Chapter Thirty-Five: The Underground Boss
The flying mountain suddenly began turning as they climbed it. Boreas' paws lost all grip and he nearly fell into the depths, but he managed to grab hold of a small ridge, trying not to let go and reach the plateau just above him. Below him the vast, forested vista the mountain was flying over was breathtaking, but kilometres down. If he fell, he would certainly be dead. But he just couldn't reach the plateau above him.
"Need some help?" Aqua's pretty finned head looked over the edge.
"Aqua!" Boreas said happily, "there you are, help me up!"
"Of course, my love!" she said as she extended a paw over the edge.
Boreas tried to grab her paw with his free paw, but something heavy was hanging on to it. He looked down and saw it was Octa, dangling above the depths. "Octa? Are you here too?"
"Obviously," spoke Octa.
"Look, it isn't that I'm not glad you're here too," Boreas explained, "but I can't grab Aqua's paw while you're hanging on to mine."
"Oh, I shall just let go and let myself fall into the depths then, shan't I?"
"Yes. Since this is obviously a dream, I could just let you fall without any problem."
"Very perceptive, my dear fellow. However, have you paid any attention as to what this dream is trying to tell you?"
"It's not trying to tell me anything, because dreams are a product of the brain, basically thoughts had while you're asleep. Since it's a product of my own brain, it isn't going to tell me anything. I was just having a fun, albeit far-fetched adventure with Aqua when you had to enter my dream and start having this silly discussion with me. So why don't you just let go, if I know my dreams lately, the real fun starts when I get up there on that edge." He giggled in anticipation.
"You are right, of course, this dream is merely your own brain thinking while asleep. But perhaps that means you are trying to tell something to yourself? Maybe your decision to leave the team to go adventuring with Aqua isn't the right choice?"
"If it's trying to say that, it's not being very convincing. Because if I don't let go of you and grab her paw, I fall to my death in this dream. While if I do let go of you and grab her paw, not only am I safe, but I'll have... fun with her right there if the pattern of my dreams the last days holds."
"Well, don't blame me, we've just established you're
the one dreaming all this, including me, up. I can't help it if your metaphorical thinking is awful, I am not even real and even if I was you'd still be the one dreaming this, not me."
"Just go away, okay? Just let me
fun in my
dream and save the lessons for when I'm awake. Now since this is my
dream, I'm just going to pretend you weren't here, climb up there, and have some fun."
"You might want to direct your eyes upwards once again before doing that, my dear fellow."
Boreas looked up and saw the grinning face of Diego instead of Aqua's. "AAH!" he yelped as he lost his grip on the mountain.
Boreas tumbled through darkness. "Octa, you bastard, this dream was going awesomely until you had to show up and poke your haughty nose into my business!"
Flames erupted in the darkness and coalesced into the shape of a gigantic Zoroark head. "Hehehe," laughed Diego's fiery face, "it's not his fault, you know, but yours!"
"And as for you!" Boreas yelled at the flaming Zoroark, "Get out of my dreams!, unless it's so I can practise killing you, which, by the way, I'm still going to do next time we meet!"
"But if you leave the team, you'll get to kill me, because you'll never meet me again!"
"Even better, I wish I had never met you in the first place! I still have occasional nightmares about the night you hung me from that Ferris wheel, or at least, I had
them before I met Aqua and all my dreams, aside from this one, sort of started following a similar theme."
"But what I meant was: the team will have to continue fighting Team Plasma without you. What if they die?" suddenly a watery silhouette of Octa drifted past and evaporated as Diego slashed at it, "What if Team Plasma wins?" a mount of dirt shaped roughly like Black drifted by and was immediately melted by Diego, "Could you live with that?"
Boreas pointed angrily at Diego and saw his own paw was made of air, as was the rest of him. He was not invisible, though, he looked more like a Glaceon-shaped cloud. "You. Get. The. Hell. Out. Of. My. Dream. Everyone except Aqua, sod off! It's my
dream and I don't want any of you to bother me!"
Diego began to talk, but was suddenly interrupted when starlight coalesced into a shapely Vaporeon who kissed him. The madness all around him disappeared as he felt her lips caress his.
Boreas was aware of nothing but the kiss waking him up and Aqua's body pressed against his. His eyes opened when their lips parted and he was greeted by Aqua's gorgeous visage. "Good morning," she whispered.
"Good morning, gorgeous," said Boreas, "and thanks. I was having a really annoying dream."
"So I heard," she smiled.
"Oh. Was I talking in my sleep?"
"More like mumbling, I couldn't catch most of it. But you sounded very annoyed."
They kissed each other again. "Aqua," said Boreas, "I've decided my answer to your proposal."
"Don't tell me yet," said Aqua, "don't decide yet. I want you to spend the day with your friends first."
"But why? It's not going to change my mind."
"It may. It just seems unfair since I cuddled you all night. That's got to be very persuasive, but your friends haven't had any chance to convince you. I just don't want you to make a mistake you'll be unhappy with."
"Okay, fine." I will need to tell them anyway,
thought Boreas, might as well do it today and get it over with.
"You will hear my decision tonight. Oh, that reminds me, I need to get to the Gym for our battle!"
"No problem, love, I'll swim you there."
Boreas should really be enjoying holding on to Aqua while she swam, but his mind was preoccupied. The dream had been annoying, but it had alerted his mind to the downsides of leaving the team. Then again, what difference would he make in the fight against Team Plasma? In the end, he was just a single Glaceon, and he wouldn't really make that much difference. Besides, even if he did and Team Plasma succeeded because he left the team, that was no problem to him any more. Without a trainer, how much did he really care about pokémon and humans being separated? Sure, other pokémon might not always like it, but he could hardly be putting their happiness before his own. He was going to choose what made him happiest, and as his mind drifted back to Earth, he realised that was Aqua. He began covering her neck in kisses as she swam.
"Mmm," Aqua hummed in delight, "you know you'll make me lose concentration like that..."
"I know, but how could I resist it?"
When they arrived at the city, they kissed and said goodbye. Boreas would've asked her to come watch the battle, but he realised now that asking her to enter a human building would be out of the question.
He ran to the Gym, where he arrived just as Black and his other pokémon arrived too. Boreas was greeted by six grins that made him want to sink into the ground with shame. Though, when he took another look at Selene he saw her grin was more of an absent smile then a grin.
"Ah, Boreas," Black grinned, "glad to see you found some time in your uh... busy schedule to join us."
"'Ow'd it go?" beamed Toxica.
Boreas felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment as Octa, one eyebrow arched, started talking. "I suppose 'twas only a matter of time before you two engaged in carnal knowledge, given your respective personalities, but for you two to move so rapidly was quite rash. Regardless, you have my congratulations, my dear fellow, and I do hope you had fun."
"Just listen to the guy," Lucius sneered, "cropped up with jea-"
Octa interrupted him. "No, I am not jealous of Aqua. No, 'tis not just a phase he's going through. No, he does not love me more. There, I made the jokes so you can do us all a favour and keep your mouth shut. In fact, don't ever open it again if you want to do the entire planet a service."
Boreas spoke up. "Would any of you believe me if I told you that what you think happened didn't actually happen?"
"You mean you didn't sleep with 'er?" Toxica asked incredulously.
"Well, if you put it like that, yes I did, but not like that."
"You mean, without rumpy-pumpy?"
"Yes, that's pretty much what I mean."
A couple of sarcastic grins and looks showed how much they believed him. "Fine," he said, "then I'm not going to tell you what really happened either."
He wondered if he should tell them he was leaving the team, but he figured he'd rather tell them one-on-one then to just throw it into the group. Black looked on his watch and entered the Gym. Inside was a deep pit with a mining elevator. Since Clay wasn't there, Black stepped on the elevator and it sunk down into the shaft. They travelled down into the depths, through layers of earth and past the occasional fossil. Finally a light from downwards became brighter than the sunlight from upwards. They reached the end of the shaft, a large enlightened cave. In the middle of it was Clay in his cowboy costume.
"There ye are, boy!" he said, "Ah think it's about time Ah saw for myself what it is about yer skills that makes a Gym Leader like Elesa take such a shine to ya! We'll be usin' three pokémon each! Krokorok, yer first!"
"Toxica," said Black, "show him what you can do!"
As Toxica and the Krokorok began their combat, Boreas noticed with a twitch of annoyance that Octa was looking at the battle with a bit of an absent smile on his face. "Octa," said Boreas, "I have to tell you something."
"Oh?" Octa answered without even looking at him, "nothing unpleasant, I hope?"
"Well, that depends on how you look at it. I'm leaving the team."
That got Octa's attention. He immediately turned to Boreas, a startled expression on his face. "I beg your pardon? I believe I might be suffering from a slight aural impairment today."
"I'm leaving the team."
"You... are... what?" Octa enunciated.
"I'm leaving the team to stay with Aqua, Octa. We're going to travel the world together."
"Don't you think this is a bit rash, my dear fellow?"
"No, she suggested it last night, actually, and told me to think it over carefully because she didn't want me to make a rash decision. So I decided this morning."
"Even a decision that one took quite a while to make can be rash, my dear fellow. And this decision is rasher than a rash on you on a day you are both inebriated and enamoured. Surely you must realise the idea of leaving your friends, whom you've known for most your life, to go gallivanting with a lady whom you've known for barely nine days is a truly silly and frankly wrong decision. But fortunately I have a much better idea that shall allow you to stay together with her even as we leave Driftveil: Aqua can join our team. I know 'tis unorthodox for a trainer to have more than six pokémon with him, but that needn't necessarily be a barrier. Besides, Capella still insists she is not technically a member of Black's team, so if Aqua joined he would technically have six pokémon in his team."
"I already thought of that, Octa, but she didn't want to join us."
"Oh, and quite obviously if 'tis an inconvenience to Aqua, you should just leave your friends. My dear fellow, I had rather hoped our friendship was strong enough that you wouldn't break it because 'tis a minor inconvenience to some strumpet you barely know."
"Look," Boreas was getting pretty angry at Octa's attitude, "it's not like that. She really has a very good reason why she can't join us, and there is absolutely no way she could without feeling horrible. And I know her very well!"
"Yes," said Octa with a mirthless grin, "you "knew" her all night long, didn't you?"
"Shut up, I told you nothing happened between us last night!"
"Don't lie to me, my dear fellow. And what might this compelling reason she has to ask you to abandon me be then, hmm?"
Boreas realised there was no way he was spilling Aqua's secrets to Octa. "I can't tell you, that's between me and her."
Octa gave him a cold stare. "Fine. Evidently our friendship is not as close as I thought it was. I would've thought you would feel by now you could confide any secret in me, but perhaps I was mistaken. I would've thought our friendship would be worth more to you than the whims of a lady you met a week ago, simply because she has brought you sexual pleasure, but evidently I was mistaken."
"I told you!" Boreas yelled, "We did not have sex!"
All pokémon eyes in the room turned to Boreas, who felt embarrassed as well as angry now. After a momentary pause, the battle continued. Boreas saw Krokorok was on its last legs, and Toxica finished it with a single Energy Ball. "Woohoo!" she cheered, "being evolved is awesome!"
"Well, Ah'll be, young'un," said Clay as he returned the Krokorok and sent out a Palpitoad, "Sure didn't see that coming!"
A Palpitoad appeared from the pokéball. "Ha, that's both a water and a ground type!" scoffed Black, "Toxica, you'll easily handle this!"
But as a bright green Energy Ball formed in Toxica's hands, one of the big blue bumps on Palpitoad's forehead burst open and a disgusting blob of purple sludge fired out at great speed and exploded all over Toxica before she could react. Toxica screamed in pain as her skin rapidly dried out and yellowed wherever the sludge touched her. It seemed for a moment she was going to continue the battle, but she was covered in a great amount of the horrid sludge and her flower was hanging limp and turning a sickly orange. Black forfeited and immediately rushed over with an antidote to help her.
"Ya don't become a Gym Leader without coverin' for weaknesses, boy," said Clay.
"Octa," commanded Black as he cleaned the horrid sludge off Toxica, "you take over."
Instead of making a remark or saluting his opponent as usual, Octa grimly nodded, drew his Leaf Blade, and stepped forward. He and Palpitoad carefully circled each other, both realising that whoever made an aggressive move would probably get hit first: if Octa attacked, he would be too close to his opponent to dodge a Sludge Bomb, while if Palpitoad fired a Sludge Bomb, the lithe Octa could dodge it and attack him, and both combatants could probably be defeated by a single attack from the other. They eyed each other cautiously, not daring to break the stalemate. Boreas hoped Octa would get one of the Sludge Bombs right in the face.
"Boreas," whispered a kind voice next to him.
"Capella," Boreas nodded, "I take it you want to talk to me about the little disagreement I just had with Octa?"
"Not really," said Capella, "it's hardly the first time you argued and you'll work it out in a few days as usual. I just wanted to ask you if it's true that you didn't have sex with Aqua last night."
"Yes, it's true," Boreas said frustrated.
"Okay," Capella nodded, "then I believe you."
"You do?" Boreas asked in surprise, "That's so unlike... Well, everyone else."
"Thanks, you've got no idea how frustrating it is that no-one believes me, even if it doesn't really matter."
Suddenly the stalemate was broken. Boreas hadn't seen who broke it, but Octa was dodging Sludge Bombs left and right, but didn't run at Palpitoad, instead dropping his sword and extending his vines. The vines slammed Palpitoad and left nasty red stripes, then they wrapped Palpitoad and seemed to dehydrate him within moments. Octa had to duck under one last Sludge Bomb before it was over.
"Givin' up's the easy way out!" said Clay, "If Ah wanted, Ah coulda given up any ol' time!"
He threw a pokéball, unleashing an Excadrill. Octa picked up his Leaf Blade once again and began battling the badger, but his every strike was parried by the massive metal claws.
Boreas was feeling a bit disappointed. "So... Aren't you going to ask me what happened last night if it wasn't what everyone thought it was?"
"No. Unless you really want to tell me, of course. But otherwise, I figure whatever may have happened was between you and Aqua."
"Well... I think I'd like to tell you. I asked her to join the team, but she can't. You see, human hunters killed her previous boyfriend and she's still very shook up about it. She can't help but hate humans and so there's no way she could join the team. And she can't just stay where she is either, because she is incredibly lonely and has absolutely no-one in the world, except for me. And so she wants me to leave the team and travel with her. And so do I."
"I see," said Capella, "that explains the argument. Well, I will miss you and so will the others, but I hope you'll be happy with her."
Boreas sighed in relief. "I'm glad you take it so well. Octa... He was furious! Why can't he just react the same way? Why does he have to start meddling and try to hold me back?!"
"Because he's very fond of you," Capella said earnestly. "He likes you a lot, Boreas, and doesn't want you to leave."
"Why?" Boreas seethed, "why can't he just be happy for me?"
"You do the same thing, you know. When you try to stop Toxica's attempts to win his heart, it's essentially the same behaviour. You are scared of the thought that Octa might like Toxica more than you at some point, aren't you?"
"No, I'm not! That's ridiculous!"
"You are, aren't you?"
"Well, not as such. I mean, I just don't think Toxica is right for Octa and I want to protect him from her."
"Maybe, but the main reason is that you're afraid he might like Toxica more than you if he ever falls in love with her."
Boreas sighed. "I guess. What does it matter anyway?"
"Well, put yourself in Octa's position. He is not just having to face the fact that you like Aqua more than him, but now you are leaving with her too, meaning he would see you only very rarely any more. You've got to agree, having your best friend suddenly disappear from your life like that is pretty horrid, and you would likely react even more possessive of him if the roles were switched."
Octa ducked under a powerful metal claw as Boreas grudgingly had to agree. "Maybe. So you're saying I should try to make things up to him before I leave?"
"That might be a good idea, yes."
They watched the battle in silence as Boreas grew more and more annoyed. "Well?" he snapped, "when are you going to talk about Team Plasma?"
"Team Plasma?" Capella asked quizzically.
"Yes, Team Plasma. I know you're going to mention them next to convince me to stay, but I can already tell you it's not going to work."
"I'm not trying to convince you of anything, Boreas. And what does Team Plasma have to do with it anyway?"
"You are trying to convince me, you're just being subtle about it. And what if I was just the one person who might make the difference between Team Plasma winning and Team Plasma losing?"
"The chances of that are minimal," replied Capella, "it's very unlikely you're that special person who might make all the difference, or that such a person even exists."
"Yes, but what if I'm just the drop of water that makes the bucket flood over? It doesn't necessarily have to be because I'm special, but I could just be the one extra person good needs to defeat
"Again, what are the chances things are so close that a single person would make the difference? Is it worth that tiny chance to give up your own happiness?"
"Okay, but what... What if one of you dies while fighting Team Plasma and I've left? What if you died, Capella? Or Octa? If I hadn't left, you might still be alive because in a single battle there is a good chance I would've made the difference! I could never forgive myself if that happened."
"But what about yourself? Isn't your own happiness worth more than all that? Why should you care what might happen to us if you're happy? We are old enough to take care of ourselves, and even if one of us died you would eventually get over it."
"But I-" suddenly Boreas' thoughts caught up to him and realised something very strange was going on. "Hold on, this is really weird. You tricked me into arguing your side while you argued mine!"
While Boreas hadn't been paying attention, Octa had been defeated. Black looked unsure of whom to choose. "Uh... Bore- no, wait, steel weakness... Luc- no, ground weakness... Uh, Capella, finish it!"
Capella threw Boreas a friendly smile as she slithered forward. "Believe it or not, but I'm not arguing either side. I just want you to make the best choice, so I voiced the arguments you already thought of. You've essentially been arguing with yourself."
She began using water and fire to battle her opponent while Boreas rushed over to help the unconscious and wounded Octa regain consciousness. But his thoughts weren't there, they were raging through his mind in a storm of conflicting thoughts and emotions.
Alder stood in silent awe as his last pokémon was defeated. Finally he spoke the words: "...It's over. But it's an odd feeling. I'm not angry that I lost, in fact I feel happy. Happy that I witnessed the rise of a great new Champion!"
Boreas couldn't believe it. He looked at his friends and they all had the same dumbfounded expressions on their faces. Then he began laughing in victory, and before he knew it they were all hugging each other happily. Their journey was finally at an end, Team Plasma defeated and now the Elite Four and the Champion too, but... Yet, Boreas felt empty inside. He was glad they'd won, but he realised he had had to give Aqua up for it. He remembered her lovely smile, the soft touch of her lips, how he had stayed with her for a whole night to help her deal with her loneliness and just felt dead inside despite his superficial joy. He had achieved all he had ever hoped for, but at what cost?
"Never," mumbled Boreas.
"Whuh?" mumbled Octa, slowly waking up, "Oh, 'tis you
." He looked at Boreas as if the Glaceon was a very foul insect that had somehow found its way into his sandwich.
"Yes, it's me!" Boreas snapped. "But I'll go stand over there if I'm in your way, my lord.
Boreas bowed sarcastically and stood a bit away. He was convinced now that leaving the team was the right choice. And yet...
Boreas thought the kiss would never end, and would've been quite happy if it never did. But eventually they broke apart and looked into each other's eyes. But Boreas saw the reflection of something unsettling in Aqua's gorgeous black eyes: six gravestones. He tore his gaze away from her and saw all six. He was filled with horror at the thought that he'd let this happen. He hardly dared read the names on the graves, even if he knew what they said.
???, KNOWN BY HER FRIENDS AS SELENE
CAPELLA OF THE HOUSE OF DRACO
BLACK H. TOUYA
OCTAVIANUS OF THE HOUSE OF EQUINOX
How could he have let it happen? How could he have left them? Even if they hadn't met their premature ends he would never have seen them again. He looked back into Aqua's eyes with nothing but sorrow and hate.
"Never," Boreas mumbled even more vehemently. This time, his mind was made up. As much as it pained him, he couldn't leave with Aqua. He realised he had to go tell her and sneaked onto the elevator while the others were too busy watching the battle to notice. When he reached the top of the shaft he pressed the button that sent the elevator down again and ran out of the Gym.
He had to search by the river for a while, but eventually found Aqua fishing and called for her. She surfaced with a radiant smile on her face that evaporated when she saw Boreas' grim face. "I see you've decided."
"Yes, I have," said Boreas glumly. He had no idea how he was going to tell her his decision, he couldn't bear the thought of telling her.
"You... Didn't choose for me, did you?" Aqua said flatly.
"N... No. I'm sorry, Aqua, I'm so sorry, but I just can't leave now... When this is all done and Team Plasma has been defeated, I will happily join you, but I just can't now.... Please forgive me."
Aqua's pretty eyes found his and she kissed his forehead sorrowfully. "You don't need to be sorry, my love. I think I already knew this would be your decision if you really thought about it. It's why I gave you a day to think about it..."
Tears shot into Boreas' eyes as he hugged Aqua. "I really wish I could stay with you."
"I know. So do I. In a perfect world, I would join you and your friends on your surprising adventures in Unova, but we don't live in a perfect world. But that doesn't mean we'll see the last of each other tomorrow, my love. Your next stop will be Mistralton, won't it? I can get there by myself and meet you there."
"B-but..." Boreas stammered, "it'll be ages before we reach Mistralton... We won't see each other for weeks, if not months..."
Aqua kissed him. "But we will
see each other again, my love, and that's what's important. We'll spend as much time together as we can in Mistralton. And I won't even have to stay here, because like you, I'm leaving tomorrow. I'll probably reach Mistralton before you, so maybe I'll make some new friends there." She said it all in a cheerful voice, but Boreas could hear the sadness under it.
"Well," he said, "at least we've got one last day together."
Late that evening, Boreas arrived at the pokécenter.
"Well, well," Lucius laughed, "look who decided to spend the night here."
"Shut up," said Boreas, "Uh... Capella, Octa, can I speak to you two?"
Capella looked at him with an encouraging smile while Octa coldly stared at something a bit above his head.
"I... Well, I've changed my mind." A happy smile flashed over Octa's face for a single moment before his scowl returned. "I've decided to stay with you. I've already talked it over with Aqua, and we decided to meet in Mistralton. And I'm sorry for upsetting you, Octa. I didn't mean it that way."
"It's great to hear you're staying," Capella smiled.
"Hmpf," Octa sniffed haughtily.
"Come on," said Capella, "we all know you're incredibly happy about this and he's already apologised. So just make it up and be friends again. You know you want to."
Octa stared haughtily for a bit longer, and the a smile spread across his face. "Excellent, my dear fellow, 'tis most agreeable that you decided this way. I knew you'd come to the right decision eventually."