The Path of the Aura: Intertwining Crossroads

Chapter XII (12): Former Enemy

Thirty minutes later…

Location: Celadon Forest (Core)

Time: 4:33 PM

"(Ugh, finally you're both done embracing each other.)" Latios thought, once it saw both Lucario and Sceptile divide after their hug.

Both Lucario and Sceptile, having cried for the entire time, simply wiped away whatever tears remained in their eyes, having mourned enough over the loss of Tiny.

Impatient and loosely in control of itself, Latios quickly hovers over to Lucario—toppling over both the Beldum and Torchic that stood on top of the tips of each of its wings—and looks at him square in the face, with a harsh scowl on its own.

"I've shown enough patience in my part to have to wait for you to finish your hug." Latios growled. "Now it's your turn. I want you, and your friends, to wait here for me. I have to go retrieve something important."

"…Like what?" Lucario said out of curiosity, with a mild blend of distaste at Latios's agitation.

Latios pondered a bit on how to say this to the Aura Pokémon without spoiling the surprise. Once it had the right words to say, the Eon Pokémon simply said, with a solemn tone in its voice, "Someone from your distant past."

"Such as?" Lucario replied to its vague statement.

Latios, feeling as if its paper-thin patience was already worn away, quickly folded its arms into its body and shot thousands of feet upward into the air, before breaking the sound barrier with a sonic boom and flying away at Mach 1.

Lucario, ignoring the ringing of his ears that the loud snap of air that resulted from Latios's speed, pondered what the Eon Pokémon could've meant by its allusion.

Sceptile, as it was pondering this over, retrieved its alienated buster sword that Latios stood on top of earlier—already sheathed within its scabbard—and strapped it back onto its backside with only its left arm. Both Beldum and Torchic, grumbling somewhat at how quickly Latios set them both aside, got back up on their feet and dusted themselves off, never using their hands or anything that remotely resembles hands in the process.

"'Someone from your distant past'…" Lucario mumbled these words and had them resonate within his head.

Both Beldum and Torchic, watching on at both of these fully-evolved Pokémon, eventually saw their eyes widen upon the realization of what Latios meant. Their bodies went limp after their eyes opened wide, their bodies rendered numb when their minds replayed this taboo name over and over within their heads, alongside the grim actions that the entity in possession of this name performed.

"Absol…" Lucario and Sceptile said in unison—only Sceptile mouthed the words while the Aura Pokémon used telepathy.

"Absol…?" Torchic said with its head tilted to its side.

"Who is this 'Absol'?" Beldum inquired.

Lucario, once he drained his mind of the surplus memories of Absol, said "It is only the most genocidal Pokémon that I've ever encountered," with a grave tone in his telepathy.

"Absol, the one that Lucario and I know too well, is a borderline schizophrenic, a Disaster Pokémon who deeply grows euphoric on the thought of fighting to the death." Sceptile joined in, speaking soberly as well.

"It has made a twisted passion of exterminating every single Riolu and Lucario that it encounters, out of personal revenge."

"All because it lost its family to their species…"

"…Over a simple dispute of territory."

"It almost killed Lucario on two occasions."

"Hours after I was born into this world as a Riolu, and thirty months later when I evolved and grew more experienced in my abilities."

"What a monstrosity…" Sceptile shook its head, its eyes closed and its solitary left hand covering its face.

"Indeed." Lucario closed his eyes and crossed his arms, his head tilted down and shaking slightly.

After hearing Lucario and Sceptile trade truthful comments in tandem, Beldum immediately understood what kind of a malicious incarnate Absol was.

"My Arceus…" It said, its spherical head rotating down to the floor.

"I still don't see the big picture," Torchic said, naïve at comprehending the mental picture that both Lucario and Sceptile painted for it with their clear words.

Upon hearing this, Sceptile approaches the Chick Pokémon and looks down on it, at a Pokémon that barely reached its knees in terms of height, despite the crest of feathers on Torchic's head that added a couple of inches on it. The Forest Pokémon quickly unsheathes its buster sword and points its tip directly at Torchic's forehead. Beldum and Lucario watched on at this with cynicism at its unorthodox modus operandi.

"I'll put it in your perspective, Chick Pokémon." Sceptile began to hiss at it. "I will kill every Torchic, Combusken, and Blaziken that I encounter…all because one of them burned my tree house down, regardless if it was deliberate or accidental."

"(Even though one never actually did do so…)" Lucario trailed off in thought, recalling flawlessly that when Sceptile's house burned down, it was due to the fires that were produced from four Growlithe, four Magmar, four Houndoom, two Arcanine, and two Magmortar, all under the iron-fisted authority of Team Rocket.

Torchic, showing no fear to Sceptile's tactics, quickly comprehended its words and casually said "Okay, you've made your point, with your words thankfully and not your massive sword."

Sceptile, having made its (allegorical) point, enclosed its buster sword within its scabbard and stepped back from Torchic.

"Sceptile, may I say something to you?" Lucario inquired.

"You might as well," The Forest Pokémon responded casually.

"Can you make examples that don't involve detrimental intentions?"

"Oh, sue me!" It said bluntly while rolling its eyes. "I've been living a solitary and emotionally painful life for the past year! What the hell have I talked to during that time that could help me keep my conversational skills from falling apart?!"

Lucario rolled his eyes as well and decided to focus on more pressing matters, matters involving a certain Disaster Pokémon that Latios was transporting towards them.

"All this time, I thought it was dead," Lucario muttered. "I thought that the last moments of its life that I witnessed were its descent into the foliage hundreds of feet below that cliff side at Celadon Forest, before I blacked out from fatigue. And yet, here it comes, on its way over."

"It would be a wise choice to don your battle armor now, don't you think?" Beldum suggested.

Lucario simply nodded at the Iron Ball Pokémon, and proceeded over to where all of his equipment resided—his battle armor, Expert Belt, and Poké Ball utility belt, the latter of which contained the respective Poké Balls of all of his friends, including those of Beldum, Sceptile, and Torchic.

"That would be wise, Lucario. We can never be too sure of what that Disaster Pokémon might do," Sceptile said. "And if I sense even the slightest hostile intentions from that demonic Pokémon, directed onto any of us four, I won't hesitate to cleave it in half with one stalwart swoop of my blade."

"When do you think Latios will return?" Torchic inquired.

"I have no idea," Lucario said before retrieving his two belts and putting them on, one as a sash (Expert Belt) and the other as a belt (Poké Ball utility belt). Then, he began to strap the battle armor onto himself, one piece at a time, physically rather than telekinetically, making sure everything was securely placed. "For all I know, Absol is halfway across the world, and Latios will have to travel that far in a short amount of time to retrieve it."

"To pass the time," Sceptile recommended. "You should tell us about your time in Team Rocket, as emotionally mixed you might be of it. I'm longing to know what you and Wanderer have been doing without me."

Lucario felt mildly unenthusiastic about sharing his experience in Team Rocket because he despises the organization with great intensity. However, he didn't want to deny Sceptile's rights in knowing what he and Wanderer have been doing, and explaining his and Wanderer's story to Sceptile would prove effective in killing time.

Lucario held onto the helmet of his battle armor by wrapping his left arm around it and holding it to his left side. "Alright then, I'll start from the beginning."


18.1: Healing Battle Wounds

Sixteen Years Ago…

Absol the Disaster Pokémon, after having the bones of its face shatter from Lucario's last attack and falling unconscious, fell off of Celadon Forest's Cliffside and bypassed the shrouding trees below, disappearing from the view of anybody residing above due to the thick foliage of the forest.

Because of the waterfall that resided adjacent to the Cliffside, the water that fell below formed a significant body of water, one that Absol inadvertently fell into and (broken) face first for that matter.

The lake water that was dumped from above traveled to the outer boundaries of the forest through a running river. Absol, unconscious and hardly afloat with its shattered and bloody face above the water's surface, was carried by this river for miles, unrestrained and easily guided, leaving behind a sanguine trail in the water.

This Disaster Pokémon, barely alive after its horrific battle injuries—missing blade-like appendage, missing left eye, broken bones in both body and face, lacerations, bruises, etc—was dumped into a minute pond, surrounded by individual grounded stones and damp, softened rocks.

Whatever momentum that Absol had transferred into its limp body allowed its upper body to be placed on this stone shoreline, allowing it to actually breathe feebly without any further aquatic interference, for as long as blood and a heartbeat remained within its body, as faint as they've both quickly become.

The shadow of a nearby flying Pokémon hovered nearby, before landing adjacent to the Disaster Pokémon. With its hands, and without a second thought on the subject, it gripped Absol's paws and dragged Absol's broken body out of the water entirely, its blood no longer wasting away and allowed to coalesce.


Location: Celadon Forest (Pond)

Absol eventually regained consciousness, immediately feeling that its body was placed over a field of eroded gravel, with some of it pressing against his belly and paw pads. Its body was wet from the water, but it didn't care about that at the moment. It wanted to know more about what was around its surroundings first, and couldn't do so until it could see them.

It opened its remaining right eye, and much to its surprise, immediately saw a Pokémon hovering upside-down, directly in front of its face, staring at it with statue-like stillness.

The Pokémon was mostly red and white in color, resembling a biological cross between a dragon and a jet. It had a white upper body, and a red lower body, with a red forehead and a white patch on top of said forehead, and upward-pointing white ears. It had red arms, capable of folding into its body, as well as a stubby red tail, with red legs that served very little purpose. It possessed golden eyes—which gleamed eerily similar to Lucario's eyes when he's utilizing his Aura Vision ability. Finally, between its arms and residing above its belly, it possessed a blue triangle pattern on the down that coated its entire body.

The Pokémon—according to Absol's experience—is a Latias.

(National Pokédex entry #380: Latias, the Eon Pokémon. It is a Dragon-Type and Psychic-Type Pokémon that measures in at 4' 07" and weighs approximately 88.2 lbs. Its body is covered with a down that can refract light in such a way that it becomes invisible. This ability is useless on Pokémon that can see via other methods.)

"What in the—" Absol said before its cheeks were suddenly grabbed by this Pokémon's stubby hands, forcing it to lock eyes with this Eon Pokémon.

"I can't believe I managed to fix your body back to normal, your face included," Latias said almost nonchalantly, "especially since I didn't have much left on it to actually work with, what with your missing left eye, mutilated crescent-shaped horn on your head, and your nonexistent lips. I'm truly surprised that your face hasn't sustained any permanent alterations."

"Wait, what…?" Absol said, barely catching Latias mentioning the current state of its face.

Latias simply continued to prattle, angling Absol's face to its left and right sides, eyeing each and every one of its exposed teeth, all of them rendered completely visible. "My Arceus, what big teeth you have! The better to eat me with, I assume? No, but I taste terrible. And I should know because I've tried."

Absol, seeing itself going nowhere with this path, broke itself free of Latias's grasp and proceeded over to the pond of water.

"But what if I was cooked into something more appetizing, like pie? Oh, I love pie, all kinds of pie." Latias nattered to itself, digressed in topic.

Once at the pond, Absol could clearly see its reflection in the water, and was able to see just what kind of damage it had sustained. As Latias mentioned earlier—before drifting off in speech relating to a man-made dish—Absol's face was actually repaired, despite the hammer dropped on its face that was Lucario's fist.

Unfortunately, as Latias also mentioned, Absol was missing its blade-like appendage—"horn", as Latias called it—, left eye, and the entirety of its lips.

The cause of this didn't take long to recall before Absol knew it all too well.


(Absol's First Flashback)

"DEALT TO YOU BY MY CLAW!" Absol brought down its arm so fast that the air around it snapped at the sudden alteration.

The entire throng of Pokémon cringed at what might occur. Most of the younger Pokémon covered their eyes, and only the more valiant ones didn't, such as the group of Riolu.

"(Come on…Come on already.)" Tiny and Sceptile thought closely to that same sentence.

The mountain-dwelling Lucario smirked at what it knew will occur next.

"(And…NOW!)" Lucario waited at the last possible millisecond to react.

Instantly, his mouth snapped shut and he rolled out of the way, just before the SHADOW CLAW attack sliced through the rock-hard ground like a hot knife to butter, where his neck once was.

Before Absol could react—or perhaps overreact—, Lucario immediately began spinning on the ground with the expertise of a break dancer. And once he acquired sufficient gyrating momentum, he extended one leg out and instantly made contact with Absol's face—or to be more precise, Absol's left eye! The kick was so stalwart and devastating that Absol's eye immediately exploded in a biological detonation, just before the rest of the Disaster Pokémon was sent flying towards the edge of the cliff.


(Absol's Second Flashback)

"Are you even trying?" Lucario said before tilting his head left to avoid one paw with ease and then ducking to avoid a head-aimed horizontal swipe that just missed Lucario's ears. "If you keep attacking without reasoning…"

Lucario caught Absol's right paw with a sudden grab at its wrist using his left paw.

Absol became more enraged and tried to slash at Lucario with the other paw, only to have it caught by Lucario's right paw, gripped tightly by the wrist.

"…Then you'll recklessness will become predictable to your opponent…"

Lucario then shoved off Absol's left paw and turned around to the point of being behind it, so that Absol couldn't reach with the other paw. Still holding onto Absol's right paw with his left paw, he quickly switched paws before restraining the Disaster Pokémon with a chokehold.

"…and allow them to deliver a devastating counterattack!"

Immediately after speaking, he brought Absol's entire right arm behind him in one quick jerk, easily dislocating Absol's right shoulder—and earning an ear-shattering scream of pain in the process. Now with Absol's right arm completely limp, and still retaining the SHADOW CLAW attack, he easily brought it to Absol's blade-like appendage/right ear and mutilated it with one swipe.


(Absol's Third Flashback)

"I've already said so," Lucario brought his left arm back as high as he could, as if wanting to put all that he currently has left in one final attack. "I have more of a purpose and the willpower to support it than you'll ever have."

Knowing this was his final attack that'll decide who's victorious, Lucario brought his fist down upon Absol's face, having a much more directed explosion aimed perfectly at its face and not onto him like before, delivering a stalwart punch that easily imploded Absol's snout and jaw, as well as rendering any form of recognition of this Disaster Pokémon impossible.

Absol only heard the sound of a gale storm in its remaining ear before hearing the sound of rushing air. It felt so much pain on its face, as if a boulder was dropped onto it, but it could care less, because now it knew for a fact that it was falling off of the cliff.

"(…I'm…finished…)" It thought briefly, accepting its fate before falling to the trees below.


(End of Absol's Flashbacks)

Holding in whatever expletives that it could think of to describe its archenemy Aura Pokémon, it turned back to the Eon Pokémon, with this question in mind. "How did you cure me of my injuries?"

Latias—much to Absol's relief—stopped talking about quiche and heard Absol's question. It hovered over to the Disaster Pokémon and gave it the same open-eyed stare that it did earlier, where its face was close enough to breathe over the other one, only it wasn't upside-down this time.

Once it was disturbingly close and face-to-face, it quickly brought up its right hand and casually slashed at Absol's face with DRAGON CLAW. Just as quickly, and before Absol reacted in pain—or in spite—, Latias used its left hand to cast HEAL PULSE on the wound, healing it in an instant.

Absol quickly reacted to the pain and expelled a few choice expletives before rubbing its face with its paw, wiping away whatever blood seeped out of its wounds—which was none, much to its expectations once it saw its paw.

"So…this is how you repay me for saving your life," Latias temporarily squinted its eyes negatively at the Disaster Pokémon. "By calling me a few choice words because you can't suck up the pain."

"I don't care about that!" Absol said rudely before looking back at the Celadon Forest Cliffside and proceeding to walk towards it.

"Where are you going?" Latias said when Absol turned its back on it.

"If you must know," Absol never looking back and continuing onward, "I have some unfinished business up there at that cliff, with a certain Pokémon that ruined my face."

"Are you talking about that dark-furred Lucario?"

Absol's tail twitched slightly before its whole body stopped in response to Latias's knowledge. Its right eye widened moderately before it turned around and faced Latias, returning towards the Eon Pokémon. "How do you know about it?" It questioned, its lack of lips not hindering its ability to speak at all.

"Let's just say that I've been watching you for some time," Latias says vaguely, and with an honest expression, "often behind your back, and other times, right up at your face."

"…How?" It said with a blend of curiosity and skepticism, before sitting down, its attention clearly in Latias's hands.

The Eon Pokémon, with a smile, shows its arms at Absol, emulating the hand gestures of a magician. "Nothing up my sleeve—not that I wear any—and… Abra Kadabra!"

Before Absol's remaining left eye, Latias completely vanished from view. However it showed no interest in this parlor trick and simply opened its mouth wide and yawned out of boredom, which doesn't appear to be a yawn at first because of its missing lips and exposed set of teeth.

"I have this innate ability where I can enfold my body with a glass-like down, and in doing so, I can become invisible in an instant." Latias's voice was audible in front of Absol, one of few signs of its retained presence here.

"I'm not impressed," Absol bluntly said, "especially since I can smell you from this distance."

A few seconds went by where Latias said nothing, and through that temporary pause, Latias shifted tactics. "Okay, how about this? Through this same method, I can also alter my visual appearance."

Absol showed partial curiosity to this. "Give me an example." It said with starved enthusiasm.

Before Absol's remaining right eye, it saw Latias reemerge, only as a different Pokémon entirely. To put it simply, it reemerged as a Lucario, the exact same dark-furred individual that Absol indubitably despises. It even replicated Lucario's serious facial countenance, and had its arms crossed as well.

Absol didn't like this example one bit, and immediately charged towards Lucario (Latias) out of vindictiveness.

Lucario (Latias) simply saw Absol coming and didn't budge an inch when it decided to retaliate. With powerful psychic abilities, Lucario (Latias) had some of the down it mention shed off of its skin. It then concentrated it into a large white sphere, directly in front of itself. When Absol pounced and was within swiping distance, Lucario (Latias) had the sphere fire bits of itself forward, disintegrating itself in the form of down-like bullets.

Absol, despite its body taking Lucario's (Latias's) MIST BALL attack pointblank, was only knocked back by the impact of the attack, because of its Dark-Type attribute nullifying all Psychic-Type attacks from effectively dealing damage.

Lucario (Latias) reverted back to normal in a split-second and uncrossed its arms. "Why do you hate that Lucario so much?" It said out of sizeable curiosity.

Absol stood still after Latias's visual reversion. "It's not just that dark-furred Lucario. It's the whole species Lucario. I lost my family to them, over a simple dispute over territory, and for that I must take vengeance on each and every Riolu and Lucario that I possibly can."

Latias, after hearing Absol's reasons, simply closed its eyes, bowed down somewhat, and shook its head. "Absol, Absol, Absol… You need to let this pain go."

"There's no pain in what I do." Absol automatically said, denying Latias's judgment.

"Of course there is," Latias spoke with more concern. "The pain just hasn't dug itself deep within you yet."

"I don't believe you."

Latias paused once more to think, and resumed with a different tactic in mind.

"Absol, what is your purpose in life?"

The word "purpose" immediately made Absol recall Lucario's reference of purpose earlier.


(Absol's Flashback)

"Your goal is to murder relentlessly at the Pokémon species that have brought you sorrow, while my goal is to kill you, to prevent that from happening any further," Lucario was within forty feet of reaching it.

"…Shut up…" It muttered spitefully at Lucario's words.

"The only difference between our goals is purpose and willpower."

"…I said…shut up…you Arceus-damn bitch…" It spoke feebly, far too much in pain to shout.

"You're lacking in both of those factors!" He was now within twenty feet of it.


(End of Absol's Flashback)

"(You're verbally dissecting me just like that Lucario did…)" Absol pondered briefly.

"Answer my question," Latias reminded the Disaster Pokémon.

"…To seek vengeance on—"

"That path will only lead to your inevitable oblivion."

"…Well, since you have my attention," Absol gave up, sat down, and stared on at the Eon Pokémon, "I'll listen to what you have to say."

Latias shared with Absol its words of wisdom. "You're so single-mindedly focused on this 'goal' of yours that you've neglected virtually everything else that matters in life."

"Like what?"

"To name a few:" Latias held out its hands and counted each example with its fingers, "friendship, legacy, love, role model…"

Absol scoffed at the stupidity of this to it and turned its back on Latias again, proceeding to the cliff once more.

Latias froze briefly, spontaneously thinking "(So I'm not good enough for you?)" when it recalled mentioning "love" seconds ago.

Absol is quickly intercepted by Latias when it hovered in front of its face again, forcing it to stand still.

"You know, you should really show more concern to 'role model'."

"And why should I?" Absol said, not caring at all about what archetype it could leave behind.

"Pokémon will only see you for your actions and not your motives behind it, especially if you had died earlier, which you most likely would have if I didn't drag your wet, white ass out of the water."

Absol's eye widened somewhat at this, at the fact that Latias's recent actions hung Absol's life in the balance.

"Pokémon would talk about a genocidal Disaster Pokémon that was hell-bent on exterminating every last Riolu and Lucario in existence. They wouldn't see you avenging your beloved, even if you killed the ones responsible already. Lucario clearly doesn't, its friends don't see the big picture, and I don't either. All that they—and I—would know about you, especially if you died, is that you attempted to drive an already scarce species of Pokémon to extinction. They would hate you for that. And at the end of your life, you would be alone and spited for your actions. And I don't think Arceus in high Heaven would think twice of letting you into Its kingdom because of this. You'd most likely reside in Hell, left to burn in damnation for all eternity."

"…" Absol pondered heavily on this topic, the words "especially if you had died earlier" resonating stalwartly within its thoughts. It sat down to comprehend these words that shook it to the core.

Latias crossed its arms once more, turning its head at Absol and showing a displeasured countenance. "I could've chosen to not heal you. I could've just let you die in the pond, your blood wasting away in the water."

"…Then why did you?" Absol said, showing far more respect to the Eon Pokémon. "Why did you save my life?"

Latias looked back at Absol and uncrossed its arms. "For starters, I believe in second chances. And so does my brother Latios, but that's beside the point."

Latias approached the Disaster Pokémon, extended one arm out towards it, and began to fondle Absol on the top of its head. Absol, much to its surprise, was showing signs of happiness. That happiness was physically known to Latias when Absol's tail wagged side-to-side rhythmically.

"I figured that you could use a second chance in life, as well as a friend." Latias removed its hand from Absol's head, and the tail wagging from Absol stopped alongside this. "All the time that I was watching you without blowing my cover, I've noticed that you lack a companion in life, someone to hang out with, to converse with, and to travel alongside with."

Absol was almost tempted to ask Latias to stroke its head it once more, but remained silent and attentive.

"With this second chance in life, you should use it wisely." Latias said before looking up at the sky and trailing off in thought. "Especially for what awaits in the not-too-distant future," It muttered these words under its breath.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Absol's sensitive hearing with its remaining left ear picked up Latias's words.

"Huh? Oh, nothing," Latias shook the topic aside. "It's nothing important right now."

Absol set aside Latias's last topic as well, and decided to look back at Celadon Forest's Cliffside, with this to think:

"(Perhaps we'll meet again in time, gallant Aura Pokémon.)"

All of a sudden, Absol feels two hands press against the sides of its ribcage. Sure enough, they were Latias's hands, and it was hovering just above its back, its head directly above Absol's head.

"Thank you for flying Eon Airlines," Latias began to imitate a flight attendant. "Please keep all physical limbs, digits, and personal possessions within yourself as we prepare for flight."

"(…Flight?)" Absol thought moments before its feet no longer touched the ground.

Latias, with the Disaster Pokémon in hand, hovered thousands of feet high above the ground. Absol, before growing nauseated at the dizzying height that Latias acquired in such a short time, had this to inquire.

"Where are we going?"

"Throughout my travels, I've paid attention to hundreds of locales worldwide. We're going to stop by a few cemeteries: Kanto's Pokémon Tower, Hoenn's Mt. Pyre, Sinnoh's Lost Tower, and Unova's Dragonspiral Tower."

"…To pay the respects for those that I've killed, right?"

"That way, we can begin your second chance in life."

In an instant, Latias bent back its wings and tucked in its arms as best that it could—without letting go of Absol in the process—before flying off to the Pokémon Tower at triple-digit speeds.

Minutes within the flight, Latias looks down to check on Absol and notices that it's vomiting straight down due to motion sickness, never having traveled at such high speeds before, and finding its body adjusting to this with great difficulty.

"(Already purging your inner evil, aren't you?)"


18.2: Second Chance

Location: Celadon Forest (Core)

Time: 4:54 PM

Lucario—with his battle armor, Expert Belt, and loaded Poké Ball utility belt strapped onto his being, and his battle armor helmet carried to his left side—was about to conclude its story of working in Team Rocket.

"And after Giovanni became frozen stiff by my SHEER COLD technique, I escaped Team Rocket Main Headquarters, unrestrained by any further encumbrances. Whether he survived or not after my departure is beyond my acumen. However, I believe that his newfound flaring spite towards me might keep him alive afterwards, rendering my technique inflicted on him as nothing more than to guarantee my escape. And if he comes back and shows his sorry posh ass to me once more, I won't hesitate to kill him where he stands, crippling his organization simultaneously."

Sceptile was the first to speak up once Lucario concluded.

"My Arceus… Never in my wildest dreams would I fathom what you and Wanderer have both been through over the past year."

"I'm ashamed to say that at specific times, I was gradually growing accustomed to some parts of my job," Lucario admitted. "One of those parts being my new name."

"So where do you suppose Mewtwo is?" Sceptile said, being quick on the draw at changing the subject matter.

"I don't know…" Lucario shook his head momentarily. "All that I know is that it'll find me, when it accomplishes its goals, with whatever elaborate plan it might contemplate."

"So then…" Sceptile changed topics again. "Should I call you Xeno, Lucario, or Xeno Lucario?"

"In all honesty, whatever you feel like," Lucario said almost automatically, not caring anymore that it was Giovanni that gave him the nickname "Xeno".

"Might I ask you to bring up your colleagues again?" Beldum asked politely to Lucario. "When the time comes for our regrouping, it would be best to accustom ourselves to them sooner rather than later."

"Alright then," Lucario recalled all of the nine Pokémon that he worked with during his career in Team Rocket, and then simplified their quintessence. "Aqua is very gentle in nature, albeit does turn sour under certain conditions."

"(The rose with thorns…)" Torchic pondered the first words that it believed best described Lucario's colleagues.

"Charmeleon has plenty of martial potential, albeit is primarily pacifistic."

"(The disarmed weapon…)"

"Dusknoir is sagacious, and skilled in offensive evasion."

"(The recurring trap…)"

"Mewtwo is an ocean of wisdom, as well as a cosmos of secrets."

"(The omnipotence of the mind…)"

"Lairon is calm, concise, and a living bulwark."

"(The strong, silent type…)"

"Luxray is proud and prideful, unless bested with ease."

"(The glass cannon…)"

"Terra is experienced and forgiving."

"(The pensive sword…)"

"Tyranitar is a self-centered juggernaut of extremism and power."

"(An F-bomb on a hair trigger…)"

"And Wanderer is a protective shield of righteousness and socialism."

"(The reliable champion…)"

Sceptile bothered looking up at the sky and noticed a figure appearing out of the blue. Sure enough, it was Latios, whom paused when hovering directly above them, thousands of feet in the air.

"Latios is back," Sceptile said with its yellow eyes locked onto the Eon Pokémon.

Latios, once it noticed that it was directly above the group of Pokémon, descended downward until it was amongst them.

"I'm back," It said simply, almost unnecessarily, before looking to Lucario. "My sister is on its way over, with a passenger, that 'someone from your' past that I mentioned earlier."

"You mean Absol?" Sceptile said in an instant.

"Oh good, you figured it out already. I figured that I'd have to repeat myself again in case you all didn't realize who I was referring to already." Latios said with an inflated tone of relief, alongside a tone of voice that degraded the intelligence of the Pokémon that Latios was conversing with.

"…" Beldum, Sceptile, and Torchic took Latios's behavior as a shrouded insult, concealed by impatience and reluctance in wasting time.

Lucario, disregarding Latios's behavior entirely, placed his helmet securely on his head and decided to examine his battle armor's installed Pokédex software through his helmet's visor, for data on the sister Pokémon of the blue Eon Pokémon.

Sure enough, a brief database emerged, with only this concise set phrase.

LATIAS, THE EON POKÉMON. IT CAN TELEPATHICALLY COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE. IT CHANGES ITS APPEARANCE USING ITS DOWN THAT REFRACTS LIGHT.

"(What are the odds of meeting such elusive Pokémon on the same day?)" Lucario trailed off in thought as he closed the Pokédex program.

Sceptile looks back up at the sky and sees another figure thousands of feet in the air. Looking at the figure more closely with its acute vision, the Forest Pokémon immediately puts its left hand on the hilt of its buster sword. "They're here, Xeno."

Every other Pokémon in the group looked up to notice Latias descending with Absol clutched tightly in its arms.

Lucario, having not seen Absol for over sixteen years, can still recall in vivid detail what kind of a Pokémon it was. And as he ogled at Absol's and Latias's descent, he notices that the only difference between the Absol of his distant past and the Absol of the immediate present was a plain black bandana, tied around the Disaster Pokémon's mouth and muzzle. Also, what he mutilated from it those sixteen years ago—Absol's blade-like appendage and left eye—remained as so.

Lucario immediately utilizes his Aura Vision ability to see past the black bandana on Absol's face, and catches a glimpse of what resides behind. Smiling to himself, he turned off his sixth sense and ponders "(I'm glad I left those lasting injuries on it)" when he notices that Absol's lips are completely nonexistent on its face.

All of the Pokémon—much to their surprise—step back to allow both Absol and Latias to land. Absol placed all four of its paws on the ground upon reaching it, and Latias removed its grip on the sides of Absol's ribcage before hovering over to its brother Latios.

Absol saw all of the Pokémon around it, paying little attention to Beldum, Latias, Latios, and Torchic, and paying more attention to both Sceptile and Lucario, being Pokémon that it recalled from its past.

Absol and Sceptile temporarily locked eyes. Sceptile's grip on its weapon was unyielding, knowing well enough what kind of a connection the Disaster Pokémon has with Lucario, and willing to cleave it down the middle if it made any antagonistic moves. The Forest Pokémon's facial expression revealed as much.

"(I can see what that sword is making up for,)" Absol pondered while looking at what little remained of Sceptile's right arm, completely oblivious as to the events that led to Sceptile's mutilation and horrific thermal scarring.

Disregarding Sceptile at the moment, Absol turned its head to see Lucario once more, instantly eyeing the battle armor that he has placed all around his body.

"Where in the world did you obtain that armor from?" Absol inquired out of pure curiosity, showing no signs of hatred to its former enemy.

Lucario remained silent and staid, crossing his arms at his former enemy, never looking away.

Disregarding its previous question, Absol spoke what was more important, if it wanted to begin to establish a friendship with the Aura Pokémon.

"I'm sure that, before my arrival here, you must've still had any lingering negative emotions of me…"

"…" Lucario listened, unmoved in stature.

"…All fueled by memories of my past actions towards you, and to any other Riolu and Lucario that I've encountered."

Inconspicuously, and for a split-second, Lucario's paws curled up into fists, and his canine-like teeth were partially exposed underneath his helmet. He almost growled, but remained silent and listened attentively.

"However, I've personally come to you to let you know that I'm no longer the same genocidal Disaster Pokémon that I once was. I've turned over a new leaf for the better, and commenced a new life, where I can prove beneficial to this world."

Absol slowly made its way over to Lucario, knowing well enough that Sceptile was behaving as if it were a highly-trained bodyguard. Thankfully, Absol wasn't unnerved by this, and didn't show concern over Sceptile's eye on its actions, because it wasn't going to try anything antagonistic that could get it killed.

It stopped walking when it was within touching distance of the Aura Pokémon, Sceptile as observant and on standby as ever over the Disaster Pokémon.

"So, what do you say? Are you willing to abandon your thoughts of me from all those years ago," Absol raised its right paw to Lucario, offering to shake paws, "and accept my second chance?"

Lucario pondered for a few seconds what Absol had to say, long enough for it to know that Lucario was thinking about this—be it for the better or worse. During this time, Absol pondered what was going on within Lucario's mind. Was he pondering the spiteful actions that it did on his respective species? Was he trying to decipher Absol's behavior and words as heartfelt truth or back-stabbing deceit?

Or was he speculating how it survived that drop at the end of their battle?

Eventually however, Lucario raised his right paw and actually did shake paws with Absol. But before Absol believed it to be a sign that Lucario relinquished his past viewpoints on the Disaster Pokémon and was willing to give it a new start, he stopped shaking Absol's right paw and didn't let go. He simply bared his fangs with a smile, before placing his free left paw on the center of Absol's forehead, charging up a reasonable amount of aura in the process.

Absol already suspected what Lucario was about to do next.

"(Oh fu—)"

Absol is suddenly knocked back when Lucario utilizes FORCE PALM to detonate a reasonably-sized spark of aura on his intended target. The Disaster Pokémon flies back about fifty feet, before doubling that distance by sliding on its back, along the ground.

"Okay…" It said groggily before getting back up, rubbing its forehead and attempting to remove the throbbing pain inflicted onto its skull. "I probably deserved that, for my past actions…"

"Of course you deserved that!" He said gravely, and with sixteen-year old rage resurfacing once again. "You deserved every blow that I've ever inflicted upon you back then. However, a Pokémon of your…past…deserves further punishment."

Before Absol's solitary eye, Lucario's entire body was emanating a scorching red aura, fueled by boiling emotions that have surged up after being dormant for over sixteen years. Lucario connected the inner areas of his wrists together before shifting them to his left side, forming a stance in the process.

"You deserve to know what it's like to burn in hellfire."

Lucario's palms suddenly became engorged when his red aura was transferred between them, accumulating together into a massive two-foot-diameter sphere of intense conflagrations. Lucario's stance signaled that he would fire the sphere, as if it were an AURA SPHERE, only far more blazing in terms of raw thermal energy.

The three Pokémon that accompany Lucario—Beldum, Sceptile, and Torchic—grew astounded at how he was able to flawlessly use techniques that defy the learning capabilities of his natural species. Both Latias and Latios however, were more focused on the situation occurring rather than the forces behind them.

Absol stopped rubbing its forehead long enough to see Lucario's hostility in its emotional—and physical—form.

"(Oh shit…)"

Lucario, when he accumulated enough power in his held sphere, forced his paws forward and fired OVERHEAT directly towards Absol. The sphere proved too fast for Absol to avoid—according to its sense of distance—and all that it could do was watch in horror at the raw power of Lucario's unexpected technique.

BOOM!

The attack, once it hit its mark, exploded brutally, kicking up a massive smoke cloud and the dirt within the vicinity in the process, blanketing its target from view. Every Pokémon in the vicinity shielded their eyes from the power of the attack.

…All except for Latias, who wasn't beside Latios presently.

"Oh, I'm all crackly, crispy, crunchy, crusty…" A carefree, female voice was audible through the smoke.

"(…It didn't…)" Lucario thought with his battle stance frozen briefly.

The smoke cloud departed once the wind carried it away. In its place, Latias stood directly in front of Absol, shielding the Disaster Pokémon from harm and having endured the attack with its body. Latias's entire body was covered in ash-black soot, except for its eyes and mouth—which were closed prior to the attack.

Thankfully, Latias quickly emanated SAFEGUARD—a thin force-field of status-preventing energy—before intercepting the attack, and was protected against any harmful burns that would've likely resulted. Because of this, all that it endured was fractional damage, due to its superior Dragon-Type attribute overriding the Fire-Type attribute of Lucario's OVERHEAT technique.

"Are you out of your mind?!" Lucario barked, pissed off at Latias's choice of action.

"(Heh… You have no idea.)" Latios trailed off in thought, understanding Latias because of its past experiences.

"Why would you protect such a hostile Pokémon?!"

Latias quickly ruffled its feathers, shaking off its ash-black color in the process and returning to its pristine red/white fluff. "Absol's no longer the same genocidal Pokémon that it once was. It has repented for its sins and now spends its time in speaking for the dead."

Once it finished speaking, it gave one brief look at Absol, smiling to itself after defending it.

"Thank you," Absol said to its befriended bulwark.

"It's what I do best," Latias replied before facing Lucario again. In doing so, it was holding in the pain that Lucario's technique inflicted onto it, and resisted the urge to have its face show its pain. "(Such power…)" It thought with astonishment at Lucario's martial budding.

Lucario ponders about what Absol could've done in the past sixteen years. During that time, for all that he knew, Absol has changed for the better. However, it could've also murdered more of his innate species before then.

Just to be on the safe side, Lucario utilizes his Aura Vision ability to read the personality and thoughts from both Absol and Latias.

Much to his surprise, Absol has changed for the better. However, he sensed next to nothing from Latias, likely in part due to its psychic abilities disrupting his own, preventing his ability to read its mind. Thankfully, reading Absol's mind was all that mattered to the Aura Pokémon, although he secretly wondered what Latias is hiding within its skull.

"(Whatever you're thinking, if it's important, I'll know…)" Lucario thought before disabling his Aura Vision ability.

"(I may be lackadaisical by nature, but I still know what to protect with all my might.)" Latias thought when it no longer sensed Lucario's mental intrusion.

"As much as I find this hard to believe…" Lucario's words left an odd taste in his mouth—despite the fact that he spoke with telepathy—that forced him to swallow once and pause in his speech momentarily. "…I believe you, Absol."

Both Absol and Sceptile, upon hearing this, widened their eyes at hearing Lucario say something that they found hard to believe. Sceptile's stood down from its standby stance, after hearing Lucario believe the Disaster Pokémon.

But before Absol could express any positive reaction the Aura Pokémon, Lucario was quick in overpowering its emotions.

"But don't think for a moment that either Sceptile or I have completely accepted your change of heart!" He stalwartly spoke his mind. "You need to obtain our trust over time by proving it to us before we genuinely believe you."

Absol looked back at Sceptile once more, noticing that it no longer had a grip on the hilt of its weapon. However, Sceptile still had that cold-blooded stare from earlier, confirming Lucario's earlier words about developing trust.

Before Sceptile's glare could freeze Absol in its tracks, it looked back at Lucario—as Latias simultaneously returned to Latios's side.

"…Take all the time you need," Absol said with surefire confidence in its voice. "I knew this wasn't something that could change overnight."

Both Lucario and Sceptile gave the Disaster Pokémon skeptical nods. Everybody else was neutral.

Absol took a moment to look around its surroundings and noticed that someone important was missing. "Where is that Riolu I once fought with?"

"You mean Tiny?" Sceptile said bluntly.

Absol looked at the Forest Pokémon and nodded.

"Up there," It said pointing upward with its hand, never removing its glare on Absol.

"…Oh…" Absol immediately understood what it meant. "…Do you want me to speak for its death?"

A relatively long moment of uncomfortable silence passed amongst Lucario's present party of Pokémon. Latias and Latios just watched on.

"(*Sigh*)"


A small moment in time later…

"So, now what do we do?" Torchic inquired, breaking the silence.

"For starters, we need to locate the cargo helicopter where all of my colleagues are located." Lucario responded.

"…Colleagues?" Absol said out of curiosity.

"You'll know everything eventually," Lucario scolded it, deliberately being vague at the Pokémon that it hasn't begun to accept yet.

"Where do you suppose they're located?" Beldum wondered.

"I have no idea," The Aura Pokémon admitted. "For all I know, it could take us all weeks—or even months—to locate them, especially since we lack even a slight lead on where they went."

Latias quickly hovered in front of Lucario—much to his surprise—and had this to say.

"They're on Mirage Island, located in the Hoenn region."

"How do you know that?" Torchic stole Lucario's words before they were annunciated telepathically.

"We passed by it on our way over," Latios stole Latias's words before it could say them.

Lucario was quick to utilize his battle armor's database to search for information relating to this "Mirage Island" that was mentioned. A picture of the island quickly appeared in his helmet's visor, along with three key bits of information on it.

To put it simply, the island contains an abundance of Liechi Berries, a surplus Wynaut population, and is infamously known to disappear from view—hence the name "Mirage Island".

Lucario disabled his visor. "Was the island nonexistent when you noticed it?"

Latias, still in front of Lucario, positioned its head within touching distance of Lucario's snout and eyed it broadly. "You're talking to two Pokémon who are capable of disappearing from view at will. An island that can do what either Latios or I can do rests on our jurisdiction."

"That's good to know."

"Well then, finding that island with their help would be as easy as pie," Absol said, including the "pie" part deliberately, knowing that Latias was face-to-face with the Aura Pokémon.

"Mm… Pie…" Latias began to drool with a stupid grin.

Upon seeing this, Lucario's head jerked back and he immediately stepped back a few paces, uncomfortable over Latias's abnormal disposition.

Latios simply rolled its eyes out of displeasure, knowing that Absol knows its sister well enough to control a few of its actions.

"If it's as easy as…you know…" Sceptile resisted saying the taboo three-letter word. "Then we should go over there now, while they're still there."

Lucario nods in agreement and retrieves three of the eleven Poké Balls from the utility belt on his possession—Beldum's Ultra Ball, Torchic's Friend Ball, and Sceptile's Luxury Ball. He assimilates all three of them through a bright beam of red energy, and then stores the Poké Balls in their original place. All that remained of the Pokémon within Celadon Forest was Absol, Latias, Latios, and Xeno Lucario.

However, Sceptile's sheathed buster sword remained in its original place, abandoned after Sceptile was assimilated into its Luxury Ball.

Lucario notices this and simply walk over to retrieve it. Once he holds it above the ground, he's surprised at the mass of the sword, and how well it's balanced across the full length of the blade.

"(Thirty pounds in weight, easily…)" He ponders about the sword before walking back over to the other three Pokémon, with the sword in hand.

Latios then asks Lucario a question. "How would you prefer to FLY?"

Lucario looks temporarily over to both Absol and Latias and notices how they're preparing to FLY. He sees Latias gripping Absol tightly by the ribcage and temporarily imagines himself in Absol's position.

He shuddered mildly before looking back to Latias, saying "On your back" with a quick tone of voice.

"I'll hold onto the sword then," Latios said with its arm extended out.

Lucario offers the Eon Pokémon the sword, which it grips by the strapped scabbard, and then he mounts on top of its back, wedging himself in a comfortable position that is manageable to the both of them, so that the bulky battle armor doesn't create any pressure points.

Latios's levitation never faltered once Lucario was on its back and it held the buster sword in its arms, signs that it could easily FLY with more than twice its weight on its being.

"For the record, I can FLY, but not as far or nearly as fast as either you or Latias can."

"I understand," It said concisely, before thinking "(My Arceus, how much of your martial latency have you awakened?)" in bewilderment.

"Thank you for flying Eon Airlines," Latias began to imitate a flight attendant—as it did with Absol before. "Please keep all physical limbs, digits, and personal possessions within yourself as we—"

"Can we get the hell moving already?!" Latios shouted at its sister counterpart.

"…prepare for flight." Latias said without its former enthusiasm.

"You know, you shouldn't talk like that to your sister." Lucario felt like speaking against Latios's behavior.

"You try living alongside it as long as I have," Latios said, "and tell me that it shouldn't be silenced every once in a while out of annoyance."

"(I'm used to it,)" Absol pondered to itself, "(especially since Latias is the only Pokémon on this planet that I could consider being a friend.)"

"As Latios said," Latias looked at its Eon Pokémon counterpart before altering its appearance to look exactly like Latios. "'Can we get the hell moving already?!'" It shouted with proficient mimicry of its tone of irritability.

"…" Latios watched at Latios (Latias) with a spiteful look.

Latios (Latias) simply gave it a cheery, toothy grin before it reverted back to normal.

"…Let's…"

All four Pokémon spontaneously become invisible—under the powers of Latias and Latios—before flying up and away at triple-digit speeds.

Lucario, as they hover above Celadon Forest and leave his home of birth, ponders to himself.

"(Turning invisible…)" He thought, viewing the world as if his eyes were the only part of his body that existed. "(…I would love to learn how to do so.)"

"(With your abilities…)" Latios inconspicuously was reading its mind, "(…you'll learn how to, and you won't even scratch the surface of your potential.)"


"Why do people act as if war and murder were unnatural? What's unnatural is to go your whole life without ever raising your hand in violence." —Orson Scott Card (262) ("Children of the Mind")

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