• Published 10th Mar 2016
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Breaking Down - spitfirepanda

The sequel to Arms of Arceus. In light of Infinity Energy, are the humans of the Pokémon world worth saving?

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Chapter 21: Trials of God

“This fabric is simply adorable,” Rarity said as she looked through the isles of the imported fabric shop. The store was on a street facing the sea. The view was so gorgeous she and Gem had spent two hours sitting on a bench, enjoying it. Rarity had drawn up four dress designs and one suit design during that time, all inspired by the feeling of commerce and diversity that Canalave City exuded.

“I wonder if there’s a willing trainer to battle nearby,” Gem said from her spot next to the register. She was lying down, but her head was up and she was looking around eagerly. The women in charge of the shop had gone to their stock room to find several accessories Rarity had requested.

“We just got done with a ghastly turn of events and you want to go back to fighting? No offense darling, but I can’t see the appeal.”

“Fighting is fun. It makes the world simpler.”

“It makes the world a mess if it’s not in good spirited competition, and even then the competitors get horribly messy. I know I got horribly messy in Mt. Coronet. So did you, for that matter. Fortunately my friends and I brought soap and shampoo.”

“And the Pokémon Rangers set up portable showers around their base. Getting clean is nice so long as the water is boiling hot.”

“Agreed!” Rarity said as she put her final purchases down on the cashier’s counter. “With the exception of the boiling water, of course.”

The storeowner and her assistant returned from the back room, their arms full of supplies. Rarity made her purchases, thanked the women and left with her partner.

“The town square is a few blocks east,” Rarity’s Rotom-dex chirped, his electronic voice sharp and confident. “There’s more shopping over there and it’s a place where trainers often gather to battle one another, too. People from all over the world come to Canalave, so we might just get to see something interesting.”

“Would you mind if I watched the battles?” Gem asked.

“If that is what you want to do, my friend, then enjoy yourself,” Rarity replied. “I’m sure they will be fantastic, but shopping is far more therapeutic for me. I’ll come and find you when I’m done.”

The two arrived at the town square and separated after a brief discussion on ways they might find each other later. Rarity turned right into the shopping plaza nearby, and Gem kept walking into the center of the square. The Litten ducked and dodged in-between the crowd of onlookers. People and Pokémon alike had gathered to watch the battles at the center of town. Once Gem had finally managed to squeeze past the crowd she was able to see what they were seeing, and she couldn’t help but meow in delight.

Two grizzled, old Conkeldurr were sparring in the middle of a large ring outlined by chalk. Their clashing concrete pillars shook the air around them and the ground beneath them, each blow loud and heavy. One of the stone pillars hit home, sending one of the Conkeldurr reeling backwards. Instead of going down, he changed his footing and blocked another swipe aimed at his head. He swung his pillar upward, catching his opponent on the chin and knocking him several meters into the air. The other Conkeldurr flipped in mid-air and landed on his feet, rubbing his chin. The fight continued as the humans and Pokémon looked on in wonder.

After the Conkeldurr had shaken hands and parted, accepting a tie as the outcome of their battle, a Blastoise took to the ring to face off against a Hitmonlee. The combatants bowed to one another, and the sparring commenced.

“Are there no trainers here?” Rarity asked several hours later. Gem jumped at the surprise and her partner apologized for the shock. The young Litten had become so focused on the battles that she had lost all sense of her surroundings. It was the seventh fight, this time between a Boldore and two Machop. The Boldore had a clear power advantage, despite the type matchup and her opponent’s numbers.

“Actually, now that you mention it I don’t think I’ve seen any trainers involved in this,” Gem said as she rubbed up against Rarity’s leg affectionately. “I guess I haven’t really been paying attention to that. I’ve just been enjoying the action!”

“It is quite… impressive for something so violent, I suppose.”

“It’s what I was raised to do, but on the battlefield,” Gem said. “My Litten used to spar with me daily. He was a great wrestler.”

“Pardon dear, but I heard the word ‘Litten’ in place of one of those words. Were you talking about you father, perhaps?”

“My uncle,” Gem said. There was a hint of sadness in her voice, but it was overshadowed by pride. “My father died when I was little. Momma says it was a glorious Litten. Uncle Markus went off to that place called Battleworld and never came home. The most the Slowking College will tell us while they finish chronicling those events is that our loved ones fought heroic battles and saved a lot of lives.”

“I’m sure they did,” Rarity said as she bent down to pet the Litten gently. Gem leapt into Rarity’s lap and purred as they continued to watch the battle. “I heard from Pinkie Pie a few minutes ago. She’d spent a while writing down ideas for a very special party, and was on her way back to the truck.”

“Oh? What’s the occasion?” Gem asked, her attention divided between the battle and the conversation. The Machop were pushing back hard now, and the Boldore was showing signs of strain.

“A group of Brionne have come to rest in the docks of Canalave for the night. It’s Leon’s colony. Several of his family members are with them. We’re going to have a delightful party with them tonight, and I’ve decided to make some lovely bows to send them off with.”

“Are they durr to God’s Breath?” a strong voice said from behind. Rarity turned to see two old, gnarled Conkeldurr standing there. Gem was so entranced by the fight that she didn’t even bother to see who had spoken.

“Yes,” Rarity said, moving over to offer the Conkeldurr a seat. “They said they were going that direction. Who might you be?”

“I’m Chuck,” said the tallest Conkeldurr. He was half a head taller than his friend, with just as many scars from years of fighting and working construction sites without protection. “This is Sylvester. We’re leading a group of Pokémon to God’s Breath ourselves.”

“You’re going to fight, too?” Gem asked, breaking away from the battle to join the conversation fully.

“We are, young one,” Sylvester said. “We’re a small group but we’re not alone. There are many more groups just like ours passing through all of the regions of the world as they travel to the aid of the city.”

“You were both holding back out there. I could tell. My uncle taught me how, before he died fighting for the princesses and the King’s High Council.”

“I do hope you won’t have to fight anything too ghastly,” Rarity said. “But that ‘war trophy’ Sunset showed to us before our trip almost curled my hair into knots. Do be safe.”

“We will be as safe as is necessary,” Chuck said, with a small laugh. “Though that’s not saying much. While we may not lead all these Pokémon into battle once we’re there, Sylvester and I don’t plan to shy away from the worst of it.”
Gem had been purring the entire time, thoroughly enjoying the battles and the company of such strong fighters. She grew silent now, and looked down at the bench sadly.

“You’re going to fight alongside the council members then?”

“We trained Gallah when he first came to the world above,” Sylvester said. “We were the only wild Pokémon he didn’t stand a chance against. It took a year of intensive training for him to surpass us. We’ll likely fight at his side when we enter the battlefield.”

“My uncle talked like that,” Gem said after a few seconds. “He always wanted to be in the middle of the hottest fight. Leon said his father fought alongside Lord Bartholomew before he died. The council members always face the worst of it themselves.”

The Conkeldurr knelt down beside Rarity and Gem, smiling gently as the crowd around them was entranced by the contest. Some of the people glanced at the scene in curiosity. They couldn’t understand the Pokémon’s words, though the emotions of the conversation were not lost on them. The Pokémon in the crowd were different. Some chose to ignore the discussion out of respect, feeling that they were baring witness to something personal they shouldn’t be privy to. Others lost interest in the fight and grew a bit melancholy.

“I’ve heard amazing things of the high council, though,” Rarity said as she pet Gem comfortingly. “Anyone who fights at their side must be the best of the best.”

“We were the bodyguards of one of Gallah’s predecessors, Lord Gerome,” Chuck said, cheerfully. The two Conkeldurr were perfectly relaxed, despite the growing number of eyes upon them. “We Conk-durr thirty-five years ago to live among humans and help them maintain their cities. Never tamed, but always friendly.”

“Gallah durr us during one of our training expeditions into the wild,” Sylvester added. “He was young, and a bit arrogant. We beat that out of him well enough.”

The battle had ended, the Machop having come from behind to finally defeat the stronger and more experienced Boldore. Both sides bowed to the crowd and left the chalk-drawn stage. Rarity took note of the people now turning their attention to her, and blushed in sudden nervousness.

“At any rate, to live or die in glorious battle is a warrior’s lot in life. Durr we aren’t going to do that if we don’t have to.”

“I’m sorry,” Rarity said, softly. An idea came to her on how she might salvage their situation, but she was growing quite nervous and the Pokémon were becoming harder to understand for some reason. “Could you repeat that last line?”

“We must be off, Lady Rarity,” Sylvester said as he and his friend got to their feet. “Yes, we know who you are, my dear. We have heard of your recent exploits, and we’re eternally grateful for the efforts of you and your friends.”

They bowed to her, and something clicked in Rarity’s mind. Here were two figures, likely legends among their kind, bowing to her as they prepared to run off into unknown peril. All the while, their world’s survival hung on whatever success she and her friends might find on their journey. It was as if the seriousness of their mission was laid out for her in full.

“And you, my little Litten,” Chuck said as he turned his gaze back to Gem. “You and your friends are warriors, brave and true. Your mission is no less important than ours. We know you will do us proud.”

Gem’s jaw opened slightly in awe, then she smiled and meowed her approval. The two Conkeldurr bowed once more and left the town square, their Pokémon troupe falling in close behind.

“What was that all about?” a man in the crowed asked. The exhibition was finished and all eyes were now on Rarity and Gem.

“It was part of a play!” Rarity said, awkwardly. “A special sneak peak just for you, here, in Canalave. It will be performed in full at the first location in the next region we travel to, free of charge! Though all berries, poffins, and Poké Beans donated will be greatly appreciated.”

She practically leapt from her seat, Gem in hand, and walked out of the town square as quickly as possible. Her bags full of sewing supplies swayed as she moved, but her mind was soon taken with thoughts of their conversation. The whole affair now sounded as if it were completely beyond her and her friends. She grasped the pendant around her neck and felt the power of her element coursing through her, steady and strong. She would give her all to this cause, and so would her friends. She could only hope it would be enough.

The Canalave library wasn’t enormous, but it had a good stock of books. It’s greatest assets were the old tomes of Sinnoh folktales it possessed. Twilight Sparkle wanted to read them all and soak in as much information as she could, but Poe led her to several specific books. Like Archi, he was more focused on the mission than the other Pokémon in their group. While all of the young starters had sharp, inquisitive minds the Rowlet seemed more oriented toward the philosophy needed for their mission. Applejack and Twilight Sparkle had discussed this in their down time, and had decided to use their partners to help them form their answer to Arceus.

“So, what do you think of it?” Poe asked as he flew in circles just above Twilight Sparkle’s head. He had been excited ever since she had told him they were going to the library.

“It’s fascinating,” Twilight replied as she turned another page. “But I’ve got so many more questions now. Do you mind if I bounce a few off of you?”

“Not at all!”

“There’s a rather… disturbing story in here about a human hunting Pokémon for food. It says that he found a sword and hunted them until Pokémon eventually stopped appearing before people all together. Is the eating of Pokémon so common in this world? It would seem that humans and Pokémon, both being intelligent species, would get along better than that.”

“Many humans eat tofu rather than Pokémon,” Poe said, squinting a bit as he worked to remember his classroom lessons. “Though many humans eat various species of Pokémon, too.”

“Does that bother you?”

“A bit, I suppose. Now that I think about it. But Pokémon will eat humans sometimes, as well. Some Pokémon will eat other Pokémon. Though not universal, the predator-prey relationship between certain species cannot be denied. This will often manifest as heated inter-species rivalries, even in places where the population of Pokémon are vegetarians.”

“Yet Pokémon have built societies all across the world. Just because human societies are more numerous doesn’t make them better.”

“Yet we live in the wild,” Poe said, his voice strengthening and eyes straightening as he organized his thoughts. “The majority of us do, at any rate. Yes, some of us have houses and shops, but for the most part our societies live out of caves, trees, and holes in the ground. We don’t normally build grand cities like the humans do. God’s Breath was formed out of necessity, as were most of the towns and kingdoms Pokémon have founded. Some Pokémon enjoy living in those places, but most don’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure. Perhaps the call of nature is too strong? Or it could be something else. An ancient curse would be a fascinating answer, but quite unlikely.”

“Yet there is no doubt that Pokémon could build their own societies to rival those of the humans. Why don’t they?”

“Why should we? What good has it done the humans? They still war with one another from time to time, wars that they have often dragged Pokémon into. Some even eat one another, though that problem is much less now than it used to be.”

“So, this predator-prey relationship between Pokémon and humans is more agreeable to Pokémon than two equal societies living side by side?”

“Nature is a harsh mistress, but we do live side by side as equals, in most cases. I wonder what my teacher would say about this?”

“Who is your teacher?” Twilight Sparkle asked.

“Cousin Archi and I were both mentored by an old Oranguru from the Lush Jungle. The last we heard, he was going to God’s Breath to help with preparations for the war. It might be good to talk to him about this subject if we can.”

“You’re quite right, Poe,” Twilight Sparkle said as she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. She pulled it out to see a party invite text from Pinkie Pie. She put it back in her pocket and began packing her bags, her mind racing with questions to ask this ancient scholar once they met. “Talking to him would be wise.”

When the girls finally arrived at the docks that night, the Brionne had just finished setting up the decorations for the party. The Pokémon had put up the tables, hung streamers made of brightly colored seaweed, and decorated the pier with beautiful shells they had brought up from the ocean floor. Cynthia drove their truck up to the pier and the Brionne greeted them with a short musical chorus. Leon waddled up to Pinkie Pie and hugged her cheerfully after the chorus line was over. She returned the hug, shouted for joy and the party began.

Cynthia was surprised by the Brionne’s voices. Though she had spent the last four hours talking to her own Pokémon, the experience of being able to hold full discussions with them was still quite new. Hearing them sing a song she had heard before was even more surprising. She eagerly sat down with the Pokémon and talked with them long into the night, though none of them would speak of God’s Breath to a human who didn’t already know of it.

The night wore on and soon it was early morning. The partygoers began to quiet down reluctantly, though the Brionne weren’t quite done, yet. As the group began to grow tired and sleep seemed immanent, the Brionne energized their new friends with one last song.

“You know,” Cynthia said as she sat next to the girls. Her Garchomp and Gastrodon sat next to her, bobbing their heads to the beat of the music. “This song has been passed down through generations among the people of Alola. It’s a song of friendship and togetherness, of being one with nature and the greatness of the seas of the world. Yet, these Pokémon are wild. They have never lived among humans, except to pass them from time to time, perhaps. Now that I can understand their voices I can’t help but wonder who wrote this song, people or Pokémon?”

“Why not both?” Applejack said. Archi hooted his approval from her shoulder. “When folks live side by side for a while, they start to rub off on each other.”

The others voiced their approval of Applejack’s theory, and they sat in silence for a while as the song continued. When it ended it was replaced by the sound of a helicopter coming in to land further up on the docks. Everyone turned to look, and Cynthia sighed.

“I’m sorry, my friends,” she said as she rose to her feet. “Thanks to Sunset Shimmer’s spell, I now have the ability to understand our world better than I ever have. I can find out why the wild Pokémon are growing more distant and violent. These Brionne are clearly hiding something very important from me, as are you. I cannot ask any of you to break whatever vows hold you. I must seek answers elsewhere. I cannot join you on the boat.”

“That’s alright,” Pinkie Pie said. She gave Cynthia a hug, and the others soon joined in. “I know we just met, but you’ve been so kind. We’ll save you some cake!”

Cynthia was shocked for a moment before returning their affection. Then she gave Pinkie Pie the tickets to the cruise ship and turned to leave. The group waved to her as she climbed aboard the helicopter. A few moments later, she was gone.

“Let’s sleep here tonight,” Pinkie Pie said as she hugged her Popplio close. The others agreed. They laid out bed mats and sleeping bags taken from the back of the truck. The Brionne sang them to sleep. When the girls woke the next morning, the colony had gone, the scent of the sea and a note of encouragement left to mark their passing.

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