“Zayna, you should rest.”
I dismissed Zekarus with a wave, continuing to head towards the cave. When he grabbed my hand in a sterner attempt to restrain me, I replied, “No. Shachor needs medicine as soon as possible.”
I had a whole legend here to save.
Despite his touching concern, I stubbornly slipped inside Shachor’s lair with my bag in tow. Zekarus and Remish followed watchfully behind, ready to spring forward if I faltered even just a little. I took each step with care, not wanting to give them reason to stop me.
The dragon lay right where we left him, weary eyes observing the world from a distance. Ignoring my own pains, I sat next to him, running my hand through his soft mane. For his sake, I hopped the medicine would help. The herbs I bought back in Driftveil were potent, if not bitter, but would they work for a Pokémon so massive? I guess there was only one way to find out. Burrowing through my medicine bag, I wrapped my hands around a hairy root, and pulled it out.
“What is that?” Remish ventured to ask.
“An Energy Root,” I simply replied, though my mind was preoccupied with the task of fishing out a bowl.
I took little notice of the young men as they watched me work, grinding the root with a make-shift mortar and pestle.
“Water,” I ordered, holding out a hand like a surgeon working on a patient. After a moment of hesitation from the guys, I snapped my fingers impatiently. “Come on, guys, water.”
“R-right,” I heard Zekarus stammer, but he took some time getting me what I wanted. He eventually brought a crudely carved cup, which I snatched from his hands without much thanks. Concentrating, I poured a few trickles of the cool liquid into powder, then stirred the mixture until it turned into a paste.
“All right-ee, big guy,” I lifted the bowl and approached Shachor.
Those golden eyes darted from my face to the bowl before the dragon gave a disgruntled grunt. When I scooped some of the paste onto a spoon and offered it to him, he moved his head away stubbornly.
“Hey, none of that,” I scolded him, though he still refused to cooperate. “Guys, I need some help.”
“What do you want us to do?” Zekarus scratched his head, clueless.
“Both of you sit on either side of his head, and open his mouth,” I gave more orders. This time, however, they weren’t so quick to listen.
“What?” Remish staggered back, while his brother flew bit his lip uncertainly.
“No, you guys can do it,” I reached towards them, calling them back. “Come on, I can’t do it alone. Besides… he’s bonded with you.”
Again, the brothers exchanged tentative glances. For a minute, I thought that they would back away—unable to undo the teachings of a couple hundred year’s worth of beliefs. From childhood, they probably had been told over and over that Pokémon—Beasts—were creatures to be feared and hunted. But to my surprise, both of them nodded simultaneously. Wordlessly, they sat on either side of Shachor’s head, securing it so the dragon couldn’t move away. Remish and Zekarus ran their hand along the dragon’s forehead, looks of concern etched in their expressions.
For a moment, I quietly observed the trio. Here they were: the very entities of a timeless legend, in embryo. In time, one would undertake the pursuit of truth, while the other would seek after ideals. But both would be rulers, and help shape the future of Unova.
And then… I would carry their torch.
“Open wide, Shachor,” I approached with the spoon again with more gentleness. At first, the dragon resisted, but his masters patiently stroked his head, moving their hands to his snout. They forcefully opened his mouth, and though he resisted that at first, Shachor eventually submitted. I reached into the toothy maw cautiously, spreading the paste on the dragon’s tongue. After I was satisfied, I recoiled, and the twins released their hold. We held our breaths as the mouth closed, then released sighs of relief when we heard Shachor swallow.
“Will that be enough, Zayna?” Remish patted the dragon’s hide in obvious pride.
“I hope so,” I weakly smiled, feeling exhausted.
Remish smiled back—the first time I had ever seen him do so. He bowed his head in earnest humility, “Thank you. We are ever indebted to you. If you need anything, do not hesitate to ask.”
Actually, I’d appreciate it if you could help me get back home
, I wanted to ask. I knew I couldn’t, however. They wouldn’t be able to help me, not in that way. I had been avoiding the thought since the attack, but now it returned to me unbidden: how would I ever get home?
“Zayna, you should get some rest,” said Zekarus, somewhat hypocritically. He looked just as exhausted as I was, even as he tried to keep up a joking smirk.
“No, I’m fine,” I told him, though not sounding as confident as I wanted to. He chuckled slightly, getting to his feet, and then offered a hand. I didn’t have the energy to argue. I took his hand, and he gently pulled me up beside him. Careful with my injuries, he guided me back outside where a happy campfire burned.
“Are you always this bossy?” I grumbled as he sat me down on a bedroll.
“Only on special occasions, miss,” he chuckled.
I wondered how I could possibly fall asleep with all the pain I felt in my ribs, but somehow, not long after Zekarus sat next to me, I ended up leaning against his shoulder, dozing dreamlessly. It felt so familiar, resting against him, with the crackling of the fire and the choir of insects in the distance. Since arriving in the past, I felt comfortable for the first time. I didn’t worry about what I would do tomorrow. It didn’t matter, not right now.
Sometime during the night, after the fire had faded to glowing embers, I woke up. Remish was nowhere to be seen, and Zekarus was peacefully sleeping with his head tilted to the stars. Color touched my face as I realized that I had been leaning against him. How did I let that happen? Quietly, I retreated, taking care not to disturb him.
But what had disturbed me?
Standing, I glanced around the campsite. For a moment, I felt a trill of fear—was it the soldiers? Had they returned for another try? Yet as I turned towards the cave, my fear was replaced with wonder.
“Shachor…” I breathed.
The dragon had emerged from his lair, holding his head high from the earth. He had gone through a miraculous recovery, no longer the sickly dragon wheezing in the cave. He stood on two powerful, thick legs, with long forelimbs folded up against his chest. His wings rested along his sides, half-feathered, half-scaled. I imagined that if he stretched them out, they would fill the gorge’s ceiling. With the lighting that came from the moon and stars, I could see the similarities—the Reshiram that hid within. But I could see something more… the other dragon, my dragon…
Shachor’s golden gaze locked into mine, and I could have sworn he spoke. Well done, thou chosen servant.
I gaped at the dragon for a moment, before I glanced around like an idiot looking for the source of the sound. Only when I returned to Shachor did I realize my silly mistake. He had spoken. And I understood.
“Zayna?” Zekarus stirred from his slumber. When he saw Shachor, he started from his seat. “Shachor! You are… you are healed!”
“Yes,” I raised the corner of my mouth in a happy—yet sad—smile.
“Something wrong?” the twin joined my side, not missing the strange tone in my voice.
I turned to him, stuck between two worlds. “He… he can send me home.”
“Your… home?” The poor boy looked confused. “But… I thought…”
I shook my head. “I… I’m needed somewhere else.”
Unexpectedly, he took my hand, “Wait. Can’t you stay? Just a while longer?”
Did he have to make this difficult? Biting my lip, I slowly retracted my hands. “I don’t belong here, Zek. Never will. But… I should thank you.”
He stared at me, somewhere between sadness and bafflement.
Stepping backwards, I continued, “I was struggling for a while, wondering if I had what it took to face the enemy. Then I came here—and I fought an army. We fought an army, and we won.” Glancing up to Shachor, I added, “It made me realize that I have so much to fight for, so much to protect. But even if the numbers are piled against me… I can still win. I need to go now, and face my destiny, because if I don’t, then all is truly lost. Even if I have doubts, I’ll fight. If I lose, then at least I lost fighting for what is right.”
I don’t think he understood me, but nonetheless, Zekarus relented. Even if it hurt him. With a diminished voice, he nodded, “You should go, then.”
I smiled, then moved forward to wrap my arms around him. “Thanks, Zek.”
He hugged me tighter, whispering, “Take care, Zayna.”
After we released each other, I turned to Shachor with renewed readiness.
Take me home
, Shachor, I nodded to the great dragon.
Shachor leaned over, opening his mouth. His breath stirred my hair, swirling around me in a purple cloud. I guess I could have inserted a joke about dragon’s breath right then, but honestly, I couldn’t smell anything. Soon, I couldn’t see anything. All I could see was swirling mists, and I sensed that Zekarus was no longer at my side. A bright light appeared overhead, momentarily blinding me. When I could open my eyes again, the mist was gone. I stood in a circle of rocky pillars, with a familiar cave right behind me. Birds sang, clouds rolled by, and everything went on as if nothing had changed.
The moment seemed so surreal that I couldn’t decide whether or not I was dreaming. The magic broke, however, when an electronic ringing sounded. It took me a minute to realize what it was: my Xtranciever, ringing from my bag that had somehow appeared next to me. Fumbling with the zippers, I burrowed through and retrieved the device, answering it just before the last ring.
“H-hello?” I stammered into the receiver.
“Zayna! There you are! Where on earth have you been?” Professor Juniper’s laughing face appeared on the screen.
I took my time to answer, pondering over my experience. With a grin, I simply answered, “Just searching my roots.”