Ch. 30: The Lady Thetis
A faraway voice called to her.
She couldn't see. She was in a void. Yet it felt.....warm and comforting.
Misty. the voice, or voices, called again, and this time they were closer.
Where......where am I? Misty thought.
Her question was answered.
You're with us, little sis.
Finally, the light began to appear. The darkness of the void was fading. She now knew who she was. Misty Waterflower.
She recognized the voices.
Daisy? Violet? Lily? she asked. And there they were before her, transparent ghosts yet real.....and smiling with happiness at seeing their sister.
Like, hey, Misty. said Daisy. Didn't expect to see you again so soon.
I remember. Misty replied. I remember helping you three find the light.
We know, and we're like, so thankful you did it. her sister Lily spoke. They were telling the truth; they were happy.
Where am I? This doesn't look like heaven. Am I dead? Misty questioned her sisters, for she wasn't aware of where she was.
Daisy shook her head no. No, this isn't heaven, Misty. This is....a place in between heaven and earth. And you're not dead, but like, you nearly died.
I did? Misty asked, and then the memory sprung. Viridian City....the Thanatos headquarters......saving Ash.....escaping.........shot. SHOT!?
I was shot! And I'm here! I really am dead! she cried out.
Her sisters just laughed. Misty, like, chill! You're not dead. Here, we'll show you. said Violet.
You helped us. said Daisy. Now it's our turn to help you.
Misty felt the sensation of descending down a long stairway. Its length seemed unfathomable. But finally, another light appeared, and this time, she and her sisters reappeared in the physical world.
Though as spirits, since Misty's spirit was out of her body, and her sisters, well........they were already dead.
Look. Daisy pointed. Misty followed the direction of her sister's finger, and stared in shock.
They were in a medical wing of a large fortress. In front of them was a medical bed. A mass of people in red robes was there, crying. She recognized May, Dawn, Brock, Max, Gary, and many others. All of them had expressions of sadness and hope on their faces, and many had tears flowing down their cheeks.
With a little happiness, she saw Ash in his black robes; he stood the closest to the bed, and she felt sad as she saw tears flow down his face too. He had eyes only for the body that was on the bed.
It's me. she saw. Lying peacefully on the bed was her flesh. Her body was there, face calm and serene. Her skin was deathly pale, yet it glowed with such luminescence. Her copper hair was unbound and spread over the bedsheet, fair and silken to the touch.
But no life beat from her body. She felt no heartbeat.
I....I really am....she started to cry. Her sisters embraced her, comforting her. And another presence made herself known.
From beside the bed emerged Helena, the mother of all four sisters. Rushing, or rather flying, she collided with her youngest daughter in a loving hug.
Oh, thank goodness, you're all right!
I am, but......I can't go back, can I?
A moment of hesitation came before Helena could answer. I....I don't know. Your body is still warm, still hanging on. But it's weak.
Mom, Misty, like calm down. Daisy intervened. We feel you're still alive, Misty. Why don't we hear what Nurse Joy has to say? True; a Nurse Joy was approaching the group. The five spirits listened as spoke to the group.
"My lord," said Nurse Joy to Ash. He acknowledged her with a nod.
"How is she?" he asked. Joy gave him a sympathetic look. "She....she's still hanging in there, but her body is still healing. Right now, we have her on life support."
"There's no heartbeat." said Brock, feeling no pulse in her neck.
"No, there is." Joy countered. "It's just....very weak. But the wound is healing. Perhaps....she may get through this."
"Thank you for telling us." said Ash, and Joy left after nodding a goodbye.
Ash looked at the others. All of them felt sadness. Of those who had remained faithful to him, he felt......no hate for her. No anger at her betrayal of him.
He too, felt no hate. It was gone.
"Guys," he croaked. They all turned to him. "You don't need to say it, Ash." said Gary, speaking for all of them. "We feel no hate for Misty, or for the others."
Brock and the other betrayers turned around. "You don't?"
Gary nodded no. "No, you've changed. So have we. I'll tell you this, if Misty gets through this, she'll have my friendship and trust. She led us through the gauntlet to save Ash. She is redeemed in my eyes. As are you."
Brock, May, and the other two nodded in thanks. At the least, this has brought them all closer together. It would be perfect if Misty came back.
Gary, thank you. she said. Misty now felt less burdened. She felt a little more whole.
You see, Misty? said Lily. They're not giving up on you. Don't, like, give up on them.
I won't. she answered with steel in her voice. Guys, I'm coming back.
With newfound fervor, Misty went to her body and observed it. She saw that it was healing, the bullet wound closed and nearly healed. Mentally calming herself, Misty tried to sense for...........
Yes, there it was. Her heart was still beating. It was weak, but still there. She practically willed it to beat again. She knew what she had to do.
But before she returned, she turned to her sisters.
Thank you so much. she said, embracing them all in one last hug. Thank you.
You're, like, welcome. said Daisy.
Go on back. They need you. Violet told her.
We'll, like, wait for you. We have an eternity for that. Lily added, and Misty just laughed.
Don't worry. I'll be with you when I pass on. But for now, this is goodbye.
With that, she felt her heart grow stronger. Along with the heartbeat, a powerful force drew her back to her body. She let it bring her in.
Bye, little sis! Stay strong! her sisters called, waving at her. Misty replied in kind. Thank you for helping me. I'll see you again. Goodbye.
She felt the world grow dim, her sisters floating up into the heavens the last thing she saw before her vision turned black.
Once again, the void had returned. But within, she heard a voice.
......."Nurse Joy, she's coming to!"............."It's a miracle!"................"Mist? Can you hear me? Misty?"...............
"Ash." her voice spoke back, and her eyes opened. Misty was back in the land of the living.
Slowly her eyes opened, and she was greeted by all her friends, betrayers and faithful alike, who stood there with expressions of relief. She gave them a weak smile.
"Hey, guys." she managed to say. Nurse Joy immediately came over to her side.
"My goodness," she said, "it's amazing. She held on."
"That's Misty for you." said Brock, his voice strong and clear again despite tears still flowing down his face. "She was always a tough one. This little pinprick wouldn't stop her." Everyone laughed, even Misty.
"This doesn't feel like a little pinprick, Brock." she teased.
"Misty." a solemn yet happy voice spoke to her. Turning her gaze, she saw Ash stare at her. "How do you feel?"
"Fine. Actually, a lot more whole than before. Gary," she turned to him, "thank you."
"For what?" he asked.
"For my redemption. I heard what you said." she replied. Gary looked at her. "How did....?"
"I was.....out of my body. You could say I had a near-death experience. I was there beside you guys." She paused for a moment. "I suppose it was your hope, and your words that gave me the strength to come back."
Her friends smiled, glad and relieved. Her mother lay next to them, invisible.
Misty, how much do you remember? she asked. Misty knew what she meant.
Everything, Mom. My sisters, their help, everything. I thank them for this.
That's good. said Helena. Well, you're safe. I'll leave you to your friends for a while.
All right. I'll see you later.
Helena waved a goodbye and flew away.
"Sister." a voice called out to her. Nurse Joy approached her bedside. "How do you feel?"
"Fine." Misty answered, and then asked something else. "Sister, I have to know. How close did I come to dying?"
Nurse Joy hesitated. She then asked. "Do you....?"
A nod. "Yes, I do. I want to know how close I came to death." Seeing the fire in her eyes, Nurse Joy nodded once. "Very well."
"You were shot by a bullet fired from a sniper rifle." she began. "It pierced clean through your chest."
"How bad was it?" asked Misty.
"Bad enough. It almost collapsed your left lung, and the clean strike caused some internal bleeding to occur. It nearly tore through your left clavicle."
"I see." Now the hard question. "How close was it to my heart?"
"Well......it missed. By just an inch." Nurse Joy told her. Even in her restful state, Misty was shocked. "An inch?" she said.
"Yes. Had that bullet gone an inch to the right, it would've struck your heart........and you would've died of massive internal bleeding."
Misty started to breathe a little faster. Just an inch from death? She realized how lucky she was to be alive.
"Thank you....for telling me." she managed to thank Joy. Nurse Joy nodded and left.
"Just an inch.....from dying...." she said. Ash calmed her down. "Relax, Misty. You nearly died, but you held on and came back to us."
"Ash is right, Misty." Gary joined in. "Don't dwell on this. Just be glad you pulled through."
"No, believe me, I am glad." Misty quickly soothed their concerns. "It's just...shocking. This is the closest I've ever come to....dying."
She then smiled.
"It makes me appreciate life a lot more than I ever have."
That surprised them a little.
"Really?" asked Dawn. "This thing gave you a whole new perspective on life?"
"Yeah, and how everything will turn out for the better." Misty responded. Her friends smiled. This was the old Misty: positive and optimistic.
"Well, you get some rest, Misty." said Ash, preparing to leave. "We have to continue fighting." The others agreed, also preparing to leave.
"Wait." Misty called. "How long will I be in here?"
"Nurse Joy said five days." Brock told her. Misty stared. "Five days? I can't stay here five days! I have to help!"
"Not in your state, Misty." Max cut her off. "Let your body heal. We can handle yourselves. Right now, the important thing's for you to stay and get some rest."
"Always follow my little brother's orders, Misty." May chimed in, putting a hand on her brother's shoulder. "It'll do you good."
Her words got through to Misty, and she relented. "All right. I'll stay. Take care of yourselves."
The others waved or said goodbye, and they left. Misty was now alone in the medical wing, but she didn't mind. She was safe. She was alive.
While the others retired to their chambers, Ash headed for the sanctum of the Grand Master. He had been summoned, him alone.
Upon arriving at the hidden door, it opened, allowing him in. "Enter, brother." said Lance, and Ash complied.
Lance turned around and was a little surprised at his subordinate's appearance. Ash appeared to have aged decades in the span of a few minutes, such was the fear and worry he had for Misty. He looked worn and drawn, though his eyes still blazed with fiery youth and strength.
I'll only keep him here for a while. He needs rest.
The voice of Ash brought Lance out of his thoughts. "You summoned me, my lord?"
Lance chuckled a little. "How many times have I told you, Ash? Within this place, when no one's around, you have no need to address me by title."
Ash relaxed a little. "Then may I ask why you sent for me?"
Lance nodded, taking a goblet of water in his hand. "You were worried for her." He knew.
"I was." Ash responded. "She almost died, Lance. We're fortunate she pulled through."
"That we are. She will need to rest for a while before we can send her out again."
Ash paused there. Send Misty back into the war after she almost died? "It's what she'd want, Ash." Lance consoled him. "You've felt her anguish, her desire to make things right. We both know she's willing to risk her own life to make amends for her mistakes of the past."
"I know. It's just........" Ash said. Lance understood. "You fear to lose her, because you love her."
"I do." Ash confessed, swayed by Lance's soothing words. "I fear that every day. Since the moment she volunteered to serve in the Order, a part of me has always dreaded losing her to this war. It almost happened today."
"I understand, Ash. But you must trust her to make her own decisions. She's learned much and has proven one of our most able members. Will you trust her to set things right, to protect herself?"
"Of course I do, Lance, you know that!" Ash replied, a little hotly. "But she can't predict everything that might happen."
"No, she can't. Tis true. But none of us can foresee what'll happen to us and our friends in this war. That is the risk we all took when joining the Order." Lance replied, striding up towards Ash.
He stared Ash directly in the eye. "That's the risk I took. The risk you took. The risk she took."
"So, you're saying," Ash said, "to trust her to defend herself."
"Not just that, Ash. Trust her to lead others. To regain the trust and confidence of those she forsook. This near-death experience has affected you in many ways, Ash."
Lance circled him, all the while keeping his gaze upon Ash. "It's made you realize that there are chances for redemption. That even the fallen and betrayers have a chance to change for the better. Before this, you were stubborn and adamant in your belief that no one could change who they were."
"Now look. Events are motion, lives are being changed. Including yours."
"Yes." Ash was starting to see what Lance meant. By risking their own lives, Misty and the other betrayers were actively trying to regain their friendship with Ash. But even that wasn't important. They had all joined to help protect the world. Their actions, their decisions, were selfless to a degree.
"They never joined to redeem themselves." he concluded.
"No, they never did." Lance agreed. "It may have been the drive to make them join us, but seeking redemption is not the main reason why they joined."
"They joined......to free the world of this ignorance. To save it and fight at my side." Ash continued to speak. "They truly are....selfless."
"Will you trust them now?" Lance asked. "Will you let go of your hate for them and side with them again?"
No more needed to be said. Ash stood proudly, a new purpose in him. "I will. They've proven themselves to me. They will be redeemed, and I will trust them again."
"Good." Lance said, pleased that Ash had seen the underlying lesson behind his words. He set down the goblet on a table. "And now let us return to Misty. You know of the role she's meant to take."
"Yes." Ash said.
"Well," Lance spoke, "I believe she's ready."
"You do?" Ash inquired. "Yes. Misty has proven herself to be perhaps one of the most loyal and diligent members of the Order. She proved herself an able fighter time and time again. And this rescue revealed to me her strength of leadership. Believe me, Ash, she is ready."
Ash agreed with Lance; Misty had displayed remarkable leadership and calmness in the chaos of his rescue. Everyone who had participated in the rescue looked up to her to get them out of that hellhole. And she didn't fail them.
"Then it's time for the conclave to begin." he said.
"Indeed. Meet me in the assembly chamber in ten hours. The other leaders I shall summon." said Lance, waving Ash away, a sign of dismissal.
He paused, however. "And Ash," he said while Ash turned, "get some rest. Go sleep for a while. You need it."
"Thanks." said Ash, smiling. He left for his chambers, for Lance was right. He needed rest.
December 3rd, 2:12 AM....................
In the medical wing, Misty lay on the bed, fast asleep. Or so she was.
Truth is, Misty was restless. Her body was slowly healing after that near-death experience. But her spirit wasn't tired. She wanted to get up and start fighting again. She wanted to help out.
But with her body still on the mend, she could do nothing.
Her mother was away, conversing with Professor Oak while he was on another expedition with Gary, teaching him other things which his grandson had never learned. Her friends were fast asleep in their chambers. Again, she was alone.
Ugh, nothing to do. she thought. She wanted to do something.
And that's when she thought of it. What an excellent idea!
Without even debating whether she should or shouldn't, Misty breathed slowly, calming herself in preparation for the separation of spirit and flesh.
An instant later, her spirit rose, free from its bodily restraints. She turned to look at her body; it was sleeping calmly, peacefully.
It'll be fine, but I don't want to be here. she thought. With that, she departed the medical wing, heading down to the lowest areas of the fortress, following the sleeping mind of the one she loved. Ash.
Misty quickly found Ash, and sensed his mind was calm and serene. He's asleep. she realized. Gliding through the tons of rock and earth, she appeared within the dark chambers of Ash. The statues of fallen angels made her uncomfortable, but the surprising calmness of Ash soothed her fears.
Following his mind-spoor, she found him asleep in a bed large enough for two people. Slowly, she glided towards him, not wanting to disturb his rest.
"Misty?" a voice called out, and Misty turned around. Glowing bright pink in the darkness of the bedchamber, the spirit of Delia appeared before her.
"Hello, Mrs. Ketchum." said Misty, blushing a little. Delia gave her a look, though not one of displeasure. Rather, one of scrutiny.
"I see Helena's finally taught you the ability of separation of body and spirit." she said after a while. Misty nodded. "She did. It was pretty easy to master."
"I'm sure it was." said Delia, still stoic. Misty felt she was a little disturbed at her presence here. She knew she had to get it out.
"Mrs. Ketchum, I want to apologize." she said. Delia still stared. "Apologize?"
Misty turned to look at Ash, serenity upon her face. "For hurting your son. I betrayed him, made him into a thing to be hated. I was blind, and I willingly let myself be dragged around like a willing slave. I was right to be hated, for I deserved such anger. But now, I'm aware of my mistakes, and I want to rectify them. The fact that I....almost died is proof of my wish to be forgiven."
She now turned to look at Delia, an expression of regret upon her face. "Can you forgive me, Mrs. Ketchum?"
For a long moment, Delia just floated there, unmoving, gaze unflinching.
Then she floated over to her, and in a happy move, embraced Misty.
"Of course I forgive you." she said, giving Misty a kiss. "How could I remain angry at you? Hate does nothing but create more hate. I could never hate you or the others for what you did. To do so would've corrupted my very being."
Misty smiled, a burden off her chest. "Thank you, Mrs. Ketchum."
Delia nodded in reply. "And I know you want to be here, with him." She gestured towards the sleeping Ash.
"Telepathic reading?" Misty asked. Delia giggled a little. "Of course, naturally. And since you possess the same gift, you know my answer to your request."
Misty did, having read Delia's mind too. A yes. "Thank you, Mrs. Ketchum."
"Go." said Delia. "Give him a little company, even if only in spirit."
Misty didn't need any more convincing. She floated over to Ash and lay down on the bed next to him. Though she knew he wouldn't feel it, she placed an arm over his shoulder.
"Ash," she whispered in his ear, "I love you. I'll always be with you."
Delia, meanwhile, remained apart. She saw the love Misty was giving to Ash, love that would heal him in the long run. I'll leave them alone, she thought, and she flew through the stone wall of Ash's chambers.
The two youths were finally left alone. One in flesh, one in spirit. Both together. "Sleep well, Ash." Misty said, closing her eyes as well, joining him in sleep, though she didn't need it, being a spirit and all.
The two remained there well into the morning.
Misty woke up, noticing a black form arise from a bed. She then noticed that it was passing straight through her arm. Her transparent arm.
I'm still a spirit. she realized. She also realized she had actually been asleep.
The black form, revealed to be Ash, sat up on the bed and yawned, stretching. He appeared to have slept well.
Misty, on impulse, tried to touch him, but her hands kept going straight through his body. She giggled a little, having forgotten that because she wasn't bound to a Soul Stone, she couldn't make herself seen or solid.
"Good morning, Ash." she said to him nevertheless, though he didn't hear her. Ash continued getting ready, changing into a fresh set of sable robes before leaving his chambers, saying good morning to his mother. The minute he was gone, Delia flew towards Misty, a smile on her face.
"Thank you for being with him, Misty." she said. "Even though he may have not felt you, the love and company you gave him made him feel better. I don't think I've ever seen Ash so well-rested like this."
Misty nodded in reply. "You're welcome, Mrs. Ketchum. I'm glad to have helped."
"Certainly. Why don't you head back to your body? I'm sure your friends will be there to say hi to you."
Misty nodded again, and she soared through the ceiling, flying back to the medical wing. She thanked Delia before leaving.
At the medical wing, Misty saw that her friends were indeed there. They were waiting for her to wake up.
Gliding over, she heard what they were saying.
"Wake her up, sis!" that was Max speaking. May shook her head no. "I'm not going to wake her up! Look at her! She's so peaceful!"
"Come on! Misty won't mind!"
"No! I won't do it!"
"Aww, May! Are you scared?"
Misty giggled, her laughter unheard by them, and she noticed Brock, his girlfriend Suzy, Dawn, Drew, and Kenny also laugh at May and Max's antics.
It appears their need for revenge is gone. Misty thought, seeing that the hate both siblings once harbored was now gone, most likely because of the near-death of their friend. To lose a friend in a quest of revenge would've made the revenge pointless, and they now saw that.
Deciding to have heard enough, Misty passed through them and returned to her body. Everyone paused as they heard a large intake of breath coming from her, and she opened her eyes.
"Hi." she said, her voice strong and clear.
Everyone looked at her, smiles on their faces. "Hey, Misty." said Brock. "How you feeling?"
Misty took a satisfied breath before replying. "Refreshed, Brock. I feel so rejuvenated."
"That's good to hear." said Dawn, the youngest of them hugging her friend. "Then this news will make you better."
"What news?" Misty asked.
It was Drew who spoke. "Nurse Joy said you were recovering so well that you're going to leave here a little earlier than before. 'At least two days' bed rest', she said, and then you can leave."
"Two days only, huh?" Misty said, glad to hear this. "I can live with that."
"One thing's for sure, Misty." said Kenny. "You've gotten another scar."
"Yeah, take a look." said Dawn, pulling out a hand mirror and aiming it at her chest. Misty stared at the reflection. It showed her bosom, and just above the left breast there was a large circular scar, the mark where the bullet had pierced through her. It would stay there for the rest of her life.
"Well, at least it doesn't look bad." she concluded.
The others agreed, and they continued to talk well into the afternoon.
In a wide amphitheater, the leaders of the Order were assembled.
This was the meeting room of the leadership of the Order, where all the lords and ladies of the Order met to discuss important matters.
Today, this conclave was assembled to discuss the induction of Misty into the rank of Water Master. It would effectively make her part of the Order's leading hierarchy.
Here, it would be decided whether she be accepted.....or denied that honor.
"Are we all assembled?" asked Lance, standing before his fellow leaders at the base of the amphitheater. Everyone replied, "Yes, Grand Master."
He nodded. "Then I call this conclave to discuss an important issue. The induction of Misty Waterflower as the new Water Master and her inclusion into our inner circle."
At that, there mutterings around the amphitheater. "Who will speak first?" asked Lance.
Spenser, the Palace Maven, rose first. "Grand Master," his low voice spoke, "I believe she has become a capable sister of our Order. However, I feel that she is not as ready."
"What do you believe she needs to continue?" asked Lance.
"Perhaps another year in our Order before we can consider her place in our leadership." Spenser said.
"Consideration?" Liza, the Lady Agni, rose from her seat. "Why should we consider her induction once again? She's proven herself in our eyes."
"I agree." Sabrina, the Lady Athena, spoke. "Ash and I have spent the most time with her, and believe me, we have seen dedication and loyalty from her that we've never seen from any other brother or sister of the Order."
"Maybe so," Brandon, the Lord Kotar, spoke, "but that devotion was formed out of a desire to redeem herself of her crimes."
"True, but she has evolved past that." Sabrina agreed. "She now truly wishes to help save the world from the threat of Thanatos."
"I concur." Ash spoke. As the Dark Master, his voice was second only to the Grand Master in weight and authority. They all listened as he spoke.
"Misty at first, I didn't trust, and didn't want to trust. In my anger, I believed she would not change at all and would remain the way she was. But after recent events....including her near-death, I believe in her once again. I second my Lady Agni's opinion that Misty is indeed ready for this responsibility."
He was acknowledged by murmurs of respect and nods. "Thank you, Ash." said Lance. He then turned to Lily, their resident sorceress and user of magic. "Lady Isis, you trained Misty in the arts of magic. How is she in your eyes?"
Lily rose and bowed to the assembly before answering. "Lord, Misty's perhaps the most able student I've ever taught. Already she displays the wisdom of ages past, and a sense of spiritual maturity at such a young age. Also, she is a master of magic on a level equal to mine, if not greater. If anything, Misty is accomplished and capable of what will be given to her."
"The little girl's tough, Grand Master." Lt. Surge spoke, his loud voice resounding across the amphitheater. "She's a spunky little kid, and that's true at her adult age. Sure, she got hurt bad with all this mess, but she's stayed strong and kept going."
"Definitely." the Pike Queen, Lucy, supported her fellow lord. "Misty has displayed remarkable strength of will and perseverance after all that has happened to her."
"Mmm." Koga mused silently. His soft voice spoke. "Such a person who can weather that much pain and suffering is possessed of a truly incorruptible and resilient soul. Such a person must become the new Water Master."
"But can she bear the burden of this responsibility?" said Agatha, the Lady Nyx and oldest of them. "And furthermore, will she be able to follow the tasks of the priestess?"
"Only time will tell, Lady Nyx." said Sabrina. "However, I insist that she is ready. Many of us here also believe in her. We should proceed with her induction."
The whole amphitheater continued to debate for several minutes until Lance silenced them.
"Bruno, Lorelei," he addressed his fellow Kanto Elite Four, "you are amongst my wisest advisers. Do you think she's ready?"
"Grand Master, there is no doubt that she's ready." said Lorelei. "I too, have my reservations about her strength of will, but unfortunately, time is not on our side."
"Indeed." Bruno added, supporting his fellow Elite Four. "Thanatos has already destabilized the balance of this world enough. I fear they may unbalance it further. We must see the return of the Water Master, for she is key to the healing of the world. All the Water Masters of the past have been crucial in that regard. To simply wait and see if she's ready is not a wise course of action and certainly one I go against."
His words gave the other leaders much thought. Lance himself felt moved by Bruno's words. If only Flint were here, he thought, gazing at the seat where Flint once sat.
That made him make his decision.
We've already lost many brothers and sisters to this war. It was true; of the original 35,000 that had joined at the start of the war, nearly 1,000 had died in battle.
We need to give them hope. We definitely need her.
"Brothers, sisters," he began, "I thank you for your opinions. You are all wise and able leaders in this great Order. I have heard your opinions, both spoken and unspoken. I too, harbor some doubts about Misty's induction, but the universe cares little for what I feel. Though she may have betrayed the Dark Master in the past, and in that action shattered our trust and faith in her, she has more than justified her ability in leadership and remade our trust with her."
"The fact that she almost died in that rescue was proof enough to me that she is fully accepting of the risks of this life. She also displays no more hate and loathing for herself. Her days of betrayal are behind her. She now only seeks to preserve the balance and maintain the integrity of our planet. Like a true sister of the Order."
"I have heard your opinions. Now hear mine. It is my belief that she is ready for the title and responsibilities that come with it. And as the Lady Chione," he gestured to Lorelei, "has said, time is not on our side. The death of Lord Geb was a great loss to our inner circle. He was one of our wisest and most steadfast leaders, and we shall never replace his stone-strong confidence and wisdom. He will be missed."
At that remark, all the lords and ladies of the Order bowed their heads in respect to the death of a fellow lord. Then Lance continued.
"We have also lost many brothers and sisters to this war. They need a morale boost. To elevate Misty as the new Water Master shall give us the hope we so desperately need. Therefore, I believe the time for debate is now over. It is time we took a vote."
The electoral college of the Order was perhaps the most complex ever devised. For any one future leader of the Order to become part of the inner circle, all leaders of the Order had to vote unanimously to accept him or her into their number. The fact that the very first vote required the unequivocal assent from all leaders already eliminated candidates who were deemed unqualified or unsuited for such a role.
So, the first phase was that all leaders were to vote, and each vote had to be a yes.
"All in favor of bringing her into our inner circle say 'aye'". said Lance. He awaited their replies. Lily was the first to cast her vote. "Aye." she said.
Then Sabrina rose. "Aye." she said.
Lucy stood as well, as did Liza. "Aye." they both said.
Lt. Surge rose next; he was fond of her because of her fiery persona. "Aye." his loud voice said.
Erika and Koga stood beside their fellow Gym Leader. "Aye." they both said.
So did Bruno and Lorelei. "Aye." was their answer.
Maylene, the youngest of their circle, gave her answer. "Aye."
Then stood Drake, leader of the Orange League. "Aye." was his vote.
The same came from Steven and Cynthia, the respective Champions of their regions. "Aye."
Clair, Lance's cousin, smiled at him as she gave her vote. "Aye."
Maya, the Lady Pythia, stood in the shadows, speaking her vote. "Aye."
And then came the ones who had doubts. But they too, had been convinced by Lance's words. Time was against them, and they needed her. So they cast their votes.
"Aye." said Spenser, followed by Brandon and Maria. "Aye." they said.
Followed by Agatha, the oldest of them. "Aye." she voted.
Now all eyes turned to Ash. What would be his vote? He smiled at them all as he said, with a resounding voice, "Aye."
The Dark Master has cast his vote. Now, they all turned to Lance, for he was the overall leader. As such, his vote was key. He too smiled as he gave his vote.
"Aye." he said.
So it was done. All the leaders have unanimously agreed to accept Misty into their ranks. But the electoral process is not over. The second phase requires the dismissal of all leaders save the following: the Grand Master, Dark Master, Priestess of the Forest, Priest of the Wind, Priestess of the Flame, the High Priestess, the Oracle, the Sorceress, and the Keeper of Lore.
In other words, Lance, Ash, Erika, Drake, Liza, Maria, Maya, Lily, and Spenser were the only ones needed. These nine comprised the innermost circle of the leadership. The rest of the leaders left.
In this second process, the candidate could join their circle with 7 votes out of nine. But there was a catch: three of those votes had to come straight from the Grand Master, Dark Master, and Keeper of Lore. If the candidate missed any one of those three votes, they would not proceed.
"Are we ready?" asked Lance. They all nodded, and he went first. "Aye." he said. One crucial vote down.
"Aye." Ash spoke next. Two crucial votes down.
"Aye." said Liza, Priestess of the Flame.
"Aye." said Drake, Priest of the Wind.
"Aye." said Erika, Priestess of the Forest.
"Aye." said Lily, the Sorceress.
"Aye." said Maya, the Oracle.
"Aye." said Maria, the High Priestess.
Now it was all down to the Palace Maven. Spenser, the Keeper of Lore, said only one word. "Aye." Three crucial votes down. With that, Misty had passed the second phase.
Now for the final phase.
If the candidate passed the unanimous votes of all the leaders and the nine votes of the innermost circle, they had to receive the vote and blessing of six of the leaders. And not just any leaders. They had to receive the vote of the Grand Master, Dark Master, and every priest or priestess of the four elements. Without any of those final votes, the candidate would not proceed.
Spenser, Maria, Lily, and Maya left, leaving only Lance, Ash, Liza, Drake, and Erika. Because there was no Water Master, only five votes would suffice.
"Are we ready?" asked Lance. They all nodded. "Let's begin, then. I say aye, and I give her my blessing."
"I say aye," Ash said, "and I too, with all my heart, give Misty my blessing."
"I say aye," said Liza, "along with my blessing."
"I say aye," said Drake, "and I give Miss Waterflower my blessing."
"I say definitely aye," said Erika, "and Misty has my blessing. She is after all, my friend."
They all laughed, and like that, Misty's fate was sealed. The leadership would have her. Lance nodded in thanks and departed to the exit, where the rest of the leaders awaited their return.
Upon arriving, every other leader paid attention as Lance spoke.
"The vote has been cast." said Lance. "Misty shall become the new Water Master. She will be part of us, brothers and sisters." He sensed the relief and joy of many of them.
"Because she is still healing, we will not initiate the ceremony at this moment. In three days, Misty will be one of us."
He then dismissed them, save Ash.
"Thank you, Ash, for believing in her." he said. Ash smiled in return. "Sure thing, Lance. We need her, after all. As do I."
Lance grinned, seeing the old Ash return to the fore. "Would you be willing to break the news to her?" he asked.
"Certainly." said Ash.
December 6th, 8:34 AM........
Misty waited enthusiastically as the Nurse Joys pored over her latest diagnosis. Finally, they raised their heads and nodded yes.
"I can leave?" she asked.
"You can." said Nurse Joy. "You've made a full recovery."
"The bullet wound is completely healed, and the bleeding has stopped. You're showing excellent health, sister." said another Joy.
"Thank you." said Misty, and left for one of the dressing rooms to change back into her sea blue dress, the one which marked her as a candidate for the Water Master role.
Changed, she left the medical wing, thanking the Nurse Joys for their ministrations. Practically running, she headed over to one of the many open balconies of the fortress, sensing the minds of her friends close by.
In one of the largest balconies, May, Dawn, Brock, and Max were talking, Drew and the others joining them. Misty saw them and was glad to see the friendship between them restored. Betrayers and faithful reunited.
"Guess who's back." she called out, and everyone saw her. "Misty!" Dawn cried, happy to see her friend up and about again. She ran over and hugged her friend.
"Thank God you're all right!" she said. Misty just laughed, the laughter silvery and ethereal, yet joyful.
"Hey Mist!" said Gary. Misty embraced him as well. As did everybody.
For many minutes they stood at the balcony, speaking about Misty's amazing recovery and about the hopeful future once the war ended. Misty was lively and energetic, completely the opposite of what she once was several months ago. She was truly alive.
A presence made himself known. It was Ash.
"Hey, Ash. Want to join us?" asked Brock. Ash politely nodded his head. "Thank you, Brock, but no. I'm here because the leadership has summoned Misty. I'm to escort her."
Misty was curious. "What do they want me for?"
"They didn't say. But they did say it would be a momentous occasion." he replied.
"Really?" asked Max. "What's the occasion?"
"Can't say. I'll just say....it's a surprise." Ash added, grinning. Everyone felt relieved. They felt no hate from him.
"Yeah, guys," Ash said to the four and Misty, "I have no hate for you anymore. I still haven't forgiven you, but no longer will I harbor hate towards you or anyone else who believed I was a murderer. I let it all go."
Misty and the others beamed. Ash, more or less the old Ash, had returned. And he wanted to mend the rift between them.
"Thanks for that, Ash." said Brock. "It makes us all feel better."
"Definitely." said May. "Thanks for siding with us, Ash."
Ash nodded in reply. "Sure thing, but unfortunately, I need to go now. Misty, if you'll follow me." he told her, leaving for the interior. Misty looked back at her friends.
"I'll be back." she said. The friends either nodded or said "Okay."
For a long time, the two walked the corridors of the fortress, neither speaking to one another. Finally, they arrived at a simple door etched with the symbol of the Order. It was here that Ash stopped.
"Misty, I want to thank you." he said. Misty looked at him. "For what?" she asked.
"For restoring my innocence, my hope. Before this, I was a broken soul, one that thrived on hate and distrust." he said to her. Misty understood.
"I know how you feel, Ash. I too, was shattered, becoming a soul of paranoia and fear. Believe me, I too, share in the pain."
"You do, and you willingly suffered for me." he said. Misty nodded again. "And I will continue to suffer for you, Ash. I willingly accept this."
"Yes, but I ask you: don't suffer so much anymore. You've repaid your debt to me greatly. There's no need to be so zealous in your efforts of redemption. You are close to receiving my forgiveness."
That comforted Misty: Ash was nearly ready to forgive her. He was certainly willing to be with her again. She sensed that.
"Thank you.....for telling me this, Ash." she happily told him. "Those words mend my broken heart in ways I can't imagine."
"Of course." Ash replied. There was a long pause before he spoke again.
"Tell me of your rank within the Order." he said, his voice assuming the authority of his role. Misty sensed that and fell to her role as a sister.
"I am only a sister of the Order, brother." she replied. "I have no rank, save for the one of Water Master, which I have yet to be bestowed."
"Very good. Now, tell me of my rank." he instructed her.
Misty answered, "You are the Dark Master, the lieutenant of the Grand Master and second-in-command of the Order. In this case, you are my superior and I obey your orders."
"Not anymore." he said. Misty stared at him, confused. "What do you mean?"
"The Water Master is the third-in-command of the Order, sister." he explained. "He or she has the ear and confidence of the Grand Master and Dark Master. They must be like their element, fluid and calm, yet ready and able to commit to a course of action. They form a triumvirate with the other two, and together, these three form the heart of the Order."
"I am aware of that, my lord, but....." she started to say, before stopping. Why was he telling her all this? Unless.......no.
"Yes." Ash said, sensing her thoughts and shock. "The time has come, Mist. We are no longer leader and follower."
He strode up to her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder, eyes practically level with her since both were of the same height. He smiled.
"It's time we fought together as equals." he finally said, and Misty realized it. They said yes.
The doors opened, revealing a barely-lit room. Ash stepped inside and moved to the shadows, but not before directing her to the middle of the circular chamber.
In she stepped, the doors closing behind her and further darkening the room.
And then, torches along the circumference of the walls flared to life, illuminating the chamber. Misty was amazed at what she saw.
She was standing on top of a great seal, the seal bearing the mark of the Order. Standing at attention around her were the senior-most leaders of the Order: Lance, Ash, Erika, Drake, Liza, Maria, Lily, Maya, and Spenser. The men wielded drawn swords in front of their chests, while the women carried golden chalices in their hands.
Around them, the rest of the leadership stood as well, bearing the torches that lit the chamber. The ceremony began.
"Step forward." said Lance to Misty, and she obeyed, taking a step forth to stand in the exact center of the seal.
"Misty Waterflower, we have judged you worthy of joining our inner circle and becoming the new Water Master." he said to her.
"You have proven yourself time and time again to be the most capable sister of our Order." said Ash. "Furthermore, you have renewed our faith and trust in you, that which you once shattered but have restored through your selfless acts."
"Thus, we ask you:" asked Liza, "do you believe yourself worthy of accepting this role and the responsibilities that come with it?"
When Misty spoke, it was with such confidence and hope that it left everyone there amazed.
"I do. I believe myself worthy. I have shed my own blood in your service, and I have upheld the oath that I swore upon my joining of the Order. I have not failed you in even the slightest sense, and I willingly risked my own life to save the Lord Shiva. Through my near-death, I have emerged healed and stronger."
"I am ready to accept this responsibility. I thank you all for renewing your faith in me. I will not fail you or myself. This I promise."
"Then kneel." he said. She did, kneeling in front of him, head bowed. Lance brought down his sword and placed it on top of her right shoulder.
"Hear me now, my past lords and ladies," called Lance to the darkness of the chamber, "we ask that you grant your blessing to this new child who comes into our ranks. We ask that you accept the new Water Master as she joins us in our mission of preservation. Please, honor her by giving her your blessing."
The air inside the chamber suddenly became heavy with the wisdom of past masters and leaders. Everyone in the chamber, including Misty, somehow felt the presence of hundreds within.
Misty felt invisible hands touch her, and a sense of power flowed through her body. This was the blessing.
At last, the air became cool again, the ancient presence having left. But it left its mark upon her, for Misty felt stronger than ever before.
And now came the final initiation.
"Misty Waterflower," Lance said, tapping her shoulder with his blade, "by the right of the council," he then tapped her left shoulder, "with the consent of the leaders, past and present, I appoint thee the new Water Master, High Priestess of the Sea, and the Grand Princess of Water."
"So we ordain you to this calling." said Ash, and the rest of the leadership said, "So let it be done."
It was done. She was now a leader of the Order, a member of the council, at the age of 23.
"Rise, my lady." said Lance, proclaiming her by her formal title. She stood and opened her eyes. They all noticed the change in her.
Misty appeared to have matured by several decades. Her eyes were now strong with energy yet tempered with wisdom. Her face appeared more regal and fine, combining the beauty of youth with the strength of age-old wisdom. She stood tall and proud, and her hair shined all the more brightly. Her aura now glowed a luminescent white to all who had extrasensory perception, tinged with the blue of her element.
"Thank you, my brothers and sisters." she spoke, and her voice was now stronger, more mature, the embodiment of a sea goddess.
A minute later, the council left, leaving only Ash, Misty, and Lance in the chamber.
"It's done." said Lance. "You're now one of us, Misty."
She nodded, glad to be finally part of the inner circle. "I thank you both. Thank you for trusting me again."
"You earned it, Mist." said Ash, giving her a toothy grin. She returned it.
"So, what are my responsibilities besides those of the Water Master?" she asked. Lance answered, "You are now the high priestess of the element of water, meaning that you must become the caretaker of our oceans. I'm sure that as the bearer of the water essence that won't be too hard of an assignment."
"It won't be." Misty said, giggling a little at Lance's condescending yet playful tone. "I'll do it gladly. I also take it my initiation isn't done."
"Not completely." Ash agreed. "Though you are now officially ordained as Water Master, you must receive the formal blessing from your predecessor."
Misty nodded, understanding who he meant. "My mother."
"Yep. Receive her blessing, Mist. And then seek out Maya and Lily." Ash continued. Misty waited for them to explain why.
"Both Maya and Lily have a role in the blessing of a new priest or priestess of the element."
"How?" asked Misty.
"Maya shall bestow her blessing upon you with the use of the Sea Spirit, her scepter and mark of office. That is actually the symbol of office for the Water Master, meaning it is rightfully yours."
"Mine?" asked Misty.
"Yes. Maya and others like her were the caretakers of the Sea Spirit and the guardians of the sea in the absence of the Water Master. They too, have the ability to control the seas to some degree. Only when a new Water Master is ordained will the caretaker surrender the Sea Spirit over to them." Lance explained.
Misty nodded, understanding that she was soon to receive her badge of office. "And what of Lily?" she asked.
Ash explained to her, "Lily is tasked with the sealing of the four marks of the elements. To effectively seal and accept a new priest or priestess as the appointed protector of their element, they must receive a sacred mark from the Sorceress, she who is in communion with all powers of nature. When that is done, you are then truly the new Water Master."
Misty thanked them and then turned to seek Maya and Lily out. "Thank you. I'll get right to it."
She didn't get far before Lance called her name again. "Yes?" she asked.
"You need one last thing. You need a title. A new name." he told her. Misty nodded and left.
Misty found Maya in the Library of Alexandria, having passed through the portal that led into this other dimension.
"Come, Misty. I've been expecting you." said Maya, the Sea Spirit in her hands. Misty came forth and smiled.
"I hope you don't mind me taking this scepter from you." she said to Maya. Maya just giggled. "Of course not. My role is only as a caretaker. I'm honored to give it to you. Besides, I have my own scepter."
"Sure." said Misty. "Shall we?"
"Of course." said Maya. She took the Sea Spirit and placed it in front of her, lowering it to touch Misty's head.
"My lord Poseidon and all Heroes of the Sea," Maya spoke, finally invoking the true name of the Great Sea Spirit of the Whirl Cup, "bestow your blessing upon this new Water Master and give her the power to safeguard the harmony of the sea. Grant her the strength to perform her duty and give her this sacred mark of the sea."
The Sea Spirit began to glow, infusing Misty with its watery touch. She felt powerful and accepted it as part of her. When the glow abated, Misty stepped back, something subconsciously guiding her moves. When she was at a far enough distance, she raised her right arm, hand extended. The Sea Spirit left Maya's hands and levitated over to Misty's outstretched hand. Her eyes glowed blue as she made full use of her new power as Water Master.
"My lord Poseidon," she said, something in her subconscious telling her what to say, "I thank you for your blessing. Heroes of the Sea, I promise to uphold the balance and harmony of water, most precious of the four elements. I will uphold this duty to the best of my abilities until my passing, and I promise to bestow my knowledge unto my successor when death comes to claim me."
The Sea Spirit glowed twice, acknowledging her oath and accepting her as its new master.
"It's done." said Maya, bowing to Misty. "You are almost there, Misty."
"Thank you, Maya. Thank you." said Misty, bowing in return and leaving to find Lily.
Lily was also in the Library of Alexandria, poring over her studies. In particular, she had a book opened, one of the elements.
"I knew you were here, Misty." she said, sensing the other's presence. Lily turned around, not at all surprised to see Misty wielding the Sea Spirit, her rightful mark of office.
"I see Maya's already fulfilled her duty." she said. Misty nodded. "She has, and now I ask that you do yours."
Lily nodded, smiling. "That I will, sister. Step forward."
Misty did, while Lily returned to her open book and placed her hand over a symbol, the symbol glowing with blue light. When it abated, Lily walked over to Misty, the symbol now on her hand. She placed it over Misty's head and it glowed blue.
"Become one with this sacred symbol of water, and may it guide you in your task, Princess of Water." she said as she pulled back her hand. The mark of a fluid wave of water glowed on Misty's forehead before disappearing into her brow.
"Done." said Lily. "Only one thing left." Misty nodded, aware that Lily knew of her mother's existence.
"How long have you known?" she asked, and Lily just smiled. "Since your first lesson, Misty. I knew she was here."
Misty just laughed and thanked Lily before leaving to find her mother.
Mom? she called out telepathically, seeking her mother. Helena wasn't long in answering.
Misty. she replied. Both mother and daughter found each other in the highest waterfall of the fortress.
Misty, you've changed. Helena said, noticing Misty's newfound power.
Misty nodded in reply. I have, Mom. Look.
Helena looked and gasped as she saw her daughter carry the Sea Spirit, the scepter that she once bore.
You've succeeded me. she realized. Misty nodded again. I have. I'm the new Water Master, Mom.
Helena flew forward and hugged her daughter, tears of happiness flowing down her eyes. Misty saw the aura in her spirit shine so bright, it made her happy.
My youngest daughter, finally matured. Finally a priestess. Helena said, and the two linked minds together, basking in the emotions of happiness that emanated from both of them.
I am, mother. I've come for your blessing. said Misty.
Then I shall give it to you.
Helena placed her transparent hands over Misty's head, letting them glow and extending it around her daughter's head. Speaking out loud, she said, "My successor, become gifted with this power and accept my blessing. Continue the tradition of the Water Master and pass on your knowledge to your own successor."
"I will, mother. Thank you." Misty replied, and the glow faded. It was done.
"Done, Misty. I pass on my title to you. You are now the Water Master." said Helena, and Misty nodded respectfully to her mother and predecessor.
"I'll see to it that Delia tells Ash to have our seamstresses make you a new dress." said Helena, and Misty laughed. "All right, but I want it of my own design. I'll send you a drawing."
"All right." Helena replied, before flying off to find Delia.
Misty just laughed and headed to the library. She now needed a name.
In the library, it didn't take long for Misty to find the perfect name for her. Her mother was named after the goddess of the sea. Only fitting that Misty's name be akin to that of a daughter. And she found the perfect one.
Like Amphitrite, she too was a goddess of the sea. A sea nymph, she was.
"Thetis." Misty pronounced the name. "That will be my name."
December 7th, 12 noon.....
In the assembly chamber of the fortress, another six hundred neophytes were about to be inducted into the Order. All of them wore the red robes of the Order.
These neophytes were new, many of them having joined only a month ago. Due to the demands of the war, however, many were forced to become inducted without completing their training. Though all had finished their basic training, they had yet to learn more evolved forms.
These neophytes would learn on the battlefield. Amongst them was Solidad and those she had led to find the Order. They had been training in the Order for two and a half weeks now, and had already mastered their basic training. Now, they would be formally inducted into the Order as full members.
Two hundred members of the Order, many of them recent initiates themselves, stood at attention on either side of the assembly hall. They were here to stand as witnesses. May, Max, Dawn, and Brock were among them. But what of Misty?
"Where is Misty?" asked May.
Max agreed with her. "Yeah, we haven't seen her or Ash since yesterday. I wonder what was so important they had to take her."
"Who knows?" asked Dawn. "Maybe we'll find out later."
"Shh." Brock said, gesturing at the amphitheater where the leadership was arriving. No one noticed another figure standing in the shadows. "They're starting."
"Neophytes, though you are barely out of training, you have already progressed well beyond our expectations. Because of the war, though, we have to initiate you ahead of schedule. You will learn out in the field, and some of you may die, but I trust that all of you will learn from this experience and help in maintaining the balance." said Lance.
"Thank you, Grand Master." said the neophytes, Solidad amongst them.
"Of course." said Lance. "But before we begin, I have an announcement to make. The rest of the Order will know soon." He gestured to Ash, who bade the figure in the shadows step forth.
"We have brought a new sister into our ranks. A new leader who shall be part of our council. She will participate in this initiation."
The figure stepped into the light, wearing a white dress with blue lining. Brock and the others stared wide-eyed, as did the rest of the assembly.
There she was, standing proud and tall. Red hair flowed behind her, eyes of piercing sea blue stared with compassion at them. A scepter she bore, a great sapphire gem atop its head.
She was clad in a newly-made dress of shimmering white. It was lined with gold and sea blue trim. Aqua lining shaped into sea foam and water waves decorated her dress. A fine golden belt adorned her waist, the center placed with a bright aquamarine gem. Her chest was decorated in a cascade of silver shaped to resemble sea-wings, starting at her cleavage and extending out past the neck. The elbows parted into tracing drapes of silk, leaving her pale forearms bare. A sash of aqua was tied around her waist, detailed in fine thread.
A necklace she wore, that of a six-pointed star with a water drop in the center. A tiara was upon her head, a glittering sapphire adorning her brow.
"It can't be......." Brock whispered, amazed at who he saw.
"It is." said May. "It's her."
"Wow." was all Max could say.
Dawn was equally amazed. "I've never seen her like this before. So majestic."
Sensing their gaze, she turned to the four and gave them a wide smile. Hey, guys. It's me. she told them telepathically.
"Behold," said Lance, "the new Water Master, High Priestess of the Sea, and the Grand Princess of Water."
"Misty Waterflower, the Lady Thetis."
All stared in amazement at the new Water Master that stood before them. They were filled with happiness as the Lady Thetis spoke.
"Greetings, my brothers and sisters. I stand before you as a beacon of hope. Once I was a betrayer, one who scorned the friendship and love of the one I cared for. Once I was a penitent, who willfully hurt herself to repent for the crimes she'd committed."
"Now I am a sister, kin to you all. And now, the Water Master." Raising her scepter, she imbued it with her power, and the neophytes gasped in amazement as they felt her presence in their minds.
"Bestow I do this gift upon you. May you be graced with the peace of the sea and I give you my blessing. May you uphold the principles of the Order and help end this horrible war. I have spoken."
The glow from the scepter vanished, and the Lady Thetis moved back to take her place beside the Dark Master.
Everyone felt a surge of hope at the sight of these three individuals. At long last, the triumvirate was complete.
Lance, the Lord Draco, Grand Master and overall leader of the Order, a shining light for all.
Ash, the Lord Shiva, Dark Master and second-in-command of the Order, a bastion of strength for all.
And now her.
Misty, the Lady Thetis, Water Master and third-in-command of the Order, a beacon of hope for all.
"My thanks, Lady Thetis." said Lance, and he turned to the assembly, seeing the new strength and confidence emanate from all of them.
"Let the initiation begin."
And it did.
END Ch. 30