They lay in beds, all of them—Yumin, Zakana, Farore, Bambi, and Makua. They weren’t in a fully functioning Pokémon Center but it was better than all the other ones they visited in the past month. This one could actually heal Pokémon. It was off the grid and so far, The Viterals hadn’t been able to touch it.
Kirish sat at Yumin’s hospital bed and whispered things to him. Other girls, the ones who had rode on the orange dragons, the Charizard, stood by, with medicines and ointments, visiting the bedsides every so often. Zakana had been stripped of his belongings—his bag, his Pokeballs, the papers that he had sworn to protect with his life.
Zakana turned to find pain course through him. The throbbing in the shoulder where the ice beam hit him was the strongest, but it was nothing compared to what it had been. Bambi stared straight up, her eyes meeting the shallow ceiling in the hut-like Center where they all now lay. Had they been damaged so? The fires, the floods, the fauna—what had it done to them?
Wiped them out, that’s what. It had wiped the floor with them and left their Pokémon breathless and fainted.
Kirish and Yumin’s tones rose next to him.
“I don’t know where my mom is,” Kirish said.
“What about Uncle Durin?” Yumin asked.
“Perhaps in the same place you saw him last.”
Zakana had questions . . . so many questions about the Rockets and the Viterals and when it would all end. He wanted less Pokémon, not more and now he seemed to possess three, if he didn’t include the Eevee resting in one of his Pokeballs. Slowpoke and Happiny were fine and utterly harmless but he wanted rid of the fox. He couldn’t bear the illusions again. They were too invasive.
Nearby, Bambi reminded Zakana that the fox had saved their lives. The fox and Kirish and her squad of teenage girls. They looked similar as they stood nearby, their hair long, in ponytails or buns sitting atop their heads. They wore loose clothing. The one that Zakana had met over a month ago moved to his bed.
“Is there anything you need, Zakana?”
Cecilia was her name and in that moment, with her jade-green eyes, she reminded him, in the pictures he had seen, of a younger version of his mom. Where was Audria now? Where were Bambi and Yumin’s parents?
“Where is my mom?”
Cecilia smiled. “I better let Kirish take that one.”
So she did. A few days later, once all the wounds had been mostly healed and everyone had their rest, the group of them, Zakana and his crew and Kirish and hers, met outside Kirish’s house and lay in the lawn.
“The Wailmer Wars rage,” was Kirish’s first announcement.
Zakana looked around and saw the destruction. He saw the boats that had tried to dock in the distance, how they had failed and been torn apart by Kirish’s defenses. Her own hair was caught somewhere in the crossfires. Pieces of it were gone, chopped like it had been set on a cutting board and sharp, swift knife strokes were brought down. The hair fell where it wanted and was mostly short. Kirish had managed to clean it up but it would be a long time before it was long again.
“The Viterals attacked,” Kirish continued. “It would seem with a full force.” She looked at her underlings, the three young women, and they all seemed to share a moment of understanding. They had seen things.
“So many Wailmer,” Cecilia said.
“Why? What is it that the Viterals want?”
Only the breeze made a sound. It was the question everyone had been waiting for, and other than Kirish and her girls, Farore sat up a little straighter and leaned in. Where her hair was long, golden and beautiful, Kirish was chopped and burnt. The two of them, Kirish and her Kingdom of the Orange Islands and Farore as Bug Gym Leader and ultimate protector of Celadon and its surrounding regions, squared off with each other, not as enemies, though perhaps in a different time they might have been, but as friends both protecting and fighting for the same causes, for the same people. Zakana saw the way they respected each other.
“They want the world,” Kirish finally replied.
It wouldn’t have been the first time someone, or some organization wanted that.
“They’re possessing Pokémon and bending them to their will,” Yumin said, his anger emanating from him in concentric circles.
Zakana remembered the red eyes. The Abomasnow. The Blaziken, Empoleon, and Serperior. The names now easily came to him.
“Its so much more than that,” Kirish said. “I haven’t figured out all the details, but they’re harvesting Pokémon.”
“Harvesting?” Makua asked.
“Yes. They’re sucking the life out of them, for their minerals, and their cells. But most of all for their vitamins.” Kirish paused. “Pokémon vitamins are very efficient and powerful, apparently, if used to fuel things.”
“The Viterals want the vitamins,” Yumin said, making the connection.
“They’re making them into machines!” Bambi cried.
“Yes. In a way,” Kirish said, remaining calm. “For now that is what they will do. But soon their greed will grow larger than ever. They will want every Pokémon, every form, every vitamin there is to gain, and then run a monopoly on it. They have already been at work for too long.”
“We grow locally here,” Cecilia said. “The prices of everything. The food, the medicines, everything in PokeMarts and Pokémon Centers will skyrocket. It is already underway.”
A discussion erupted as to how this was impossible. Zakana heard the arguments for both sides, and tried to see the truth himself. He heard snippets of conversations everywhere.
“Its better to keep your Pokémon unevolved,” Cecilia said.
“They’re using tracking systems to find Pokémon with higher heat indexes. Evolved Pokémon have higher heat indexes, but unevolved Pokémon have more valuable and malleable vitamins.”
“So they can find the higher forms more easily,” Yumin said. “But are really after the lower forms.”
“They’re after anything and everything,” Kirish replied. “They know no bounds.”
“Why?” Zakana found himself saying. “What’s our family got to do with it?”
Kirish stared at her brother. She paused, unsure if he was actually joining in the conversation. Everyone drew in a collective breath. Kirish eyed every single person there and studied him or her. She knew and loved her own girls. She and Yumin had definitely already spoken about the trustworthiness of the strangers Makua and Farore. They had agreed. It was the inner circle. This was as close to family as it got.
Kirish unrolled a piece of paper from her hands. “It’s the papers mom wanted you to get to me. Good job for protecting them.”
Zakana considered them. “It seemed like a message from Team Rocket to dad. Why?”
Kirish looked to Yumin who took the floor.
“Uncle Durin works for an Organization called Team Crimson. As do I. It’s not what you think. Team Crimson isn’t perfect but we do good, and before The Viterals had a name, we opposed them. We opposed their approach to Pokémon. So did Team Rocket. For a time, we worked together.”
Zakana looked back to Kirish.
She nodded. “That wasn’t the only thing the letter said. It had a secret message, Zakana.”
She held the letter up so that everyone could see the hidden orange letters underneath the ink print. “It’s from one of dad’s correspondents. Ashtyn Ketchum.”
Zakana had certainly heard the name. He was an important figure in history. But who?
Kirish cleared the air of mystery. “He’s the only Summoner this world has ever seen and he’s exactly what the Viterals are after. If they can find Ash Ketchum, then the world as we know it is over.”
Everyone wanted to know why now. Zakana wasn’t the only one who didn’t know.
“Let me say it as simply as I can,” Kirish said. Her voice was not malicious or superior in any way. “Dad can lead the Viterals to Ash, which will give them access to summoning powers, and—“
“What are summoning powers?” Zakana asked.
Makua gasped. “It means he can request the help and powers of Pokémon without actually catching them!”
“Not just any old Pokémon. Legends,” Kirish said.
A quiet settled over the group. Yumin tried to explain it to Zakana privately. Legends were one of a kind and could destroy oceans and planets if they wanted. But they didn’t want to. They remained peaceful and mostly uninvolved in worldly affairs, never being captured, or appearing to humans if they could help it.
“And they have vitamins of gold,” Kirish said. “If whatever the Viterals is doing works on the Legends, they will be able to make anything they want. We’ve already seen the kind of machines they brought here. To catch more Wailmer. To harvest more Pokémon for more machines, and more vitamins.” Kirish stood up suddenly. “They have to be stopped!”
“So they’re just keeping Uncle Durin until he says where this Ash guy is?” Bambi asked.
Kirish turned to face her cousin, then looked at Zakana. Her face fell. “I forgot to say one of the most important things. This letter. It came from Ash himself. He left clues for my dad. My dad followed them. There’s one thing The Viterals don’t know that we do. I’m not sure what they will do to my dad once they find out.”
“What is it?” Zakana worried for his dad more than ever finally knowing what the Viterals were capable of. “Tell us Kirish!”
“Ash Ketchum died six months ago.”
Makua gasped again, clearly not expecting this type of news. “No—”
“Without his kind of summoning abilities the Legends may be safe. Its just dad we need to worry about now.”
“What about mom? Where is she?”
Kirish began to cry. Without warning the tears came. “When I got this letter,” she said, holding up a separate note, “last week, I thought it was from mom.” She shook her head. “It wasn’t. She told me she would communicate with me every day that falls on a 2 or a 7. She missed the mark.” Kirish wiped at her eyes. “I’m worried about her. I’m worried about both of them!”
Zakana found himself hugging his sister. He pulled her tightly to him and hugged her, hoped to shake all the tears away. “Kirish, I’m sorry.”
She did not look up. “I don’t know who the letter was from, but whoever wrote it told me a group of people, my brother, and cousins included were being trapped in a warehouse in Fuchsia City.”
Yumin moved into the embrace and so did Bambi.
“No way . . . they wouldn’t have.”
“Do you know who sent it?” Kirish asked.
They broke apart and stood facing each other, the four of them. Yumin nodded. “Yeah.”
And Zakana knew too. Lyres hated Yumin and probably wouldn’t help him, but the other guy . . . Isaque. Would he have helped Zakana? In the name of their past friendship? Was he even part of Zakana’s past?
After another day of rest, it was time to strengthen the defenses of the Orange Islands again. Kirish assured everyone the Viterals would strike soon. Pokémon were returned to their trainers. Slowpoke, Happiny, and even Zorua—Zakana got them back at full health. The teams were fully loaded. That is except for one. Yumin didn’t cry when he heard the news. Maybe he wasn’t capable of expressing himself now, when the air outside felt so numb. He and Zakana stood there watching the moon, Bambi and Kirish nearby chatting about the baby Eevee roaming around them.
“I knew something was wrong with it,” Yumin said. “Something happened. I was pushing it too hard.” His voice was without emotion, as blank as his stare.
“You’re an amazing trainer, Yumin.” Zakana found himself saying the words. He truly was sorry. Even though he didn’t care for Pokémon all that much, it was starting to change a little bit. Regardless of what happened to him, he cared for dead things. He knew at least that much and Pokémon didn’t deserve to die either.
“Rest in Pease, Braviary,” Yumin said, kneeling over the land where his bird Pokemon lay buried.
Pokémon can die too. In the same way that humans can. By being pushed too hard or pitted against things more powerful.
Bambi walked to them. “You have an open spot for your sixth, Yumin.” She held up an Eevee to him. “Take it. After they were separated from their mother they grew attached to their trainers, instead of Kappa or me. That’s why that one went with Lyres.” Bambi handed another one to Zakana. “This one likes you.”
“You’re just going to give away your Eevee like that?” Kirish asked.
“I’m okay with just my Umbreon. I’m going to give the other two to Makua and Farore.”
“That’s’ very sweet of you,” Kirish said.
Yumin patted her on the head and pulled her into a hug. “I love you, Bambi.”
“I love you too, big bro.”
Kirish and Zakana’s eyes met and they awkwardly looked away.
Would there be time to say it later?
Zakana opened his mouth to speak but something flew overhead.
A long dark shadow stretched across the sky. Just above the clouds, Zakana saw the tips of the wings, white and blue. It flapped underneath the moon.
“The Legends are already coming out of their realms,” Kirish said. “They know their brethren are dying.”
Zakana considered the great beast above. He considered Legends and the kind of power Yumin explained them having. That sort of creature was meant to be left alone. Not tampered with. Power like that did not belong to men. Unless it was used for good, in the way that Ketchum used it. Not what the Viterals had in mind. Would they still accomplish their goals without a Summoner?
“They’re coming,” Kirish said. “The Viterals will come until there is nothing left.”
Zakana studied his sister. She was strong for singlehandedly fighting off the Viterals on her small chain of islands. Zakana admired it. He admired what she needed to do to leave her place of refuge to save him and the others. She stood tall in her shortened hair and looked out across the rippling water. This was her Kingdom. Zakana would do what it took to help her protect it.
THE END . . . stayed tuned for the Epilogue
If you missed Chapter 24, you can find it here.