25th July 2014, 02:37 AM
Diamond Pearl Crystal (Dawn and Lucas)
Lucas clicked the 'playback' switch off. His thumb grazed where 'Property of Sailor Eldrich' had been written on the plastic battery door, sending a chill down his spine. Gathering his courage, he walked ahead. "Darkrai…" he whispered to himself. "Darkrai... Darkrai..."
A whine resounded in the hall, one that the old wooden structure didn't cause. The tarp walls made tattering sounds in the wind and rocked the floating floor gently.
Stopping to squint in the dark, Lucas couldn't see where the noise had come from. Only little breaks in the connected tarp let brief streams of light inside. The low light levels reflected minutely on the wet tarp walls, indicating more halls down the stretch Lucas faced.
Lucas set his backpack on the floor. His eyes watched carefully as he kneeled down, in case the plywood platform rocked suddenly under his own weight. Once down, he unzipped a small pouch on it, replacing a folded paper with the recorder. He then slid his arms through the straps and stood up slowly.
The worn dog-eared paper unfolded with care, revealing on its blue-lined blotted surface a maze. Several question marks had been etched in pencil over certain sections. Lucas pulled the pencil from behind his ear and tapped it in the middle of a crossroads section, starring it.
While the plywood platform rocked with ease, Lucas hopped up to an elevated platform, serving as a junction for four other halls. He dropped to his knees and scribbled a giant star in the middle of the platform.
There were four question marks on the paper at various ends of the maze. Lucas proceeded to scribble out two to the southeast of the star, and circling one slightly to the northwest. Pulling his Pokedex from his pocket, the little red arrow slid around the glass blue navigation ball to the little white N, lining up with the compass on his map.
Lucas sprinted down the hall facing north. Each platform bobbed up and down each time he landed on it, held together by rattling chains he could hear beneath. His own footfalls made loud hollow stomping noises, reminiscent of the old docks the platforms used to be.
The northern hall ended in a dark tarp wall, and the only way direction facing west. Lucas turned, continuing to sprint, and nearly catching himself on a support column.
His leg dangled over a dark pool of water. Wood chunks and splinters floated in the exposed sea, as well as floating up as dust. The planks had been torn from their original housing or broken off: a dead end. Lucas groaned.
As he started to turn back, Lucas's eye was caught on something unusual lying on the deck remains. A white form materialized in the darkness. It rolled over idly in the soupy mess, revealing a pink Pokeball outline. He kneeled down and picked it up from dangling over the water, brushing off the wood splinters from it.
In his hands was Dawn's beanie, exactly how he remembered it.
Momentarily stunned by the hat, Lucas didn't anticipate the sudden blast of wind from the right. He fell over and caught himself on another support column, closing the space between his torso and the water to only inches before he stopped himself. His eyes only shut when the maelstrom blasted a fresh cloud of wood shavings his way.
The tarp flapped up, no longer attached to the dock. Light poured in at full intensity from the outside. When Lucas's eyes adjusted to the stronger light, he realized he was holding a clump of seaweed. He immediately dropped it into the water.
Lucas blinked several times. He took the time to stand up to process what had just happened, and still slumped against the vertical support in thought. When he snapped out of it, he realized he was staring out at the open sea.
His breath was short and terrified. It wasn’t from the wind.
As the tarp slid down in the hushing winds, Lucas pulled out his Pokedex. The red plastic lid flipped open and the bright white LED screens became the only source of light in the hallway. A tiny gray box appeared in the bottom corner of the screen, as a little dial turned slowly. While he waited, Lucas read the current display.
'Fullmoon Island’. The words filled a pixelly gray box in the top left corner.
The red cursor box enclosed a small green clump off the west coast of Sinnoh. When the dial finished spinning, the box disappeared.
Lucas frowned, pocketing the Pokedex. "Odd," he muttered.
When his eyes adjusted, Lucas realized the halls had changed. He was standing on a red carpet that ended in a 'Watch your Step' sign behind him, dropping off into the soupy mess. The walls were a lavish gold, and lined with white molding with intricate lace carvings. Frosted glass dishes held light bulbs and were lined with black iron designs, installed into the center of the ceiling every few feet and separated deep tan sections of drywall.
The rocking feeling had disappeared, allowing Lucas to walk confidently down the hall. A quick scan of the original hall revealed that his map was still accurate. He dropped to his knees again and scribbled out the northernmost question mark.
Lost in thought, Lucas suddenly realized there was a pair of leather shoes right in his line of sight, belonging to a person standing in front of him.
"Mister Lucas," began a familiar voice above Lucas.
Lucas looked up. Barry was standing before him, decked out in a full black Victorian tuxedo: coattails, white gloves, black silk bowtie, vest and all.
"Barry?" asked Lucas suspiciously. He slowly got to his feet, inspecting Barry’s every move. "What's going on? What are you doing here?"
A fake smile curled on Barry's face. He made eye contact with Lucas, waving his hand slowly. "I've been directed to lead you to the master of the house. Perhaps I could lead you there, Mister Lucas?"
Nodding slowly, Lucas faked a smile. "Sure… Is everything okay?"
"Everything is okay Mister Lucas."
Barry led the way down the hall, Lucas following close behind. Each time Barry walked through a bit of light that streamed before as it had on the dock, it would slice through him invisibly, and he would continue on normally. Lucas only looked up for brief moments from his hand-drawn map as he traced his finger down the halls. It got closer and closer to the last question mark with each step.
Lucas's finger could go no closer to the question mark, and he looked up. Barry was slowly pulling a set of tall oak doors open. Inside was a long dining table set with every kind of food and lined with tall empty chairs.
At the end was a fireplace, outlining a floating shadowy figure. As it breathed, the room got darker, more somber. The ethereal light made by the tarps revealed the cascading loose white skin from it’s head, like an old windsock. Thick red bone jutted around it’s head like a jawbone. It had two arms and no legs, only loosely torn black skin.
"Darkrai..." Lucas breathed, stepping inside.
A low, unnatural growl emanated from Darkrai.
"You're awfully young to have come so far. Though, I suspect I should have expected so much, I've seen so many of your experiences. You are a truly unique boy."
Lucas paused as he searched for words. "I'm 16," he said.
Darkrai was silent. A pair of blue-rimmed eyes peeked out above the tattered white skin that covered his head and locked onto Lucas.
Swallowing again, Lucas continued. “Do you know why I’m here?”
Silence blanketed the room.
“You are here to cure the boy’s nightmares. You are here to stop the war.”
Lucas reached into his pocket for the recorder. The switch was set to ‘off’, even if he still heard the little boy’s voice.
“War?” said Lucas quickly. “Don’t you have to fight to win a war? It takes two to win a war,” he spat out, trying to stop the little boy’s voice. A pained expression ran through his face, cursing to himself as he thought. The importance of his next words hit him. “War is like… War is like, in order to beat someone, you have to disagree with… him or her. That’s the difference between, like, uncontrolled chaotic violence, and war… Do you understand?”
The hum surrounding Darkrai intensified.
“An interesting point. Well thought-out. You continue to prove yourself, youth. We have found common ground, so let us discuss upon it.”
“So you understood my point?” Lucas interrupted. A small seed of confidence spread through him, reflecting in his verbal language. “He’s not fighting back, the little boy. You won’t let him.”
Lucas stepped forward.
“I’m here to fight for him,” he finished.
“Your dissection of my point was accurate. ‘War’ is not the correct term, but it was only because I was using your term.”
It was Lucas’s turn to be silent.
“My strategy doesn’t seek to destroy mindlessly. My strategy doesn’t even rely on a disagreement I have with you. After all, how can I disagree with someone I am one with? We think similarly in that sense.”
“Are you at war with your body when you exercise? Surely you can feel it fighting back, and surely you can know it is resisting, but ultimately you decide it’s fate.
“And in that same sense, can you be fighting a war with your stomach when it is another part of the same body your mind and mouth share? No? Consider that it still fights you, and still wrestles with you when you mistreat it. A slave to your own will can fight a civil war but your power over it won’t change.
“Do you see it now?”
A hypnotic look had taken over Lucas’s constant look of thought. He hadn’t realized how pale he had gotten.
“Sure,” he slowly said. “You’re… Training him?”
“You miss again another key tenant of my argument. I am one with the boy. As surely as I am one with the nightmares, I am one with any who have or conceive them.
“I am certain you can see me with your own eyes. We’ve proven you can hear me, but can you see me?”
“Humans love anatomy. Can you see my stomach?”
“No. But I know you don’t have legs. Your arms are small and probably useless. You don’t need much to do physically so long as you can—“ Lucas choked on his own words. He would have continued if he had words, but there was no more point to be made.
“I don’t play games. I feed. That is my anatomy.”
“If this were a game,” Lucas breathed, “there would be rules, right?”
“Without rules, who will recognize you’ve won?”
"I don't play the game, you play it for me."
Lucas stepped back. A beam bumped into his back, stopping his slow retreat.
Almost magnetically, the Pokeball dropped from the utility belt hidden underneath his vest and into his hands. His finger curled around it, feeling the cool plastic. Lucas held it up in plain view.
"Go ahead and be a hero."
The growl emanating from Darkrai ceased. Blue eyes flitted in their shell and focused.
“Don’t you have any more tricks for me?” Lucas shouted, letting the anger build. “This is it? This is the only game you want to play? Huh? Well I’ll end it!”
Just as he went to throw it into battle, something grabbed his arm.
“Lucas! What’s going on here?”
Dawn held his arm tight. Her look of concern was met with his. Gently, she eased her grip on him, watching him reassuringly as he put it down.
“Is everything okay?” she asked, brushing her long bluish hair out of her eyes. “How’d you get here?”
Lucas couldn’t find the strength to speak. Shock paralyzed him. He could feel his body sinking towards her.
“Lucas…” Dawn breathed, mixed with concern and relief. She went in for a tight hug.
Finding his own numb arms, Lucas wrapped her hands around Dawn’s back, completing the hug. It felt warm and comforting, like he could stay there forever. He closed his eyes and fell completely into it.
Dawn smiled faintly. “I’ve missed you…”
Remaining silent, Lucas buried his head in her shoulders. Her light flowery smell hit his nose instantly. Soft skin ran up against is nose. A gentle sigh escaped him.
He dropped the Pokeball.
Lucas pulled Dawn forward and away from the blast of light. The cold energy escaping near them spread rapidly, and to protect Dawn he slid around to block the smoke. For a second, the warm feeling of their embrace disappeared like a flickering light.
Uxie drifted up from the icy depths of the Pokeball chamber. It’s red crystal lit up the smoke around it, signaling to Darkrai across the table of its presence.
“UXIE!” Lucas shouted over Darkrai’s returning growl. “Use—“
The words on Lucas’s lips were stolen by a kiss from Dawn. It’s warm intensity made Lucas nearly melt, despite Uxie’s windy entrance.
Dawn leaned back slowly, like she had committed a crime. Shimmering gray eyes stared up at him. “You’re right, I lied to you,” Dawn said, raising her voice over the wind. “I’m really sorry… I just wanted you to be happy! I don’t want to lose you like I did!”
Her words reverberated in his head.
“Lose you like I did… Lose you like I did…”
Dawn is winded. Still, she smiles, like there’s nowhere she’d rather be than on Lucas’s doorstep. A white frosted cake smeared with Poketch-blue frosting is in her hands. It’s likely there was once a message on top of the cake. She presents it up to Lucas, whose just a few feet away leaning in the doorway.
“Hey!” she exhales excitedly. She’s beaming, despite her somewhat sad expression. “I didn’t know if you had left yet, but I wanted to make sure I, well, got to say goodbye properly!”
Lucas smiled. “Like Barry? Nice.”
A giggle escaped her lips. “Well, I guess he’s going to be my new best friend. Now that you’re gone,” Dawn’s smile faltered.
“Heh, wow. Best friend? You'll have to wait until he gets out of the hospital. Just know, Barry's the one who gave himself amnesia from helping the Professor with Uxie,” he smiled, somewhat surprised. A small bit of fear choked him. When he snapped back to reality, he quickly stepped back in the doorway. He backed in so fast Dawn was waiting somewhat confused. From around a counter, he cupped his hands to his mouth. “Come on inside! Please! I’ll, uh, need help eating that.”
All of Dawn’s focus had gone to making sure she wouldn’t blush. When she snapped back to reality, she failed. “Oh! No. I’m sure your mom could use something to do. It’s not everyday someone’s son leaves!”
The weight of the cake eases off of her hands as Lucas picks it up. She’s so far lost in thought that she doesn’t realize Lucas never asked. A wondering look captures her, as she looks up to the lost in thought Lucas across the hall. She snaps back to reality suddenly.
“I bought the cake mix for Barry, actually,” said Dawn. “I was going to make it for him and take it to the hospital, but he didn't remember me! I've never seen him so... Uncertain... It was weird. I'll give it to him in a bit,” she giggled. Sticky frosting has formed on her palms, and as she goes to wipe it on her skirt something catches her eye.
“Heh, Barry being your new best friend,” Lucas called from the kitchen. The cake slouches on the counter, drizzling the near-liquid frosting over the top and onto the plastic pink plate. Hunting for a knife, he only saw Dawn when he got back up. “I wouldn’t wish that on any—“
Dawn’s blush was intense, nearly as pink as the skirt she had just stained. A runny white trail started just below where the cake plate had been, trailing down her tiny black vest and down her skirt.
Paper towel roll in hand, Lucas got on his knees and immediately began to wipe the skirt down. He grabbed a small handful himself and passed it up to Dawn, who wiped cleaned her midsection.
“I’m sorry,” Lucas said, finally breaking the silence. “I would have noticed sooner, but I was—“
“Lost in thought? Me too.”
Tiny giggles from Dawn erupted into a brief high squeak of fear. She froze.
When Lucas looked up to see what was the matter, a huge glob of cake frosting landed on his nose. His eyes shut just in time before frosting drizzled into his eyes.
The brief silence that followed ended in collective laughter. Lucas heard a paper towel being torn off, and suddenly found himself being smothered by it. A soft, sticky hand helped him up.
“Hey! Stay still,” Dawn giggled. Her grip around his arms steadied him.
“Of course you find it funnier than I do,” Lucas smiled.
When his eyes cleared, he was staring directly into Dawn’s bright blue ones. They both giggled awkwardly.
“Well, I thought it was an improvement,” Dawn said, sticking her tongue out.
“Very funny. Ha. Wow. Eat your cake.”
“My cake? I’m not cleaning up this mess I made!”
“What? I’m not either!”
A knock on the kitchen archway signaled both Dawn and Lucas. Lucas’s Mom was wearing a gentle smile, so wide her cheeks shut her eyes. “Are you two having fun? Who made cake?”
“Dawn. Isn’t she great? You should adopt her.”
“Don’t give yourself anything to miss!” Lucas’s mom waved, stepping out.
Dawn and Lucas shared an awkward smile.
“Hey! I really should go,” said Dawn. Both hands pinched the ends of her skirt and curtseyed. She quickly pulled her arms away, folding them up somewhat defensively and straightening her hair out of her eyes. Another awkward smile appeared on her face. “This was good! Good to see you one last time…”
“I’ll be back,” Lucas said, leaning over the counter and staring at a small smeared bit of frosting. “I really like your cooking. You should do more.”
Outside the kitchen, Dawn circled around the counter and looked opposite Lucas. “You’re going to have a great time in Johto! I’m really excited for you!”
As she approached the door, Lucas raised his head. “Wait a second. Hold on,” he said, walking up to her. “Can I get one last hug?”
“One last hug?” Dawn pleaded. A thin red layer had formed along her eyelids. Hair whipped in Uxie’s wind.
All of the air in the room at once sucked into Lucas’s lungs. It was like a knockout punch. Only with air in his lungs could he start thinking, and letting panic sink in.
His eyes searched the room in panic. Everything was still where it was.
Then his eyes affixed to Dawn. She only looked more worried for him, squinting to see what he was really feeling. Blinking the strain out of her eyes, she smiled, giggling a little, and reaching for his hand.
Lucas yanked it away. “I don’t… I…” he said, out of breath.
“Lucas? What’s gotten into you? It’s me, Dawn! I’m right here, with you, in a kinda creepy place, but we’re here and it’s okay!”
Dawn looked even closer at Lucas, which made him back away.
“Lucas… Are you… Crying?”
“No! No! No more of this… I can’t… Stop…” Lucas pleaded. He turned on Darkrai, and started shouting at the top of his lungs. “Don’t you dare get in my head again! Okay? Don’t!”
Lucas went white. “No... No... No.”
Dawn rushed Lucas’s side and gripped him tight. “Hey! Hey now… It’s alright! I’m here! It’s okay.”
Tears brimming out of the edges, Lucas rolled his eyes into the back of his head.
“Professor Elm? He’s a busy guy, must be important,” Lucas said, speed walking down a hotel hall. The zipper on his vest was jammed, though Lucas was totally unfazed by it. He cracked a smile, trying to be sociable. “I bet he’s the busiest man in the Johto region.”
The bellhop walking just slightly ahead of Lucas groaned. “Meet more people.”
A small mob of people had formed at the elevator door. When the bellhop got to the end of the crowd, he immediately checked his watch, sighing.
Lucas caught him checking his watch. He nodded to the crowd. “It’s okay. I’m sure the professor can wait,” he said. He smiled again. “Must be the busiest—“
“I heard you the first time,” the bellhop snapped. Rubbing his eyes, he put on a cordial face. It quickly faded. “Yeah, he seemed pretty tense.”
“I think he’s always like that.”
“Really? How the heck did he get to be professor? I never cry and all I’m making is bellhop!” said the bellhop.
Lucas tensed. The jammed zipper was now putting him on edge easily. “Did he say what his business was?”
“Something in Sinnoh,” he shrugged. “House fire he said? I dunno. So I guess he’s always depressed?”
Snapping his neck to the right, Lucas gripped the bellhop and turned him towards himself. “Who was in that house fire?”
“Relax man, I’m sure she’s fine—“
The bellhop dropped out of Lucas’s grip, accidentally stumbling to the floor. A new crowd of people behind him helped him back up. As he got up, he stared at Lucas running from him. On the floor beside him was Lucas’s vest.
Lucas made a beeline for the emergency stairs. Once inside, he went down as fast as he could to the ground floor.
A pair of guards blocked the door. Seeing Lucas barreling downstairs, they put their hands out defensively. “I’m sorry sir, the Professor— Sir!” One lunged for Lucas and caught him by the arm.
Pulled back by the guard, Lucas’s momentum kicked his legs out from underneath him. His foot slammed the door. If it weren’t for the second guard grabbing his arm, he would have slammed his back into the concrete stair platform.
“The professor—Hrrghh—is here to see me!” Lucas said. On his feet, he immediately lunged forward.
Professor Elm was framed perfectly in the door window, though whatever he looked at in his hands was just barely obscured.
“The Professor is busy enough. Go home.”
A seething glare from Lucas met the guard. He looked foreign, misplaced. It turned to desperation in an instant.
While they were distracted, Professor Elm appeared at the door. The bellhop was beside him. He pushed Lucas’s vest into the window, then waved him inside.
“Excuse me? Excuse me sirs? This one’s with me. It’s alright,” said Professor Elm as he cracked the door open. Adjusting his glasses, his skinny head barely fit through, but he awkwardly slid it in. He smiled at them, though it faded when he made eye contact with Lucas.
The guards obliged. They released Lucas silently, and took up positions to the side to watch.
Lucas stumbled forward on his sudden freedom. The rail on the door caught his arms. While his knees nearly buckled, they found newfound strength and pushed him back upright. Using all his momentum rocked the door, with Professor Elm steadying it.
Just as Lucas pulled his head up tiredly, he was met with what was in the Professor’s hands: a plain white beanie, and a pink Pokeball outline.
The top had char marks.
Professor Elm caught Lucas just as his knees gave. He pulled him up into a hug.
“She’s alright… Dawn’s fine… She will be fine…”
“Will she?” asked Lucas.
Lucas was quiet. It took thought to blink, and when he did he shuddered. His head slowly turned into his shoulder involuntarily, drenched in sweat, meeting with a cold slap when his hand jerked up to catch it.
Then he gasped. Exhaled breath had been clenched between his teeth. He would have thrown up if he hadn’t seen where it was going to land.
Dawn’s pastel pink boots, still ghostly in the dining hall.
“They’re not real, I’m sure you’re aware. They’re just–“
“Nightmares,” said Lucas. Breathing was still hard. “I know… I know…”
“Correct. They’re as real as you want them to be.”
Slowly raising his head, Lucas looked Darkrai in the eye. His lips slowly formed soundless words, until they came out. “What did you say?”
Lucas had forgotten about the hum surrounding Darkrai, until it returned just then. It was a loud sudden burst. A snap.
“I am not creating the image of Dawn. I am only providing the means to do so. I do not play the game, you play it for me.”
“I choose to get rid of her?” he asked. A look of concern hit him, as though he had suddenly focused on the situation at hand.
He squinted at Darkrai. Darkrai’s voice was much faster, as though he was rushing to get to something.
“You may choose who controls the nightmare. I strongly suggest it is not me.”
Lucas let the silence drag out. The hum slowly returned. “Why?” he asked in a whisper. It lessened the hum, like Darkrai was listening.
“It would put us at war.”
“Isn’t war what you wanted? That’s where we started. Isn’t that the final destination?”
“No. Much further than that.”
Darkrai’s movements had slowed. His white headpiece moved slower, slogging through the air like it was underwater.
“I don’t want that. I don’t either.”
Lucas waited for his response.
The raw noise pierced Lucas’s eardrum. Covering his ears, he slammed into the back of the wall and fell over on the side.
Darkrai’s head had frozen solid. Heat trails underneath him slowed, like the top of a grill turning off. All of the wispy ends covering his body stopped their liquid movement.
But the noise didn’t stop. It only whined, fading off into a low bass hum. A hum so deep it shook the floor.
Lucas finally shut his eyes, taking them off of Darkrai. A relaxed sense overtook him. Then he reopened them.
The room was still frozen.
Dawn had a dead gaze. Her chest no longer swelled with breath, nor did her heart beat. Even her scarf, swaying in Mesprit’s updraft was frozen in a sashayed fashion.
Mesprit too was frozen in mid-air. It’s eyes were permanently shut and it’s tails curled up beneath it.
Cold gripped Lucas. Everything he checked was perfectly still; from the figures around him to his Poketch’s second counter. He kept closing and reopening his eyes with the same result.
“You’re not usually this afraid.”
Lucas looked up, not even considering that he hadn’t gotten up. More importantly, he hadn’t considered his defeat, he just knew.
Dawn walked over. She sat down criss-cross in front of Lucas’s line of sight, tilting her head down and looking at him. A gentle smile appeared on her face.
“I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t sign up to see you die again.”
“Is that me or you talking?” Dawn smiled, hiding her sadness. “We’re adventurers, we pay our price when we get to. We don’t get to pick when we die, but we get to pick when we live.”
Lucas smiled again too, though much more faintly, just as sad. “I just wish I could know if you were real. If I could know who’s talking I might believe you. And I know it’s not me, I couldn’t come up with this.”
Dawn giggled. “Nope. Wrong answer,” she said, flicking Lucas’s nose.
“It’s all the wrong answer around here.”
A short look of pain went through Dawn as she pulled her legs out of their tucked position. She rolled over to the side and kicked her legs out, lying down. Long bluish hair rolled out along the waterlogged floor. “You know how Darkrai keeps talking about war? And you were the first person to mention it?”
“But that’s his only point, right? It’s just recycled and recycled and recycled?” Dawn made a spinning motion with her fingers.
“Yeah. That’s true.”
“Lucas, he’s pulling the answers out of you! You’re the one coming up with all this stuff!”
Silence. Lucas quickly spoke up. “I…” he trailed off, finding words. “I don’t understand?”
“Want layman’s terms?”
“Darkrai’s lazy,” said Dawn. She jammed a finger into Lucas’s chest. “He’s cheating off of your test. He’s drinking your milkshake, right?”
A sense of cold went through Lucas, but he didn’t shiver. Instead, he store off into space, gazing at the part of Dawn’s skirt where it ended and her knees began. His head sank into his shoulder as he rolled over onto his back. The scuffing noise the wood floorboards made against his hair made him shudder.
Dawn sat up. “Lucas, it’s perfectly okay to not have the answers. In fact, it’s human. It’s the most human thing we get to do on this Earth. We’re explorers, remember?”
Lucas shut his eyes. “We do more than explore the region. I remember. Your essay for the professor, right?”
Faintly smiling, Dawn sighed. “That’s right,” she said, choking on her words a bit. “That’s right…”
“But if Darkrai could pull the answers from me, that must mean I have them.”
Dawn slowly nodded.
Opening his eyes, fresh tears poured over Lucas’s lower eyelid. When he realized he was fighting for air he relaxed slightly.
“Do you know what to do?”
Lucas slowly tilted his head towards Dawn. Hesitating, he held out the silence as long as he could. He met with Dawn’s look of concern, and conceded. His hand reached for hers. “Yes… But I can’t do it alone...”
Dawn held his hand. “Yeah?”
Lucas stood up, taking Dawn in his hand to both their feet. Standing barely a few feet apart, the two faced each other.
While staring each other in the eye, Dawn slowly reached for his other hand.
Lost in thought, Lucas flinched at the sudden cool touch of Dawn’s hand. He looked down and held both her hands. An awkward smile appeared on his face as Dawn giggled.
Lucas closed his eyes.
“I think I can manage one last hug,” said Lucas, stepping forward.
Pulling her lips off of a coffee mug, Dawn flinched. The mug slowly rested onto the table like she was unsure what to do with it. Arms free, she opened them wide, stepping forward slowly.
“Last?” Dawn said, unfurling a smile as slow as her steps. She gazed down at the floor, barely looking up to Lucas’s waist but never at him.
Lucas hadn’t done anything with his arms. Standing there, hypnotized, he watched as Dawn wrapped her arms around him.
It was a long, shared eye contact.
Conceding, Lucas curled his arms around Dawn’s back. He sank his head onto her shoulder. “It might be. For now, anyway. Let’s just remember it that way, okay?”
A fake smile appeared on Lucas’s face. When he realized he had no one to fake for, he turned his gaze past Dawn. “Is—“ he started. “Is everything going to be okay?”
“Don’t blow all your adventures in one place,” Dawn blurted, choking and sniffling suddenly. Her back tensed in his arms.
Lucas could feel the heat rising in Dawn’s cheeks. Swallowing hard, he slowly released his hands from her. Then, with all his strength, he stepped back.
Neither looked each other in the eye.
The frozen movement surrounding the dining hall became soupy. With slow movements, Darkrai regained his ghostly breathing. He continued to hover lazily. The low, all consuming hum rose through the floor and rattled the boards, sinking into Lucas’s chest.
“Your nightmare can end anytime you want. You have to choose.”
Still holding Dawn’s hand, Lucas turned over his shoulder. Uxie had been reanimated as well. It stared at Lucas, waiting for a command.
“UXIE! Amnesia, go!” shouted Lucas.
“IIIUUUXXX–!” Uxie screamed, red light escaping from the crystal on its head and down it’s head.
Light cascaded down in sparks from Uxie’s crystal. A beam shot out from it straight into Darkrai’s chest, knocking him back until he glided back with full strength. The light bounced and splintered as Darkrai fought against it.
Lucas could feel the heat beside him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw what was happening. He grazed the tops of her hands with his thumbs comfortingly. His eyes forced shut.
“Lucas… I… I can’t…” Dawn said. Her voice strained, filled with incredible pain.
Slowly, Lucas turned to look at her.
Dawn caught fire, spreading down from her head rapidly with thick flames. She dropped to her knees, unable to fight the pain, and let out a high-pitched scream. Her arms tucked into her torso and she rolled her head forward along the floor. Rolling her head became more and more desperate as she fought to extinguish the flame. The floor didn’t buckle, and Dawn screamed even louder.
Lucas held onto her hand. “It’s alright Dawn, it’s alright.”
“It’s not!!” she screamed. “I’m… BURNING!!”
Hobbling on her hands and knees, Dawn clung to his pant leg, looking up to him with a begging look.
Lucas could only watch.
“Please…” Dawn pleaded, in-between tears. “Help me… Please…”
As Lucas remained silent, a look of sudden silent anguish formed on Dawn’s face. Her lips warped into grotesque, painful shapes. Her eyelids rolled up into puffy bags along her eyes, unable to squeeze tears out fast enough.
The scream came. It was a deep, primal scream, like Dawn’s chest was hollowing itself out because it knew what was coming. The sound tore through her throat like a set of knives. Her body refused to stop the animalistic noise or even take a breath, until it ended in a lung-crushing wheeze.
Dawn turned her face upwards, unblemished by fire but torn apart by pain. “W-why? Why won’t you—“ her voice was stifled by tears. “H-help, me?”
“I did this to you. This is my crime.”
“WHY?!” shrieked Dawn. “Why would you do this to me? I thought we were friends—?”
“I’m sorry, Dawn. I never wanted this for you.”
Lucas turned to the sound of Darkrai’s voice, warped and distorted. Uxie’s energy beam still fought him, sending wispy black chunks away from his body. The beginnings of bone-crushing noises could be heard. Still, he gazed benevolently at Lucas's situation, presiding over it.
“You choose to dwell on these things… You won’t leave your past alone… You are the one who chooses to watch the fire…”
“I’m not the one who needs to see it,” said Lucas.
The hum wavered, sending deep cutting chords through the room. It’s volume turned violent and unstable under the high note of Uxie’s beam.
Lucas wrapped his arm around a support beam. “You’re so close Uxie, I need everything you’ve got.”
Red energy beams emitting from the crystal widened into a single massive beam, shooting from Uxie’s glowing skull and deep into Darkrai. A sudden flashing maelstrom of light formed around Darkrai.
“You need me… You need the nightmares to remember…”
Ignorning Darkrai, Lucas tilted his head out from between his arms. Dawn was on his leg, though her cries couldn’t be heard over the roar of Uxie’s energy.
Lucas looked up to Uxie, floating just a few feet from his head. Its twin tails floated up with their own crystals, firing two more energy beams into Darkrai. An extra blast of wind shook the platform and threatened to tear the tarps away.
“C’mon Uxie,” Lucas grunted as he held on. “Just a little more.”
Solid white light.
The room hadn’t changed at all. Only Uxie’s light was gone now, replaced by Dawn’s flames. The floor stopped its rollicking motions.
Lucas slowly released his grip from the support beam, easing his head out from between his arms. His legs wobbled, but he stood up, slowly walking backwards. Closing his eyes and swallowing, he turned, looking down at Dawn.
He immediately looked away.
“Lucas…” Dawn croaked.
Remaining silent, Lucas shut his eyes. He couldn’t reopen them.
“Am I… Dying…?” asked Dawn. The sound of Dawn dragging her body on the rough floorboards consumed the room. “Lucas… Please…”
Lucas opened his eyes. A fresh stream of tears poured out. Immediately, he looked to Darkrai, but not down.
At the end of the table, Darkrai continued to hover, though his eyes were shut. His hollow breathing resumed.
Then Lucas turned to Uxie, who continued to drift aimlessly. Somewhat tired, Uxie sighed gently, slowly returning to its cute movements.
Uxie approached Lucas to near an inch of his face. Between the slits of its eyelids, it studied Lucas. A curious cooing noise emitted through its porous head; it wasn’t out of concern, it was like a question, like Uxie was waiting for a command.
A quiet cough sputtered out of Dawn’s lips.
Lucas finally looked down at her, though her back was to him. “Dawn…” he said. His voice choked again.
Her form was still, with sudden shudders for breathing. Wisps of burnt hair hung beneath her singed hat, with far too many on the floor. Dawn’s black vest was torn to shreds, including the white camisole beneath, covered in brown oily burns. Her skirt frayed at whatever edges were left.
None of her skin was showing in her tucked position.
“Don’t look at me…” said Dawn.
“Sure, sure,” Lucas said, like the beginning of a joke he couldn't remember. He eased her up onto the support column he clung to earlier, onto her back. Then, slowly, he eased onto his back on the other side of the column.
Dawn’s head slouched covered in shadows. Resting her limbs limply, she breathed easier.
“Please, Lucas… I need to know…”
Dawn strained to tilt her head to the side. “Why…?”
“I… Well…” Lucas began. “I went with it… Like I didn’t know… I knew that a nightmare doesn’t end unless I confront it… And I wanted to get it over with, so I knew I had to let you die as helpless as I truly was in the real world… I didn’t choose to let you die… But I knew… Not knowing was a lie… “
Dawn was silent. Her head slowly turned back.
“Does that make me a villain?” Lucas asked.
“What do you think—“ Dawn entered a coughing fit. “Makes a hero? I mean… If you’re not a ‘villain’… What makes a hero?”
“A hero…” Lucas trailed off softly. “A hero says they’re sorry, even when they aren’t to blame... They just need to lift the blame.”
Out of the corner of her mouth, a wide innocent grin appeared on Dawn’s face. “Do you want to know why I think you’re a hero? After all these years?”
Lucas was quiet.
“Because you knew that it’s everyone and nobody’s fault all at the same time. It’s not you, Darkrai, or me… It’s everybody, because everybody’s here right now… It’s everybody’s fault…”
Shivering, Lucas fought his own mind for words. “But, aren’t you mad?”
“Mad? How could I be mad when I need to be forgiven?”
“No! That’s not right! You shouldn’t have died! You should be with me, right now!” Lucas shouted. His voice dropped significantly. “You don’t need to be forgiven.”
Dawn shushed Lucas with a dry croaking mouth. “Lucas… you can’t stay mad forever, that’s unfair to everyone… “
“Then stay with me. Please,” Lucas said, letting the tears flow freely.
“I want to… And I know you want me to…”
“Then why not?” asked Lucas.
“I can’t because I’m not forgiven… I want you to know I’ll spend eternity saying I’m sorry… But you have to let me back with you… And you have to forgive me to do that… You have to forgive all of me… All of the circumstances… All of it… Because I’m sorry… I didn’t want to do this, I’m sorry Lucas… So sorry…”
That was the last of Lucas’s answers, for as much as his lips tried to form words. He continued to try until he could put words to his thoughts. He didn’t.
He listened carefully. He listened in the silence. Still, he listened, for Dawn’s slow breaths, until they disappeared and never returned.
“Pain… So much of it in this room…”
“It’s no longer pain, Darkrai. It’s regret,” Lucas mumbled.
“It was always regret, though extremely unearthed here.”
“I know, and I wish you had never done it.”
“Aren’t you glad you got to say goodbye? It’s within your soul… I can feel it…”
“Do you know how I got to say goodbye, Darkrai?”
“Do you know how you got this amnesia?”
“I gave it to you. I wanted you to see what you had done, as you truly are. I gave you your innocence, something you tried in me.”
“You did not answer my question.”
“I did say goodbye, and I’m glad,” Lucas answered. “But we both know that’s not why I’m here. When you know how I experienced it, how does that make you feel?”
“You seem to have done the same to me. Tormented me with my own actions.”
“How else will you learn? If I tell you what you do is wrong?”
Darkrai was silent.
“I didn't take your memories, but Uxie did. Uxie holds the lesson you were supposed to teach me,” Lucas said, looking to Uxie.
Uxie floated down, giving the same coo; the questioning coo. A small fiery glow rose in the red crystal atop its head. Power had been restored.
“Uxie, I want you to stay with Darkrai. When you cannot help him, you are free. If he needs you, call him,” said Lucas.
Then Lucas turned to Darkrai.
“I’m going to give you a choice now. Uxie holds all of your memories, everything you’ve ever done. Good and bad. If you want one, you must take the other. If you want one,” Lucas choked, giving Dawn a passing glance, “You must forgive the other.”
A silent nod.
“Uxie will leave you when you make your decision. If you can’t reach one, let Uxie go. Call for Uxie any time you reach that decision.”
“Uxie will reset you if you like.”
“Xieeuxxii!” cried Uxie, swimming around Lucas in the air. It bobbed forward with bubbly, happy movements.
“Alright Uxie, you’re free to go.”
Uxie leaned in, and bopped Lucas’s head. A shattering magical feeling escaped the crystal around them.
Lucas suddenly felt tired, like a huge surge of energy had just left him. His legs threatened to buckle beneath him, and he slid idly around on his hips.
Clutching his stomach, Lucas paled instantly. He looked over to Dawn, still there, and looked back at Uxie. Uxie looked concerned, but still satisfied. Darkrai swirled in his vision, still processing what Lucas had said, unfazed by Lucas’s sudden bout of sickness.
“She’s alive, it’s alright,” Professor Elm smiled.
“W–what–?” Lucas gasped for air, slowly tipping over. His stomach suddenly emptied on the floor, before he fell over into it.
“Lucas, it’s good to hear from you,” said Professor Rowan on the other side of the phone. “I have a special task for you. But first, I must ask, how is the Johto region treating you?”
Lucas sank into a hotel armchair, rubbing his eyes idly and watching the Johto sunset through a window. “It’s great, lots of culture and Pokemon. It’s the right change of pace.”
“Ah, that’s great! Good to hear!”
“Is Dawn okay?”
A quick break of silence followed. “She’s fine…” Rowan sighed. “Still getting used to change. It’s been far busier in the lab without… Well… The positive of it all is that we have been too occupied to think about it all… I’ve given her the best wisdom I can in all of this… But some days it’s not enough…”
“Mm…” Lucas trailed off, lost in thought.
“Lucas, you really should come back. Just to say hi. Even your mother is worried about Dawn’s family. I think you’d really be a light around here,” said Rowan. He sighed again, though shorter this time.
“Anyway, my point is this,” Rowan continued. “Sailor Eldritch in Canalave City needs help. His son has fallen into an un-diagnosable coma. He believes it’s an unusual kind of Pokemon across the sea troubling the boy… Giving him nightmares, so to speak. I need an expert legendary catcher to take care of this Pokemon. Our lab would sponsor it, seeing as the research would be a big boost.”
“I’ll do it,” Lucas answered quickly.
“Lucas, this is a major commitment.”
“I have a feeling I can handle it,” said Lucas.
“This Pokemon, Darkrai, he might bring up some serious memories. Memories of the past, memories of pain. Memories that can be used against you,”Rowan warned. Lucas could hear him listening closely for his reaction.
“That's alright,” said Lucas, a bit weaker.
“He might bring up memories of Dawn.”
Lucas paused. “So what?”
“Dawn may be alive, but there was a time when you didn't know. Elm has told me some stories. I haven't told anyone else, but—“
“Dawn is alive,” Lucas answered curtly. “I don't panic any more. I don't worry. I know.”
Sighing, Rowan went on. “Well, I just wanted to leave a suggestion, in case you needed a strategy against Darkrai. Certainty can have it's own disadvantages, you know.”
“I’ll see you in the morning. Meet me at Canalave City with whatever you can do to get me there.”
Rowan was silent. “Absolutely, I hope to see you soon.”
Sinking further into his chair, Lucas stared at the wall across from him. Blindly, he fumbled for the Pokegear on his lap, reopening it and staring at the screen. He opened the To-Do function.
He crossed off 'Call Prof. Rowan', and scrolled down to the next item: 'Give Barry a 'Get Well Soon' card and flowers'. In the memo line he had a few amnesia jokes written.
'“I was going to make it for him and take it to the hospital, but he didn't remember me! I've never seen him so... Uncertain... It was weird. I'll give it to him in a bit,” said Dawn.'
“Certainty...” Lucas mumbled.
When Lucas came to, he was standing outside the dining hall, alone. Still, he faced the swaying tarp doors to it, and he peeked inside.
Darkrai and Uxie were gone.
Lucas tucked his head back out, looking at the rest of the structure. A mess of empty halls and floating platforms filled his vision. No one was around. The more he thought, he found himself looking at the dining hall again.
Dawn was gone too.
Her disappearance made his breath shrink, though the more he thought about it his breath returned. It was okay to leave, so he did.
Lucas turned onto the final hall, seeing the long stretch and the wide stretch of mid-afternoon sunshine that bathed the floor. He smiled. Still, he looked at the wide path ahead, thinking of the darkness behind him.
Technically, he was free.
“I just received a phone call from the Eldritches,” Rowan said, as soon as Lucas emerged on the other side. “Their boy is wide awake, and seems very well rested.”
“Yeah?” said Lucas. He didn’t look at Rowan, instead at the wide stretch of sea that the sun rested over. At the far end of it all, a small stretch of land peaked just above, crowned in the center with a mountain. His eyes affixed to it.
“Yes, well done.”
Dropping his hat down to his hands, Lucas stared at it, looking at the worn edges. A cool breeze traveled through his hair, carrying a familiar feel. Lucas turned and smiled at Rowan. “It’s good to be back.”
Rowan laughed. “You’re not quite back yet. We still have to go home.”