~~~ *** ~~~
The young man’s eyes searched the skyline and found a cerulean horizon – a horizon that signaled that dawn was quickly approaching. He gazed down the darkened pathway. It was just as he thought – soldiers in foreboding-looking black armor were patrolling the streets. He began to move swiftly and quietly down the roads, hoping that he would not be seen. Then again – he had been trained for stealth at one point, so he was better at it than others.
Out of the corner of his golden-brown eyes, he caught a glimpse of something – a young woman was up before the sun as well. She looked like one of the ordinary townsfolk, out to take a brisk morning walk.
The young man heard a rattling and stopped cold in the shadow of one of the houses. He had kicked up a small stone in his movements – a rookie mistake. He swore mentally as he saw a man with a black helmet, a black chestplate, and shoulder pads turn around. This man was obviously light infantry – a common rank-and-file soldier. He was accompanied by another light infantryman whose hair was visible even under his helmet. The second soldier appeared to be older, as he had a full beard of brown flecked with auburn, whereas the other was clean-shaven and looked, in fact, like he could not grow facial hair if he tried.
“Hey, kid, what’re you looking at?” the older soldier spoke, as the young man predicted, in a gruff-sounding voice.
“I heard something,” the younger soldier replied. The young man in the shadows did his level best to keep even his breathing silent. Of course, with no reinforcements around, he could just shoot them – that was his normal way of doing things – but, he had somewhere to be and someone that he had to meet...very soon, and the bodies of two dead soldiers laying in the middle of the road at sunrise wouldn’t do much to help secrecy.
After about six seconds, the older soldier grunted, “Boy, you’re bein’ paranoid. You think someone’d dare try to ambush us? We’re the army of His Imperial Majesty. We hold all the power around here. And if someone does try something stupid, we just kill ‘em. Simple as that.”
It was all the young man in the shadows could do to keep from pouncing on them in that moment. He was calling himself ‘Imperial Majesty’...trying to set himself up as an Emperor. Kings are content, most of the time, to rule the land they inherited from whoever was last in line. Emperors, however, were an entirely different story. Emperors – true emperors – had no qualms about taking over neighboring nations and ruling them with an iron fist. This young man knew that the current king had that attitude – consolidate his own power and crush all opposition. This was exactly why there were guards in the streets of Petalburg City for no good reason except to intimidate the people. It was just a good thing that...with his current occupation, he had put ‘them’ off of his trail. If ‘they’ were still after him, then the King’s soldiers would be the least of his worries.
“Hey!” the young man heard yelling in the distance.
“You can’t do this!” he then heard the shriek of a young woman – was it that same young woman he’d seen leaving her home moments ago? Had she been captured?
“We’re the King’s soldiers. We can do whatever the hell we – want!” another voice joined the clamor and the young man heard a sound of contact. He couldn’t see anything from here, but his guess was that the young woman had just been struck. How dishonorable – men that call themselves knights attacking a woman before dawn...cowardly. If he had his way, they would all be dead.
But, alas, he had to wait...wait and hope that they didn’t kill her...because he had somewhere to go.
“Something’s going on over there – let’s move!” he heard the older infantryman shout.
“Right!” the younger footman replied, and both of them ran down the road and out of sight.
Amazed at his fortune, the young man moved from one shadow into the next, until he finally came upon an alleyway that led to a dead end between two buildings. There were about six feet between the buildings – he would have barely been able to stretch himself out between them and fit. He immediately ran into a man with a green hood over his head and covering his eyes.
“Hello,” the hooded man said.
“ ‘Sup,” the young man said lazily, massaging his neck in a nonchalant manner.
“What is more precious to you – rubies or sapphires?” the hooded man asked. The young man smiled and didn’t take this as an awkward question. He had seen it coming. He opened his mouth and gave a strange answer.
“Emeralds,” he said.
Instantly, as if he’d said some sort of secret password, the hooded man parted to let him past. As soon as he was in, the hooded youth, like a human gate, turned and barred the way again. The young man started down the alley. He took three steps, and then turned around.
“Good job, Cal – you’re getting the hang of this,” he said. Truth be told, the youth that was guarding the alleyway was a year younger than he. Technically, by the country’s laws, he was still a boy – but he had been assigned to this task and was doing a very good job of it. The young man turned and continued to walk down the alley. He reached the end of it and hung a right, opening a door there. Inside appeared to be a dilapidated living room. From the roof hung one light – and rather precariously, at that. The walls were cracked in places and from one of them hung a picture of a sunrise over mountains. At least, that’s what the young man thought that it had been at one time. Now, it was broken in two and severely faded. He stepped inside and down two stairs. Both of them creaked, alerting two men that were sitting at a table and appeared to be playing chess to his presence.
“Oh, you’re here,” one of them said. Both of them appeared to be wearing the same green hoods that the boy outside had been wearing. They both turned their chairs toward the young man, who plopped himself rather lazily on the broken-down sofa at the near side of the room. His bronze eyes studied both men intently for a few seconds before anyone spoke.
“So...back from your little scouting mission,” the second hooded man said. “How much trouble did you stir up this time?”
“Just a little,” the young man replied. Then, smirking, he added, “But the information I did get is well worth the trouble.”
The two hooded men now stared at this young man intently.
“And what’s that?” the first one asked.
“One of the other two is here in Hoenn,” the young man said.
For the calmness of his statement, you would have thought that someone had just dropped a bombshell in the dimly lit room. Both of the hooded men’s expressions changed instantly, as they knew exactly what this youth was talking about.
“You’re not lying to us, are you?” the second hooded man asked.
“Would I have a reason to?” the young man replied. “This is our shot.”
“Speaking of shooting...” the first hooded man said. “...how many people did you knock off in order to get this information?”
“None,” the young man said. “That’s not to say that I didn’t try, though. I fought him.”
“Someone brought it here?” the second hooded man asked incredulously.
“Yeah – you know the rules,” the young man said. “You can’t have two just pop up in the same nation – it’d upset the balance of power. It had to be brought here – either by the creator of the sword or by the wielder. In this case, it was the wielder.”
“And you fought him?” the first hooded man asked.
“Sure did,” the young man said. “I found it in the hands of a kid. He couldn’t have even been Cal’s age, actually. So...I tried to take it off of him. I thought he just happened to come upon it by chance and didn’t know what it was – one of my rare mistakes. It turns out, this kid...well, he’s no ordinary kid, that’s for sure.”
“You would have killed a boy to get it?” the first hooded man nearly exclaimed. “You’re more brutal than I thought!”
“Whatever needs to be done, right?” the young man said nonchalantly. “Yeah, I would have killed him...if I could have. But he knew what he was doing. Not only did he have it, but he knew how to use it – very well. When I realized that, I backed off and I had a better idea...getting it’s great, but getting that and the one using it...”
“Why him? Why can’t you just take it from him?” the second hooded man asked.
“There’s a couple of reasons for that,” the young man said. “First off, only one of them can truly unlock its power...second, it’d be one hell of a lot easier to protect it if it’s being protected by its rightful owner. If they fall into the wrong hands...or worse yet, if he chooses that side.”
“This kid’s that good?” the first hooded man asked.
“He’s damn good,” the young man replied. “I told you, he’s a freak. He already has perfect command of battojutsu. Few people nowadays do, much less at his age.”
“Battojutsu?” the first hooded man repeated.
“Fighting from the draw,” the young man explained. “To do that, you need a decent amount of speed. This kid has speed...on top of speed. He disappears when he attacks, which makes him a real ***** to try and fight off. I don’t look scratched up, but the truth is, I barely got away with my life. But the third thing....”
“Huh?” both hooded men chorused as the young man’s expression suddenly became serious.
“...His eyes...” the young man said in nearly a whisper. “He’s got the same look in his eyes a lot of people told me I had when I got here – only worse.”
“Worse?!” the first hooded man exclaimed as the other one gasped.
“When he looks at you,” the young man said, closing his own eyes. “It’s enough to freeze your blood over. If I hadn’t been so intent on getting the sword, I would have turned and run. Those eyes have seen things...indescribable things.”
He stood and drove his fists into the table that was between him and the two seated men. Leaning over it, he stared at them both, a wild look in his eyes.
“He looked...” the young man said. “...he looked like someone who had seen hell itself and was determined not to go back.”
As the youth backed away and slumped back onto the sofa, one of the hooded men commented, “Don’t you think you’re being a little bit dramatic?”
“No,” the young man said. “I knew something was off about him when I realized that he wasn’t the slightest bit afraid of me. He said that he wouldn’t show me any mercy. He had no qualms about killing. I could tell that by the way he fought...we can’t get that sword away from him. Not the way I tried to do. He’s too skilled.”
“What should we do about him, then?” the hooded man asked.
“We have to get him to join us – it’s the only way,” the young man replied. “And even that’s a little risky. If we don’t do it right, we could end up dead – or worse, pushing him away to the other side. If he joins on the other side...we have no chance.”
“You think he would?” the second hooded man asked.
“I don’t know anything about his moral position...” the young man replied. “But what concerns me more is his mental state. When I fought him, I saw just a tiny glimpse of desperation – insanity, you could even call it. In that state...there’s no telling what he could –“
The young man stopped midway through his sentence. The other two hooded men proceeded to ask them what was going on, until he quickly put a finger to his mouth and shushed them.
“Hello,” he heard a voice outside and knew instantly what it was. “What is more precious to you? Rubies or sapph–AARGH!”
A loud scream echoed in from the alley. The young man’s eyes went wide.
“Stay here!” he shouted to the other men, exiting and drawing his weapon. His eyes turned left immediately as he saw a horrific sight – a man with black armor plunging a bloodied sword in and out of a fallen body on the ground. His eyes flashing, he pointed his weapon and aimed. The soldier stopped making a pincushion out of the body and looked at him blankly –
Lightning shot forth from the two barrels on the young man’s gun. It struck the soldier in the heart, and his smoking corpse fell limply on the top of the other body. The young man sprinted to where the two bodies lay and forcefully kicked the body of the soldier off of the other to find the body of the body of the boy who had greeted him a few minutes before. His entire outfit was matted and stained with blood, and his eyes were locked in a wide stare straight up into the sky...but these eyes did not see anything any longer. Lowering his hand onto the boy’s face, he veiled those eyes with their own lids and allowed his eternal sleep to be full.
“Rest in peace, kid,” he sighed. Then, standing up, he looked out toward the alleyway, his eyes hard and emotionless. He’d been looking for a good excuse to do this all day.
Again, he was in the shadows of the buildings of Petalburg. Things were a bit tougher this time around, however, as the sky was substantially lighter. He saw a soldier run into a nearby alley. How comical. This man, no doubt looking for his comrade, had made a wrong turn. Apparently, the soldier realized that as well and started out of the alley, right at the young man. The young man took off into the alley to confront the soldier head-on.
Two stabs, a shot, and a can of spray-paint later, the young man came out of the alley. The soldier, however remained there – dead and slumped against a wall with a word that had been spray-painted on his black armor in capital, white letters.
He walked through the streets, doing a rather good job of hiding his weapon (not like there were a lot of people around yet) until he reached a slightly wider alley, from which he heard screaming and clamor much like he’d heard nearly an hour ago when that young woman had been captured. Then he heard three words – all he needed to hear:
“Hold her down!”
He rushed into this alleyway to see a group of soldiers chaining a struggling young woman – the same one he’d seen taking her morning walk earlier that day – to a post in front of a wall. One of the lieutenants of this small band of six or seven reached a hand up to the young woman’s pale, white face and stroked it.
“Now, don’t you worry your little head, missy,” he said sinisterly. “You’re doing the King a favor – meetin’ the needs of his soldiers...so we won’t hurt you too badly.”
“You shouldn’t do that,” the soldier whirled around to see a young man leaning against the far wall, tapping a strange weapon on his shoulder. “Some passerby might feel sorry for the innocent lady and decide to do something about it.”
“Is that so?” the lieutenant took two steps toward the young man. “Tell me when he gets here.”
“Go to hell,” the young man said quickly. The lieutenant laughed.
“That’s a funny one, boy,” the soldier guffawed.
“I meant it literally,” the young man said, drawing his weapon. “Here – let me show you the way!”
A bolt of lightning shot from the gun again, and the lieutenant fell in a heap – dead before he hit the ground.
“Lieutenant!” one of the soldiers ran over to his officer to check for a pulse...a pulse that wasn’t there. Realizing this, the soldier looked up and his eyes flashed. “You...impudent...ba–“
The rest of that statement was replaced by a death gurgle and a coughing up of blood. The other five soldiers all jumped backwards once they realized why – the young man was presently yanking the blade that protruded from his gun out of the soldier’s stomach. The issue with that was the fact that, a second ago, he’d been standing at least twenty yards away. He sidestepped the body and allowed it to fall upon the corpse of the other man whose life he had just ended. He shot a hard look at the other soldiers, who all looked like they were about to wet their pants.
“We’ve got to tell Fergus!” one of the soldiers shouted.
“Right!” another shouted, and all five took off full speed out of the alley, running in zigzags so that the young fighter could not get a clear shot.
“Damn it,” the young man muttered. “I’ll deal with them later.”
With a flick of his wrist, he managed to cut the ropes tying the young woman to the post without cutting the young woman herself. Once free, she examined both of her wrists, which were red and rubbed raw by the ropes the soldiers had used to tie her.
“Sorry you had to see that,” he said, turning away from the young woman. “But I guess seeing that won’t scar you half as much as what they were going to do to you...”
“What’s your name?” the young woman asked. “I want to know who saved me.”
“Can’t tell you that,” the youth replied briskly. “Then, I’d have to kill you.”
“Alright, well...thank you,” the young woman said, running out of the alley as quickly as her legs would take her. This left the young man alone in the alley with the two corpses, so he moved to an inside wall and pressed himself against it, so as to not make himself visible to anyone who happened to be walking down the main road. With the sky still not at full daytime light, anyone who passed that way would be fortunate indeed to even see the corpses of the two soldiers. While he stood there, he wondered inwardly if there were any other young women that had been tied to that post – any that he wasn’t around to save. Spurred on by this thought (great timing – he could have sworn that he heard a scream), he swept around the corner and out of the alley. It took about three steps out of the alley for it to register with the young man that his element of surprise was gone.
“So, I guess this solves that little mystery we had for a few weeks about some of our soldiers inexplicably turning up dead,” the young man turned to his right. Five soldiers – no doubt the five that had escaped him moments earlier – surrounded a taller man in full black armor who had a serrated sword to...
The young man’s heart sank. The young woman whom he had just rescued had been captured again and was now being used as a hostage, apparently. So, he had to play it cool – not like that was something new for him.
“Turning up dead? That sucks,” the young man said, lowering his weapon. “Apparently, someone has a problem with ‘His Imperial Brutality’.”
“Don’t you mock the King!” one of the soldiers said, brandishing a sword about two feet in length.
“Don’t charge,” the young man said lazily. “You’re going to wish you hadn’t.”
But the impulsive soldier didn’t listen. Running full speed at the young man, he reared back and swung his sword at him wildly. The youth moved at the last possible second, so quickly that it looked like he’d just...
“...disappeared...” the captain of the five muttered.
Make that four – as the one that had charged now had a blade coming through his heart from the back. The youth yanked it out so quickly that even the blood flew clean off and turned around toward the remaining infantryman and their captain as this one soldier, now behind him, slumped to the ground, dead.
“That’s five today,” the young man sighed. “So...why don’t you let go of the nice lady I just rescued ten minutes ago, before you dig an early grave for yourself and all the peons you’ve got left? I think I recognize you now – Fergus, was it?”
“Heh,” the captain, who had grizzled skin and a noticeable scar over his left eye, grunted. “So, the rumors are true. You talk about brutality...a boy hardly of age that kills indiscriminately with no fear and no conscience...Iceman.”
“Iceman? Damn, I’ve gotten pretty popular,” the young man commented. “I’ve got a problem with about half of your statement, though. First of all, I don’t kill indiscriminately. There’s only two groups of people that have been victims to this weapon. The first includes anyone that’s on the wrong side. The second...well, that’s none of your business. And the second...I don’t lack a conscience. I don’t kill beings with souls – but as far as I’m concerned, anyone that can put on that armor and wear it with their head up has sold their soul to you-know-who...that’s where you and I have a problem.”
“You’ve been a pain in our *** for half a year,” Fergus grunted. “Matter of fact...you’re up in the Top Ten of the King’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. Let me put it this way. With the money somebody could get for ruining their purity by killing you, they could buy themselves some more of it.”
“I’m being hunted – I won’t lie,” the young man said. “First you guys...now you’ve got bounty hunters on my ***...but isn’t it funny how all the ones that do manage to find me just seem to disappear from the face of the earth? Hell, it’s self-defense at that point, so I’m well within my rights as a citizen. Oh, that’s right – under the ‘New Regime’, there are so such things as ‘rights’ anymore. I forgot – sorry. Then, not to mention, ‘they’ have been tracking me ever since I escaped two years ago...”
“What are you yammering on about?” Fergus asked. “You’re lucky I’m deciding to humor you. You could be dead already.”
“I sort of doubt that,” the young man said, raising the barrel of his gun toward Fergus’ head.
“Yeah...bullet beats a sword, no doubt...but you still don’t want to do that,” the grizzled captain said. “Not unless you’re damn sure about your aim. Don’t want to hurt little missy here, do you?”
He yanked the young woman closer to him, putting her in a sort of one-armed stranglehold. The young man groaned and lowered his weapon. Suddenly, though, he saw something flashing along the high buildings to his right. It was a shadow...but no ordinary shadow. He recognized the way those shadows moved. They were here, too? The timing was about as bad as it could get...but he knew his own priorities.
Roaring, he turned and shot up toward that building. A fireball shot up in that direction from his gun, but missed its mark and continued to streak skyward like a rocket being propelled into space. He looked around and then toward Fergus and his gang. Fergus swung his sword at something behind him but appeared to have missed it. Roaring in frustration he threw the young woman to the ground.
“Get the hell outta here!” he shouted. The young woman did not need telling twice – she took off for her home as quickly as possible. At that point, Fergus let out an awful roar and the young man watched a fleck of blood fly up from his left shoulder. The young man saw Fergus yank what appeared to be a kunai-like knife from that shoulder. His worst fears were confirmed.
Half because he needed to, and half because this was his perfect chance to escape from under the noses of the soldiers, he broke in the other direction, down another alley different from the ones had he had walked earlier. He heard a shouting behind him and realized that Fergus and the troops were clearing off. He stopped at the end of this alleyway. Like the others, there was a bit of an open area here – like the urban version of a forest clearing. In front of him, there was a chainlink fence that went up some ten...twenty...thirty feet. He saw in the dim light a form perched upon this fence with knives in its hands. The two stared at each other for several seconds. He knew who this person belonged to, even if he couldn’t see the face. Hatred welled up inside him like a volcano ready to erupt.
And then it did.
Screaming violently, the young man raised his gun toward the fence and fired. A bolt of lightning shot from it. The form leapt from the height of the fence. It was now at least fifty feet in the air, silhouetted by the brightening sky to the point of nearly being impossible to see. It was performing strange hand signals. It took a knife from what appeared to be its side pocket and threw it – except the knife never came down. Instead, it was a ball of red flame. The youth rolled out of the way and looked to his left to see a kunai protruding from the ground. He heard another scream...
like the devil possessing the shadow......and looked up. He barely had time to block an attempted double stab from a pair of kunai, but he responded quickly enough, by slashing –
Nothing but air. The shadow had flipped behind him and he turned around, jumping backward just in time to avoid a very rough ‘X’ being carved into his chest. The shadow was way too quick for him, though. He fended off strike after strike after strike after strike from its kunai, until he was finally backed into a wall. With an ear-piercing shriek, the shadow pounced upon him one last time with one of its knives. The young man avoided having his jugular vein cut by mere inches as the knife pierced the top of the outfit into which he had changed recently. It consisted of a black, red-trimmed, trenchcoat-like garment that extended all the way down to his knees, as well as black pants. The knife had gotten in right at the collar of his jacket, so he was fortunate indeed. He heard panting below him and finally got a good look at who had been attacking him.
the beautiful shadow...
She was a girl – maybe about his own age. Her shoulder-length hair was a deep blood red, and was held in place slightly by a white bandage around her forehead, which threw into sharp relief the bangs on one side of her forehead, which were somehow an aged-looking silver-white color. There was a wildness seizing her silver eyes – a wildness that was, fortunately, becoming more and more tamed with each passing second. She had fingerless, black gloves on, which were attached to sleeves, which were in turn attached to absolutely nothing. Her outfit – blood-red and very tight – was an entity all on its own.
“You’re not...one of them?” the girl asked, stepping away. “Your weapon...is strange.”
“A rogue?” the young man muttered.
The eyes of each studied the other for a few silent moments. The young man silently battled within himself...she was beautiful, and she seemed to be so afraid...but she was one of them. One of his sworn enemies. He could tell. No one else on the planet fought like that anymore.
“I have no business with you,” the girl said, quickly yanking the knife out of the collar of his jacket and freeing him from the wall. She bounded up an opposite wall and on top of the fence, then leapt again and was out of sight.
“You’d better hope it stays that way,” the young man muttered, cocking his gun. “If we ever meet again, I’ll be the last thing you ever see. Runaway or not – I hate your kind, regardless.”
As he left the alley, wondering if the two men he had left at the shack were still even alive after this long rabbit trail, his heart felt something a bit different. For some strange reason, the world was darker, and yet brighter at the same time. Clearer, and yet foggier.
Something in his dark world had been shaken, and he couldn’t tell what it was. It scared him, to be completely honest, which was saying something significant. He was called ‘Iceman’ for a reason – he was said to have ice running through his veins, because he felt little and feared nothing...normally. Today, though...something was different. All of these meetings with people...something big was around the corner – and he had this strange feeling that he was to be a part of it.
Lots of stuff going on here, eh? The sh!t's going to hit the fan in the next chapter, though. For now, here's info on the Fakemon used in this chapter. There were two of them.
Weight: 10 lbs.
The word on Porcuspine: Normal-type that is becoming increasingly common around Hoenn. Definitely not known for being a speedster - but its defense is amazing.
Supplied by: Air Dragon
Weight: 27 lbs.
The word on Pyrika: Very rare fire-type that has been recently discovered. In Hoenn, it is usually seen around Mt. Chimney, so the fact that Katrina happened upon one where she did was very lucky indeed. It is well-rounded in battle, and also uses the pesky Fireworks attack, which can also lower a target's accuracy if it makes contact.
Supplied by: Air Dragon
Now, things to ask yourself for the next chapter:
- How do Travis and Katrina fare in their battles against the rookie gym leader, Stella?
- What is the true name of the youth known as the 'Iceman'?
- Who is the kunoichi that has been appearing in the area, and what are her motives?
Hope you enjoyed this chapter - and Amber's random personality. I'm going to have a lot of fun with that. ^_^
- EM1, out.