Welcome everyone to this unexpected addition to my completed fic! I had hoped to get this finished and published in time for the anniversary of both of my stories, but with the monster that this chapter is, that proved to be impossible, especially with real life commitments as well!
I've been feeling the writing itch take hold of me for a while now, and I've had ideas brewing in my mind, so I had to commit them to paper, this being the result. I hope you all enjoy this extended look into the world that my fic's have created!
The Legacy of Aura
The Last Knight
Galar Region - The Royal Palace
Vapor trailed out from between the grill on his helmet. It was cold, but that had long since ceased being a concern to him. Here, sat on his throne of frozen iron, he chuckled softly, reminiscing back. He could barely even remember much of his old life, and everything that had happened to him had led him to this point, this moment in time.
The Knight of Shadow cracked his neck. He was the last of his kind, created upon those stone slabs back in the heart of Team Plasma's hidden laboratories, under the ever-dutiful hand of the scientist, Colress. The mere thought of that man sent a shiver of disgust down his spine. Thanks to that madman I'm in the position I am today.
A brief memory of his old life flitted across the front of his mind, a lost figment of time briefly glimpsed, as if summoned to the present by his reverie. He was in a tree surrounded by the closest friends he'd ever known, and the three of them were as usual on their eternal hunt of a young Pokémon Trainer and his elusive Pikachu…
A savage smile split Meowth's face, causing his malformed and broken human flesh beneath his helmet to itch with the movement. How innocent those days all seemed now… How little they all knew what awaited them in the future. That was before Colress had turned him into a monstrous mess, a Pokémon in stolen human flesh. An existence that brought nothing but endless torment that could never be quelled.
Team Plasma's control over him died with Ghetsis, little Meowth cared. He was glad that old weasel had perished. He'd rejoiced even more when he'd learned of Colress' demise. After the war against Shinonome had ended, he'd used the resulting turmoil to escape, fleeing to a region of the world that had mostly kept to itself, hidden away by obscurity, building his strength and gaining his followers. He'd slowly taken over the land little by little, until everything was under his control, and the region went dark.
He knew this would draw the eye of the World Government to his activities, alert them to his burgeoning empire, but he didn't care. He was powerful enough now, so much so that he didn't even fear their retaliation. He hadn't been watching the events that unfolded at Spear Pillar in ignorance. The power Brandon had summoned and commanded could be unleashed again, under more control and through a different channel. Using Zeranth to tap into the Void was the ultimate in stupidity.
The darkness that had been built into his very soul, he now used as a key, a key to unlock the deepest, darkest secrets of the universe. Unlike that fool at Spear Pillar, he didn't try and absorb it all into himself, into one unstable conduit. He wasn't that vainglorious. He didn't have to be the beginning and the end, and it didn't have all revolve around him. No, he wanted to start a movement. A revolution. A darkness that would sweep out from the Galar Region and engulf the world in eternal night.
After subduing the "Queen" here, he had finally taken this Region into his grasp, and he intended to make full use of its potential. He'd built up an entire army of Pokémon Trainers, imbued them all with the power of the Void, and they had destroyed all in their path. They had started converting Hoenn, and eventually even managed to snake their fingers into Johto.
Of course, until the Guardians got involved.
Despite everything, they and their damn Aura had managed to beat back his army of the night. Even worse, they had brought the battle right back to his doorstep. He had watched in growing anger and frustration as his minions were pushed back further and further, the influence of the Void being crippled at every turn. The Ketchum Clan…
Grasping the edge of his throne in rage, he grit his teeth. Even now, he could hear the fighting taking place against his lieutenants, and the sounds were getting aggravatingly closer. Soon they would brighten his doorstep with their infuriating luminescence.
This wasn't supposed to happen! The Void was supposed to be the ultimate in power! How can some damn Aura users stand against me?! This doesn't make any sense! Damn them!
The doors to his inner sanctum burst open, the doors shattered into splinters of ruined metal as though they were made of rotten wood. His greatest Champion, Lord Dion, came flying, landing unceremoniously at the feet of his throne, bloody and broken. Trickles of blood leaked through the gaps in his once-silver armour. Dust and a gust of wind followed him in, obscuring the now open entrance to his throne room.
He watched as two azure infernos walked through the gloom, their beacons of light easily piercing the dark vale. Ash and Charlotte Ketchum stepped into view, a determined look on their faces, both staring at him with eyes blazing with their tell-tale concentric circled pattern. A third figure walked beside them, not illuminated, but carrying with her a glow all her own. Dawn Ketchum, her head held high, commanded incredible power, and anyone would be a fool to underestimate her.
Ash wore his presidential coat over his Aura Guardian outfit, staff in hand, Pikachu on his shoulder. Charlotte wore her own version of the same outfit, however hers had a skirt and knee-high boots. Dawn was clad in her typical outfit, the coat of her office resting on her shoulders.
Just as they stood before him, the air beside Ash began to warp. It warbled, swirling into a vortex pattern of azure and purple energy. Brandon Ketchum materialized into reality, his faithful Alakazam beside him. He cracked his neck and removed his mask, revealing the scarred flesh beneath briefly before his long spikey hair fell to cover the ruined half of his face. "The rest of the country is under our control, we have all those infected with the Void imprisoned in the vaults until we can find a way to free them from it."
Ash nodded towards his father with a smile. He lifted his arm and pointed toward the Knight of Shadow. "This ends here, Meowth. Your dangerous schemes are over."
Feeling his anger bubble over into incontrollable fury, the Knight grit his teeth to the point of cracking, his face bent into a vicious snarl. His grip so tight that he began to dent the arms of his throne, the metal whining and creaking under the intense strain. "The Ketchum Clan! Why does it always have to come back to the fucking Ketchum Clan?! YOU PEOPLE HAVE BEEN A THORN IN MY SIDE MY ENTIRE LIFE! WHY CAN'T YOU ALL JUST DIE?! THE WORLD WAS SO MUCH BETTER WHEN YOU BASTARDS HAD FADED INTO OBLIVION!"
An Aura Sphere flew straight at his face, which he had to dodge at the last moment. As it collided with the back of his throne, it utterly annihilated the metal, turning it into molten slag. Meowth whirled on the source of the attack with a snarl. "Tch!"
Charlotte matched his snarl with one of her own, her eyes blazing fury at him, her arm still outstretched from her launched attack. "Do NOT speak ill of the Ketchum Clan! I'll rip off your arms, you snivelling little rat!"
"Calm down sweetheart, don't let him rile you up." Ash quickly said, placing a restraining hand on his daughter's shoulder. You may have inherited my eyes and my Aura, but you still have a long way to go, my lil' Char.
Taking a deep breath, Charlotte did as she was bid. "Apologies father. I'm a proud Ketchum. I will not stand for people speaking ill of our clan."
"And you do right not to sweetie," Dawn said, scowling at the Knight before her. "But remember to always keep your emotions under your own control. Never let the enemy control you through them. That's something we all learned from that terrible war."
The Knight of Shadow burst into mocking laughter, garnering attention from all those present. "Terrible? You think the war was terrible? It showed the incompetency of the governing powers of this entire world. It showed us that were paying attention how to access the forbidden fruit of the Void! No… the war was far from terrible. It was enlightening."
Brandon shook his head. "You have no idea what you're doing, little Knight. I embraced the full might of the Void and still lost. It's not the source of strength you think it is."
Meowth turned to him, smirking. "Ahh Brandon, my favourite little failure. It's thanks to you that all this has been possible. You showed me the way, I merely had to watch from the shadows. However, I have progressed far further than you ever did. You were too impatient, too reckless with your quest for power. I've built this up over the years, harnessing the Void bit by bit. I've far surpassed that paltry power you managed to amass, and now, no one can stand against me."
Brandon laughed. "You sound as deluded as I was. This won't end the way you think it will, that I promise you."
"Big talk from a defeated loser. You're a disgrace, Brandon. You had the universe at your disposal and lost. All because you wanted to be God. Naïve. Selfish. Misguided and short-sighted. You planned for twenty years and fell flat on your face an inch away from the finish line."
Ash glancing over to watch his father's reaction. He smiled as he did so, seeing the look on Brandon's face.
Running a gloved hand through his hair, Brandon chuckled. He held his mask up before himself, looking at the simple, plain design of the wood. "You're absolutely right."
It wasn't the response that Meowth was expecting. "What?"
"I became wrapped up in myself. Being betrayed like I was, I stopped caring or trusting anyone else. Even other members of my clan. I was the only one with the will to make the necessary change… or so I thought. I thought that becoming a God would fix everything. As long as I had control over everyone's lives, that's all that would matter." He put the mask back on his face and shook his head. "I didn't realise until it was all over that I was the one being used. In my blind hubris I nearly destroyed everything and ushered in an age of eternal night. Just like you are doing right now. You have no control over yourself. It's all an illusion, and you don't even realise."
Chuckling, the Knight stood from his throne, his glowing runic sword clanking against his armoured legs. "Unlike you I have spent years mastering this forbidden power. I can gift and take it at will, it's how I amassed an army of loyal followers. Of course, until you lot came along and ruined everything. No matter. My minions no longer need their borrowed strength!"
As he spoke he grabbed the hilt of his sword and with one, single, clean movement, drew it free from its scabbard, raising it and pointing it towards the ceiling. A growing darkness began to filter in from between the stonework, through the windows, and every other opening into the room.
Ash and Dawn instinctively put out their arms to protect their daughter, immediately standing forward slightly to put themselves between their child and any potential threat.
"I know you're strong Char, but there is not a chance in hell that I would let anything befall you. I can sense incredible forces at play here, this is no time to let foolish pride come first." Ash said, his eyes never leaving the target before him.
Charlotte nodded. "I understand father, thank you."
"Now come, fragments of the Void! Return to your master!" Meowth said, grinning. The darkness began pouring in now, drawn straight into the knight's body where it was absorbed. He began accumulating incredible amounts of energy at an increasingly rapid rate.
A smoky darkness forced its way out of Lord Dion's mouth before heading over towards the Knight of Shadow.
"He's forcing the Void out of those affected by it… and reabsorbing it into himself…" Dawn said, disgust evident in her tone.
"This is what us Knights were always meant to be! Vessels of Void power who can empower people and Pokémon alike under our control! We are the true masters of the Great Dark Beyond! Our creator was anything but subtle with our names!" Meowth boasted, his power spiking increasingly higher.
Brandon's face darkened, a shadow covering his scarred features.
Ash noticed this change immediately, one of his concentric circled eyes flicking over watch the elder Guardian's reaction. "Father…?"
"This is my fault…" he simply said, raising his face to watch the deformed Knight gather more corrupting energy.
Dawn and Charlotte, upon hearing, also slightly diverted their attention to listen to what he was saying but maintained their primary focus on the Knight of Shadow.
"This all came about because of my actions thirty-six years ago…" He continued, a scene from the past filling his mind…
Unova Region, Castelia City – Thirty-six years ago
A young man, in his mid to late twenties sat with his back against the wall, staring directly ahead, his eyes in and out of focus.
His pale green hair was mattered to his skull with grease and dirt and his face was filthy. His clothes were tattered and worn, ripped and ill-fitting. He had no shoes on his feet, revealing blistered and cracked skin. He stunk of hopelessness and decay, and clearly hadn't washed or eaten properly in years.
People who walked past in the streets ignored his presence, his suffering. Too busy caught up within the rat race of their own lives to give even a passing thought to the pain of those less fortunate, those who had fallen to the bottom and couldn't climb back up. Several powerful looking Pokémon Trainers, young and ambitious, laughed as they went by. They sneered at the unfortunate man, who while their elder, couldn't even afford his own clean clothes, let alone a Pokeball.
He had grown used to it by now, merely staring ahead aimlessly. He had completely given up on this life. He coughed violently and started to shake, his malnourished body starting to give out.
Just as his coughing fit subsided, a shadow fell over him, instinctively causing him to look up. His eyes widened. "Who… are…?" He asked in a raspy voice.
A tall, well-built man wearing a dark cloak stood before him, a mask covering his face. Long spikey black hair flowed out around it, falling over his shoulders and down his back. "It must be terrible for you, Ghetsis Harmonia, to be so cruelly cast aside. To have no one to look out for you or to care about your existence. Through no fault of your own, society has deemed you unfit to live, branding you scum to be discarded and mocked. Anyone under this pathetic World Government that isn't a Pokémon Trainer is treated the same way. They use their wealth and power to exclude those such as you from ever making something of themselves. But no more. You did nothing wrong. I know this because I, too, suffered at their malevolent hands."
His voice was deep, strong and utterly intoxicating. As the words left the stranger's lips they fell over him like honey, soothing his fears and worries.
To Ghetsis' amazement, the man offered his gloved hand out. He shakily reached out to take it, a mixture of anxiety and hope now coursing through his veins. To his dry, cracked eyes, the man appeared to be bathed in light, granting him an almost divine presence. He didn't consider how the man knew his name or see the blue tinge to the light's edges.
The masked man pulled Ghetsis to his feet, then placed his gloved hand on his shoulder. "It's all fine now, because I am here. I will make sure that you never suffer again, and that you get your chance to get your revenge on those who have hurt you. This world is twisted and broken, not you. The World Government will be torn down, and from their foundations shall arise a new order. You and I shall change this world forever."
Ghetsis eyes began to fill with tears. Looking at the masked face of his saviour he felt his body fill with hope for the first time in years, along with a building hatred to the World Government for allowing him to have suffered so. He felt safe now. Safer than he had his entire adult life, and it was all because of this masked man. He made a mental pledge, there and then, to give his undying loyalty to whoever this man was.
"Come with me, and together we shall transform this rotten society. I will lift you up, and give you the power you've always deserved…" With that, the masked man turned and began walking towards the nearby forest.
Conviction flooding through him, Ghetsis eagerly followed, a smile creeping up his thin lips...
Galar Region, Royal Palace – Present day
Brandon bit his lip, his brow furrowing. "Because of how I manipulated Ghetsis to form Team Plasma and experiment with the Void in an attempt to lure out and control Zeranth, it led to the creation of the Knights of Shadow. This is all my fault."
The revelations revealed here were new to those present, as Brandon had never disclosed that part of his past before.
"Granddad…" Charlotte breathed, her voice full of sympathy for the man's situation. She knew he had done terrible things in order to get his revenge, and she knew why. He had been living a nightmare, and his scars clearly weighed heavily upon his mind.
"How fresh…" Meowth said with a smirk. "Thanks to your own deeds I shall now obliterate every Ketchum off the face of the Earth!"
Brandon's brow furrowed. "I don't think so, little Knight."
Before Meowth's eyes had even flicked over to where the elder Guardian was stood, the air beside him warped with a psychic glow. Burning with the light of a hundred suns, a ball of roiling Aura slammed into his face, the power behind the attack astronomical.
Screaming in agony, the Knight of Shadow shot through the air like a bullet, the Aura Sphere having exploded against his helmeted face. Blood flew from his mouth in an arc, dark and visceral. A colossal boom echoed out as he slammed into the stone wall of the throne room, shaking the entire castle. The wall cracked and cratered at the point of impact and his rune blade went flying from his grasp, clattering against the floor as it slid.
Brandon stood upright where Meowth had just seconds before, righteous anger on his scarred face. "I'm not going to just wait whilst you gather your strength. You're messing with things that are far beyond your arrogant understanding! I will not allow you to endanger my family!"
Coughing up more dark blood, the Knight peeled himself from the crater in the wall, shakily standing to his feet. He ripped the front part of his helmet free, revealing the rotting skin of a long dead human face. "You're a nuisance, Brandon Ketchum. I think I'll need to remove you from the picture first."
A dark ball of pure Void began forming in Meowth's gauntleted hand, trapping all light around it, making it impossible to truly look upon. "Black Hole!" He roared as he launched it at Brandon. It sailed through the air with surprising speed, absorbing everything in its path, from falling rubble to the very air molecules in the atmosphere.
"Father!" Ash cried out in alarm, his Aura permeating through his body. Reacting and moving almost at the speed of light itself, the Guardian prodigy summoned a light Aura Sphere and slammed it into the travelling projective of darkness.
Intercepted by its counter-equivalent, the Black Hole spasmed and fluctuated, unable to maintain enough energy to live. With an awful suction sound, it exploded, bathing everyone in fiery matter. The explosion unleashed searing temperatures that scorched the stone walls and floor black.
Placing himself between his wife and daughter, Ash threw up a barrier of pure Aura to protect them from the heat, deflecting the worst of it. Through his senses he could tell Brandon had done the same, and he inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.
When the blast died down Brandon stood tall, unscathed. Beside him his monstrously sized Alakazam and Charizard stood, their eyes burning with azure power. Even as powerful as he was, Ash had to marvel at just how strong his father's Pokémon were. That's power you only achieve after years upon years of experience. In a different life you would have been a World Leader, father…
Meowth dragged himself to his feet, most of his armour now scorched black. The rest of his helmet had melted, burning into his decrepit flesh in places. With a grunt of pain and a spray of corrupted blood he torn it free, revealing long white hair and a rotten scalp. His yellow eyes narrowed at Brandon. "When they first placed my soul into this frankenstein monstrosity of a body, I was horrified. It wasn't until much later that I realised the true power of this gift that Colress had bestowed upon me. Void energy destroys life. As an undead, I can use it to its full potential and ascend to far greater heights than you ever did, Guardian. If he were still alive I'd thank him… but I supposed I should really be thanking you…" He said that last part with a twisted smirk, revealing his decaying teeth.
"Ash, Charlotte, Dawn!" Brandon said. It was the signal that they'd been waiting for.
"Dawn right, Char left!" Ash immediately responded, his Aura now pulsating off him in dangerous waves. A cloak of pure energy settled around his shoulders and his hair elongated, blowing around in the gale force winds summoned by the activation of his power. He shot Pikachu and glance and grinned. "Ready buddy?"
The small mouse nodded, he himself becoming saturated in god-like levels of Aura. "Pi pikachu pi pi!"
Reaching to his belt, the President uncoupled two more Pokeballs and launched them forwards. Garchomp and Lucario formed before him, radiating terrifying levels of energy. The Aura from their master quickly entered their bodies and their eyes blazed azure light.
Unlatching their Pokémon as they ran, Dawn and Charlotte did likewise. The young Guardian unleashed her Aura, the tell-tale concentric circles rippling out from her iris' over the surface of her eyes. Empoleon and Pangoro appeared before the bluenette. Blastoise and Magnezone before Charlotte.
Both the young Guardian's Pokémon became engulfed in a torrent of Aura, its effect mimicking that of her father's.
The Knight watched all this in the corner of his eye. A vile, twisted, Machiavellian smirk growing up his entropic face. "Oh? We are getting serious now then? Very well." He wiped vile fluid from his lips, grabbed four pitch-black Pokeballs and launched them. "This will be the last battle any of you live to witness!"
Black light oozed outwards as the repulsive balls hit the ground, materializing into twisted shapes in the forms of Arbok, Persian, Wheezing and Muk. Their features were grotesque, warped horribly by the toxic power that had been infused into their souls, the very antithesis of the light that Aura embodied. Their eyes blazed a vile red radiance, a reflection of the evil sentience that they had become a part of. The Void that embodied Meowth spread to them, adding to their strength. As it did, they became to emit an eerie wrongness that sent a shudder down Ash's spine.
It reminds me too much of the war. This madness needs to be stopped here and now, for the good of all. Ash thought as he surveyed the battleground that had materialized in the throne room.
There was a brief reprise where no one moved. Everyone stood battle ready and waiting, watching for the slightest moment that would trigger the ensuing battle. It was a loaded silence. The calm before the storm.
The air was so leaden with tension that it was palpable, a suffocating malaise that tightened the throat and caused the heart to beat a hundred times harder.
The Knight's eye twitched for a half millisecond.
That was all it took.
In that infinitesimal, miniscule moment the greatest battle in the history of the world began.
As if time had frozen for everyone else present, Meowth's Void Pokémon simply vanished. Pikachu, Garchomp, Lucario, Alakazam, Charizard, Empoleon, Pangoro, Blastoise and Magnezone all got struck with fists coated in the all-devouring, eternal darkness of the Void.
The nine of them went sprawling, flying backwards from where they had been stood, slamming into and through the thick walls of the ancient palace at the speed of sound, leaving blurred afterimages in their wake. The punches were accompanied by a colossal boom which shook the ground and caused the priceless chandeliers to swing and fall from their fastenings.
Ash's concentric circled eyes widened as they watched it happen. What the… this is far beyond the scale that father managed to accomplish... This is going to call for far more power that I was anticipating… even with the four of us here… will it be enough…?
As time seemed to return to normal, the stunned Guardians blinked as reality of what had just happened sank in, hitting them like a punch to the gut. Dawn's mouth hung open in complete shock. "H-"
She didn't get chance to finish her sentence.
Much like with their Pokémon, Void-infused strikes hit them all square in the chest. Brandon, Charlotte and Dawn were sent sprawling backwards, tumbling end over end before skidding across the stone floor and crashing against the castle walls in unceremonious heaps.
The punch that had attacked his family was stopped at the last second, deflected to the side by a blazing white counter strike of furious Aura. Ash snarled, grabbing the Knight of Shadow who had attacked them by the shoulder plates of his armour. He roared, using his god-like Aura to throw Meowth with all his might.
Eyes widening in surprise, the Knight shot through the air twice as fast as he'd been moving just a millisecond prior and smashed through the wall. He continued onwards, breaking and cracking wall after wall until he burst free from the ancient palace, slamming into a nearby mountain range and shattering the stone there. Upon impact he ejected a vile smelling fluid from his rotten stomach.
He barely had time to roll to the side before a glowing white blur slammed into the mountain where he'd been laid, smashing it into oblivion.
White Aura engulfed the blazing avatar of vengeance that rose from the newly formed impact site, glaring down at Meowth with a searing hatred which actually made the Knight flinch, despite the power he'd grown accustomed to over the past few years.
"You'll pay a thousand times over for hurting my family." Ash said, his eyes boring down on the undead creature before him with the weight of eternity. "For hurting my wife and daughter!"
Meowth spat, clearing his mouth of the fluid that had rushed up from his guts, snarled and launched himself to his feet. "I'll eradicate all you vile Ketchums from this planet once and for all!"
A kick empowered by light Aura suddenly slammed into Meowth's un-helmed face, sending him sprawling back towards the palace. He hurtled through the air and smashed back through the stone walls, causing a good chunk of them to collapse inwards.
Ash leapt after him, his power radiating off him in waves, driving him forwards at unnatural speeds.
Sliding past his now wrecked throne, the Knight summoned his sword to his grip with the Void. The glowing blade flew through the air, and he wrapped his fingers around its hilt as he tumbled end over end. He slammed it into the stone floor to halt his movement, creating a great rent, exerting tremendous force to bring himself to a dead stop.
No sooner had he come to a halt than he leapt to the side. Several Aura spheres exploded where he had been knelt seconds before. He whipped up his rune blade and grit his teeth as Garchomp slammed a Brick Break straight at his exposed flesh. "Tch! You pathetic vermin are getting on my nerves!" He spat venomously. "Persian! Arbok!"
The Void-empowered feline crashed into Garchomp's unprotected flank and they both went sprawling, meanwhile the serpent, its fangs exposed, bee-lined straight for the incoming threat of Lucario. The two of them intercepted one another mid-air, with the Aura Pokémon summoning an elongated bone club which he swung full force into Arbok's face. Just before impact, Arbok whipped his tail into Lucario's torso, the result seeing them both go careening into the walls.
No sooner had he freed himself than Ash had returned, raining fury down upon him in a hail of brilliant Force Palms. The Knight flipped backwards, dodging them all with unnatural movements before swinging his arm out, enveloped in the darkest depths of the endless Void. "Gravity Well!" He roared.
As if caught by a collapsing star, Ash found the magnitude of primordial force drag him downwards, a yawning darkness opening beneath his feet that clawed at him, trying to drag him into its fathomless depths. The unexpected retaliation caused him to slingshot from his current trajectory and slam into the floor, where the forces of the Void attempted to consume him utterly.
The Knight swung his sword up to his left barely in time to block the vicious downward arc of a glowing ethereal blade from an azure blur.
Charlotte Ketchum, her hands wrapped around a blade of pure Auric power, snarled as she used all her considerable might to press down against the Knight of Shadow. The ground beneath his feet shattered and smashed, sending chunks of stone flying everywhere. The clash of forces whipped up blistering winds that blew back everything around them. "You'll pay for all the suffering you've caused, you vile Void Knight!"
Locking gazes with her concentric circled eyes, Meowth grinned, despite being forced back by her power. "Ah little Charlotte. Do you want to know how my old organisation and many before us used to hunt down your clan one by one, torturing and eradicating them from existence? It was glorious!"
"Shut your vile mouth!" Charlotte roared, her teeth grinding together in a furious snarl. "You don't even have the right to speak about the Ketchum Clan! We will ensure that your pathetic kind never gains a foothold in this world ever again!"
"I'm going to enjoy tearing out your precious eyes, little Guardian," Meowth purred, his rotten skin stretching with his twisted grin. "I'll create a collection of them! Once this is over I'll transplant them into myself and steal your Aura!"
"I told you to shut up!" She screamed, her power blazing into an inferno around her in tune with her emotions. Even as she was pushing against his blade with her own, Charlotte had begun creating an Aura Sphere in her left hand, which she had stealthily removed from the hilt of her sword. She had also been telepathically communicating with her Pokémon, who had finally recovered from the surprise attack that had kickstarted this battle. Now Blastoise, use Hydro Cannon! Magnezone, use Thunder! Combine your attacks into one! Use the Lightning's Grasp!
Blazing with his master's Aura, Blastoise broke through the stone walls, bursting back into the room like a rampaging tank, and aimed his back cannons directly at the Knight. He roared as he unleashed a torrent of pressurised water. "Blaaaaaaaaaastoise!"
As the water travelled towards its intended target, Magnezone burst through into the throne room, bringing his two magnetic arms together. Lightning built and built between them until he shot it forwards at the speed of light, aiming it directly at the jet of deadly water. "MAG-NE-ZOOOONE!"
As the lightning energy merged into the liquid, it amplified it a thousand-fold, the water conducting the electricity, causing it to glow with a yellow brilliance. It smashed into the Knight's exposed flank, the enhanced elemental sharpness of the attack slicing through his special armour and piercing the flesh beneath.
As millions of volts burned through his undead veins, Meowth screamed in agony, his body suddenly spasming out of control. He lost his grip on his rune blade as his body was seared and Charlotte forced herself down all the harder, capitalizing on the moment. Her Aura blade, now free of opposition, slammed down into the Knight's chest, biting deep.
The young Guardian was covered in vile gore that erupted from the violent wound that opened on his torso. He collapsed on his back with a roar, part pain, part violent anger. Sensing imminent danger, Charlotte danced back, letting her Aura blade dissipate into azure mist.
An explosion of darkness shot out from the Knight's prone form, eradicating everything nearby, decaying it to dust. "Enough!" Meowth roared, using his power to elevate himself into the air. "No more playing around…"
Galar Region - Royal Palace, Moments Prior
Dawn came to a skidding halt beside her daughter after the sudden attack. Brandon followed them through seconds later, crashing ungracefully against the wall. His head whipped back upon impacting against the stone, sending the mask flying as fluid ejected from his mouth.
"Grandad!" Charlotte said, worry lacing her words.
"Brandon!" Dawn echoed, concern etched on her face.
The elder Guardian coughed and wiped his mouth with the back of his gloved hands. "I really am getting too old for this…" he said with a hint of amusement. "Haven't been hit like that since I battled Ash twenty years ago."
Two shadowy shapes snaked into the room, following them through the destruction wrought in the walls that had stood undisturbed for centuries. Wheezing and Muk reared up with their dreadful form, emitting an aura of pure violence. With their entrance came the stench of rot, a vile permeance that invaded your sense of smell like a forceful intruder.
"Charlotte, your father has been separated from us, no doubt on purpose. Whatever the Knight of Shadow is planning involves keeping us separated from him." Dawn said, her hand reaching for the belt of Pokeballs kept at her waist. "You must get back to him!"
Charlotte narrowed her eyes at the twisted newcomers that had slithered after them. "You got it mom. I won't let him have father alone!"
Her Aura springing up around her in a geyser, Charlotte bunched her legs, concentrating the power within. Muscles bulged and tendons strained, her physical body struggling to keep pace with her unfathomable metaphysical power. At once she launched herself forwards, darting back the way she'd come, moving like a blur, her thick, long, spikey black hair trailing outwards behind her.
Sensing what was happening, Muk and Wheezing moved to intercept. "Wheeee-" The gaseous monstrosity began to mutter as he opened his twisted mouth full of sharp, yellowed teeth, before being hit hard in his flank by piercing shards of glimmering ice. The force of the blow sent him careening into the castle wall where he impacted brutally, the bile sludge from his half-formed attack gushing from his mouth with a muffled grunt of pain.
"You will not lay a finger on my daughter!" Dawn said, her eyes glaring daggers. Empoleon stood before her, wings held before himself as he readied his next attack. Mystical sparkles filled the air around him, all that remained of the concentrated Blizzard he'd just unleashed.
Pangoro joined them, leaping over after freeing himself from the pile of rubble that had been entombing him.
Her fingers finding the two Pokeballs she was looking for, Dawn braced herself for a serious battle. These twisted things can hardly be called Pokémon anymore… if anything they match Cyrus' twisted creatures from the battle at the World Pillar twenty years ago… when will that forsaken war stop coming back to haunt us?
Movement to the side caught her eye. She glanced over in time to see Brandon's Alakazam materialize beside his master in the usual swirling vortex of psychic power. That same energy helped his master to his feet, raising him into the air before gracefully placing him back down.
"Good to see you're still in fighting shape, old friend." Brandon said with a grin.
The elder Guardian's cloak was soaked crimson in several places, a fact which Dawn didn't fail to overlook. "You're hurt."
He merely chuckled. "This is nothing compared to what I endured during the war." A dark look crossed his eyes as he reached for his Pokeballs. "Venusaur! Lucario! Let's show these clowns the true meaning of power!"
Within two brilliant flashes of white light, both materialized before him, joining the battle alongside Alakazam. The latter held his two spoons before his frail body protectively, his eyes concentrated pools of psychic energy.
Reaching out a gloved hand toward her, Brandon grinned at Dawn. "Come, let's show these monsters the true power of the Ketchum Clan!"
Ripping her coat free from her shoulders and discarding it to the side, Dawn revealed the clan's symbol emblazoned on the back of her shirt. The outer-part of her upper thigh also proudly displayed the concentric circle pattern, now famous world over, where her lover had imprinted it on her decades ago.
She grasped his gloved hand with her own, their fingers entwining. "Let's do it!"
Upon contact Brandon's Aura and the Aura which had been building within the bluenette's body over the years from her bond with Ash erupted like the birth of a star, blazing brilliant azure light into the room. A resounding clang echoed between the stone walls, the unleashed energy creating the sound of an enormous gong being struck.
The two twisted Pokémon shied back, their eyes burning. Their corrupted forms found the light repellent. Their skin stung, their ears filled with a violent ringing as their thoughts became incoherent. Aura was the antithesis of the Void. Being exposed to such an outburst was akin to having acid course through their bloated veins.
Surrounded by icy luminescence, Brandon and Dawn's Pokémon braced for battle, their eyes burning brightly.
"Let's do it!" The bluenette said, a grin splitting her features.
Using mental commands through the Aura that bound them all together, the Ketchum Clan members issued their orders.
Leaping to the side slightly before pivoting and launching forwards, Empoleon sliced down with his shining limb. His Steel Wing attack smashing into Wheezing with all its carried momentum and force, causing the Poison type to splutter out more vile toxic sludge as its stomach became crushed under the impact.
Barely a second later Pangoro whipped around, spinning to gain momentum, and slammed his fist into Wheezing's exposed side. Already under duress, the Poison Pokémon couldn't react, much less defend against the vicious Mega Punch. He flew through the air, smashing through the wall on the other side of the room, a trail of revolting gas smudging the air left in his wake like oily smoke.
As this was happening, Brandon was fiercely fighting against the twisted creature that once called itself a Muk.
Roaring like a possessed demon, the mountain of black sludge raced forwards, not going for any opposing Pokémon, but rather directly for Brandon himself.
Eyes flicking over to the incoming threat, Brandon's gaze flared bright with azure power, concentric circles rippling over their surface. Within his mind, he issued commands to his power trio instantly. We cannot allow him to come into contact with us, even for a second! There's no telling what the Void has done to its body, and I'm not going to be taking any chances here! Alakazam, use teleport to open a portal directly in front of me! Charizard, use Flamethrower! Venusaur, use Petal Dance! We will incinerate him!
Obeying their commands, the three of them turned, pivoted, and put all their power into their attacks as their bodies filled with their master's Aura. Alakazam crossed his spoons and became engulfed in Psychic energy; Charizard inhaled, pulling backing his neck; Venusaur anchored down as the enormous flower on his back opened.
Muk surged through the air, his demonic, soulless eyes bearing down on the elderly Guardian. He pulled back one toxic fist, and brought it crashing straight down towards Brandon's exposed head.
The air warped before him, becoming a swirling vortex. He cried out in surprise as his attack was literally transported to a different dimension.
Just as he was getting his head around what was happening, a barrage of strange red and pink petals engulfed him, sticking to his viscous skin. They wrapped around him in an unrelenting whirlwind, to the point where he could barely move. He attempted to rot them away with his corrosive ooze, but try as he might, there were too many to deal with.
He barely had time to flick his eyes towards the oncoming torrent of blisteringly hot fire before it hit him. Charizard bellowed out his stomach's contents, the scorching inferno igniting Venusaur's extra flammable petals and turning Muk into a living bonfire.
The unearthly screech that Muk emitted upon being set ablaze was unlike anything Brandon or Dawn had heard before. Its shrill screech cut through the cacophony of battle like a knife through butter. Their hands whipped up to cover ears as they dropped to their knees. The sound sliced into their eardrums, reverberating through their brains.
Thrashing and turning, Muk attempted to extinguish the flames. As the burning petals sank into its flesh, being absorbed by the ooze, so too was the fire. As its insides cooked, Muk started flailing around at random, its moves becoming increasingly desperate.
"MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUK!" It screamed and screamed and screamed. Globs of burning toxic fluid went flying in every which direction, the air filling with carcinogenic fumes as the Pokémon lashed out in agony.
Venusaur and Charizard got doused in the ignited sludge, each roaring in agony. They squirmed, trying desperately to free themselves from the pain. The toxicity of Muk's flesh quickly began to erode their skin, turning it a necrotic purple.
Alakazam had hastily thrown up a barrier of Aura-infused Psychic energy to protect himself from the sludge barrage, which had saved him from getting doused.
Flicking his wrists and using his Aura to summon his Pokeballs to his hands, Brandon immediately returned Charizard and Venusaur before the damage could worsen. "Return!"
This ends here! He's far too dangerous to let live! Summoning all the power he had left, Brandon released his internal chains keeping his terrifying power in check. Aura surged through his veins like electricity, and his eyes blazed. A torrent of icy light burst into existence around him, and hurricane force winds whipped up out of nowhere.
Concentrating all his tremendous power within his clenched fist, Brandon pulled back his arm and took a step back with right leg. "Your suffering ends here!
"Fist of the Gods!" He roared, swinging through his hip with planet-shattering force. His punch connected with Muk's burning face in a colossal explosion of power. Time broke down and blue lightning sparked around him, a tumultuous electro-magnetic storm of broken physics. All the energy exploded at the point of impact and tore through Muk's body as though it were made of foam.
Destroyed on a cellular level, all that remained of the Poison-type were specks of toxic waste on the floor of the castle. The ceiling and roof of the structure had been utterly obliterated behind it, even the dust and debris atomised into nothingness from the sheer destructive force of the attack.
Panting from exhaustion, Brandon fell to one knee, the light disappearing from his eyes and the concentric circles fading back to normal. The arm which he had struck Muk with was turning purple, the necrotic poison that had run through the creature's flesh rotting him from the inside out.
Dawn saw this with alarm. "Grandpa Brandon! Your arm!"
Watching it progress up towards his torso, Brandon did the only thing he could think of. Summoning the last of his Aura into his good arm, he sliced off the infected limb at the shoulder. Blood sprayed as veins and arteries were severed, and he grunted as the sharp pain shot through his nervous system. Before the power faded, he used its burning energy to cauterize himself. He managed to seal the gaping wound just before passing out.
"Brandon!" Dawn cried out again, rushing over towards him as her Pokémon held off the resilient Wheezing. "Stay with us! You can't faint here, it's too deadly!"
"I'll… be… fine… focus on your…" He said before coughing violently. "Focus on your… opponent… you're part of… of the Ketchum Clan now… I have… every faith in your abilities…"
Propping him up against the wall, Dawn smiled and nodded. "You did fantastic. Leave the rest to Ash, Charlotte and myself. You've earned your rest."
"Dawn… come here." Brandon said, every word uttered with effort. "I have something to give you."
Curious, the bluenette stepped in so that the elderly Guardian could reach her.
His hand becoming engulfed in azure light, he pressed it against her forehead. At once, all of Brandon's remaining Aura transferred into her body. Her eyes lit up, the azure glow shining out from within.
She felt an incredible surge in power, every cell awakening with the euphoric transcendence of Aura. Concern and confusion filled her being with this decision, and she furrowed her brows. "You fool! You need this energy more than I right now! You should have kept it for yourself!"
Brandon shook his head. "These beings are unlike… anything else we have faced so far in this war... Other Pokémon have been infused with the… Void, this is true… But these… these have become part… of the Void itself… You'll need… need all the Aura you can get… if you wish to defeat them…" He shoved her away. "Now go… stop worrying about an old fart like me… and end this once and for all…"
Having used up everything he had left, Brandon fainted in her arms. She shook her head and gently laid him down. "Rest now Brandon, I'll handle the rest from here." As she stepped back, Alakazam stood guard before his unconscious master, nodding at the bluenette. Understanding, she left him to stand watch, and keep the elder Guardian safe.
Turning, Dawn's now glowing eyes fixated on her target. Filled with the incredible power of the Guardians, she felt that intrinsic link that they shared with their Pokémon open up to her, her mind melding with that of her companions.
The Ketchum Clan symbol that Ash engraved upon her outer thigh all those years ago now lit up, becoming a shining beacon of her power, the clan's heritage burning through her. Being a constant recipient of Aura, her body's biology had changed and adapted, and now she was a true member of the most famous clan the world had ever known.
She grabbed another ball from her belt and launched it. Togekiss emerged before her in a shower of white light. Connecting herself to all her Pokémon, their eyes blazed with azure power, their bodies exuding a newfound strength.
A smile crept up her lips as her hair and clothes blustered around her, her unleashed power whipping up a powerful gale. "Let's do this!"
Sensing something was afoot but unsure as to where the threat would be coming from, Wheezing narrowed his gaze, focusing. He was positioned near the centre of the room, surrounded on all sides. Muk's ruined form lay scattered all around him, and he had no plan to end up in a similar position. Opening his disgusting mouth as wide as possible, he vomited out a noxious gas cloud to obscure their vision and try to buy himself some time.
Mental commends issued as fast as it takes a thought to materialize, Dawn's Pokémon sprang into action. We won't let you hide in there! You can't hide from Aura's light!
Empoleon braced, opened his beak and loosed a precise beam of concentrated ice straight into the gas cloud. His Aura enhanced vision allowed him to see Wheezing's energy signature inside the murky gloom.
Pangoro braced, summoning forth all his power into his palms, before slamming them down into the stone floor. "Pangoroooooooo!" He roared. The castle shook as though gripped by a vicious earthquake as a pillar of stone, summoning by the Fighting-type's energy, shot up into the cloud, aiming straight for the floating form of the Poison Gas Pokémon.
At the same time as the other two struck, Togekiss and Dawn stood side by side, wing held against hand. As one they let their Aura surge through their bodies, a joined Aura Sphere materializing at their point of contact.
Dawn closed her eyes as she focused, remembering what her husband had taught her. Focus on the palm of your hand Dawn. Recall what Ash said. It's just like all those hours of training.
Her eyelids burst open and the sphere began to rapidly grow in dimensions. It's roiling power surged, blowing away all the rubble and debris that now littered this room of the castle. Dawn's hair whipped about behind her as the attack increased in power. This is the result of our bond! Of years of training! Of love and affection! Now I can show that I'm a Ketchum in more than just name!
Roaring with all their might, Dawn and Togekiss launched the Aura Sphere straight forward. It flew through the air like lightning, moving faster than regular eyesight could keep track of. It burst through the cloud of toxic gas, beelining straight for its target. It struck home in combination with the others. Ice, Ground and Aura merging together in one mighty explosion of unleashed force.
Wind erupted outwards, buffeting everyone back. They all had to brace themselves to keep from being blown away. Dawn desperately tried to see through the dissipating dust and smog, to observe the effect of their combined attack.
Torn, battered, bruised and bleeding. Wheezing hovered where he'd been simultaneously struck, dark blood sluggishly leaking from the left side of his mouth. One of his eyes was glued shut and the smaller head was completely unconscious. But still, he endured.
Dawn's eyes widened in genuine shock. I didn't expect him to be able to survive that! Stay on guard guys! There is no telling what he'll do next! A wounded animal is the most dangerous! Keep your eyes peeled!
Having received her mental commands, her team stood on guard, watching carefully what the Poison-type would do next.
"Wheeeeeeee…" The Poison Gas Pokémon moaned as he began vibrating. The remaining smog and air around him began being vacuumed into his body, and he rapidly started swelling to a disproportionate size. His eyes rolled back into his skull as a savage smirk split his lips.
"Everyone! Get back!" Dawn quickly said, panic lacing every syllable. He's trying to take us all out with him! We don't have time to outrun it! We must try and deflect the blast as best as we can! "Quickly, to me!"
Empoleon and Pangoro leapt back and huddled behind her and Togekiss. Dawn exchanged a look with the Jubilee Pokémon, their glowing eyes reaching an understanding of what they would have to do to survive this.
"Alakazam! Bring Brandon to us and assist us in our efforts!" She quickly commanded. As the Psychic-Type retrieved the elderly Guardian's prone form, she and Togekiss poured all their joined power into forming a protect barrier, built of nothing but pure Aura. The dome of energy sprang into being, materializing out of thin air all around them. As their Aura flowed into its structure, it strengthened and strengthened.
As Alakazam joined them, he poured all he had into the barrier, adding and reinforcing it further with pure Psychic energy.
More! We need to add more power to it! Dawn thought as the strain of channelling so much energy began to take its toll on her. Her arms began filling with lactic acid, and a deep, thrumming headache pounded behind her glowing eyes. Sweat ran from her forehead in rivers, matting her hair to her skull. More! We need more!
All the while Wheezing was expanding in size and destructive capability. His skin was pulled taught like an overfull balloon. His eyes were glossy bulbous orbs of pure white. A sickly glow began radiating off him as he reached critical mass.
"He going to explode! Brace yourself!" Dawn shouted, hunkering down.
With what sounded like a chuckle, Wheezing denoted.
Fire and fury blew outwards, engulfing everything. Nothing but a raging inferno of pure destruction filled the room. As it smashed into the protective dome, the strain against her, Togekiss and Alakazam increased a thousand-fold, causing her to cry out in pain. She grit her teeth as blood began to run from the corners of her eyes.
The sound of the explosion was like a roaring demon, eerily reminiscent of the Black Hole that had swallowed Pallet Town all those years ago. There was something wrong with the unleashed force that threatened to wipe them from existence. The Void had infiltrated and permeated every cell in Wheezing's body, and now it was unleashed, turned into pure destructive energy.
"Just… hold… on!" The bluenette roared, doing all she could to endure against the seemingly endless assault. Togekiss had her eyes screwed shut, her entire body clammy with sweat from over-exertion. Alakazam was fairing little better, the grip on his spoons so tight that his knuckles had turned white. The strain was unreal. It felt like they were holding the entire planet above their heads. Pangoro and Empoleon had crouched down behind them, protecting Brandon's unconscious form with their bodies.
At last the fire died down, and they could drop the barrier. Dawn simply fell forwards, unceremoniously landing on her front. Togekiss seemed to mirror her, dropping out the sky and flopping to the floor. Both were exhausted. Both had used all they had to stay alive.
Alakazam fell to his knees, panting heavily.
Of the room they had been in, little remained. The walls that still stood were scorched black along with the floors. Several holes to the lower levels had been opened, the masonry unable to bare the load of the megalithic explosion that had just taken place.
The ceiling was completely gone, most of the force from the blast had been directed outwards and upwards, and the ancient stonework stood little chance of containing such destructive force.
Dawn twisted her head around, making sure everyone else had made it through the blast okay. She smiled seeing the reassuring sight of her Pokémon, fully conscious and moving about. Brandon was still out of it, but he looked no worse for wear than when he'd fainted. Thank goodness we all got through that…
As Empoleon and Pangoro helped her, Togekiss and Alakazam up off the floor, Dawn took deep, heavy breaths. I hope Ash and Charlotte are okay…
Once she had recovered she would join them against the Knight of Shadow. Knowing now the full power that his Pokémon commanded, she worried how her family was fairing.
Galar Region – Throne Room, Present Time
Ash and Charlotte backed off from the expanding void growing around Meowth's levitating body, not risking any chance of coming into contact with its entropic touch.
"Charlotte! Keep your eyes focused on your enemy at all times! Don't allow this attack to distract you from what's coming next!" Ash said as he scanned for an opening.
"Don't worry about me father!" Charlotte replied as she backflipped further across the room. She landed and braced, her Pokémon beside her. "Worry about yourself!"
We need to stop whatever it is that he's planning, think you can hit him, buddy? Ash said through his Aura connection with Pikachu.
"Pi!" Pikachu nodded, his fur bristling with electricity.
"All right, then let's prepa-" He was cut off by an almighty explosion in the other room. The whole castle began to tremor, and fiery destruction burst through the holes in the stonework.
"What the…?" Ash said, his eyes widening. "Father! Dawn!"
"Grandpa! Mom!" Charlotte echoed, looking equally concerned.
Immediately Ash began searching for his wife and father with his Aura, feeling out to see if he could locate them. There is too much unleashed energy! I can't tell if they're alive!
Upon seeing their reaction, the Knight of Shadow began to laugh. He laughed and laughed and laughed, a wicked grin splitting his rotting features.
"What's so funny?!" Ash spat, whirling on him.
"That was my Wheezing's self-destruction! He contained enough concentrated energy to level a town! There is no way anyone in close proximity survived that! Your father and your precious Dawn are dead!" Meowth gloated.
The possibility whirled through both Guardians' minds.
Ash felt his blood run cold. It's true that that could be a possibility, but there is no way father would fall so easily… and Dawn is a capable fighter… he's trying to get into our heads! Char! "Ignore his lies, Charlotte! Don't give in to your emotions!"
On the other side of the palace throne room, Charlotte Ketchum stood, her eyes in and out of focus, her mind racing. Mother… dead…? Grandpa Brandon… dead…? As the thoughts kept recycling inside her head, a righteous fury utterly engulfed her. No… that can't be true! It can't be! Her eyes, burning with inhuman levels of power, power she had inherited from her father, glared daggers at the Knight of Shadow. He will die for this atrocity!
"Charlotte! Control yourself! Stay with me!" Ash roared with all his might, trying to reach his daughter. He could see that his words were having no effect. Dammit! She's not listening! At this rate she'll lose herself to rage, just like I used to when I was younger…
"Pi! Pi pikachu pi pi!" Pikachu called out, trying his best to help.
"At last some of your pathetic, worthless clan have been eradicated from the Earth!" Meowth laughed, his attack still gaining strength as the void grew beneath him.
A titanic explosion of azure energy sparked into life around Charlotte as her rage finally boiled over. Her Aura, completely unleashed, torrented upwards, blasting a hole in what little was left of the throne room's ceiling. She screamed as this happened, a cry of pure, tortured, emotional suffering.
Consumed by her hated, Charlotte and her Pokémon sprang forwards, the ground cracking and cratering from the force. "Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooowth!" She screamed, her fists glowing brighter than ever.
A small smirk tugged at the edge of the Knight's morose lips, his eyes slightly shifting in the direction of the incoming human and Pokémon projectiles. It was the only hint he gave of what he was planning with his current move. It was only ever so slight, but Ash caught it nonetheless.
The President saw it all happening in slow motion, his daughter brashly engaging the enemy, and Meowth's brief look of triumph.
It all clicked in an instant, and he understood what was happening, his mind processing the situation with the speed of a seasoned combat veteran of the highest order. He's building a Black Hole in his palms! This beneath him is just a distraction! Shit! Arbok and Persian have almost recovered too!
He devised a quick plan of action in that breath of a second. It wasn't perfect, but it was all he could come up with in such a short moment. If he lands that on her, Char will die! I'll never let that happen!
A white geyser of Aura announced Ash's intentions like a searchlight in the dark. Meowth instantly glanced over, to see the most powerful person in existence rushing him, covered head to toe in brilliant white energy. The threat exuding from his every move was colossal, and not something he could ignore.
Smirking victoriously, the Knight of Shadow pivoted in the air and swung his arm around to intercept the legendary Guardian.
Reason cut through Charlotte's emotional turmoil just enough for her to realise what was happening in that moment. She saw the hidden danger concealed within the Knight's hand, her father's interception, and how she'd played right into Meowth's plans.
"Begone from this world forever, Ash Ketchum!" The Knight of Shadow roared, his eyes alight with twisted fervour. He slammed the Black Hole straight into Ash's body as the Guardian reached him, the Void energy engulfing him utterly.
Trying to counter with two concentrated Aura Spheres' of pure white, Ash fought desperately to undo and combat the warped physics. It was a futile attempt and he knew it, but he did manage to avert the worst of the destruction as he was completely consumed by the Void, his whole world turning black.
"Char-" Was all he could say before he was swallowed whole, the ethereal darkness devouring him whole, Pikachu disappearing along with him. The small mouse Pokémon could only yelp in surprise as the dimensional tear devoured him utterly.
Eyes wide and shaking, Charlotte watched it happen like a car crash. It all seemed to happen in an instant, and before she knew it, her father had disappeared entirely, not a single trace of his Aura remaining. "Father!"
Meowth quickly dodged Charlotte's incoming trajectory and let her slam into the wall on the opposite side along with her Pokémon. He thrust his arms skyward and began to manically laugh as black lighting danced and sparked around him. "I did it! At long last that spikey haired bastard and his mongrel of a Pikachu are dead! Devoured by the Void, not even he could survive!"
Charlotte unceremoniously collapsed at the base of the wall along with both of her Pokémon. Her mind was racing. Her heart was beating so fast that it threatened to burst from her chest. Her face was covered in sweat, her concentric circled eyes going in and out of focus.
Father can't be dead… that's impossible! He's Ash Ketchum! The legendary master of Aura! The Saviour of Reality! He can't die! He can't!
Her childish pleas went unanswered, her mind reeling as the reality of the situation sank deep into her bones. She glanced over her shoulder at the hovering form of the laughing Knight. Each laugh was like a needle in her eye, a knife to her guts.
His exhilaration at the destruction of all she held dear unlocked something deep within her, a part of herself she didn't even realise existed.
She had never really lost. Never had to truly savour the taste of defeat. The unofficial Genius of Kanto had found most things in life easy, and as such was wholly unprepared for such a reality check. Unaware of the darker sides of her clan's history, the hatred that so many of them had succumbed to rose up and saturated her entire being. Much like her father did all those moons ago, the look in Charlotte's eyes changed.
She turned all this vitriol and simmering rage upon the one responsible. Standing upright, Charlotte Ketchum glared pure murder into the Knight of Shadow's back.
Sensing the sudden killing desire being directed at him, Meowth turned, immediately on guard. What is this feeling?! Her urge to kill is so strong I can feel it in the air as thick as honey!
Screaming with all her fury, a massive torrent of pure Aura burst into life around her, blowing away the remaining walls and ceiling left in the room. Chunks of stone and ancient masonry went flying, as hurricane force winds whipped up in a frenzy, her hair and clothes blustering about. The ground beneath her feet shattered and cratered. Her emotional turmoil reflected through her Aura, Charlotte's eyes blazed so brightly that the Knight of Shadow had to shield himself from their glare.
Meowth instinctively covered himself head to toe in a blanket of pure Void, ready to deflect whatever was about to be launched at him. He could sense the titanic levels of power being utilised from the girl before him and had no intention to take what she was dishing out unprotected. I thought this would be easy with Ash out of the picture! What the hell is the power?! How the hell is she this strong?! Arbok and Persian are almost here, I just need to hang on a little longer…
Bending her knees to a slight crouch, Charlotte held her hands out beside her waist, palms facing forward. Her right hand began forming an Aura Sphere, no bigger than usual but with a million times more energy concentrated within. Electricity sparked and danced over its surface as it roiled and pulsated, its level of threat growing with each second.
In her other hand formed a glowing sword of pure energy. A weapon powered by godlike levels of Aura which would cut through diamonds like butter.
I just need to- Meowth's thoughts were cut off as she vanished. Even with his enhanced vision from years of soaking up the Void's power and becoming accustomed to its benefits, he had no inkling of where she was, nor could his senses keep track. Impossible! Where the hell is she?!
His answer came with a literal punch to the gut. Smashing into his abdomen with the force of a meteor, Charlotte unleashed her fury with an ear-rattling roar of bloody murder.
The concentrated Aura Sphere was slammed, point-blank into his stomach. It knifed through his blanket of darkness as though it were paper, ripped the adamantium armour to shreds, then went to work obliterating his rancid flesh underneath. As this was happening, she swung her other arm around in a lightning-fast slice, using her Aura Blade to decapitate his right leg from his torso, in one clean blow.
The Aura Sphere exploded, its concentrated, condensed mass briefly collapsing in on itself, before exploding outwards in a burst of cascading light. Like the death of a neutron star, its explosion bathed the room in incinerating flames, and the force of it sent Meowth flying back, flipping end over out the castle before slamming into the nearby mountain range. The impact shook the earth, the whole castle rumbling and shaking as though caught in a full-blown earthquake. The Knight found himself in the centre of a very large crater, every part of his unnatural body aching.
Rolling to the side as fast as he could, he barely dodged the Force Palm which slammed into the mountain where he'd been not a second before. The entire range was utterly obliterated from the impact, breaking down into boulders and clumps of earth. Charlotte whirled on him like she was a demon possessed.
Meowth's eyes widened at the damage she so casually inflicted on the scenery. She's fast! And dangerous! I need to be careful here! If I take any more damage, I'm going to be in serious trouble! He quickly backflipped away, not wanting to stay within proximity of the walking nuclear bomb that Charlotte had become.
Void energy flooded the gap where his leg had been, and he used it to stand. In the corner of his eye he saw his two Pokémon closing in, and fortunately, in her fury, Charlotte hadn't given her Pokémon time to keep up with her.
Grinning, the Knight summoned all the power he had and quickly focused it into his palms. "This is a trick I learned from your Grandfather! Entropy of the Void! Extensile Reality!" As he spoke, he slammed his Void-encrusted hands together in a thunderclap of released energy.
Reality began to bend and reshape around the Guardian's body, folding and overlapping on itself. Physics itself was torn asunder, and holes in the very nature of the universe began to appear.
Meowth grinned as he admired his own handywork. I don't like using such dangerous abilities, but she's no joke. I can't play around here. I need to end this battle quickly!
Charlotte stood amongst the tortured physics without batting an eye, utterly unphased by it. Her body proved immune to its effects, and she began walking straight towards the now completely bewildered Knight of Shadow, drawing her sword to a battle position as she did. "Don't you ever speak of my clan with your filthy tongue ever again. You should thank the Ketchum Clan for all your power and stolen moves. Without us you'd still be a pathetic joke, a useless Pokémon without the strength to even challenge a fresh starter and win."
There was something about her slow, inexorable advance that was terrifying to the Knight. The look in her eyes made his sluggish blood run cold.
Abandoning his attack, he moved to plan b. "Tch! If that has no effect on you, then you'll have to take the full force of the Void! Arbok! Persian! Now!"
He charged forwards in conjunction with his Pokémon, having waited until they'd gotten close enough to time this perfectly. Claws and fangs infused with the all-encompassing darkness of the Void, they dived down toward their target's unprotected back with the intent to slice her to bloody ribbons. He'd hoped to pin her in place at the very least with his own attack, but now abandoned that in favour of pure offence. Let's see how you can handle all three of us together! Strong as you are, the numbers are stacked heavily against you!
Meowth drew his runeblade as he leapt forward to meet the encroaching Guardian, its length glowing with strange runes and emitting an icy mist. At once it set ablaze with a black flame, the Void merging in with its inherent energies. "Now fall, Guardian!"
Two Aura drenched blurs entered the fray faster than the eye could track, intercepting Arbok and Persian mid-strike and sending them all tumbling into the giant crevasse where the mountain range once stood. They all went skittling over the earth, thrashing and biting at one another.
"What?!" Meowth said. Too late to change his trajectory now, he had no choice but to commit fully to his attack. Roaring with all his might, he swung his blade from over his shoulder in a savage downward arc.
Going from walking pace seemingly to the speed of light, Charlotte dodged to the side of the strike, her body leaving after images in her wake. She battered the blade aside, her merely coming into contact with it causing it to shatter like brittle glass. The Aura around her right fist intensified and swelled beyond comprehension. She rammed it straight into his face. "Fist of the Gods!" She bellowed with all her might.
Bones cracked and shattered, and teeth went flying from his rotting mouth. His mind going blank from the sudden surge of agony, all Meowth could do is scream in torture as his head took the full brunt of the damage.
An explosion of pure energy blossomed outwards behind him, eradicating all in its path. The force of the impact sent the Knight sprawling backwards, spinning end over end. He smashed into the palace behind him, vaporising the wall and everything else in his path. He smashed through room after room, a one-man projectile of destruction. He appeared out of the other side and continued, crashing through boulders, trees, lakes and rivers. At last he came to a stop at the end of a huge rent in the earth created by his own passage.
Barely able to think, let alone move, the Knight of Shadow tried to regain his wits. His mind, even in its current state, knew that he couldn't stay immobile for long. Sh…She won't… take long to get here… I need to act fast… or I'm going to be done for…
He'd lost his sword and could no longer rely on it. Which left him one other option, since he didn't know what the situation was currently like for Arbok or Persian. I didn't want to have to resort to using that, but it seems those fucking Ketchums have left me little choice…
He propped himself to a sitting position and began reaching deep within the twisted and torn flesh of his chest…
The Great Dark Beyond – Five Minutes Prior
He sank, deep. The endless Void consumed him utterly, until all light had become a fading memory. In this place, the absence of luminescence, the antithesis of light, only the cold suffocating darkness remained. Once you were trapped within its hungry tendrils, there was no escape, you were eternally lost within this realm of perpetual night.
Ash opened his eyes. Greeting his gaze was an endless sea of darkness. It pressed down on him from all sides, relentless in its pursuit to crush him with its pressure. Inhaling brought nothing but pain. Despite the oily viscous substance which permeated this place, it was in actuality a vacuum, with not a trace of oxygen to be found.
As his lungs began to burn from a lack of sustenance, Ash quickly threw up a barrier of pure Aura around himself, creating a bubble of tangible reality to ground himself in. His very presence became a beacon of light amidst the Void, a torch in the night.
Beside him he could see Pikachu floating unconscious, his oldest companion sucked into the Void with him. Without the power of Aura to combat the suffocating realm of night, he stood no chance. Doing what he could, Ash put him in his own protective barrier, ensuring no more damage befell his greatest friend. Hold on buddy… it's all I can do for you for now…
The darkness briefly banished back, the protective barrier of power gave him a chance to think. I need to free myself from here immediately! I'm going to suffocate if I don't act fast! Ash estimated he had about five minutes or so of oxygen left before he passed out, and if that happened that would be his end.
His activation of Aura had sent light streaming through this realm of night, and that had done more than simply ground him. The creatures that called this place home, nightmarish things from the depths of this suffocating dimension, were drawn to him like moths to a flame, curious as to what had brought illumination into their blinding realm. They hungrily circled his prone form, waiting for the Void to claim him for itself. Once that happened, they would be able to feast, and beings of the light were their favourite delicacy.
Bringing his unfathomable levels of power to the palms of his hands, Ash slammed them together, attempting to access the forbidden techniques of the Universal Paths. Unfortunately, as his palms made contact, he felt incredibly dizzy, a wave of vertigo and nausea wracking his body.
Shit! I'm running out of air! I can't focus long enough to open the portal!
His surroundings began to spin, and he lurched forwards, barely managing to keep conscious, let alone use his Aura. Panic rose up within as his vision began to fade. Desperately he tried again and again to rip open the dimensional planes and free himself, but it all availed to nothing.
His failing mind could only think of his wife and children, and the unbearable sadness that he would never see their faces again. Dawn…! Charlotte…! Harry…! Forgive me…
A supremely bright light lit up his vision. This blinding radiance burnt back the Void and sent its denizens fleeing back to its depths. It was as though a star had been birthed into creation in this terrible plane of existence, announcing itself with warm rays of the purest illumination.
Suddenly, Ash could breathe, and his lungs hungrily drank their fill. Strangely, he fell to solid ground, and began to cough, desperately trying to catch his breath as he did so. Regaining his composure somewhat, the Guardian took the chance to glance around himself, wondering what in the name of Arceus had just happened.
"When I felt your presence ripple through the universe, I knew you'd end up here. Although I wish it were under better circumstances, it's great to see you again Ash." Tensuiromo said, his ethereal body hovering just slightly off the ground beside the Guardian prodigy.
A huge smile instinctively grew up Ash's face. "Tensuiromo! It's been so long!" The two embraced in a brotherly hug. "Thank you for saving me, yet again. It seems that's all you end up doing when we meet." He said as he pulled back.
The First Guardian waved him off. "Nonsense, without you there would be no reality left at all. This is the least I can do for all you did two decades ago. I am more than a little bit curious how someone of your calibre ended up marooned in the depths of the Great Dark Beyond, however."
"Long story there. We are currently battling against the last remaining Knight of Shadow. They were created by a member of my old organisation. Colress, at the behest of Ghetsis back when Team Plasma were trying to conquer the Unova Region, began experimenting with the Void, and they were his results. There were three originally. This one is a Pokémon in human flesh, but all of them were built with a link to the Void and seem to be able to tolerate its corrosive effects. With Colress dead the secrets of their creation died with him, so we will never understand exactly what he did to achieve this. The World Government couldn't even reverse engineer what Tobias body went through when he undertook the transformation." Ash said. "Quite frankly I think the world is far better off with that kind of knowledge lost to history."
A troubled look passed over Tensuiromo's ancient face. "That is quite disturbing news indeed. I wasn't sure if you yourself had been experimenting with the Universal Paths and accidentally trapped yourself, but this is a far graver matter. This Knight must be stopped. The balance of the dimensional planes must never again be upset. If he somehow achieves the same level of destruction that Brandon managed to cause, then we will have a similar situation on our hands to the war twenty years ago."
"Lend me your aid, Lord First," Ash said, standing and drawing up his Aura. "My daughter, Charlotte, is currently fighting against him as we speak. She's a powerful Guardian and a genius Pokémon Trainer, but she hasn't managed to develop her emotions fully yet, and I worry he will use that against her. I must end this before she gets hurt or Meowth tears a hole in the dimensional fabric of reality."
Tensuiromo nodded. "Link with me like we did before. Together we shall open the way for you to return."
Their Auras merged, becoming one. The feeling was as natural as blinking, their inner power so deeply connected. Their Auras were basically the same, so there was nothing to really obstruct the melding of their power.
Standing and facing one another, the First Guardian and his reincarnation held their hands out before them. Both pairs of hands became illuminated with a burning light, as enough energy to destroy a galaxy was unleased to bend spacetime to their will. A tear in reality opened up, ringed with their bright Aura to keep it stable.
"I hope to see you again soon, under happier circumstances." Ash said as he stepped through. "Thank you again, for everything."
"It's my pleasure, Ash of the Ketchum Clan. You'll find a part of my power has been left within you to help you in your battle against the darkness. Use it well!" Tensuiromo said.
Smiling, Ash grabbed Pikachu's unconscious form in his arms and let the portal transport him back to the Earth. Hold tight everyone, I'm coming! I just hope everyone is still alright…
Galar Region – Royal Palace
"I see that things have escalated…" Brandon said, examining the ruined throne room and subsequent destruction of the nearby terrain. "I can't sense Ash at all, and Charlotte's signature is a fair distance away. We should try to catch up with them as soon as possible."
Dawn nodded, a look of determination on her beautiful features. "Can you stand on your own?"
Detaching himself from her shoulders from where she had been helping him to walk, Brandon shakily stood upright, using all the strength he had left. "I'll do my best. You need all the energy you can muster to finish off that Knight. Don't worry about me."
Turning toward his strongest and eldest Pokémon, Brandon smiled warmly. "I have one last favour to ask of you, my faithful companion." The elder Guardian said.
"Alaka!" The Psychic-type nodded, bringing all its remaining power to bare.
"I'm sending you my granddaughter's Aura signature through our link. I need you to open a portal to her location. I trust you have enough power left to send us there?"
Nodding, Alakazam brought his spoons up before himself. They began to flare with their typical violet hue, and his eyes burned with a mix of psychic energy and the tell-tale azure hue of Aura. "Alakazam!"
The air before them began to swirl, warping into a vortex. Wasting no time, Brandon and Dawn stepped within, allowing the Teleport to transport them through reality. When they had fully disappeared through, Alakazam allowed the ability to take him too, leaving the ruined throne room behind.
Galar Region – Just Outside The Royal Palace
Pushing himself from the ground, Meowth grasped the edges of the crater and hauled himself up. His body ached. It ached like he had never known before. The pain burned inside his mind, and his borrowed flesh singed with this fresh sensation of agony.
Inhaling deeply, he pulled a hand up before himself to examine. He narrowed his gaze. I've not felt like this for a long, long time… It's strange… and a little exhilarating!
He could sense the Guardian. She was releasing more power than anyone he had ever known – other than her father and grandfather. It was like she was a beacon, announcing her presence to the world as a torch in the night. That bitch. She forced me to this stage?! Is my normal level seriously not strong enough to face off against that brat? I know Ash was holding back, probably to give that whore some experience… They will pay for underestimating me…!
With a few simple thoughts, he tapped into the part of his mind which controlled his stolen power, the part of his mind which enabled him to tap into the darkest reaches of the Void, to harness its energy. It was a risky manoeuvre. He'd seen how it had warped and corrupted Brandon. But I am not Brandon Ketchum! I am a Knight of Shad… no, I am a Knight of the Void! The true incarnation of power! The first iteration of the next evolution of all life on this planet! And I will not die!
He grimaced as he knew what would have to come next. Raising his hand, he rapidly drove it into his ribs, slicing through the rotten flesh and smashing through the bones. A dark crystal sat beside his heart, and he wrapped his gore stained fingers around it. Grinning now despite the pain, he crushed it in his palm.
At once a dark ball of coalescing power began to form in the centre of his chest, dark lightning tinted red crackling around it. His unleashing of the shackles that bound his power, kept it in check so as not to rip his very body apart, atom from atom, were blown away. Discarded. The dimensional planes split before him, giving him unaltered access to the Great Dark Beyond, and all the horror it encompassed.
Not only that, but all the power he had gifted to those that had chosen to serve him began to stream back, much like he had tried to achieve when the battle had started. Without his runeblade, he had to become the conduit for the flow of energy, absorbing every last bit into himself.
He could feel his power begin to swell beyond all levels of comprehension, and fought desperately to keep the euphoria from overwhelming his mind. Oh, how easy it would be to give in, to let go. To be carried away on the rivers of ecstasy that now pumped through his veins like addictive blood. His mind surged with adrenaline, with a desire for more. A burning hunger gnawed in his stomach, encouraging him to drink deep from the forbidden well. The Void hungered, and he was its release.
No! Don't let the power change you! Stay strong! Don't become what Brandon was! You are better! You were born for this! Now is the time to stay strong Meowth! Become what you were always meant to be!
Meowth screamed, the euphoria threatening to destroy him. The pleasurable pain was unbearable, and as his twisted body filled with the essence of nightmares, his spirit payed the price. His soul had to tank the rush of incomprehensible levels of godlike power, the entire dimensional plane of the Void filling his vessel to breaking point.
As every cell burned, his eyes turned black as pitch, his bone white hair elongating out behind him in response to the change of body. His borrowed flesh began to swell, his undead muscles bulging with a strength impossible to replicate by yourself. What little armour remained on him buckled and cracked from the inside, unable to contain the extreme addition of mass.
Suddenly, it was over. The pain, the euphoria, the desperate fight to remain grounded. All of it, gone. His destroyed leg had even returned, a limb made of pure darkness. I have done it! I have taken the Void into myself and achieved my full potential!
When Meowth opened his eyes, he saw. Everything came into crystal clarity, as all of reality was laid bare. It stripped back the simple façade that primitive ocular organs could only perceive. The true depth of reality, the primordial forces at play, and the mysteries of creation were now exposed before his enhanced eyesight. So, this is what Ash has been able to see and interact with for all these years eh… No wonder he stands as a God among men…
The burning itch at the back of his mind returned full force. Charlotte Ketchum… I can see you now…
She slammed down into the ground behind him, her torrenting Aura bursting through the cloud line. Her anger had consumed her, and it was fuelling her power. With the Void Knight's new ocular prowess, he could see it clearly. Very clearly.
Such incredible strength… I never truly appreciated just how powerful Aura was until this moment… but I see now. It all makes sense. Aura and the Void… they are but two sides of the same coin. Just as the Void smothers and controls your soul, Aura feeds from it. The brighter the soul… the stronger the Aura… However, that anger fuelled power you are using is taking a toll on your body, you've not trained with your power enough to keep this up…
Seeing the glaring fault in the eldest daughter of the Ketchum Clan, a smirk spread up Meowth's face. Time to begin the cleanse, and I'll start with the heir to the throne!
Barely had Charlotte landed down before the previously severely wounded Knight was upon her. His fist slammed into her face and she was sent flying. She smashed into the earth nearby, cracking and cratering it with her impact.
The blow took her completely off guard, the force behind it even more so. He's much stronger now than he was before! What did he do?! I must go all out if I have any hope to-
Her thoughts were cut off as a sharp pain wracked through her. She bent double, feeling a wave of nausea well up from deep within her stomach. Vomit ejected from her mouth and it was all she could do to remain conscious. Her vision blurred, and it felt as though someone had just stabbed knives into her skull through her eye sockets. The concentric circles fell from her bleeding eyes. What… is happening to me…?
Meowth stood over her, bloated beyond all recognition, his twisted and rotten flesh open to the air. He raised back his right arm, black lightning dancing around the clenched fist. His eyes burned darkness; two black holes encrusted deep into his skull that devoured all light. "It seems you've reached your limit, little Guardian." He laughed. "So much for your righteous vengeance!"
Charlotte snarled and tried to summon her innate power to the fore, attempting to stand. For all her efforts she achieved nothing but wracking pain. Coughing blood, she collapsed, falling back into the crater.
A burning ball of congealed darkness appeared at the Void Knight's raised fist, enveloping it within entirely. Physics broke around the brewing attack, as lightning and tears in reality danced around it. The power radiating off it was palpable, and Charlotte knew that even in her prime state, the blow would kill her. It's just on another level! He's somehow managed to replicate what grandpa did all those years ago! He's become the Void itself! Shit! I need to flee! If I get hit by that I'm dead!
Yet, try as she might, Charlotte couldn't move. Her body refused to obey and even when it did, she was grieved with unbearable agony. No! I can't die here! Father!
"And so, the first of your miserable kind will fall! The cleansing of the world begins now!" Meowth said as he swung, bearing the full might of the attack directly at her prone and defenceless head. The grin on his face had never been wider.
"FATHERRRRRRRR!" Charlotte screamed; her eyes glued shut as she braced for the impending doom.
A colossal explosion wracked the area, a mushroom cloud of destructive energy bursting outwards and annihilating the nearby surroundings. Trees, boulders, rocks, rivers. Everything was eradicated.
She felt all this happen yet kept breathing. When she realised she was still alive, Charlotte opened her eyes. What she saw caused tears to stream down her cheeks.
Ash Ketchum stood before her, the Void Knight's fist caught in his hand. He wore his immense power as a cloak, his entire body shining from within, emanating a soothing light, and his eyes blazed with an inner brilliance that melted away all her worries. On his face he wore a reassuring smile. Pikachu sat perched upon his shoulder, brimming with his friend's power. "No need to worry Charlotte, I'm here!"
Crying her eyes out, his daughter sank back in relief, all the worry and fear draining from her features. The reassuring presence of her father melted everything away, and she felt an overwhelming feeling of safety overtake her.
Meowth narrowed his gaze, seeing that his attack had been completely deflected by the man before him. "You… Ash Ketchum!" With his newfound sight he could see the actual powers at play behind the legendary Guardian, and it made him wince. It was almost limitless. Impossible! His power eclipses even my own?! How in the world is his Aura this strong?!
Looking deeper gave him the answer. Ah… I see… So that's the secret to your power! Deep within his body, Ash's soul burned bright, but that wasn't all that resided there. With him were several other lights, several other influences. All the connections, all the bonds he had made and achieved over his years of travels had stuck with him, adding their hopes and dreams to him. He carried them all within him, a torch bearer for the entire world, the shining light that kept the darkness at bay for the good of all.
The air warped beside them. Brandon and Dawn appeared next to their beleaguered daughter, the three of them all looking worse for wear.
Ash eyed them all with a smile. "Father, Dawn. It's good to see you safe! Attend to Charlotte. You've all done your best but leave this part to me. I won't let him hurt anyone anymore!"
Seeing Ash in his current form, Dawn took a moment to drink in the sight. Her lover looked just like he had all those years ago, when he had saved the world and all of existence. Standing in his very presence was enough to fill her with hope and happiness, and it brought tears to her eyes. "You got it sweetie! Thank goodness you're alright! We will entrust the rest to you!"
Pikachu leapt off his master's shoulder to join the assembled family members. "Pikachu! Pi pi!" He shouted in encouragement, his face set in determination and his eyes shining. His oldest buddy and longest friend and put all his faith in him, just like he always had done.
Feeling everyone's support, Ash tightened his grip on the bloated fist of the Void Knight, slowly crushing it between his grasp. "You have brought so much suffering to this Region over the last couple of decades. You skulked around in the shadows, twisting and bending people to your rotten will, all so that you could stand high above them all and call yourself a king."
Meowth's eyes widened, feeling the incredible strength he was now fighting against. Shit! This is bad! I need to pull back! Despite his best efforts, he failed to free himself, the pressure increasing by the second.
Pumping increasing amounts of power into his crushing grasp on the Knight's captured hand, a look of fury overtook Ash's normal happy features. "What's the matter Meowth? Weren't you smiling just now? Weren't you experiencing joy?"
Pain coursed up the Knight's arm like never before. His nerves felt as though they'd been set on fire, tossed into an inferno before being drowned in acid. The power, the antithesis to his own, was fuelling the strength in the Guardian's grip, and it seared into his unholy flesh. Agony engulfed his mind as his limb was crushed of all its unnatural life. I can't escape!
"This is for all the pain that you've caused!" Ash said, his brows furrowing. Pulling back his free arm, it became wrapped in the brilliant white Aura that shone from his body, and his balled fist glowed like a miniature sun. With all his power, the Savoir of Reality drove it home, straight into the Knight's stomach. "Fist of the Gods!"
Light concentrated at the point of impact, shining bright, shooting rays outwards before condensing down. Reaching critical mass, it exploded, releasing a blinding radiance that saturated everything. Taking the hit full on, Meowth screamed in agony, and flew backwards faster than sound, his breaking of the barrier creating a sonic boom to accompany the world ending forces already released. The force of the blow annihilated all its path, the palace, the mountains, the rivers, the trees. A colossal ravine was birthed into existence from the one, singular punch.
As he tumbled end over end, Meowth's body was completely engulfed by a searing pain that threatened to undo him at a fundamental level. The light of the Aura was attempting to expunge every trace of the Void within him, and that would leave little left. He smashed through countless objects as he travelled across the Region as a human cannonball, nothing being strong enough to counter the force his body was travelling with.
Sensing Ash's insane power coming after him, he flooded himself with the Void to try and halt his trip through the Region. Roaring with effort and crackling with Void power, he slammed his legs down into the ground, digging deep to drain away the forward momentum. He managed to bring himself to a stop after creating two new valleys of upturned earth.
His dark eyes flashed around, desperately trying to track the man he knew must be coming. Where is he?!
The world vanished, replaced only by a suffocating absence of vision.
It took Meowth a moment to realise what had just befallen him, his mind working in overdrive to try and keep up with reality around him. My eyes?! What just happened?! Was that Ash?!
The next thing he realised was that he no longer could feel his good arm. Shit! My arm! I can't sense anything! What the hell is happening to me?! Where is he?!
A crippling force slammed into his stomach and he went flying backwards. A second hit smashed him back into the ground, his damaged torso taking the full brunt of the blow. As he collided with the Earth, his neck shot up in recoil, snapping and shattering the bones. Several of his teeth went flying from his mouth, his tongue cut to ribbons by the process.
"You're going to tell me everything you've been doing with the Void, and the secrets within your flesh." Ash said as he placed his boot atop the Knight's ruined head, forcefully grinding it into the dirt. "Your crusade against the light dies here, with you if need be."
"Brast…thard!" Meowth half said, his ruined mouth struggling to utter the words. His mind was racing, trying to come up with a way out. He shouldn't be this strong! Is this the power that ended Brandon?! Is this the true power of Aura?! I fucked up!
"What was that?" Ash said with a voice as warm as a glacier. He exerted more force into his foot, the ground around the Knight's prone form cracking and shattering under the strain. Dirt and chunks of stone went flying as a sudden wind burst into existence. "I couldn't quite hear you."
Desperation, for the first time since he'd been reborn, seeped into Meowth's mind. It was an emotion he long thought divorced from, something that now should have been as alien as his old body. Yet here it made a full comeback, and it brought with it another long-forgotten feeling - an overwhelming sense of fear. Someone help me! Anyone! Please! I don't want to die!
As if answering his pleas in his final moments, an ancient presence opened up to him, slipping into his mind like oil. Malicious tendrils snaked around his soul, caressing it with dark promises. Young Pokémon… your connection to the Great Dark Beyond has reached me… and I've heard your pleas… open the dimensional paths once more… and I shall free you from your suffering…
The new voice inside his mind send shudders through his entire being. There was something insanely terrifying about it. It's voice alone broke with reason, each syllable a wrecking ball to sanity. Deep within he knew that he should spurn the offer, that this primordial force that he had reached was Armageddon incarnate. Yet he had no other choice. Without the aid of this being he was dead, and, he realised, if he was going to die anyway, then he might as well take the entire Ketchum Clan with him.
Accept my offer… use your power as a conduit… a catalyst… and open the way for me…
The pressure within and without of his skull reached breaking point. Meowth's eyes snapped open as a twisted smirk split was remained of his rotting face. I… accept…
Sensing something wrong and terrifyingly dangerous, Ash instinctively danced backwards, his ringed eyes wide in shock. This feeling… I've felt it before… it's the Original One… What has Meowth done…?!
Guardian and Knight locked gazes. The world exploded in darkness.
Like a suffocating atomic detonation of nothingness, a pitch-black mushroom cloud erupted out of Meowth and devoured all light. It shook the Earth, scorching the ground bare. Sound vanished and hurricane winds eviscerated what was left. Trees became uprooted and had their leaves ripped from their branches. Mountains crumbled, turning to dust. Rivers were blown away, leaving damp earth exposed to the skies.
Black lightning tinged red roared down from the tortured heavens, sparking and searing everything near the explosion of Void energy. A blanket of strange clouds smothered the skies, blocking out all remaining sunlight and drenching the region in artificial night.
Ash used his formidable power to remain grounded, digging in deep. A barrier of shining luminescence, made brighter by the contrast to what was happening around him, shielded him from the damage, giving him chance to observe it all in its terrible majesty.
This is bad! This explosion will affect living creatures for miles around! If he has managed to free to the Original One from its dimensional prison, then it could spell the end for all reality! He used his Aura enhanced vision to locate the Knight's body. It was swelling beyond all recognition, a nightmarish expansion of Void-encrusted flesh and mutation. I need to end this now!
Bringing his godlike power to bare, Ash bunched the muscles in his legs. A white inferno blazed to life around him, a beacon of hope in this world of terror. Eyes set and brow furrowed, he unleashed a roar of fury as he launched forwards, pulling back his fist and swinging his body in tandem for extra force.
His Aura concentrated around his fist, growing with each millisecond until it had enough accumulated power to obliterate the entire region with a flick of his pinkie. He burst through the apocalyptic mushroom cloud and slammed his foot down beside what the Void Knight was becoming, and swung his fist with all the energy, force and momentum he could muster. "FIST OF THE GODS!"
The attack slammed into Meowth's swelling flesh and exploded. A second detonation rippled across the land, rupturing the Earth's crust and sending cracks and rents zigzagging outwards from the epicentre. The mushroom cloud of darkness was swallowed by the light, as a star was born from within its belly. The entire region suddenly became bathed in radiance from this second sun.
The familiar screeching of tortured ozone and broken physics filled the air, balls of lightning and cracks in reality formed as all semblance of universal order dissolved. This amount of competing power was never meant to battle in the mortal dimensional plane.
When the titanic forces had spent their energies grinding against one another, a second detonation occurred, bathing the entire area in a firestorm of epic proportions. What little remained in the near vicinity was annihilated. A destructive crescendo to this orchestra of explosive fury.
The dust settled and vision cleared, but Ash still stood in the same position he had from throwing the punch, his eyes wide with shock. Disbelief painted his face, and within his ringed orbs could be seen a rare emotion, and one that not a single living person that knew of him would ever have dreamed of seeing there… Fear…
Battered and with large amounts of bloated flesh stripped free from his utterly monstrous body, the Void Knight twisted his unholy face toward where Ash stood, and locked glowing red orbs with his shining ones. A serrated maw of fanged teeth grinned, turning into a vile smirk of triumph. "At last! I'm free!"
The voice was deep enough to break apart granite with its reverberations and sounded like nothing living should ever sound. For Ash it was a chilling reminder of his previous encounter with this being, twenty years ago, during the War for Reality. No… it can't be…
"Ahhhhh… it's you… Creator-Human… No wonder that punch of yours hurt so much…" The thing that was once Meowth said, its twisted form rising from the crater it was laid in.
"How much time has passed since I last saw your face? Mortal years always do amuse me." It laughed, flexing out its back at it reached its full imposing height. It inhaled deeply, taking in much of the dusty smog left in the wake of the terrifying explosion that had rocked the area only seconds before. "Ahhhh… the taste of air… of reality! At long last I can savour it once again!"
Behind him the heavens screamed. Dark helix of creational power slammed down into the Earth, their entrance into the third dimension announced with earthquakes that shook the continent. Storm clouds littered the skies, blanketing the world in artificial night. Rain started to hammer down and lighting struck at random. The apocalypse had arrived, following its herald into the world.
There isn't much time to act… the longer he's here the more danger the entire world is in! Shit, at this rate he'll accomplish everything we stopped in that war all those years ago. I must summon that power again, although I fear my body will take a heavy toll from its use… But I have no choice! Upon his mental declaration, the lights held within Ash's soul, each one representing a person or Pokémon with which the Guardian had formed a bond with, began to link together, their essence and hopes becoming one. Everyone had entrusted a part of their hope, a part of their future to him, and it was his duty as a Guardian, and their friend, to do all he could to safeguard it.
A smile crept up his lips at the thought. Thank you everyone. I don't think any of you are truly aware of just how much power you all give me. I wouldn't be able to do nearly as much without all your support. Especially you Dawn, and our children. You guys really are the light's in my mind.
As this internal strength activated, a whirlwind of pure power erupted around Ash, enveloping him within its brilliance. He was completely obscured from view as a vicious gale whipped up, battering everything back.
The Original One's attention was instantly brought to the man before him, as he felt an incredible surge in energy. The being's eyes widened as he took in the rapid spike of power that showed no signs of slowing. "What is this? How is this possible…?! How can your tiny vessel take so much…?!"
As the whirlwind around the Guardian cleared, Ash stepped forward, covered head to toe in robes of pure power. The Staff of Life, materialized purely from his own energy was held firmly in his hand. His hair had gone white and trailed out behind him, lengthened by the surge in his power. Eyes blazing like twin supernova, Ash brought the staff around and slammed it into the ground next to him, sending a tectonic shockwave blistering outwards. Everything in the nearby area that was left standing was atomised instantly.
The Original One's wide eyes drank in the scene, unable to process what he was witnessing. Limitless levels of power were trailing off the man before him, a fear that no human or Pokémon should be capable of. The knot of fear began to twist inside his newly formed stomach, and he found himself angered by that fact. He screwed up his bloated face in a malformed snarl. "CREATOR-HUMAN! YOU WILL NOT BANISH ME AGAIN! I AM ABOVE YOU! YOU'RE NOTHING BUT A BASE LIFEFORM! YOU DON'T DESERVE TO STAND DEFIANT BEFORE ME! NOW DIE!"
Opening his mouth with too many teeth, a red and black orb formed within. Electricity danced around it, and reality warbled. Cracks began to form in the air. Dents and voids began opening, as the dimensional barriers found the strain placed on them impossible to bare. A terrible creaking sound of tortured ozone rang out, and the heavens above matched the cry of outrage as lightning streaked across the skies.
Despite all this Ash strode forwards confidently, his eyes locked on the being before him with grim determination. "You scream and bellow like a child. I can hear the fear in every syllable you utter. I'm sorry, but your existence cannot be allowed to continue."
Not replying, the Original One pumped every shred of power it had into its attack. It was growing and growing, reaching a size that defied reason. It had already become as large as a city and expanded with each passing second, like an enormous red Aura Sphere summoned from a mad Guardian. It would be visible for miles at this point, and its explosion would wipe out the entire Region.
Getting within three meters of it, Ash stopped, closed his eyes, and took a deep sigh. "I'm sorry for your pain." His eyes snapped open, all his godlike power rushing to his clenched fist. He vanished.
Blinking, the Original One started to reach out with its senses to locate its adversary.
Even it had no time to react.
Materializing behind the creature, arm pulled back and engulfed in every bit of the brilliant power that coursed through his veins, Ash roared with all his might as he drove his punch home. "FIST OF CREATION!"
His fist expanded outwards to be ten times the size of his body, burning with all the light and righteous energy. It slammed into the Original One's stolen body, skin and bone cracking and blasted back. An almighty explosion erupted, showering the world in a storm of light. The nova of radiance blew back the clouds, mountains and sent an enormous earthquake thundering outward.
To anyone without a two hundred-mile radius, it looked as though the sun had just exploded.
The dark helix of creation were shattered like glass, utterly obliterated by the attack. All the lingering elements of the Void that had been left in the Region was stripped from the shadows of people's souls and banished back to the Great Dark Beyond.
It's body unable to take the strain, the Original One disintegrated, its thrashing soul kicking and screaming as it was torn from its host and seared into nothingness by the light. It's screams of pain could be heard of the cacophony of sounds unleashed by the world ending power unleashed from the attack. With one final roar of agony, the primordial creature faded from existence at last, its essence burned up.
The force of the attack travelled through the Original One and obliterated all in its path, leaving a ravine that stretched from Galar to Kanto, carving through land and sea as easy as a knife through butter.
A titanic tornado whipped to life at ground zero, ripping up all the upturned earth and stone and whirling them around, creating a monument of the elements for people to see for miles around.
In the centre of it, Ash stood, his long hair and robes snapping and whipping about, being pulled by the extreme forces at play around him, his arm still held out before him in the form of the strongest punch he'd ever unleashed. Instead of annihilating the entire galaxy, all its terrible force had been absorbed by the Original One's body and soul, the result being complete eradication. Goodbye, The Original One… Goodbye, the Great Dark Beyond…
With its death, there would be nothing to connect the two dimensions, and the power of the Void would never again be allowed to seep into this reality and corrupt all who live here.
As The Original One's bloated corpse fizzled out of existence, the Void Knight within fell to the ground, it's skull-plate armour singed black from its exposure to the blast. It's twisted and torn face were half melted, creating a visage even more gruesome than the one it normally wore.
Ash stood above the ruined corpse of the Knight, looking down at it with eyes that blazed brighter than the sun in the sky, as the tornado of destruction dissipated around him. His long hair gently tousled about his back, caught in the fading breeze. How many more unseen threats is there left in this world…? What will happen when I'm gone…?
Behind him the air warped, turning into a vortex. From the psychic maelstrom Dawn, Brandon, Charlotte and Pikachu appeared, all looked battered and slightly worse for wear. A look of supreme relief washed over their faces upon seeing that the legendary Guardian was safe.
"Sweety! Thank Arceus you're okay!" Dawn cried out, rushing over and enveloping him from behind. Tears began to run down her cheeks as she nuzzled her face into his back, through his now thick mane of white hair. "When we sensed an incredible spike of power we all feared the worst. We had no idea what was happening. I should have known you would be alright!"
Smiling, Ash placed his hands over hers and turned to face his wife. "Right back at you! You were never far from my mind, my love. I'm so glad you're okay!" Pulling her chin up, Ash engaged Dawn with a passionate kiss as they embraced each other tightly, their bond never diminishing over the years.
"Pikachu piiiii!" Pikachu yelled, sprinting over from where he'd been perched on Charlotte's shoulder. He leapt up on to Ash's and began nuzzling against his neck. "Chaaaaaaa!"
"Hey, I've missed you too buddy! It's so good to see you safe!" Ash said after pulling back from his make out session with his wife.
"Dad…?" Charlotte said, her voice shaky. "Is that really you…?"
Laughing, Ash glanced up at his approaching daughter. "I guess you never saw me like this before, did you? Yes, it's me Charlotte. This is what happens to my body when I draw power from all my friends and family that I've gained over the years. The first time it happened to me was quite a shock to myself, too."
"Incredible…" The younger Ketchum breathed, her face alight with awe. "Just look at your hair… your clothes…" She grabbed hold of the robes of power that had materialized around his body, rubbing them in between her fingers, trying her best to discern what they were made of.
Brandon hobbled over, one of his arms replaced with a limb of pure Aura, and a branch-turned-makeshift-walking-stick held in one hand. "It's good to see you well, Son."
Ash smiled back at him. "You too father. Despite your injuries, I'm glad you're alive. More than you probably know. I won't forget your sacrifice here today, nor the fact that you protected my family with your life."
The elder Guardian nodded his head. "They are my family too. It's the least I'd have done."
"You've done more than enough. On behalf of the entire World Government, I thank you."
Unsure how to take the praise from his son and the President of the World Government, Brandon bowed slightly, his face a little blushed.
Ash turned back to look at the ruined Void Knight and let out a sigh. "I'll call in with the other World Leaders and let them know we have neutralized the threat. We can begin clean up operations and deal with the other conspirators who joined up with him. It's gonna take a while to sort it all, but justice needs to be met out, and order needs to be restored to this Region."
"What happened to his body…" Dawn said, looking down at the corpse with disgust. "He looks as though he has… melted… is that from your attack? Was that the spike in power we felt?"
Ash shook his head. "Unfortunately not, no. He got desperate during our battle and called upon the Void, and somehow managed to summon The Original One into himself, his body acting as the vessel."
Everyone's eyes widened at that fact, especially Brandon's. The elder Guardian stumbled forward, glancing down at the Knight with horror. "He managed to do that so easily…?"
"He did," Ash said. "I can't explain how, but it has to do with what Colress did to his body. That man knew more about the mysteries of the universe than anyone could have ever realised. I wish he had survived the battle with Aaron, there are so many questions I would have liked to have asked him, even with his insanity."
"He could have destroyed the entire world… this entire universe…" Brandon said, still looking shaken. "If he knew what happened with myself, I can't imagine what on Earth would make him want to conspire with such powers…"
"I guess we will never know." Charlotte said, her eyes alight with hate. "He threatened our entire Clan, our entire world. He got everything he deserved for playing with things beyond his control."
Dawn looked down with concern towards her daughter. "Charlotte…"
The power that Ash had borrowed suddenly faded from his body, his hair returned to normal length, his robes of power evaporated, and the brilliant, white light faded from his eyes. At once he felt pain course through him, as though he'd been hit with a fifteen-tonne boulder. He cried out and sank to one knee, rivers of blood coursing down his cheeks from his tortured eyes.
"Ash!" Dawn cried out, rushing to her husband's side.
"Father!" Charlotte said, mimicking her mother's concern.
Brandon limped closer, his face etched with worry. "Son?!"
Ash coughed up blood, his entire body shaking. He grunted in pain, steadying himself with one hand on the ground. "Damn it… I'm not as young as I used to be… My body can hardly take the extreme strain anymore… I don't think I'll be able to harness that kind of power again without seriously damaging myself…"
A piercing roar ruptured their eardrums, forcing their attention to the body of what they had assumed was the defeated Knight.
Dark, wispy smoke was emanating from his ruined form, a growing cloud of darkness that expanded with each passing second. The ground around them started to rumble and shake, and a pressure began to build in the air. Being in close proximity to it also brought a fog to their minds, clouding their thoughts and judgments. Meowth's mouth was open wide, the source of the deafening sound.
"What's happening?!" Dawn said in alarm, her eyes transfixed on the now spasming Knight.
Brandon began fumbling for Alakazam's Pokeball. "This is bad, the collection of Void energy is immense! We need to get away from here! Quickly!"
Before he could even free the capsule from his belt, Meowth's eyes snapped open, revealing two pure black pits of darkness that devoured the light. Like he was tripping over in reverse, he rose from the floor, his mutilated form spasming and cracking, the bones and sinew within being torn and reshaped.
The Void Knight took a deep breath, his corrupted and ruined lungs revived with the entropic power of the Great Dark Beyond. As he exhaled, smoke came from his mouth, and two tiny, red pupils emerged in the dark of his eyes. "Ash…" He breathed. "That hurt…"
Eyes wide, the blood drained from the Guardian's face. "How are you…?!"
"The Void won't let me fall… I am it's greatest champion… and I will bring about eternal darkness to this world!" The Knight croaked, its voice deep, thrumming and utterly unnatural. "You will all drown in the sea of darkness that I will summon from the deepest reaches of the universe!"
As he finished speaking, the thing that had once been Meowth snapped its head back, its mouth facing the sky. It opened its gaping maw of razor-sharp teeth, and a sphere of darkness began to coalesce above it, rapidly growing in dimensions and power. It roiled and burned, that dreadful red lightning dancing over its surface.
Above them the sky seemed to react to what was happening, as terrible clouds gathered and began to swirl, becoming a storm of nightmares. A hurricane brought about by twisted and unnatural forces as nature vented its fury at this affront to the natural world.
A terrible earthquake gripped the ground and that feeling of pressure in the air intensified, growing unbearable after only a few seconds. Light itself seemed to diminish, as though whatever the Knight was doing was erasing it from existence, leaving the whole area in a sudden darkness.
Trying to stand, Ash coughed up more blood and sank back down to his knees.
"Ash!" Dawn cried out in horror, ignoring the threat before them as concern for her lover took over.
My body is too weak to do anything to combat this! I can't summon my Aura without wracking myself with pain and almost passing out, let alone use my true potential… Fuck! I need to do something! Ash thought desperately, feeling helpless. It was the first time since he was younger that he felt like the situation was out of his control, and it was terrifying.
Behind them Brandon had summoned Alakazam, and he was motioning for them to gather together for a teleport. "Come on guys, we can't stay here!"
Ash shook his head. "We can't leave father… There's no telling how many will die if we don't stop this here and now!" He tried to rise as he spoke, using Dawn as a crutch.
Charlotte rushed forward and grabbed Ash's other arm, helping him to his feet. "They're right father… We need to regroup, it's our onl-"
Her words cut off as her eyes met with Ash's. Linked as they were, in this moment, with physical and visual contact, their Aura's reached out and connected, bonding them as one. An entire conversation passed between them in the blink of an eye as their minds melded, sharing everything. Every memory and thought were transmitted to the other, every emotion and every feeling.
Charlotte… I can see now that your Aura is extremely similar to my own… You are the only one that can save us here… you are the only one that can turn this situation around and save the lives of the people of Galar… of the entire world… Ash mentally communicated.
I'm nowhere near your level father… you expect too much from me… I've seen within my own mind all the incredible feats you've performed in your life… I've not accomplished anything close to it… Charlotte replied.
Ash mentally chuckled, his emotional warmth transmitting across to his daughter. No… you will end up being far stronger than me… I can feel it… You have all of my traits and those of your mother's… and that combined strength and will has made you extremely strong… I know how hard you've worked and the shadow you've always felt like you were under… and let me tell you that you've made me extremely proud…
Thank you… I've waited so long to hear those words… it means a lot that you recognise my efforts father…
Sensing her swelling pride and happiness, Ash smiled inwardly. You've earned it… and I know you'll do great things… It's time I shared with you the secret of my true power… the power that Tensuiromo gifted to me just prior to my battle with my father… even linked as we are this part of my mind will have been locked away from you… and for good reason… it's a secret that the First Guardian protected with his life… and it must never be learned by the wrong people…
The secret of your true power...? Charlotte mentally asked.
Just before I engaged your grandfather in battle… Tensuiromo summoned me to a pocket dimension he had created… he had gathered every person and Pokémon that I had formed a bond with during my many travels… and he linked us all together… it is their power that I draw from when I need it most… everyone's hopes… everyone's will… everyone's dreams… it all forms together to form an unbeatable bond… an unbeatable power… that no evil can stand against…
Incredible… so that's how you were able to perform such amazing feats of power…
It is… but it takes a tremendous toll on your body… channelling such power is taxing beyond belief… and I've only ever used it in the direst of circumstances… Just prior to you arriving here I tapped into its strength to try and put down the Knight… but the Original One absorbed the damage instead… leaving Meowth alive… I had hoped having the Original One ripped from his body with such a powerful force would have ended him too… but he's managed to cling on…
So, you cannot use the power in your current state…?
I cannot… My body is too weak to be able to use that kind of power right now… if I tried it would probably kill me… at the very least I would be knocked unconscious for several days… Ash hesitated, considering what he was about to say. Now it falls to you my daughter… you must pick up the torch… and use this power to save the world…
Charlotte mentally sputtered. Me…?! I don't have access to your power…! Tensuiromo never linked me with all the people of my past… I can't draw from that same pool as yourself…
I will link you to everyone… you will take my place as the torchbearer of hope… and everyone from your own life will eventually get added to that power as well… and you'll reach even greater heights than I did…
Even greater heights… Are you sure…? You'll not be able to use this power again if you give it to me… and I'm not even sure I'll be able to handle it… if you can't what chance do I have…?
Ash sent a pulse of reassurance through their link. Like I said before… we have the same Aura… the same potential… and your body is currently much stronger than mine… you'll be fine my little Char… and I know you'll use this power for the good of all… I don't mind losing it… I've had it long enough… it now falls to you…
Taking a moment to steady herself, Charlotte summoned all her courage. I won't fail you father… I will honour this great gift you've given me… and I will always do my best to serve the people of this world…
I know you will… that's why it will be you that inherits it… now brace yourself… I will pass the torch…
Inside her mind, Charlotte saw it. A light, blinding with its intensity, yet unpainful to gaze upon, entered her soul. It brought with it an unending sense of warmth. Of hope and happiness. As it settled itself within her, every cell in her body lit up with its influence, becoming infused with its energy. As she became one with the power, she could also see the faces of all those who contributed to its creation, and she silently thanked them all for their gift. The main surprise was the fact that she also inherited her father's memories, and even those of Tensuiromo, the First Guardian, giving her access to a whole wealth of experience.
And so now you've become the hope that guides the world forward… the Legacy of Aura… Her father said as the transfer was completed and their link broke. As they returned to reality, only a single second had passed since they melded. Time flowed differently in their mind space compared to the real world.
Despite not being privy to their mental exchange, all those present could sense that something had changed. Brandon, Pikachu and Dawn turned to look at Charlotte, sensing the incredible waves of confidence and power than now rolled off her in waves.
"Charlotte…" Dawn breathed, in awe of her daughter.
Brandon tore his gaze from his granddaughter and glanced at his son. One look was all it took for him to understand what had happened. I see what you're planning son… I hope it works… for the sake of all of us…
Charlotte turned to Ash and nodded. "Thank you, father. I won't fail you."
Ash smiled, the concentric circles fading from his gaze for the first time in twenty years. "I know you won't. Give them hell, Charlotte."
Nodding, the young Guardian stepped forward, the famous set of concentric circles rippling out over her eyes. Power flooded through her body as she approached the Void Knight.
"Char-" Dawn called out, starting out after her daughter. Ash placed a hand on her shoulder and shook his head.
"Let her handle this sweetie. She will be fine. I assure you."
Not knowing what had changed, but knowing that something had, Dawn trusted her husband's words. She took a deep breath and stepped back to let her daughter fight one of the strongest enemies the world had known. "…Alright."
A new world had opened up to Charlotte. It stimulated every neuron in her brain and sent the synapses firing. She felt alive. Truly alive. It was completely euphoric, and as she recalled her father's words about when he had transcended to this state during the war, how the power had gone straight to his head, she quickly clamped down on it. Control… keep control Char… She reminded herself as she approached her opponent.
It felt natural, like she was born to wield this power. Her mind easily wrapped around the complex energies and how to manipulate them freely. It felt like she could build and destroy with equal efficiency. For one of the first times in her life she was eternally grateful for her brain and how quickly she grasped new concepts and abilities.
Face set with conviction, the new inheritor of the Legacy of Aura, a power amassed over years of experience, battle, love and hope, knew what she must do.
Emanating from her in palpable waves, the power surged through her veins like a tidal surge. Charlotte hefted one hand up and clenched it shut. A shockwave burst outwards from the simple motion, the sheer amount of energy unleashed enough to split the planet in two.
A hand made of white Aura burst from the ground like an overzealous tree, encapsulating the Knight within its grasp. The colossal appendage rose into the air, radiating almost unlimited amounts of power. Each finger poised itself around Meowth, who's attack had faltered and began to fluctuate wildly, the energies he'd summoned knocked dangerously out of balance from the sudden shift in terrain.
Holding her hand up before herself, Charlotte crunched her digits together, her eyes exploding with brilliant light. "Hand of Creation."
The Godlike fist slammed shut in a titanic explosion of power. As the Knight was crushed within, his own attack detonated. Contained as it was between the fingers of the Hand of Creation, he felt the brunt of his own attack full force.
The release of such force shook the ground for miles, knocking everyone except for Charlotte from their feet. The remains of the palace behind them crumbled to their foundations, the tortured structure finally relenting to the endless abuse heaped upon it.
Both Ash and Dawn watched their daughter with sparkling eyes, their pride and love beaming out.
A smile split Ash's lips. "I knew you could do it."
"Incredible…" Brandon whispered.
Pikachu stared onwards, his little black eyes wider than they had ever been. "Pika…"
Dawn was at a loss for words. Tears of happiness spilled down from her eyes over her cheeks. "Charlotte…"
Turning to look back at her family with ringed eyes, Charlotte smiled at them. She could see them all more clearly than she ever had before, both their aura and Aura's easily visible with her new ocular abilities. Despite handing her this tremendous power, she could see how scarily powerful her father still was, and she had never felt prouder to be his daughter.
A terrible explosion snapped their attention back around.
"FORBIDDEN DEPTHS OF THE VOID! ENTROPY!"
The shining, unbreakable Hand of Creation suddenly become utterly encompassed in a slimy darkness. A darkness that snaked around and corrupted every inch of the divine structure. It sank its vile tendrils deep within, and the hand itself began to crumble and break. To the stunned amazement of the Guardians present, Meowth broke free with a roar of defiance. He burst forth from his imprisonment, his entire body encased in the corrupting majesty of the darkest depths of the Void itself. "DAMN IT ALL!
"YOU INSIGNIFICANT LITTLE WHELPS! YOUR LIGHT DIES HERE, ALONG WITH ALL YOUR PITIFUL RESISTANCE! I WILL ERASE AURA FROM EXISTENCE ALONG WITH YOUR PATHETIC CLAN! I WILL BATHE THIS ENTIRE WORLD IN THE VOID AND USHER IN AN AGE OF DARKNESS!"
Brandon, Dawn and Ash fell to the floor, their energy immediately drained from their already battered bodies. They had been emptied of every morsel of power they had, and now could barely even raise their heads in defiance the Knight's newfound sense of terrible majesty.
All of them except for Charlotte, that was.
The new Head Guardian stood before her adversary, easily defying his siphoning drain on her power.
Ash looked up at his daughter's back, his weakened gaze staring on with hope and awe at the strength and resolve she embodied in this moment. Despite the dire situation they now found themselves in, he felt no fear. He knew, deep down, that Charlotte was ready.
As if sensing his gaze, she glanced back over her shoulder, a smile resting on her lips. "You've done enough for now, father. I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud to be a Ketchum and to be a part of our clan's incredible history. Don't worry, I'll take it from here." As she spoke golden energy began to radiate off of her, something not seen since the day Ash had defeated Brandon at the Spear Pillar.
The Knight of Shadow smirked at Charlotte's words, his twisted form becoming increasingly more hideous by the second. His muscles bulging and twitching with twisted power, the darkness infecting every organ, every cell of his body. "BOLD WORDS CHARLOTTE KETCHUM, BUT IT WILL AVAIL YOU NOTHING! YOU'LL DIE HERE AND EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER LOVED WILL BE WIPED FROM THE EARTH! I'LL RIP THAT HOPE FROM THE WORLD ALONG WITH YOUR HEAD FROM YOUR TORSO!"
His power reaching fever pitch, Meowth sprang forward, the Void snaking off him in waves. As he moved, it was as if a wall of darkness came with him, blotting out and consuming all light in its path. He was a vessel for destruction and would never stop until everything in creation was crumbling in despair.
It was this realisation that had galvanized Charlotte to action, for there was no coming back from such a state. There would be no redemption.
Stepping forward to meet this Void head on, the power around the Guardian erupted, multiplying a ten-million-fold, turning from pure azure to golden white. Her concentric circled eyes, the epitome of a blue inferno, became twin suns of brilliant light.
"You will never threaten this world or my clan ever again." Charlotte said.
Sprawling and slobbering with darkness, the Knight of Shadow came springing forward, unbound. No longer a creature of reason and thought, the Void utterly consumed him.
Everything about Charlotte became pure brilliance, as she became the ultimate conduit for all light in the universe. In her mind, several stars appeared, burning brightly against the darkness, each representing a person or Pokémon, their lives, their hopes, their dreams. Everything that was good about someone. She watched as a beam of energy shot from one to the next, connecting them all one by one, carrying all their combined power. One star shone above the rest – her father's. As the light converged on it, it shone brighter than ever, before it finally connected with her own, causing it to blaze as brightly as a supernova.
Thank you everyone, I shall ensure that the light will never fail…
"Your power has utterly consumed you, and now you're nothing more than a slave to the whims of the Void," Charlotte said, as she pulled back her arm. "As much as it pains me to say this, there is no saving you."
With a titanic roar she clamped her hand shut around the glowing light in her mind and converted everyone's power into her fist. As Meowth neared, swinging out wildly with his Void-infused arm, Charlotte ducked down, dodging the blow at what seemed to be the speed of light, leaving afterimages in her wake. As she did so, she swung her fist directly into the exposed stomach of the Knight, delivering all that stored power into one colossal impact.
"FIST OF CREATION!" Charlotte screamed.
A star birthed itself into existence at the point of contact, slowly growing as time seemed to slow down. Matter and reality strained as such forces were suddenly unleashed, threatening to tear down the barriers that separated the dimensional planes. All at once time returned to normal and the light exploded. Meowth, his throne, and everything behind him for billions of miles ceased to exist.
All the darkness that had spread over the Region and abroad was burnt back by a tidal wave of light. A radiance that illuminated and healed all in its path, banishing the Void back to the Great Dark Beyond.
The force of the punch shot through the air, blowing back clouds, destroying asteroids and obliterating empty planets orbiting distant galaxies. A whirlwind whipped up, blowing everyone in the region back, and countless off their feet. A tectonic earthquake resonated outwards, becoming the heralds of the reality ending explosion of force.
The Knight's eyes rolled back into his skull and his jaw locked open in an eternal scream from the pain, as the entirety of Meowth's body began to dissolve from existence. He had absorbed ninety-five percent of the blast with his body, which resulted in total annihilation.
Images from his life before his transformation at the hands of Colress flooded his consciousness… He saw himself with Jesse and James… they were plotting a trap for the twerp and his Pikachu… digging a hole in the road. He watched… as if from a third party… as Ash and co simply walked over their perfectly laid trap… it failing to activate… Frustrated the trio ran out and stepped on it… only to fall and become ensnared… They looked each other in the eye… tangled up in another of their botched operations and laughed…
"I guess we will have to try again…" Jessie said defeatedly.
"But it's the last time we are taking advice from you!" James said defiantly.
"You is both utta' morons!" His past self-raged, annoyed.
They glanced at each other and laughed once more… before freeing themselves and hurrying to catch up with group they had seemingly been trailing for years…
Back in the present, a tear rolled down the Void Knight's cheek, a sense of happy nostalgia flooding his monstrous form as everything began to fade to black. Ahhh… there was a time when I was happy… There was a time when things were good… Maybe my life… wasn't so worthless after all… Keep living James… Keep living… for the three of us… my old friend… Jesse… I will see you soon…
With that thought, the Void Knight dissolved into nothing, his tortured body unable to withstand the incredible energies unleashed against it.
As the attack died down, Charlotte took a deep breath, letting the incredible power that had flooded her body naturally die down. Her hair returned to normal, and the cloak of Aura that had formed around her evaporated into the morning sun. Thank you for the gift, everyone.
Much to her surprise, the enhanced vision remained. She turned back to face her family, slightly confused.
Everyone rushed towards her, enveloping her in a group hug, none tighter than her gushing mother.
"Oh Charlotte! I'm so proud of you! That was incredible! You've done your ancestors a great honour!" Dawn said, squeezing her offspring so tight that Charlotte's face was turning red.
"M-om… C-Can't breathe…" Charlotte managed to get out.
Glancing down as though only just aware of what she was doing, Dawn stepped back embarrassed. "Sorry dear!"
Ash smiled as she turned toward him. "I noticed your unspoken question. Your eyes will stay permanently like that until you pass on the torch to another, like I did. My eyes are now yours. Guard them well, for you are now the protector of our great legacy."
Her entire body filled with pride as she embraced her father in a hug. "Thank you for believing in me." She said, pulling back. She locked gazes with him. "I've never seen your original eyes before… they're so beautiful…"
"Ah right, you haven't have you?" Ash chuckled. "It's weird for me to see the world as I used to. Enjoy the gift, you'll find it useful on your journey."
"And to think I'd get to see the creation of the next Head Guardian." Brandon said, his deep voice filled with mirth. "Congratulations Charlotte. I'm proud to share the same clan as you. You're a credit to the Guardians."
She bowed her head respectfully toward him. "Thank you, grandfather. Your service in this war has been admirable."
"Speaking of that," Ash said, bringing the attention back to himself. "I will inform the World Government that you will be issued a pardon for your service here, father. You went above and beyond the call of duty, willing to sacrifice your own life to save the world. I think that entitles you to live out the rest of your life in relative peace."
Brandon blinked, taken back by what he'd just heard. "You don't have to do that for me, I sti-"
Ash held up his hand. "It's been decided." He said, before grinning mischievously. "After all, you'd never be able to keep up with us now with your missing arm."
Glancing down at where he was using his own Aura as a temporary prosthetic as if forgetting that his arm was missing, Brandon chuckled. "Well if you insist. Can't keep carrying you all on my back forever, now can I?"
"I think we have all earned some rest for the time being." Dawn said, smiling as she held her husband's hand, their fingers entwining.
Ash nodded. "I will head to Ore when we get back and inform the government of what transpired here, as well as getting reports from Leaf and the World Leaders as to what the Guardians' and the League's forces have been up to. At long last, this Region is free."
"Will we be bringing them into the fold?" Dawn asked.
"Once we have rebuilt all that was damaged or lost," Ash said, glancing uneasily at the ruins of the palace. "And the people here are back on their feet, I will open a dialogue with the Queen of this Region and formally offer them a place in the World Government."
"It's incredible to think that we only heard about this Region just a few years ago. Prior to the Army of the Void's raids, we still hadn't gotten them on our maps." Charlotte said as they all began walking back to the nearest war camp. "It makes you wonder how many more are out there, waiting to be discovered."
Ash grinned at his daughter's curiosity. "Indeed, it's a question I've asked myself many times since I took office. It's my dream to have all the world mapped and brought together in the World Government. All nations working together for a common goal, for a common ideal."
"And the Guardians are an important part of keeping that ideal safe." Charlotte added.
"We are equipped like no others for that role, yes," Ash nodded. "Which reminds me, I'll need to inform the rest of our family at the Guardian Temple of our new leader."
It took a few seconds for the enormity of those words to sink in. When they did, all the blood drained from Charlotte's face. "Wait… you mean me?!"
"Who else?" Ash laughed.
"You didn't think that we were calling you the Head Guardian for nothing, did you kiddo?" Brandon said with a smile.
"I-I don't know what to say…" Charlotte said, a little dumbstruck.
Dawn placed her arms around her daughter's shoulders, giving her a reassuring squeeze. "You'll do great sweetie. We all believe in you. Your father wouldn't have passed on that power or the role if he didn't think you were ready."
Taking a few moments to collect herself and her internal thoughts, Charlotte eventually steeled herself and nodded. "I'll do my best!"
"I know," Ash said grinning. He ruffled his daughter's hair playfully, like they did when she was younger. "The Legacy of Aura is safe in your hands."
The world saved once again, they made their way back to the camp, as the sun rose up into the sky, its light illuminating the Region.