The trek took a pair of hours, with Cobalion alternating between walking and trotting and Thatcher alternating between following and trying to keep up. By the time they finally crossed a river to arrive at Mistralton Cave, his feet were screeching for a respite, but the two of them still had to make their way to the bottom of the cave, which would probably take another half hour or so, Thatcher thought.
As he made his way through the dimly lit corridors, though, he took note of something intriguing: all the humans in there were completely unfazed by Cobalion's presence, save for a kid who was sent packing exactly four seconds after he released his Venipede. Cobalion didn't even seem to mind their presence in his territory
When he prodded the legendary about this fact, the reply was candid but enough to get the point across: "They know better."
When they finally reached the pit, Thatcher was ushered into the room ahead of his captor, to ensure no attempts at fleeing like a frightened Rattata.
He turned around to face Cobalion as he took a few steps inside, and asked "Now what? You've got me where you want me, you've stripped me of my partner
what's my punishment? Eternal imprisonment here?"
"Oh no, you're most definitely not staying here. You'll be returning here at night to sleep, perhaps, but you're most definitely going to be wandering Unova during the day, and some nights perhaps." Cobalion ambled a little closer to him, still blocking the exit. Thatcher eyed it for a second, but wiped the futile thought from his mind in an instant. "As for your sentence
take off your clothes."
Thatcher eyed him for a second, and quickly glanced Cobalion over.
"No, you dolt, I'm not out for sexual pleasure. Just remove your garments and get them out of the way," he snapped, sensing Thatcher's uneasiness.
With a sigh, the human did as he was told, and within seconds was fully naked in front of a legendary pokemon, embarrassment more than slightly evident in his expression.
At this, Cobalion's irises seemed to shine faintly, at least for a moment, and Thatcher was immediately transfixed by the stare. Cobalion kept eye contact, but did say "Your penance begins now" before falling totally silent.
The first thing Thatcher noticed to break out of the trance was his spine; more specifically, its increasing curvature. He groaned under its stress, and finally stopped looking at the Iron Will pokemon when his backbone snapped along with other bones, completely changing the way he stood. His extremities' bones cracked and shifted, growing more robust and changing their angles and joints. He yelped at this, with no reaction from Cobalion but the same staunch stare.
The next things Thatcher felt were pressures at both his shoulders (or where they used to be) and the lower back. Unceremoniously, steel blades burst forth from those spots seconds later, shaped almost like fins of a fish. The shoulder blades, he noticed, had a golden hue, whilst his new tail was a sort of light blue. He started to grow fur on his legs at this point as well, spanning two shades of blue and including a black band running around each one to separate the blues. He gasped for air, unable to comprehend what was happening to him with his mind racing as much as it was, and once again looked to Cobalion for Arceus knew what.
He suddenly felt his neck extend upwards, and when that ceased he was standing what he imagined to be seven feet tall
and was now level with Cobalion, whereas before the legendary had been looking down upon him quite a bit. Meanwhile, his feet and hands had swelled up massively, with no digits on any of them. They were replaced by what almost seemed to be black boots, but in actual foot form. As the fur-sprouting pores grew in number and multiplied beyond his legs, it suddenly hit Thatcher what he was becoming: a Cobalion himself.
Eyes wide now, he tried to speak, saying "Y-you
you're turn- ack!" He was cut off by his own shifting body, as his vocal chords suddenly froze up, rendering him speechless for the time being. His head was spinning anyways, so the chances of him completing the sentence with or without the vocal cord morphing were slim to begin with. His legs were fully azure now, barring the black band and feet, and his upper and lower bodies were done as well, with the fins completely grown and everything down to the spots on his hips exact to specifications. All that was left now was the head
starting with the snout Thatcher was growing.
His head slowly shifted into a more triangular shape to help with this, and he felt his eyes sharpen. His vision blacked out for a second, but when he shook it off and opened his eyes, he was shocked by the drastic increase in quality. It was like going from a 24" television from the 90's to a 60" HD TV, and he studied himself intently to test his new powers of eyesight. As he did so, a white tuft of fur grew from his neck down, and his nose reached a pointed end where he could somewhat see it in front of him. Finally, he sensed horns extending from just above his eyes, matching the oddly-shaped and tan ones that the Cobalion across from him possessed. With a final shiver, the physical transformation finished, and Thatcher was 100% Cobalion.
"You are impressed with my power, no?" the original Cobalion asked, and Thatcher absentmindedly nodded, still studying himself. If he had any fingers or claws, he would have pinched himself. "Well, in the next few hours your actual powers pertaining to attacks and other legendary abilities should develop, though you should already instinctively know Sacred Sword."
"Wh-" Thatcher coughed, then finally asked the key question. "Why turn me into
you?" He shuddered a little after the query; his voice sounded exactly like Cobalion's, a foreign sound that made him ill just thinking about the fact that it was now his.
Cobalion gave a single laugh, which Thatcher just knew couldn't be good, and neither was the fact that the Steel/Fighting type was walking towards him. Up close, he could tell that the 'mon still had an inch or two on him heightwise.
"You shall see
I will just say that you'll learn a couple lessons this way," he said, which only led to a follow-up question from Thatcher.
"So, uhm, is this
is this just temporary, like, until I learn the error of my ways and all, or-"
"This is permanent. You will be a Cobalion for the rest of your life, human. Or, ex-human," Cobalion cut in, nonchalantly telling his fate as it was. Immediately the newly transformed pokemon's mood sank even further, devastated that life as he knew it was officially gone with the wind. First he lost his pokemon, now his livelihood
"Now then, if you have no more questions, I instruct you to leave the cave and simply meander. Deal with whatever situations arise, avoid getting caught by a human at all costs, and when the sun goes down you may return here to slumber for the night. Don't do anything out of line, either, because I will be keeping an eye on you
you must represent your new species well, you know. If a Pokemon comes to you for help, or you see a human doing something ridiculous, I trust you to step in and do the right thing."
Only now did he step aside and let him through the exit. The most recent legendary stared at him like he was just given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, then started out with an exhale.
"Wait! I did forget one thing," Cobalion suddenly declared, pulling Thatcher back into the room with the electromagnetic tug of his words.
"From this point onwards, your name is hereby Kato," he stated, yet another ultimatum of sorts.
"Your name is now Kato, and whatever it was before is now null, just as your life before this one is." The suddenly renamed pokemon felt like this was just another dagger in the coffin for him, with his entire identity now perished, and stood there with slightly trembling tree-trunk legs.
"Yes. It means 'Good judgment,' something I find befitting for my species. Our species."
Kato grit his teeth at those two words
looking down his now elongated nose, he flinched at the thought that he was now one and the same as his captor.
"And if you must know, my name is Kyros
which stands for 'Leader and master.' Now then, off you go." The Cobalion shooed him away with a foot, then turned around and headed deeper into the room to tend to his own business, leaving Kato to escort himself out.
As he left, he passed by a pair of hikers, who smiled somewhat and bowed in respect to him. Unable to think of how to respond, he simply kept on towards the exit. It was yet another sign of contrast between his life a half hour ago and now, and they were all conspiring to send him towards a bout with black-hole depression.