Chapter 54: Victory or Failure?
For being a moment when his fate was completely out of his control, N wasn't feeling as afraid as he had been. There was still some dread of what would happen if he failed, but it no longer seemed as close. His friends were going to come soon, once Rune had found them. While sometimes he wondered if he should worry about them not coming, he felt almost certain that they would. And that gave him hope.
“I’m not sure why I want them to come,” he said, rolling an empty Pokeball he had back to the Zorua. The young Pokemon was eager to play, pouncing for the Pokeball. “It's not just because it'll make this work.”
“It's because you like them, isn't that it?” Pierre asked. “If I get alone, I want to see the rest of you again soon.”
“You act like that if we're gone for more than a minute,” Tock said. “But the idea fits.”
“I'm not supposed to be liking them,” N said. “Their ideas oppose mine, so we should be enemies. But Hilbert talked to me a lot and he's tried to help me. And Hilda, whenever we had a battle, I got the idea that she really loved her Pokemon and they loved her. If more people could be good like that...” his mind caught up to what he was saying, and he shook his head. “But that's a ridiculous idea, of getting to know people because you've been in several Pokemon battles with them.”
“Is it ridiculous?” Zane asked. “I got to know many other Pokemon by battling them. Usually not the ones in the forest because they were easily frightened. But when I traveled around, there were others I learned to respect through battle.”
The Zorua batted the Pokeball back to N. “Battles are fun! There was this one Watchog who thought I was just a foolish child, but then I fought him and he turned out to be not so bad. He even helped me out because he saw that I was determined.”
“You seem a little young to be an avid fighter,” N said, catching the ball before it rolled off.
He got up on his hind legs, waving his paws. “Hey, I'm three months old now! And it's not like I'm obsessed with battles. They're just fun. Me and my friends would spar every day and we're close.”
“What if you get hurt?” N asked. “Battles are a risk.”
“In a good battle, you don't get really hurt,” Zane said. “Sure you might ache for a little while, but it's not a danger.”
To give himself a moment to think, N sent the empty Pokeball after Zane. The Zorua raced after it, even when the Zoroark sent it speeding across the room and it made him slide around as he tried to turn too fast. He smiled for a moment, but then wondered if he should be having a bit of fun in this sacred place. Was it disrespectful? The Dark Stone was quiet still, occasionally sparking repeatedly.
It was supposed to be that they were either friends or enemies. Not friends and they opposed his ideals. Then again, battles could lead to suffering and pain, and yet his Pokemon were not showing any opposition to the Zorua's claim that battles were fun. Could such ideas co-exist? It was so different from how he was used to thinking. Where were things certain?
That should be settled soon. “You're three months old, huh?” N asked as the Zorua chased the empty Pokeball near him. “I'm twenty years old now.”
Putting his paw on the ball to pause, the Zorua looked up at him. “Really? Wow, that's a long amount of time.”
“In the grand system, it's not all that long actually,” Tock said. “I've been living for six years, nine months, seventeen days, eleven hours, forty-two minutes, and three seconds. But that's just a tick to the universe.”
“A year is a really long time to me,” the Zorua said, shifting his weight and losing the Pokeball as a result. He pounced it and ended up tumbling onto his back with the ball in his paws.
Then the sound of shoes on the stone floor and a vague conversation caused all of them to pause. That was surprising; shouldn't one of his Pokemon have noticed people coming into the tower? He turned around and saw himself coming from the direction of the stairs, the one with the scaled arms. There was some strange aura around him, so N shifted back to his mind's eye. When he did, there wasn't a human before him, but a dragon of immense power. It was even more than Kyurem displayed.
“I didn't want to have to come now,” the other N said. “But you told Kyurem to come.”
“He has to come,” he said, pointing to the archway. “He should be able to take care of that.”
The other N walked up to beside him, looking out there. “It's his power that caused it. I might be able to, but my power...” he turned to him. “You made a mistake. But perhaps it is necessary.”
“Maybe I did, but...” he looked at the Pokemon, who weren't sure what to make of another N.
“You'll need to destroy everything in order to create a world that you can be happy in,” he said.
“What kind of nonsense are you talking about?” Zane asked.
“We don't want to destroy anything, much less everything,” Pierre said.
N got up on his feet, but nearly fell off balance. A wave of tiredness came over him. Seeing as the sky was now dark, he realized that he had been in here without really sleeping for a long time. “I don't want that, I know for certain.”
Looking down, the other N said, “I didn't want that. But I have seen how much corruption there is... where it is. It would be better to just start over fresh,” he clenched a fist to his chest, “and while there is much I would change, my power is not yet enough.”
“But your power is greater than any I've felt,” N said, not sure what to make of what he was saying.
“My power?” He smiled bitterly and laughed. “Maybe. You have the potential... fight me.”
His heart began thumping. What chance did he stand trying to fight him? “F-fight you? I don't want to... I don't want to fight.”
The other N raised his hand, creating a white glow. “You should fight, so that I don't feel so bad about killing you. But that is better than letting you continue in your mistake. I'm sure you'll understand.”
“Why do you want to kill me?” N asked, bringing his hands to his chest. How was he supposed to fight? He could only think of two moves, neither damaging. Maybe one could still help.
“So that you don't suffer.” He started to shift his stance, getting ready to attack.
Still, N managed to move quicker by using Flash. The bright light filled the room and for a moment even he couldn't see what was going on. Then the other N's attack went off, a violet burst of lightning that flew right by him harmlessly and hit the wall. While N and his Pokemon were able to blink and clear their vision after that, the other N was squinting, uncertain of where they were.
“N!” At that point, Rune returned, along with Hilbert, Hilda, Kyurem, and a few of the other Pokemon with them. Hilda was the one calling his name. “What're you doing fighting with yourself?” she asked.
“H-Hilda?” the other N asked, startled. “But you, no, this isn't there, but you died, and....”
“I don't know exactly why, but he wants to kill me,” N said.
“At least you broke his mind,” Kyurem said.
The other N narrowed his eyes and pointed at them. “Why did you bring her here?! At this time, she shouldn't be here or she will die.”
“Chill out,” Hilda said, shifting her hat. Being that it was a straw hat and not her usual, it looked a little odd. “I came because I wanted to. Kyurem was the one who had to come.”
“He should not have come to this history in the first place,” he snapped. A red aura started to show on the floor beneath him. “Why did you run away?”
“Because my siblings died and I wanted to find a way to save them,” Kyurem said. “It seems that their power lies within you now, so I have no way to bring them back with you around.”
“Can we solve this without anyone getting killed?” N asked. His other self was shaking with fury. Who knew what he could do if he really lashed out. Not only that, but the aura made him uneasy
Fortunately, that calmed him down, lessening the power building. “Yes, yes, if no one had to die, that would be good,” the other N said, looking down. “But so many have died already. I can't control what I do and the only way for me to get control is to eliminate him.”
“The only way?” Kyurem said, walking up to him.
“What's going on?” Pierre asked.
“I'm not entirely sure,” Zane said.
The other N put his hand on his head, forcing a smile. “I tried to ask the others, but so many of them fell. You, you were a part of the dragon that Reshiram and Zekrom came from?”
Kyurem nodded. “True. I am the shell, the empty circle. I am supposed to be the point of balance, but it seems in a situation like this, I am causing imbalance in this world. That is why I intended to leave the world from here.”
“Kyurem?” Hilda asked in concern, approaching him.
Holding a hand up for her to stop, Kyurem didn't take his eyes off the other N. “I’ve heard your story now. Our world changed. You were a big part of the change, but in the end, you are not the cause. Despite that, you now hold the responsibility to set the world right. And from the scent of you, only you have that power now.”
“I don't know what to do,” he said.
Kyurem then tapped the other N's forehead, making him wince at the contact. “You will know what to do if you allow yourself to think about it. Every legendary Pokemon has a role and they know that role always. It is linked inextricably to their power. But you do need to learn control. I will reduce your power so that you have to learn it like everyone else. Still, you need to return home. I will not be going back.” A blue aura appeared beneath him, only to conflict strongly with the other N's. “Calm down.”
“I'm sure he doesn't mean to hurt you,” Hilda said.
He turned his head towards her, but wouldn't meet her eye. “You're... did you mean to hurt me?”
“She's not,” N started to say that this wouldn't be the Hilda he knew, if he understood this right. But it was so strange. What did they mean by Kyurem's siblings dying? They were certainly alive. But this Kyurem was supposed to be from another time.
But Hilda interrupted before he could speak his mind. “No way. N's one of my friends. Yeah, I might mess with my friends a little, but I wouldn't intentionally hurt them. I'd rather make all of you laugh and have a good time.”
Ghetsis wanted him to succeed, N thought. For that reason, he supported N and pushed him to keep after his goal. Too much so? But Ghetsis had guided much of his life, so if he was wrong, how much of N's life was wrong? Or was this another thing where 'all or nothing' didn't apply?
“What will you be doing, Kyurem?” Hilbert asked, well-timed to distract N from his thoughts. “Because we can't have two of you.”
“There will be only one of us by tomorrow morning,” Kyurem explained. The power lock seemed to have taken affect, as the other N's spirit wasn't as intimidating. “Are you ready to go?”
The other N touched the bracelet on his arm. “I’m not entirely sure how to get back. I was told that I’d figure it out, but it took me so much time to find you...”
“You'd know if you let yourself think,” he said, focusing his attention to the sky above. “But I can call on one who would know exactly how to use them.”
“Wait a sec,” Hilda said, looking to the other N. “N, we need to ask you something. Where did you take Keldeo?”
Hilbert nodded. “Yeah, Cobalion and Meloetta have been searching for him ever since.”
He seemed puzzled that they would ask. “Keldeo? I returned him to a place important to him, I told them. And I restored his power.”
“What do you mean, restored his power?” N asked. And, Keldeo was missing? That was awful.
“He lost his immortality and powers for some reason,” the other N said. “I tried to fix it. I... I don't know how well I really did, but he is alive and he didn't fall to my power. I would know if he had.”
“If you affected his power, then where is he?” Kyurem asked. “At this moment.”
“At this... moment?” He closed his eyes and thought.
In the meantime, a shadow appeared from overhead. N looked up and briefly saw an enormous dragon with four legs and a long neck; a pearl blue orb sat on its chest. Then he disappeared, reappearing in a smaller form close to them. It was much like what he had just been, only five feet tall instead of fifty. “You've found what you were looking for,” he said.
“Yes.” Kyurem bowed his head to the blue dragon. “Thanks for coming, Dialga. We need your help to send him back home. I can resolve the imbalance here.”
“Good. But are you sure sending him back is wise?” Dialga leaned closer to the other N. “I can no longer remember what happened in that history, but the last few memories I have turned very dark.”
“He's the only one that can do anything there,” he pointed out.
“Keldeo,” the other N said, still with his eyes closed. “I sense him in Unova. But if you were to look, you would not find him. His power is submerged as his spirit heals from what he went through. His memory should emerge naturally in a little while, at least a year. Then and only then will anyone be able to recognize him.” Then he looked at them. “I hope that helps... oh?” He saw Dialga and cringed.
“It's time for you to go home,” Dialga said. “We hope that you can set things right there.”
“Well...” he sighed, then nodded. “Was I only causing trouble here? I wanted to make things better.”
“Start at home,” Dialga said, then vanished with the other N.
“What's going on?” N asked, looking at the others. “I was wondering for a while if he was just a vision I had once.”
“Hilbert?” Kyurem asked, but more as a prompt for him to answer instead of an actual question. Maybe; it seemed an odd thing to do to N.
Still, his brother hesitated before saying, “There was a danger in an alternate history. This Kyurem came back to make sure Hilda didn't die. It would have led somewhere terrible.”
She smiled, seemingly not troubled at hearing that. “But I’m still here and alive. So Rei, this is why you said goodbye earlier?”
He nodded. “I had to leave at some time. Is it a problem?”
“Well I'm going to miss you,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “But if your memories will pass on to your other self, then you won't be entirely gone. You'd better get going so that the other two aren't kept hanging any longer.”
“Oh right, I asked Rune to get you to get rid of that barrier,” N said, pointing to the archway.
“That won't be an issue,” Kyurem said. Strangely, his body glistened as if he had been out in the rain. “You three had best take this time to settle things between you. If you can see the barrier, then you will know when it is down. Goodbye.” Then he closed his eyes, his body and clothes turning white rapidly. Before long, there was nothing but a pile of snow and a bright spirit where he had been standing. His spirit then passed through the gate, making it shine light blue.
Hilbert then turned to him. “You look pale again. I bet you didn’t bring any food or water up here, right? You’ve really got to take better care of yourself.”
“I didn't think I'd be here this long,” N said. “But I did have some water. I used up the last of it making sure all of my Pokemon were taken care of.”
“I have some lemonade,” Hilda said, bringing out a aluminum can and opening it up for him. “Here.”
N took it and drank most of it in one go. “Thanks. But what are you doing here?”
“What do you think?” Hilda said, smiling. “I came to see you both awaken the dragons.”
“Even with this talk about you dying?” N asked. Not that long ago, he had been afraid of leaving this tower.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said. Then she flicked his hat back, causing it to hang upside-down by his ponytail.
“She’s the one chosen by Kyurem, so she could get in here too,” Hilbert said. “You had the right idea in that we needed all three of them here. I was going to just wait until you were done. Sorry we didn’t figure that out earlier.”
“It's good to know for certain that was why she wasn't responding,” N asked, fixing his hat. “I was starting to think that, maybe I wasn’t worthy.” He shuddered. “But I have to be, or all that I’ve done, my whole life, it will be worthless.”
“Aw, come on,” Hilda said. “You’re not worthless, even without Zekrom. I mean, you can talk to Pokemon and understand them! Do you know how many people have dreamed of being able to do that? I have, for one. There’s so much you can do to help others just by using that.”
“And you’re smart too, so you can certainly make a difference in the world,” Hilbert said.
“Maybe,” he said, looking back at the archway. The ice was still there. “But since they will be awakening, we will have to fight for our beliefs, Hilbert.” He looked to his brother.
“Do we have to?” he asked. “We managed to settle things with that cr...that future version of you without much violence. We can talk this out reasonably.”
“Weren't you thinking all about that earlier?” the Zorua asked, coming back to N's side.
N sighed. It had to be the Zorua to say that, a Pokemon that Hilbert would easily understand. “But that doesn't count,” he said. “That was just me trying to figure things out. I don't want Pokemon to be hurt by humans anymore and separating them will make absolutely sure that it no longer happens. I know that for certain, and I still believe that it will work.”
The Zorua turned his ears down. “Separate humans and Pokemon? But you're so cool! I don't know about this; it doesn't sound fun.”
“How many Pokemon have you asked about that?” Hilda asked. “Have you asked any of them if they'll miss bacon? Or ice cream? Or anything else that we humans make or do for them?”
While he knew Hilda was odd from time to time, this still seemed out there to N. “Bacon? That's frivolous, small matters. We need to focus on the large issues.”
“Kyurem would miss bacon terribly,” she said.
“Well that might be small, but there are larger things like companionship and love that will be taken away with that kind of separation,” Hilbert said.
“But talking about this doesn't prove how strong your ideas are,” N said. “If we settle this matter with Reshiram and Zekrom at our sides, then it will prove without a doubt which side is better. Then everything will be clear and no one can be confused about it anymore.” Especially not himself.
“Must it come to this?” Hilbert asked. Then, with some reluctance, he nodded. “All right, if that's what it will take to convince you. But not now.”
“Why not now?”
“You've been up ever since yesterday morning, haven't you?” Hilda asked, checking on something in her item storage device. “Maybe you're hitting a second wind, but you and your Pokemon need to be in good shape.”
“Well..” that might be. He did have trouble getting to sleep the night before he came here.
“How about we meet in one week at Victory Road?” Hilbert suggested, looking between them both. “The, the eleventh. We'll settle things then.”
“That sounds good,” she said, nodding. “You like that?”
They were giving him time to prepare? N hadn't wanted to waste time. But, having a certain date felt right. He would have until then to be with his Pokemon friends and settle things with them. “That sounds good. I'll meet you at Victory Road, then... no, past it. You'll see me at the Pokemon League stadium.”
“Kyurem's done breaking the barrier,” Rune said, flying closer to them to make sure N and Hilbert heard him. “The other two are waiting.”
“It's time, then,” Hilbert said, turning to the archway. “Let’s call them here by name.”
“If you think only that will work,” N said, glancing at the two stones. They were already moving ahead. Anticipation began to build in him again, more excited than he had been earlier. This was the moment he'd been waiting for...
“Wait!” Hilda said. Without any more warning than that, she bounded over and hugged N.
“Gah! What?!” He wasn't sure how to respond, although Hilbert ended up snorting with laughter.
She let go of him, stepping back and giggling. “I think there's something else to be said first. Happy birthday, N!” She took out a cube-shaped tin that had a scene of Pokemon in a forest printed on the sides and top, then pushed it into his hands without letting him refuse. “I didn't know when I'd get to see you, so I got you a bunch of candy. And I got one for you too, happy birthday, Hilbert!” She then went over to him with another tin when N took his.
“Oh thanks, I'm surprised you remembered that,” Hilbert said, accepting a hug from her too.
“Silly, it's on your fanpage,” she replied. “Just don't eat it all at once.”
Candy was really frivolous; little nutritional value and it was only for consumption. Did that kind of small happiness make for an appropriate gift? It did seem like something worthy, a show that one cared about another. “Thank you for thinking of us,” N said. “I'll try at least one.”
“I'm sure you'll like them,” Hilda said, cheered by that.
So it didn't really take much to make another person happy. This would definitely need some consideration. But for now, “Are we ready to get back to the matter at hand?”
She rolled her eyes. “Okay, I'm done.” She then turned to her Scrafty and whispered something to him. In response, the Pokemon lightly bumped her nose with his fist.
After setting the tin in his own bag, he looked back at the archway. “Then let's show everyone the strength of our beleifs.” If he ignored the words of any others, even Ghetsis, and focused on wanting to stop others on being hurt, even making them happy in peace, he felt a great confidence return to him. “Zekrom, you’ve heard my pleas; come to me!”
“Reshiram, awaken and help me spread the truth to the world,” Hilbert called.
At that moment, three spirits came through the archway. Two returned to the floating stones while the third went to Hilda’s side and stayed there. The Light Stone and the Dark Stone moved away from the group, growing and changing. And then, both Zekrom and Reshiram appeared, side by side in front of the archway.
The two of dragons spoke, but to his disappointment, Hilbert couldn’t understand them either of them. Although thinking on it, he shouldn't have been surprised. He hadn't been able to hear Dialga earlier.
N stepped forward to reply. “It was a lot of trouble. But it’s fine. You’re both here now.” Then he stumbled and nearly fell over again.
“Hey N, be careful,” Hilda said, catching him. “You'll get knocked over by a stiff breeze as you are. Zekrom, would you mind taking care of him? Make sure he eats something and gets a nice long rest.”
Zekrom replied in a tone that seemed half amused and half concerned. After bowing his head, N recalled his Pokemon, picking up the Zorua before climbing onto Zekrom's back. She then flew off the tower with him, to the east. With him in the dragon's care, he should be fine. She might even get him to a place where the others in Plasma couldn't find him easily.
Reshiram watched them fly off, then surrounded himself in light. After a moment, he reappeared as a human. He was tall, like a brawny man with long full white hair. He wore a crisp white long coat and pants, along with a red belt that flicked like fire and faintly resembled his tail. He wore no shoes, but did have a thin scarf with winged ends. “They’ll be fine,” he said.
So far, so good. Feeling relieved, Hilbert came forward. “Reshiram, it’s good to meet you in person. I hope that you’ll be able to help me.”
Reshiram nodded. “You have been faced with many harsh truths in recent days. They were not easy to face, but you have accepted them, even considering what they mean. You are truly worthy of being my hero. N's heart makes him worthy as well, however,” he put his hand to his chin, “he still has much to learn, including breaking the hold of his illusions. But we have watched you both and agreed that this is for the best. He won’t accept truth until we defeat him. And given the potential you both have, we are willing to participate in this battle for the sake of helping him.”
“See, I told you,” Hilda said to Hilbert. “It's going to be fine.”
Hilbert smiled and nodded. As the dragon of truth didn't seem worried, he saw no reason to stress over it much longer. “Right.”
“Although,” Reshiram then turned to Kyurem’s spirit. “We weren’t expecting you to go as far as to destroy yourself in order to save us.”
“It’s what had to be done,” Kyurem said, cool and practical as always.
“Which makes you the big hero this time around,” Hilda said, sounding proud and happy.
“Then what will you do now?” Reshiram asked.
“It would be unwise for me to reform myself in this world,” he said. “And yet, I can no longer return to my own home time. I will go find myself here and transfer my memories into him. If it works out, I will be absorbed into him, and balance will return here.”
“That seems reasonable,” Reshiram said. “Don’t worry; we will handle things from here.”
“I trust you.” His spirit moved closer to Hilda. “Well, this would be goodbye, until my other self awakens and remembers me.”
“I’m going to miss having you around, but I’d better not hold you back,” Hilda said, staying cheerful. But Hilbert could feel her sadness at losing a dear friend. “Goodbye. I hope I do get to see you again.”
“Me too.” Then Kyurem’s soul flew off into the night, seeking his other self.
Since she no longer had a flying Pokemon, Hilda called up her Mom on the Xtransciver to let her know that things had worked out. She then checked into a hotel in Iccirus, as she was feeling tired after going up and down the tower. Still, she was uneasy. Without the presence of Kyurem watching out for her, she felt vulnerable. But she couldn't let that get to her. It wasn't like her to be afraid of something like that. So she brought out her other Pokemon to keep her company.
“Hey guys, I've got big news for you,” she said.
“What, that we get to kick someone's butt tonight?” Fedora asked.
She grinned. “No, although that would be fun. Kyurem let me understand you guys like N does.”
“What, really?” Tarzan asked, looking surprised.
“That's wonderful,” Olette said, sounding as soft and gentle as Hilda always imagined her 'voice' being like. “I don't have much to say, but,”
“Ooo, that's going to be lots of fun!” Mimi squealed, jumping up on the bed and hugging her. “Now you can be part of conversations for real reals!”
“So you get all Pokemon now too, huh?” Frank asked, putting his hand to his chin. When she nodded, he added, “The world's going to get a lot noisier for you, believe me. At least some sensible human can actually talk with us now.”
“And we can really plot out stuff now, like bridge jumping!” Tarzan said.
Hilda laughed. “Oh yeah! But nothing that would get us all killed now, bud.”
Mimi kept a paw on her shoulder, but looked around. “That's nice, but where is Daddy?”
This wasn't going to be easy, but it had to be said. Hilda took her paw. “Kyurem's gone now. He came to make sure that I would survive an important event, and that his siblings had a chance to defend themselves from danger. Since his job is done, he had to leave.”
She lowered her ears and sat down. “Really, he's gone? But I was going to stay with him for adventures.”
“He's not going to be gone forever,” Olette said. “Your heart will find him again, in the future.”
“That's right,” Hilda said. “Besides, you remember that other Kyurem we met, the one that was really cranky? Our Kyurem went to meet with him and let him know everything that's been going on. And he might decide to come back to us once he's done with that. But who knows? It could be a few months wait.”
“That's sad,” Mimi said. “But, I can stay with you all, right? Cause I love you all too and I'd be really sad if I had to leave because Daddy's gone.”
“Of course you can stay with us,” Hilda said, messing with her fur. “As long as you want to stay, I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind.”
“Yeah, can't leave you out of our gang,” Tarzan said, nodding. “Maybe Kyurem has important stuff to do... gonna miss that big grump. But we're going to stick together to the end, right everyone?”
“That's the spirit,” Hilda said, cheering up immensely as her other Pokemon agreed. “Well it's late and I'm tired. But Reshiram and Zekrom are awake now, and it's getting closer to the final showdown. We've got to really work together now and show N that it's better that we all stick together as friends should. Then we can taunt Kyurem for missing out on the big event!”
Besides, it would be a real shame if her new gift of language was rendered useless.