Traveler

Ash Ketchum has been determined to become the best since he was a toddler. He has his eyes set on a charmander, but a twist of fate led him to the humble Nidoran. Note: Mix between anime and the games.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8466693/1/Traveler

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70. The Prophecy Part 2

If he had to beg for Mewtwo's aid he would. Whatever was necessary to stop this madness was what he would accomplish.

An icy fire flickered more brazenly, still amused. The baritone he'd hated for so long did not appear, however, and left him in peace.

Ash's eyebrows furrowed in confusion when he felt himself thrown downward — his stomach lurched up before it adjusted and settled into place with a sickening squelch, although he was far more worried that he couldn't even see the ground or his companions and that —

His momentum was stolen from him, transferred elsewhere by the dominating force that shielded his body, and he fell gently onto hard stone. Ash squeezed his eyes shut, just a little stunned by the weak force, and groaned slightly as his battered body pulled itself to his feet.

"Dazed!" He cried out. The icy fire had vanished and he was all alone but for Plume, who was still helpless as she struggled to rise. Ash rushed over to her and gently stroked her crest as he frantically searched for his friend. Now that he could actually control his movements the sheer urgency of the situation fell upon him. "Lance!"

"Fear not!" A voice echoed simultaneously in both ears and mind. "Your companions are safe, albeit wounded. I have tended to their wounds but I fear that even my skills may not restore their vigor in this time of strife."

Ash's head snapped to the source of the noise quickly enough to almost give him whiplash. "Who are you?"

The speaker smiled down at him from a pale pink face. Ash blinked in surprise at the Slowking, who had appeared as if from nowhere. Not what he expected, especially considering that it had spoke. He'd heard of a few pokemon speaking the human tongue rather than communicating via telepathy but this was his first true experience.

Unfortunately he was too numbed to fantastic events to even begin to feel any sort of awe at this strange creature.

"I am a Servant to the Great Guardian, Lugia."

"Lugia…" Ash whispered, his fear and glee at the Guardian's name powerful enough to pierce his shell of numbness. "Can you summon it? I can't stop the Birds!"

Slowking's wide face turned upwards in a mysterious smile. It pointed to the center of the shrine he had been placed in, where frozen steps led up to an altar that held some sort of ancient slab.

"Read."

Ash tiredly nodded and ascended the steps, which were still slick with half-frozen water.

He felt the pinpricks of tiny blades of ice cutting against his mostly-recovered skin, the heat of Moltres' fury roasting the sky, the scent of ozone harsh against his nose.

Every sensation intensified.

Every breath allowed him to feel what must have been millions molecule of air rushing into his lungs.

Every heartbeat sent a flush of heat and pain through him, making him acutely aware of the gaping gash on his cheek but even mores his own life.

Every blink opened him up to an entirely new world of Fire, Ice, and Lightning when his eyes opened once more.

Every second allowed a song older than the waves themselves to ring through his ears, every rising note telling a million stories joined into one.

Every step sucked him toward the altar which stood eternal amidst the primordial forces that warred around it.

He looked upon the gaping maw of some fierce creature immortalized in stone. Three shapes were hewn into the ancient rock with perfection far removed from simple hammers and chisels. Something more had carved the geometric figures.

Ash frowned. In front of each shape was a small pedestal, as though something were meant to be placed upon it. He knew it had to be important for the Slowking — Lugia's Servant, a being as wise and noble as Chinatsu — to send him here.

"Read."

The boy nodded and looked upon the tablet that must have sat there for an eternity. It seemed to repel the elements — it bore no sign of the cataclysm that raged about less than a mile from this island and didn't seem to have aged a single day since it was first laid upon the altar.

Its characters were ancient, even older than the rough characters carved into the First's tomb. They barely even seemed to be based off the Unown, like they were from an entirely different system! That was practically unheard of as far as Ash knew. Every culture had some form of contact with the Unown and had drawn their alphabets from it.

This was incomprehensible to him.

And then something changed. The characters were identical to what they had been before but comprehension appeared as if from nowhere. He could see every loving line in this eternal tale and understood it as well as anything else he could read — better, even.

"Disturb not the harmony of Fire, Ice, or Lightning lest these titans wreak destruction upon the world in which they clash," he began. A warm, foreign pressure melded with his mind and joined its voice with his own. "Though the Water's Great Guardian shall arise to quell the fighting, alone its Song will fail, and thus the Earth shall turn to ash. O Chosen One, into thine hands bring together all Three. Their treasures combined tame the Beast of the Sea."

The tablet was incomprehensible once more, just odd rows of strange designs and figures.

The song in his heart faded but never died.

Ash exhaled and became aware of the world and the terror that had consumed it once more. He was free of the tablet's spell and could see the primordial forces that raged about him — Moltres' Inferno had melded with Zapdos' own Storm perfectly, intermixing and boiling the sea faster than more seawater could move to fill that which had been displace. Articuno's cries rent the air as the Blizzard regained prominence once more, blocking the sun itself and leaving the ocean an unending layer of thick white.

"A prophecy?" He muttered to Slowking, who had moved behind him as he was spellbound. "I don't believe in prophecy."

"And on most days your belief would be correct. Peddlers of cheap tales often sell it to those who wish for fate," Slowking acknowledged. "But there is power in this…Ash."

He tensed and placed a hand on the row of pokeballs at his waist for comfort but didn't respond.

"Millennia ago a dying man sought enlightenment on this very spot…he received a vision instead. He saw the sky aflame and the world crumble under the might of the disturbed Titans who have claimed these islands. Fearful, the man fled the shrine and shared his tale with all those who would listen. Only the psychics, the movers of the universe, saw the truth in his tale and came together."

Slowking looked very old then, older than any mortal had a right to be. "A thousand psychics found themselves here from every corner of the young world. All found their purpose in this spot. I was young in those days, scarcely risen from my youthful obliviousness. But I guarded this holy place."

"One thousand psychics channeled their power in this spot and defied fate. They unmade themselves so as to shape a single constant in the twisting uncertainty of the universe. Their hope became Prophecy, intertwined with the nature of reality itself."

"When the time came one capable of quelling this clash would arise. There are many Chosen, but only One would find themselves here. You might fail, but within you lies the potential to end this Cataclysm."

Ash was silent under the enormity of the burden placed upon his shoulders. He couldn't quite wrap his head around what spouted from the Slowking's mouth. Prophecy and fate were never something he believed in but to learn it was true even in one instance was hard for him to swallow.

But in the end it didn't matter if he was "fated" to do anything.

He would stop this anyway.

"What do I need to do?" He began wearily. Slowking smiled down at him with its wide face.

"On each island there is an altar that contains a Sphere. Take it and return them here by any means necessary. A single Elemental Sphere will serve to stabilize the earth but all must be brought here should we hope to return balance to the world."

The song that had been calling to his very soul grew stronger then but he paid no heed.

"And how am I supposed to get past that?" Ash scowled and jabbed a finger at the three raging disasters. The Birds had long abandoned anything recognizable as a physical form in favor of the all-consuming power of dissolving into their basest nature. The combatting forces sundered the very world where they met, tearing apart the ocean's molecules and leaving air nothing but a single massive explosion.

If he left the safety of this shrine he'd be torn apart and reduced to nothing but dust and ash.

Slowking was silent. Shards of ice drifted down from the heavens, slowed by whatever power sheltered this shrine.

Articuno must have regained dominance, at least for a short while. Ash doubted it would last — his Feather had just roared to life once more and seared his chest with tongues of golden flame as Moltres' fury overtook the world in a storm of fire.

"Be patient."

Ash ground his teeth and turned away from Slowking to watch the Birds follow a cycle that had bound them for longer than humans had existed. How could he be patient when he watched the very things that could destroy everything?!

It wasn't in his nature to feel truly lasting fury but that was what powered him now. He was going to force these Titans to stop and acknowledge him. He would take their Spheres, fulfill this damn prophecy, and bind the quarreling Legends to their accursed islands for an eternity.

Perhaps this Moltres was as benevolent as its counterpart. Perhaps it was good and just to humans in the past.

But in this state it was no better than the others. Just a wildfire that needed to be extinguished.

"I had hoped it would never come to this — I never thought you humans would ever be powerful enough to wake one of the sleeping Titans." Slowking sighed and watched the waves with its ancient eyes. "So long as they rested the world was safe."

"Who awoke them?" Ash's fists clenched until his fingernails pierced his skin. "I'll need to meet them personally after this."

Slowking smiled tiredly and pointed out at the Storm. "I don't believe that will be possible unless you intend to search the abyss. The human who attacked Fire's Island is long dead. When it realized what it had awoken it futilely fled in its ship — Fire consumed it."

"So why didn't Moltres just sleep again?" Ash murmured. "The Moltres I've seen —"

"The Fire you've seen is different," Slowking said quietly. "Calmer and older. When it tore itself from Fire's essence and went its own way it found freedom as its kin was bound to a pale shadow of existence. In its freedom it found purpose. In its purpose it found wisdom."

Ash nodded slowly and idly traced the Feather beneath his shirt. The golden glow was bright enough to be a constant distraction despite his best efforts to ignore it and he dearly hoped it wouldn't come to interfere in his quest.

"Where's Dazed and Lance?" He spoke up, a hard edge in his voice. "I'm not leaving until I'm sure they're safe."

"And how safe can they be while the world tears itself apart at the seams?" Slowking retorted. "But yes, they are —"

Fine.

Ash's face lit up as Dazed shuffled out from a cave well-hidden by the slush and blackness that still dominated the sky. Her lightly-furred body shivered under Articuno's spell, although she seemed relatively unscathed.

I am unscathed in body. Do not fear for me. Only my power was broken in the Blizzard.

"And Lance? Dragonite? Dov?"

Dazed froze and stared past Ash to where the three Birds clashed.

The Champion-Mentor lives. He fell from the Alpha's back when I lost control of their shields. Had the Blight not intervened sooner they would have been slain. It was by the Sentinel's power that they still draw breath.

Her mental voice was as cold as the Blizzard itself.

"Thank you," he smiled softly at her. "And Dazed? I know you did your best. Nobody else could have even gotten us half as far as you did."

She was silent and looked down at her pendulum as she gently polished the ring of gem in her snow-white mane.

He turned from her to the Slowking. He'd given Dazed all she needed to hear.

"I'm ready to go. But how am I supposed to survive —"

Trainer-Friend. Prepare yourself.

Dazed's warning echoed within the walls of his skull as he wheeled about only to blanch in horror. Even the Feather couldn't stave off the icy feeling that shot through his veins as he saw the Storm and Blizzard devour their way across the skies to Shamouti, intent upon their prey.

A wall of black on one side and a wall of white on the other. Between them red and gold and white raged futilely as it tried to fight its way outside of the overwhelming force brought to bear against it, icy winds slashing and penetrating like knives while innumerable lances of lightning probed and sundered the Firestorm's guard.

He actually saw Zapdos then. A vague figure with wings of condensed storm clouds and a beak of golden power shot out of its Storm, wreathed in enough lightning to raze the world beneath it. Were it not for a sudden film of psychic energy covering his eyes courtesy of Dazed he would have been struck blind from staring at the splendor of the terrible Bird of Lightning that screamed — a sound that rattled his bones and knocked him to his knees.

Zapdos' golden figure tore its way out of its own Storm as fast as its own element and through Moltres' Inferno, fearless and ferocious as any creature to soar the heavens. The Inferno parted at Zapdos' fury and failed to recover as Zapdos' power flooded in behind him until Moltres was as much in Zapdos' territory as its own.

And the world was nothing.

The Storm's blackness, the Inferno's light, the Blizzard's whiteness…they all vanished in the face of Zapdos. Dazed's shields were torn apart and he couldn't see a thing other than an infinite explosion of electricity that lanced across the horizon, banishing Fire and Ice and leaving the world with naught but Lightning as its master.

Then Zapdos' cry of victory reached him, a sound of thunder that was beyond anything he'd heard before.

He screamed as the sound hit him and forced him to his knees. His bones shook inside of their suit of flesh and he was afraid that his own body would come apart at the seams. His eardrums were just barely protected from bursting by Slowking and he still tore at his ears just to feel something other than the terrible enormity of Zapdos' cry of victory.

Shamouti Island quaked and rocked precariously. Much of the cliffside shattered and fell into the ocean's depths, causing vast tsunamis that were obliterated a second later by an errant blast of lightning. The world rocked and the ocean itself seemed to tear apart around Zapdos — a single massive wave shot out from all around it from the force behind its cry.

Open your eyes.

He was so lost within his own mind, so lost within his own primal urges to flee from such terrible power that he couldn't even determine if it was Dazed or Slowking that had reached into his mind.

But he did.

It was much the same as before, although filtered through as powerful a lens of psychic energy as Dazed could create. Zapdos still hung victoriously in the air releasing its power until it looked brighter than the sun itself, all in the name of its triumph over the Inferno.

Moltres' flames flickered and tried to twist and writhe against Zapdos' Storm in order to sear away the black clouds and terrible blasts of lightning but were utterly helpless as they were extinguished under the power of Zapdos' lightning, winds, and rain.

The Feather raged to life once more before it dimmed to little more than an ember. Ash felt as though a hole had been torn through his chest as he felt the full weight of dead obsidian rather than the fluid liquid it had dissolved into during the course of this battle.

He fought to remain on his feet as he saw the Inferno recede and condense until it had become Moltres once more — a towering Bird of living flame and a frame of delicate obsidian that seemed terribly lifeless all of a sudden.

A Legend picked bare by its comrades.

Were Ash not rendered deaf by Zapdos' thunder he would have heard Moltres' last cries of rage before it fell into the endless expanse of the ocean and was consumed by the vast waves created by Zapdos' supremacy.

He was struck dumb as he watched Moltres' descent.

The Titan of Fire had been extinguished. It was still alive — he could see its flames still feebly flickering as they burned away the water around it — but it would not return to the surface for a long time yet. It was too weak to escape the depths.

This is rather nostalgic, is it not?

Ash grit his teeth and ignored the amused jabs from Mewtwo. He didn't have time for the Creature's games.

Zapdos flew after Articuno next. It allowed its Storm to wrap around it once more except this time its body was still distinct, more massive than Ash had ever seen it.

Its figure was nothing but living lightning at its core. The essence of gold extended off into wings that spanned a hundred feet in either direction in its empowered state before storm clouds that poured off of them added miles more to their length. Zapdos' body was too bright to look at, just a gigantic, ferocious ball of plasma that sparked dozens of lightning bolts every second as it chased its next victim.

When Articuno met it with all the cold fury of the Blizzard it was Ash could watch no more. He lost both of the Titans in their cloaks of black and white and didn't care to watch as the two remaining Birds did their utmost to utterly destroy one another in their unending battle for supremacy.

Calm yourself, Chosen One. Fire yet burns. But your quest is ever more urgent.

"How am I supposed to fight that?" He mouthed. Ash was still so dazed that he wasn't sure if the words had actually left his lips.

You will not. You cannot.

Ash scowled and stalked past Slowking to glare at the altar. His eyes were still filled with stars and he couldn't see the delicate script, although his mind whispered the words of the Prophecy to him again and again, engraving them into his very essence.

A shiver ran down his spine and distracted him from his distraught fury. Moltres' warmth was gone. He didn't even have the protection of the Feather anymore.

He was on his own. Only his team stood beside him.

Mortals standing defiant in the face of gods.

"I'm going to stop this," he announced and released Plume, who shivered under the weight of her wounds. "Plume, are you ready to fly? We're going to need every bit of strength you have."

She nodded tiredly, although Slowking stopped her. The powerful psychic shut its eyes and allowed a film of energy blue as the sea to envelop her massive body. Plume's head bowed in relief as the energy pulsed steadily for what seemed like an eternity.

Your task will be simpler now. Your ally is healed, at least for the moment. Ice's power is purged from her body and I restored her body to what it once was.

"Thank you," Ash dipped his head gratefully. A bead of fear gnawed its way deep in his stomach as his thoughts turned to Lance. "Could you check on my friend? He's a —"

Bearer of the Golden Feather. His connection runs far deeper than yours. Do not worry. The bond he shares is tied intimately to the Fragment you have encountered previously. His health will wane until he is in death's hands but he will live. For now. You must hurry if you want him to draw breath in the future, however.

He breathed a sigh of relief and squeezed his eyes shut before he turned to stare out at the Titans' struggle. They both seemed fairly even now. The Storm still attacked and flooded the skies with terrible ferocity but the Blizzard held strong and had even moved over Moltres' island in a sign of dominance.

Ash feared that this stalemate would not last. Without Moltres to mediate and maintain the balance one of them would eventually gain the edge and consume the other as they had the Titan of Fire. It was only a matter of time.

Time is of the essence. The Fire you know has sensed the imbalance and comes to restore order upon Ice and Lightning. Its wrath will be terrible and swift with little regard for lesser creatures. Its fellow Fragments are drawn here as well with the shift. In a few hours the three will converge upon this place and the Great Guardian will be helpless to stop them.

"Where is Lugia?" Ash growled, his patience nonexistent as he stood by Plume. How could he stay calm when he'd just heard that this situation could be even worse?! "Its duty is to stop the Birds, and I could use the —"

Here.

Ash froze as a haunting song swept through his soul. It transcended his deaf ears or even the telepathic call to his mind. It reverberated inside him, a forgotten melody more powerful in its soothing tones than all the thunder of Zapdos or howling Blizzard of Articuno.

He looked out to the sea. Torrent appeared beside him in a flash of light, drawn by the melody. His body quivered in excitement and his red eyes almost shone with glee. Even Nidoking's devotion to the Moon Stone paled in comparison to the sheer power of the spell Torrent found himself caught in.

And Ash fully understood. He wasn't just an onlooker as he had been with Nidoking's fervor. He was part of this, as was all life.

The entire span of the sea froze in the grip of a deep blue glow — the water was almost blinding in its intensity as immeasurable power bent it to the will of an ancient force.

The song echoed again, stronger this time, and even the Storm and Blizzard calmed. Whether in fear or peace Ash knew not.

He felt them. Zapdos and Articuno. The primordial beings had finally found something powerful enough to remind them of their own limits.

There was one they feared.

Ash was frozen as the entirety of the glowing ocean shot upwards — for miles around the sea had been lifted as high as his eyes could see until the waters and heavens were as one. As Articuno had made his world a Blizzard, this newcomer had made it an ocean.

The Blizzard was drowned and the Storm snuffed out. There was no spreading frost he could see, no furious explosion of lightning. Just the endless, all-encompassing walls of water. Black and blue and still as ice.

A shadow twisted within the ocean's depths, a hundred feet long and its only discernible features a pair of fierce eyes that glowed with the power of twin suns.

Eyes hauntingly familiar to Mewtwo's but infinitely kinder and older.

It is time.

The Sea spoke.

No, that was not right. It did not speak so much as simply reveal what he already knew. Those words had been a part of him since he was first conceived. It was only now that the Sea saw fit to open his eyes to the deepest waters of his soul that held the statement.

Its eyes focused upon Ash and he felt an enormous presence fall upon his shoulders, an abyss to his droplet.

The voice was ageless and kind, utterly peaceful. There was no exertion behind it, no sign that it had levitated an entire ocean with the casualness he would expect from Dazed levitating a pebble. No care that it had bound Ice and Lightning in watery prisons.

They will break free, child. They have struck a terrible blow against themselves but even as two I may not bind them for eternity. Even now they struggle against their binds.

I offer time. My Song will maintain the balance in the absence of the Third but it will not be restored without your aid. Recover the Spheres. I shall protect you.

"I will!" Ash shouted back and hurriedly mounted Plume. Torrent stared longingly at the shadow of Lugia as the Guardian darted deeper into the sea. Dazed allowed herself to be recalled even as Plume shot into the sky and Torrent finally allowed himself to do the same. "Let's go, Plume! Every second counts!"

Plume screamed and shot through the air faster than she ever had before. Ash felt his stomach drop and fought the urge to wretch as she sped up vertically mere feet away from the risen ocean — he could see their reflection in the water that was frozen in his time, albeit as a mere blur.

He held on tightly, although he found himself bound to Plume in a layer of impossibly strong psychic energy. It covered them completely, rendering him immune to the vicious wind and secondary effects of Plume's absurd speeds and Plume free of concern for him.

By the time they had soared above Lugia's walls of water Plume had flown just above the low-hanging clouds. Ash looked around greedily, eager to take advantage of this unique opportunity. He could breathe perfectly, see without any sort of inhibition.

As they skimmed the surface of the ocean — how odd that was when they were thousands and thousands of feet in the air — Ash took in everything he could. Freed of mortal limitations he could truly appreciate all of creation.

A smile played over his face and whatever wounds and injuries he had suffered were soothed as Lugia's power knit flesh back together and restored his body to what it had once been.

If this was how Plume felt whenever she took to the skies he couldn't blame her for flying at every opportunity.

"We're going to have to do this more often!" He laughed to Plume, who lightly cooed back at him with a joyful glimmer in her fierce eyes. "Now let's go!"

Plume shrieked and just a bit of mischief entered her bearing. He couldn't hold back and reflexively let out a cry of surprise when her whole body tensed up and suddenly entered Super Speed. The world was nothing but a blur as she flashed forward as fast as his eyes could track and he let out a wild scream before a grin settled its way onto his face — this was speed! What she'd attained before was nothing more than a pale shadow of this.

He let his torso rise from where it had been stuck to Plume's back and he looked around. It was almost eerie to be up here with no wind, no sound that wasn't from within the psychic membrane.

But he loved it.

Everything else just melted away. His pain, his fear, his worries. All gone as he enjoyed this brief moment of respite. The weight on his shoulders was nothing with Plume bearing him.

Right now he knew he could do anything.

Restore the balance. Protect the world from the warring Birds. Keep those he loved safe.

Fulfill his duty.

The "prophecy" didn't matter — this was his his responsibility as a member of the Indigo Elite Four and, more importantly, as a person.

It was his duty to protect those weaker than himself and fight those who would abuse their power with no regard for others. It was his duty to right the wrongs in the world and balance the scales.

It was his duty to do more good for the world than Giovanni had done wrong.

Then Plume sped up again and everything flooded away. Ash laughed and kept a bright smile on his face until she had finally crossed over the expanse of ocean Lugia had entombed the Birds in and —

His face fell into grim determination. The Feather pulsed.

Moltres flew far beneath them as the prison ended. Tongues of flame trailed behind its terribly weakened form — its obsidian frame was visible to his eyes and the Inferno that normally wreathed about it was almost entirely absent.

Lugia had allowed it to go free — had raised it from the abyss as it emerged.

Why?

He shook himself back into focus. It didn't matter. He'd deal with that when he had to. Right now he was operating on a time limit. Ash's keen eyes caught twin glows behind the walls of water and the outermost layers had begun to tremble as Lugia's hold was contested by Zapdos and Articuno.

"To Articuno's island first!" He directed. Ash blinked in surprise when he actually heard his own voice clearly. Lugia's power worked quickly. "We can deal with the Storm if we have to. The Blizzard is beyond us."

Plume shrieked — it was almost painfully loud in the contained space of the membrane — and dove down to the frozen island. It was practically an iceberg even with its Master bound and a steady white cloud dropped an endless flurry of snow and ice down onto the mountain.

He was grateful for the membrane as Plume dove through the cloud, dispersing large swathes of it with her mighty wings until they shot through and looked down upon the interior of the glacier.

Ash had to admit that he was surprised to see that Articuno's mountain actually bore quite a bit of resemblance to its temple at the Seafoam Caverns. He'd expected little more than rugged ice for the Bird to rest within but instead the interior of the mountain had been carefully shaped at some time.

A massive outcropping of rock had been chipped into a proper perch for the slumbering Legend as the huge gouges ripped into its by Articuno's terrible talons attested to. There were dozens of idols in the Bird's form that adorned the area, each covered in enough ice to almost mimic the real Bird in appearance.

He paused for a moment in respect to whatever beings were devoted enough to brave Articuno's presence in order to build this shrine. They would have suffered terribly in this endeavor.

But he was most interested in the frozen altar that held the largest position of prominence.

Smooth, ice-slicked steps led up to a simple construct of stone, although it was heavy and white with Articuno's element.

A beautifully crafted embodiment of the Titan of Ice stared at him with frozen eyes that seemed almost alive. It was angular and geometric, carved with the same inhuman precision as Lugia's altar at Shamouti.

Ash paused for a moment and bowed his head to the altar before he dismounted from Plume and ascended the steps. A presence filled his heart, cold and regal beyond mortal bounds. It seemed to hover about him and tested Lugia's protections.

When it failed to so much as chill his skin it seemed to give up and receded.

He frowned at that as he stared at the Sphere stuck within the idol's beak. What was this treasure?

Ash shrugged it off. That wasn't his problem right now. The growing howls of the Blizzard that had slowly begun to form over Articuno's island was.

He grabbed the Sphere.

Winter. Cold. Ice.

All concepts he had known of before but he hadn't truly understood until this moment, when he held its very essence in his hand. Every snowflake and drifting shard of ice was part of him, an extension of his very being.

He saw the history of the world in his mind's eye, the first winter to the last.

Winter was his body. Cold was his cloak. Ice was his soul.

Everything before this moment seemed meaningless. Every victory paled in comparison to this understanding. Every sorrow was but an afterthought in the face of his new history. Every love forgotten in the realization of this perfection.

Whiteness filled his vision but he did not need sight. The snowflakes were his hands, the cold his touch.

He was Ice.

He was Ash Ketchum.

Two identities warred.

Blizzard and Boy.

What was he? The Sphere, that which had existed for aeons before it was bound to this place for eternity, a Titan cut off from the freedom of the world? Or the Boy, that which had existed as a blink of an eye in the infinity of the universe, a tiny strand of space and time that would venture forth until he was no more?

He was Ash Ketchum and always would be.

Ash breathed and stared down at the Sphere in awe. What was this? Was it Articuno's spirit or something else?

He ruthlessly quashed the Sphere's will and placed it into his pack. The Feather sluggishly pulsed to life again but he ignored even that familiar heat.

He would not allow the Legends any more authority over him. Not now.

"Let's go," he said tersely as he hurried down the slick steps as fast as he dared. Ash did his best to forget how close he'd come to losing himself to the Sphere. It had been so powerful…he didn't even realize how overwhelming Articuno's will was until its power had already passed. "Lugia can't hold them much longer — I can feel it."

Plume cooed to him as he mounted her and the layer of psychic power bound them together once more. She screamed to the heavens as she flapped her wings and shot into the air without any form of visible effort, eyes fierce as she soared towards Zapdos' massive island.

Ash kept an eye on Lugia's prison, which had begun to dissolve at the sides as Articuno and Zapdos slowly managed to overwhelm the Guardian's hold. Half of what he saw was slowly crystallizing into a thick sheer of ice while the other hissed and boiled as Zapdos' power surged unrelentingly.

That didn't matter even as they passed hundreds and hundreds of feet every second. Plume had already entered Super Speed and there was nothing in the sky that could catch her as she made her way through Zapdos' Storm.

He grit his teeth as they met the first bit of resistance. They were surrounded by blackness and rain and wind and lightning that buffeted and struck them hard enough for Lugia's shield to flash and waver. No lightning had struck them yet despite the absurd amount of it that illuminated the dark clouds around them but he feared that it was only a matter of time.

Taking the Ice Sphere must have enraged them somehow — the Storm and Blizzard had both radically intensified, although that could have been a result of Lugia's own failure to keep them contained. Still, he felt a bit unnerved as the winds picked up and howled loud enough for the din to make itself known through Lugia's shields.

"Keep it steady," he shouted to Plume as he felt the whole world around him shift — the entire sky was suddenly consumed by thousands and thousands of lightning bolts until he was almost blind even behind the powerful shields provided by Lugia. Tiny shocks ran through his body until he was twitching and helpless to control anything other than his thoughts as innumerable blasts of electricity ran about their barrier, leaving nothing but the bitter cut of ozone in his nostrils and eyes filled with white stars.

She shrieked back but he could barely hear over the thunder that rolled throughout the Storm like the angry grumbles of an awakening god, reverberating through his bones and forcing the shield to tremble and waver — he grit his teeth and forced himself to ignore the call of the Ice Sphere.

It was still a haunting call that did its very best to hook its talons into his mind and disrupt the eternal song of Lugia in his heart. The Sphere wanted to be used, wanted the freedom he offered it in its own simple mindset.

Plume screamed and dipped in as controlled of a manner as she could — the Pidgeot's wings were held closely to her side as she dove in an effort to escape the blackness of the Storm.

Ash narrowed his eyes and held on as tightly as he could as the rumbling of the Storm increased in response to a short, sharp cry that heralded the eruption of another thousand lightning bolts that crackled uncontrolled.

A presence grew near. The storm clouds receded, shaped into endless black wings that could engulf the entire horizon should their bearer so desire. Twin eyes of pulsing yellow-white energy stared at him with dispassionate fury as the core of lightning flashed and flickered in the sheets of rain.

Zapdos looked at him. He looked at Zapdos.

Their eyes met.

An electric current raged throughout Ash's body that had nothing to do with the Storm.

He was in the power plant. His friends knelt to the Bird that cocked its head at them with an expression that wasn't quite curiosity. Alien yellow eyes that shone as Lightning personified pulsed with light as the shell of electricity dispersed about it.

Only Infernus stood by Ash's side, a believer in only his own power. And it was with Infernus that Ash first defied a Legend.

It was then that he first saw what Zapdos was. Not a large Bird of blood and bone, feathers and flesh…Stormclouds and Thunder and all the aloofness Lightning regarded earth with from the heavens.

Ash met Zapdos' eyes and the true essence of it flooded his mind.

Zapdos paused and seemed to hang in the air for a moment, distracted. Ash clutched his head with shaking fingers and whispered quick, desperate encouragements to Plume as they darted past the Legend.

The Storm rumbled its discontent and a rain of lightning fell from the skies once more. Ash grit his teeth and glanced back to see Zapdos look upon him once more. Its yellow eyes shone bright enough to be distinguished from its body of lightning and gazed at him with true purpose rather than raw nature.

It knew him now.

Zapdos made a noise that wasn't recognizable as something from a Bird, but something like the din of a hurricane as it made landfall. It extended its massive wings and swooped down at Ash and Plume as they finally made landfall on its black rock.

As he prayed for any sort of respite from the lightning and thunder that tested Lugia's shields over and over again Zapdos swooped and stretched out what could have been talons and —

The Storm was dispersed in a single instant, blown away as it was shattered into tiny wisps of black clouds that struggled to connect to each other once more as a thin beam — probably as thick as Ash's body — shot through Zapdos' elemental cloak and carried all the power of a hurricane behind it.

Zapdos was hurled far away by the blast, its own mastery of wind and rain nothing in the face of the Guardian that appeared bereft of any sort of protection.

Ash spared a moment to glance up at Lugia as it hung above Zapdos' island. It didn't actually fly — it just moved itself with its psychic powers. The Guardian's wings were held tightly to its sides as it regarded Zapdos, whose entire body had been shattered by the force carried behind the blast. It had only just begun to reform from the lightning arcing from cloud to cloud when Articuno made its appearance, the Blizzard raging at Lugia with renewed power in an effort to destroy the one that had interfered with their battle.

This was his chance. He dismounted from Plume when she landed on the very edge of the cliff. that held the small altar. She eyed the battle above with just the hint of fear and a healthy bit of awe in her keen eyes.

He slowed to a cautious walk as he walked out to the altar. The cold stone was slick and he had no desire to lose time getting to the Sphere. Ash didn't have the luxury of the Birds being entombed in the sea anymore. They were active and very real threats right now, especially since they seemed to have a sense of where the Spheres were.

There was no other reason for Zapdos to have actually noticed him. He and Plume should have been nonexistent to the Bird when it had a problem like Lugia to deal with — they could barely survive its Storm, let alone hurt it. Even the bit of power Lugia had invested in their shields would be nothing in comparison to the Guardian itself.

But this time he didn't hesitate, not even as the Blizzard circled around the Guardian and headed straight for him. Lugia had already headed it off and raised the ocean once more around the Blizzard, although that only slowed Articuno for a few moments before it froze millions upon millions of gallons and added the newfound glacier to its cloak.

That was all the time Lugia needed.

As the Blizzard raged toward him the Guardian allowed the power restraining its wings to dissipate. Lugia extended its great wings, white with thick, downy feathers that shone with a luster akin to that of the moon, and flapped once.

Articuno's shriek was nothing compared to the roar of the gale whipped up by Lugia's wings. Ash cried out and sunk to his knees at the sound, which reverberated as loudly as Zapdos' thunder even in the opposite direction.

The Titan of Ice and its Blizzard were effortlessly hurled backwards and were followed by a tidal wave spawned by the winds and larger than anything Ash had ever seen, which engulfed the Bird and dragged it down into the ocean's depths.

Ash rose to his feet and took just the shortest of seconds to gaze upon the altar. It was almost identical to Articuno's aside from the general shape of the idol. The entire work of stone held tiny arcs of energy that danced across the surface in an endless series of jumps and twists.

He grabbed the Sphere.

Spring. Storm. Lightning.

He felt the world through every rain drop that still fell from Zapdos' rapidly recovering Storm, every bolt of lightning that still sought to renew its master. Every cloud that circled and whirled under Lightning — under his influence — was his own.

Ash blinked.

The Sphere struck then in his weakest moment as he overcame the brief moment of unity they shared.

It was terrible. What must have been a hundred lightning bolts of electricity flooded through him so as to let him know the Sphere's essence, to dominate him and subjugate his mortal flesh to its will.

Thunder rolled through his bones as the Sphere shone brightly. It crackled and roiled in displeasure as it felt the dead weight of the Feather's lifeless frame and consumed it, channeling endless amounts of power through it in order to overtake Moltres' own influence.

He collapsed under the strain and fought as best he could against the sheer enormity of the Sphere's will. It wasn't even truly intelligent in its desires — it was just a primal urge to dominate, to control that which was not its own. The Sphere attacked with all the ferocity of a thunderstorm and Ash could scarcely think, let alone banish its electrifying power.

It attacked and attacked without mercy — it didn't even understand the concept. It just saw Ash as an obstacle to its freedom and wanted to remove that obstacle. It was utterly selfish in the way only a force of nature could be, without malice or mercy in its basest thoughts.

When he felt his hands clench of a will that was not his own something within him snapped.

His mind rose up through the storm clouds that had engulfed his spirit and raged, attacking with the raw desperation only a cornered creature new.

He had not fallen to Mewtwo and he would never fall to this Sphere.

If there was one thing that defined him it was his will to survive, to strive past his limits and reach into the impossible.

He would win and he would force this Sphere to acknowledge him as an entity in his own right. He was not just a somewhat autonomous mass of flesh. He knew his right to exist and now he would make the Sphere know it too.

And he did.

The Sphere recoiled as his thoughts and emotion overcame it, driven by the unflinching will that had carried him through much worse than this.

He had died once already. He would not return so soon.

He found himself on the ground, still engulfed in Lugia's power and holding the Sphere in his hand. The cool surface sent a continuous shock up his arm and always tested him in an effort to find itself free to wander once more, although it never pressed its desire against him.

Whatever power remained in the Sphere was coiled and tight, confused. Ash felt that it had never been defied before by anything less than a Legendary. To have its will contested by anything else than a force of nature manifested must have been disconcerting, to say the least.

Ash just scowled at the Sphere and placed it in his pack alongside the Ice Sphere. The two glowed and trembled as they neared one another, although he couldn't tell whether they were attracted or repelled by their opposing element. They finally stopped moving, though, and just pulsed erratically.

He really was tired of these Legends. The threat of Mewtwo had been more than enough for his lifetime and he wasn't eager to see any of the Birds again after this catastrophe. What awe he'd felt for them was still there but it was bitter and jaded now.

The Birds were majestic, beautiful, and powerful. They would always hold a spell over him. But they were as lofty and dispassionate for lesser beings as their own element. With the exception of Moltres they didn't even recognize anything lesser than themselves. They just fought and destroyed at their own leisure.

He'd return them to their slumber and then be done. Ash would have them bound forever to their islands until it was time for the world to feel their power once more, whenever that would be. Thousands and thousands of years, he hoped.

These Titans would never fly free again until Lugia allowed them. And he was more than happy with that. The Birds he'd already encountered were more than enough for the world. Too much, even.

Ash shook his head to focus himself. This wasn't a time to think. This was time to act.

He hurried over to Plume and spared the battle a glance. Articuno had risen with renewed power and had focused all of its considerable power on attacking Lugia. Its Blizzard was actually testing the Guardian now, resisting the psychic beams and massive swathes of ocean Lugia attempted to drown it with in a way Ash hadn't expected — Articuno's power had waxed to the point that it managed to freeze almost all the ocean the moment it touched the Blizzard.

But that wasn't his problem. Not yet anyways. No, his problem was —

Thunder shook the island and if it weren't for Lugia's shield suddenly bracing him he would have been hurled to the ground. Plume shrieked in surprise and barely managed to stabilize herself — it seemed most of the shield had gone to keeping him, the vulnerable human, safe.

Zapdos' scream was drowned in another wave of thunder that rolled through him. The Lightning Sphere hummed and heated as a bolt of lightning lanced and struck near Ash, an event that almost blinded the boy.

He saw the core of lightning moments before it flew over him and razed the world with an unending rain of electricity that scorched the ground and pushed his shield to its absolute limits. Zapdos shrieked and circled again, utterly ignoring the battle between Lugia and Articuno which was quickly becoming one-sided as Lugia fired another one of its absurdly powerful beams that tore the Blizzard apart with the sheer winds it carried with it.

The Titan of Lightning stared at him and opened its terrible, spear-like beak to rage at his possession of the Sphere one last time. Dozens of lightning bolts arced down and attacked his shield, finally disintegrating it as Lugia's focus was split by a stabbing lance from the Blizzard that threatened to engulf the Guardian.

He collapsed as a concussive blast knocked him to his back with enough force to break his ribs and moaned in pain. His vision was blurry with pain and he futilely clutched his hands to his ears as thunder broke the world again, so loud and powerful that he felt himself become deaf in an instant.

A glow passed above him, a Bird of Lightning and Thunder and Storm. Thunderclaps echoed out with every wingbeat and he felt the lightning rage about him more than he saw it.

The Spheres called out for him and in his weakest state he was sorely tested to allow them to dominate his will and possess his body in the merest hopes of survival. A primordial instinct to live reared its ugly head and he had to clutch his head ever harder lest he lose himself to the Spheres' power.

When the heat grew too intense and the ozone seared his nostrils he clutched two orbs.

Ash recoiled from the massive rise in temperature and sense that his very flesh would ignite and opened his eyes.

Twin figures stood beside him, protective of their human as he struggled to rise once more.

Nidoking lent him an arm and snarled up at the blackening sky with rage he'd never seen before as Zapdos wheeled about, dissatisfied with Ash's survival. Infernus was white-hot, barely distinguishable within the cloak of fire and warped air his heat had created around him.

"Thank you," he rasped and clutched his chest as molten heat and coiled electricity fought for dominance. The Feather glowed with renewed life, albeit still meager compared to the furnace it had been before. "Just give me a minute! Lugia can shield me again — Articuno's almost defeated."

Nidoking growled and huddled close to him. Ash quickly found himself pulled beneath the ground-type's powerful arm in a protective manner as the poison-type glared at the rapidly approaching Zapdos with black eyes more hateful than he'd ever seen them.

Infernus stood stock-still. His face was twisted into a terrible snarl and cones of white flame licked out of his cannons as the air warped and twisted around him. No sign of his normal glee for battle was present beneath his fiery cloak, just a restrained grimness that unnerved Ash more than any of his smirks or smiles.

It was these two masters of battle that Zapdos paid no heed to as it flew over and flapped its wings of solid black cloud a single time. Zapdos flew past as it allowed a hundred lightning bolts to spark from its wings and left them for Lugia, which had begun to regain its supremacy over the lone Titan that opposed it.

Zapdos should have waited.

Nidoking shielded Ash with his massive body the moment Zapdos' wings had twitched and clearly meant for Ash to stay just a little away from him so that the current from the lightning wouldn't be redirected into his own vulnerable body.

But that didn't stop Ash from seeing what happened.

Infernus' face twisted into an expression of monumental exertion and his fires flared about him to match.

And then he actually teleported in the midst of this battle of Legends, appearing just beneath Zapdos' terrible form the instant before the rain of electricity fell.

His body hung for an instant in the air, a black silhouette outlined as a brilliant flash illuminated the sky. Ash cried out for his friend as Infernus dispersed and absorbed dozens and dozens of lightning bolts with Air Lens — more electricity than the technique was ever designed for.

Infernus fell, obviously unconscious and probably near death. He was powerful but no mortal pokemon was supposed to bear the power of a Legend alone.

Ash's vision turned red as he recalled the Magmortar and recalled Nidoking after he thanked his first friend with a dip of his head. Nidoking's eyes mirrored the rage he saw and the poison-type's fangs had been exposed in a terrible snarl as several beads of poison leaked from his horn.

Nidoking didn't need telepathy for Ash to know what he was thinking. And Ash heartily approved. They were as one in that moment.

He was going to kill Zapdos.

"PLUME!" He roared to his friend, who had just fluttered over to him. Her entire bearing reflected her sorrow at Infernus' fall. Ash knew that Infernus wasn't her favorite companion but he was family nonetheless. And family was something they all protected. "To Moltres' island. We're ending this now!"

She shrieked and took to the skies. Ash didn't even notice as the shield that still covered her extended to him and slowly began to soothe his pain and mend his wounds.

It didn't matter. What pain he had suffered was irrelevant.

Only one thing in the world made any sort of sense to him any more and that was putting a stop to this madness.

The world rushed around him as Plume flew faster than she ever had — he could scarcely see anything other than great swathes of white and black as Articuno and Zapdos finally worked in tandem against Lugia.

It took less than thirty seconds to reach Moltres' island, which was nearly ten miles off of Zapdos' island and that was with Plume having to evade the clashing elements that had practically sundered the sea with their might.

Ash's eyes were still filled with rage as Plume wheeled around the dead volcano in order to ensure that it was safe. The great torrents of smoke that had belched forth from the mountain earlier had long since been blown away by its kin and master. The volcano's rain of magma was cold and lifeless, frozen over by Articuno's touch.

Only the dimmest of fires still burned deep within the volcano's heart and Ash couldn't find it in himself to fear them. Moltres had been brought to the precipice of death — at least what semblance of death a Legend could experience — and would take more than a few minutes to recover from that terrible blow.

He didn't even feel much more than what might have been heat pouring from the frame of the Feather. It was just a reflection of the volcano in that regard.

Ash gnashed his teeth as his anger continued to roil and write deep within his chest, heedless to anything other than the altar set on a small strip of stone in the midst of the volcano. The only thing that lit the mountain's heart was the weak glow of Moltres at the bottom where it nursed its wounds.

"There!"

Plume was silent as she landed on the last bit of wide, solid ground. Ash hopped off of her and practically sprinted toward the altar, although even his blind rage faltered in the deep rumbling that quaked the earth. The glow pulsed deeper and deeper and a semblance of life flooded back into the Feather, although Ash was tempted to tear it off and hurl it into the volcano at this point.

A cry like the crackling of a wildfire split the air, although it lacked the overpowering qualities of Zapdos' thunderous roars and Articuno's harsh howls. Flames licked the rim of the volcano as the heat exploded, enough to the point that he felt a lick of the high temperature past his shield.

Moltres' wings of fire and smoke paled in comparison to Zapdos' as the Titan of Fire arose from its sanctum, glowing eyes ablaze with the mindless rage that had consumed it. Flames covered the entirety of its body and he had to hold in a breath at the sight of its majesty — he hadn't been able to truly see one of the Birds yet, not when they had released their full power and guarded themselves in their elemental cloaks.

The beauty — the sheer nature of it — checked his own fury for just a few moments as he took in the Titan.

Long wings of golden flame, talons and legs and beak of obsidian that continually melted but somehow retained its expertly crafted shape, a crest of white flame that could burn even Infernus.

Moltres truly was beautiful. Beautiful yet terrible. The majesty of a wildfire mixed with all the knowledge that this being could burn the seas away should it so desire.

And the Bird knew it as well, even lost as it was in the berserker frenzy this clash had reduced it to. It spread its wings and hung in the air, held aloft by the burning air that rose from the volcano's deepest places.

It cried again and blazed on before it settled itself atop its altar, which glowed cherry red at the touch. The Sphere shined and pulsed frantically and erratically, as though it sought to reach out and touch the Bird.

Ash felt himself clench his fists. Moltres' message was clear.

It would not allow him to take the Sphere.

But he couldn't find it in himself to care at the moment. He looked at it again and saw the weakness it had tried so desperately to hide.

The exposed obsidian, the orange-red flames rather than white, the lack of its Inferno to burn him away.

Moltres was at its weakest now, brought lower than any Legend had ever been. Even its counterpart had been stronger when Mewtwo had torn open the sea and cast it into the abyss.

It shrieked and beat its wings angrily as Ash conquered what little fear remained in him and met its deep red eyes.

Nothing happened. No exchange of information, no melding of mind and essence. Just a flood of warmth that couldn't even revive the Feather, which still crackled with Zapdos' energy.

A dangerous smile slid onto his face and he reached down to his belt.

Moltres let loose another cry that sent waves of fire burning through the sky but it did nothing to intimidate Ash or those that had joined him.

Nidoking, Torrent, Dazed, Bruiser, and Tangrowth stood behind him. Oz and Sneasel were only absent because he feared they would evolve in such close proximity to the incarnations of their elements and the Spheres, which was something neither was yet ready for. It would have too many complications and permanently stunt their potential if they evolved now. Seeker was just too fragile for this deadly environment, especially when it seemed that Lugia was too distracted to shield his team.

He broke his hard stare to glance at his friends, all of whom nodded or dipped their head to him to signify that they were ready for anything. Ash could see in their posture that each fought an instinctive urge to submit to the Legend but they did not fall as they had to Zapdos in the power plant.

No, they would not shame themselves like that again. This time they stood strong and followed their trainer's ire, although none could bring themselves to meet Fire's eyes.

"Leave!" Ash shouted to Moltres, whose flaming head cocked at him with just a blur of comprehension. "Let me take the Sphere!"

Moltres shrieked and beat its wings furiously. Shields of shimmering blue appeared around his team to protect them from the heat courtesy of Dazed and they prepared for a confrontation the likes of which they hoped never to see again.

Ash wasn't done.

"Let me leave or I will kill you."

Moltres' rage dimmed and it actually paused. Ash met its fiery gaze unflinchingly.

It seemed to struggle as a bit of intelligence broke through the veneer of primordial instinct that dominated its being. The great wings lowered slightly and its fires cooled and died as its fury finally broke.

A connection formed then. His Feather flared to life for a single instant and Moltres knew him body, mind, and soul.

Fire retreated into the volcano, its presence gone but for a dim glow that drove away the rains and gloom and cold of Articuno and Zapdos as they fled from Lugia in search of their Spheres at the shift.

"Thank you," he muttered to his friends. "Prepare yourselves. You know what's coming."

His family nodded their assent and watched as he made his way across the bridge of blackened stone to the altar, which was as cool and lifeless as though Moltres had never touched it at all.

He grabbed the Sphere, which held a flame that danced and writhed as his hand clutched the impossibly smooth material.

Summer. Inferno. Fire.

 
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