of fresh berries, was nibbling at the side of a bag, its long teeth scraping the fabric at odd angles and nearly piercing a hole. I rolled my eyes in frustration, and spotted a greater bluebat hanging from the ceiling, its eyes fixated upon the bags down below as if waiting to share the rat's spoils.
I struggled against the grasp of the Suicune, but to no avail. I worried she would sleep like a dragon, perhaps for weeks, and that the wild vermin would escape with her medicine, which they would, if given enough time. For a while, I wondered how I could politely rouse her from her dreams without having her turn on me, or worse, accidentally crush my bones in a sudden movement.
"Suicune!" I gasped in the direction of her head. "Suicune! Suicune?"
I managed to wake her, but my blood ran cold when her eye snapped open and she glared at me, an expression that clearly read, "Who in the world are you?!"
Ignoring my fright, I pleaded to her, "Suicune, you need to let me go. The rodents are getting at your medicine."
Grumbling, she lifted her paw to finally free me. Though her grasp had been warm and surprisingly comfortable, I found cramps in all four of my limbs, and perhaps three in my back alone, and I could not resist a long and intense stretch before my attention even fell upon chasing the pests away.
When I regained control of my body after the vigorous convulsion, I opened my eyes to find that the rat had long since scurried away. The bat, however, was still there, its wings curled around its body, leaving only its eyes visible. It eyed me evilly as though knowing I could not jump high enough to reach it.
"Will you throw lightning at it, Jolteon?" the Suicune asked me in a curious voice. I turned to see her watching me with intense interest, the gleam in her eye just as bright as the sunlight upon her crystalline horn.
"I am sorry, but I am not a master of my lightning quite yet," I confessed to her, turning my frustrated glare to the bat. "I have only just evolved, some half-dozen seasons ago, and without much battle practice. I fear that if I aimed at the bat, the bolt would arc and strike you instead."
"It will not," she said amusedly. "I trust you."
"Perhaps your trust is misplaced," I grumbled, vaguely wondering if she was trying to express a sense of humor. "I would never mean to hurt you, of course, but my lightning might possess a will apart from my own."
"Put negative ions on your fur," she told me.
I gave pause, and squinted at the Suicune in surprise. "What?" I could only say, her instruction baffling to me.
"Your fur has spines," she said. "In the tip of the spines, you may put ion. Put negative ion in your spines to attack with lightning. Put positive ion in your spines to gather lightning."
I blinked at her, unsure of how to respond to her advice. Soon, I could not help but chuckle at the absurdity, realizing that she had given me more of a lesson in harnessing my electricity than Luxray ever had, and in only a few sentences. Surely, this bit of trivia would not help me to guide a bolt of energy onto a target, but she seemed so certain of her words that I wondered what had prompted her to speak them.
"How do you know such things about the way electric-types are?" I asked her with a smile.
"It does not concern you," she told me simply, while not taking her eyes off me. Though she said nothing more, I could tell she truly wanted to watch me electrocute the bat, so I tried to oblige. I asked my inner spark for power, which had thankfully recharged itself through a good night's rest, and I focused my attention on that witless Golbat who presumably had never seen a Jolteon before and didn't understand what I was about to do.
With a soft pop, I let the tiny charge escape from my fur. I kept the charge to an absolute minimum, paranoid that there were positive ions upon the Suicune's body that would draw the bolt in an unintended direction. To my surprise, the bolt landed just where I wanted, flooding into the bat's body and killing it instantly. It fell to the floor, and I stood back and admired my work.
"Will you eat it?" the Suicune asked me curiously.
"I think not," I replied to her, kicking the bat's corpse from the cave. "There is no meat inside of them. It is all leather and gristle."
"You call me 'Suicune', why?" she asked suddenly, once again leaving me baffled as to how to reply.
"It is… because… that is what you are, is it not?" I tried telling her, afraid of offending her. "I learned it on my travels. You are the great goddess Suicune, crystalline beast of the rain and flood, said to have been sent to earth by Ho-Oh to regulate the rainfall. Mortals pray to you to relieve them in times of drought. You are said to bring rainstorms from the north… Do you mind me calling you this? I would call you by a different name, if only you wished."
Rather than answering me, the goddess tilted her head and said, "Why do you call me a goddess? You are not the first to do so. I have always wondered this. There are many who are called gods and goddesses, who do not deserve to be called such. Do you truly believe that I am equal with the dragon creators?"
"With Arceus, and his firstborn? Perhaps not," I told her. "But your power and majesty is far beyond anything most mere mortals can comprehend. Among us, you are rarely seen, and when you are, you are feared and respected as a terrible force of nature, just as the hurricane or the rainstorm. There are none who can match you."
"Why is it that you call yourself a mere mortal to me," she said, "when you see that I bleed?"
She lifted her paw, revealing herwound again. Most of the blood had finally clotted, covering the worst parts of the gore with a thin, twisted membrane. I felt a slight wave of revulsion pulse through my body upon remembering what I still needed to do.
"Good Suicune, I need to set your bone, while we still have sunlight to see with," I said to her, reluctantly disregarding her thought-provoking questions. I unbuttoned the flap upon the first bag, and withdrew the objects that had been given to me to create a splint. I had never created one before, but I had a general idea of how they worked, since my grandfather had created them for my siblings on occasion when they would manage to break their limbs. I would first need to match the fragments of the broken bone together, then tie the wooden peg parallel to the bone so that Suicune could not easily move the fracture apart again. Since I figured she would not have a difficult time breaking the splint if she wanted, I knew I would need to explain the process to her.
"I will need to paralyze you just once more," I warned her. "It will be a stronger paralysis than usual, because I need to fix your bone so it can heal, and I don't want you to feel any of the pain. Please do not be alarmed if you cannot feel most of your leg."
"Very well," she said to me as I drew near.
When I administered the strong charge to her, she visibly winced, and for a moment I saw true fright and fear in her eyes. "Do you feel well?" I asked of her then. "Was it too strong?"
"It spread into my shoulder, but no farther," she told me.
When I was sure she was ready, I braced myself for the grisly act I was about to commit. I looked to her once more, and asked her if she was prepared. She told me to do whatever I wanted.
Wincing with remorse, I bit down upon her wound and let the blood spill again. In the midst of the mess, I saw her broken bones and all the shards which protruded from them, as the four fractured pieces laid side-by-side, completely disconnected from one another. It dawned upon me that I could not carry out my task with my own strength; she would need to do most of the work with me instructing her. So I instructed her to hold down on the end of her numb limb, and told her to pull back until the bones could return to their proper places. Before she could let the fracture fall out of place again, I ran the cloth-ribbon beneath the bottom of the limb and looped it into a simple knot, holding it down with my paw as I pulled it with my teeth. Once done, I tied another loop below the fracture. Finally, I instructed her to pull the ends of the cloth as tight as she could, but not before I slipped the wooden peg onto her leg. So puny in size it was, compared to her, but hopefully still able to perform its function until the regenerative juices from the berry would make her whole.
I cried tears of joy once it was over with. It was a messy and traumatizing process, one which lasted for over an hour, and one I hoped never to experience again, perhaps even with my own children. After we helped one another bandage the wound shut and stop the blood, I realized how my jaws and the upper half of my body had become coated in her thick blood as though I was some demon-hound from the jungles who had just feasted on a fallen deer. I hoped that I would soon have an opportunity to bathe, and that I would remember not to look at my reflection in the water's surface before diving beneath the surface.
"Now, do not move your leg," I warned her. "You're a powerful beast. If you try to stand on that leg, or even move it wrongly, the peg could break."
"Fine," she told me, peering at the handiwork we had accomplished. "What now, Jolteon?"
"Now, I can feed you," I told her, digging into the second bag and searching for an oran berry. "Eat this one," I instructed her. "These are orans. For us mortals, they are our favorite berry for fast regeneration if there is no healer around. They are cheap, easy to grow, and taste good."
"I have eaten these before," she said to me. "I prefer the sitrus. They are faster to heal."
I chuckled, gathering a small pile of orans before her. "Sitrus only grow in certain climates, and they cost too much for commonfolk," I told her. "As of right now, we only have these."
I watched as she lowered her head and collected several of the blue berries into her mouth, shivering with contentment as she seemed to enjoy them.
"Again, you say that I am immortal, compared to you," she said after swallowing her mouthful. "What does that mean? I will die one day."
"Yes, but… your kind lives thousands of years, do you not?" I inquired, reaching for one of the orans to nibble on. "We mortals are lucky to live perhaps two or three centuries. But you… you can watch the world change, and pass from a generation to the next, all from your throne in the sky. And so… compared to us… you are special."
"But are you not also special?" she said to me.
"What do you mean?" I asked her with my mouth full of berry. "How am I special?"
"Jolteon are fast," she told me, preoccupied with her food. "There are not many who can outrun you. You may even outrun nearly all of those you call the gods."
At first, I did not believe her. Surely, I thought, she was in jest. I could not bring myself to believe that I was godlike in my running speed, as she claimed. I stopped chewing for a moment and just gawked at the wall, trying to recall memories of my best running speeds, and imagined myself outrunning the great dragons in a footrace.
"Are you certain…?" I could only reply. "Perhaps I am not quite that fast. I mean to say, I practice running, and I practice it often, but I do not see how I would… well, rival the gods in speed."
"You must learn to move as lightning moves," she said to me. "Become lightning. Then you may outrun the other creatures."
When she said that, my thoughts flashed to the night Suicune and I had first met. I had indeed become lightning, at one point, to catch up to her. I had bolted forward so fast that I could not remember the transition. It was almost as a teleport, something which certain psychic creatures are capable of, where they are able to arrive to their destination in a single instant.
"Perhaps I shall learn, then," I told her. "Perhaps I will practice…" and then I sat in stunned reflection for another moment, and I said to her, "I still wonder how you know these things about an electric-type."
"No concern of yours," she grunted in reply, reminding me that I had already asked the same question earlier that day. "You said you would not ask questions such as these."
"Ah, fine, very well," I sighed, withdrawing my efforts to worm my way deeper into her wealth of knowledge. When she had only four berries remaining, I asked, "Does your leg feel better?"
"My leg does not feel, Jolteon," she told me oddly.
"Yes, right," I replied, quickly correcting myself, remembering the large paralysis I had given to her not so long ago. Smiling, I added, "As for me, you may call me 'Dandelion' if you wish. That is my name."
She did not reply to my offer, and did not so much as acknowledge the words I had said, but she peered at the empty stone floor where there had once sat a pile of orans, and said to me, "Do you have more? I am very hungry."
"Yes, of course there is more!" I shouted, snapping to attention and jumping back in the direction of the pouch to produce more berries. "I suppose I could start you on the stronger medicines now."
I placed a passho berry before her, saying, "This is supposed to be an advanced medicine for water-types. It should help you in ways that mere orans cannot. I see, it is the same color as you…"
As I went to fetch another, meaning to build a small pile of passho before her, I heard her give a strange snort. I did not think much of it at first. I figured she had burped and it would have been impolite of me to comment. But then, her snort became a deep growl of anger, a sound which touched me in a primal way and paralyzed me in place.
"I know of this berry," she said to me, the dark tone of her voice sending a strange shiver through me. "This berry weakens me…"
"Suicune, whatever do you mean?" I said, my muscles tensed in surprise.
I turned to meet her glare of rage and repulsion, and no sooner did I feel myself become the smallest creature on the earth before her angry gaze.
"Once before, I was deceived, and I have eaten berries like this!" she roared. "This berry poisons my water and weakens me… You deceive me, Jolteon?!"
I cowered before her might, felt her aura flare, and I considered running from the cave without another glance. I didn't understand her complaint. Was she crazy? Did she truly eat these berries before? Or was she misremembering? Or perhaps Luxray was at fault? My inner spark gave me no energy to decide the answer; it only allowed me to tremble before her terrible majesty, feeling as weak and useless as an insect as she roared at me in fury.
"I placed trust in you, Jolteon, but you are wretched, as all the rest of your kind!" she boomed, screeching like a demon. "You seek only my downfall…"
"No, I… Suicune, no! I thought these were medicine… That's what I was told," I desperately cried to her.
But she would not have it. In her rage, she began rising to her feet, the first time I had seen her do so, and I leaped the cave's length away from her. She even tried motioning with her limp limb, and I gasped in horror; if she even tried standing with it, or even moving it the wrong way, the bone would come apart again.
"No, Suicune! Your splint! Your bone! Don't stand on your broken leg!" I shouted to her, caring for the moment more about her safety than mine.
But she would not listen to me; she rose to all three of her feet and bared her teeth, a very clear gesture to any canine, showing that I would need to decide between fighting with her or running. "Why have you deceived me so?!" she boomed in a deep and frightening voice, like the howl of the stormy wind. "Why do you wish to poison me with these berries?!"
"He did not try to poison you," a voice said unexpectedly, catching even the raging Suicune's attention and causing her to shut her mouth. "I did."
I turned to the den entrance and witnessed a Luxray standing in the threshold of the cave. Behind him stood the twin Scyther from the farm.
For just that moment, I assumed I had dreamed everything. The anger of the Suicune could only have been a concept from a nightmare, and I couldn't comprehend the sight of the Luxray before my eyes.
"Master, w-what are you doing here?!" I roared at him, as though I drew upon Suicune's rage and borrowed a part of it for myself. "How did you find us?!"
But the question was answered for me, as his pet Swellow touched downd behind him. I realized the bird had secretly tracked me the whole way and memorized my route; the Luxray had managed to train the bird all too well.
"What do you want?!" I snapped, releasing resentment upon my former master. "You do not belong here! You have no place here!"
"I came for your safety," Luxray said, entering the cave slowly. "Suicune are terrible beasts. She may have betrayed you the moment her fracture was healed, and so I thought to weaken her, so that we might fight her off together, should she rebound with violence."
I lowered my ears and bent into a hostile stance, a growl reverberating through my voice. "Yes, of course she will rebound with violence now, now that you nearly poisoned her… You forgot to consider the possibility that she might have recognized the berries you had sent to her…"
"LEAVE!" The great Suicune bellowed, in a voice that rivaled Luxray's roar. "LEAVE ME, you wretched lightning creatures! Leave!"
"Yes, my goddess," I hissed, directing my bitterness toward Luxray. "We will. At once."
I herded the unwelcome visitors outside of the cave, or as best as I could at the moment; I noticed the Scyther twins were still drawn to the cave entrance, trying to catch glimpses of what lay within. I, however, paid them no attention. My mind was teeming with insults to spew upon the presumptuous Luxray. I stood up to him, caring not that he stood several times my size and seemed to think himself justified. I was angry and vengeful for what he had done, the betrayal he had committed, and I would hold him accountable.
"I was worried about you, Daniel," he said to me sternly. "Please try to understand. I did not mean harm upon the Suicune."
"If you did not mean harm upon her, you would not have bothered to intervene with my affairs," I roared at him, my voice echoing throughout the rocky walls of the crags. "How can you claim to know Suicune more than I? I have spent the last seventeen days here, only to learn about her. And when I ask you for assistance? You take my humble plea, you smash it beneath your paw, and you insult the goddess by assuming she would kill me once she is healed?!"
"It is the duty of the legendary ones to be secretive," Luxray grumbled calmly. "I understand why you would not know this if you were not educated well enough. The legendary ones must hide their interventions and their presence from the mortals like us, or else the mortals would overpower them and destroy them in their efforts to acquire their power. Why do you think she hides in this cave instead of presenting herself to those who could help her? It is because she fears making her presence known."
"If she wanted to kill me, she could have done so even with the broken leg," I snapped in reply. "I gave her ample opportunities to finish me, and each time, she allowed me to live."
"Yes, and what then, after she had used you to heal her leg?!" growled my former master. "What then? What else could be done about a little rogue Jolteon who knows now that a Suicune lives in Gatorback mountains? What do you think she would do… once she has no more use for you?"
For perhaps five seconds, I considered his words, and I knew they were misguided. Though I could not explain it with words from my tongue, and I trusted only the things my inner spark told to me, I was certain I understood Suicune's emotions. I felt a measure of what she felt. And she was indeed scared, but only of a wound which did not seem to heal as fast as other wounds. It was something she hadn't experienced before, and it made her vulnerable. That's why she hid from the world.
"Daniel, you are a member of my team; I care about you," the Luxray tried to tell me with some measure of tenderness. "Encounters with the legendary beasts are often fatal… and I do not want to lose you."
I peered upward at the sunny sky, at the waning streams of light passing above the cliff walls as the afternoon sun drifted behind them. I felt the wind from the rocky corridors rushing through my fur, and I wondered if perhaps another storm cloud formed somewhere in the distance, ready to press down upon the land.
And I came to realize everything that I had done.
I had answered the call of the wild, the call I had felt since the very moment I had evolved, and I left my home behind me without regret. It was now that I stood at the very crossroad of my decision, there in the valleys of the harsh wilderness, with my Luxray mentor calling me back to a life of predictability and security, offering me back the companionship I had so foolishly disregarded.
It should have been a difficult decision. My heart should have faltered and grown weak, torn between two destinies I deeply cared for. I should have spent several minutes standing before him, staring at the ground and wondering about Suicune's true intentions, considering that, perhaps, I was but a mere mortal, a pawn to be used by the great guardians of the land, then discarded when my usefulness had passed.
But it was not so.
In reality, my heart was set on my conviction. I cared not about my former master, or the farm from which he came. At that very moment, the farm, and all the berries which surrounded it, could have burned in a drought-fire and I would feel no sympathy. In that moment, I cared only about the Suicune and the promise I had made to her. She was the reason for all of my actions, and somehow, I wanted it to remain that way. Nothing else Luxray would say could convince me.
I planted my feet upon the ground, the place where I knew I truly belonged.
"You are wrong," I growled. "Your assumption is wrong. Your conclusion is wrong. I think you did not come to rescue me! You came only to see the Suicune for yourself. That's why you tracked me here. You were jealous that she had taken favor with me, and you wanted to see her! And besides… You already lost me. Suicune was the only reason I returned to you. The only reason. If I had not wanted to save her leg, I think you would have never seen me again."
He took my admonishment and stared at me for several more seconds, his powerful ringed eyes seeing straight into my heart and taking note of my resolve. Then, he said plainly to me, "Fine; if you wish to be disbarred from our team, I suppose I have no further reason to worry for your life. If you wish to risk your life helping her, so be it. What would you have me do, then?"
"Leave," I ordered him with all the power in my voice, like a feral hound chasing away a rival. "Get away from here. You've done enough damage."
Before Luxray could reply to my threat, a terrifying, anguished sound rang out from the cave. It was the fierce and clear cry of the goddess. Immediately, I feared the worst; I assumed that Luxray had only served as a distraction so that Life and Death might enter the cave and sever the Suicune's head to sell at the nearest relic market. Shortly, I realized this was not the case; Life and Death buzzed around the cave's lip; I realized they had crossed too far into the darkness trying to glimpse at Suicune's beauty, enough to make her feel threatened and enraged.
My heart stopped as the furious Suicune bounded from the cave on her three good legs with a heavy lurch in her step, her fourth lifted from the ground. The two Scyther scattered and flew out of sight, and the goddess set her sights upon Luxray and I. Like a dreadful avalanche, she pounced at us, shaking the ground with her weight, gnashing her teeth and sending spittle flying from her snout.
In that moment, Luxray feared for his life, and acted in desperation: he released a web of ionic charges from the fur upon his head. And I…
I could not have known what to do. The moment happened too quickly, and there was no time to contemplate. All I felt was something like a large steel spike to the chest, bringing with it the same paralyzing coldness as the raw bolt of lightning from the storm. And that coldness came from the knowledge that Suicune was about to die. Or perhaps not die, but suffer a great pain from which she might never recover.
I thought of nothing else but to save the great one from the fate which would swiftly arc through the air and shatter her soul. I thought not for my safety, or for the safety of Luxray, but only for hers. And so, I withdrew into the depths of my inner spark, taking with me the one and only wish I held… And just as it had always done for me, my spark answered my prayer. It commanded the positive ions in my body to stand at the tipped points of my fur. When Luxray released his lightning, it ignored the goddess and arced at me instead.
I felt the surge of hot and cold across my form as I harnessed the energy and drew it deep into my spark.
The Suicune stopped short of tearing us to shreds with her teeth. She bent down and roared furiously into our faces, a sound so much louder than even thunder at close range. Her breath sent a sudden gust of cold air across us, bringing me fear that I would soon see her summon a stormcloud or a typhoon to destroy us. But I stood still and bore her display of wrath, for I trusted the goddess, and I knew her feelings and intentions. Luxray, however, did not seem to have the same sense of fearlessness, and he was startled and fled, disappearing into the blue crags.
They were gone. The pair of Scyther, the Luxray, and even the bird had fled at the sound of Suicune's great temper. Only I remained, standing at her feet as she towered above me, a terrible whirlpool of emotions churning in her eyes, and also within my own chest. She peered down at me with displeasure, as though deciding whether or not to eat me in one bite.
For an instant, she became distracted with something in the sky. She looked fearfully at the clifftops far above and cowered from them, keeping herself in the shadows where the direct sunlight did not fall.
Then, without saying a word, she turned and hobbled back into the cave from which she had come. I remained in place for another moment, waiting for my ears to finish ringing, for my heart to start again, and for my lungs to inhale the air I required to resume intelligent thought.
And as I watched her disappear into the darkness of the shelter, wondering whether or not it was appropriate that I should follow, I spotted something set against the wall. It was a large pair of saddle-bags, similar to those I had carried across the plain. I began wondering if Suicune had thrown the supplies out of the cave in her fury, but the truth eventually dawned on me: Luxray had brought this. I immediately felt revulsion, wondering what he had carried with him. What might they be? Weapons? Magical orbs to disable and disrupt the soul of the goddess, to render her helpless?
But I approached them, and before my paw touched them, I came to understand what truly lay in the bags. They held berries, the berries which Suicune truly needed, and not the ones which had brought a false hope to me.
Before I unbuttoned the first bag, I came to understand what had happened as soon as I had left the ranch. Luxray had gathered all of his partners and harvested these crops for me, gathering them into a load much larger than I could hope to carry on my own.
Before I tilted the bag to watch what would roll onto the ground, I wondered if I had treated Luxray properly after all. He was a wise and faithful beast, a person my grandfather had trusted enough to place me under his care. And he was wise not only in the ways of agriculture, but also in the ways of judging character. I knew he cared about me, and I knew he still held many lessons he had waited to teach me, things I would now never learn from him.
And when I saw the berries spill onto the ground, the fruits of his good intentions, I wondered if I had been right to denounce him and chase him away. Of course, it was impossible for me to know if the berries were good for her just by looking at them, but still, I knew. I knew what Luxray's intentions had been: he had wanted the best for both Suicune and I, except that he only valued my life above hers.
Had I done what was right?
Again, it should have been a difficult decision. Perhaps I should have felt torn and ashamed of my judgment. But my heart remained in place. I had decided upon the answer before it needed to be asked. Luxray was in the wrong. Every creature is imperfect, including those we look up to or take orders from. Sometimes those are the hardest people to denounce: the ones we follow. And yes, from his point of view, there was a chance that Suicune might have been dangerous to me. But he chose not to trust my judgment, instead taking things upon his own shoulders. That was the wrong decision for Suicune, for I, and for all of us.
But in the end, Luxray had fulfilled my request, and though I planned never to see him again, he would keep my respect.
I began sorting through the new medicines. There were ganlon berries, kebia berries, and lum berries, among others. Of course, I did not understand what effect they would have on the body, nor did I know whether or not Suicune would agree to eat them after what had just transpired. But I knew they were good for her, and I knew, if I wished to see her healthy and well, I would need to convince her to eat them.
I entered the cave with caution, just as I had done all the days I tried to visit the goddess before our companionship formed. I waited for her growl in protest, but she greeted me with silence, so I just said, "Suicune, they are gone. They won't bother you anymore."
And I saw a glimpse of her, but only a small glimpse, as the noonday light was nearly all gone and the shadows had shifted across the cave, casting her into blackness. She did not look at me; instead, she lay down as though she tried to nap. "I know," she responded to me.
"I'm so sorry, Suicune," I told her, my voice breaking profusely. "I trusted him. I did not expect him to deceive me. In truth, he was my mentor, before I came here. I… thought he would know which berries to feed you. I didn't… I didn't think he'd come to the conclusion he would need to fight you."
"The Luxray was right," Suicune said simply, her voice muffled as her head lay upon the floor.
"He was right?" I echoed in a bitter laugh. "That you were planning to kill me after your leg healed?"
"No," she replied. "That I hide, because I am afraid I will be overpowered."
"Oh," I said, almost a sigh of relief. "Suicune… there is no shame in hiding. Especially if you believe it will keep you alive. Besides, even despite your injury, I… I cannot see you falling in battle… you could overpower any who would challenge you. I am sure!"
It was a compliment, or a feeble attempt at one, but it was also the truth. Though I had not seen her fight, I could not imagine the great beast taking on a creature stronger than herself. As far as I was aware, none existed who were, at least among the mortal realm.
But as I considered telling her about the new medicines and wondering how I would convince her to trust me again, she cut off my words, saying to me:
"I am with child."
At once, all my words left me. I stood with my mouth agape, a sour tingle of emotion tracing the tip of my spine. I stuttered and tried to speak, saying, "You mean, you… carry an egg?"
"Yes," she replied, still wallowing in her weariness and keeping her eyes closed.
I began to understand. I understood her fear, her rage, and the reason behind everything she said. I understood why she had crawled into this ungodly ditch to hide herself: it was for the safety of her child.
A torrent of humility filled me, bringing me to feel no more significant than a pebble sitting upon the ground somewhere in the cave. My confidence left me, taking with it my satisfaction of earning her trust. For no longer did I mean anything in this world, not while I stood beside someone like her.
"But, Suicune… I did not know… I did not know that gods can carry eggs," I rambled to her, the surge of emotion bringing tears to my eyes. "Our books of legends say that the gods were created by the hooves of Arceus, without gender, and without the capacity for eggs…"
"You know nothing about those whom you call gods, Dandelion," she said to me again. "You say that we are gods, when we are slaves. We are not immortal; we die, just as the other creatures, and we mate and produce generations. But our numbers are few and scattered, and we hide in secret, for there are those who covet our power. If we are destroyed, we face extinction for our race. So we must hide. For survival. This is why we fear, and flee from what we fear. We must remain unknown."
Her voice crooned, and I gazed upon her face and realized she, too, was crying; droplets of water flowed from the corners of her closed eyes. I felt moved for her, and so I approached her, until I found my muzzle against her paw. I lay down against her, showing, through my touch, that she was not alone.
"You will make a magnificent mother," I told her, trying to offer words of encouragement. "You will raise a strong son, or daughter, or whatever you might call it."
"There are those who wish to take my child away from me," the great beast sobbed. "There are those who feud with my kind… they wish me extinct. And so, they wish not for my child to hatch. So they chase me and try to capture me, and take my child away from me…"
"I'm sorry," I whispered to her. "I… I did not know."
"It is how my leg became wounded, in the aftermath of a battle," she confessed to me. "I fought against one who wanted to take my child away…"
"But they did not!" I cried, standing up and trying to inspire her with confidence. "You survived. You fought them, and though you suffered a tiny fracture, one which can and will be repaired, you prevailed. So stand proud like the beautiful goddess that you are, and do not be afraid."
And again, I waited for her to move, or to respond, or to say anything to indicate my words held effect, but she seemed to ignore me, as she always did. I began to wonder if it was simply her way of thanking me, if she had nothing to say in reply. So I said, "I can heal your wound. I promise. I have the necessary medicine now; the Luxray brought it for me. You may find this batch of berries much more to your liking."
So I padded outside and dragged the great sacks of berries into the chamber. I spilled them out before her, and I told her to eat them. To my surprise, she obeyed me. Sitting up tall and regal like the goddess she was, she took each berry, one at a time, and savored the taste. She did not object to them, so I hoped that Luxray had been honest in the end, even though in my heart I knew he really did want to see the Suicune healed as much as I did.
After she had finished the berries – I ate those which were poisonous to her, and though they had made me dizzy, they were filling enough—she commanded me to come close to her. Of course, I obeyed unquestioningly. To my surprise, she cupped her limb around me and drew me closer to her, nestling me in the crook of her neck just as she did the previous night. I winced in surprise, seeing that the sun was still very bright in the sky and would remain so for at least six more hours.
"Has the fire returned?" I asked awkwardly, gasping for breath above her giant paw. "Do you need me to relieve your pain again?"
"No," she said. "I am wondering. My child will be your size, when he hatches. I am wondering how I should hold him."
She laid me down on the stony floor, keeping me trapped between her body and her left leg. I peered into her eyes, saying nothing at all, wondering just what she expected of me. She returned a sour expression, wrinkling her cheeks into a frown. She nudged me and pawed at me, as though she wanted me to move, all while holding me still so I could not do what she wished. In fact, I was plainly confused, and perhaps somewhat afraid. I thought to beg for my pardon, when she abruptly drooped her nose close to me and lashed out with her rough, sticky tongue, dragging it all across my face. All of a sudden, I found myself blinded, felt the hairs upon my cheeks and my forehead bending backwards under the immense pressure.
As I caught my breath from the sudden experience, I thought it to be a gesture of tenderness, as the kiss of a vixen upon her son. I thought perhaps she wished me to play the role of her youngling Suicune, pawing at her and uttering croons of nonsense, but then she repeated the gesture. Again, my eyes snapped shut and I held my breath, cringing, as the hardy tongue of the goddess pressed into my skin, certain that she would leave raw burn marks upon me.
But when she lapped at me the third time, I came to remember something.
Memories connected in the farthest corners of my mind, and I found that I recognized the feel of her tongue. The rough yet tender burn upon the skin. The stinging sensation as the strands bent in directions they were not meant to grow. The hot moisture which stuck to the fur, matting it down, chasing away the itches…
It was an experience I had always known, yet… one I had not felt since the earliest days of my perceptions, when the world was naught but a swirl of bright colors, and my grandmother was but a warm wall of cozy fur to snuggle beside. It was something I knew from before I understood speech, or learned to recognize faces.
Thus, at the ministrations of the Suicune, I let myself fall limp, drifting back to a far-gone day when I was a tiny brown kit, given a bath by his caring grandmother.
It was not so difficult to imagine, for the sapphire goddess was not so different in size than my grandmother seemed to me in the days soon after my hatching. Even her glistening hide became coated in shades of silver as the afternoon sunlight retreated from the cave, some shades which, I thought, rightly belonged to the one who had cared for me when I was so little and young.
She lapped at my prickled fur, turning me over at her convenience, until she had worked out all the bloodstains and coated me hopelessly in her saliva. And I… I did not utter even a yowl of protest. In truth, I had faded so deeply into the surreal bliss of her company that I thought, for some moments, I truly was her just-born child. I thought there could be no other explanation for why she gave me such loving attention.
And that night, as I found myself nestled at her chest with the same sense of security as I had felt when I had fled to my grandmother from the thunderstorms, a thought crossed my mind.
It was not an earth-shattering realization, nor was it a decision I had made then and there. No, it was something which had been true for many days, something which, when I came to understand it, made simple sense to me and answered many of my questions.
I had fallen deeply in love with the Suicune.
And it occurred to me that the concept of love, something which I could not have previously claimed to understand, was not such a complicated thing, as the storytellers from my youth had made it seem. No, in the end, I found love to be the simple desire to serve someone, to belong to them with your heart and soul, and to wish nothing in return. For you know only that they deserve to be happy, for no other reason than their mere existence upon this world.
And I found that love was not something I decided upon for myself, something I weighed in judgment or something I held control over. It was something which, by some invisible force, had been decided for me. It was something which merely happened. I found no other reason that my heart would demand me to follow her the moment our eyes first met, or to stand outside of her shelter for a dozen days, worrying for her safety. I found no other reason that I would so readily disregard my apprenticeship with Luxray as though it had meant nothing, or any other reason I might have trudged through the cold, sloppy rainstorm just to bring her the food she needed.
I found no other reason I would have offered my life to her, and with such honesty and purity, that I never for a moment forgot my promise.
When I came to understand the reality of my devotion to her, I felt no shame or revulsion, but I needed to ask myself what it meant. What, then, would I say to her once her leg became whole again, letting her once more bound across the earth's surface wherever she pleased? In truth, I knew what I wanted: I wanted for her to take me wherever she would go. I wanted to stand beside her, to protect her from the lightning which she so deeply feared, drawing it into myself from whichever foes wished to bring her harm. And I wanted to witness the birth of her son, and to help it grow and learn in the same way my grandfather had raised me.
But I was not certain if it was my place to ask these things of her. I was, after all, just a mere mortal; her place was in the sky, and mine upon the land. Could I dare ask her for any more companionship than she had given me already? I did not know. But I understood what my inner spark had tried to tell me all along: that I had found the reason I had yearned to run into the wild. The reason was to ask this Suicune to take me with her.
She clung to me fast and held me snugly until the sunlight drained from the cave and we both fell asleep.
The next morning, although I felt cramps multiplying in my legs, I saw no reason to beg for my freedom, so I happily chose to remain in her grasp and to patiently wait for her to awaken. She did, indeed, sleep like a dragon. The noonday light had come and gone, and she was still motionless; I would have thought her dead, had it not been for the long breaths sweeping constantly across my fur, reminding me of the most wonderful of thunderstorms.
To pass the time, I entertained myself with my imagination, wondering what grandfather and the others would say to the claim that I had been nursed like a hatchling by a legendary goddess. I also reflected upon other matters, namely how I would craft my great question to her, and which words I would use, and which moment I would need to wait for. It occurred to me that, while love itself is a plainly simple concept, it was the issue of what should be done about it, the logistics of rejection and acceptance, which had given it such a bad reputation to the storytellers. Having now for myself an encounter these difficult issues, I came to understand how fragile and convoluted they could soon become, and I felt an infectious weakness spreading to my muscles.
But when I withdrew into my inner spark, it said to me, "Dandelion, you will not fear her rejection. Your duty is to ask, and to accept whatever answer she gives to you, knowing it will make her happy. For whether you stand with her in the end, or stand alone, you will be happy knowing that you stand where you were destined to stand."
And I listened to what it said, knowing it to be true. I could speak to her. This much was within my power. I set a solid resolution within myself to speak my burning question to her, and I swore upon my father's grave to inquire about becoming her companion, before the sun would set.
After enough time, I grew bored of the loneliness. My patience failed me and I called to her, "Suicune? Suicune?" hoping she would awaken. Her eyes gently fluttered open, and she gave me a sudden gaze as though she was confused about who I was, but it faded fast and her gaze grew warm.
"Suicune, how is your leg?" I asked of her. "Has the medicine been working? After such a long slumber, it should have taken effect by now."
"My leg feels no pain anymore," she spoke simply, lifting her head and showing her wound to me. Indeed, the scabs and scars completely and perfectly sealed the hole that once blemished her ankle. Though the skin was filled with dried blood, dark-red and still naked of its fur, it seemed leathery and solid. Without asking for permission, she tore at the splint, breaking it between her jaws. She thumped the paw against the ground, and said to me, "It is done. It feels as it did before the fall."
"That is wonderful!" I cheered, finding a twinge of worry conceived within me, knowing my time to speak with her might run short. Thinking quickly, I gave a proposition to her: "You are whole again. But perhaps some parts inside the leg are not fully healed, and might break easily. You should stay here, just for one more day, to let the berry medicines move through your blood."
"Yes," she said simply. "I will stay. Will you stay?"
"Of course," I told her with a warm smile. "I'd rather be nowhere else."
Just as those words left my mouth, I tasted my own lie.
I felt a shudder move within me, beginning from the point between my ears and running down my back, until each of my limbs trembled with a pleasant coldness. A grave hunger possessed me, a hunger to run free and feel my muscles burn. So restless, I became, that I struggled against Suicune's grasp without meaning to, feeling the powerful, undeniable call of the wilderness demanding my presence.
This time, I understood the urge and what it meant. It meant the pressure of the air had changed again, and a respectable storm had formed nearby. My spark came to life within me, and I yearned to sprint in the fields and frolic in my own element.
Politely, I tried to paw my way out from Suicune's hold. But as I struggled, she held me closer, pinning me against her chest.
"Good Suicune, I beg your pardon," I chuckled to her, my gaze fixed on the outdoors. "I feel a storm coming, and I wish to hunt for lightning. Would you let me play in the field for a time? I will return to you by dusk, I promise!"
She did not answer me. I squirmed and gently prodded her leg, a feeble attempt to punctuate my plea, but she only tensed and held me harder. I feared I would soon need to gasp for air if I further provoked her.
Puzzled, I craned my neck and glanced at the Suicune's face, and found a forlorn, resentful gaze within her ruby eyes, eyes which were also fixed on the cave entrance. I held my breath when I found something different upon the face of the goddess: the stun of terror.
"Do not go, Dandelion," she said softly. "You will die."
Her voice rang with such a dark tone of concern, it gave me pause. I did not understand what she feared.
"Die?" I echoed, chuckling again. "Whatever do you mean? I have been struck by lightning before. It is quite pleasant…"
She ignored my words, her gaze burning upon something far away. So preoccupied, she seemed, wondered if she had not noticed me speak. When her arm twitched, still holding me protectively to her side, it occurred to me that I was unaware of something, something she hesitated to tell me. Perhaps it was something which truly threatened my safety. Realizing this, my stomached throbbed with nausea. For what could be threatening to such a great, legendary beast?
"Suicune…" I muttered quietly, beginning to fear her answer. "What is the matter?"
"They are here," she gasped. "The storm comes. They are near. Soon, they will find me."
I felt such dread, just by the way she spoke the words. Against my judgment, I cringed farther into her embrace and I spoke carefully, "They…? Who are they?"
"They are the lightning creatures," she told me in a wrathful demon's voice. "They have come for me… and for my child…"
I gasped in relief. Well, perhaps not relief, but I had found a surge of hope in the chasm of darkness I had fallen into. I knew not what creatures she was hiding from, but if they wielded lightning, they could not easily harm me… and perhaps, just perhaps, I could defeat them, and protect her!
"Let me go," I suddenly ordered the goddess, my inner spark feeding me with conviction. "I will confront them."
"No, Dandelion," she replied sadly. "You will die."
"I will not die," I barked to her. "Didn't you say that I am faster than even most of the gods? Whatever they are, I can absorb their charges. And if they try to attack directly, I might outrun them."
"Do not try to fight them," she sternly warned me. "They will overpower you."
And I snapped at her remorselessly, believing that I knew the better course of action. Perhaps it was the euphoria from the dawning storm, but in that moment I felt myself a superior to her, as a fearless knight fighting to protect a princess. I spoke with the words which came from my inner spark, the words it told me to use, and I said to her, "Suicune, you may not remember this, but on the first day you allowed me to speak with you, I made a promise to you. I promised the lightning would not harm you, even at the expense of my own death. I will protect you from whatever lightning creatures are waiting for you. I will stand my ground until the very end, and I will draw the lightning away from you as long as I remain standing. You might flee as I distract them and find a new place to hide. Perhaps we might not see one another again, but so be it. If there is one thing I will not do; I will not leave well enough alone."
Though I spoke so assertively, accentuating every syllable and making my meaning clear, she did not heed my words. She ignored them, just as she had often done, and she did not let me go. She held fast to me, clinging to me. Afraid for my life.
I sighed at the stubborn goddess, wondering if she would cower in this shallow cave until her doom, taking me with her, if she would not listen to my reasoning. But something came to mind just then. It might have been the way she held me, or the pulse of her heart, or the mighty growl of her breath, but in the darkness behind my eyelids I saw myself as a cub, cowering in the comfort of my grandmother's embrace from the fearsome storm.
And I remembered the place from where I had come.
"Lotus," I said to the Suicune. "He was my brother… he… would always beat me in the footrace, each time I would try… and he would always outsmart me in a game. Whenever he would hide from me, I could not find him, and each cunning lie he told me, I believed. Today, I… miss him."
The sapphire goddess eyed me oddly, as though demanding an explanation. I gave her none. Instead, I continued my ramble.
"Hyacinth," I said to her. "She was my sister. She was the oldest, the first-hatchling of our litter. Though… she was stubborn and insufferable in her pride, I idolized her. I envied the knowledge she held, and I wished her to teach me what she knew. I miss her, as well."
"And Snap, he was an odd little fox, always trouncing around with filthy fur, and collected carcass skulls and bits of tree bark in our burrow. He was perhaps my best friend, and I so do miss the days I spent talking with him, exploring the way his strange mind perceived the world…"
"Your family was large?" Suicune asked of me with a snort of curiosity.
"Very large," I replied. "A litter of eighteen. They were all wonderful friends to me, my siblings…"
"What has happened to them?" she asked of me. "Why are you no longer with them?"
"My guardians… understood something which you do not yet understand, Suicune," I told her solemnly. "You will soon be a mother. And motherhood is a joy, but it is also a tragedy in the end, for there will come a time when you must let go of your children, and let them scurry away into the world and do what they believe they should do, apart from you. For no matter how you may try, there will come a point in time where you will hold no authority over them. Great Suicune… yesterday you wished to pretend I was your child. Now you must do so again… and let me go."
I gazed into her blood-red eyes – her wise, motherly, yet stubborn eyes – and I saw sadness welling behind them. I knew she understood me. Something I said had touched her. Yet, I wondered if things were different for the legendary beings. Perhaps the gods did not need to let their children go. It certainly seemed so, for as much as I pleaded to my Suicune, she would have none of it. She gripped me ever the harder, causing my cramps to light in fire, and my lungs to collapse.
Though my heart filled with regret, I fell upon my last resort, and I threatened her, the one whom I loved and I never wished to harm. I said to her, "Suicune, if you do not let me go, I will release my greatest shock into you… and it will hurt."
"You would not do that!" she quipped back. "I trust you!"
"Perhaps your trust is misplaced," I returned bitterly, beginning to feel lightheaded as she partially cut the flow of air to my throat. "Suicune… let me go. I am giving you… this one, final chance…"
How deeply I feared she would force me to carry through. I watched as she peered upon me like a troubled lion, imagining that I was her little child, loathe to let me run away. I wondered what decisions she was making in her mind, and how long I would give her before I would release my charge. Perhaps I never would have shocked her in the end; perhaps I would have let her suffocate me to death. But I did not need to make the decision, for she loosened her hold upon me, and she spoke: "We will go together."
"That is not wise!" I warned her. "You are vulnerable to the lightning. I am not. You should run, while you have the chance. Suicune… think of your child."
"You may go. But without me, you will not find them in the clouds," she said, still with a troubled heart. "If you must confront them, I must take you."
And so, with the thrill of the approaching storm filling my chest, and the pulse of my inner spark commanding my actions, I compromised with her, and I agreed to let her take me to her foes, whatever they happened to be. I look back upon that moment, and I try to comprehend my own foolishness, my willingness to plunge myself into affairs I had no right to become involved with, chasing challenges I could never have conquered. I felt, in that moment, no such challenges existed, and I was an immortal. The mysterious unknown called to me, and I would chase it with no sense of my own safety, only the electric desire to see the unseen, and to witness with my own eyes the wrath of Arceus's creation. Such was the way my inner spark controlled me, and I could not deny its desire.
When I emerged into the darkening sunlight at her side, leaving behind that dreadful cave for the rest of my life, I was stunned to witness the Suicune in her full, glistening beauty. So many colors, there were, upon her form I had never noticed, colors which the glooms of the cave had sapped from her. She stood beside me, a living visage of the clear, springtime sky, a rainbow of royalty. Her crystalline horn broke the sunlight apart as a prism would, and her indigo mane blew in the pulses of wind from the imminent storm. I eyed the strange streaming tails which sprouted from her back, and wondered about their purpose in adorning her figure. I wondered if they were merely to beautify her in the eyes of the mortals, or if they captured energy or sent commands to the clouds. Whatever the case, her majesty was a treasure to behold, and I knew I could die happily, knowing I had been graced with the honor of walking at her side, even if only for a dozen steps.
When I tore my eyes from her beauty, I glanced into the sky above the prairies. I felt the tension in the air, the wonderful buzz of power which the thunderstorm brought. And I saw the new squall mounting in the sky, sweeping the land from the east, chasing at the setting sun with the intent of swallowing it.
"Take me there," I said to the goddess. "I am ready to fight."
She gave a solemn nod to me, instructing me to climb upon her back and hold tightly to her horns. At first, I was not certain how well I could manage, as I was a quadruped, the kind which generally find themselves the steeds of other creatures and not the other way around. But I found a comfortable perch atop her mane, wedging my front paws between her horns for a measure of stability.
When I told her she could go, I was eager to watch her sprint across the prairie at twice my greatest speed. I was not, however, prepared for what happened next.
Before I could utter a word, Suicune released the coiled power in her legs, and she leaped straight upward by perhaps a mile. I felt the lurch of the momentum, and I glanced down in time to see the earth as some spinning, indistinct map. I found that I could not cry out in surprise, or even breathe, and I fixed my vision upon her horns in hopes that it would quell the protest from my stomach.
When she descended, I felt true terror and the acceptance of my death, the kind one feels in a dream when flying too quickly and crashing into something. But she landed gracefully upon a sturdy platform higher in the mountain, and I felt none of the impact. Without resting, she ascended again, sending the ground dropping out from under me until I could recognize none of the shapes. I felt as though I truly viewing nature from the perspective of a wild lightning bolt, flying where it may.
As a Grovyle in the jungle, she pounced from cliff to platform, from ledge to mountaintop, treating the Gatorback mountains as though they were mere stepping-stones in a creek. I could not fathom the power she held in her ankles, or the keenness in her eyesight to spot a foothold so many miles into the distance. Gasping for whatever lung-fulls of breath I could capture from the wind, I resigned myself to the spectacle, knowing that I was beginning to witness the true, hidden might of the goddess's power.
When I gained comfort and trust in her movements, I thought to peer through the hole between her horns. And I saw the violent and heartless sky ahead, the void of darkness where she was taking me.
We arrived to a temporary break between the mountain-peaks, a place where the ground leveled out and sustained a forest of pine. I watched as Suicune touched upon the ground and broke into an intense run, fleeing across the surface of the earth so quickly that I could not comprehend our position or the sight of the wilderness which blurred past.
There was a moment when the forest floor dropped out beneath her feet, and we tumbled from the cliff, falling into a mountain lake she did not anticipate. I cringed as she lost her footing and tensed in panic, sounding a screech of surprise as we fell, powerless, toward what seemed to be an endless ocean.
But I underestimated the goddess, for her paws touched delicately upon the surface of the water, and we did not plunge. She kicked her feet and broke into a sprint once more, treating the water as nothing but a shallow puddle. Taken by awe, I watched as tall curtains of water rose vertically from our sides, disturbed by the sheer force of our back-wind.
When we reached the riverbank, she stopped for a moment's rest, and between my attempts to gasp for the air I needed, I said to her, "You are very fast."
She replied, "Not as fast as you, Dandelion, when you become lightning."
I hoped her faith in my speed was not misplaced; I gazed into the distance, to the top of the next mountain peak, and I saw how the stormclouds converged into an oval vortex with a sharp, white-hot rim of steam circling the outer edge. My heart raced, and my lightning sizzled as the moment it did when I witnessed the same vortex above the plains north of the farm. If I indeed had the capacity to achieve godlike speeds, I knew I would soon require its use.
"There," she said, indicating the core of the storm, her voice low and saddened. "They are there. Is that truly where you want to go?"
"Yes," I growled in exhilaration, hungering for the challenge. "But you should run in the other direction, I think! I can help you get away."
"They will always chase me," the Suicune whispered regretfully, bowing her head so I could still hear her voice amidst the growing wind. "Until the day I die, they will chase me… If I stay, or go, there is no difference…"
"Then let us make a difference, Suicune!" I shouted at her. "Let us defeat them! So that you might be free!"
And I saw how she looked at me, that one final time, her mane of lavender flowing with the wild wind as though the gusts were a part of her, and her horn shining brightly in place of the hidden sun… and I saw the tragedy in her eyes, as though she already knew how my story would end. Perhaps I did as well. Perhaps, as I watched the magnificent stormcloud swirling before my eyes, I was beginning to realize just how strenuous and wearisome was the life of a legendary beast, the life I would agree to share if I desired to marry myself to one. Perhaps I was beginning to realize it was an ideal to which I could never measure.
Or, perhaps, I was aflame with passion, the passion to win her heart once and for all, the desire to keep her safe from her enemies… and the desire to prove myself worthy of her.
Perhaps, I knew, wherever I would stand at the end of my maniacal, suicidal challenge, I would be happy to stand where I was destined to stand… even if within the grave.
So I mounted her as my steed, that one last time, and she carried me, bounding from cliff to ledge up the height of the mountain with her rabbit-like leaps, until she stood near the very summit, a sharp cliff overlooking a bottomless gorge. Above us, the violent clouds roared and rumbled, the force of the pressure nearly great enough to draw us from the ground and into the sky. I stared with fear and awe into the nebulous eye of that storm, and I felt the strength of the whirlwind reflected within my own chest, as though my innards had melted and become pure lightning, pleading to dance among the clouds. My legs tingled with a thrill unlike any I had known before, and my heart pounded six times faster than I imagined was healthy. My inner spark was prepared to control my every action.
I dropped to the ground and found my footing on slanted cliff's edge, noticing that the gorge below us was as dark and boundless as the clouds above, the sky shedding no sunlight to illuminate the bottom of the pit. By instinct, I cowered back from the edge by a few steps and dug my claws into the dusty stone, bearing the force of the gale and hoping I would not lose my balance. I felt thankful that Suicune's form seemed to shield me from the worst of the wind's force.
And I squinted at the sky, asking it for a bolt of lightning to swallow, to prepare me for whatever challenges might await. The lightning stabbed and shot around in the walls of the vortex, but the gale seemed to ignore my calling, lending me none of its power.
It did, however, lend me something different, something which terrified me.
A creature descended from the eye of the storm, one of foxlike majesty, but with different colors than the beast which I stood beside. It dashed and drifted within the air as though the currents pushed it wherever it wished, and it came to a graceful landing upon the ledge at the opposite cliff of the gorge. Once it stood still, I was able to notice its features: it bore a shaggy coat of intense yellow, the color of a live thunderbolt, littered with marks of ashen black. It hid its face behind a mask of pointed glass and a helmet of darkened iron, peering between them with fearsome, bloodshot eyes.
Though I readily recognized the beast's figure, I could not begin to fathom that I stood in the presence of the legendary Raikou, the guardian of the storms. He was, perhaps, the first god I ever learned to idolize; since the night my foster-mother assured me I should not fear him, I learned to trust in his might, finding solace whenever the thunderstorms would rage in the sky. But as he stood across from us like a wild, carnivorous hound out upon the hunt, my faith in him wavered, and I began to imagine myself impaled upon one of his saber-tooth tusks, or opened with his claws. My spark demanded that I stand my ground, rather than retreating onto Suicune's back and begging her to dash away, and I reluctantly obeyed…
"So it is him," Suicune muttered to herself. "I feared this…"
The god of lightning roared, but the thunder from his lungs formed words that were understandable to my ears, and he spoke to us: "So here we are again, Samurott! I have searched far!"
And it struck me that the Raikou spoke the Suicune's true name. Samurott had been her name all along, and I had never considered the possibility. I stifled a chuckle, and I said to her, "Samurott?! You are not a Samurott! Why is that your name?!"
And she replied, "And you are not a dandelion."
I shut my mouth tightly and kept my retort to myself. But I could not have said anything, for the thunderous hound roared at us again, saying, "Who is the rodent?"
The majestic Samurott replied to him, her voice a clear and crooning howl like the wind between the rocks, saying, "It does not concern you!"
The Raikou replied, "So, you have found a friend. It is unlike you. You are much too cowardly."
But my heart burst within my chest, and I pounced up to the very edge of the cliff, and I tilted my head toward the sky, and I roared with whatever power I had, and I said, "I am the one who will stand in your way of harming her!" And I cannot have imagined how he heard my taunt, as loud as the wind roared, and as feeble as my own voice sounded in comparison to the two quarrelling gods, but he understood me. The thunder-god snapped his jaws toward me, drawing a sudden lightning-strike onto the mountain somewhere behind himself. I was startled, nearly enough to lose my pawing on the cliff and stumble into the abyss…
I heard the sound of a powerful avalanche, of rocks tumbling from the mountainside and down into the abyss. I then realized the sound was the laughter of Raikou. I only lowered ears and growled in reply, a growl which surely looked so quaint and pathetic in his own eyes… but I held my confidence, knowing that his lightning-strikes, the source of his power, could do nothing to me. If it meant the safety of my Samurott, I knew I could defeat him… or, at the least, that is what my heart told me.
When the Raikou had finished with his loud, terrible convulsions of laughter, he opened his mouth to taunt at me. I realized, too late, that his taunt was a giant ball of darkness which formed upon the end of his snout. When it grew greater than the size of his head, it flew at me with the speed of a cannonball. Though I jerked back my body to avoid a direct hit, the pressure from the explosion tossed me into the air. I scrabbled with my limbs, frantically, to soften my fall, but I landed hard on my side, and saw the world tilt vertically around me. Suicune gasped my name, and I thought she might run to help me… But there was an earthquake which rattled my body, and then I found that Raikou stood on top of me, pinning me to the ground with the flat of his front paw.
The moment passed so quickly, that it only occurred to me, as I felt Raikou's weight bearing down upon my fragile body, that he would harness attacks other than lightning-bolts, attacks to foil my immunity to lightning. I came to realize how far I had gone in deluding myself, thinking I stood at the level of an immortal, a legendary god, when I was still just an insect to be crushed underfoot. I glanced at Samurott, who had not moved, but sent me a gaze of sympathy for my trouble. Then I turned my attention to the angry thunder-god who threatened to ground me into the rocks.
He glared at me with such divine hatred, his breath scorching my face, as he thought of which words to say to me to remind me of my true place in the world. In a few moments more, he decided I was not worth even four of his words, as he growled, "You are nothing," and swept me aside with a small prod of his paw, tossing my body cleanly above the mouth of the gorge, and in the very center of it, where I had no hope to catch a wall for salvation on my way down.
There was a moment when I realized my fate. The moment lasted a heartbeat, but I had seen the valley extending its jaws to swallow me, and its darkness where my doom would lie. And perhaps I also saw my brothers and sisters, and my foster-mother and foster-father, and I sent them a prayer they would never hear, an apology for my failures, but also a note of reassurance, telling them I was not to be mourned for. My death, I hoped, was the most honorable and beautiful of them all, and so I was certain I could hold pride in it, even unto the spirit world.
When the moment passed, I sent a final, feeble exclamation to my inner spark, as though to say, "You got me into this. You are to blame."
And my spark replied, "In that case, I will get you out."
Though I had not captured a bolt of lightning form the storm, I found that my spark had, deep inside, contained a massive charge waiting to be released. I later came to understand where this charge had come from: it had been passed to me by Luxray on the day we had last met, the moment he feared for his very life at the wrath of Samurott's jaws. It was his last wind; his inner spark had released everything it held in his frantic attempt to survive the Suicune's sudden attack, and so, it held a terrible wealth of power. What a coincidence it is, I think, that the same charge would be used twice, by two separate beings, as a final, desperate attempt against all odds to survive.
I cannot describe the surge I felt. In pure reflex, my limbs disintegrated, my vision turned to bright whiteness, and I found myself drawn upward in a rush of energy. The bitter cold consumed me from the inside, and the scalding hotness from the outside, and I released the energy, becoming the bolt of lightning and flying at light-speed above the lip of the gorge and back upon the platform.
When I opened my eyes again, I was indeed standing on solid ground, but a very strange sort of ground, one which did not resemble rocks. It more resembled a carpet of coarse fur. Looking to my feet, I saw that I stood upon a sheet of lavender, surrounded by jagged stripes of blackness and a pelt of yellow. I had not only escaped the pit, but I had landed on Raikou's back!
My heart jumped again, knowing this was my one and only chance to defeat him. And I needed to act before he could see or feel my presence, which would only take three seconds at my luckiest.
"What do I do now?!" I asked my heart. "Do I bite down upon his throat?!"
"No," my inner spark said to me. "No… do not harm him."
"Don't harm him?! Then what should I do?" I demanded. "What is your brightest idea?!"
"Rather than harming him… heal him," my heart said to me. "Take… his pain… away."
Though it was an odd command from my instincts, I soon understood its meaning. I dug my claws into the Raikou's pelt and I lunged at his neck, gripping it between my front paws. I vaguely felt the thunder beast just beginning to acknowledge my presence, beginning the very first twitch in his series of convulsions which would furiously shake me away. I released the remainder of my energy reserves into him, through my paws, directing the charge onto the very summit of his spinal cord beneath his skull.
The next moment, the mighty Raikou, legendary beast of the thunderstorms, slumped to the ground in paralysis, his limbs bending and tangling beneath his weight.
I watched the powerless Raikou as its various muscles leaped and shuddered with spasms, and its eyes moved oddly. He was clearly still living, but lacked the strength to move by his own will. The beast could still watch me, anticipate my motions, and understand my words… but he could not save himself from his rightful fate.
And my temper flared, and the frenzy possessed me… In a rage of triumph, I pounced upon his body and I reared my fangs, and I bit down upon the jugular in his throat, driven to murder the very god who had dared to bring harm to the one whom I loved…
But before the points of my fangs pierced his skin, Samurott in a desperate screech cried to me, "Dandelion! NO!"
Obediently I hesitated, withdrawing my jaw from the golden neck. I scowled questioningly at the Suicune, and I gasped to her, "Why?! This is your chance to rid yourself of him! You will be free!"
My Samurott did not answer me at first. She seemed stunned by the question. Conflicted. Emotions flashed behind her eyes, emotions I could not fathom. I urged her, "Samurott! We do not have much time. The paralysis will wear away! Why do you hesitate?"
And she replied, bowing her head and betraying a deep shame in her words, "He is my mate."
I staggered. A painful weakness washed across me, sapping whatever energy had remained within my chest.
"Your mate," I croaked, staring blankly at the body of the thunder god, and into his eyes, which I knew still watched me intently. "He… is the father of your child?"
"Yes," replied Samurott, very plainly and softly, saying nothing more.
Whether in reverence, or in disgust, I backed down from atop the fallen beast, my words failing me. For the first moment in many, many days, my body felt heavy, so much heavier than even with a yolk of berries strapped to me… And something stung within my chest, bringing me pain.
For in that moment, without needing to ask, I knew that everything which had happened to me had already happened once before. My care of the Suicune, my overflowing desire to earn her favor and stand at her side, and to serve her… it was all a pointless reiteration of something which had happened in the past, between herself and this Raikou…
He had seen her, perhaps when the two were younger, however many centuries ago, and had become smitten with her at first sight. Whether by her power over the rain in the clouds, or just by her gorgeous figure, she became the center of his life and his thoughts, and he pledged himself to her with the same passion that I had, if not more, seeing as though I was not born with the stature of a legendary guardian of the earth. Of course, she had accepted him, for he was worthy of her, standing equal to her in every measure. Like I, he had promised to protect her from the lightning she so feared, deflecting the bolts from her enemies should she ever draw the ire of Zapdos or Zekrom.
And for a time, perhaps many centuries, they lived happily. As the thunder in the rain, they were fit for one another.
Alas, it was not to last. I cannot presume to know what exactly happened to taint their love, but some conflict drove them apart; perhaps the burden of raising a child had something to do with it, or perhaps he committed an atrocity she could not forgive… something inspired her to run, and sent her into hiding from his electric wrath. The one whom she found solace beside had, in that instant, become her greatest and most dangerous enemy, wielding the storm's power to pierce her watery soul.
Since then, she had forever roamed the earth alone, cowering in dark caves and ditches where the lightning from the sky might not strike her. She had kept a wary eye to the sky, walking the shadows just shy of the sunlight's reach, fearing the bolt which would bring about her end.
When she found me, it was all fated to begin again. Except… I could not have presumed to measure against the Raikou in fidelity, passion, strength, or any of the godlike traits she needed in a dependable mate.
Regardless of my choice of words, or my timing… she would have rejected me.
Even if not, I would have made her mourn my death in just a century and a half, forcing her to carry on for the millennia to come with two holes in her heart rather than one.
Though I had proudly considered myself gifted or fortunate for winning her favor, in the end, I stood only as a wayward Jolteon.
I glared into the Raikou's motionless and fiery eyes as these conclusions formed within me, each one as a rock to the side of the skull, draining my strength until I held no more willpower to stand, and I bowed to him. My anger seethed, but it was not anger at him, but at myself, and at Samurott, and at the cruel ways of fate which mortals cannot see except in hindsight. And I uttered to him, "You were right, good Raikou. I… am nothing."
I turned, almost vengefully, to the Suicune with the strange name, and I told her to leave. I said, "If you wish to hide from him again, go, while he is still powerless. You might run far away."
I witnessed a flicker of reluctance in her stature, bending her knee as though to walk away, and bowing her head in distress. She said to me, "Thank you, Dandelion…" It was the gesture of gratitude I had waited for so long to hear from her, the acknowledgement of my struggles on her behalf. As my final word to her, I should have thanked her in return, but I was in no mood to do so, and I growled bitterly at her, telling her to leave me.
She nodded an acknowledgement to me, and then she galloped away like a deer in the woods, disappearing behind the mountainside, leaving me to fathom, for the first time, the concept of a broken heart.
As the sun set upon the day, and the tempest upon the mountaintop faded into a clear sky, I found myself alone with the immobile Raikou. I suppose I did not know why I waited for him to awaken, but I sat with patience of a dragon. Perhaps I wished to plead for his forgiveness. Perhaps I only wished to hear him speak.
When he began to stir and regain motion, he mumbled something bitterly to me: "Our strain grows stronger. We have watched the genes mutate. In six generations, the lightning people will never again know paralysis… should I have been born then, you would have fallen to defeat…"
I ignored his rambling, perhaps because I couldn't understand its meaning. Instead, I asked him plainly, "Why does she run from you?"
The Raikou, still without feeling in his forelimbs, grumbled a reply to me. He said, "Why do you ask about things you could not comprehend?"
I said, "What makes you believe I cannot comprehend?"
He said, "Because I do not comprehend either."
I blinked at him, and I demanded presumptuously, "Do you wish to take her child? Or to murder her?"
"There exist those who wish to slay her, but I am not one," the Raikou told me. "She intends to keep the child from me. She does not tell me the reason."
"Perhaps there is no reason, then," I said facetiously, shrugging to the thunder-god. "Perhaps she ran from you only because an urge told her to run, and nothing more."
My words offended the Raikou deeply, and he scowled at me. So disgusted, he apparently was, that when he became able to stretch his legs and stand again, he paid me no attention and darted across the gorge, departing from my presence just as quickly and unceremoniously as his wayward mate.
And there, I found myself alone in the wild, the place where I thought for all my life I had belonged. From the cliff-top, I saw how the final vivid remainder of the sun still peeked over the western horizon, its fleeting light cast upon acres of landscape I did not know.
And for once, when I asked my inner spark what it would have me do next, it replied with silence.
In the minute before the sun disappeared entirely, I felt a surge of regret strike at me. In keeping with my fateful resolution, for I had never in my life failed to keep one, I perched at the end of the cliff, stared at the setting sun, and called to the wilderness in my greatest voice, "Samurott! Take me with you!"
Of course, Samurott did not return. When the earth snuffed the last candle-light of sun, I felt a decision resting upon my shoulders: A decision to return to Luxray's farm and resume my work there, or to explore the yonder world wherever my legs and my heart would take me. I suppose it should have been a difficult decision, but it was not, and I crossed the mountain ridge, casting all memories of the farm life from my mind without a passing regret.
There is no more which needs to be said about my story. You might wonder about the point of the story, and so I will tell you that there is none. My story was pointless, meaningless, and fruitless. It was merely a strange event in my life which is fascinating to recall, and nothing more.
You see, I had followed the spark of my inspiration, my heart's every demand, unto the very ends of the earth. I had followed it into the storm, into a cave, alongside a legendary beast, and against the wrath of a thunder god… And there, at the end of the earth, when my heart held no more instructions for me, I found myself standing alone, utterly lost, and having accomplished nothing.
I lived the life of a wild, roaming the open and treacherous world of the ferals for perhaps four years before I realized I had only been chasing an empty promise, a promise which only redefined itself whenever I would seem to approach it closely. I remembered the time, long ago in Suicune's cave, when I told myself I would have been happy to stand wherever destiny would have me stand… but when I found myself standing in the wild, I asked myself if I was happy. And I was not.
Emotions… they are as bolts of lightning from a rainstorm. They strike randomly and powerfully, bringing with them a sense of vivid illumination and an exciting clamor. However, the illumination soon disappears, and the rumble of the thunder soon becomes nothing but a ringing in the ears, leaving one standing in the darkness without any sense of direction or purpose but to await the next bolt. In the end, they are not and cannot be a guiding light for very long. There must always be something else to follow.
The day I realized this, I set a new resolution for myself: to learn the craft of storytelling. I resolved to study the books and scrolls of the famous authors and adventurers until I learned a wealth of new words and how they function. I resolved to speak those words until my tongue would be left raw and numb, learning how to assemble them in order and make them flow at will. And then, I resolved to weave those words into my own stories, which I would convey to whomever would hear me as I dashed from town to village to city as a traveling bard. I figured, by retelling the story of my unlikely encounter with the legendary beasts, I might convey to the world the same sense of reverence and awe which my grandmother gave to me as a tiny cub.
And in my travels, I have seen the beauties of the world I so hungered for. At last, I have found the wild, the place I truly belonged. Except now I understand just why I belong there.
Whether or not I am an effective storyteller is for you to decide, but the day has not yet come when I am pleased with my skill. I struggle still, to improve myself, to read every story in existence and to rival the Ninetales in spoken word. Some nights, I must sacrifice the allure of the thunderstorm, the urge to frolic and play beneath the bursting canopy of electric haze which covers the starlight, to instead read a scroll by the candlelight in a lonely den. Though my inner spark might protest and burn with reluctance when I deny its whim, I can now ask myself if I am happy where I am standing, and the answer will always be "yes".
To my gracious Samurott, wherever you might now be: I hope, in your travels, that you have found the safety and peace which is your true birthright; I hope, you have found, as I have found, the place where you truly belong. And if not, may your legs never tire, may the fields and valleys of the Earth open before you wherever you might run, and may you always find a shroud of darkness to protect you when your foes lurk nearby.
And to my grandfather: when the comet should show itself, I hope that you will be pleased with my work.