The First Move
Night fell greedily as Mew and the others soared together over the glistening sea to Hoenn's east, their destination a small archipelago far out in the waters, past even the island where the humans' Ever Grande City lay, a formation known as the Stellar Isles. The islands had been over the years a refuge for many Legendary Pokémon who found themselves out of their elements; there were many landmasses, some large and some small, and each of them seemed to imitate a different biome. Though none reached extremes like icefields or deserts, there was at least one island there that could meet the needs of any Pokémon, elemental or otherwise, who would reach them. It was over these miniature habitats that the Lieutenants flew, passing over several of the smallest, outlying spits of land and to the few central isles, which were bigger and played host mostly to temperate forests with a hint of some slightly more lush vegetation.
They could not miss the great white form lying among the tree of one island: an enormous, winged Pokémon with along neck, sleek body, and sharp angles drawing together to form his crested head. This was Lugia, lord over currents and storms; at the moment he appeared to be in a sleep, his broad blue-shaded chest and underbelly rising and falling slowly as Jirachi, Mew, and Celebi touched down beside him. The stars seemed to glint knowingly as Mew approached the Diving Pokémon, as if they were sending some signal piercing through the darkness which had so ravenously swallowed the daylight.
Celebi noticed the stirring first. "Watch out!"
In a blur, Lugia swept his colossal wing at Mew in a backhand motion and struck her with devastating force. Allowing herself to be knocked back, Mew moved to her previous position beside Celebi and Jirachi as Lugia sprang up from the ground with a roar, whipping up a great gust, and they could see that the Pokémon's eyes were blank; solid white in color. Loosing a cry that sounded like a tornado dismantling a protesting metal structure, Lugia began to charge golden energy in his mouth, the action accompanied by a strong humming sound.
"We never catch a break," muttered Jirachi, and Lugia fired the Aeroblast.
A shaft of concentrated light bright as the sun erupted from Lugia's gaping maw, searing away the very air like lightning. Calmly, Mew moved in front of the screaming laser of undiluted elemental force and drew back one tiny arm; as the light reached her, she swung at it and simply batted it away. The beam was redirected with a snap as if refracted by an unseen prism, and it shot harmlessly away into the heavens.
"Is the Reverse Moon causing this?" Celebi glanced upwards.
"It must be," said Mew. "If he wasn't in control of his actions, he wouldn't have come here."
With another piercing shriek, Lugia again readied an Aeroblast, this time holding onto the energy much longer, until it had built up into a great sphere floating before his mouth that all but obscured him from view.
Lit yellow by the glow of the energy, Celebi was as calm as ever. "We need to stop him without doing any real harm."
"Let's just hit him with the next one he sends at us," said Jirachi.
It was an array of golden energy streams that leapt from Lugia as he released the amassed power; the many lances of flight fanned out to sear gashes in the surrounding earth before converging into a far more intense, single laser-like focus of energy which rushed with a howl towards the Lieutenants. As it reached them, the three conjured a combined force field which caught the beam and directed it back the way it came. The energy struck Lugia in the chest and knocked him over backwards, and he was unconscious before he hit the ground.
Jirachi sighed. "So, teleport him back to the Hall?"
Before Mew or Celebi could respond, all three felt an aura of power descend on the area, manifested as increased pressure in the air, and they were instantly alert. A tense moment passed, and then around Lugia there appeared three figures, one after the other, each crouched slightly as if landing from a great leap. Together the straightened and raised their piercing eyes to the Lieutenants.
They resembled humans in every respect, but the energy that radiated from them like heat made it perfectly clear they were not. The first, who stood loosely with his hands in the pockets of the white garment he wore, had bright blue, spiky hair and jack-o'-lantern orange eyes which in the darkness seemed to glow, and a confident smile. The second's hair was short and dark red; he was himself slightly shorter and less lithe than the first figure, though still slender. His own faintly luminous eyes were lit crimson, and he had a wholly serious look. The third, however, wore a derisive sneer on his face. He had hair black as midnight that was slicked back and on the longer side, and mismatched eyes: one a dark gray, not quite black, and the other green.
The second, flame-haired human lookalike spoke first, his voice level and commanding. "Greetings, Lieutenants of Arceus. My name is Magus."
"I'm Grey," said the first with a laugh. "A pleasure to meet such tasty food!"
"Renzan," said the last of the three shortly.
"So we know your names. What are you?" challenged Celebi. "Why are you here?"
Magus spread his arms. "We are what you see. We're here…" He indicated the fallen Lugia. "To take this one with us."
Mew advanced. "We don't let you do that."
"Like you have a choice," scoffed Grey while Renzan laughed, an unpleasant sound. "No need to fight you. You three are already dead."
The three beings closed in on Lugia. Immediately Mew rushed at them, but before she made it halfway, they vanished in a blur, and Lugia with them. The strange pall in the air cast their energies was lifted in that instant as well; they were gone as quickly as they had arrived, like shadows melding with the darkness and disappearing into the nights.
* * *
Back in the Hall of Origin, Arceus's frown deepened as Celebi recounted what had transpired, and when Celebi reached his conclusion—their decision to return to the Hall rather than search for the other Legendaries—he did not respond immediately. He only stood in silence, allowing a terrible quiet to stretch within the chamber's marble-esque walls. At length, he spoke.
"I am…disappointed. I cannot understand why when they appeared you didn't think to secure your defenseless comrade's safety." His sharp eyes swept over them. "You should not have allowed that to happen."
Jirachi hung her head, instinctively drawing her shoulders tight. Celebi expelled a held breath, while Mew appeared almost frozen, her eyes gazing vaguely downwards but focused on nothing. Arceus went on. "If you exchange repartee rather than protecting others, you are not performing your duties." There was a hard edge to his voice.
"Master Arceus…" said Jirachi tentatively, looking up. "I won't try to make excuses. But we will bring Lord Lugia back, and I promise we won't let them take a single Pokémon more."
Arceus regarded her for a moment, and when he next spoke it was with a gentler tone. "I'm sorry, Lord Jirachi, and Lord Mew and Lord Celebi. I am sometimes frustrated by being unable to personally assist and I may…release that frustration in ways that are less constructive. I shouldn't blame you so harshly."
"You can't assist?" repeated Celebi, puzzled. "What do you mean, Master Arceus?"
Arceus sighed. There was great weariness behind the exhalation, and the silence following it was equally weighty. "Perhaps I should tell you. I am—strained. For a time now, I have felt a weight upon me greater than my usual sustenance of reality, and it is not merely the Reverse Moon. Since even before the moon was affected, I've been sensing something grow darker, heavier. I do not know what it is, but part of my consciousness is aware of it. I…have not slept in a long time."
"Master Arceus," said Mew, feeling a sudden swoop of an overwhelming, hollow helplessness. "If I'd known…"
"Don't worry, Lord Mew," said Arceus with a warm smile. "With the three of you around, I assure you my spirits are much improved." And Mew found that with that simple smile, the gnawing feeling left her.
"Do you think what you feel is the true cause of the Reverse Moon?" asked Celebi.
"That could be…among other things," murmured Arceus. Celebi was about to inquire as to what he meant when, at the same instant, they all felt a mental twinge as an enormous flare of energy sprang to life in the planet's atmosphere.
* * *
Darkrai, Deoxys, and Rotom were on their way back to the Hall, staying low to the ground since neither of the others could keep up with Deoxys's Speed form and Rotom couldn't hitch a ride if Darkrai used his shadow ability. The slow pace made the trip arduous, but this irked Darkrai less than, say, Rotom reminding everyone how he was their savior.
"I'm pretty much your guys's savior," remarked Rotom for no less than the tenth time that fifteen minutes. "You guys definitely wouldn't have ever gotten out of that dimension if I hadn't been there, so if you'd lived you woulda been stuck there for forever. And let me tell you, that'd be no fun! All alone forever and ever…"
"Actually being alone forever is sounding pretty appealing right now," quipped Deoxys as he flew even with Darkrai.
"And what if you'd still been there when the whole thing collapsed?" Rotom sounded horrified at the magnitude of the tragedy he'd saved everyone from. "Just sitting there when suddenly BOO—" And, at that very moment, the energy spike hit.
Deoxys was already looking up, as he had sensed the incoming presence a beat before the full force had registered, and Darkrai followed suit. At first it was visible only as a bright spot among the clouds, then as a small dot, and then as something much larger and more terrifying: there was a massive meteor hurtling out of the sky. It bore down straight at them, clipping an unfortunate Pidgey as it fell, wrapped in flames and so enormous even Rotom noticed it.
By all evidence it was an ordinary—if extremely coincidental—blazing chunk of space rock, but Darkrai noted that for some reason Deoxys appeared happy to see it (though it was hard to tell, given that his eyes were his only features). While Rotom ducked for the shelter a clump of bushes apparently provided, Deoxys shifted to Defense form and waited motionlessly as the meteor drew ever closer to impact. A split second before the rock was close enough to block all light—and an instant before Darkrai decided standing coolly next to him had been a bad idea—he shot upwards at it and hit it with his two right tentacles, knocking the meteor back up like an oversized cosmic volleyball. Just as the now significantly dented mass was about to fall again, he hit it with an Attack form blast and shattered the stone.
Amid the splintered fragments of rock was revealed a small, oblong, green gem which spun up from the force of the attack, catching the sun's light. Deoxys caught the crystal in his Normal form's hands as it tumbled earthward.
One could almost see the stone's sparkles reflected in Rotom's eyes as he returned from his hiding spot. "What is that?" Rotom had apparently forgotten all about the giant meteor, and was oblivious to the still dangerously-sized debris raining down (though Deoxys was redirecting them with his Psychic power, Rotom couldn't have known).
"Looks like yours," observed Darkrai.
Deoxys gave a mouthless smile. "Wait and see." He set the softly glowing gem on the ground; then the purple marking on his face began to shine, and a lattice of like-colored waves spread from it to encircle the green gem like a spotlight. The stone pulsed brightly and sent out a strong flash of white light, and when it cleared, there stood a roughly humanoid Pokémon whose angular, orange-red body bore four tentacles for limbs and whose face was featureless but for two eyes. She was identical Deoxys but for the crystal in her chest and the markings on her face and back—hers were a vivid green—and perhaps her coloration was redder than Deoxys's.
Both Deoxys gave cries of delight and embraced, laughing. Rotom, as usual, just looked confused, while Darkrai folded his arms and waited for the explanation he didn't particularly care if he received. The Deoxys pair broke apart, and they turned to face the other two. "Well," said Deoxys happily, "this is Deoxya!"
"Hey," Deoxya said. She spoke in a confident but pleasant voice that suggested she wasn't as serious as Deoxys. Darkrai gave a semi-sincere, small bow. "Pleased to meet you."
Rotom was still struggling to comprehend. "You're…" he said slowly.
Deoxys nodded. "Another Deoxys."
"…Deoxys's girlfriend?" completed Rotom.
Deoxys muttered something inaudible that sounded like 'Whismur,' but Deoxya winked and said cheerily, "Of course!"
As Rotom continued to stare at the two, Jirachi came into view in the direction, soaring over a ridge in their direction. "Now there's a familiar face," said Darkrai. "Shall I explain the situation while you three sit around chatting?"