“Lord Akira,” Sebastian said with a respectful bow. The Empoleon briefly acknowledged his butler while his son ran to his side. His face was stern and angry. He stared Charles down as the nearby Pokémon looked on in concern. Charles returned his gaze with contempt.
Fluttershy thanked Sunset Shimmer as the unicorn joined her in caring for the human. The girl’s four Pokémon had been released from their Pokéballs, adding to Fluttershy’s workload. They had been beaten while protecting their trainer. She now had a young Turtwig, a Garchomp, and two Vibrava to treat. Despite this, she knew she had to pay attention to the conversation, too. If Charles and Akira chose to fight, she would have to move quickly to protect her patients.
“They call it the ‘Word of Charles’,” Lord Akira said. His voice was steady. His eyes were serious. “They see you as some prophetic teacher, as absurd as that sounds. I’ve told them that Lucy thinks you’re insane.”
“She’s told me as much in person,” Charles said.
“Yet, like so many others, she’s tried her best to reach you. To befriend you and make you see reason.”
“You wife is kind, like all of King Siebold’s inner circle.”
“She isn’t just a part of his inner circle. She’s his daughter, and your sister. Even after his death, she and the others strive to uphold his ideals.”
“Yet she isn’t here. She’s in God’s Breath, preparing to depart with those foolish Equestrians to a world they may well die on.”
“I lead the Sinnoh branch of our house in her stead,” Akira said, ignoring Charles’ petty jab. “Which brings us back to our point. You have turned my subjects against the humans. They openly attack people. Their numbers grow daily. I would have you renounce your hate speech and set them back on the right path.”
“I refuse,” Charles said, simply. “They are already on the right path. Our standards aren’t so lax that we would do nothing while humans sacrifice us.”
Fluttershy knew he was taunting the Empoleon. For a moment, she thought Akira would take his son and leave. He looked down at his boy, then to his butler. His body relaxed, and he sighed. Then, without warning, he pounced.
He was quicker than he looked. His Steel Wing attack landed on Charles’ cheek with the sound of metal slapping flesh. The Mewtwo winced in pain, and raised his hands in defense. However, Akira stood down, withdrawing from his assault to turn his back on Charles.
“That’s it?” Charles asked, incredulously. “Surely you’ve got more fight in you than that.”
“Of course I do,” Akira replied. “But for all my efforts, I know I can’t beat you. Attempting to will only defeat my purpose. I must see to my people, and mitigate the damage you’ve done.”
“So you’re turning tail and running.”
“I am putting down the Word of Charles. It’s spread all over our region, as it has in the other regions of the world.”
“How are you combating it?” Sunset Shimmer asked as she looked up from her work. She was applying bandages to one of the Garchomp’s legs as the Pokémon moaned in pain.
“Debates, battles, appealing to the better nature of the Pokémon of Sinnoh… The more violent ones we’ve been forced to drive north. We fight it in anyway we can.”
“And every effort you make will end in failure,” Charles said. “The truth cannot be stopped.”
“Yet, there is still a great deal of kindness in this world,” Fluttershy said as she wrapped the human girl in a blanket made by a Leavanny in the crowd. “That is also true.”
With a nod from Korish, the Gyarados dived back into the river and the forest Pokémon walked back into the trees. Fluttershy watched them go, her heart aching at the anger and frustration in their eyes. There was something terrible happening in the Pokémon world, and she needed to fix it.
“This place was cleared by humans long ago to make it easier for them to travel from one place to another,” Korish said as she looked down into the canyon proudly. “We’ve returned it to nature.”
“Then why keep the paths?” Applejack said. “Why keep those bridges if you’re gettin’ rid of everythin’ that humans built?”
“Because Pokémon use these paths, too, and humans didn’t build all of this alone. This place will become a trap for humans when our numbers grow large enough. There are still some holdouts here, but they’ll come around, especially as the House of Eevee drives more of us north. Thanks to Akira’s stubborn streak, my followers grow daily on this route.”
“Why would the humans sit by and allow this to happen?” Archi said from his perch on Applejack’s shoulder. The Roulet’s feathers were puffed up as far as they would go making him look like a big, green puffball. Korish didn’t seem intimidated. “Surely they see the threat?”
“Some do,” Korish agreed. “But they’re too worried about themselves. Most are confused, and just want to go on with their daily lives. In the end, they don’t care how the problem is solved, so long as it is. It’s the same way they behaved when their Pokémon were stolen by Team Galactic or their counterparts in other regions. They sat back and waited for others to fix things for them.”
Korish drifted into the mist as she spoke, eventually leaving only her face visible to her adversaries. Loud, angry cries came from several yards down the path toward Celestic Town. The girls turned to look, but they couldn’t see through the fog.
“Several dozen Psyduck are now blocking the path you need to go down,” Korish sneered. “If you want them to move, you’ll have to get rid of me.”
“Why set this trap for us when we’re supposed to be working together?” Rarity said, angrily. Gem hissed flames at her side; the light of her embers reflecting in the large diamond earrings Rarity had given her.
“Because it’s fun to antagonize you.”
Her leering face disappeared, though her cruel laugher carried through the wind as she traveled into the canyon.
“We have to go down there now, don’t we?” Fluttershy said nervously.
“Let’s move it and get this over with!” Rainbow Dash said. She sounded a bit more reserved than normal, as if she dreaded the fight ahead of them.
The other girls followed Rainbow Dash and Nara into the canyon. The quiet surrounded them as surely as the fog, yet the feeling of being watched was almost overwhelming.
“I wish she’d hurry and attack us,” Pinkie Pie groaned. She pulled a balloon from her pocket and began blowing in and out of it, as one would do a paper bag. “The tension is killing me!”
“I’d rather we just get to the other side safely,” Leon said, nervously. The Popplio flinched slightly as the wind rustled through the trees. “If we’re lucky, she’ll forget about this battle and go after those humans that attacked us.”
He shivered, and the other Pokémon voiced their agreement.
“Do… do you like Pokémon battles, Leon?” Pinkie Pie asked in concern.
“Popplio!” Leon said, his voice filling with pride and conviction, mixed with a note of uneasiness. “I wouldn’t have volunteered for this if I didn’t. I mean, the Starters Council chose the six of us out of hundreds to serve as representatives for both God’s Breath and the Pokémon world. Our parents told us this was a great honor. Lord Bartholomew even led the selections personally, but…”
“But what?” Pinkie Pie asked as she began forming her balloon into a heart to cheer her friend up.
“This feels different than I’d expected. I thought it’d be more fun. Now, I’ve got to fight the Mouthpiece of Dark Arceus.”
“Former Mouthpiece,” Korish said as she emerged from the shadows. She was too fast for the group to react to in time. Catching them off guard, she grabbed Leon and pulled him back into the fog.
“Leon, return!” Pinkie Pie yelled desperately as she forgot her balloon. She pulled her Pokéball from her belt and held it aloft. Korish dove down to the ground, dodging the beam with ease. “Use Water Gun, Leon! Get yourself free!”
Pinkie Pie ran as fast as she could, her friends close behind her. Pinkie, Rainbow Dash and Applejack were able to catch up to Korish while their friends worked to join them. Fluttershy struggled to keep up, but her Litten was near the front of the pack, chasing Korish while firing Ember attacks to try and stop her.
“Nara, use Fire Punch and smack that rotten gourd in the face!” Rainbow Dash yelled. Nara ignited his fist and leapt. Korish dodged under him, grabbing his chest with her free hand to slam him to the ground. A yell came from behind and embers tore through the fog. They caught Korish in the back, surprising the Gourgeist and forcing her to drop Nara and Leon. Rarity and Gem cheered as their attack landed and their friends escaped.
“Razor Leaf!” Twilight Sparkle and Applejack yelled in unison. Their Rowlet replied by launching furious volleys at their enemy.
“Leon, use Ice Beam!” Pinkie Pie yelled. Leon shivered in fear for a moment, then shook his head and obeyed. Korish screamed in pain as the attacks struck home, yet she recovered quickly with a strange smile on her face. The barrage subsided and the group prepared a second volley. When they fired, Korish responded with an attack of her own. She held her hands in the air and formed a large Shadow Ball between them, laughing as she launched it. The ground exploded. The Pokémon and humans covered their faces as dirt flew everywhere. When they looked again, Korish had disappeared.
“Is this a game to her?” Applejack said angrily. The Gourgiest’s laughter could be heard leading them further into the fog. Trees rustled around them, and the murmurs of wild Pokémon filled the air. Then they vanished suddenly, leaving the group in silence once more.
“The Pokémon of Route 210 are judging which side they support based on our battle,” Gem said as she stood guard next to Rarity. She pawed at the naturally unkempt fur on her head, causing Rarity to bend down and help her comb it. “Litten, but I don’t like some of the things they’re saying.”
“Some of them are the ones we saw on the path,” Poe said from his perch on Twilight Sparkle’s shoulder. “They’re trying to convince the others to support Korish.”
“So, we’re not completely outnumbered here?” Pinkie Pie said, her mood lifting slightly. “There are Pokémon around here that don’t support Korish yet?”
“We were told that most of the Pokémon in the world don’t currently follow Charles and Korish,” Twilight Sparkle said as she sifted through the pages of her notepad. “Their influence is growing, though.”
“And it will continue to grow,” said a deep voice from the fog. A Machoke walked out and flexed his muscles in an intimidating fashion. “I used to help humans on this road, while choosing to remain in the wild. Thanks to Lord Charles, and the evidence of my own eyes, I’ve learned better than to trust your kind.”
“Hey, this is a match between us and Korish,” Rainbow Dash yelled indignantly as the Machoke prepared his attack. “Outside help is against the rules!”
“We are at war,” the fighting-type bellowed. “There is only victory and defeat!”
He lowered his shoulder and charged. The group leapt out of his path as fast as they could. Fluttershy froze for a moment, but her Litten grabbed hold of her skirt and pulled her to safety. Rarity dodged more slowly than the rest, choosing to stay close and get beneath her opponent. With one hand in her bag, she dodged a punch aimed at her face and came out behind the Machoke.
“Watch it, you brute,” she scolded as she pulled a red, velvet blanket out of her bag. It was damp from the moisture in the air, and it surprised the Machoke as Rarity draped it over his face. “Gem, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Litten!” Gem said as she placed herself in front of one of the Machoke’s feet. She arced her back and held firm as the disoriented Pokémon tripped over her.
“Scyther!” came a yell from behind. Rarity turned to see her friends fighting another group of Pokémon nearby. “Unruly trickery! Such things are forbidden in battle!”
“Attacking us when we’re already fighting another baddie is forbidden, too!” Pinkie Pie yelled as she jumped out of the way of a deadly claw. “Bubblebeam Leon! Now!”
“Right O’” the Popplio responded as the group began falling back. He opened his mouth and fired a powerful attack at his foes, knocking several on their backs. They weren’t down for long, though. They screamed in anger as they rose and joined their friends in the chase through the canyon.
As they continued, the terrain became more treacherous. Snow began to fall, making it harder for the group to see their attackers. For what seemed like hours, the girls lead their partners in battle against the wild Pokémon of Route 210. The Pokémon primarily battled each other, though some of the more zealous individuals chose to attack the humans. The girls responded in kind, refusing to be easy targets despite being physically outmatched. Pinkie Pie threw confetti in her opponent’s eyes, while Rarity used glitter. Applejack and Rainbow Dash stood back-to-back, dodging hits, counterattacking, and doing their best to keep Fluttershy out of danger. Even Twilight Sparkle fought back, using her book bag as a melee weapon when necessary.
Eventually the attacks from the fog began to slow until they had stopped completely. The fog lifted here thanks to one of their pursuers, and for the first time that day the girls could see their surroundings.
They were in a clearing near the base of a mountain. Smoke rose from a cave half a mile to the east. A dozen wild Pokémon stood nearby in a semi-circle, with many others close behind. The glitter and confetti that covered them almost made a parody of the battle. Korish floated down to the ground before them, but there was no cruel smile on her face. She was somber, and the pain in her eyes gave pause to the girl’s angry retorts.
“Please,” Fluttershy panted as she clutched a stitch in her side. She was near hysterical now. “No more violence. I’ve had enough of this fighting! It’s terrifying and creatures are getting hurt. I can’t stand it!”
Ashley voiced her agreement through pained breaths, and for a moment the wild Pokémon hesitated. Concern and shame crossed their faces as they saw the condition of the six starters, who had chosen to be beaten and bruised for their human partners. Those that had only observed the battle voiced their sympathy for the girls as well, whose clothes were torn and muddy.
“I’ve been toying with you, as I’m sure you’ve noticed,” Korish said. There was a bit of remorse in her own voice, but Fluttershy couldn’t tell whom it was for. “That ends now. If you want to survive, I suggest you use your magic.”
“We’re going to fight you,” Leon said through terrified sobs. “We vowed to protect these humans, and we’re going to do it!”
“It was bound to come at some point,” Poe said. The Rowlet looked to Twilight Sparkle sadly and sighed. Like his friends, he had traded a great many blows with the wild Pokémon around him and he looked the worse for wear. “This is a good death.”
“Your gallantry doesn’t go unnoticed,” Twilight Sparkle said, with a small grin as she held an injured arm. “This isn’t going to end like that, though.”
“Of course it will,” Korish replied. “Your partners are at their limits, and so are you. Unless, of course, you were to… what do you call it? Pony up?”
“She’s right, you know,” Nara said softly. He looked nervously at Rainbow Dash, as if he were afraid of making her mad with his suggestion. “If Rainbow Power really is so strong, you could use it to fix this mess we’re in pretty fast.”
“We could use it to beat Korish,” Rainbow Dash said, as she put a reassuring hand on the Chimchar’s head. “Trust me, I’ve considered that myself. But even if we did and it succeeded, that wouldn’t fix anything. This is a battle of ideas, little buddy. You don’t beat ideas by hitting people over the head with a hammer. You have to disprove them. You have to get people to change their minds on their own. Besides, Rainbow Power isn’t just a hammer to beat bad guys with. It’s a tool to inspire and build bridges between people. Even if we wanted to use it, there are no bad guys here. There are only disagreeing sides. Right now, we have to hold back on using Rainbow Power. We have to take the more difficult path.”
“Then you’ve doomed yourselves and your cause,” Korish said.
With a streak of blue and green, the Gourgeist descended down upon the group. Her hands had grown in size, their sharp claws covered in ghostly energy. Fluttershy looked to the wild Pokémon for help. She wanted them to stand against the insanity of Korish’s words, but they were frozen with fear, and so was she. Though she wanted to speak, she couldn’t. All she could do was stare at the faces of the Pokémon and wonder if it was sympathy she saw there. Ashley leapt forward as the others dodged, casting Protect to shield Fluttershy from the Gourgeist’s brutal claws.
“Please snap out of it, Fluttershy!” Ashley yelled as Korish was rebuffed. The Litten leapt into Fluttershy’s stomach and knocked her out of the way of the second Shadow Claw. Then she turned to hit the Gourgeist with a Flamethrower attack as Rainbow Dash pulled Fluttershy to her feet.
Korish took the attack head on, ignoring the flames as she brought one of her claws down upon the stalwart Litten. An Ice Beam hit Korish from the side before her attack could land and she screamed in anger. Ashley launched another Flamethrower, and was immediately joined by Nara and Gem. The special attacks ceased as the Pokémon took a breath. Korish took advantage of the opening, appearing above Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy with a large Shadow Ball held between her hands.
“Use Aerial Ace!” Twilight Sparkle and Applejack said, together. Their Rowlet collided with Korish, striking her from both sides with their wings. The Shadow Ball dropped and dissipated, and Korish screamed in frustration. The next volley of special attacks struck, and Korish was forced back toward the cave.
The girls and their partners refused to give Korish time to react, striking her again and again in the same pattern until they were feet from the cave entrance. Fluttershy could smell food cooking, but the smoke had died out as whoever or whatever was inside responded to the noise of the battle. Light no longer flooded out of the entrance, and she began to wonder what was there. Then she saw the webbing at the front of the cave.
“Ashley,” she said as she turned toward the cave mouth. “Could you burn down that web, please?”
Ashley hesitated, as she looked from the battle to the webbing, afraid to let up on the enemy for anything. Korish was too strong. Her wounds were minor, and the attacks that struck her seemed to cause more frustration than pain. Though she now panted from exertion, the starters and their human partners seemed to be wearing themselves down too quickly, and the Gourgeist’s attacks were hitting too close to home as she began to figure out ways around their group effort. The wild Pokémon just watched, now. They were terrified of taking a side. Victory for Korish seemed assured, but Ashley’s curious streak won out in the end.
The Litten obeyed her friend, and blew a Flamethrow through the webbing. It disintegrated, and the flames shone light on what was inside. It wasn’t a terribly large cave, but it was still big enough to hold several dozen people and Pokémon. There were four humans crouching at the end of it. They were stocky and dour faced, with dirt and mud caked on their clothes and skin. A dozen, unconscious Scyther with red collars around their necks lay at the human’s feet. Large, threatening Ariados stood silent on the walls as the flames illuminated them. The battle ceased, and both sides looked on. Though the girls and their partners were shocked, the Pokémon of Route 210 seemed fearful and resigned.
“Now we come to it,” Korish said, bitterly. “It took me long enough to get you here. Though, admittedly, I had more fun tormenting you than I should have. This is what you were brought to Route 210 to witness. Not to speak to some champion in Celestic Town as the High Council would have you do, but to see what these Pokémon have been fighting against. To date, all attempts to run these humans off have ended badly. They must hide or appear weak if they’re to stay free from humans like these.”
“Their outfits look like they belong to Team Galactic,” Twilight Sparkle said as she looked through her Pokédex.
“We do,” said one of the scouts from inside the cave. “And we’re taking your Pokémon along with our latest catch. These Scyther were stupid enough to follow us back to our lair. They thought they could get rid of us. They tried to kill us. Now, we’ve got them collard. They’ll obey, once they realize it’s preferable to pain just like all the others. Gotta get rid of you lot, first, though.”
He raised one of his hands, and at his silent guesture the Ariados launched their String Shots simultaneously. Korish dodged the attack with ease, but the exhausted starters were too slow. They were wrapped up and pulled in past the burning web.
“No!” the girls yelled together, but they were caught by webbing that had been placed on the floor. They tripped, forced to lean on each other and the wall to save themselves from falling.
“We won’t let you get away with this!” Rainbow Dash yelled. “You’re goin’ down!”
The Ariados fired Poison Sting attacks at her, but they were blocked by the Rainbow Aura that now surrounded her body. Her aura disintegrated the webbing on the ground. The Ariados began hitting her with Sludge Bombs, though she dodged them with renewed strength. Rainbow Dash ran to Nara’s side and began fighting to untie him.
“Get ‘em loose, girls,” Applejack yelled to her friends as they fought to free their Pokémon. She struggled to tear through the webbing around Archi, and though she made headway faster than her friends it was still difficult. “We got a job ‘ta do, and we ain’t even started yet!”
“Please!” Fluttershy pleaded softly as she pulled at Ashley’s bindings. “Things are so bad here! They don’t have to be. Please, if we just talk things out we can make everything better!”
She turned to the wild Pokémon, her face desperate and tearful as the Ariados swarmed her group.
“This is the problem you must solve,” Korish said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Believe it or not, these humans abuse us less than the ones who live their lives according to the law. Can you convince them to stop? Can you show them a better way?”
Fluttershy looked to her friends, who were already leading their partners in battle against the Galactic Scouts, then back to the wild Pokémon at the mouth of the cave. Suddenly she realized they were scared of Team Galactic almost as much as they were of Korish.
“I don’t know if I can show these people a better way,” Fluttershy said, her fear disappearing as she reached out to the wild Pokémon. Ashley stood next to her protectively, fighting on her own as Fluttershy spoke. “I don’t even know these people, but I know what I’ve seen in your eyes during our battle. I don’t believe that you Pokémon really want to be violent towards humans. You don’t want to obey Korish and Charles. Though their anger is not without merit, their decision to attack people rather than reason with them is wrong. I know that you must see it too!”
The creatures looked to one another anxiously. Some made small movements forward, but stepped back when Korish turned her head to look at them. She scowled at the entire scene. The girls were now holding their own against Team Galactic, their Rainbow Aura giving them an edge against their more skilled opponents. Though they hadn’t ponied-up and their Rainbow Power wasn’t at its strongest, their presence was still invigorating for their partners.
“There is still hope in this world,” Fluttershy said, kindly as her own aura began to surround her. She sprouted wings and took to the air, addressing her words to Korish as much as to the wild Pokémon behind her. “Let us find it together.”
Several of the Pokémon grunted angrily and walked away. With one last, pained look they left the cave and abandoned Fluttershy’s promise of hope. The rest began to slowly inch forward, watching Korish, scared of her reaction. Though the Gourgeist’s face was scowling, she made no move to stop them. After several seconds, those that had decided to aid the humans charged forward to join the fray.
Fluttershy cheered them on as they took the fight to Team Galactic. One of the scouts yelled something desperate, and one of the Weezing near the cave ceiling was knocked out by a powerful hit to the face. It fell several feet, landing on Fluttershy’s head and knocking her down before rolling off to the side. It woke up for a moment and began glowing brightly. The girls screamed as they turned to help Fluttershy, but it was too late. Fluttershy looked around in a daze, the smell of toxins filling her nostrils as the Weezing huffed and puffed next to her. She felt a tug at her waist as her Pokédex removed itself. Several Pokémon, including her Litten friend, bent over her protectively. Then the Weezing exploded, and everything went dark.
Fluttershy awoke on the ground, several yards from the cave. She rubbed her aching head and opened her eyes to see the relieved, smiling faces of her friends. She was in one piece. The battle was over.
The Team Galactic Scouts were tied up and unconscious. Their Pokémon were nearby, looking around uncertainly as they spoke to the wild Pokémon of Route 210. The Scyther that had been captured were slicing apart their collars with righteous glee.
“You alright, sugar cube?” Applejack asked as she helped Fluttershy sit up.
“I think so,” Fluttershy said, softly as she took a water bottle from Twilight Sparkle. “What happened?”
“You got the wild Pokémon to help us!” Rainbow Dash said as she gave her friend a congratulatory pat on the back. “Then you got hit in the head by a Weezing and passed out.”
“We think it was the poisons it secreted that made you lose consciousness,” Twilight Sparkle said. “Your Rotom used Protect just before the Weezing exploded, limiting the damage done to the cave and protecting everyone that came to help you.”
“Turns out our Pokédexes were possessed by friendly ghosts!” Pinkie Pie said, cheerfully. “The High Council made it happen. They’re only supposed to fight when they’re absolutely needed, though. Otherwise, they’re just there to observe and give advice when asked, which stinks because if I’d known they were there I’d have asked a lot of things a long time ago.”
“So… we won?” Fluttershy asked.
“We won a little bit,” Rarity said, carefully. “We’ve got a few more on our side than before, which is always good. Though not everyone agreed with your remarkable speech, darling. At least our Rotom friends convinced Korish to calm down a bit, and we’re well on our way to Celestic Town!”
“Korish and half the Pokémon wanted to strangle those thugs in the cave,” Pinkie Pie said as she pulled a chocolate bar from her bags and gave it to Fluttershy. “Things got pretty hairy for a moment, and I thought we were gonna fight again.”
“The Rotom handled things well enough, though,” Rainbow Dash said, as the other girls agreed.
Fluttershy looked to the sky as her friends continued the conversation. She ate the chocolate bar slowly and considered their situation. Sunset Shimmer and Princess Twilight had warned them that this would be a difficult journey. Even so, Fluttershy felt very unprepared.
“We have to save this place,” Fluttershy said, after a moment of contemplation.
“We will,” Applejack said, confidently. “We will.”