*Warning: This chapter contains some violent scenes. More so than previous chapters.*
Chapter 17: Disarray
“You ask why we fight. Why we revolted that day. It is simple, Nickolas. We fight because of you. Too long has your Kingdom stood over us. It is our time to break away. Long ago, your ancestors marched into our cities to burn them to the ground. In turn, I sincerely hope I will get the pleasure of removing your crown from your bloodied brow in the burning streets of Silver...
That is, however, if your capital isn’t razed by your own citizens first.”
—Segment of correspondence between King Nickolas Lucario and General Vallin of the Colonies
And so the world ended.
“The Fates are wrong. Their immense omniscience leaves them blind to the true evil. The eyes of my allies that watched its intricate workings were gouged and blinded. Threads of Fate, heavily woven and not so easily undone, bind this world to their rules. Dissenters meet their end against an unforgiving tide of spacetime, their souls crushed by Erebus’s gaping maw. And now this day blooms with the blazing brilliance of a new dawn, yet is stifled underneath the molten ash of peace. In these days of etrophy, the heroes of the ancients lay forgotten under the growing weight of the centuries. It is now only us who continues to stand.”
An abyss sprawled beneath the specter. Tendrils of pulsing black reached up towards the Mismagius as he spat his words at the clawing void. His piercing crimson eyes were the only points of light in the dark realm. His cold, clear voice rocked the silent world, beating down the darkness with his words alone. His pursed lips curled into a cruel smile as he felt the abyss tremble.
“How fitting that it comes down to us, old friend. In the end it does not matter who we are. We are simply mortal souls fighting against unfavorable odds. We are parallel, yet convergent. We are those who carry on the torch of freedom. And we cannot fall while on the job. Your mind may be lost to this abyss, but you are still alive. Wake up, Ian.”
Light splintered the darkness. In a spontaneous genesis of life, air forced its way through his scared throat and damaged lungs. Everything had feeling again. Cold tile floor pressed against his back, a dull ache throbbed throughout his body, and the light blinded his weakened eyes. Death had relinquished its grip on him, but it had only grudgingly done so. The cloaked spector stood off to the side, withered hand gripped around its scythe, waiting for its chance to return and finish the job.
The remainder of the gas was involuntarily expelled from his lungs via a brutal coughing fit as the toxicity of his body decreased. His withered form twisted on the ground in spasms of reactivating muscles.
“Oh! You’re awake! Umbreon, come quickly! Ian’s awake!” An upbeat, female voice shot through Ian’s eardrums like a thorn of rough iron. He drew his claws over his ears and tried to block out the sudden eruption of noise that threatened to overwhelm him. Despite his aversion to the voice, bits and pieces of his fractured thoughts responded to it as if they recalled it from the foggy depths before the labyrinth.
“Coming! I’m coming! Take care of him for a minute, please!” The opposite of the previous voice spoke as its deeper tones and distinct sternness stuck another string of the insane tangle of his memories. The Breloom’s eyes blinked open as he saw a face covered in fine coat of pink fur peering over him. When he saw her wide, purple eyes, his thinking untangled for a single moment while memories of his past life welled up to the present.
“Espe—!” he gasped. He tried to raise his head towards her, but was met with a stinging cramp in his chest which held him to the floor. Espeon gave him a brief smile as she placed a small, blue-colored berry in his claw. Ian glanced down at the fruit she had given him and couldn’t help the tears that welled in his eyes. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen a piece of food so unspoiled. His sojourn in the darkness left him only the rotten and dried out waste he scavenged from the compost piles beneath the atriums.
“Ian, you have no idea how happy we are to see you’re alive. We were told you and Team Frontier were killed exploring Zero Isle!” the Psychic-type explained as she helped Ian raise the Oran Berry to his mouth. His jaw shook with a combination of sheer joy and crippling hunger. He bit into the soft skin of the berry and let the sharp, refreshing juice slide down his burned throat. The stinging sensation it brought was welcomed by the Breloom as it repaired the damaged tissue on its way into his system. With the pain came realization: Her.
“N-no! No! Still alive ... Sh- ... Still Alive ... !” Ian wheezed as he clutched at his burning throat. His eyes blearily took in the surroundings. Stone. Never-ending, cold, stone. As the cruel realization that he was still underground came upon him, Ian choked on another fit of sobbing.
“Ian! What’s wrong? What’s going on? Umbreon! Hurry up! Something’s wrong with Ian!” Espeon yelled as the memories and emotions from the last few hours to the previous year fell upon him like a crumbling tower of sorrow. Simultaneously, he recalled brutally snapping Vertex’s neck in the midst of a psychotic episode and seeing the limp form of Sophie as her body was taken away by the cruel, mocking faces above.
“Why do I live?!” Ian cried as his body began to shudder under the weight of his transgressions.
“Calm down, Ian. You’re safe here. Everyone is safe her-” Espeon’s comforting dialogue was quickly cut off as Ian only let out another agonized wail at the top of his damaged lungs.
“WHY DO I LIVE?! WHY?!” As he screamed, he curled his body up into a fetal position at Espeon’s feet and continued to mutter the same two questions over and over again. His claws gripped at the sides of his emaciated face as he begged for the bystanding specter of Death to take him away at long last. Yet it never came.
Not in compassion, but in wrath, my angel fled today. The Reaper saw me dying on this grey path, but allowed my soul to stay.
Sunlight rained down upon the rolling green hills and valleys surrounding Shiloh. The verdant slopes burst forth with the colors and scents of the height of summer. Far above the bountiful fields of the country town, the sun bathed the land in its gentle glow as it rose from the blue horizon. Farms and empty grasslands eventually gave way to lush forested foothills at the base of the mountain range.
Team Salient had been lucky with the hike up to the Forsaken Capital mystery dungeon. The relatively easy path from Shiloh to the edge of the mountains had only gotten easier once they were under the sun-speckled canopy of the old forest. After an hour or so steadily climbing further up the trail, they were fortunate enough to find a small brook of clear water and several bushes of untouched blueberries just as the pangs of hunger were beginning to set upon them.
Their mid-morning rest was short but exactly what their legs needed to recharge so they could take on the remainder of the upcoming path and dungeon. They had eaten their fills of the delicious fruits, and both Jay and Kelly had to take turns washing blue juice stains out of their fur. Kelly beamed when she saw Jay genuinely smiling among the sun-dappled glade. It had been the first time since before Blue Sun Canyon she had seen him that way. Unfortunately, an uninvited pair of eyes stalked their meal, taking careful note of their location and numbers. Unbeknownst to them, it was not alone. It had found its target, and now it would wait until the opportune moment to claim its prize.
After they had washed away their stains and weariness, it had only taken a few minutes more along the trail until they reached the entrance of the dungeon described on their job. Among the giant, moss-covered oaks and babbling brooks were massive pillars of what appeared to be white marble. Noah told his companions that legends long said that these were the only ruins left of the humans that had lived in the area eons ago. The Dewott assured them he had seen true human ruins near his home town and had quickly invalidated the structure of the white rock slabs as work of human hands.
“Too fancy for ‘em. Humans don’t make ornate stuff like that,” he replied to Kelly after she had questioned his knowledge on the subject.
The environment was so tranquil that the three Pokémon traveling along the forest trail nearly failed to notice where the path dropped down into a wall of shimmering air. The Dewott in front shook his head to clear himself of the intoxicating scents. Noah held out his hand to signal the two others behind to halt. Following him, Kelly and the blindfolded Jay obeyed, the Riolu using Kelly’s shoulder as a guide. Noah held up a scrap of browned parchment paper as he inspected the barrier, muttering words under his breath as he did so.
Their group quickly walked through the translucent wall of twisted air one after the other with Noah leading. Fortunately, this dungeon was nowhere near as anomalous as the last few Kelly had been in. This forest seemed to have a calm disposition, unlike the violent trees in the forest dungeon outside Loyalty Square. The outside of the dimensional distortion was nearly identical to the interior: the temperature remained pleasantly warm, the terrain was still a gently sloping forest dotted with ruined stone structures, and the sunlight still barely penetrated the leafy canopy of the trees above, leaving odd spots of light on the gently worn path. If they hadn’t been paying attention to the barrier, she wouldn’t have known she was in a dungeon.
Kelly tried to remain focused on finding the species of plants for their client, but what Noah had said earlier kept at the front of her mind. As her paws padded along the dirt path and over the gnarled roots of ancient trees, the Jolteon looked over at the Dewott foraging in a brush in search of the herbs they needed. She realized then that she knew next to nothing about him, despite the fact that he had traveled and trained with the team for nearly two weeks. He had craftily gotten them to tell him bits and pieces of their stories in Torrent’s camp, but he expertly dodged their questions regarding his story at every turn.
“Noah? Can I ask you something?” she spoke up, her voice breaking a bit in nervousness. The Dewott dug his head out of the lush bush at the sound of his name and turned towards her. In his gently cupped hands he held a dozen or so leaves, which he took to her for inspection. Kelly gazed at the pile of rounded green leaves he held under her nose. They smelled fresh like pine trees.
“Sage, I think. They’re really green now, so we should gather a bunch of it while we can. And what’d you want to ask me, Kelly? I’m ready to divine your answers as ‘Noah the Psychic,’” he answered with a smile. He carefully slipped the leaves into the flat pouches on the inside of his satchel. Kelly shifted uncomfortably on her feet, causing Jay to nearly lose his balance beside her.
“I’m not sure how to phrase this, but ... I wanted to ask you about ... you. I mean, you’ve trained with us, you’ve traveled with us, you even helped save our lives in that canyon. Yet, I know nothing about you. I even know more about Leo than I do you, and he doesn’t have a past to remember at the moment.” Noah’s smile immediately fell like a rock dropping from the sky. The blue otter silently turned away from her and focused his attention on carefully harvesting more leaves from the sage bush.
“Hey! She asked you a question, Noah! Give us a straight answer,” Jay barked as he adjusted the crimson band around his eyes. Kelly felt the Riolu’s paw grab onto her fur while she ran forward to the unresponsive Pokémon. Noah gave a small snort of agitation as he abruptly turned ninety degrees and walked further down the winding forest trail.
“Noah! Come on! Give us an answer! If you’re going to stay with us, we should all know each others’ stories, right? Teamwork and cooperation, right? What happened to that, huh?!” Kelly shouted as she dashed after the Dewott, Jay stumbling along blindly behind her tripping over the intruding roots with a curse on his lips for every time his paws slammed on the wooden obstacles.
“There’s nothing to tell you. What I was before is, unfortunately, none of your business. Leave me to my own devices please, and I promise not to interfere with yours. How’s that sound, hmm?” Noah snapped as he gave a brief glance behind his shoulder at her. The Dewott shouldered his bag and roughly snatched a small head of purple flowers from a lavender bush hanging over the side of the path. Kelly watched as he crudely stuffed the fragile flowers into his satchel.
Kelly wasn’t sure whether to be furious or hurt by the brash statement. Rarely in the time that they all had known Noah did he demonstrate any signs of this distant and cold attitude. Any trace of his laughter was gone from his voice. Out of all the emotions she felt, only anger managed to take control.
“What’s gotten into you? You were fine a few minutes ago!” Kelly snapped. Sparks jumped in between the charged spikes of her golden fur as she continued to fume. “If you can’t trust us, then why are you still here?”
Noah turned around and drew one of the razor shells that rested on his hips. “Then maybe I shouldn’t stay with you lot! If you can’t give my past a damn rest then maybe I should just go!” Noah shouted back as their increasingly heated argument echoed throughout the wooded dungeon. Kelly was beyond irate. The troubling thoughts that plagued her head were agitated to painful levels with the Dewott’s sudden aggressive turn. Amid the shadowed trees, the silent lurker watched and listened to their debate intently. The lurker smiled as their shouts attracted the local populace. Noah suddenly paused, his face freezing with his mouth open.
“Jay, Kelly. Don’t even think about moving. Otherwise it will kill us all. Do not move. Do not talk. Do not breathe. Just pray. And stand still.” Noah said in a hurried whisper as Kelly instantly stiffened up. Jay’s paw flew to her back as he stilled as well. The Jolteon didn’t dare look behind her at whatever monster Noah had found.
She felt its presence. There was something there for sure. Whatever it was, it didn’t breathe like the usual, murderous monster would. She only heard the slight internal humming and the clicking of mandibles.
“Listen to me very carefully. When I say ‘go,’ you both are going to turn around and hit that thing with whatever you have. Lighting and ... fists. Alright? After that ... Just stay alive and do not breathe in the spores,” Noah whispered again, almost mouthing the words in near silence. Several tense seconds passed before the Dewott began to inch his way forward. He held one paw to his mouth to keep silent while his other slowly raised his trademark scalchop.
Kelly put aside her feelings of animosity as she concentrated on circulating electricity through her fur. She felt Jay lift his paw from her fur. Her body shuddered in fear. Kelly took a deep breath and tried to to think of how she would survive against the unknown foe looming behind her.
“Go!” Noah yelled as he leaped forward. Kelly spun around with a flurry of crackling energy and let loose a bolt of thunder at the approaching enemy.
“Impact! We have impact! Brace yourselves!” Torrent’s gravelly voice boomed throughout the streets as the ground shook with the detonations. Leo was thrown to the heaving street as fire erupted from the rooftops. Around him, clay walls of houses were blasted apart relentlessly.
Leo felt his legs turn to jelly before they were knocked out from beneath him by the crashing wave. He fought the urge to vomit. His body twisted in mid-air before landing spread-eagled on the cobblestone pavement. The world spun violently in circles as Leo lifted his aching head from the street. He felt the stone scraping away some of the scales before a sickening feeling rose from his bruised stomach.
Wood splintered and heat pulsed through the shattered houses as Pokémon ran about trying to put out the fierce fires that had sprung up from seemingly nowhere. Dazed, Leo got to his feet as he blinked away the head trauma. The Charmeleon ducked down behind the fallen roof of a villa just before a beam of electricity blasted over his head. Peaking around the rubble, he saw the advancing forms of Pokémon that seemed entirely separate from the scurrying civilians.
The attackers were doing their best to make Shiloh their own rendition of hell. Blasts of water from the impromptu fire squads sizzled against the flames that fed on the dry wood of the houses. Leo saw them, all sorts of them. They were different from the Kingdom soldiers in the scarce equipment and worn armor that they had strapped over their bodies.
Wind whipped through the street as attacks whizzed through the air, scarring the embattled town further. Flames ate away at the store fronts as the Colonists drove through the scattering crowd, clashing with anyone who got close enough to them. Leo breathed heavily as he clutched the mound of rubble, praying that none of the rebels would find him. Jets of water were blasted into harmless steam by opposing Flamethrower attacks coming from the dogs of war.
Just when he saw an opening in the chaos to rush behind to the safety of Torrent’s fort, he found himself face-to-face with a four-legged reptile with a flower bud growing on its back. Leo balked at the strange plant-creature. He had seen many strange Pokémon in his short time in this world, but this one took the cake for the weirdest. And unfortunately, it seemed to notice that Leo looked out of place in the realm of the living.
“Tryin’ to hide from me, soldier?” the plant sneered. A vine short forth from the closed pink flower and wrapped around Leo’s unsuspecting throat. Immediately, the vine retracted, dragging Leo out into the street as he sputtered and clawed against the twisting tendril. The Ivysaur let loose another vine that snaked around him, trying to bind his flailing arms together.
“N-No! Let go!” Leo yelled as his arms evaded the second vine. In his desperation, the flame on his tail flared brightly as he clawed at the vine coiling around his throat. His head grew dizzy with the lack of air. Losing his rationality, he lunged forward, towards the Colonist Grass-type, and bit down on the base of the vine. By some force, he felt his mouth heat up, and he bit down harder on the strangling plant. The Ivysaur screamed in agony as he dragged Leo against the stone. His rage towards the attacking Pokémon only ignited further as he felt his scales break and his blood smear against the rough rock of the street.
His half-lidded eyes opened wide as fire burst forth him his fangs, scorching the vine in two. Leo tumbled backwards, cringing as his shins and arms scraped against the stone, but he was free. He looked up at the enemy Pokémon. The Ivysaur was shouting curses Leo did not understand and his smoking and severed vine danced about in the air. Something snapped inside of Leo’s head. He had been abused and forced to follow the will of others for too long.
The ground rumbled beneath him as a beam of energy shot through a line of houses, leaving them a smoldering wreck of ash. Shiloh’s civilization was slowly being reduced to molten slag before his eyes. Snorting a jet of smoke from his nose, Leo shook off the limp vines around his throat. His eyes flashed with fury as he lunged at the distracted plant-animal.
“Get off, damn lizard! I’ll snap your neck! Snap it clean off!” The Ivysaur screamed as Leo landed on top of its flower bud. Any vine that sprouted from it was quickly slashed into pieces by his glowing claws. His mind was a haze of hate and fire as his sharpened claws tore into the leafy exterior and shredded the pink flower. The Ivysaur kicked and threw itself against the ground and buildings as it shouted in agony. Leo ignored its screams and focused on the goal of ripping the life from the frothing and cursing Colonist beneath him.
Everything else around the two battling Pokémon was lost in a fog of debris and shouts as a war raged. Yet, the Ivysaur’s fiery, red eyes burned as their owner slammed Leo into a wall. Undeterred, the Charmeleon retaliated by digging his clawed feet into the Ivysaur soldier’s underside, leaving deep gashes along the blueish flesh.
The Ivysaur screamed before he collapsed, “You... And your family will drown in a storm! Drown in it!”
Leo grinned as he slashed his claws down into the fleshy bud, stripping it of its layers swing by swing. Plant juice splattered on his claws with each pass as the enemy soldier beneath him fell into unconsciousness Leo didn’t care. He screamed as he dug his hands into the center of the bud and clawed deeply, trying to rip it out. His mind gleefully urged him forwards, forcing his claws to pierce the plant flesh and tug hard.
The Ivysaur was unmoving, its eyes closed as Leo ripped out a large chunk of the plant that lived inside it. Even though he had effectively killed it, Leo was still unsatisfied. Disregarding the attacks shooting around his head from the Colonists fighting around him, Leo let his body exact revenge. He opened his jaws wide and breathed a jet of instinctual fire onto the Ivysaur’s carass.
Flames licked the dying plant flesh as they quickly consumed the fallen soldier in an impromptu pyre. Leo stepped off his defeated foe as he turned around and walked down the street, leaving the burning corpse behind as if it were nothing. His confidence rose to deathly insane levels as he calmly ducked and sprinted past shooting jets of fire, water, and ice. Shiloh was in flames around him, yet he felt more alive than the leaping tongues of fire. As the plant blood dripped from his claws, Leo for once felt that he was in charge. He would forge his own destiny, and he would stop anyone who got in his way.
“Get down, fool boy!” Blinking stupidly as his daydreams of torching his enemies faded, he felt a large hand grab his neck and force him to the ground. From the street, Leo saw the huge, blue reptile let go of him. Torrent lowered his head and crossed his arms defensively as a wave of water blasted into him, where Leo had been walking just a moment before.
Water cascaded off the Feraligatr’s blue scales and landed on Leo’s tail and back, causing him to groan in pain as his tail flame hissed. Above him, Torrent came out of his defensive pose.
“You pansies think that’s powerful? Let me show you rebels what an old Kingdom soldier can do!” Torrent screamed as he drew his head back and a blast of water stronger than anything Leo had ever seen erupted from his massive jaws. He couldn’t see who was on the receiving end of the pressured jet, but the distinct crack of bone and high pitched screams was proof enough that it had been effective. Torrent closed his mouth, extinguishing the stream of water, as the general ducked down to avoid a beam made of fire, ice, and electricity.
“I never thought you were a fighter, Charmeleon,” Torrent observed as he helped Leo to his feet amid a small lull in the fighting. “Until I saw you maul that rebel back there. Now THAT is the kind of action we need from you! Good job, boy!” Torrent exclaimed with a pat on the shoulder that nearly sent Leo back to the ground.
“T-thank you, sir,” Leo stuttered. He never got a reply. He and the Feraligatr immediately ducked behind a makeshift barricade of broken wood and bricks from the ruined, burning fortress.
Now behind friendly lines, Leo could see the true extent of the damage. Pokémon he had trained with yet barely knew rushed about like ants on a damaged anthill. The humble fort that had been his home for the last days was a flaming furnace, its wood fueling the raging fires within as a grandiose smoke pillar drifted up into the endless void of the night sky.
On the ground were Pokémon, some groaning in pain from burns or wounds and others laying deathly still with eyes shut as if in tranquil slumber. A shudder passed through Leo’s spine at the gruesome sight. He had been told to expect it by Torrent during training, but he had thought that it would be on the battlefield, not in a town. His thoughts were interrupted by a brief fluttering of wings from the sky above as the battle seemed to reignite. The mess of feathers and talons staggered on the ground as it gasped for breath.
“General Torrent! Colonial patrols have been sighted in the foothills in the east! It’s not a large army, sir! This looks like a strike team!” Leo needed no further evidence to confirm that the wounded bird was the Pidgeotto, Icarus. The accident-prone Pokémon breathed heavily as he brought a battered wing up in a sloppy salute.
“Thank you, Icarus ... They didn’t come to take the town ... They wanted to get in and out under the cover of night... They’re searching for something...” the general grumbled as he shuffled through the fallen debris and shattered boxes as he looked for intact supplies. Leo slowly walked beside the fatigued Icarus as they watched Torrent let out an exasperated sigh.
“Alrigh’! Everyone, listen up! They’re getting ready for another attack! Gertila, you and whoever is still breathing over there, I want you all to hold your position. Meanwhile I’ll —” His barked orders were cut off by an explosion that tore through three houses and sent a hurricane of clay shrapnel raining into the small squad of Pokémon on the far side of the barricade.
“Damn it! Quark, see if they’re alive! Everyone else, beat those half-breeds back to their own lands!” Torrent screamed. His deep, authoritarian voice echoed over the re-erupting battle in Shiloh. Leo shook his head and ran at a crouch until his back leaned against the flimsy wall of broken wood and clay. Only inches remained between life and being impaled by a spear of ice or some other death.
“They’ve got us surrounded! Those poor fools!” Torrent laughed heartily as he got up from behind the crude wall.
Leo watched with awe as beams of ice, bits of sharpened leaves, and blunt rocks all whizzed by the general, each attack seeming to glide just over his aqua scales. Leo coughed as he ran through clouds of smoke and dust kicked into the air by the violent attacks around him. While he ran, trying to find a way to help and fight, the Feraligatr made his presence known to the enemy, fighting alongside his subordinates.
The Charmeleon swiped his claws at a flaming fox who jumped by him, but missed his target horribly. Behind him, Torrent yelled as if Darkrai himself appeared, and Leo let the Flareon go. Whirling around, he watched as Torrent charged into the thick of the fight and hefted up a surprised Golem in his arms. The rounded boulder Pokémon struggled in the general’s massive arms shortly before the enraged Water-type threw the enemy soldier down. It slammed down on a mass of writhing blue vines that was trying to smother a Heracross. The vines from the Colonial Tangrowth immediately fell limp as their owner was killed instantly by the boulder crashing into its skull.
The Feraligatr wasted no time in dispatching the dazed Golem with a merciless blast of ice from his maw. There was a brief scream before the rock shell cracked under the bitterly cold temperature. Torrent ducked as a bolt of lightning flew over his head, forcing him to backpedal.
Leo tried to get rid of the foul smoke taste in his mouth, but it only got worse as he swung his claws against the advancing Colonists. He swiftly lashed out at them and awkwardly danced his way away from their retaliating attacks. Leo met with a blue, muscle-bound Pokemon and didn’t think before immediately slashing his glowing claws into its chest. He didn’t have a chance to retreat; the irate Machoke slammed his fist into Leo’s stomach. His eyes bulged as he felt every organ in his body shift upwards. His mouth opened involuntarily as he belched forth a cloud of acrid smoke from his lungs before falling to the ground, clutching his bruising stomach. Through the stinging pain, he heard the purple brute choke on his smoke shortly before he felt a set of claws grab his own and drag him roughly to his feet.
“Nice display there, kid. Try not to get hit next time, though!” Torrent screamed.
He twisted his head and blasted a jet of water from his jaws at a rebelling Flareon who had taken to torching what remained of the wooden fortress. The flaming fox screeched in agony as it was extinguished instantly. Its cries fell silent when its skull cracked audibly against the hard wood.
“One moment, please.”
As soon as the flaming creature was doused to a cold death, Torrent reached into the shattered lid of a crate and pulled out a fistful of tiny shriveled crimson seeds. Leo’s eyes widened in shock as Torrent crudely tossed the volatile Blast Seeds at the advancing Machoke.
Leo raised his arms up to shield himself but not before a series of explosions rocked his eardrums. He staggered as the earth shook in response to the volley of Blast Seeds. His feet faltered and tripped over the debris into one of the smoldering rooms inside the fort. Forgetting the pain in his legs and torso, Leo’s eyes widened as he saw pieces of seemed to be curved metal laying scattered on the stone floor. Their color looked as if they were charred in the fire, but they were not damaged. It only took his mind a moment to figure out what they were, and he smiled a toothy grin amid the destruction.
Armor... Leo greedily scooped them up in his claws. Once in his hands, he found that they were not pieces of metal at all, but rather strong, blackened wood. He didn’t ponder the strange set of armor for long as another explosion rattled the ground. Leo slapped the curved wooden pieces onto his arms. He pulled their leather straps and tied them awkwardly with his claws.
He looked down at himself. The blackened bracers looked ridiculous on his red scales, but all his mind saw was protection between him and the many, many things that wanted to kill him. His chest was still unprotected, but at least he would avoid scraping his arms again. Huffing with pride, he turned around and was immediately given an opportunity to test his newfound armor. An explosion ripped through the broken wall in front of him and Leo had just enough time to raise his arms in front of his face before they were met with a shower of flaming splinters.
The heat passed by his body without problem, and to his surprise, the speeding bits of debris tinked off the bracers on his arms. The only damage suffered was a few small cuts on his stomach. He smiled, thanking the luck gods of this world, as he jumped over the fallen wall and into the battle once more.
It only took Leo a cursory glance to see the destruction Torrent had inflicted upon the intruders. The Charmeleon felt his stomach clench as he saw the bloodied remnants of the Flareon and several other unidentifiable Colonist soldiers. Torrent inspected his gruesome handiwork with a slightly manic grin.
“Icarus! Fly as fast as you can to the Gracewind and Electros companies! They’re the closest! Tell their captains we’ve got a serious breach on our hands here!” Torrent snapped at the flustered Pidgeotto. In an instant, Icarus flapped his wings twice and took to the air once again. Leo cautiously approached the general.
Torrent’s eyes glimmered as he first glanced at the Charmeleon and then the rest of his exhausted troops. The rest of the company was taking advantage of the momentary calm in the bitter fighting caused by the explosions. Leo breathed, staying low behind the burning barricades while Torrent assessed the situation silently. He looked around for himself, and the sight had gotten worse since a few minutes before. There seemed to be more unmoving bodies laying on the ground. These fresher casualties were twisted and crumpled against the broken stone, radiating steam, smoke, and thawing ice.
The Charmeleon’s stomach flipped over, and he felt a wave of bile splash up into his mouth. He spat it out onto the cracked road before he rested his head against his knees. His chaotic thoughts wandered to Kelly, Jay, and Noah while he closed his eyes trying to hold back tears. The ground shuddered beneath him as another explosion rocked it. He mentally cursed Kinsliy for shanghaiing him into working; it was because of that damned Sneasel that he wasn’t with his team now. His teeth gnashed together as he secretly hoped that she was among the casualties.
“Listen up, you lot!” Torrent’s voice boomed over the eerie calm that had settled over Shiloh’s ruins. Leo looked up at the general. The Feraligatr stood on a pile of wreckage and addressed the few Pokémon who could still stand. Leo saw a couple familiar faces in the thin crowd: Quark the Alakazam, Ramses the Yamask cook, and a few he knew by sight alone but were mostly unknown to him. Torrent looked over his painfully few soldiers, but if there was a hint of disappointment in his face, he didn’t show it.
“They’ve made a mistake in coming here,” Torrent said with a huff and an accusing claw pointed at the Colonial soldiers just beyond the barricade. “They outnumber us, but we’re stronger. We’re damn stronger then—!” Leo was certain he was going to continue his motivational speech when a familiar voice suddenly interrupted from behind.
“It seems like you could use some help. Is that right, General Torrent?” Leo’s head twisted to see a flash of green leap from a nearby rooftop and land in the clearing in front of Torrent. It was quickly followed by a white blur and another green figure that glided down from the sky. Leo’s spirits rose as he saw the solemn figures of a Grovyle, Absol, and Flygon.
“Victini’s star! Blade, Elliot, Sonic! You boys came just in the nick of time!” Torrent yelled with a gruff laugh. “Damn, I was almost starting to get worried there, but now with you lot here, we’ll beat down these rebels before they can blink an eye!” The massive Feraligatr exclaimed as he clapped each one of the members of Team Emerald on the back. Torrent turned back to the main crowd of Kingdom troops, with a confident smirk. Leo stood up with the weirdly emotionless trio and gave them a friendly wave, silently thanking them for showing up. They didn’t return the gesture. The only reply he got back was a piercing stare from the stoic Elliot. The Absol’s crimson eyes drilled into his, making him stop his wave and fall silent. A cold feeling sank over him, yet he didn’t know why.
“Trey, you and the three behind you are to hold the center. Gned, you take Clarice and Nath and fortify the left! Leo, you’re with me and Quark on the right! And Blade ... Just do what you all do best. Now!” Torrent commanded, as a collect shout rose from the battered soldiers, Leo included. To his left, Blade looked to his two teammates and nodded.
“Yes, sir,” the Grovyle calmly said as the cluster of leaves on his wrists glowed with energy. Leo blinked, and when he opened them he wished he hadn’t. Blade silently leaped into the air and in one fluid movement, he twisted in midair and sunk both sets of his blades into Torrent’s exposed back. Everything seemed to grow quiet as Blade retracted his leaves, only to repeat the process trice more in the span of a second. The Grass-type ducked around the stunned Feraligatr and jabbed his leaves into his chest, dragging them to the side, splitting bone and lung in a spray of fresh blood. Blade hopped into the air and kicked the general’s bleeding torso, sending him crashing to the ground. The quick Grovyle stepped over the fallen Torrent and raised his leaves for the kill.
“Heh. Good one,” Torrent said as he spit a wad of blood at the traitorous Groyvle’s feet. As his head fell, his massive jaws opened wide and launched a beam of bloodied ice from his maw. Blade screamed out and clutched his frozen right arm. Leo watched, shocked at the scene. The Grovyle cursed vehemently, raised his left wrist, and brought it down under Torrent’s limp jaw, slashing through his throat with a savage cut.
“TORRENT!” Quark screamed as the shock wore off and reality set in. Leo blinked. And blinked again. This was no dream of his. Blade still stood panting over Torrent’s body, his leaves dripping with his blood and ice. Leo’s body went numb. All shock was quickly replaced by an anger fueled by his raging inner fire. Pain swelled in his singed limbs, but he had a mission to do. Torrent was dead, but he was damned if he was going to stand aside.
There were no thoughts that crossed his mind other than the resolute block of revenge that flooded his skull. His legs tensed as he leaped into the air. Instantly, the broad side of his shoulder slammed into Blade, sending the both him and the Grovyle staggering off Torrent’s bleeding body to the ground. Leo kicked and clawed at Blade’s skin as he screamed curses at the traitor. Leo had three seconds of victory before Blade landed a brutal kick on the Charmeleon’s stomach, launching him off.
“You miserable, Fire-spewing —” Leo refused to let him finish. The anger smoldering in his body was stoked into a raging fire, and he was all-too-willing to let it burn. Leo opened his mouth, and a flash of fire erupted from his jaw. The Grass-type screeched as his body was subjected to the sudden burst of fire, but Leo quickly found out that it would take a lot more than a simple Ember to kill his attacker. Blade emerged from the wave of fire with a murderous disposition. He snarled as he swung his glowing wrists down on the Charmeleon.
Rather than meeting soft scales, blood, and bone, his dual Leaf Blades jarred to a stop against the thin, black, armor on Leo’s arms. Both Pokémon were momentarily stunned as the dangerous wrist leaves sat embedded in the oaken armor. Leo stared the Grovyle down even as Blade spat at his face. The insult spattered across Leo’s left cheek as he simply drove his clawed feet into Blade’s knees.
The enraged reptile fell to the dirt but only remained down for an instant as he leapt at Leo. However, he never got the chance to slice Leo’s throat. The Grovyle simply froze in midair, an extended wrist blade only a few inches away from Leo’s gasping throat. Blade’s eyes widened with fear as he saw Quark. The Alakazam stood in front of the few survivors of the company in the face of the rogue team.
“You hid your traitorous thoughts well, Blade. But I’m afraid all liars will burn in the end.” Quark’s eerily calm voice echoed over the battlefield. Blade’s immobilized body shook weakly before Quark shifted his spoons to the right, sending the Grovyle into the flaming fortress. Blade smashed through the weakened wood wall and landed in the middle of the inferno. The Grovyle’s agonized screams were lost as a bolt of pure darkness sliced through the air and struck the Psychic healer in the chest, knocking him back.
Leo got to his feet just as the Absol charged at the small group of survivors. Leo had never seen the white creature fight before, but now he could only duck to the side as Elliot sped by him, his sharpened crescent horn glowing with a vile black energy. A large beetle in blue armor stood to block his charge towards the staggering Alakazam. Leo saw her wings buzz as she collided with him with a sickening crunch of bone and carapace. Elliot stumbled, his momentum halted as a large gash graced his white-furred flank. The Heracross, however, took the full brunt of his energy. The bug warrioress grimaced before she slumped to the ground, her deep-blue armor smoking at the segmented joints.
The thrum of death resonated against Leo’s heart once again as another life was taken before his eyes. He had no time to react to the loss of another soldier when he felt a blast of heated air collide with his exposed back. Leo was slammed into the ground, his chest and face scraping across wood and twisted metal before he tumbled to a stop. Blearily looking up, he saw the shape of the sleek desert dragon fly over him and spew a stream of blue fire from his maw. Sonic twirled in the air, avoiding Quark and the other survivors’ feeble attacks.
“GAAHHHHHAHHH!” The anguished yell came from Leo’s left. The disorientated Fire-type glanced at the burning fortress. Flames shot up from the wood, purging the structure of matter as the screams only continued. A distorted figure appeared in the midst of the inferno, writhing, yet running. As if it was a demon fresh from the mouth of hell, it burst forth from the fire. Its skin was charred black against the dusk air. The body crumpled to the floor in an ashen heap as smoke twisted and curled from the plant-like scales. Yet, even as it died, a sinister white light ensnared the figure. Leo felt the blood drain from his face as the horribly burned scales peeled off in spades and grew in again, greener than before. The Grovyle breathed and twisted his neck, cracking his bones as his arms pushed off the ground with a huff of strength. His crimson eyes locked with Leo’s, and a crooked smile appeared on his face.
Blade brought his arms up to his chest and spun around. The cluster of greenery on his wrists glowed with a white light as he flung three spinning leaves through the air. Leo only had time to blink dumbly and heard something like an explosion just before he felt a thousand knives rip into his chest. He could only watch as the trio of distorted leaves plunged into the softer scales on his chest, cleaving into his flesh and pulsing in a sickening glow before their power faded. But he did not feel their sting. His gaze traveled down to his chest where the curved, green leaves had settled into his flesh. He heard yells, shouts, and screams as ice froze, fire burned, and power crackled through the air. His arm shook numbly as he touched the ends of one of the leaves that stuck out just below his heart. The organic blade did not budge from his scales.
His breath hitched as if it was blocked by something. The roar of war in his ears faded into a content hum as his teammates’ carefree jabber and laughter filled his head. The few times that had been filled with peace in Loyalty Square and Torrent’s camp played in his mind. Their cheerful, painless voices swirled around his skull like his vision. His claws tried to swipe them in order to hold onto them, but they flitted out of his weak reach. Reality distorted in and out of focus as images of his friends interpositioned themselves in between the smoking battlefield and their own plane of existence.
Jay waved at him, lifting his bandana from his healed eyes as Leo’s body sagged. Noah smiled his usual charming grin as he leaned up against a smoking slab of broken rock. Leo ignored the snarls and curses as Elliot and Quark wrestled to the death inches away from him. Jay and Noah were unconcerned with the blood-duel that was happening a mere stone’s throw from them as Quark avoided the Absol’s horn and wrapped his arms around Elliot’s neck. The resulting snap was dulled out in Leo’s ears as his legs buckled and he fell to the ground. In what was his final straw, Kelly appeared amid the haze, her body sparking and lighting up the surrounding darkness. She didn’t move, but her eyes beckoned him to her. He wanted to run to her, to embrace her and forget this battle and his pain. But his deteriorating body failed to move.
The sharp, broken rocks cradled him as the battle raged beyond. His teammates had long since fled his fading mind as the ground rattled beneath. Blade screamed in rage as the Absol’s body was flung down, neck angled awkwardly and eyes lifeless. Leo couldn’t see much as the wooden barricade was slammed down by the Colonists. This was the last struggle for them. Leo’s eyes blinked, the only action he could voluntarily perform as his blood fled out through his wounds. His key clinked against the stone, bringing attention to itself. Amid his disjointed thoughts, he got an idea.
Going with agonizingly slow speed, Leo slipped the golden cord off his head and pushed the key underneath a fallen signpost. If he was to die, he refused to let the beautiful treasure be claimed as a war prize. The blue key glistened as it skidded to a stop beneath the splintered wood, out of sight if no one moved the wreckage. His body relaxed and he let his limbs fall limp as he stared listlessly at the carnage. To his satisfaction, the Flygon screeched and crashed to the ground, a spear of ice protruding from his body. Death of others did not cause him the discomfort he once knew. Perhaps it was because his own life was coming to a close.
"Cease. Now." The voice, lovely and terrible, washed over the flaming city with the fury of a raging wind.
Silence. Frenzied shouts immediately ceased, both the besiegers and the survivors dropped their stances, and quiet reigned as the battlefield slowly smoked and cracked. Leo’s eyes strained to open, desperately beating back weakness and death to retain one last look at the cause of the silence. His flesh convulsed as a wave of spine-wrenching fear purged the warmth from his heart. Pain squeezed the sides of his head as tears began to roll down his face. Utter despair seemed to roil in the wavering air around him, polluting his head with the paralyzing emotions. He felt like he was being crushed from the inside out while his bleeding heart pounded wildly under his skin as if it was trying to flee his body.
Is this what it’s like to die? He saw Nexus stamp her claw down on him in a forest clearing. In Spore Meadows, Jumpluff mocked him as he choked on the poison gas. In Loyalty, Leo remembered the agonizing sting left from the electric burns the Magnemite caused. Yet none of those compared to the numb pain that crawled over his body like ice.
Stop! Stop! Make it stop! What is this?! his thoughts screamed as he prayed for the assault against his mind to cease. The burning he felt inside his head wasn't worth it. Nothing this world had to offer him could compensate for the pain or the onset of insanity. Leo gasped as another wave of sickening nausea swept over him.
Stop! Stop! For the love of God, please stop! His bleeding body writhed on the street as the bombardment of emotions continued to fill his mind with thoughts of guilt and regret. He clutched at his chest in an attempt to relieve some of the pressure on his lungs, but to no avail.
This is it. I'm going to die. I never got to say good-bye. Kelly, Jay, Noah ... I'll miss you all. Leo felt tears in his eyes again. This time, they weren't in response to the pain; it was for his teammates he'd never get to see again. His end would be on the street, and the cobblestones would be his grave. No one would find his body. He would be utterly forgotten. He would be one insignificant human killed in a world not his own. He wanted nothing more for it all to end. He wanted whatever was toying with his mind to finish its job and switch him off entirely.
His eyes flickered open for an instant to take in the scene before snapping shut from the pain. The perfect evening sky and canted light were wasted on this day of wanton destruction. Burnt wood and flesh assaulted his nose yet did little to drive away the phantoms of regret and guilt that plagued his mind. He could vaguely see the thatched straw roofs igniting from the falling flames as screams erupted from the panicked populace. More than once, he heard the Pokémon carrying him yell to unseen others.
Leo choked out a bloodied wad of spit as he felt a dizzy spell grip his head again. As he held his eyes shut to try and shut out the pain, all sound ceased as another call echoed over the battlefield.
“There will be no more fighting. Blade, cease. This slaughter is enough.” The voice again. No longer amplified, but carrying the same authority nonetheless.
Despite the heat from the nearby flames, Leo felt a wave of cold dread wash over his scales. He wasn’t paying any more attention to the words as fear wrapped its slithering tendrils around his mind. His body seized up and he was unable to breathe. The tail-flame which guided him flickered, and another wave of pure terror flooded through his halted body and made him wretch a mouthful of blood out onto the pavement.
A figure stood over him as Leo went through the motions of slowly choking to death on the regurgitated blood from his innards. He couldn’t clearly see who or what it was, but it possessed an ethereal aura about herself. It strode forward amid the slanted shadows of the night. Its form was occasionally illuminated by the burning city, making it as beautiful and terrible as a seraph of death. The figure opened her mouth to speak as a chorus of screams erupted from the burning fortress in the outskirts of Shiloh. Her voice, however, was the result of angels.
“Hello, human. I am glad Blade did not kill you entirely. Now, to find the other one. ”
Continued on Next Post