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Burn From Within

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(Soundtrack: Florence + The Machine - Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) | Shireen - Bright As Daylight | Shireen - From Fire)


This is where you met.

You were so young that the grass was almost as tall as you. It rustled in a breeze perfumed by every nearby flower and then some, on an evening where for a moment, the sun and the moon were both in the sky and there was no way to tell which outshone the other (or so you liked to say, even though you knew that was silly; the sun is brighter by virtue of its very nature, but it's always been the moon that you loved best). There was a squeal and a flash and it was all over so fast you barely knew it had begun. It's what came after that might have gone on forever - and in a way, it has, because those hopeful eyes were looking up at you and you opened your arms without even thinking, and from then on, it was the two of you. You made a promise - I will always stand by you! - with no idea of how far the journey would take you, of what you would become. Partner. Champion. The best of friends. Others would have their time at your side, but that little monster from the tall grass - that was the one who'd always have your back.

This is where you met.

You already loved it there. You felt every bit as welcome, as at home, as you ever had in Kanto - maybe even more - and the sun going down never stopped Alola from coming alive. The torches of Iki Town were stars on the ground, and you were sure the stars in the sky sang along with the festival chants. You ran up a hill chasing fireflies, chasing a girl you didn't know, and your heart was so pure that there wasn't a thought in your head when you chanced a crumbling bridge because that girl needed you. You saw a fallen star and threw yourself on it, and when you were falling, too, you only knew you had to keep that star from going out.

That was where fate caught up to you. It never occurred to you, even in later days, to wonder if you'd been brought there by design, or if you were simply in the right place at the right time. It didn't matter, because it already was and would be, and somehow, when you found yourself back on solid ground, you knew that you were bound to her and she to you. I will help you, Lillie! you vowed. Please, just tell me how!

You knew you made the right choice when the Tapu gave you its warmth, its light, in that crystal so perfectly placed on your wrist, as if there was nowhere else it could possibly belong. A light that would guide you, a light that would lend you strength, a light that would never go out even when all else seemed lost.

This is where you met.

So high and so cold, on a mountain that might have touched the sun had the sun not fled behind its clouds. It left the world cloaked in a colourless twilight that belonged to neither dusk nor dawn - eerie, reminding you of that place you saw on the other side, and maybe that's why, deep down, you weren't really all that surprised when you found the black shape huddled in the snow. Where else would it go? What else did it even know?

I will warm you, you said. I will bring you the light.

Did you understand what those words meant, what you were truly offering? You thought you did. You'd been given pieces to the puzzle that was Necrozma and you were finally ready to put them together, so you held out your hand and opened your heart, and the first thing the beast of all beasts did after being fed was try to bite you.

You came to terms somewhere between a battle and a ball, and for a while, that was all you needed - either of you. You never neglected Necrozma, of course, but Necrozma wasn't the sort of Pokémon you could pull out at the Pokémon League, because it wouldn't have been fair. But you'd go to Aether, to the wild places along the Poni Coast, back through the Ultra Hole itself, and little by little, you came to know each other as well as you knew yourselves, so that when the day finally arrived that you needed Necrozma as much as Necrozma once needed you, you barely had to say the words. The sky burned and so did anyone who made the mistake of threatening what you loved.

This is where you -

It's always cold now.

Necrozma's in your head. You didn't realize it, at first, because it happened the same way everything else did - slowly, cautiously, testing unfamiliar waters before jumping all the way in. You might have rejected it if it had been too strong, too soon. But now-and-then, you'd see a shape or a colour that didn't seem quite right; you'd hear a thought that wasn't your own. Even once you started to catch on, you weren't that bothered by it. Everyone understands their Pokémon on another level, don't they? All those squeaks and bwarks and barks that just sound like noise to an outsider make perfect sense to that Pokémon's partner. You feel what they feel, and they feel what you feel. But Necrozma's beyond even that. Necrozma's a shadow in your eye, a whisper in your ear, a weight in your heart.

And it's not that Necrozma's evil. Not in and of itself. The Necrozma who spread fear and darkness and destruction was a Necrozma misunderstood, a Necrozma in pain and sorrow, a Necrozma without love. Your Necrozma, surrounded by friends and bathed in endless light, is none of that. Your Necrozma has healed. But a crack repaired can be cracked again, and it's so easy for the darkness to come creeping back in.

You know this because you're as much Necrozma now as Necrozma is you. Sometimes, you can't tell where one of you ends and the other begins. Sometimes, you don't remember being anyone else. Would it be easier to give Necrozma up, or to give yourself in? It doesn't matter. Neither is an option, because you already made the promise - I will protect you. I will bring you the light.

You didn't know what it would mean to bring a lightbringer the light.

Take Nebby! Lillie said. Maybe if Nebby's with you, Necrozma won't be in so much pain. And she was right, but she didn't know, either. Necrozma feeds as Necrozma has always fed. Necrozma does as Necrozma must. It's only that here, where there's so much of that blessed light, no one notices when Nebby dims so that Necrozma can grow bright.

No one notices when you do, either.

You smile like you've always done, and ask, How can we help? And they come to you the same - Now that Team Skull's gone, these new punks have moved in to take their place. Something strange is happening at a trial site. We saw an Ultra Beast over Melemele the other day.

It gets a little easier every time, and that makes it a little harder, too. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Necrozma's power is the most absolute of all. You're starting to understand how some people end up the way they do (and it's all the worse knowing they probably come the closest to understanding you. Is it true Necrozma possessed you, that last time? the branch chief, intern, Lusamine's right hand con man - whatever he is now - asks, while he's looking at you like the world's most perfect potential specimen, like he's already got you under glass, like he's thinking about things that go far beyond the bounds of science. What was it like?

- and you aren't sure if you're just choking on laughter or genuinely about to be sick. How have you not actually been fired yet, Faba? you retort, even though what you really want to say is, It's like having him crawl up in your head, tear your eye out, and fuck you right in the socket).

But this is why you have to fight that much harder to keep the promise. You can't let Necrozma become a weapon in the wrong hands. You can't let the darkness win. And so you bear the pain, so that Necrozma will never have to again. You swallow the shadows so that Necrozma will only feast on light. You become a Kricketot conscience, so that as long as Necrozma trusts in you, Necrozma will never have to worry about whether a decision is right or wrong. Necrozma need only do. The rest is up to you.

They don't notice when you dim; not when Necrozma's light is so very bright. You smile like you always have, always will, and ask, How can we help?, and they don't see the creases at the corners of your mouth, the weary circles under your eyes. They don't catch the prism glimmer in your tears, because you're trying so very hard not to cry. They don't know that when Necrozma blazes, you crumble to ash.

It's always cold now.

This is where you -