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Thread: Pokemon: The Thieves of Time

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    Default Pokemon: The Thieves of Time

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    Title: Pokémon: The Thieves of Time
    Author: Yusshin
    Rating: PG (view individual chapter ratings as well)
    Genre: Adventure; Fantasy; Random Romantic Themes; Medieval-Themed
    Total Words: 18,572
    Completion: 6%
    Disclaimer: Story © Yusshin 2010-2011; Pokemon names and themes © Game Freak & Nintendo 1995-2011. The use and redistribution rights of this fanfiction is reserved by Yusshin.

    I have placed this fanfiction of the following sites:

    Bulbapedia [Yusshin]
    PokeCommunity [Yusshin]
    Fanfiction [Yusshin]
    Serebii [Yusshin]
    Young Writer's Society [Yusshin]

    Index:

    Chapter I (PG)
    Chapter II (G)
    Chapter III (G)
    Chapter IV (G)
    Chapter V (G)

    Setting: The Kingdom of Iris - 450 Years before the birth of Red

    This story isn't based on the historical medieval times. It's just meant to be themed with a medieval feel - no electricity, no cars, no electric boats, etc. - but some things may or may not have been invented at the same time as modern medieval history. That's why I specified "450 years before Red", and not "1500". That way, technically things that weren't invented until 1800 (i.e. the couch) could still be used in the story, since it's not meant to be a historical reference. It's an entirely different world - an entirely different dimension, even - which is why some ideals within the fanfiction aren't factual, because it isn't based on historical events.

    BELOW THIS LINE CONTAINS SPOILERS!

    Synopsis:
    * Caution; the synopsis contains spoilers
    ** The synopsis may become outdated at some points, due to slight changes in plot development

    Shin, a twenty-year-old man, was orphaned at the age of ten. An argument with his parents spared his life during a raid by the Espion, a sinister group of pirates who specialize in perfect camouflage, and he was "adopted" by the leader, Lumina, for undisclosed reasons. Ten years later, Shin finally manages to escape his imprisonment on the group's hidden, foggy island fortress but is lost at sea with his pokémon, poochyena, when Lumina chases him and uses sharpedo's Hyper Beam to destroy the boat. Assuming he was hit and killed by the Hyper Beam, Lumina and her crew return to their island, leaving Shin to turn up half-drowned on the beach at the mainland.

    When he's discovered by an elderly couple, he is taken in and is offered a residence there. He accepts and is charged with helping the husband with his carpentry. When the man dies a few months later, the woman sells their house by the sea and, along with poochyena, ride to Leonwood where their son studies plants and wildlife in the area. They take up residence with the son, who appoints Shin his assistant. Shin helps him by pointing out anything interesting he might see, and is also in charge of carrying the researcher's books and equipment.

    A few days later, while fast asleep in his room within the researcher's cabin, Shin hears a strange voice singing. He follows it into the forest and discovers an entity of some sort hovering in the middle of a tranquil pond. It stops singing and turns around, revealing itself to be a translucent, blue celebi. It speaks in riddles and rhymes as it approaches the speechless Shin. When it touches Shin's mother's heirloom, a precious piece of blue iolite, it disappears completely, leaving the gem itself to shine brightly.

    Confused, Shin shoves the iolite into his shirt to smother the brightness and returns to the cabin where the researcher awaits him. He explains his encounter with the "blue fairy" and is told that what he saw appeared to be celebi; however, why celebi would be blue, the researcher doesn't know.

    A few days later, the song reaches out to Shin again, but when he arrives at the pond this time, nothing is there. The song is imminent, though, and when he takes out his iolite, instead of it shining brilliantly, it instead shines in a specific direction. When followed, Shin discovers a cave filled with interesting specimens of plants and trees. He also finds an altar (similar to the one you see 450 years later in the Ilex Forest, Johto) with three distinct placeholders in it. One is a sphere; another is a cube, and the final one is a pyramid shape.

    Suddenly, the researcher appears out of no where and is thrilled with the new tree species; however, he also brought along a book about celebi. Apparently, celebi is the protector of the forests and travels through time to bring life to them. Without celebi, plants and trees cannot grow properly, and are weak and frail. According to the researcher, celebi visits every forest in the world at least once a year; lately, though, celebi has disappeared, and even the researcher received reports from professors in other kingdoms about the strange, frail forest problems. It is in the opinion of the researcher of Iris that celebi has become trapped in time, or has died completely.

    Shin's iolite, shapes like a sphere, points in the direction of the altar, and Shin reluctantly places his family heirloom in it. Celebi suddenly appears again, as blue as ever, and once again speaks to Shin (and this time, the researcher, too) by using telepathy. Again celebi speaks in riddles and rhymes, and after examining what's been said, Shin finally understands what needs to be done.

    He needs to find the three Soul Gems and return them to the Shrine of Celebi. Then, he must find the Flute of Time and the one who knows the song to awaken celebi from its fading state. When this is done, celebi's soul, trapped in the Soul Gems, will reunite as one, and it'll once again be able to travel through time and protect its forests.

    But will the Espion allow that to happen?

    Character Details
    * Character Details contain spoilers!

    Shin: The main character, Shin's name derives from Japanese, meaning (for lack of a better term) "between heaven and hell". The name, being the screen-name of my fiance in various MMORPGs, was chosen because the character represents my fiance well; also, Shin is a charming, intelligent young man who is against violence, yet for half of his life he worked within a notorious group. His nature represents the heaven part of his name; his job represents the Hell portion. Some of his hobbies and past-times include reading and learning new things. Shin's family (before being killed) consisted of his mother, Pione, and his sister, Emia.

    Alari: The one and only sister of the Espion's leader, Alari is well-educated and enjoys reading. Her favourite room of the Espion's fortress is the library which Lumina stocked with books in her favour. Alari is Shin's close friend; her name derives from a screen-name I used in an MMORPG (Failariel).

    Lumina: Alari's sister and the leader of the Espion, Lumina is a treacherous fiend with her eyes on the prize (Celebi). She spared Shin ten years ago after recognizing his family heirloom, a gorgeous piece of iolite related to Celebi. Assuming, as the legend goes, that Shin would be the one to revive Celebi from its imprisonment, Lumina recruits the boy after killing his family. Lumina's name derives from "Illuminati".

    Ella: Pronounced "Eh-yah", this kindly woman is the wife of the oh-so-stubborn Murrey. She looks after Shin during his unconscious state and offers him a residence there. "Ella" literally means the pronoun "She" in Spanish.

    Murrey: An unfriendly, anti-social man, Murrey is the third person in his family who became a carpenter. He has a dispute with his son, Warden, over the fact that he didn't want to become a carpenter; he wanted to become a florist. After meeting Shin and being hit by a wave of memories, he softens up, and becomes a father figure to the young man. Murrey's name derives from my step-father's surname, "Murray".

    Warden: A herbologist, Warden is a reknown plant researcher in Iris. His studies have brought about new medicine to the under-developed world. After a dispute with his father over his future career, he moved to Leonwood where he became successful. When Murrey dies, he takes in his old mother and her houseguest, Shin, of whom he appoints his assistant. Warden's name derives from the Arabic "Warda", which means "flower".

    Khail: Shin's friend for the last five years, Khail is an active pokémon who enjoys running around, playing, and eating. His name derives from the Arabic "Khail", which means "shadow".

    Nami: The runt skitty belonging to Alari, Nami tends to be calm and quiet; in truth, though, it absolutely adores attention. Nami's name derives from the Arabic "Namira", which means "tigress".

    Asmar: Murrey and Ella's beloved mouse pokémon, Asmar is a plant-loving sandshrew who loves to play. It's also quite proud. Asmar's name derives from the Arabic "Asmar[un]", which means "brown" (since its skin colour is a golden-brown).

    END OF SPOILERS

    Chapter One

    Tomorrow would mark the tenth year since I had joined the Espion involuntarily, and somehow, it seemed like only yesterday I had heard the screams of my parents as they were slain by this heinous group of individuals. The event of that day had placed itself on repeat in my head that entire week: the Espion had infiltrated my home town of Acacia, murdered the townsfolk, destroyed the surrounding environment completely, and pillaged for every valuable item that hadn't been damaged during the raid. The leader of the Espion, who I have now come to know as Lumina, had ordered her crew to set the ruins ablaze and move out – that is, until a young child was brought to her attention. Somehow this child had escaped the entire incident unscathed, and instead of annihilating him as she had done with the others, she decided to recruit him as the youngest member of their infamous group.

    That young child was me.

    For the last decade, I have been jogging my memory in an attempt to figure out why I was spared, why this terrifying group had taken me in after slaughtering my family and friends. Ideas overwhelmed my mind, but none ever made sense. The Espion had used me for infiltration; I guessed that due to my innocent nature, no one would expect that I would be part of such a notorious group. Due to this, I could easily sneak around and collect information as to the location of the richest settlers, escape alleys, and other similar things. Although this is what the team had charged me to do, I was still left to ask why. Why me? I could never find the answer, and because of that, I was left to contemplate what unknown secret, perhaps even desire, was buried in the back of their cruel, dark minds. I felt like a caterpie surrounded by an angry, hungry flock of spearow – stunned, confused, and left to be haunted with whatever unthinkable injustices crept into my mind.

    I looked down beside the chair where a black pokémon lay sleeping. It was the poochyena I received from Lumina when I was fifteen. Referred to as Khail, the poochyena seemed warm and content on the hard, clay floor.

    “Shin.”

    It was Alari, Lumina's younger sister. I looked up at her and immediately noticed her concerned facial expression. Although she, too, was part of the Espion, she shared the same views as me in regards to the group's activities. Since the age of five, she participated in raids and ruthless pillaging of innocent settlements. Only recently, at the age of fifteen, was Alari permitted to raise and own a pokémon of her choice; the pokémon she chose was a rather small skitty of which most considered the runt of the litter. As her friend, I supported her decision, regardless of the fact that it would never grow past half the normal size of a normal, adult skitty. That was two years ago, and although the skitty never did mature to a normal size, Alari trained it in such a way that it became a dependable ally specializing in trickery and speed instead of power and defence. As she stood before me now with her runt skitty, named Nami, tight in her hug-light grasp, a grin was forced onto my face.

    “Shin, are you all right?” she asked, studying my face. “All you've done today is sit in that chair; I'm starting to become worried.”

    “No, no, everything is fine,” I replied promptly. I refused to show any hesitance, as to not raise suspicion. “I was just thinking about yesterday's raid, that's all.”

    Alari pulled up a chair from the table and sat in front of me. She placed skitty on her lap, it purring softly as it tucked itself into a sleeping position. It yawned, stretched a bit, and seemingly began to doze off. Alari petted the small, kitten pokémon before returning her gaze to me, a frown now sprawled across her face.

    “You never think about raids,” she said bluntly, inching her chair towards me. “You prefer to forget about them than to review them.” She took my hand in hers and squeezed a little, staring me deep in the eyes. “What are you really thinking about? After all these years, you should know better than to try and hide things from me.”

    I removed my hand and slouched into the brown armchair. My two arms hung down from either side of the armrests as I relaxed my head on my shoulder. “It's the middle of autumn,” my voice was rather hoarse as I spoke, “and I still haven't paid my respects to my parents. It's been nearly a decade and I haven't even gone to visit their grave.”

    “Oh, Shin, you need to stop thinking about tha-”

    “I can't. I've already tried.” I sighed heavily, depression creeping up on me. “Whenever I think about it, only one thing comes to mind. Do you know what that is?”

    “What is it?”

    “That the only reason I wasn't killed along with them was because I had an argument with my mother that morning, and I told her I was running away and never coming back.” This caught Alari off-guard, it appeared, for her head flinched and her eyes widened. “But you know what, Alari? I did come back. I forgave my mother, and I came back home, but what did I find when I returned?” There was silence, for both of us knew the answer.

    The adolescent gently placed Nami on the floor beside her chair and stood up, walked over behind me, and began massaging my shoulders. Poochyena awoke now, aware of the kitten pokémon that had been placed in its grasp. Khail snarled menacingly.

    “Shin, Shin, Shin.” She pronounced my name in a tone similar to that of a teacher giving a lesson. “You need to put that behind you; you can't change what happened, and you can't go back in time. You should live for the present and not dote on the past.”

    I leaned forward slightly and brought myself to my feet. Alari hesitantly placed her hands at her sides, fiddling with the bottom of her grey, ragged shirt. I stared hatefully into the fire that flickered not too far from where I was standing. That fire, so calm yet so violent, was the cause of this. It engulfed my past and left only ashes and remnants of what used to exist. The only vivid image left of Acacia was the one I saw everyday in my memory.

    Placing Alari's chair back into its position at the table, I said firmly, “I can't just erase my past. Maybe you've erased yours, but I won't erase mine.” I looked at Alari with an icy gaze, one that screamed with apathy. “It's all I have left.”

    With that, I picked up Khail and swiftly departed the room, closing the old, wooden door behind me carelessly. The force used to slam the door had shook the bookshelves enough to topple a few dusty, old books onto the hard, concrete floor. I could have cared less at that point; I just needed to get away.

    Yes, away. Far away.

    I stopped at a window in the corridor and looked out towards the South. I couldn't see anything, for the entire Espion fortress was covered in a thick fog. If you weren't familiar with the area, you would easily become lost within it, especially if a storm were to arise. The only recognizable sound in the area was that of the relentless crashing of the sea waves against the harbour and the jagged rocks surrounding the hide-out. On a small strip of sand in front of a stone staircase lay rocks, shells, and occasionally, a random pokémon, such as krabby or corphish. A stone dock breached the fog and led out to sea; tied to it, the Espion's ship, named the Eclipse, could be left safely unmonitored. The monstrous boat with the tall, white masts and the lapras-shaped figure carved into the bow was a gorgeous sight to behold, until you noticed the white flag with the image of a shadowed kecleon fluttering in the wind ever so silently. The black kecleon was the trademark of the Espion and represented the technique they were most famous for: camouflage. Although it wasn't the most creative of signatures, its symbolization definitely had depth.

    As for the fortress itself, it was rather plain. No trees grew here due to lack of sunlight; the absence of greenery made the site depressing and cold. The fortress was large and occupied most of the island's mass. The entire thing was made of cold, grey clay instead of lumber due to an absence of supplies. With flat roofs and glassless windows, the entire building itself seemed to be better fit in a museum as a historical artifact, and not serving as a fortress for a pack of thieves and pillagers. When I enquired about its construction, I was told by Lumina's right-hand man, Dast'n, that Lumina's great-great grandfather had kidnapped people from all over the kingdom of Iris to labour and toil at its creation. Even children were forced to extract clay from the surrounding areas day and night to provide the necessary material to create the walls, floors and roof. He told me it took a total of three years to complete and by that time, most of the labourers had become sick from malnutrition or had contracted gangrene from kneeling in a wet environment for so long. He seemed amused by this, for as he recounted it to me, his eyes were sparkling sadistically. I was forced to excuse myself due to an intolerance for such inhumanity.

    A grim expression suddenly came across my face. Escape had always been a thought that had crossed my mind, but I always ruled it out, for it would be impossible to swim the length of the sea without drowning. I didn't have a boat nor a water pokémon, and stealing the ship would cause an alarm. Escape always seemed like such a hopeless thought, and even now it's still a hopeless thought, yet I constantly reflect back to it, as if it's somehow possible, but I'm not seeing it.

    “I think I can help.” It was Alari. Skitty mewed softly in her arms.

    “What are you talking about?” I growled at her, then spat. Khail began to snarl as well. “You don't even know what I'm thinking.”

    Alari was stubborn, however. The reply that came was both intriguing and bewildering.

    “Come with me.”

    ~

    We were outside now; the cold, brisk, northern wind brushed against my face and sent a chill running down my spine. Khail, too, didn't seem to appreciate the sudden change in temperature. Alari, who was dressed in the Espion's female costume, didn't seem at all bothered by the chilly weather. Instead, she was cheerful, but alert. Her skitty was also very aware of its environment, for at the slightest sound, its ears would perk up and it'd look around hesitantly. Its muscles would tense up until it reassured itself that nothing posed a threat. At that point, it would relax, and continue to walk on Alari's heels as she strolled casually along. The fog posed an advantage for us, for our navy-blue and grey uniforms camouflaged well with it. As I sidled alongside the rocky cliff of the island, I caught a glance at myself in the water and felt sick. Here I was at the Espion's hide-out wearing their costume. The feelings of shame, embarrassment, and disgust hit me all at once and I suddenly had a compelling urge to vomit.

    The costume itself wasn't hideous, however. Male team members wore a pair of grey slacks sporting the group's signature kecleon at its heel and each had their own individual, navy-blue shirt with the black kecleon on its back. They also wore black boots most of the time and, under regulation, anyone with long hair was required to tie it in a ponytail. As for females, they were given a pair of grey caprices to wear, as well as a navy-blue skirt to go over it. Their shirts were grey and long-sleeved; it, too, sported the black pokémon logo on the back. For shoes, females generally wore black boots which rose a bit further up the leg than those of the males, and they also appeared less bulky and more slim. All costumes were done by hand by Lumina's mother, Raëlle, and everyone took great care of it as to not upset both Lumina and her mother. The costumes were simple and identical, but everyone feared the sight of them.

    Along with their pokémon, members of the Espion are required to always have their sword on-hand, and if necessary, a light shield tempered from iron strapped to their back. The males and the females of the Espion both wore their thin, sharp swords in sheaths on their backs. The sheaths were of a variety of colours; some were black, others were blue, and some were even white. The colour of the sheath didn't really matter; the colour of the hilt did, however, for all Espion-related swords have silver, black, and navy blue hilts. For not only did pokémon battle pokémon in this era, but swords were mandatory to battle other people. One could not solely rely on their pokémon to deal with both the human enemies and the pokémon foes. Regardless of the fact that the Espion is considered an evil operation, team work is very important and recognized as one of the key factors of winning during a mission. If one is not in sync with their pokémon, one will fail. That's one of the valuable lessons you're taught the first day on the field.

    “Shh! Stay still!” Alari hissed at me, pressing her back against the wall of the cliff and staring up. I, too, gazed towards the sky and noticed a member of the Espion patrolling the area on top of the rocks. I petted my poochyena on the head a bit to keep it from howling. He didn't seem to notice us, yet we waited. Finally, the man walked away, unaware of our presence down below.

    “Phew...” The young adolescent let out a sigh of relief. “I thought he'd never leave.”

    Hesitantly, I glanced back towards where the man had been, and then levelled my view. Alari had already started to advance in front of me and I quickly, but quietly, followed suit. The ground beneath soon became overlapped with harmless waves which licked at my feet. To prevent Nami from crying out, Alari picked it up and carried it in her arms, petting it to help it understand that it's safe from harm. As the water soon approached my knees, I found it difficult to keep Khail still. Alari also seemed to have a problem with her skitty, although it was definitely more severe than with poochyena. Luckily, there wasn't much farther to go. As the water edged towards my waist, a black form appeared against the fog. It didn't seem very inviting, yet that's exactly where Alari was headed.

    As we approached, the form of a small rowboat became more and more recognizable. I looked at Alari with a startled expression before saying:

    “Where did you get this?”

    “A while ago, I found it drifting at sea,” she explained excitedly. “There was no one in it; I just assumed that it got detached from the mainland harbour and floated over here.” She was grinning like a child who had just received an unexpected gift from someone.

    “That seems highly unlikely.”

    “Who cares? We have it, don't we?”

    I frowned. Technically she was right, but I still wasn't too convinced on the matter.

    Alari, however, was more than reassured. She was confident. Before I could object, she had already climbed into the boat and was seated in it with skitty. Skitty began to meow in fear; the girl quickly silenced it, though, with pets that stroked from her nose to her back.

    “See? It's stable, too. I'm sure you can use it, Shin.”

    I frowned before reluctantly placing Khail into the boat. It sat up on one of the benches and stared into the water. It then whimpered, as if its own reflection had frightened it, and began to cower beneath the bench. I hoisted myself up, drenched from waist down, into the boat and sat on the bench opposite Alari, almost capsizing the boat in the process. As I looked around and tested the boat's buoyancy, Alari addressed me.

    “Well?” was the impatient word that followed.

    “It seems stable,” I admitted, fiddling with one of the paddles, “but I don't know. I'd love to be able to row to shore and escape this heathen place, but the onshore surveillance is hefty during this time. If we ever were to have any chance whatsoever of escaping successfully, we would have to...” I paused and shook my head, my black hair glistening from the collection of moisture due to fog. “We'd have to depart at night, and that's too dangerous. I wouldn't make it to shore.”

    “I have faith in you, Shin.”

    “Sometimes faith isn't enough.”

    “Well, it should be. In a situation like this, faith is all you have.” She placed Nami on the floor and stood up, water dripping off her clothing and into the boat. She then looked at me with mournful eyes. “Shin...” she began to say, but I cut her off.

    “I'll try,” I stated stiffly. “I'd rather risk my life for freedom than live my life in chains.” I looked up at her and smirked. “Anyplace is better than here after all.”

    Alari smiled joyfully. “Great! I'm so glad!” she exclaimed, clutching her hands together. “I was worried a bit that you would reject, but I knew you would come around. Now we just need to get you ready and wait for nightfall. You'll need food, supplies, pokéfood...”

    “But wait! Aren't you coming with me?” I enquired abruptly, noticing her selflessness.

    To my dismay, Alari shook her head. “I can't go; that would be too peculiar.” She sat back down in the boat, as to stop the endless tilting that plagued the boat while she stood. “I sleep near my sister's bedroom after all. She'll be waiting for me to come to bed, and if I don't show up, she'll search the entire fortress from head to toe looking for me.”

    I thought about this for a moment, and then concurred. Lumina was cruel and vile with everyone else in the Espion, but when it came to her mother or her sister Alari, Lumina was as loyal as one could possibly be. When I first learnt of this a few years ago, I didn't believe it until Alari went swimming and Lumina thought she had become the victim of a gyarados or another hazard, such as a whirlpool. Until Alari was found, Lumina was the most distraught human being I had ever seen – and it makes me wonder how she can live with herself knowing she separates children from their parents permanently at least once a month.

    Poochyena's stomach suddenly growled. It crawled out from beneath the bench and pulled itself onto my lap, nudging me for a something delightfully tasty. Alari noticed this and got out of the boat nimbly. She then grabbed her skitty and held it tightly, wincing as the terrified kitten penetrated its claws into her skin. I attempted to follow her, but Alari stopped me.

    “Stay here, Shin,” she told me with a firm tone, forcefully re-seating me with one hand. “I'll come back soon.”

    “But...”

    “No 'buts',” Alari told me strictly, glaring into my eyes. “Just trust me.”

    I relaxed, convinced, for Alari's glare was both menacing and serious simultaneously. I cast her a soft gaze as she backed away slowly, and then turned completely as to be able to see where she was going. Khail laid down on my lap and sighed, snorting temperamentally.

    “Just trust me.” I contemplated these words as Alari disappeared from sight and left me in a state of unawareness. I didn't know how long she would be or what she was planning on doing. She just said to trust her.

    So I would.

    End Chapter

    Reviews are awesome!
    Last edited by Yusshin; 14th April 2010 at 7:50 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Chapter Two

    Before-Chapter Notes: Sorry my chapters are so short; I want to expand on them, but 5-10 pages in Open Office takes a while to write. Apologies for that.

    Chapter Two

    I must have fallen asleep, for when I awoke, it was already night. My reflection no longer mirrored my image as I leaned over the side of the boat; instead, I stared into a black, sombre liquid that moved so rarely that one could mistake it for ice. Poochyena was fast asleep on my lap, pawing at my slacks in its slumber as it dreamt peacefully.

    Looking around, I noticed just how insanely dark it was in the middle of the sea at night. Before, I hadn't paid much attention to such minor details; however, now that I planned to voyage at sea, the idea of being alone in the dark while traversing the sea with a small, measly rowboat was really not tempting at all.

    Maybe this isn't such a good idea, I thought to myself, observing the sea with fearful intrigue. All alone out in the middle of the sea... What if a storm arises, or a pokémon capsizes the boat? I'd be done for.

    I bit my lip, causing it to bleed slightly. I ignored it. My eyes shifted as I searched hastily for any sign of Alari. There was none. The silence and the wait combined was enough to drive me mad, and yet, I was voluntarily preparing myself to cross a dark, ominous sea at night.

    Something poked me from behind.

    I froze and slowly turned my head in its direction.

    “I'm back.” Alari's voice never sounded more comforting.

    I relaxed and scratched my head nervously. “Finally! I waited for hours!” I said crossly, the young girl climbing into the boat. In her arms were two loaves of bread, a cup of vegetable soup, and a bag full of coins. The loaves of bread were a bit stale-looking but remained edible; the vegetable soup appeared to be newly prepared from dinner; and the coins, called pokécent, were the currency of the kingdom of Iris and came in silver, bronze, and gold. Bronze signified one pokécent; silver signified ten pokécent, and gold signified one hundred pokécent. She handed it to me and watched as poochyena, with its phenomenal sense of smell, instantly awoke and panted for food. I handed it a piece of bread and watching as the small, dark-type pokémon inhaled its food. I took a drink from the cup of vegetable stew and bit into the bread.

    “I assume you ate already then?” It wasn't a question exactly, since I knew the answer and my tone of voice reflected that.

    Alari nodded. “Nami's back in my room eating as well; I figured it'd be wiser to leave it there, since I had so much stuff to carry.”

    I wiped some crumbs off my chest and gave some more bread to the hungry pokémon at my feet. There was a sudden gust of wind that rocked the boat slightly, causing the alarmed dark pokémon to raise its head. It looked around, listening to the sound of the wind as it danced around the rocks. I scratched it behind the ears and took another gulp of my soup.

    The girl, however, seemed a little uneasy. Her eyes were continuously flashing from one side to the other, silently monitoring the area.

    “Is something wrong?” I asked her, becoming nervous myself.

    She frowned. “No, I'm just wary, that's all,” came the soft reply. “I want to make sure that everything's absolutely perfect before you depart.”

    I nodded once in confirmation. “The sun is down, though; before you came, had the rest of the team already eaten?”

    “They were just finishing up, yes.” Alari shivered a bit, the combination of the night and the chilled wind finally affecting her. She picked up poochyena, who had recently finished consuming its bread, and cuddled it a bit. “I do hope you and Khail won't get cold. I should have brought a sweater or something along with me.”

    “It's all right; I'm content with having at least a full stomach.”

    “Right...” She set Khail on her lap and began stroking it fondly. I could tell she was concerned, so I leaned forward in the rocking, unsteady boat and looked her in the eyes.

    “I'll be fine.” I tried to comfort her with my words, but when I noticed that it wasn't working, I took her by the shoulders and gave her a friendly shake. By this time, I had finished my soup and the cup lay empty on the bottom of the boat. “You don't have to worry about me. I know it's dangerous out there, but trust me, all right? I'll make it.”

    Her sapphire eyes were empty and it was obvious she was thinking deeply about something. I held my stern gaze for a while before sighing and returning to the bench, disappointed. I watched as Khail playfully pawed at the water, licked its fur, and coughed due to not expecting the salty flavour.

    “It's just...” My eyes raised although hers remained staring at the floorboards. “Well, after knowing you for ten years, Shin... We've done everything together since then, and as I sit here imagining what sailing, raiding, and pillaging would be without you there... It may sound silly, but it makes me feel empty, as if I'm trapped in an endless dimension where walking gets you nowhere, and turning around doesn't return you to where you started.” She sighed, her voice quivering. She placed poochyena on the floor and gazed up at me, watching my hair be pushed sideways roughly by the wind. I could feel her examining my body; my brown eyes, my lightly tanned skin due to constant sun exposure, and my abundant, black hair which took ten minutes to groom properly everyday were engraving themselves into her photographic memory. “When I found this boat drifting ashore the other day, I thought to myself 'With this, Shin can finally leave this treacherous place', but at the same time, my heart sank. If you leave, Shin, I'll be so lonely, but if you don't take advantage of this opportunity, you may never have another, and you'll always be miserable.”

    I could understand Alari's selfish desires, and on the other hand, I admired her selflessness for having shown me the boat anyway, regardless of her initial sentiments about it. Alari may have her mother and her older sister around to talk to, but the rest of the team were ignorant prudes who preferred to sit around and chuck books into the fireplace rather than read them. Alari, on the other hand, was educated and charming. When she wasn't with the Espion terrorizing towns and villages, she was often in the library (a place the rest of the crew referred to as the “fire supply room”) of the fortress reading or practising her cursive writing. I was frequently with her. The novels that stocked the shelves of the library were the only bit of freedom I had, and reading them lightened my heart.

    Lumina encouraged her sister's linguistic abilities and was supportive of her desire to read and to write. Alari viewed her sister's enthusiasm as an example of the true personality of her sister; I, on the other hand, perceived it as Lumina trying to take advantage of her younger sibling. Lumina wasn't the best writer, and she certainly didn't enjoy reading, thus her sister's ability to tolerate books and to write so well were highly appreciated, especially when writing ransom notes or when wondering about the geography of the next target settlement. Because of the difference in interests in comparison to the rest of the team, Alari often felt alienated, and came to either her skitty, Nami, for company, or to me when I was available. Leaving would leave Alari with only her pokémon to comfort her loneliness.

    The boat rocked a bit as a stray wave disturbed the water's surface. In the distance, a pokémon of an indeterminable species emerged from the water rapidly and created a misty arc as it plunged back in.

    “I guess you should be going,” Alari said quietly, climbing out of the boat. She stared at the water that climbed just below her breasts, darkening her costume.

    “Alari...”

    Her eyes suddenly lit up. “Oh! I almost forgot...” She exclaimed, reaching into her pocket. I wasn't sure what she was searching for, but I recognized it when her hand emerged from the black abyss. It was a soft, sphere-like gemstone known as iolite; attached to a chain, the blue-stoned necklace was a family heirloom of mine, and the only remaining, physical memory of my life before the Espion. She handed it to me and closed my hand firmly around it. “I know you gave this to me, Shin, but I want you to have it back. It's precious to you, and I know you'll regret not having it with you when you visit your mother's tomb.”

    I looked at her and slowly tightened my grasp on the object. Poochyena cocked its head, bewildered, and stared at the ball-like stone that I held firmly in my hand. Removing my hand from hers, I placed the necklace around my neck where it hung perfectly. I tucked it into my shirt, tears burning the sides of my eyes as I remembered my mother's joyous expression when she gave the stone to me for my eighth birthday. She had invited all of my friends from school and all of our neighbours to celebrate my special day; she had even baked a wondrous vanilla cake with chocolate icing for the event. Although everyone was only served a small piece, the event had been successful and full of smiles and laughs. Holding it now, appreciating the generosity and kindness of this young woman for having returned it to me, I felt stronger than ever.

    I embraced Alari abruptly, feeling compelled to do so. The boat rocked slightly and tipped a bit as all my weight was focused onto the port. Alari was stunned for a moment, but hugged me back in return without contemplation. Both of us avoided the sheaths of our swords during the embrace as to prevent any possible injuries, for the sheaths weren't of the best quality.

    I stroked her dark blonde hair and released her from the hug. I looked at her solemnly, the words “I'll miss you” creeping out of my mouth.

    “I'll miss you, too,” was the equally solemn reply I received.

    I watched as Alari began to detach the rope from the rock that posed as an anchor. Poochyena whined a bit as the boat became more unstable than ever. Gentle waves lapped against the side of the rowboat, beckoning us out to sea. I grabbed the paddle and set it on my lap, poochyena cowering beneath the bench opposite to me.

    Tightly holding the back of the boat, the young woman said softly, “I'll help push you out. From then on, you'll need to use the paddle. You know the way, don't you?”

    I nodded. “After all those trips in the ship, I've come to memorize it,” I responded, looking out at the sea. I reverted my view back to her pale, shadowed face. “Thank-you, Alari, for everything you've done for me.”

    She raised one of her hands and waved it back and forth in a negative, nervous fashion. “No, no, it was my pleasure,” she laughed, blushing a little. It was obvious that she was still uneasy. She placed her hand back on the boat. “I just want you to be happy, Shin,” Alari murmured quietly.

    I paused, and took a gentle hold of her chin. “I'll come back for you,” I promised her, giving her a very serious gaze. She stared at me. “I promise I'll come back for you, so wait for me.”

    She nodded and, after I removed my hand, Alari began to push the boat out into sea. The water slowly rose up her body as the sand began to give way beneath her. As it crept up her neck, she gave a forceful push, gliding the boat into the sea beyond her reach. I dropped the paddle into the water and began to displace the salty liquid with rhythmical, powerful thrusts. Water splashed into the boat and poochyena yelped and shook itself off. I grinned at him, and then looked back at Alari who was looking out at me. I waved to her. The urge to yell “Goodbye” enveloped me, but I repressed it into a whisper that only I could hear.

    Alari waved back to me. She never turned away. She just watched as the fog swallowed me up.

    ~

    Before now, I had never really used a rowboat, and I only came to realize how difficult it was to keep it steady and to actually navigate it. I understood the basic gesture – stroke to the starboard side, then stroke to the port side – but it was a lot harder to accomplish than one would imagine, especially since the sea's waves were brushing against the rowboat roughly and pushing it in various directions. Water frequently infiltrated the boat, and my poochyena, obviously not pleased at the sight of it, began to growl ferociously.

    “Shh, Khail,” I hissed at the frightened pokémon harshly. Poochyena quieted down after locking with my intense glare. “Good boy.” I looked around at the surroundings; water was all I could see. The fog blinded my view beyond a few meters and I squinted my eyes, trying to see as far as possible. I sighed and relaxed my eyes. The fog was particularly thick tonight. Navigating would be more difficult than I had imagined.

    Frowning, I advanced slowly and cautiously through the waters. The fog caused my hair to become drenched; however, it also hid the fact I was sweating. Using the paddle was exercise for my muscles, and although I enjoyed a good work-out, the environment wasn't too comfortable. I winced at every stroke of the paddle, my arms becoming tired to the point where I placed the paddle in the boat and handed my fate temporarily to the sea. As it rocked me out to sea, I rested my arms, tired from exerting so much energy on the small, paddle handle. With my head thrown back, I closed my eyes and listened to the sea and its sounds; the splashes of the wild pokémon at play rang in my ears, the crisp wind of autumn threatened to freeze my hair, and the gentle laps of the water created a soothing lullaby that could have lulled me to sleep.

    After a few minutes of rest, I decided to use the paddles again. I had been out at sea for at least thirty minutes already, and it wasn't as terrible as I had first imagined. The only thing that really bothered me was the eerie darkness. Glancing back and forth, I searched desperately for the Cave of Echos, a cavern located on its own island that made a creepy sound when the wind blew from the West. This cavern was important to navigating the sea, for it marked the turning point in direction. At the moment, I was travelling towards the South; at the Cave of Echos, however, I would need to shift your direction towards the East or I would enter the Sailor's Graveyard. It was the cemetary of the sea; many had lost their lives and ships due to collision with the rocks in that area.

    Suddenly, poochyena began to growl and snap its jaw. I gestured for it to stop, but it refused, and kept snarling in the direction behind me. I frowned and turned my body around, noticing nothing peculiar. All I saw was fog; yet this tiny pokémon was overzealous for something located behind us.

    Then it emerged.

    A sharpedo – but not just any sharpedo. Its bizarre, unique colouring of purple gills suggested it belonged to a certain villain. Its teeth were sharp like tiny saws, prepared to rip my fragile, little boat apart. Sharpness wasn't exclusive to its teeth, however; its gills, mocking the colour of amethyst, were also incredibly jagged, and contact with the wooden boat would instantly put an end to my voyage.

    “Lumina.” I certainly wasn't expecting her to know of my disappearance so soon, or at least, that she would come looking for me at such a rapid pace. I quickly flipped my body around to face forward and began to paddle fiercely, exerting as much energy as I could on the paddle as to progress as fast as possible. I could hear Lumina laughing behind me hysterically, amused at this modified version of the game “cat and mouse”.

    “So you thought you could escape?” she cackled, her soaked, brown hair tied in a striped bandana. Behind her and her sharpedo came two rowboats, probably lowered from the main ship, filled with members of the Espion. Alari was not present.

    I continued to paddle as fast as I could, but I could feel Lumina and her gang catching up. Khail began to yelp and snarl at the advancing sharpedo, trying in vain to intimidate it. A bright light suddenly appeared behind us and I watched my shadow crawl across the bottom of the boat. Poochyena howled and I looked behind me. My jaw dropped.

    “No one betrays the Espion!” Lumina yelled. “Sharpedo! Hyper Beam!”

    The light that had built up in the pokémon's mouth was released. I grabbed the dark pokémon in my arms and threw myself overboard into the sea. Above, the rowboat was obliterated into sawdust. Lumina's laughter slowly faded away, and so did I.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Quebec
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    Default Chapter Three

    Before-Chapter Notes: This is my longest chapter with almost 5000 words! That's almost double the length of my normal chapters; I hope you enjoy. Even at 5000 words, though, I feel it's short :s

    And yes, the spoon wasn't invented yet.

    Chapter Three

    A sandshrew prodded at the door gently with its sharp, white claw. Behind it, a mature couple were putting on their coats and preparing to take their mouse pokémon out for a midnight stroll. Knowing how much the pokémon enjoyed the sand, the couple, around the age of fifty, had decided to treat it to a night escapade beside the sea.

    “Ho, ho, look at Asmar,” chuckled the man, his face scrunching up to reveal wrinkles.

    “It always did enjoy its walks,” replied the woman, smiling. She doused the fire, silently crackling away in the fireplace, with a bucket of water and watched as the ghostly fumes rose up the flue and escaped into the open air.

    Asmar's ears perked at the sound of its name. It hobbled over to the woman and looked up at her, following her every movement. She patted its head twice before walking over to her husband and handing him a black scarf. She wrapped a white one around her own neck and put on her shoes, the man following suit.

    As soon as they were fully dressed, they opened the door and were enveloped by the cool, sea breeze. The difference in temperature compared to indoors was evident, and the couple were glad that they had dressed themselves appropriately. Asmar bolted outside on all fours in anticipation. Excited, it began to run around aimlessly in the tall, dry grass. It glanced frequently over at its owners who were walking on the stone path leading towards the beach, the small cabin built from maple wood gradually shrinking into the distance as they progressed. Sandshrew followed them, an eager aura emitting from it as its eyes sparkled in the brume. In the distance stood a tall lighthouse which brightened the shore, causing the mist to brighten up and form silhouettes of objects located on the beach. The light was said to be the bright glow of a magmar's skin.

    At the bottom of the rocky cliff lay the sand and the sea. The waves were giant, white sheets on a dark, blue mattress. The cliff, acting as a durable headboard, was pummelled constantly by its force, causing erosion to occur over time. Below, emerging from the dark water, were giant, sharp rocks that posed as a threat to any ships in the area. Built on top of that cliff was their house. Although technically part of the small town Vicinia, it was far enough away to have deemed it a rural residence. The couple referred to the area as their “little piece of paradise”, for the lack of ships, the heavenly sea breeze, and the exclusiveness in general enticed them so.

    Happily digging holes in the sand was Asmar. The ground pokémon was enjoying itself thoroughly, tossing sand in the air and chasing the tide. The pokémon appeared to be amusing itself greatly with the tide; as it came in, it would jump away quickly. It continuously giggled to itself, as if mocking the sea for being incapable of trapping him in its aquatic grasp.

    The woman smiled gently and tightened her grasp on the man's hand. She looked at him and lay her head on his shoulder, the man releasing his hand from her grip as to wrap it around her waist and pull her closer. With every breath, a white puff of vapour escaped their mouths and joined the mist hanging in the autumn air.

    The sound of the waves was melodious, and at that moment, the woman felt like she was in a dream. She glanced up at the man and admired his attractive details; his greyed, blonde hair extending down his back and tied in place with a long piece of grass, his stern, facial expression that allowed people around him to know he was thinking hard about something, and, of course, his jade eyes which had softened over the years were just some of his visible features. Her husband, Murrey, was raised to be a proud, hard-working man, and his behaviour and comportment definitely reflected it. Even now, in the presence of no one but his wife, he held his head high.

    Her eyes trailed over to where Asmar was examining a stone. It promptly threw it away, chattering to itself in disdain. As another wave crashed against the sand, its ears perked up, and it scampered away into the thick fog.

    “Asmar!” The woman lifted her head from Murrey's shoulder and stalled. She looked up at her husband who was frowning.

    “I wonder what that little guy is doing..” he thought to himself, his hand beneath his chin as he watched curiously.

    With a worried expression on her face, his wife stated impatiently, “Come on, Murrey. We need to go find him; it's dangerous in the fog.”

    The man nodded and took his wife's hand before beginning to walk deeper into the blinding fog. With damp clothes and concerned hearts, the couple searched for their precious ground pokémon frantically, calling its name often and waiting for a response. Nothing. The sandshrew's chattering never reached their ears.

    “Oh, Murrey, what if in this fog, it got dragged into the sea and we can't hear it?” she wailed, imagining the ground pokémon suffering as it drowned beneath the unforgiving waves of the sea.

    “Now, now, Ella,” said Murrey gently, grasping her hand tighter. “I'm sure Asmar is fine. He probably just smelled something of interest and decided to investigate.”

    “But what if it injured itself?”

    “I'm sure it's just fine, dear; after all, there's no one else out here and...”

    Murrey's voice trailed off as he stopped abruptly.

    “What is it?” Ella looked at him, confused. “We don't have-”

    “Shh!”

    Startled, the woman dropped her gaze and looked around. Noticing nothing out of the ordinary, she looked back at her husband, whose facial expression had changed from grim to relief.

    “Is something the matter?” She asked hastily, obviously puzzled.

    There was a pause before Murrey said quietly, “Do you hear that?”

    The woman stopped for a moment and then looked in front of her. She began to concentrate, focusing her hearing on any remote sound that emitted from the darkness. Her eyes gleamed and her frown turned into a smile as the sound of chattering reached her ears. The two rushed forward and slowly, the silhouette belonging to their beloved sandshrew created an opaque image against the fog. It looked up at its owners rushing towards it and continued to chatter.

    The woman, finally reaching her pokémon, bent down and picked it up. Holding it in front of her, she exclaimed in joy, “Asmar, you rascal! Mommy was worried about you!” The pokémon stared at its female owner. Ella wrapped the pokémon in her arms and turned to her husband. “I suppose it's time we returned home,” she said, turning her body to the direction of which they came.

    Suddenly, the sanshrew began to struggle violently in her arms and then curled itself into a round ball, escaping her grasp and falling to the sand. It rushed in front of its male trainer and chattered at him, pointing its claw into the fog. The woman tried again to pick up the pokémon, but it jumped ahead relentlessly, as to escape her grasp. Unhappily, Murrey's wife glanced at her husband, and then at where Asmar was pointing. The brown, stubborn critter grabbed the man's leg with its paw and motioned it to advance.

    Understanding the gesture, the couple advanced forward cautiously, unsure of what their curious pokémon was trying to show them. As they progressed a bit further into the fog, another silhouette was brought to their attention. The couple looked at each other and then back to the silhouette, whose identity quickly became recognizable as they approached.

    It was a poochyena.

    Ella rushed forward and knelt down beside it. She checked for respiration and any injuries that the small, dark pokémon might have sustained before confirming, “Why, the poor thing is half-drowned!”

    Murrey looked down at Asmar who seemed to have relaxed, now that the pokémon had been found. “So this is what you wanted to show us...” he murmured, proud of his pokémon's courage and compassion. He scooped the sandshrew up in his arms and scratched its head. The pokémon seemed pleased with the attention.

    His wife picked up the dark pokémon and held it close. Noticing its low body temperature, she quickly began rubbing the poochyena all over, as to reactive the body's vascular flow. Murrey positioned himself beside her, the sandshrew looking down on the wet puffball its owner held with concern.

    “We'll have to take it back with us; the poor thing is cold to the bone,” the woman said to her husband while continuing to rub the poochyena down with her hands. “If we don't, it'll surely die.”

    Her husband nodded, understanding the situation at hand. The sandshrew's ears suddenly perked up again and it shifted its view towards the beach. Chattering, it began to squirm in Murrey's soft, cold hands. He, too, adjusted his view to where the pokémon was looking, then frowned.

    Hesitantly, he said, “Something else is there.”

    The woman looked up. Although nothing could be see in the fog, the sound of footsteps in the wet sand was audible. The couple waited a few minutes, watching for something to emerge from the mist, but nothing came. They looked at each other.

    “Do you think it's gone?” the woman asked her husband nervously.

    “It seems like it,” was his reply, although it was apparent that even he was unsure.

    Their sandshrew was not convinced, though. It kept chattering to itself and squirming in its owner's arms. It looked up at Murrey in wonder, its big eyes demanding that it be believed.

    Murrey stroked Asmar slowly and set him down. “I'll go see what's there,” he told his wife in a brave tone of voice. “Stay here, all right?”

    His wife was startled, but she submitted. “Be careful.”

    He kissed his wife on the lips before turning around and leaving her and the two pokémon stranded in the cold fog. His form faded gradually from sight. Ella, looking around in fear of the dark, waited patiently for her husband's return. Petting the black pokémon in her arms, she stared fiercely at the fog before her. Asmar stood beside its female trainer and watched as well, although its stare was not as intense. The poochyena in her arms, as motionless as ever, coughed at one point, but its eyes stayed firmly shut.

    A few minutes later, Murrey returned. Ella raced forward at a pace that wouldn't disturb the sleeping poochyena in her arms, their bipedal sandshrew following her. “Oh, Murrey!” she cried in delight. “I'm glad that didn't take too lon-”

    Ella cut her own sentence short at the sight before her. She stopped. As Murrey approached closer, she noticed another figure was with him. A brief examination from the distance proved that the figure was a young man with his arms around the neck of her grunting husband. Murrey was bent over, as to support the extra weight of the stranger, and his face showed a stressed expression as he barely managed to carry him on his back.

    “Is he...”

    “He's alive.” Murrey finished her sentence through hard breaths. “I think he was involved in a wreck nearby; it wouldn't be the first time a survivor wound up on the beach.” He stopped for a moment, breathing heavily. “Ella, can you do me a favour? Take that sword and sheath from his back. It's adding unnecessary extra weight.”

    Ella nodded and took the sword from the stranger's back. She held it carefully in her hands. Murrey grunted again and continued in the direction of their home. His wife followed suit.

    For a man in his fifties, Murrey was muscular, mostly due to participating in tough activities such as chopping down trees and building houses, forming foundations, and lifting tall, cut tree trunks. The carpenter of Vicinia, Murrey was still strong for his age, although carrying a full-grown man to the house from the beach would be no easy task, even for him.

    His wife, a farmer of minor sorts, followed behind him with a hastened pace. Their sandshrew ran ahead of them eagerly. The stranger and Murrey, both damp for different reasons, proceeded with care, for the water on their skins caused the young man to slip if the veteran moved at certain angles. The woman helped level her husband with one hand while keeping the poochyena in a firm grip in the other.

    After approximately ten minutes of walking, their house reappeared on top of the cliff; Murrey grinned at the sight of it. They were almost there.

    ~

    When I awoke, the first thing I noticed was the throbbing migraine I had; the second thing I noticed was that I was lying on a comfortable couch, and I was warm and dry. Puzzled, I sat up and looked around me in a daze. In the corner, a few candles flickered on top of an old table. The wood floors and walls created a cozy room with a lovely decor. On the floor was a carpet made from long grass dyed red; positioned neatly upon it was a low table, seemingly made from maple wood as well. Directly across from the couch was another chair of a similar brown colour. Above, hanging on the wall, was a painting of an orchard that was appropriately framed. Two glassless windows allowed light to penetrate into the room. Not far from the couch, an old door was closed. Where it led to, I wasn't sure. To the right of the couch were farming tools of all sorts – rakes, shovels, hoes – leaning against the wall. Seeds were bunched up in brown bags that could have possibly been the bladders of a pokémon.

    I rubbed my head and looked at my hands, then my clothes. Someone had changed them; no longer did I wear the dull uniform of the Espion. Instead, I was clothed in dark blue overalls and a rather large, white shirt that contrasted well with my hair. My shoes had been removed and were nowhere to be found. As I moved around a bit more, an embarrassing matter came to my attention, for someone had changed my underwear as well.

    Where am I? I glanced around and stood up, the heavy covers falling to the ground. I placed it neatly back on the couch and readjusted the pillow seemingly made from quality farfetch'd feathers. I held my head, trying to soothe the intense throbbing. What the heck happened to me? Where am I? I felt like my eyes were gushing blood from my skull. I squinted my eyes and suppressed the pain before inevitably sitting back down. My balance was altered; standing up had never been so difficult.

    How did I get here?

    The scent of food overwhelmed me and I tried not to drool. I followed it cautiously, still wary of my environment, and silently, I opened the door that lead to the kitchen. My eyes still a bit hazy, I managed to make out some details of the room immediately. As with the house itself, the counters were made of wood as well as the cupboards suspended above them. The counter was decorated with candles and fresh flowers in vases, as well as glass containers containing various spices. On the corners of the cupboard doors was the design of a butterfree and a weedle; they were coloured delicately with what appeared to be berry juice. To the right of the counter was the fireplace. Its warm, welcoming glow brought a charming ambiance to the small room as it heated the contents of an iron pot inside its wake. In the middle of the room was a wood table where an elderly man was seated. He, too, was dressed in overalls, only his were black and not blue like mine. His grey shirt was ripped in several places to expose his tanned arms and chest. Long, platinum-hair cascaded his back, while tied neatly in a ponytail. On his face, small hairs of the same colour enjoyed their time on the surface. Worn, brown boots collided with the bottom of his overalls as they covered his feet. From his proportions, it appeared he was rather tall. I estimated him to be around 5'8”, or approximately an inch taller than myself. His legs were crossed as he chewed on a long piece of grass and read a small book.

    A woman around the same age took a few more pieces of bark from a pile beneath the counter and tossed it into the fire. I observed as the light of the fire caused her brown eyes to light up and frizzed her short, brown hair. Her white skin was covered in freckles from head to toe, although it was most obvious on her face and her arms. She wore a simple, brown dress with a white apron, decorated with the design of different types of berries and apricorns, tied around her waist. The woman wore simple, brown clogs on her feet while on her head she wore a white bandana with several, cute frills. I watched as she began cutting up some fresh carrots that she had washed in a bucket of water. She then gently tossed them into the pot which accepted it gratefully.

    The door across the room opened. In marched a peculiar pokémon that resembled a mouse, only with hard, sand-coloured skin and a short, thick tail. Noticing a bowl of food placed for it on the ground, it seemed content and walked towards it, picked a chunk of it up, and consumed it. It happily chattered and beckoned at the door, waving a piece of food in front of it. Carefully, a black pokémon walked into the house and glanced around. The woman chuckled as the pokémon hesitantly took the piece of food from the other being.

    “Khail.”

    My voice was soft, but Khail's acute hearing picked it up. Its ears perked as it glanced over towards me. Shoving the rest of the food into its mouth, the poochyena darted across the room, catching the older man's attention. Khail jumped into my open arms with glee and immediately began to nuzzle beneath my chin. I hugged it tightly, my mind soothed at the sight of it.

    “Well, it seems you're fine.” The man seemed apathetic, but his face was soft. “I was concerned; for a while there, I was convinced the sea had taken another life.”

    I looked up at him, and then at the woman who was also looking my way. She hurried over to me and took my arm. “No need to be shy!” she told me happily, taking my arm. “Come, come! I was just about finished making lunch.”

    Gently, she pulled me across the room and seated me in a chair. She then turned back to her counter and reached into the cupboards to retrieve three wooden bowls. As she was dividing the stew into the three bowls, I couldn't help feel alienated and uncomfortable. Neither the man, the woman, or their pokémon were paying me direct attention, but the awkwardness of the situation made me shake a bit. I glanced at the pokémon nearby who was stuffing its face with the provided pokéfood. I watched it closely, relatively intrigued at this specimen that I had never seen before. As it finished, it looked up at me. At first, I thought it wanted to play with Khail, but then I realized it was just interested in the bowl of stew that the woman had placed on the table beside me. After all bowls were correctly placed on the table, the woman seated herself beside the man and lifted the bowl to her mouth with her wrinkled hands. The man placed his book on his lap before taking his bowl into his hands and drinking its contents. I watched them, trying no to stare. Khail put its paws on the table and began to sniff the stew, obviously enjoying its smell. Quickly, but gently, I removed its paws from the table, as not to be disrespectful.

    “Do you not like stew?”

    I looked up at the woman and stammered, “I.. I do like stew, yes.”

    The man scoffed. “Leave the lad alone, Ella; he's probably traumatized enough as it is, having almost drowned and all.” He took another gulp of his stew as his wife replied.

    “I'm just concerned, Murrey. He hasn't eaten in three days.”

    “I'm sure he'll eat when you leave him alone,” came the gruff response. The man stood up and cleaned his mouth off with a cloth from on the counter. He placed his bowl in a lowered compartment of the counter that was filled with water.

    His wife frowned, and by doing so, she revealed wrinkles around her mouth and beneath her eyes. “Are you going back out already?” she asked, setting her bowl on the table.

    “I still need some materials to build that house in Vicinia.”

    Vicinia?

    “But you've only just ate! You should relax a bit.”

    The man shook his head. “I'll be back before sundown, Ella. For now, tend to the lad; you're better at talking with people than I am.” With that, he opened the door and shut it briskly, the ground pokémon scampering out after him and almost getting crushed between the door and its frame.

    The woman sighed and drank the rest of her stew. She then put her bowl in the sink and took a red cloth from a drawer in the cupboard. As she had her back turned towards me, I picked the bowl of stew up and examined it. The dark brown liquid was filled with vegetables, but no meat. Even then, it looked absolutely delicious, and my growling stomach urged me to eat it contrary to my awkward sentiments. Regardless, my stomach won, and I hastily consumed the stew while being careful not to spill it.

    “My, my, I knew you were hungry.” The woman was looking at me now with a smile on her face. She set the two bowls back into the cupboard, fully clean and ready for reuse. I looked at her, my mouth still on the bowl, and hesitantly set it on the table. I was handed a cloth to wipe my mouth with, and I did so promptly before returning it to her.

    Khail looked up at me and began to nuzzle me again. Ella took my bowl and placed it in the sink to be washed later. After seating herself again, she looked at me with dancing eyes.

    “So, boy, tell me! What's your name?”

    I looked at her, startled by the sudden question. “Uh,” I began, before stating, “Shin.”

    The woman seemed rather pleased. “Well, Shin! You're quite lucky to be alive.” She leaned closer to me, her elbows planted on the table. “If we hadn't gone for that midnight walk the other day, you and your little wolf pup there would have surely died. What were you doing out there?”

    I thought about what to say for a moment. I can't mention the Espion to this kind, old woman; she would have a heart attack. Then I realized she most likely already knew, for one of them had changed my clothing, of which the shirt has the infamous symbol of the Espion stitched into its back. The sword they had removed also had the infamous kecleon painted on the hilt.

    I inhaled deeply. “I got lost,” I started to explain; the woman sat back and listened attentively. “I was in a rowboat escaping from the Espion, but their leader... She came after me.”

    The woman nodded. “I saw the uniform; I personally haven't had any experiences with them, but I've heard stories.” She chuckled. “You don't seem very much like an Espion member, though. Just look at how much your pokémon adores you.”

    I looked down at my poochyena and smiled, before returned my gaze to the woman. “Well, Khail here has been my friend and ally for the past five years. I've always treated him well.” I smiled, and then continued hastily. “I never killed anybody, though. I hope you believe me.”

    “I do,” she told me firmly. “You don't look like the kind of person who would murder others. You actually remind me of my son when he was a lad.” My eyes widened a bit. The woman smiled warmly at me. “I'm glad you two are all right, though. Like I said earlier, you were really worrying me for a while.”

    I blinked. The last time someone had said that to me, it was ten years ago when I had fallen ill. My mother had paid special attention to me that entire week, giving me extra blankets and making her esteemed farfetch'd soup. The flavour had been so rich that at the time, I hoped not to recover quickly, as to be able to eat it as often as I was.

    Khail yawned, which made both Ella and I smile.

    Murrey's wife tilted her head sideways. “So, tell me, Shin. What are you planning to do? Do you have family you can return to?”

    I bit my lip. I guessed that my face, once portraying contentedness, had suddenly changed to a grieving expression, for Ella quickly suggested:

    “If you've nowhere to go, we could sure use you here.”

    My eyes lit up at this opportunity. She continued.

    “My husband is becoming old; he needs a strapping young lad to help him with his work. He's a carpenter, you see? Recently, our scyther passed away, and his work has become twice as hard. It's not much, but if you decide to stay here with us, we'll allow you to sleep in the living room. Your pokémon can stay, too, of course, and we'll feed you and clothe you during your stay.”

    I didn't want to sound too eager, but as I thought about it, the entire offer was too heavenly to pass up. I realized that carpentry wouldn't be easy; I was willing to learn, though, and after all those years of pillaging, I had built a decent muscle mass within my body anyway. I studied the woman, searching for any deception that may be hidden within her gestures and facial expression, but I found none.

    I smiled broadly, and replied, “If it's not too much of a bother, I'd love to.” I tried to suppress the joy and excitement that had arisen inside of me.

    “Good, good.” She seemed pleased, and then added, “Stay here. I'll come back in a minute.”

    The woman rose to her feet and left the room. As instructed, I waited for her to come back. A few moments later, she returned carrying a pair of brown boots and an axe.

    “Put these on,” she told me in a firm voice, “and go outside and help Murrey chop wood.”

    She handed me the boots and the axe; at first, I hesitated, but her gaze made me rush into compliance. I set the axe on the table, put the brown boots on my feet and fastened the grey buckle to a comfortable tightness. Placing the black pokémon on the ground, I rose to my feet and took hold of the axe, its wood handle uneven and threatening to give me splinters. I looked back at the woman before opening the door and stepping outside, my poochyena loyally following. As I gazed out into the afternoon horizon, taking in every detail of this rural, charming land, only one thought came to mind.

    I'm home.

  4. #4
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    Default Chapter Four

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    Total Words: 14,923

    Chapter Four

    The sun was warm and the wind was fresh; I inhaled deeply, taking in the pleasant aromas of the grass and the trees surrounding me. Bird pokémon were chirping happily in the trees, preparing to migrate South. As I watched them fly, brown forms against the cauliflower clouds, I recognized some of the species to be pidgey and pidgeotto. The random spearow darted through the sky with ease, staring down with sharp, gleaming eyes as it passed overhead. I watched them with awe, imagining what it must be like to be able to fly.

    “Stop daydreaming,” Murrey growled, examining a tree in the clearing. I blinked and looked over at him, almost tripping over his sandshrew. The pokémon chattered at me and started thrashing its tail around; it then walked away, its hands against its chest as it looked to the sky in a snobbish fashion. I sneered at it.

    The carpenter knocked on the tree and listened, his ear pressed against its bark. As I approached, he said gruffly, “Come here and tell me what you hear.”

    I put my ear against the bark and tapped on the tree. Khail and Asmar looked up at me curiously.

    “I don't hear anything,” I admitted bitterly, a bit disappointed.

    “Good.”

    I averted my eyes to him, confused. “Was I not supposed to hear something?” I enquired, an amateur at chopping down trees.

    Murrey shook his head. “If you had heard something, that would have meant that the tree was hollow,” he explained, grabbing a two-handed saw from nearby. Its blade was made from sharpened iron. “A hollow tree is no good for buildings. Can you imagine if we had used a hollow tree as a support? The building would collapse.”

    While keeping a grip on one end, he handed me the saw; I set my axe down and received it. Then, Murrey knelt down beside the tree's base and took out a piece of charcoal from his pocket. With it, he drew a line near the base that tilted down at a relaxed angle. He spat out the side of his mouth away from me and pushed sweat away from his brow.

    “Have you ever cut down a tree before?” he asked me, still kneeling. When I answered negatively, he scoffed. “Well, then, I suppose I'll have to teach you. It's rather simple, actually.” He pointed to the line he had drawn on the tree's trunk and told me, “We need to cut at this angle from this side; that way, the tree will fall safely away from the house and into the grass. Do you understand?”

    I ignored Khail who was racing around at my feet between my legs. “It seems simple enough,” I replied, although truthfully I was thinking pessimistically about it. I could picture it now: the tree, rather than falling away from the house, would fall towards it and crush it.

    I shuddered.

    Murrey's sandshrew tackled Khail. They ran off, commencing a game pokémon “tag” in the golden field. Standing up, Murrey chewed on the long piece of grass in his mouth and examined the tree again. He nodded, then turned to me.

    “Are you ready?” He asked me, his eyebrows raised in question.

    I nodded, burying the negative thoughts that had inhabited my mind prior. “Yes, sir,” was my confident response. Murrey grinned. Together, we placed the saw at an angle against the tall maple tree and began to cut rhythmically. The sun bore down on us as harshly as we sliced into the determined surface on the tree. The cut was uneven, and it worried me greatly for the slightest change in angle could alter the path of the falling, wooden pillar radically.

    After what seemed like hours, my hair glittering with sweat and my shirt damp in several areas, the tree fell. Khail, startled in the grass, began to bark and howl at it, the thundering noise of it falling and crashing into the grass frightening it. I was relieved to see it had fallen correctly. I wiped the sweat from my forehead and inhaled deeply. From behind, Murrey put his hand on my shoulder and stated:

    “Congratulations, Shin. You've just cut down your first tree.”

    I grinned and looked at him. “That wasn't so hard,” I boasted, inflating my chest and straightening my back.

    Murrey laughed. “That's great; there's plenty more where that came from.”

    My proud stance disappeared as he said this. I looked at him quickly. His stern facial expression told me he wasn't kidding. Murrey carefully took the saw from my hand and walked towards the fallen tree trunk. Setting the tool aside, he studied the tree's bark, touching it lightly with his fingers at points. The man then turned to me.

    “Do you know what we do now?” he questioned me sternly.

    I flinched before responding. “We get rid of the bark?” My tone of voice made it obvious that I was uncertain of this answer.

    “Ella gave you an axe, right?”

    I nodded. “I set it down back there.”

    “Go and get it,” Murrey ordered gruffly.

    I nodded again and quickly retrieved my axe from near the fallen tree's stump. Looking at Murrey, whose serious gaze was studying the tree's uneven bark, I contemplated how anti-social he was. His wife, on the other hand, was quite cheerful and good-spirited. They had very different personalities, yet they seemed so content together. It reminded me of my sister and I when we were children.

    Emia... I remembered her chestnut-brown hair... her brilliant smile... the way my clothing would hang off her, due to being too large...

    “What did I tell you about daydreaming?” the man barked, interrupting my thoughts. His cross look bore into my skin like a drill in cement.

    I blinked and looked at him. “Sorry,” I stammered, shaking my head.

    “You can't keep doing that; this is dangerous work, boy.” Murrey rose to his feet and grumbled, his arms crossed. “Next thing you know, you'll be whining that your arm got cut off. Pay attention.”

    “Er, sorry.” Gripping the axe tightly in my grasp, I scratched my head, ruffling up my hair. “So, how do we get rid of the bark?” I asked him. The ambiance was awkward; the question was meant to make us, specifically me, more comfortable.

    “With the axe,” he replied simply, setting the sharp end of his axe against the trunk. “We need to pry it off carefully to make a good support poll. If we delve too deep, we'll cause a hole, and we don't want that.” He scaled the tree with his eyes. “When we reach a limb,” he continued, “we need to get out the saw and cut it off. The limbs we'll chop up later for firewood.”

    I nodded comprehensively and stood beside him. At his gesture, I moved to the upper part of the tree and began chipping and prying out the stubborn bark. Murrey didn't have any difficulty with it; his experience and fitness level allowed him to remove the pesky crust of the trunk with relative ease. I watched him and admired his strength, slowing my pace down gradually as I studied his movements. There was a pattern to them, that was certain, and it permitted the man to do his work efficiently.

    “Stop slacking off.”

    The man hadn't looked at me; he just kept to his work. I averted my eyes back to the bark and began to pry with all my strength. Bits and pieces fell off into the golden sea of grass, seemingly small rafts sinking beneath the waves. Breathing heavily, I continued at a moderate pace, following Murrey's example before me. Our pokémon mocked us from afar, contently at play as the man and I toiled away, sweat dripping from our hair and soaking our backs. Gradually, the job became easier as my pace became rhythmical. As we finished removing the bark from the fallen tree and started removing the limbs with the saw, I kept glancing from the tree, to Murrey, to the house on the hill. This warm, inviting environment had accepted me into its embrace without hesitation, without second thoughts.

    And I accepted it.

    ~

    A few hours later, after Murrey and I had successfully cut down, trimmed, and removed the bark from three different trees, Ella came to give us lunch. She handed us each a tray containing a plate of boiled vegetables (specifically broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots), an insignificant amount of remoraid meat, and a hunk of dry bread. To Murrey, she presented a cup of coffee; to me, she gave a glass of warm, miltank milk. She claimed I needed to strengthen my bones in my youth or I'd be frail and weak later. Ella also brought pokéfood for the critters. She gave to Khail a few pieces of meat, which it devoured eagerly; Asmar, on the other hand, received nuts and berries. I assumed this was a preference of the sandshrew's, for it was technically an omnivore by nature, yet it only ate plants.

    Drinking the creamy milk thirstily, I looked at Murrey out of the corner of my eye. Ella had returned to the house; what she did all day within it, I wasn't sure, but I didn't preoccupy myself with that. The man beside me was far more interesting.

    “So,” I began, swallowing a mouthful of vegetables.

    “Don't talk while you're eating,” the man interrupted firmly, sipping his coffee. “It's impolite.”

    I contemplated that. My mother had taught me about manners and politeness when I was a child; however, while living with the Espion, they were quickly forgotten. I had been surrounded by pigs – famished animals who didn't even look at what was on their plate before eating it. I picked up the warm fish meat and looked at it hungrily. I bit off a chunk of it and began to chew it contently. Cutting down trees had left me in a famished state of which only now was I healing.

    Murrey looked my way and gave me a hopeless frown. “Use your fingers to divide your meat first, then eat the smaller pieces,” he told me in an unfriendly tone.

    I widened my eyes, half of the fish already in my mouth. Murrey's cross look forced me to remove it and divide it up into pieces with my fingers. I then began to eat the smaller pieces, feeling uncomfortable as the man's green eyes monitored me closely. After a moment, his gaze returned to his own plate. He did as he preached and divided his meat before attempting to consume it.

    “Uh, so tell me,” I recommenced, nothing in my mouth. “Have you been a carpenter for long?”

    Ella's husband swallowed his food before replying. “My grandfather was a carpenter; my father was a carpenter, and now I'm one,” he responded, drinking more of his coffee. When he had finished, he continued. “My father taught me everything I know about it, and his father taught him everything he knew. I suppose you can view it as my family's 'legacy'.”

    I nodded, comprehending the logic behind that. Then, a thought sprung to my mind, and I blurted, “but what about your son?”

    “My son?” He cast me a startled look, and then relaxed. “Ella told you about him, eh?”

    “Not much,” I admitted, handing Khail a piece of remoraid meat. It barked happily and gently took the food from my hand. “I just noticed he wasn't around, and-”

    Murrey cut me off. “I don't want to talk about him,” he spat. His reaction alarmed me slightly. “He's a disgrace to this family, regardless what Ella says.”

    I looked at him as he continued to eat his food casually. His mood had changed; a perturbed look had invaded his face completely. Although I didn't understand exactly why Murrey despised his son, I let it be. The mere mention of his son had caused an uncomfortable, awkward ambiance to hover in the air, and I didn't feel particularly keen on worsening it.

    We worked the rest of the day in silence. As dusk approached, the temperature cooled and I allowed me muscles to relax, taking in the refreshing breeze of the sea with deep breaths. The waves crashed against the shore as the sun reflecting off its sapphire surface. On the sand below were wingull, peculiar birds with short feet whose wings were too large for it. Their cries were an annoying whine that broke the beauty of everything around us. I looked over at my poochyena who was sleeping in the grass. The couple's sandshrew was chasing a wild rattata in curiosity, although it was evident that the rat pokémon didn't appreciate it. I grinned, relatively amused.

    “Hey!”

    I blinked, and then looked in the direction of the older man. He was by the house now; as the sun glittered off the water, it caused a reflection that made it hard to see him. I placed the side of my hand to my forehead and peered towards the top of the cliff, squinting in an attempt to view him better. With my other hand, I waved in acknowledgement.

    “Come inside!” he yelled at me, Asmar running up beside him. “It's time for dinner! I'm sure you're hungry!” He then turned away and began to walk towards the door.

    I grinned broadly and yelled back: “I'll be right there!”

    With my axe gripped firmly in both of my hands, I raced up the hill eagerly. Khail, having heard the sound of my running from nearby, stretched and rose to its feet. I beckoned for it to follow, and it did. The pokémon pranced along beside me, its tongue hanging out of its mouth as it panted. The wind blew through the grass and made a pleasant sound as my pokémon and I reached the house. Murrey had waited for me, much to my surprise, and had held the door open for me. My eyes wide, I thanked him, and stepped into the warm home again. Khail rushed in front of me, almost tripping me, as the man closed the door behind us.

    Set before us, to our delight, was a variety of foods. A small bowl in the middle of the table was filled with nuts of all kinds; fruits were also present for us to eat, among them, fresh apples and oranges. Steaming plates of mareep meat and cold vegetables were accompanied by three glasses of herbal tea. The pokémon were given the fatty ends of the meat as well as nuts, berries, and some fish from earlier. Upon viewing the meal, Murrey looked at his wife and said:

    “Sheep, Ella? You know that's expensive.”

    “Oh, Murrey, I know, but I wanted to make the boy feel at home.” She pulled out a chair for me and gestured that I seat myself. I could feel my face becoming red as I thought about how she had gone out of her way to prepare a hearty meal specifically under the circumstance of my being there. Murrey remained gruff, though, even as he seated himself and savoured the scrumptious meat. I looked at it, never having tasted the meat of a mareep before, and cautiously bit into it.

    It was the most flavourful, tender meat I had ever tasted. As a child, I thought nothing could best farfetch'd soup, but this... this was simply unbelievable!

    “I see you're enjoying that,” the woman chuckled, noticing my overwhelmed expression. When I nodded, she looked at her husband and smiled. He scoffed and continued to eat his meal.

    “Don't get too used to that, boy,” he grumbled at me. I slowly ripped off another piece of the meat and put it in my mouth, chewing slowly. “We won't be having this kind of meal everyday. My wife just got carried away today; expect fish from now on, you hear me?”

    I nodded slowly. After hearing that, I began to eat slower, as to savour every last bit of the meat. I couldn't bring myself to believe that such a tender meat existed. It was so rich and flavourful. With every bite, the flavour only heightened. It felt as if my taste buds were having a party inside my mouth.

    As I ate, the woman watched me with shining eyes. I ignored it, much too concentrated with my meal. Cutting trees and sawing off branches all day really built up an appetite; I never realized how difficult carpentry was until now. Sure, I had read of it in books, but experiencing something was certainly more eye-opening than just reading and being empathetic about it. The fatigue and hunger made me reflect on those souls who had been charged in building the Espion's fortress long ago, and my spirit suddenly fell. I sat back in my chair and relaxed, my eyes empty as I stared at the food before me.

    Ella seemed to notice this, for she enquired: “Is there something wrong, Shin?”

    “Eat your food,” Murrey said crossly, biting into an apple he had taken from the table. His wife gave his shoulder a swift, light smack with the back of her hand, as to show her discontent. She then looked back at me, smiling.

    “No need to be fearful; you can tell us anything.” Ella then glanced at her husband. “Well, at least, you can tell me anything,” she corrected herself, frowning at Murrey. He rolled his eyes at her.

    Khail climbed on my lap, tired and full of food. It stretched and curled itself into a ball, burrs and grass entangled in its black fur. I placed my hands on the tired pokémon. My thoughts were lost, spiralling; my mind became a dark abyss of emptiness wrapped in the dried, white skin of a silcoon. Images of the slaves, the Espion, and my family flashed in my mind, a slide show I did not want to view.

    “Shin? Shin, are you all right?”

    I blinked. Ella had a confused expression on her face, while her husband wore a grave frown. Pushing my half-eaten plate away from me, I got to my feet and, with the sleeping pokémon in my arms, I said quietly, “Please excuse me.”

    I then left the table and walked outside, not waiting for a response. The sun was but a purple glow in the distance, sitting upon the sea and illuminating the sky in its final moments. I walked awkwardly down the hill, stumbling over my own feet and minor pebbles. The brume came; its approach had been foretold by the cold, blue sea and the day's heat. My feet sunk into the sand, leaving distinct footprints that created a path behind me. The wingull had taken flight and were nowhere to be seen. Khail continued to sleep peacefully in my arms, undisturbed by the sounds of the sea and the crunch of my feet penetrating the uneven surface of the ground.

    As I progressed, the fog became progressively thicker; by the time I had reached the cliff of the lighthouse in the distance, it was difficult to see my hand in front of my face. If it had not been for the light emanating from the tall, white tower, I would have surely lost my way completely during the trek. Seating myself on a rock, I gazed out in the direction of the sea. The sound was soothing. I cuddled my poochyena in my arms, shivering from the cold and bothered by the dampness of my clothing.

    Why did this happen to me? The thought had slipped into my mind dozens of times before, yet here it was again, still unanswered. I grabbed a stone from beside me and tossed it. A second or so later, it breached the water's surface with a deep sound and then sank. In the Espion, you're taught not to cry – to always be strong, no matter the situation – but the feeling overwhelmed me, just as the fog had done physically. The last time I had wept was when I was ten, just after I arrived back home to realize I was alone. I had wept for the loss of my family and my friends, my belongings and my past. The fire's smoke that enveloped Acacia had stung my eyes, but not as badly as the tears that had pierced through them so violently.

    I sighed and wiped my eyes clean. The condensation from the fog on my face combined with my salty tears, allowing it to camouflage my weakness. My expression was still one of grief, though, and even the thick mist was incapable of hiding that.

    “Is there something you need to talk about?”

    I looked up at a familiar figure with a different face. I had expected him to express sternness and indifference. This was not the case, however; Murrey's expression was bizarrely soft and comforting. It left me to wonder if the fog was fooling with his facial details.

    The man sat beside me slowly; he then turned his eyes to the sea, also incapable of seeing it due to the fog. His expression told me he was thinking. I traced his face with my eyes thoughtfully.

    “No, I'm fine,” I lied, scratching Khail behind its ears. The pokémon seemed to enjoy it even in its slumber, for its ears perked up attentively and twitched a few times.

    The silence was oddly comfortable. Normally, Murrey would make me feel awkward within his presence, but here, he was different. After studying his face a bit more, he seemed disturbed by something. I wasn't sure what it was, but I was curious.

    Turning to him, I went to say something but he interrupted me.

    “I know I haven't been the best company today,” he began; he was still looking out at the sea with a soft, steady gaze, “but I hope to improve that.” His gaze averted from the direction of the sea to me.

    I looked at him, my usually-spiked hair wet and plastered to my forehead. This man, who I had come to know as serious and unfriendly, was entirely different here. As he continued, his voice both soft and thoughtful, I couldn't help but ponder his change in attitude. His next words were unexpected and confounded me entirely.

    “I don't want to make the same mistake twice.”

  5. #5
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    Default Chapter Five

    Before-Chapter Notes: Like before, if you decide to review and it's really, really big (see: bobandbill as wel as Misheard Whisper's review on Page Two (2)), put the entire thing in spoilers, please. That way, readers aren't bombarded with text and it's easier to load pages :]

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    Total Words (Chapter): 3650
    Total Words (Fanfiction to Date): 18,572

    Chapter Five

    The man rested his arms on his knees. For a moment, there was silence. Bewildered, I thought about what Murrey had said not long ago. I was unable to make a connection between the present situation and something that would have happened before, however; with my eyes heavily gazing upon the older man's upset face, I asked:

    “What happened?”

    He didn't answer. The man, concentrated deeply on his own thoughts, remained quiet beside me. I could tell he was thinking intensely, so instead of enquiring further, I turned my face away from him. Khail, like Murrey, was motionless. When I looked down at him, it was evident he was dreaming about something amusing – perhaps chasing a skitty into a corner, or racing after a thrown stick.

    The moon above was a beautiful crescent of light. Through the fog, I could make out the twinkling of several bright stars, gazing down at the earth from afar. Their shining forms were white dots of paint upon a giant, black canvas. It was absolutely stunning.

    “He didn't want to be a carpenter.”

    I looked at Murrey now, a bit shocked that he had spoken. “Who didn't want to be a carpenter?” I asked, confused at the vagueness of his statement.

    “My son,” he told me. His expression became solemn as he spoke. “My son, Warden. He didn't want to be a carpenter; he wanted to be a florist.” Murrey chuckled quietly, his face softening. “How absurd.”

    He looked at me now. I could feel his emerald eyes studying my face, absorbing every detail. It made me feel uncomfortable, but I didn't avert my eyes. The man sighed briefly.

    “When I found you on the beach the other day, I was shocked. I swore it was my son laying there half-drowned.” He laughed, pushing back his hair. My eyes monitored him closely, interested. “I felt like walking into that fog had sent me back in time fifteen years – back when Warden was twenty and...”

    His sentence trailed off into thought. I frowned at him and waited a few moments, before asking:

    “Did something happen?”

    Murrey stood up slowly and put his hands on his waist. “Come, Shin,” he said to me smoothly, looking at me from over his shoulder. “Let's take a walk.”

    I nodded and stood up, my dark pokémon held safely in my arms. It whined softly in its sleep, moving its paws in anxiety. I stroked its fur softly while following Ella's husband up the beach. The fog had thickened into an opaque wall of smoke. In order to not lose sight of Murrey, I hastened my pace. The wind was cold against our backs, pushing the fog towards the shoreline. My hair and clothing were soaked; my poochyena's fur was completely drenched, yet the pokémon didn't seem to mind that much. As I scratched it behind its ears, it woke up, yawned, and squirmed in my arms until I set it down in the sand. Khail followed along behind us, snapping its jaws in the air in an attempt to devour the fog. I shook my head. What a silly pokémon indeed.

    As we walked, I noticed that grass had started to sprout up in the sand. Gradually more and more grass began to invade the sand's territory, and soon, we were walking in a field of golden strands. The ground, damp due to the overlaying brume, was flat and easy to walk on. Shrubs and trees began to appear around us, emerging from their imprisonment in the mist. Field pokémon scurried around in the tall grass; Khail growled at them fiercely, its yellow eyes gleaming. It shook itself, its fur increasing in volume due to it being wet. I looked at the pokémon and smirked. The poor pup looked like a black puffball.

    Trees began to surround us from all sides. I looked at Murrey; the man continued to walk in silence as he lead me towards the unknown. I wanted to ask where we were going, but I hesitated. There was a lot on the man's mind – that much was certain – and I didn't want to bother him any more than I already had.

    We finally arrived at a small clearing. It appeared that the grass in the area had been trampled on purpose, perhaps to create the necessary path to the monument in the middle. The fog from the sea infiltrated even the depths of the small woodland. The dark combined with the mist spooked me out. Khail didn't seem to appreciate it, either. It kept whining beside me, cautiously glancing from side to side. As we approached the centre of the clearing, I noticed the stone monument was a flower's cemetery. The dead leaves of various types of plants opposed the windy environment stubbornly. I knelt down beside it, feeling the dry sprouts with my hands.

    “Was this..?”

    “This was my son's garden,” Murrey told me, meeting my gaze. “He would come here at night to tend to it.”

    I turned back to the garden. Khail tried to bite one of the leaves in curiosity; I smacked its side, causing the pokémon to back up with its tail behind its legs. The stones encasing the soil were brittle and cracked. It was obvious that the garden was made long ago.

    “Warden had a gift, I tell you,” the man continued, folding his arms and looking at the flowerbed sadly. His tone of voice was proud, though. “That boy could plant a tulip in the middle of the desert and it would grow.”

    “What happened between you and your son, Murrey?” I asked him, examining the dead plants. A few moments later, I directed my view at the man's solemn pair of eyes.

    “I... I didn't acknowledge his talent.” His voice was quiet now. “I said some horrible things to my son, just because he loved plants. Having raised him to be a carpenter, this platonic obsession for herbs and plants wasn't something I could accept.

    “I was selfish,” he continued, looking away with closed eyes, “and it caused a dispute to occur. Warden left a few days after, and we haven't seen each other since. I know where he lives; I just don't bother with visiting him, and he doesn't visit me.”

    I inhaled deeply during Murrey's pause. I felt bad for him; empathetically, I said, “You could always go visit him and tell him how you've felt this entire time.”

    The man shook his head, his tied, blonde hair swinging back and forth like a metronome. “I can't do that,” he began, “because of what I said to him during the fight. He would never forgive me.”

    “But after fifteen years, I'm sure...”

    “I told him his filthy obsession with plants would make his grandfather turn in his grave,” Murrey interrupted me harshly. He looked towards me as I stood up, Khail in my arms. “I told him he was the disgrace of the family, and I regretted his entire existence.”

    I was shocked to hear this; this serious man was always so gruff, but I never imagined him to be so... poisonous. He hadn't even directed those comments at me, but I could feel how it must have shredded his son's heart. The words were cruel and heartless. To hear that from your own father... I tried to imagine the scene in my mind, the hateful words being tossed around carelessly, relentlessly. I cringed.

    “I don't have the guts to even send him a letter, let alone visit him.” Murrey's voice was trembling; I wasn't able to tell if it was the cold that had caused it, or his unsettled emotions.

    I looked at the trampled grass thoughtfully. “Did you flatten this grass?” I asked him, tilting my head as I looked his way.

    He nodded. “About five years ago, I started to take care of this place,” he told me, turning his back to the monument and looking up at the canopies of the trees. “I said to myself: 'If Warden ever comes back, I want to show him that I've accepted his decision'. It was harder than it looked, though. He could raise flowers from seeds to adulthood much easier than I could. When I tried myself, most of them didn't even grow. They just wilted and died.” He turned around swiftly and looked at me. “I guess that's to be expected, eh? A carpenter can't tend to a garden, just like my son couldn't build for squat.” Murrey sighed heavily. I could tell he was trying to act lighthearted about the situation, but deep inside, it hurt him.

    I squeezed Khail in my arms tightly. The pokémon didn't seem to mind; it just yawned and looked around.

    “It's uncanny the resemblance between you and Warden.” Murrey placed one hand against the side of a tree and leaned against it. He examined me. “Ella knows I miss Warden; she asks me everyday before going to bed. I always answer 'No', but both her and I know that it's not true.” He chuckled to himself lightly, standing up straight. “When I look at you, Shin, I feel like I've been given another chance. I can't do to you what I did to him long ago; it'd be like reliving the past and having my son hate me all over again.”

    Murrey approached me and wrapped his one arm around my neck. I looked at him uneasily; his lips had curled into a broad smile while his eyes were spotted red. I relaxed.

    “C'mon, lad, let's go back home.”

    I nodded and, with his arm still stretched across my shoulders, we walked back towards the house. As we walked, the mist behind us concealed any evidence of us having been there.

    ~

    The next few weeks went by very fast. No longer did I portray Murrey as this intimidating giant, ready to lunge at me at every opportunity. Instead, ever since that revealing discussion in the forest, the man had become a good friend of mine. He was still gruff and silent, but he smiled more often, and it was noticeable. Even Ella remarked it and asked if something had happened between us. Neither of us said anything; we just looked at each other and grinned.

    Autumn passed. The first snowfall fell on a cool, chilly day meriting gloves and scarves. As we left the house, our pokémon tried to follow us into the fresh, white fluff, but Ella stopped them.

    “Oh no you don't,” she laughed, wrapping Khail and Asmar in her arms. “It's much too cold for you two to be playing outside. You'll need to stay here with me.”

    Khail began to whine and squirm. The sandshrew looked at its trainer, cocked its head, and chattered silently. I patted my poochyena on the head and it calmed down, its tail drooping behind it.

    “Oh, dear. I almost forgot.” Ella reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny brown sac. “Since you two are going to Vicinia today, why not spend this pokécent there? It's yours after all, isn't it, Shin?”

    She placed the small, brown bag into my gloved hand. I looked at it, remembering where it had come from and who had given it to me. With cold breaths, I tucked the sac into my coat pocket.

    “Thanks, Ella.”

    She nodded, her brown hair snapping at the crisp air. It had grown longer since my arrival in the home. I found that longer hair suited the woman better and made her face more appealing.

    Khail looked up at me longingly. Kneeling down, I scratched the pokémon behinds its ears and whispered, “Be good, now, and listen to Ella. I'll come back.”

    It whimpered a little, its tail swishing back and forth. I smiled at it before looking up at Murrey who was kissing his wife goodbye. He then proceeded to pat Asmar on its head affectionately. The ground pokémon chattered quietly as it look at its male owner with big, green eyes.

    “We'll be back in a few days,” the man stated, his breath visible in the cool air. He grabbed a knapsack made from a tauros' hide and swung it on his back. Inside were supplies, such as blankets, flint, pokécent, and food. To me, Murrey handed another knapsack, only this one contained spare clothing. I swung it over my shoulders swiftly and looked at Ella with a grin on my face.

    “Goodbye, Ella,” I said to her, embracing her in my arms.

    The woman kissed my forehead lightly and, after the release of the hug, looked at her husband with fondness. “Have a safe trip,” she said to us kindly, inhaling deeply. Her hands were clutching her dress tightly, the material wrinkling under the strength.

    Murrey nodded. “Don't worry about us, Ella. We'll be fine.”

    She sighed and leaned against the door's frame. With deep eyes, she watched us depart from the house down the icy hill. I looked back at her and waved. The woman waved as well and continued to watch, the two critters beside her sitting silently. Khail began to howl as we moved further away from the home, our black forms a stain against the white blanket covering the ground. Ella then pulled the two pokémon inside and closed the door behind her.

    The snow was much like the sand of winter. As we walked, our footprints sank into it, leaving a path behind us – much like the sand had done in autumn. The winter had driven the fog away for the time being; instead, most nights were windy and violent. The cold thrusts of wind would carry the fallen snow into the air causing mild blizzards and decreased visibility. I liked it, though. While working with Murrey outside, I always had the tendency to capture a few of the flakes on my tongue during snowfalls. It amused me.

    As we walked towards the South, light snow began to fall. Its attempt to dye my black hair white failed; instead, it appeared as if I had a severe case of dandruff. I wiped the snow off with my hand, the flakes melting into my gloves and dampening them. A frown spread across my face. Slightly annoyed, I removed my gloves and began slapping them against the side of my overalls, trying in vain to dry them. Murrey looked at me, frowning. He then looked at my glimmering hair and stated briskly:

    “We need to get you a haircut.”

    I looked at him, my gaze sharp. “Huh?”

    “Your hair. It's grown too long.”

    I raised my hand slowly and felt the hair on my head. It was true that it had grown longer, but I didn't think it needed to be cut just yet. Murrey seemed determined, though.

    “When we get to Vicinia, we'll need to visit the barber.” It appeared as if he was talking to himself and making plans without my input. I didn't bother to argue; my hair could always grow back anyway, and I didn't mind the idea all that much.

    “Is Vicinia a large town?” I asked him curiously, rubbing my hands together and blowing on them. The temperature was a lot different than a few weeks earlier; working all day had become difficult due to loss of dexterity, specifically in the hands.

    Murrey shook his head. “No, it's small,” he told me, pulling up on his knapsack with his shoulders. His load was obviously heavier than mine. “We're quite far north, so not a lot of people move here. They find it's too cold.” He scoffed. “If you ask me, they're just lazy and too absorbed in their city luxuries and conveniences. They don't even know the definition of hard work.”

    I thought about this for a moment. “Why do you live up here, Murrey?” I enquired curiously. Something in my mind wouldn't allow me to grasp why this older man would prefer a life of inconvenience compared to one of relaxation. “Don't you want to retire?”

    He laughed. “Retire? Are you kidding?” The man smirked and folded his arms. “I'm not done living yet, lad. Even today, I'm overcome with energy and life. This flourishing, northern land is my home, my sanctity. I wouldn't give it up for some life where everything's delivered to your doorstep.” Murrey's eyes brightened due to the reflection of the sun's weak rays on the snow. “Besides,” he continued, wrapping his arms behind his head. He looked down at me, and I looked up at him. “I still have things to do, places to see, and people to forgive. I've a long life ahead of me; just because I'm fifty-five doesn't mean it's over.”

    I smiled at him, and looked in front of me. The snow crunched beneath my feet. Everything had been covered in snow in the past week and the outcome was a beautiful winter wonderland. Sure, it was chilly and it was hard to move my hands; I may have lost some dexterity, and my body shivered relentlessly, but it was worth it. Our home and its vicinity had been altered into a gorgeous winter desert for us to enjoy.

    As the cold climate settled in, some interesting pokémon had started to appear around the area. I had noticed them while working with Murrey back at the house; one of them had been a peculiar bird carrying a bag. What was in it, I wasn't sure. I had tried to take a closer look at it but the startled, white and red creature had run from me. Now, in the crispness of the morning, I had witnessed the presence of more peculiar pokémon. I again saw the frightened bird from the other day; however, that was not all. A brown creature with a piggish nose was foraging for food in the snow not too far from the path. When I tried to approach, Murrey halted me with an outstretched arm.

    “It's a swinub,” he told me, blocking my way. “They come every year around this time to search for food before hibernating. Over there,” he gestured with his head a bit to the right. I turned my head to see what exactly he was referring to, and immediately noticed a shaggy, bigger pokémon sniffing around with its nose. “That's most likely its mother. You don't want to get too close or it'll attack you.”

    I examined the pokémon with great interest. It looked harmless from here; however, the man's eyes reflected truth in his statements. Looking at him, I said to him:

    “You know a lot about the pokémon who live around here.”

    He nodded and grinned, continuing down the path. I followed, my knapsack bouncing on my back as I rushed to catch up with him.

    “When you live in a place long enough, you come to understand it,” the man admitted, shaking his head as to remove the snow. “You start to recognize the pokémon around, and you even come to befriend them. That's how I acquired my scyther years ago.”

    I thought about this. Befriending them, huh? I chuckled. The Espion functioned exactly the opposite of that: pokémon aren't “friends”; they're “tools”. Although I never did agree with their manner of treating pokémon, I had to make it appear that I did whenever the rest of the group had been around. Looking at Murrey, I realized he shared the same philosophy as I did in regards to the treatment of these intriguing beings. It comforted me.

    I gazed at the unending path before us. The snow had created a temporary white desert where, instead of sandstorms, blizzards would hide the paths and blind the way. It was by this path that we were going to arrive in Vicinia. Murrey had calculated that it would take two days to arrive there, as long as we walked at a relatively fast pace.

    The small town of Vicinia was inhabited primarily by farmers and fisherman. It was one of the only towns I had not visited with the Espion, due to it being difficult to harbour in the proximity. From the man's answer earlier, I estimated the town to have a population of around two hundred, three hundred at the most. We were going there for winter supplies and, more importantly, to rent two ponytas from a local rancher. With them, we would transport the tree logs we had cut down in autumn to the rural community; then, we would begin to build a new house for a small family.

    A light breeze blew past us from behind. Tree branches brushed against each other, the wind removing any remaining leaves from its limbs. There were quite a few pine trees in the area; they mocked the deciduous trees' incapability to bare against the cold. In some areas, the snow had melted to reveal the tips of short, yellow grass. Up ahead, a pokémon (which Murrey identified as a “delibird”) jumped at the sight of us walking up the hill. It raced from the clearing and into the depths of the surrounding woodland, completely out of sight. Smirking, I inhaled deeply and exhaled. My warm breath created a moment of condensation in the air upon contact. I was fascinated, and greatly amused.

    This is going to be fun, I thought to myself, walking alongside Ella's husband cheerfully. My smile was broad and my spirits were high. I felt like nothing could ruin this trip.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
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    Shrewsbury, UK
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    I've just had a quick skim through and this looks like a pretty interesting concept, a Pokemon fic set in a pseudo-Medieval world. I'll try to read it properly later, but I'm a bit short on time right now.


    A cute exterior hides inner strength ~ Suzy



    Destiny's Bond

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Quebec
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    8

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    Thanks; I'll have a new chapter around Saturday. I hope to see your critique at some point (no rush lol) so I can fix things / take ideas into consideration.

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