Chapter 34: Black Snow
Fan fiction inspired by Pokemon, Pokemon Conquest
Rating: Young Adult
We held our position and prepared for our battle with Articuno. Ina led a handful of warriors and their rock and steel pokémon in throwing stone projectiles at the legendary ice bird. Hanzo’s team of ghost pokémon were commanded to levitate high into the sky to reach him. Okuni’s support squad had very few pokémon who could subdue Articuno, so long as he was flying, but at least Amy was there with her Luxray and Rhyperior to help out.
But as some pokémon had focused their attention on the sky, the rest of us could not ignore the battle here on the ground. With the castle razed and Lord Fujitaka missing, warriors from the Nixtorm guard and some Viperia converts were still up for a fight. Rarely in battle does a fallen warlord mean that the opposing forces surrender. If anything, killing the warlord results in the bloodiest part of battle because the army loyal to him scrambles vehemently without any sense of logic or direction. And that’s exactly what was happening here.
Whatever warriors or pokémon were not concentrating on Articuno were busy defending each other from these enemies. The ceasefire had been negated, as screams and cries of death from both sides continued.
I released Roku for another battle, knowing well that releasing any of the others would take a toll on my ability to fight alongside them in a short amount of time. Skorupi also jumped down from my shoulder to join me.
I repelled any enemies that came toward us. Using Ginkgo no Kusari never felt any lighter as I swung its fan-shaped blades and chains with ease to immobilize warriors and pokémon alike. Restraining their limbs and disarming their weapons never felt easier. Roku and Skorupi also helped extraordinarily by applying poisons to slow them down.
But just because it was easier didn’t mean that I could take this battle lightly. Despite our initial invasion on the city, I must have fought twelve people and pokémon in a matter of two minutes.
Meanwhile from above, Articuno had been engaged in battle. I didn’t want to believe the reports that Hanzo and Ina had said about him, but perhaps there was some truth to it. With blizzards and ice beams, the bird flew solo above us, freezing any pokémon in the sky and from the ground indiscriminately. It didn’t matter if they were attacking him or standing idly by; it didn’t matter if they had been enemies or allies.
The titan of ice knew no parallels in this frozen battle.
As snow and ice thickened the battlefield, only a few of us were able to stand. Everyone else had fallen on their knees, or in the case of pokémon, other stubby appendages, gasping for breath in a state of hypothermia.
Skorupi had also been affected, but Roku, who had adapted his body to the frozen climate already, wrapped her up safely in his sludge.
Amy still stood proud along with her pokémon, as she walked toward me to make sure I was okay. Being in Sinnoh all the time, she has no problems with cold weather. We embraced each other as the chill had passed, but she wasn’t too concerned about me. She didn’t have to be. In fact, we were more concerned about Gracia.
Gracia stood behind me throughout the fight. With only Gothorita and Munna by her side, she had grown numb; not from the cold draft in the air, which was certainly plausible, but because what she had witnessed. It affected all us, no doubt. I was still shaken by Tadaoki’s death. But for Gracia, it was more than that.
He was her husband. A husband who was killed by his own father.
“Are you three all right?” asked Ina, who had also survived the wintry chill and approached us.
Ina’s Empoleon continued to assist other pokémon by using his own blubbery body to warm them up.
“Yes, we’re fine,” I nodded. “We’ll help you assist the others in a minute.”
“No, Lord Shuichi,” snapped Ina. “Even if our fighting on the ground has ceased, the circumstances are still very clear. That Articuno is still soaring through the sky; and if we don’t stop it, none of us will survive!”
“And how do you suppose we stop him then?” I snapped back. “We are clearly no match for Articuno! We need to get as many people as we can back and regroup!”
“Leave them be!” shouted Ina. “We can’t save the dead now!”
“How do you know they’re all dead?”
“You have no understanding of this war!”
“And you have no empathy for your comrades! Who raised you to have no sense of respect for your fellow warriors in arms, huh Ina?”
Silence came between us. Amy had tugged on my arm, suggesting to me that I had gone too far. Gracia still stood with a forlorn look in her eyes, while Ina showed wrath in hers.
“How dare you say that about me,” she said. “You, a foreigner from another land! You know nothing about me, nor about warriors and their pokémon! We shouldn’t have trusted you after all! And here, I thought you were… you were…”
Ina’s thoughts trailed off when Gracia came between us and pushed us both aside.
“Haven’t you two had enough?” she said, tears rolling down her face. “It doesn’t matter if Ina is the strongest woman warrior or if Shuichi is our leader from a foreign land. Tadaoki’s dead! And for what? So you two can turn your tails and forget any of this ever happened? I won’t accept that! Not from you two, or anyone else here! Not because you are in the Resistance. Because you are all precious to me!”
Gracia took the two wands and clasped them together by folding her hands, as if they were one.
“Divine Snow and Black Snow. They were gifts Tadaoki and I received when we were married. Gifts that were passed down from his deceased mother, for his wedding. Even if it was a political marriage, it still didn’t change the fact that my father was responsible for her death. But even so…”
Gracia held the wands high in the air to catch what little rays of sunlight could be found in the cloudy sky above us. Radiant beams of blue and violet reflected onto the snow white ground below us.
“It was her dream that her son, my husband, could set aside the shadows of the past to live in a better future, no matter whom he was to marry. And even if it just happened to be me, we fell in love. And we wanted to uphold that dream.”
Munna and Gothorita rejoined Gracia and nuzzled with her.
“Divine Snow and Black Snow. Two entities that are worlds apart can coexist in peace, Shuichi, Ina. Can’t you do the same?”
Ina and I looked at each other without any more exchange, other than our faces. We may have grimaced at the idea, but I could tell, as if by wordless communication, she had apologized, as did I. Perhaps we weren’t so different after all.
“Well, that was touching, dearest daughter-in-law,” said a familiar, yet unkind voice from behind us.
As a large shadow approached us, I turned around to see him. His clothes tattered. His crystal trident still tainted in his son’s own blood. A Lapras by his side with a fierce look in his eyes. The anger I had before had just come back, but directed at someone more worthy of such feelings.
Lord Fujitaka was alive.
“A fool’s love is true love, isn’t it? But it still is just a fool’s love!”
Skorupi released herself from Roku’s embrace and prepared for battle once more. Roku moved his way closer to me and did the same. I held Ginkgo no Kusari tightly, with the chain dangling just twenty centimeters from the ground in my right hand.
“With your father’s Articuno under my control, this kingdom will soon become a frozen paradise! Then I will finally be rid of all of you warriors in the eastern kingdoms! But first, I will start with you, daughter-in-law. I think I hated you more than I hated your own father!”
Lord Fujitaka, who had only been ten meters away from us, charged at Gracia. His Lapras prepared for an ice beam attack aimed at the rest of us. I wanted to protect her. No, I wanted to protect all of them. There was no time to think about it.
I rushed in front of Gracia and hurled my chain quickly and focefully. Skorupi dashed around Fujitaka to go straight for Lapras. With a quick tether, Ginkgo no Kusari’s chain wrapped around the trident and deflected Lord Fujitaka’s thrust.
“Do it now, all of you!” commanded Amy.
From a distance, Luxray used a thunder attack and hit Lapras directly, paralyzing him. Rhyperior crashed into the target with a drill run and held onto him from his long neck. Sneasel then jumped to reach the Lapras’ face and slashed his eyes with his sharp claws. Fujitaka’s Lapras had been immobilized.
Out of frustration, Fujitaka recoiled his lance type weapon and held it in the air. The tip acted as a beacon to release a little more energy toward the Articuno who hovered above us.
“Fortify yourself, titan of ice!” he shouted. “And lay waste to thine enemies!”
By activating his warrior skill, Articuno earned some kind of buffer, but what exactly?
“That’s enough!” said Gracia, putting Divine Snow and Black Snow in opposite hands again.
With a shimmering light from either wands, Gracia gave her warrior skill to both Gothorita and Munna. Gothorita glowed with the violet aura of Black Snow and Munna with the sky blue aura of Divine Snow.
“Gothorita, use psybeam on my father-in-law! Munna, use hypnosis on Articuno!”
The two pokémon did as they were told. With a charge of telekinetic light beams, Gothorita hit Fujitaka directly in the face, leaving him in a daze confusion. Munna eyed the bird above them who was coming even closer to us, swooping down in haste.
When Fujitaka came back to his senses, he looked back at Articuno, who had stood behind him calmly.
“What are you doing?” he shouted. “Get them!”
But Articuno didn’t budge. He stood proudly, tranquilly, without any regard that any of us were in front of him. And while it was Gracia’s intention to put the bird to sleep, the hypnosis attack missed.
And in just a flash, the tides had turned on Fujitaka.
Articuno spread his wings and took off in the air once more, but only hovered about five meters off the ground. His cold eyes stared intently on his former master, whose control had already been lost.
“No!” he shouted in fear. “I have the trident! You are supposed to obey me!”
But as Fujitaka stared in cowardice about ten meters away from Ina, Amy, Gracia, me, and all of our pokémon, Gracia felt no remorse for his misfortune.
“Thanks to my warrior ability, ‘added bonus,’ and training with Amy,” said Gracia as she slowly raised her head, “I relinquished your link with Daddy’s pokémon. Articuno no longer belongs to you.”
Articuno tilted his head back to charge another ice beam from his mouth, eyes solely on Fujitaka. Fujitaka could do nothing more than scream for his life, shrieking at the very sight of the pokémon he once tamed. And in a single blow, Articuno’s ice beam put an end to Fujitaka’s reign.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Fujitaka’s body remained encapsulated in an icy coffin. The trident in his hands had been dropped, shattering into hundreds of smaller pieces. And yet, Articuno remained unharmed, soaring above us, as a reminder that the threat was not over.
“Prepare yourselves, everyone!” said Ina, who had commanded everyone within earshot, regardless of their former factions on the battlefield. “We must all work together and stop Articuno!”
Without any other exchange, our forces and Fujitaka’s seemed to instantly forget about their blood feud and organized hastily for a counter attack on the legendary bird. The pokémon worked together to attack Articuno at once, while the warriors remained on the ground, supporting them with their various warrior abilities. Ina, Okuni, and Hanzo also helped, as did Amy.
But it wasn’t enough. If I could count everyone altogether, there may have been a dozen warriors left, and maybe a dozen and a half more pokémon. If we were so easily defeated with about fifty of us earlier, we had even less of a chance against Articuno now.
Articuno flapped his large wings and conjured another icy wind attack, reminding us all of the frozen air that would slow us down. I, too, wanted to join them in support of the battle, but Gracia tugged my sleeve yet again.
“Don’t go,” she said softly with her head down.
I looked at her displeased.
“But if we don’t fight, none of us will have a chance to survive,” I said.
“You don’t understand,” she continued. “None of you understand!”
As warriors and pokémon collectively fell silent from their frostbitten weakness, they all turned to Gracia.
“Articuno isn’t a threat! He’s hurt! And attacking him now will only make him more angry! Why don’t any of you get that!?”
As she said this, Articuno soared toward us, eyeing Gracia this time. I tried to grab Gracia, but she pushed me away, forcing me to fall backwards at a further proximity from her. Skorupi had held on to my shoulder the whole time, but Roku, Gothorita, and Munna remained by Gracia’s side. Articuno readied another attack, but this time, one that seemed more powerful than any other attacks before.
Amy grabbed my shoulders and dragged me to a further distance, holding onto me as tightly as she could.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Something’s wrong,” she said. “Articuno’s using that attack! Sheer cold. Someone get Gracia and those pokémon out of Articuno’s line of fire, now!”
With Articuno’s wings glowing vibrantly than ever before, I finally understood Amy’s grave concern. Sheer cold is a technique that, when used in a Pokémon League battle meant certain defeat once used. Pokémon who have suffered from it had to be rushed to the pokémon center immediately or be given revive candies.
But this is Articuno. And not just any Articuno, but one that was raised by none other than Mitsuhide, a once formidable warrior of Ransei whose power rivaled even Nobunaga, one of Ransei’s grand conquerors. If Articuno used sheer cold, it would mean certain death to anyone who got caught in it.
Gracia held Black Snow out before Articuno, mouthing an inaudible command for Gothorita. When Gothorita commenced the technique, I understood what her plan was.
Gothorita laid out a change in the dimensions of the snowy surface using trick room. That meant faster pokémon moved slower in the twenty-meter radius, and slower pokémon moved faster. Now was my chance.
“Roku, save them now!”
With no other details, Roku moved quickly, grabbed a body, and used substitute to move out of the way. Seeing that the Muk species is significantly slower than most, this was a simple task given the new situation.
But much to my chagrin, Roku was not in sync with my desires. He was always like that. Even if we fought together on many occasions, Roku always put the safety of other pokémon first. And as I gasped and screamed, I reprimanded him for only saving Gothorita in that short amount of time.
Gracia and Munna remained in Articuno’s line of fire. It was too late.
I closed my eyes and turned away, hoping that none of these things would come to pass when sheer cold would be executed. I wanted to believe that Gracia was going to be okay. But reality told me that this was not going to end well. For anyone. But then–
I opened my eyes and looked as Amy held me even tighter than before. Cold tears ran from her eyes onto my sleeve. And while water had filled my own eyes to blur my vision, it was much clear to me what just happened.
Without any commands, without any awareness, without any warnings, Amy’s Rhyperior darted toward Gracia and Munna. And seeing that there was no more time left, she faced them, stone arms wide open, and shielded them both like a mother would for her children.
And as Articuno’s sheer cold attack made contact, Rhyperior had taken the hit.