(Epilogue of Episode VIII)
"What's wrong?" Zerobi asked as Lucario exited the rocky passage. She had stood outside and waited patiently ever since he had gone in, not sure of what was going on and definitively not looking to get into a fight with the most powerful beings on Earth.
"These legendaries are starting to piss me off," Lucario responded bitterly with a grouchy expression, "I regret ever coming here in the first place."
Sympathy filled Zerobi as she sighed out loud. She had initially looked forward to coming here as it meant meeting so many legendaries, but they had turned out to be less spectacular than she had hoped. After that she had stuck around to be able to see Lucario again, but the atmosphere between them was thinning out in favor of complete and utter boredom. The only good part about all this, she knew, was that it would be a perfect time for her to share her secret plan.
"Hey…" Zerobi whispered as a very sinister smile crossed her face, "… Wanna do something crazy?"
"What?" Lucario asked, the words 'kill everyone' appearing in his mind.
"You said you know how to remove your aura, and I never had one to begin with…" Zerobi continued whispering, before looking around to make sure no one was listening, "How about we sneak out, ditch this island and go someplace nice?"
"I'm liking it…" Lucario responded almost immediately without giving it any extra thought. Anything was better than staying here, waiting for the moment when Lugia decides to kill him, Mesprit decides to emasculate him again or he simply snaps and starts throwing Aura Spheres in everyone's faces. The more he thought about Zerobi's plan, the better it seemed.
"… Wait, it's perfect!" Lucario shouted as the realization suddenly hit him, "We'll go help Mew!"
"Huh?" Zerobi exclaimed in confusion, "… Mew?"
"She's gone to No Man's Land to see Zoroark, who I've already met and talked to," Lucario explained as he felt his spirits rising once more, "I promised to help solve the issue between humans and Pokémon, and I'm not accomplishing anything by just sitting here!"
"You know, I can't but notice that every other word out your mouth is Mew-this and Mew-that," Zerobi muttered with a tinge of jealousy in her voice, "Why do you even care?"
"… I think Lugia might have told Mew a great deal of lies about me," Lucario muttered bitterly before his newfound determination told him that there was still a way for him to fix everything, "I've got to set things straight, or I'll never live it down. Oh, and patching things up with Zoroark wouldn't hurt… Maybe say hello to that guy Alfred, or whatever his name was…"
"… I don't know…" Zerobi mumbled. She had hoped for the two of them to be alone and maybe even settle down somewhere, not wander around and risk their lives for a cause she didn't really care about.
"Come on, traveling with you is so much fun!" Lucario said earnestly as he suddenly grabbed a hold of Zerobi's shoulders, "Let's go out and see the world together! You and me, just like old times!"
"… All right," Zerobi answered after a few moments, wondering why she suddenly felt so reluctant to go along with her own plan. It wasn't exactly what she had hoped for, but it was definitively better than sitting in a cave until they die from old age. She knew it would be the perfect opportunity for them to get closer, but was also starting to wonder if anything was ever going to happen between them. If Lucario really was as incapable of love as he claimed to be, she would be wasting her time for nothing. She needed assurance.
"YES!" Lucario shouted triumphantly, withholding the urge to leap into the air out of joy at the last moment, "Oh, right. Sneaking. How are we getting off this island, anyway? I saw that storm up close on the way here, we'll drown for sure!"
"Give me a minute and I'll handle it," Zerobi replied confidently, already having figured out the best solution to both that problem and her own, "Let's meet up here in a while. And yeah, pack your things discretely. You never know, they might try to keep us here if they find out."
Half an hour later, Lucario found himself alone at their designated meeting spot. He had actually been sitting there and waiting the entire time, having quickly realized that he had nothing to pack but a worn-out cloak which would not be needed anymore. Traveling with the very handy Mew meant that he hadn't needed to carry anything with him, and he silently prayed that Zerobi had brought some supplies lest they were forced to sleep on the hard ground without any protection from the rain.
"Are you ready?" a familiar voice suddenly came from behind, one that Lucario had not expected.
"Celebi!?" Lucario asked, standing up in shock as he saw the green fairy hovering behind him. His mind raced with many thoughts, wondering if she had come to put a stop to his and Zerobi's plan.
"Dampen your aura and follow me," Celebi whispered as she waved him over, "Sis is waiting!"
Lucario sighed in relief as the two of them moved through the cave, making sure that no one saw them. Mesprit had yet to come back from the passage that led to Lugia, and Moltres was sleeping soundly in a corner, so it was a fairly simple task. Lucario knew Uxie would erase his aura automatically, but still kept it low so they would not be discovered once they exited his area of effect.
They had made it all the way through the slanting passage to the world above ground before Celebi finally broke the silence. Having floated behind Lucario all this time, she had felt bored and scanned his body to pass the time, only to make a horrifying discovery.
"Wait… Your back…" she spoke quietly before raising her voice, "… You've been wounded! What happened!?"
"Huh?" Lucario exclaimed, wondering what she was talking about. He let a hand drift over his back, and noticed that it felt sore for some reason.
"Oh… Must be from Mesprit slamming me into the wall earlier," Lucario muttered, having completely ignored his physical damage in favor of how badly she had hurt his pride.
"… I see," Celebi responded with a depressed tone, somehow feeling bad for both Lucario and Mesprit, "Please, do not hate her for it."
"Won't be a problem, it's really not that painful," Lucario said, thinking to himself that he had plenty other reason for hating the oppressive legendary.
"She might seem a bit uptight, but that's because she's still young," Celebi explained as she remembered her own thoughts and disposition before she had matured, "I believe both Mew and I were the same around her age."
"… The same, eh?" Lucario muttered, vividly remembering a particular altercation between him and Mew that had resulted in her immobilizing him with her psychic abilities, "… Never would've guessed."
Celebi soared ahead and created a minor barrier to shield them from the rain as a very nasty thought hit Lucario. Celebi's response had sounded like she was defending Mesprit's actions, and he began wondering if she secretly harbored animosity for him as well. His short but devastating visit to the legendaries had made him far more paranoid than before, his memory of Ivy's unexpected and devastating betrayal burning stronger in his mind than ever before. He really wanted to believe that Mew and Celebi were truly his friends, but could not help but start wondering if there was anyone at this point he could really trust. The only one that even came close was Zerobi, and he hoped that she would never turn out to be hiding skeletons in her closet.
"You're coming with us?" Lucario asked, hiding his reluctance as he was yet unsure of her allegiances.
"Well, no…" Celebi responded sadly, "I thought I might use this opportunity to talk to an old friend who lives over in Viridian Forest! It is nearby, but not in your direction…"
They walked out into the rain, the barrier shielding them well from the elements. Since Celebi was here with him, Lucario wondered if Zerobi was currently alone out in the storm without protection. He remembered her liking the cold, but wondered if the same could be said for strong winds and wetness.
Meanwhile, Celebi was busy preparing herself for what was to come. She had never done anything even remotely like it before, but had promised that she would at least try. There was much riding on it, and she knew it to be was her most important duty as a sister.
"So, Lucario…" Celebi suddenly said, trying to sound innocent as they moved along, "… How are you?"
"Good, I suppose," Lucario responded and wondered what had brought that question on, "How are you?"
"… So, Lucario…" Celebi repeated awkwardly as she mustered up all her courage, "Do you… Do you think you could learn to… Love a Pokémon?"
Lucario stopped as he looked at her for a moment. Then, he started laughing out loud.
"HAHAHAHAHAHA!" Lucario laughed as he held his sides, "Sorry, sweetie, I think I'm a little too big for you!"
"N-No! Not me! Not…" Celebi protested while wildly flailing her arms around a bit before calming down, "… Just… Hypothetically."
"MAN! Why's everyone going on about this, all of a sudden?" Lucario asked jokingly before his expression suddenly turned darker, "… Bloody Lugia. What did he tell you?"
"… Lugia? Why would he have anything to say about this?" Celebi asked with a confused look on her face, realizing this conversation was not going as smoothly as she had hoped, "Did I say something wrong? I am sorry, I am not too familiar with this subject."
"No, it's OK," Lucario replied while waving his hand in a dismissive gesture. He knew what it felt like to be judged by other people for saying something stupid, and decided to ignore the whole thing for her sake.
"So…" Celebi continued after a short moment of silence, "… Could you learn to love a Pokémon?"
"… Why do you want to know?" Lucario asked with a sigh, realizing that she had no plans on letting up.
"You are the only human Pokémon in existence," Celebi explained, saying what she had planned out beforehand to hide her true motive, "I am curious about many things regarding you, and this is one of them!"
"In that case, no," Lucario said bluntly as he resumed walking, "I used to be human, so if I'm looking for love I won't find it in a damn Pokémon. There, there's your answer."
"But… You are no longer human," Celebi insisted as she followed behind him, impressed to see him moving in the right direction, "Will you live life without ever pursuing love?"
"… Well…" Lucario mumbled as he thought to himself, suddenly looking back at Celebi and smiling, "I guess I could join you and Mew in celibacy, no?"
"But… Our situations are vastly different!" Celebi responded with indignation, shocked and appalled that he had even suggested it, "We physically cannot, or we would die! In your case, you simply do not want to!"
"… Actually, it's not even that," Lucario said quietly as he looked forward again and continued walking, "I… Just don't feel like it."
Bewilderment clouded Celebi's features as she tried to determine what he meant. Her decision regarding relationships had always been made for her, and so she had no idea why anyone would willingly reject what was apparently the greatest experience in life. For a moment she felt a little better about herself. There were those that were capable of love but choose not to pursue it, and that meant she wasn't as alone in her predicament as she had once thought.
"What do you mean?" Celebi asked as Lucario scratched his head in annoyance.
"Argh, I don't even know…" Lucario muttered angrily, "I used to be human, and just thinking about getting together with a Pokémon is so taboo I should probably check into a mental institution."
A stifling feeling was beginning to spread through him as he explained himself. He stopped for a moment and looked down, once again forced to remind himself that he was not who he thought and felt he was.
"But… I'm a Pokémon now, and will forever be," Lucario continued has his angry tone dissipated into one of sorrow, "If I wanted to be with a human now… That would be what's crazy, no?"
It felt unfair, and he sighed as he realized there were some things he would never come to terms with.
"See? I don't have an answer," Lucario said as he gave off a dissonant smile and looked at Celebi, "I'm the one who needs love counseling, not you."
"… Then perhaps I can set you up with some manner of… Love counseling?" Celebi responded carefully, going through her memory to see if she knew anyone who would be up to the task.
"Just… Stop right there," Lucario groaned as he held his hands up in front of him, "I can tell you're doing all this on someone else's behalf."
"Ah!" Celebi exclaimed, surprised at finally having been found out and cursing herself for pressing too hard, "How… How did you know?"
"Wild guess," Lucario muttered with sarcasm, "Next time you see him, tell him he's so high up on my hate-list I'm putting his name as the header AND footer for every page."
"… Him?" Celebi repeated, wondering who he was referring to but swiftly using it to cover up who had really asked her, "Um, yes. I will do that."
They continued chatting, Lucario being careful about what he said from that point on. He was still a bit worried over whether Celebi genuinely liked him or not. At a first glance she seemed to, but he knew that she had defended Mesprit's actions before carrying out Lugia's request, and could just as easily turn on him if he explained the situation more clearly.
After a few more minutes the two of them reached the edge of the island. Seeing anything in the raging storm was quite difficult, but the sound of Zerobi's voice ahead told Lucario that he had come to the right place. He could hear another voice talking to her, one he recognized but had not expected. The closer he got, the clearer and more familiar the large, yellow figure became.
"… The refreshing northern cold, it's just way too hot everywh…" Zerobi's voice sounded as she suddenly peaked out from behind the yellow bird, "… Ah, there you are!"
"Yo," Lucario said to Zerobi before looking up at Zapdos, "And… Yo."
"Heard you ticked off pops," Zapdos said with a grim expression as Celebi flew up to Zerobi. The two sisters moved to the side and started whispering to each other as Zapdos' face suddenly lightened up.
"Hey, I don't blame you, he can be a bit stubborn at times," Zapdos said with something like a smile across her beak, "Listen, don't take it personally. He really hates that name, you know."
"What name? You mean… Sneaky bastard?" Lucario asked, thinking back to what else he had called the humongous legendary.
"Hahaha! Not THAT name, your name!" Zapdos laughed before her face became a bit more serious, "Wait, you KNOW about the trainer Ethan, right?"
"Of course!" Lucario responded, finally realizing what she had meant.
"He and pops had a bad tussle way back when," Zapdos explained while reminiscing, "I don't remember exactly why, I was just a lil' nestling… But mention that name to him, oh boy, that gets him riled up! Tressie and I used to do it every day!"
"I don't think my name's the reason he hated me," Lucario replied, suddenly very glad Mew had been smart enough not to disclose his past. He did not need more reasons for Lugia to want him dead. Still, he could not help but wonder if their apparently troublesome past had something to do with their current loathing for each other.
"No, of course not," Zapdos said as she snapped out of her dreamlike state, "Oh, well. Can't win 'em all over, can ya? Either way, you'll always have a friend in me."
"Yeah…" Lucario answered, suddenly feeling ashamed about his earlier fit of rage which had more or less included Zapdos as well, "… Listen, I'm sorry about leaving. You've been nothing but great to me, it's just that…"
"Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do…" Zapdos said as she turned her head and looked off into the distance, "… Say 'hi' to Mew for me."
With that, the thunderbird flew off into the night. Lucario turned around to see that Celebi and Zerobi had finished their whispering, both of them giving him a curious stare which made him feel uncomfortable. After making sure that they were ready, Celebi used her Miracle Eye to instill a temporary aura upon Zerobi, a sensation she reluctantly described as "very tingly". Celebi then lifted the two of them with her psychic abilities, Lucario keeping hold of Zerobi as a safety precaution just in case anything should happen. Unbeknownst to anyone but himself, he saw it as a safety precaution on his part as well, as Celebi would have to drop both of them into the ocean if she wanted to get rid of him. Together, they soared up into the sky and over the water.
Lucario smiled, eager to finally be leaving the island that had caused him so much inner turmoil and doubt. He knew that he would once again be treading into dangerous and unpredictable lands with nothing to protect him but his own legs and fists, but felt that whatever the future had in store for him it would not be worse than having to question the legitimacy of his own friends. Pokémon or not, they were all he had.