**Capture details at end to avoid spoilers. As always, all spellings are in UK-English ((although a few Americanisations have probably wormed their way in, I’m hardly perfect))**
“Ah pull the other one pal, just send out your Pokémon.”
Two Pokémon Trainers stood at opposite ends of the grassy field, staring each other down as the small crowd of onlookers prepared to watch what promised to be an entertaining battle. At one end of the field stood Alex Hunter, somewhat of a hero to the locals of Trelsholm Village. The young woman had only been resident in the village for a few years, but in that short time she had removed a small group of bandits who had been cruelly ‘taxing’ incoming deliveries to the isolated town and ousted the corrupt mayor who had turned a blind eye to the proceedings in exchange for a generous cut of the profits. Since then Alex and her crack team of Pokémon had worked with the villagers to revitalise their flagging economy and agriculture and helped to train a whole raft of fresh, young Trainers to go on quests of their own.
The trainer at the opposite end of the field however, had earned the enmity of the locals even more quickly than she had earned their adoration. He was of a similar age to Alex, and his fabulous looks and flashy clothing starkly contrasted with her more plain appearance and manner of dress, and his personality only served to emphasise the difference between the two. In an impressive display of brusque arrogance he had managed to deeply insult just about every major member of the community in the space of only twelve hours and had topped it off by loudly lamenting the fact that there would be no Trainers here worthy of watching him battle, let alone giving him some decent practice.
And that was why Alex now stood across the field from him, preparing to defend the town’s honour with her best trained Pokémon. Lucario stood impassively before her, arms crossed and eyes closed as she mentally prepared herself for whatever Pokémon the visitor saw fit to send against her. But the visitor didn’t seem too keen to send his first creature into battle, preferring to orate instead.
“I mean exactly what I said, that I intend to fight your Lucario personally through application of my finely honed powers. You see my dumpy little protectress I am a powerful sorcerer and will use those powers to combat her myself.”
Alex was briefly taken aback by being called ‘dumpy,’ as her slightly pudgy figure was about the only thing that she couldn’t seem to fix. But the anger was quickly forgotten at the rest of his statement, replaced by her attempts to stifle a laughing fit. “Magic?!? What do you think this is, a fairy tale? There’s no such thing as magic you fool.”
“We shall see if you continue to doubt my powers in a minute,” he smugly replied, “for Therian Elothin has never failed to impress.”
As a single entity the expectant crowd was stunned into silence, unsure how to process this statement. It did explain his cocky arrogance and the bizarre deep blue robes that he wore, but the idea that someone actually believed in magic in this day and age was laughable. In fact the crowd did begin to laugh, beginning with a few nervous giggles that spread infectiously until a few people were actually rolling around on the floor, incapacitating fits of laughter preventing them from remaining upright.
Therian simply shut out the noise, knowing that in a few minutes they would no longer scoff at his powers. He thought back to when he’d first trained himself to use his power in this fashion, allowing the memory of that day to buoy up his feelings. He closed his eyes to seal off all outside influence and focussed on worming his thoughts down the familiar neural pathways that gave him access to his awesome powers. Therian carefully considered the opponent before him, assessing strengths and weaknesses and quickly decided that he would be best served by directly copying, rather than accessing one of the patterns he’d carefully studied and memorised.
Lucario made no reaction to the probing it received from Therian’s powers, although he could tell that she had felt his attempts to forge a connection with her. He could tell that the Pokémon was curious, but dependent enough on her Trainer that she wouldn’t try and analyse his Aura to determine the source and nature of his powers without orders, nor did she make any attempt to resist them. Thankful for this lucky break, Therian mentally forged ahead and developed a quick mental map of her body and capabilities.
Confident that he was ready, Therian opened his eyes again, an intense blue fire burning in his pupils as he brought his arms out of the folds in his robes. He brought his arms out in front of his body, holding them a little apart from each other in front of his chest – as if he were holding an invisible ball by the top and bottom. A smile played across his lips as the crowd’s laughter had turned to surprised mumbling and gasps in response to the blue corona of energy that was developing around his entire body, rising up like steam in small patches. A glowing, sapphire ball of energy appeared between his hands, identical in appearance to Lucario’s Aura Sphere attack, and before anyone had time to process it he spun his hands around the ball and brought them together, palms outwards, before rapidly extending his arms forwards, through the ball. Where his hands burst through the other side of the ball, the crowd could clearly see that they had become black paws, each with a large white spike protruding from the back of it. Then in the blink of an eye the ball was absorbed into his arms, causing a wave of energy to flow across his body and leaving it appearing identical to that of Alex’s Lucario, even down to the missing tip of her right ear.
For the second time that afternoon the crowd fell into stunned silence, but this time they didn’t recover so quickly; after all it isn’t every day that someone claiming to be a sorcerer showed up in town and then actually put on a show like this. Aside from the arrogant air with which he still carried himself, Therian was now completely indistinguishable from Alex’s Lucario, who stood in complete shock at what had happened.
“Well there’s no point in wasting the advantage,” Therian declared loudly, his voice and capacity for human speech astoundingly unaltered by the transformation. He had barely finished his sentence when he leapt forwards, covering the distance between him and Lucario in a matter of heartbeats and launched himself at her with a Blaze Kick.
With barely a hair’s breadth between them Lucario suddenly recovered from the shock of events enough to dive backwards, twirling in a tightly coiled corkscrew to accept only a glancing blow from Therian’s flame-coated foot. The pain caused as the attack slid across her skin was considerable, but she pushed it to the back of her mind as she backed away to a safe distance.
“Dammit, what the hell,” Alex cried, suddenly realising how badly she’d dropped the ball by allowing Therian to so effectively take the initiative. “Keep him confused Lucario, Double Substitute into Mach Punch.”
Alex’s Lucario executed a speedy backwards, double summersault, leaving a pair of illusory copies in her wake that quickly solidified and within a second were indistinguishable from the genuine article. The three Lucario came together briefly and then split off in different directions before speeding towards Therian, each of them with their right fist extended.
This tactic would leave an ordinary opponent mystified as to which Lucario to defend against, particularly as the illusory copies had enough solidity to take several hits before being stopped; there was barely enough time dissipate a single copy before they struck, let alone narrow down to the single true Lucario. But Therian had a unique advantage in this situation.
Not only did he benefit from Lucario’s Aura abilities, but the link he’d forged to Lucario in order to shape-shift gave him unique connection to her. Therian zoned in on the correct Lucario and turned to face one of the copies, switching to attack the real Lucario at the last second. Therian grabbed her incoming fist and span, hurling her over his shoulder.
Lucario recovered from the unexpected reversal, rolling with the throw and flipping in the air to land lightly on the balls of her feet. Meanwhile Therian had launched a pair of Aura Spheres into the Substitutes and both were now beginning to fade in and out of existence, clearly on their last legs.
Although completely unsure as to how Therian had so easily seen through Lucario’s trick, Alex refused to allow him to continue outwitting her. Only one option remained to her, Close Combat with a little added twist. “Lucario Close Combat, you know how to do it.” Lucario nodded and charged in to engage Therian again, preceded by her Substitutes.
Preparing himself for her close-quarters onslaught, Therian generated a shaft of blue energy between his hands, instantly recognisable to the onlooking crowd as Bone Rush, and neatly sliced the ends through both illusory copies. He then twirled the shaft in a tight arc in front of him, easily parrying the first of Lucario’s attacks. From the positioning of her body as she struck, and aided by his copied Aura senses and the muscle memory that he’d absorbed during his mapping of her, Therian was able to quite accurately predict the rest of her fusillade of blows, blocking or diminishing almost all of them.
That was when Lucario finally did something to surprise him. As she struck him with her tail, she generated an Aura Sphere whilst her back was to him and then span and launched it into Therian’s gut. She felt a little unusual about levying such violent attack against what was essentially herself, but Lucario now shared her Trainer’s irritation with Therian.
The force of the Aura Sphere threw Therian across the battlefield, tumbling through the air until he righted himself and managed to land on his feet, leaving a pair of trails in the grass as he continued sliding backwards. He stood slumped on the field, resting one hand on the ground and the other on his gut where he’d just been struck and breathing heavily.
Proud of Lucario’s flawless execution and sensing that Therian was close to defeat, Alex seized the opportunity to launch a final attack. “Lucario Aura Sphere, maximum power.”
Lucario focussed her energy and generated an Aura Sphere twice the size of the one she fired earlier, sending it screaming across the distance that separated the two combatants.
Therian suddenly raised himself upright, swinging his left arm around and generating a vortex around it. The vortex swiftly coalesced into a small vacuum centred around his hand, which he moved into the path of the Aura Sphere, catching the lethal projectile on a cushion of nothingness. He dropped his hand downwards, passing the Sphere backwards to his right hand, and then raised it quickly, spinning the Aura Sphere up over his fingertips and allowing it to roll down his arm, across his shoulders and over to his left hand. Once the sphere had reached that point he swiftly retracted his hand and then slammed it palm-first into the rear of the Sphere, adding additional Aura energy and blasting it back towards Lucario, who was too mesmerised by Therian’s display to react before it struck her. The projectile exploded as it made contact with Lucario, causing her to drop backwards unconscious.
Seeing that his opponent was defeated, Therian released his link with Lucario and shifted back to human form, standing, sweat-drenched, in triumph. He glanced briefly across the stunned crowd, and then spun to face the forest at the far end of the field. Pausing only to retrieve the small cloth bundle that he’d abandoned by his starting position, Therian walked off into the forest and was lost between the trees before anyone in the crowd could recover the wherewithal to utter a single word.
As with other small villages the world over, the inhabitants of Trelsholm were unable to resist a good gossip, so within scant minutes of battle’s conclusion word had spread to those few who had not attended the event. Tongues began wagging about the enigmatic young Therian, with everyone bandying about their own theories as to exactly what had happened on the field, with increasingly wild speculation being given the status of indisputable truth. In fact if one chose to believe every ‘fact’ about the boy he was simultaneously; an alien, from the future, using holographic projectors (or gaseous hallucinogenic drugs, or super powers), a ghost, a rogue Lucario who was good at disguises, a trainer with a flair for the dramatic and simple optical illusions, and the wizard that he claimed to be.
The only thing that the villagers seemed to agree upon was the fact that he was an exceptional Pokémon Trainer (and/or personal combatant), although a few holdouts still believed that Alex had been cheated somehow. Alex herself had done everything she could to avoid being drawn into conversations on the matter, still completely unsure as to what she believed had happened, but inevitably there was no escape. Within a few hours she’d become sick enough of the whole business that, even though she hardly expected to still be able to locate him, Alex Hunter set out into the forest a few hours later intent on tracking Therian down to confront him personally.
Despite the dedication with which she’d originally set out, a task that seemed increasingly impossible quickly sapped her enthusiasm. However, just as she was on the verge of giving up and going home, the sound of Pokémon combat ahead convinced her that she was on the right track. Alex hurried along the trail until she neared the site of the battle, keeping to the shadows of the trees as she approached in the hopes of avoiding intruding.
The battle seemed to be taking place around the base of a large tree, occupied by a small swarm of small green caterpillars, easily identifiable as Caterpie. Each of the Bug-types was launching a string of silk from its mouth, all of them converging on a pink, egg-shaped Pokémon that seemed to be the aggressor in this situation. With a start Alex spotted the signature egg-carrying pouch on the Pokémon’s front, instantly recognising the pink creature as a Chansey.
Chansey were well known as loving, caring Pokémon, most often encountered by Trainers at almost every single Pokécentre as part of the medical staff. To see one in the wild was surprising enough, but a Chansey apparently attacking a group of Pokémon was truly astonishing. It wasn’t until she noticed the small cloth bundle lying on the floor that she realised what was truly going on.
Almost as soon as Alex made the connection, the Chansey launched a gout of flame from its mouth, scorching the small group of Caterpie and setting the tree alight. Appearing almost disdainful of the meagre opposition those Pokémon had provided, Chansey peeled a small patch of silk from its left shoulder and turned away from the tree, before morphing back into the now-familiar robed shape of Therian.
The self-proclaimed sorcerer stooped to pick up his belongings and was about to continue on his way when he noticed Alex’s presence. He face twisted into a smile of smug superiority as he realised the extent to which he must have gotten under her skin, especially if she had gone this far out of her village to find him. But before he could open his mouth, Alex spoke up.
“So what’s the truth behind your theatrics? Are they just normal Pokémon, are you using some sort of holographic projector? Explain it to me.”
Therian begun to chuckle, almost enjoying Alex’s confusion, as he answered, “The depths of my theurgy are beyond the comprehension of a mere human like you. I can no more explain it to you than you could describe the colour red to a man born blind, my secrets cannot be elucidated to those who do not possess my capabilities.”
“Drop the magician act, there’s no such thing as magic and you know it,” Alex yelled back at him, infuriated at his attitude. “There has to be some rational explanation behind what you’re doing.”
“To paraphrase a great man; ‘There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies.’ The planet abounds with marvels all about you, but you have chosen to blinker yourself with science, simultaneously rejecting the evidence you see before you. Even encapsulated in your bag I can detect the life energies of your Pokémon; a ghost, a psychic, a creature of living metal, all things that could have been torn straight from the pages of a fairy tale, and yet you claim that magic is impossible.” His superior smile remained plastered to his face, somehow managing to ratchet a few notches up the smugness scale. “But if you remain convinced that there is some act of deceit, then here,” he declared as he slung his cloth bundle at her feet, spilling the contents upon the ground, “You are free to search through my belongings, though you will find nothing save some viands and restoratives.”
Slightly suspicious at his openness, Alex crouched down to examine the proffered belongings. True to his word, Therian’s bag contained a handful of various Berries, along with three bottles that claimed to contain different, standard Pokémon healing Potions; a quick removal of the lids and sniff test backed up the claim of the labels. Conspicuous in their absence were the normal accoutrements that almost every Trainer carried with them; Pokéballs, Pokédex, money, Pokégear (or indeed any communications device). And of course there was nothing that could be used to create holographic projections or any other device to enact his deception with.
Finally satisfied that his bag would not yield any secrets, Alex scooped the Potions and Berries back into the bag and handed it back to him. Although she still refused to believe that magic was the answer, it seemed that she would have to drop the subject for now, however there was one thing that puzzled her about his belongings that she wouldn’t let go. “What’s with the Potions? You don’t have any Pokémon with you, and I highly doubt you’re compassionate enough to use them on others, so what possible use could they be to you?”
“Despite your low opinion of me, I am not lacking in heart and have rendered aid to those who truly suffer on occasion. Similarly you lack an understanding of the way magic works. Once I assume the aspect of a Pokémon, then I can be restored by those tonics; though I find the natural healing that can be obtained from Pokémon attacks, such as Recover, or from Berries to be far more revitalising.” Therian opened the folds of his robe and tied the cloth bundle to his belt, first retrieving a small blue Berry from the bag and eating it. “Now whether you mind or not I must return to my quest, goodbye.”
“Just wait a second,” Alex demanded, grabbing his arm as he begun to turn away.
“Take your hand off me!” he yelled in response, violently twisting his arm out of her grip and pulling away. Almost surprised by the vehemence of his outburst, Therian immediately begun to blush and turned away as he regained his composure. “I didn’t mean…I’m sor…When I memorise the pattern of a Pokémon I absorb some of their quintessence, the Chansey belonged to an abusive Trainer…” he trailed off.
The sudden change in Therian’s behaviour shocked Alex, it seemed that despite his outward manner he was still capable of being ashamed when he pushed polite social convention too far; but whether he was ashamed of his aggression, or the fact that he’d allowed the absorbed personality to take control, was unclear. She briefly wondered how many other Pokémon he had memorised, how many other personalities warred for dominance within his mind while he tried to maintain control, and then voiced her question out loud.
“Power always comes with a price, and mine are pushed far beyond their mortal limits,” he replied, a slight undertone of strain marring his voice. “But I would gladly pay the price tenfold to complete my task.”
The glint in his eyes as he responded spoke of a great anger behind his motivations, and perhaps justifying some unanswered hurt was his goal; it was even possible that this pain was what caused him to behave the way he did, alienating others to reduce the risk of being hurt again, or he was simply hiding himself behind a general anger at the world. It awakened a nascent sympathy within Alex, softening her attitude towards the sorcerer.
It seemed like Therian could use some companionship wherever he was going, and she was sure that the village would be able to cope without her for a short while. Content that she could afford the diversion Alex said, “I don’t know where you’re going, but would you like a little company on this quest of yours?”
One of Therian’s eyebrows rose in surprise at her offer, but he didn’t immediately reject her. “It doesn’t surprise me that you are so bored of that desolate hamlet that you would offer to join a complete stranger on an unknown mission,” he replied, reassuming his standard attitude. “If you truly have nothing better to do I won’t stop you from tagging along.” He turned and begun walking along the trail, his body language indicating that he was expecting her to follow, despite his disregard.
Alex jogged to catch up the short distance and then fell into step beside him. “So where exactly are we headed?” she asked, simultaneously withdrawing her Pokégear from her pocket and sending a quick message to a neighbour regarding her intended short absence.
“The end of my quest lies at the apex of Mount Anele,” Therian declared with finality.
The journey to Mount Anele took the pair of them three days of hard journeying, first through the remains of the forest and then across a rocky plain. Therian seemed to cope with the journey far easier than Alex did; only rarely allowing her to take rest stops and seeming to find more than enough sustenance from the Berries they collected within the forest. Alex presumed that he was used to travelling in this manner, but it had been a long time since her own journeying, and even then she’d never maintained this kind of pace, or been this long without at least visiting a Pokécentre.
They’d been lucky and managed to avoid any major engagements with wild Pokémon, and Alex had been kind enough to fight off those few they had encountered, allowing Therian to preserve his strength for whatever this quest of his entailed. He had been uncharacteristically quiet as they neared the mountain, refusing to explain anything about his objective once they reached Mount Anele.
Alex knew very little about Mount Anele, as there were no settlements near the mountain, but she had heard a few legends. Apparently the mountain was a dormant volcano, formed by the Legendary Fire-Beast Entei in an attempt to destroy the entire local region. As the volcano begun to erupt, a Regirock belonging to a travelling Trainer cast itself into the throat of the volcano, sealing it permanently. A long time ago Alex had learned to take legends like this with heavy dose of salt; the idea that even an Entei could raise such a massive volcano at will was patently ridiculous. The supplementary tales that the fires of that event still glowed each night at the top of the mountain only added to the absurdity.
Last night they’d been able to see the mountain from where they’d camped and whilst she would admit that there had been some glowing from the mountain-top, it hadn’t appeared to be much more than a large campfire. A campfire belonging to a group of travellers like the pair of them was far more likely; after all when you hear hoof-beats you should think Ponyta, not Zeburaika. The only strange thing about the glow was the effect that it had on Therian, who seemed to be energised by the sight of it. In fact it appeared as though he hadn’t slept at all last night (not that he seemed to require much sleep) and had simply stayed up, staring at the distant light.
Now they had reached the top of Mount Anele and were looking down into the crater that had once formed the throat of the volcano. Alex had released Lucario from her Pokéball and sent her to gather firewood and then sat down on a rock to watch the obviously anxious Therian. Since their arrival he’d been pacing back and forth around the lip of the crater, refusing to keep still for even a moment.
After about ten minutes of watching him, Alex called over to him, “Just take a seat for a moment, pacing isn’t going to make whatever you’re waiting for happen sooner.”
Therian stopped pacing only to turn and rail at her, “If I hadn’t been slowed down by you I could have continued walking through the night and been here yesterday! He was here yesterday and if I’ve missed him because of you!”
“What are you talking about, who was here? How could you possibly know a specific person was here?”
“The fire,” he yelled as he resumed pacing, gesticulating wildly in the air like a mad man. “I know it was him, I’d recognise it anywhere.”
The quizzical look that Lucario gave to Alex as she returned echoed her own thoughts on the situation; clearly Therian had finally gone over the edge. She wasn’t sure whether it was the burden of having memorised too many patterns (whatever that truly meant), if something in the area had set him off, or if he had simply always been unbalanced (not an entirely impossible proposition), but in the short time that they’d been at the lip of the crater he’d swiftly shed all traces of sanity. Alex indicated that Lucario should ready herself to intervene, she dreaded to think of the amount of damage that Therian could do if he turned violent, assuming that he did actually transform into various Pokémon as he claimed.
“Look, I think you need to calm down Therian. Take a few deep breaths…”
“I know you’re here!!!” he screeched into Mount Anele’s crater. “Show yourself you murderous bastard!!!”
Therian’s curse echoed hollowly around the fissure, chased around by the ragged sound of his breathing, but no one stepped forward to answer his challenge. He stood at the very edge of the lip, chest heaving, eyes seeming to bulge from their sockets, glaring around madly for some sign of whoever he was looking for; all traces of his usual theatrics and mode of speech erased by the raw emotion he was exuding.
Alex was on the verge of going over to try and bring him back before he fell, but just then she spotted a bright light coming from within the crater. What appeared to be light from a fire shone out of a narrow cave in the opposite crater wall, giving a red gleam to the rocks in and around the defile. The brightness intensified quickly, as if someone was carrying a lit torch out of the cleft, but the fire that cast the light must have been far larger than any bonfire, let alone a torch.
It seemed to take an eternity for the source of the light to show itself, and when it did Alex’s breath caught in her throat. Emerging from the cave was a golden bird, at least six feet tall and wreathed in flames that streamed from its head, wings and tail; Moltres, the Legendary Bird of Flame. Alex could scarcely believe that she was so close to a Pokémon that even many leading experts believed was nothing more than a myth, or at the very least either extinct or a unique specimen. Many Trainers dreamed of encountering a creature of this calibre, few ever realised this dream, and here she was, separated from it by the diameter of the crater.
She turned to see Therian’s reaction to this unexpected appearance, and was taken aback by the intense fire that burned in his eyes and the ugly grimace of hatred that twisted his features; apparently Moltres’ presence hadn’t been entirely unanticipated.
“I’m going to make you suffer for what you did!” he yelled across the night sky, seemingly completely oblivious to anything apart from the Legend.
Moltres stood his ground and stared Therian down, almost appearing to shrug as it emitted an ear-piercing squawk of query, an expression of confusion adorning its face.
“You know exactly who I am!” Therian replied, obviously further infuriated by Moltres’ seeming lack of recognition. “Twenty years ago you killed the woman I loved, fresh from our escape from slavery. I’ve spent every moment since then travelling to the ends of the Earth, searching for a way to destroy you and I am going to savour every second of your pain.”
Alex had a number of different thoughts crowding for attention in her head; some vestiges of the initial shock of Moltres’ appearance, sympathy for what had apparently happened to Therian, confusion at the disparity between his appearance and statement (he couldn’t possible be much older than her own 19 years). She found it difficult to follow the thread of exactly what was going on, but felt that she could almost understand Therian’s desire for revenge. However Therian had clearly let his thirst for vengeance consume him to an unhealthy degree, and the coming conflict could only end badly for him; nothing short of another Legend could begin to compare to the raw power of a Pokémon like this.
She stepped between Therian and Moltres to try and get through to him as Moltres squawked again, but Therian grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her to one side. Lucario deftly caught her Trainer and prepared to strike at Therian, but Alex ordered her to hold off her attack.
“You don’t get to apologise, it’s too late for that…” Therian shouted back before he was cut off by a longer squawk from Moltres. Almost as soon as the Legend had finished a feral snarl tore from his throat, “DON’T YOU DARE SAY HER NAME!!!” he shrieked. “It’s time for you to die Kastenessen.”
Therian suddenly dropped to his hands and knees, his skin beginning to turn a deep blue. Right before Alex’s eyes Therian’s body widened out, absorbing his robe into his flesh as chitinous armour-like protrusions formed on his arms and legs, as well as a larger horned helmet that grew from his head. Within a few seconds Therian had become a Pokémon that Alex had never seen before; the presumably normal theatrics of the previous transformations she’d seen dispensed with. He now stood a little shorter than her, resting on all fours, as a blue sea lion-like Pokémon, his face still twisted in a grimace of pure abhorrence.
Therian wasn’t exactly sure how to feel at the moment of his impending triumph. Rushing through his head were the competing emotions, running the gamut from the still raw wound of his loss, to his fury at Kastenessen and the imbibed psychotic anger of his assumed form, each one vying for dominance of him, along with the background susurrus of thoughts and feelings from other Pokémon whose patterns he’d absorbed. It had been a long time since he’d used this form; he’d almost forgotten how powerful the Pokémon’s barely-chained rage was, how difficult it was to keep it under control.
He remembered the brief encounter he’d had with Daikenki whilst visiting the Isshu Region, how fortunate he’d been to have the opportunity to study him. Therian had been sat in a café, drinking a cup of coffee, when the Daikenki had begun his rampage after murdering his Trainer. It had taken the local police thirty minutes to bring him down, enough time for him to kill two more people and seven Pokémon, and more than enough time for Therian to forge the link that allowed him to memorise his pattern. If Therian had missed that narrow opportunity to study Daikenki, he would never have found the perfect combination of Pokémon Type, power, training and emotional state to give him his best shot at getting his long-sought revenge on Kastenessen.
The unbridled rage that controlled the Daikenki – a product of some random genetic abnormality that had suddenly erupted and turned an otherwise normal Pokémon into a monster – was difficult for Therian to manage. Only the fact that it was a shadow of the true psychosis that had gripped Daikenki gave him any measure of control, but right now it didn’t matter whether or not he allowed it to consume him, because the only people who were at risk were some silly girl he’d foolishly allowed to follow him and a creature that deserved no better.
Therian raised his head to the sky and howled his defiance at Kastenessen before unleashing a spiralling torrent of water in the Moltres’ direction.
Kastenessen almost casually puffed out a stream of flame in response, colliding with Therian’s Hydro Pump in mid-air and instantly evaporating the water. “If that is the best you can do mortal, then I am afraid your accusation will go unpaid,” he taunted as he thrust his head backwards and spat a glowing white orb into the sky. Once the orb reached a good height over the battlefield, it burst and illuminated the peak of Mount Anele as if it were in full daylight.
Within seconds Therian could feel the heat of the pseudo-sun sapping the energy from him and knew that it would rob his Water attacks of their full potential; obviously Kastenessen was cleverer than he’d credited, but Therian had more than Water to throw at his opponent. Therian quickly unleashed a Hidden Power attack, generating a swarm of sky-blue energy balls around him and launching them in Kastenessen’s direction.
The Moltres saw Therian’s incoming attack, but disdainful of its ability to harm him calmly allowed the majority of the swarm to strike him before launching a counter-attack. Kastenessen’s wings flashed white, quickly absorbing energy from the false sunlight and allowing him to blast a beam of pure solar power in Therian’s direction.
Therian dived to the side as the bright, white SolarBeam lanced through the remainder of his Hidden Power and seared down his left side. He roared in pain as this glancing blow, even reduced by contending with his earlier attack, inflicted massive damage on him; he’d been grossly underprepared for the amount of power that a Legendary Pokémon could generate.
“I don’t know what petty fantasy makes you think that you can defeat me. You are barely even a grain of sand to me, mortal, beneath the consideration of my magnificence. Destroying you will give me no trouble, nor will the end of your insignificance stain my conscience; no more so than the death of your mate did.”
Contemptuous of consequence, Therian leapt down from his position at the lip of the crater and charged towards Moltres. He allowed Daikenki’s rage to take control as he leapt forwards, the shell armour on his right forearm sliding forwards and glowing yellow, leaving a trail of blue energy behind it.
Kastenessen lazily intercepted Therian’s Shell Blade with his wing, following through the motion to strike him squarely in the face and throwing Therian back across the crater.
Therian slammed painfully into the wall, causing it to crack and shaking it enough that Therian’s bag fell down into the crater to join him. He slid from his position against the wall to lie on the ground, but quickly raised himself up again, launching another Hydro Pump. He continued to pour his power into the torrent of water as Kastenessen easily blocked the attack with a cloud of small fireballs, but Therian was beginning to feel the effects of the damage he’d already taken, and Kastenessen’s sun continued to drain the power from his attacks.
For one brief moment Therian noticed that the outline of one of his arms was beginning to waver, slipping back towards the normal pink hue of his flesh. As he struggled to reassert control over his body, his concentration on his attack wavered and Kastenessen’s Ember burst through, peppering Therian with small bolts of energy and driving him to the ground.
“Are you ready to give up on this ridiculous quest of yours mortal or must I annihilate you completely, because I have no qualms with either conclusion.”
Therian shifted back to human form and pushed himself off the ground, still determined to fight; he would kill Kastenessen or die trying. Thankful that his bag had slid into the crater, Therian reached inside for the supplies he kept there whilst Kastenessen continued to crow and gloat about his victory. Alongside the Potions and other recovery items, Therian found his small stash of Petaya Berries; a large reddish-brown Berry that acted like a natural stimulant to temporarily boost his power.
Taking a quick look up to the lip of the crater at the panicked Alex, Therian shoved three Petaya Berries into his mouth at once and hurriedly ate them. Whilst eating them he also withdrew a Potion from his bag and forced the top off, drinking it down to try and benefit from its healing faster than the recommended topical application. Alex was shouting something to him, but he blocked her out, focussing entirely on Kastenessen as the Berries and Potion begun to take effect.
“You want a conclusion Kastenessen,” he cried, “fine by me.” Therian lifted his arms above him as he sought the temporary mental connection he was looking for. Once his connection was established, flames begun to spontaneously generate on his body, growing in size until his entire body was engulfed in fire. Then he dropped his arms and transformed in one motion, taking flight from the conflagration as a perfect copy of Kastenessen.
Once he had gained some height over Kastenessen, positioning himself so that the last vestiges of light from the fading pseudo-sun were behind him, Therian swung his wings forwards and launched a scything blade of air at him. Kastenessen responded with an Air Slash of his own, but Therian’s Petaya-enhanced attack sliced through Kastenessen’s and struck the Moltres.
Giving him time to do little more than squawk in anger, Therian followed up with a second Air Slash and then dived directly towards his opponent, generating a white aura around himself as he charged a Sky Attack.
Kastenessen held his ground in the face of Therian’s incoming attack, his wings glowing white as he charged up a SolarBeam, a longer endeavour now that the sunlight had faded.
Therian was mere feet from ploughing into Kastenessen, pleased that the foolish Pokémon had wasted time powering what would be such an ineffective attack, when Kastenessen launched himself vertically into the air. Unable to decelerate in time, Therian slammed into the ground that Kastenessen had just vacated, sliding to a halt by the crater wall.
It was at that point that Kastenessen unleashed his blast, slicing his SolarBeam across the crater wall above Therian and causing a rock slide that buried the sorcerer. “A valiant attempt mortal, but you are still a mere shadow of my power. Consider your continued survival a fitting punishment for your hubris,” Kastenessen called from the skies before flying away.
Before she was even certain that the Moltres would not attack again, Alex had already gotten Lucario to carry her into the crater and run across to the pile of rocks that now buried Therian. Not knowing whether he was dead or alive, Alex frantically started to dig through the pile, aided by Lucario, searching for some sign of him. Lucario picked up a particularly large rock to the right of Alex and threw it to one side, calling for her attention.
Alex scrambled desperately across the scree to see what Lucario had found, her mood lightening when she heard Therian’s faint voice. She quickened her pace, caught up with Lucario and looked down where she indicated; Alex failed to contain her gasp of surprise at the state that Therian had been left in by the attack.
Lying in a small depression between rocks was a small pink amorphous blob, quietly murmuring “No, I can’t have failed,” over and over again.
Capture Targets: Ditto, Caterpie
Required Character: 33-45k
Actual Characters: 39,408
Authors Note: Obviously the Ditto in question is Therian, I know we’re supposed to mention the Pokemon and the only direct mention of Ditto is a brief description at the end (with no mention of name), but I’m guessing the fact that he was one of the two main characters throughout the story has to count for something right? Besides I couldn’t think of a way of dropping the name at the end without it feeling weirdly out of place.
My interpretation of his abilities may draw cries of foul play from some, but I’ve never considered it to be beyond the capabilities of a determined Ditto to memorise forms for later use. Similarly if you look carefully none of the visual effects that accompany his transformations are separated from his body, and thus capable of being produced through concerted effort.
Kastenessen’s attitude and power level are based on the way that Legendary Pokemon are treated in general in the Animé and by several NPCs in the games, essentially god-like, rather than its in-game Base Stats.
Finally are acknowledgements; my brother Nathaniel (this story actually grew out of a running joke of ours that every cameo Legendary appearance in the Animé is a single lonely Ditto that enjoys the attention) and the novelist Stephen Donaldson (whose Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series inspired Therian’s normal mode of speech and the names Anele and Kastenessen).
As always comments in the Chat & Feedback thread are always appreciated.