Of Knights and Pawns

"Deals with no consequences are like lions without teeth. That's why when I was offered a way to hold on to my life, I begrudgingly accepted, knowing that someday my choice would bite me in the ass."

Chapter 1: No Strings Attached

I pulled my covers over my head, yearning for the false sense of protection that they would offer without fail during my childhood. But, I knew my effort was in vain, I had to admit that my prospect for survival was grim, after all this wasn't Hoenn with its nice sunny beaches, near constant summer, and tanned beauties clad in tastefully revealing clothing. Rather this was Sinnoh, the harsh unforgiving north with winters so brutal that entire villages being buried by snow was common place. And naturally the women weren't much to look at once they piled layers of clothing upon themselves. And so I resolved that I needed to reunite with my comrade so that we could escape Sinnoh before winter comes and could bask in the Hoenn sun.

Hastily I crawled out of my sleeping bag and made my way towards the thicket in an attempt to find my pokémon. My heart was racing, there could be anything in the dark and my struggles would be futile if it decided to attack. As I neared the tree line I decided to turn my flashlight on hoping that I would spot any assailant prior to entering the woods. The light beam illuminated the tree line and revealed a dark trail, I knew what it was yet felt the need to have a closer inspection. I edged cautiously towards the trail, the scent confirmed my thoughts. Blood.

"There's as good a clue as any," I mumbled as I concluded that death may have been a factor in my companion's absence. I sighed as I pushed ahead, whatever happened would likely happen to me if I remained ambivalent.

It would be best if I stayed close to the clearing so that I would have a clear course to follow in the event of a chase. Though I doubted my ability to outrun even a bidoof. Regardless I pressed along, following the trail as best as I could and while doing so I fashioned myself a thick club out of multiple sticks that I picked from the ground. But, as I doubted my legs to save me from a chase I doubted my arms would be able to swing the club with enough force in a fight. As I walked I also noticed that I wore nothing but my boxers into a forest abound with wild pokémon, which was rather fortunate as I usually slept naked.

Progress was slow but measured by the increasing stench of blood, which was hard to grow accustomed to. But I persevered as I sensed how close I was getting. I had in fact seen a few blue feathers strewn around recently, a sign of my pokémon as well as a battle And so the need for urgency ushered me to take less care in my steps and walk faster. Which inevitably led to me tripping on a root, and come crashing to the ground.

A loud thud must have resounded through the silence of the forest, which happened to be unusually quiet. I didn't damage anything from the fall and my club was just a bit of a distance away from me lying beneath a tree. I glanced around to make sure that no pokémon was searching for a midnight snack. Finding none I edged towards my club and as I reached for it the canopy yielded to the weight of hundreds of dead starlys that poured over me.

I let out a loud scream as I leaped out of the way. Though I evaded most of the downpour a few bodies still fell on top of me and I could feel that they were still warm.

My heart was thundering in my ears as I examined the bodies from a distance. All of them appeared to have no injuries and just seemed to have died on the spot. However, that wasn't the disturbing part. Whatever had done this had clearly done so out of malice and not to satiate its hunger, and should we cross paths, it's very likely that I will meet the same fate. And most importantly, it was recently here. I gulped at the realization and began to walk back along the path I took. Each step brought me closer to the familiarity of my campsite.

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When I returned to camp I expected to be greeted by the company of misery for giving up in my search so early. Yet I could make out a figure waiting by my bag. I approached it hoping that it would be my pokémon. I flashed my light on the figure and was taken aback by what I saw. A piplup looked back at me, and I knew for sure that it was my piplup, Chubbs. I could feel tears well up in my eyes as waves of endorphins coursed through me. I spread my arms and fell onto my knees as I expected him to come rushing towards me.

But, no.

He remained motionless, his eyes stared back at me. And within moments it was clear, that his stare was dead. Not a flicker of life.

My arms dropped to my sides at that sudden realization. There he was, devoid of life without a blemish on his skin.

Every nerve of my body fired to propel me onto my feet and out of the clearing in mere seconds.

Manic laughter erupted from the woods around me as I bolted towards the road. The fluttering of hundreds of wings filled the air above me. The air was thickening, making each breath harder to draw in than the last. I could feel the heavy hand of death closing in on my life.

What good was it to run from such an overbearing force? To survive and wallow in misery?

My legs struggled to keep up with my drive to evade death. The road provided no safety for there was darkness all about as the flock of starlys blotted out the moon and any light it would afford me. And the laughter only seemed to magnify by degrees, boring into my skull urging me to tear my own head off to rid myself of it. My death was assured it seemed to taunt, and frankly I didn't doubt a single word of it.

Would I truly amount to so little in my life? Just another statistic lost in the sea of time? A man of no consequence, despite vaulting ambition?

I hoped not, but hope alone never conquered any barrier. Instead, it was the adrenaline coursing through my veins that forced me to press on. I would run till my legs failed me, for giving in was no option, I set out on this quest with a purpose and I planned on fulfilling it.

A bright light illuminated the night in tandem with my new found resolve, and blinded me forcing me to either stop or run blindly. Of which I chose the latter, and predictably fell to the ground.

Before I could open my eyes I felt the air abruptly thin out to its normal consistency and the laughter vanished along with the wings above me. I wanted to cry in relief and not ever leave the embrace of the earth. But, I needed to discover the source of the light and assess my safety.

As my eyes adjusted to the new lighting I could make out a man walking towards me with a flashlight in hand. Instinctively, I put one of my hands between the light and my eyes and the other over my family jewels. The man noticed this and lowered his flashlight. I dropped my raised hand on top of my other hand and gazed at the man. He was old and ghostly pale, and dressed in a brown suit and had a wild sort of feeling about him.

"Why hello, almost naked youngster!" he said as his wrinkly lips curled into a smile, "I didn't expect to run into anyone outside on this nice... lonely night."

His words sent shivers down my spine, they had a hollow and wispy ring to them. I got onto my feet so I could meet him eye to eye. But his eyes wandered down.

"Show some decency!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry." I muttered as my hands returned to their original position.

"Anyway, before I was interrupted by your barbaric conduct I was going to say, you look so scared and alone. Defenceless. Stranded even," he said slowly as he licked his lips in anticipation, "Your life just hangs in the balance, ready for the taking of anyone who so pleases."

I took a large step away from him. His cryptic words were unsettling and I felt the need to put some distance between us in case he tried something funny.

"Not so fast!" he said as he closed the distance. "You know there is no escape. Unless being found like a gutted pig is your fancy." He laughed as he pocketed a dagger that I hadn't noticed before.

"Look sir, I don't know who you are you don't know who I am. So, how about both of us just turn around and go along our merry way?" I proposed to the man in the best diplomatic voice I could muster.

The old man chuckled and said, "Nonsense! I couldn't leave you out here for the scavengers to feast on!" He draped his arm over my shoulder before continuing in a lower voice, "Brother, comrade, friend, whatever. The woods are dripping with evil tonight."

"How is that?" I questioned him. He seemed to have some knowledge about the recent happenings in the woods and I decided to pry some out.

He chuckled once more as if it were fairly obvious, much to my disdain. He replied, "Something is… different about the woods tonight, if you live in the wilderness you develop a sense for these things. Likewise I can tell that your pokémon is... dead," The final bit startled me and I took a small step back. He noticed this and explained further "Lots of pokémon are dying tonight. Without a mark to bear as if the cause was some internal meltdown of sorts. And I assure you, that your loss is not the only one that will be remembered on this night. In fact, you yourself are quite lucky to survive," he smiled as he said this.

"What do you mean?" I replied.

"Let's just say that there won't be many that see the break of dawn."

I gulped. Shit had gone down in the woods and I survived.

"How many hours until the sun rises?" I asked, hoping that sunrise would yield some safety.

"A few," he simply stated, "I'd advise you however... to return to the safety of Jubilife."

As we spoke the man had led me up a hill and on cue bright shimmering lights flooded the horizon. Tall peaks of steel and glass reached high into the air bearing the ensigns of their respective owners. The skyline was impressive, it spanned most of the plateau that Jubilife rested on and made the entire plateau seem to glow. But amongst all the buildings one stood out the most. It easily towered over the neighbouring skyscrapers and bore a large hologram of a green rice bowl with chopsticks lying in it. Alae Rigel.

Despite my doomed quest I refused to return as a failure who was defeated by nature and had no choice but to return to a mundane life with a negligent mother and an overbearing father. A father who had my entire life planned for me before I even manifested as a sperm cell in his balls. There was no way that I would return back so soon into my quest.

"But, I know you have other intentions," he seemed to have read my mind prompting me to glance suspiciously at him. "And, I can help you with that," he said as he smiled and looked into my eyes. "If you head to Oreburgh unarmed, your death is assured, and as you seem to be the only one to have actually escaped the pursuit of this force, it is not out of the question that it would want you dead. Simply to keep its record clean." He looked around before continuing, "As this is the case, and I did say that I would not like to see you dead. I am willing... to be of assistance to you." At that his hand reached into his pocket and pulled out a small green and black ball in a very deliberate manner.

"In this dusk ball, a pokémon lies dormant, and I shall give him to you to ensure your safety." The old man held out his open hand as his smile spread as wide as humanly possible.

There was no doubt that it was a genuine smile, but clearly he had some sort of sinister motivation. It seemed as if I had played into one of his traps, his entire approach did seem rather rehearsed. I suspected foul play yet I had no choice, I either took the dusk ball or I would die by the same force that had killed hundreds like me tonight. The old man's smile seemed to stretch even wider, as he seemed to follow along my thoughts. I wasn't fond of another person holding such immense power over me, yet I was a coward and chose the ball over death.

I slowly reached for the ball and as I moved closer I felt an invisible chain being drawn around my neck. As my hand drew closer to the ball the chain got tighter. My fingers were greeted by an abnormal chill as they wrapped around the ball. Then the knot was tied, the chain tightened around my neck and I was shackled to a destiny that I had lost control over.

I sighed in resignation and as I pulled my hand away it brushed against his open palm, but it resulted in no sensation. I didn't think much of it and instead decided to examine the ball.

It was old. Very old. The metal was scratched all over and the hinge was nearly broken. The paint was also faded. I tossed the ball up and caught it, to my surprise it made rattling noises, much like a chain would.

I suddenly felt like a traitor for accepting this pokémon, was I disregarding my history with my previous pokémon by accepting a replacement from a man I knew nothing about. What would he be thinking, if he was watching me from the stars above, Master has already replaced me, has he forgotten our shared laughs and struggles?

I fought back tears as I reached for my old pokéball. Plain old red on top and white below. I squeezed the ball as I felt for the first time in my life my voice fail and body shake. I wanted to do nothing more than to reunite with my fallen friend.

But that was a foolish dream. The dead were dead, and there was nothing in my power to change that. All that was within my capacity was to right the wrong inflicted on his innocent soul. And so, just as anyone else in the heat of the moment would, I vowed that the unmaker of my one true friend would perish at my hands or I would die trying.

I was reminded of the old man's existence when he broke into uncontrolled laughter. I quickly looked towards the man and fell back in shock. He had vanished leaving nothing behind. I looked around in a confused manner before it dawned on me, "He wasn't real…" I muttered as I stared at the dusk ball, "Yet this is…"

I rolled the ball around in my hand, it was still unusually cold but it comforted me. I knew that whatever beast resided within, was capable of protecting me and ultimately assisting me in achieving my goals.

I looked around and decided that I had no choice but to go down the road away from Jubilife and towards Oreburgh. I got back onto my feet and glanced at the ball one last time before pocketing it. Whatever was in it, would have a long struggle ahead to gain my trust. For, despite being a tool for me, it clearly had its own goal prescribed by the old man.

I sighed as I brushed aside these draining thoughts, my long term goals could wait. As of now, I needed to escape route 203 and pass through the Oreburgh Gate and into safety.

So began my trek along the road with Jubilife's shining skyline as my backdrop. Every step that I took made the chains rattle, seemingly to remind me of my foolish decision to get involved in affairs that I did not comprehend.

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Sinnoh Encyclopaedia, Alae Rigel Incorporated

Industry: Conglomerate

Founded: Jubilife City, Sinnoh

Founder: Rigel, Elias

Headquarters: Jubilife Square, Jubilife City, Sinnoh

Key People: Rigel, Titus (CEO, President, Chairman)

Total Assets: 4.224 trillion PKD

Alae Rigel, is a Sinnoh company formed from the assimilation of various industries across a vast spectrum of fields. Elias Rigel formed the company after the discovery of a new species of rice that experienced tremendously increased growth rates leading to multiple harvests during a year. Many hold the belief that this crop was the product of Landorus' blessing after Elias' famous The Fast of Grains.

The rice variant dominated the industry within years out competing most farmers of the Jubilife Highlands. This domination lead to families feuding with the Rigels to get a hold of their crops leading to the Battles of Rice, a series of conflicts spanning three years. Lord Julius III was forced to interfere after food caravans from the hills were being attacked. A meeting was held with the intent of convincing the Rigels to distribute their crops freely. Elias proposed that other farmers could use his rice so long as they bought seeds from the Rigel family yearly (thereby burning their seed stock yearly) and paid a tax from their earnings. The proposal was quickly accepted leading to the rise of Julius' empire, who could now easily feed his populous and armies. This proposal also led to creation of the newly branded Rigel Rice corporation.

Until the collapse of the Julius empire in 0CE Rigel Rice was a purely domestic enterprise, yet with the collapse they had no restriction in determining their customers and began to sell their lucrative seeds as far as The Dominion of Barca in modern day Sunnyshore. With the dawn of a new era Rigel Rice was thrust into a position of unprecedented wealth and was the first modern corporation to be formed in the world.

Rigel Rice changed its name to Alae Rigel in the year 834CE to reflect its rapid acquisition of lucrative corporation in all industries. In recent times they have gained control over several arms manufacturers, defence contractors, biotechnology firms, and pharmaceutical companies. Meanwhile the Rigel Rice brand is still used by a subsidiary of Alae Rigel that manufactures genetically modified crops of all sorts.