Mewtwo glared at Lucario, eyes so ferocious he was certain he would go blind if he did not look away from them. Supposedly the powerful psychic had the ability to kill him before he could even blink, and so he sharpened his reflexes as much as possible and was ready to leap away at the slightest notice of an attack. Meanwhile, the dark radiance grew so thick and hopeless that Lucario wondered if maybe he had already been attacked, life fading away from him as he was slowly dying.
Instantly, everything let up as Mewtwo turned his back to them through a swaying motion, Lucario falling forward in surprise.
"Farewell," he said, bending his legs to the ground and getting ready to take off.
"Wait, Mewtwo!" Mew shouted in surprise as she flew towards him, "You came all this way for nothing!?"
"Silence, original!" Mewtwo roared ferociously, stopping himself but still not turning around, "I tolerate your presence under protest. If you wish me to mingle with other legendaries, regular Pokémon and this abomination as well, you ask too much."
Mew stared intently at her clone, wondering if there was anything she could do at this point to convince him to stay. She wanted to explain herself, to tell him of Lucario's true nature as Ethan, the human who helped save the world. However, the fact that he was still standing beside her meant that Mewtwo already knew, or at least suspected as much.
"I understand," Mew whispered and slightly lowered her head, "See you again at Christmas."
With that, Mewtwo suddenly lifted off the ground, ascending into the sky like an accelerating rocket. With every second that passed, Lucario felt the abnormal sensation that had threatened to choke him waning, yet still his newfound inner turmoil grew stronger. He needed to know the truth, even though he feared her response more than he had Mewtwo's.
"… Mew…" Lucario said after Mewtwo had disappeared from sight, heart pounding loudly in his chest, "… You didn't… Mean those things you said, right…?"
"Of course I did not!" Mew yelled before turning towards him and showing a very irritated look on her face, "You are my precious friend… Although after this, I am not so certain about that anymore!"
"Ah!" Lucario exclaimed in shock as a large amount of relief tinged with shame washed over him, "… I'm sorry."
"… It cannot be helped. That is the way he is," Mew said with a sigh, calming down as she knew there was no point in getting angry, "I had never expected him to come in the first place. Easy arrival, easy departure?"
"Listen, I'll… I'll make it up to you," Lucario replied, all of his earlier worries transformed into gratefulness towards Mew for being such a good friend, "Yeah, you can rely on me when it comes to fixing this situation; I'll show you that I'm way more useful than he'd be!"
"I am certain of that," Mew giggled lightly, no longer having to worry about Mewtwo bringing down everyone's mood. She had hoped for his assistance since he was most likely powerful and intelligent enough to solve the state of the world all on his own, but still worried that his solution might not turn out to be in humanity's best interests. The fact that he had left Lucario alone did show a lot of improvement on his part, however, and she took pride in knowing she had made the right choice by letting him live after their ferocious duel in the past.
Lucario wondered what Mew was thinking about as they headed towards the rocky formation he thought to be the cave of their destination. More importantly, he wondered if she knew the way in, and if this really was the right place. While the mountainous rock covered most of the island, it was just barely a hundred meters in height, so he had no worries about needing to climb very far.
Mew had told him that the closer they got to the meeting, the less he would be able to sense the aura of other creatures. True enough, Lucario noticed little going on behind the rocky walls that supposedly held some of the most powerful beings on the planet.
"At long last… Here we are," Mew said cheerfully as she pointed towards a small opening in the ground, moving back to let Lucario get a good look at it.
"Wait… We're not going in there?" he asked, pointing to the small mountain he had expected to be hollow.
"What a terrible hiding place," Mew said bluntly as she followed his finger, "It is too big and obvious."
"… You know I found you by sticking near the biggest thing on the face of the earth, right?" Lucario said as the tiny legendary lowered her head a bit.
"If only the others were as good at hiding themselves when in plain sight…" she whispered before facing Lucario with a stern look, "Just remember, you should not tell them that you used to be human, because-"
"We can't prove it, and my past as a trainer would complicate things," Lucario interrupted her before getting on his knees to inspect the hole, which seemed to lead into a horizontal passage, "We went over this, what, eight gazillion times?"
Mew stopped herself from pointing out the obvious, wondering if Lucario had already forgotten what he had told Mewtwo. Even so, she could not blame him for what he had said - She knew how badly Mewtwo's mere presence could affect those not used to it, which would be anyone except her. Even Celebi had described their occasional meetings as unpleasant, and not just because of his unfriendly demeanor.
The dark, rocky passage reminded Lucario a bit about his visit to Zerobi's home. A dank, uninteresting scenery that led into a small dead end, humbly decorated with a bed and a small source of light. By comparison, the place where he and Zoroark had gone before separating looked less rugged, with plants that shone and actual thought put into the design. It had been as cleanly built as something made out of dirt can get.
However, what he saw when entering the cavern beyond the passage was far and well beyond anything he had imagined. A massive room loomed beneath him, making him realize the actual cave was well underneath ground level. The ceiling was covered by thick vines that produced light so strong it felt like a sunny day, but the light was surprisingly soft and did not sting his eyes in the least. The cavern itself was impressive, but had absolutely nothing going for it compared to its inhabitants. Lucario took a deep breath before leaning forward and looking down, certain of his own amazement at the large variety of legendaries beneath.
His first impression was that he was not looking closely enough. After squinting for a few moments, he realized that he could only spot three individual creatures. Two of them seemed to be even smaller than Mew and Celebi in size, and the third one was just a yellow bird.
Disappointment hit Lucario like a truck. After hearing Mew's tales about the glory and magnificence among the legendaries, his expectations had soared higher than ever before and he was ready to have his mind blown on several different levels. Instead, he had come upon a scene slightly less interesting than what he could find in any place with Pokémon.
"Hey…" a sharp yet strangely sweet voice echoed throughout the cave, "Hey! New arrivals!"
The echoing made it difficult to tell the origin of the noise. Lucario looked down to see who had spoken, only to see all three of them looking up in his direction.
"Selphie, why didn't you tell me they were coming?" the voice sounded again, as the yellow bird turned its head towards one of the small creatures.
"Your shift starts in five minutes," a light and calm voice very much like Mew's came from somewhere, "I didn't think you'd have the time-"
"Of course I have the time!" the first voice spoke more determinately this time, before the yellow bird suddenly started flapping its wings and flew up towards them.
Lucario instantly regretted having underestimated the group, finally realizing just how quickly the bird was covering up his vision. He estimated it to be slightly larger than Suicune, yet it was coming at them at more than twice his maximum speed. The unrealistic agility was more akin to teleportation than flight, and before he even knew it the bird had perched on the ledge.
Every part of it was screaming yellow, feathers looking even more ruffled than his hairy chest after a particularly bad case of static electricity. He noticed a few patches of black feathers around the eyes and back, but most were obscured by the strong yellow lying over it. It had a very slender beak, as long as his own arm and sharp enough to give Zerobi's and Zoroark's claws a run for their money.
Something like a thunder strike suddenly roared through the cave, the bird's form lighting up in brilliant white. This light was far harsher than the one in the rest of the cave, Lucario looking away instinctively and keeping his face covered until he noticed the light growing weaker. When he looked back, he nearly lost his breath at what he witnessed.
The same bird as before stood before him, yet it was very different. Its massive wings were spread and feathers were shooting out in every direction like an explosion frozen in time, Lucario realizing exactly why they had looked so ruffled before. The bird shone yellow as bright sparks of white lightning crawled around it, making every feather it touched sway a little from the magnetism.
Another strike of lightning sounded, and the bird became engulfed in a pillar of blue lightning. As quickly as it had appeared, the electricity around the bird calmed down while it fell back into a more casual posture. Lucario shook his head a few times, several reddish spots appearing where the image had been burned into his eyes, Mew peeking out from behind Lucario's back to see what was happening.
"Hello, I'm the legendary thunderbird known as Zapdos," she said happily, Lucario standing frozen for a moment before pointing in her direction.
"That… Was awesome," Lucario gasped as he looked at her with eyes beaming in amazement, "You… Are awesome."
"Hahaha! Not one to mince words, are you?" Zapdos laughed as she looked over the Lucario, surprised that someone had been so blunt as to actually told her something like that right on their first meeting, "What's your name?"
"Ethan," Lucario immediately responded, Mew's jaw dropping in protest. She realized she had wrongfully blamed Mewtwo's presence for clouding Lucario's already poor judgment.
"Ethan…? Hey! I battled a trainer with that name many years ago!" Zapdos said cheerfully, thinking to herself for a few seconds, "… Yes, it's a fine name."
"Well, it's no 'Selphie', but it gets me through the day," Lucario replied, now recognizing Zapdos to be the owner of the sharp yet far from unpleasant voice he had picked up earlier.
"Hehehe… Tressie's gonna love you…" Zapdos snickered before seeing a small pink figure peek out from under Lucario, and she immediately straightened herself up, "M-Mew! Sorry, I didn't see you there!"
"Hello, Zapdos," Mew said calmly as she flew up to hover a few paces left of Lucario, not wanting to get between the two who seemed to be hitting things off surprisingly well, "I saw your handiwork on the way here. You have become very skilled."
"… And awesome, apparently…" Zapdos whispered under her breath, exchanging a quick look with Lucario. She was still perplexed that Mew of all Pokémon would be the one bringing a guest to the meeting, but knew better than to be disrespectful towards the older and much more powerful legendary. Mew had come to visit her and her siblings all throughout their childhoods, and they loved and respected her far too much to ever question her occasionally confusing motives.
"Tick-tock," the voice that sounded somewhat like Mew's came from the lower level, a different noise sounding from above it. From a passageway just barely visible in the bright ceiling of the cave, a large figure clad in red and yellow descended.
Lucario instantly winced as he realized that it looked red and yellow because it was literally on fire. It had the shape of a bird and left a trail of smoke behind as it came crashing down towards the ground, Lucario bracing himself for a fiery explosion. However, while still in midair, the bird turned its head and looked at him, before suddenly making a sharp turn in his direction. Lucario scrambled backwards and looked over at Mew and Zapdos, both of which seemed surprisingly calm considering the impending doom heading their way. While not nearly as fast as the first one had been, the new avian was upon them before Lucario had time to take cover, and much to his surprise landed carefully on the ground with its feet instead of crashing against the wall with its beak.
The firebird looked a lot like Zapdos whenever she was not charged with electricity, with yellow feathers that were not ruffled but instead jagged around the edges. It was still on fire, but seemed to not care all that much, intensive flames burning around its head, wings and tail. Lucario could feel the heat from where he was standing, scrambling his mind to remember which legendary the bird could be while it looked down at him with a casual demeanor.
"Hey Tressie, guess what? New arrivals!" Zapdos suddenly said, the burning bird staring at her before quickly looking back at Lucario.
"Oh, hello," he said with a calm and polite voice, "I saw you arrive earlier, and let the weather calm down fo-"
"Quick, ask the Lucario what his name is!" Zapdos interrupted, using her beak to impatiently tug at a lower part of the firebird's right wing where there were no flames.
"… What is your name, Lucario?" he asked after a moment of hesitation, apparently wondering if he had met the Lucario sometime in the past.
"… Ethan?" Lucario answered carefully, growing more doubtful if he was doing the right thing by giving his real name. Mew shook her head disappointedly as Lucario looked up and saw a meaningful smile crossing over the fiery bird's beak.
"Isn't it great!?" Zapdos exclaimed happily before turning around, "Well, see you later, I've got to get to work."
"… Work?" Lucario asked hesitantly, not sure if she was joking or not.
"Who d'ya think's keeping this storm going?" Zapdos responded with a smile, before setting off and flying up into the ceiling. Before he even knew it her yellow form had disappeared in the light, and she was gone.
"Forgive my sister's… Hyperactivity," the burning bird said with a reluctant sigh, "All the electric charges from whipping up a storm do that to her."
"I like it," Lucario replied while scratching his chin, checking to see that it had not caught fire without him noticing, "You are…?"
"Hmm? Is it possible you have not heard of the legendary firebird Moltres before?" he answered with mild surprise in his voice before giving off a sigh, "Seems you are 'Ethan' in name, only…"
"Well-" Lucario started before a small pink figure quickly zoomed in front of him.
"Hello, Moltres!" Mew said loudly, intentionally interrupting Lucario while throwing him an irritated glance, "How are you?"
Lucario did not get to hear Moltres' answer as he was busy interpreting why Mew was staring at him with such a hopeless and confused look on her face.
"You said he was the legendary bird OF fire, not ON fire," he whispered to her, wondering if she wanted to know why he had been trying to take cover earlier.
"… Tell me, why is Articuno not with us?" Mew asked as she turned her head back to Moltres, dissatisfied with Lucario's explanation but deciding to drop it until they were alone again.
"She's…" Moltres said while letting his voice trail off, apparently reluctant to saying what he was really thinking, "… Not feeling well."
"… Has it gotten worse?" Mew asked in a worried manner, "I can sense her aura just outside, maybe I should talk to her?"
"Outside? Whoa, wait!" Lucario interjected as he took a step forward, "If she's sick, that storm's not going to make things better!"
"Don't ask," a familiar voice whispered behind Lucario, making him twitch in surprise, "I went to have a chat with her. She's not sick, she's a nutcase!"
Lucario turned around to see the easily recognizable Weavile standing behind him, coming through the same passage as he had and getting to her feet. She was no longer wearing her cloak, and he could see that she had not changed much in the few months they had been apart. Her form was as slender and elegant as ever, making him feel like a hairy slob just by standing next to her. His eyes narrowed at the sight of her sharp claws, remembering well how they had cut through his throat.
"Takes one to know one," Lucario said with a snarky tone, glad to see that he could finally joke about what happened instead of lament over it.
"We share a few interests when it comes to snow, but that's it," Zerobi said, unwilling to admit that they were more similar than that, and not in a good way. She knew that Articuno could very easily turn into bad influence, and she decided to return to be with the rest for the time being.
Mew and Moltres continued talking as Zerobi waved Lucario over, suddenly jumping down the ledge. He shrugged and followed, landing on an incline underneath and running down the rocky ground. He stumbled a few times over the unpredictable terrain as Zerobi sped ahead of him, her clawed feet no doubt better suited for maintaining a good foothold.
Lucario eventually made it to the bottom of the cave without any damage. He heard voices in front of him, the first being Zerobi's and the other being the one that had sounded a bit like Mew's. He saw his friend standing ahead, talking to a very small creature that was floating in midair, again reminding him of Mew. For the first time, Lucario felt like he recognized the voice from somewhere else, and he tried to recall from where. A mysterious pain flashed over his chest as he remembered it being around the time he was captured and sent to jail.
Zerobi suddenly noticed that Lucario had made it down, and waved him over to them.
"Hey, here's that guy I told you about!" she said happily, the small Pokémon next to her giving off a nervous gulp.