A disclaimer before reading this. This is a small backstory to some of the characters within Shadow War; however, no knowledge of my story is required to understand this. This is rated PG-13 for one minor mention of blood and a bit of violence. Lastly, I wanted to break away from the typical beginning-to-end, so I changed it up a bit. If it doesn't work, I'll switch it. Read. Review. Enjoy!
Essence of Law
Echoing sounds of his claws ticked against the rocky floor. Behind him, his pursuer’s footfalls resonated in chorus with his own. Turning the corner, another long, narrow corridor of rocks and soil expanded in front of him; a growl escaped from Leafblade’s mouth and a shiver coursed through his fern tail as the realization this may be the end of the road. Two steps after rounding the corner, a crashing wake of water slammed against the wall he had just faced moments ago, spraying a cascade of droplets against his jungle-green scales. He couldn’t stop; if he could out distance the other, he might just make it out. The rocky, moss laden hallway, however, yielded no sign of a cavern to hide in, leaving that ever growing realization into fruition and draining the hope of escaping without being taken into custody. And the respite wouldn’t come, another jet of crushing water roared behind him, and this time, it crashed full force against his back, flinging him to the ground. A muffled cry escaped from his chest where he was holding the child that was the center of this drama. Managing to get back up, a pain shot through his left leg after taking one step and a rather warm, sticky feeling inched its way down his thigh. End of the line, figuring he must have skidded farther than he expected when that blast of water knocked him across the floor.
With nowhere to go and no capability to run now, his pursuer finally caught up to fleeing duo. “Why, Leaf? You wanted to do help capture that bandit, yet now I see you on the other end of the law,” his pursuer hissed, sounding almost like steam escaping a small crack yet intense enough to rival that of an earthquake.
“He’s a kid, Empyr. Arresting him won’t do any good. Your laws will only make him worse,” Leafblade replied, gazing back at the man sized penguin that had beaten him. The penguin’s fins were gleaming a little too much than natural, and Leafblade could venture a guess that every ounce of the Empoleon’s mind was screaming to strike out, yet self-control was still winning out.
“That is not your decision to make.” Empyr was to the point of shouting, seeming to have a hard time figuring out why Leafblade did the thing he did. In the small expanse of the conversation, he had leaned against one side of the hallway and worked himself into a sitting position, his leg draining the energy to stand out of him. Empyr had taken this advantage to now stand directly over top of him.
It was becoming a strain to continue looking up toward Empyr, preferring to just keep his head level with the hallway, Leafblade decided to stare off in the direction he had been running. “You wouldn’t understand,” he said after a moment pure silence. Empyr had also opted to gaze off into the unknown of Leaf’s running path, unaware of anything going on around him.
Upon the statement, his head jerked back around and stared full long at his prisoners. “I understand well enough that you decided to disregard our laws that you agreed to abide by. Because of your actions today, I’m now forced to consider you an outlaw as well and take you both into custody, regardless of your standing back east.”
“I know, Empyr. And if you really feel this mission is that important to you, you can waddle your way back to where you can find me. But you won’t have him.” In the small window that Empyr had looked away from Leafblade, he had been able to lift the outlaw in his embrace on level with Empyr’s bag, snatch one item out of it, and return him to his embrace without Empyr ever seeing the theft. The item happened to be a glass orb only the size of a marble. Every team always had at least one on hand, and Empyr was no different.
A shattering of glass emitted from within his embrace, and a light brighter than the sun blinded the surrounding area’s now only occupant; Empyr’s eyes widening for a second in realization at the lack of attention he had paid, only to squint them shut to prevent any kind of damage to his eyes. When the light faded, the only hint that anyone else was ever there was the remains of the little marble. The two outlaws before him gone, transported out of the hallway and out of the cave they all were in. Reaching into his bag for the piece of paper that highlighted the details of the mission, he looked at one last time, wondering what exactly he should do with it, and how these events played out the way they did anyway.
It was awkward without having his partner Zix here. For someone who absolutely loved to goof around, it was odd that he opted to not take a vacation. After all, they had just been promoted to the highest rank within their organization, the esteemed Lucario Rank; a rank only given to a handful of teams since it was first established. Not dwelling too long on it, Leafblade allowed his guide to show him around town. He’d heard a small amount of his guide’s team, stopping a time and space rift that would have plunged the world into stasis. He had introduced himself as Empyr, informing Leafblade that he would be his guide. Even on vacation, Leafblade wasn’t able to relieve himself from work. He just arrived about an hour ago, yet Empyr sparked their initial conversation with how similar their jobs were and wanting to swap stories. Here he was trying to escape the stress of missions, yet Empyr was talking about various outlaws he had captured, even discussing about one recent spike in organized crime that was believed to be responsible from one individual. Not containing his intrigue well enough, Leafblade couldn't help but agree that aiding in the capture this outlaw would equate to a fun day.
“Well if you are interested, we could start by getting stocked up. Recent reports rumor that this outlaw may actually be hiding in his base among one the caves on Zero Isle. Southern Cave may end up being where he’s actually located, as many deem this place to be the toughest among the five on that island, so we’ll start there.”
“Sounds good. As much as I know I'm going to hear about this for ages on from Zix, I guess one mission won't be too much of a stresser. When do you want to head out? And I hope you have something for me to use as I left all of my gear back home.”
“Oh. Yeah, no problem. We'll head over to the market right now. Buy what you need.”
The layout of the town was remarkably similar to his home, Scout Town. The center held a large density of houses while the outskirts had most of the shops. And it was in the western district where one could find the general market. They had stocked up on what they thought they needed, exclusively food to get there, and set out for this cave in the south.
They walked back the same route that led into town and proceeded on the path that led north to the guild. They didn’t stay long. Empyr asked Leaf to stay outside while he got the mission. Not even a minute later, he was back out with the letter in his bag, giving Leaf only enough time to admire the portcullis that was the door into the building.
“Not one to waste time, or are you trying to avoid someone?”
A wide grin broke over the Empyr’s face at the question while he answered back, “Well, I can’t be the only one here that may enjoy a day without their best friend annoying them all day. Come on, the road out of here is this way.” He pointed to a wide path that broke away from the path into town. Not delaying themselves any further, they left.
The sun was setting by the time they got to Northern Cave. Southern Cave ended up being a dead end. Since they both had to enter separately, they were able to glean information faster from the denizens within it whom, after defeating them, had informed them that no such outlaw had been seen inside there. Western and Eastern Cave had ended with similar results. It had not been too much of a waste as both Leafblade and Empyr had more or less obtained a rather useful stock of items to continue venturing through the caves located here. Northern Cave was there last stop for the day, and in the event that the outlaw wasn’t here, they’d return to town and call it a dead end rumor. Gazing up at the entrance of Northern Cave, a small wave of dizziness eroded its way into Leafblade’s stomach for the fourth time that day, this one stronger than the others. His tail shivered slightly while his wrist-leaves wilted slightly. This one passed slower than the others, leaving him wondering whether that was his nerves screaming danger or if it was the nature of the island itself. Empyr didn’t look too phased though as he strode toward the entrance with little hesitation. It was grand to say the least, rocks protruded from the top and formed the shape of some kind of skull of some Pokemon Leafblade wasn’t familiar with. Not wanting to look any way weak-willed, Leafblade fell into step behind Empyr wondering just how exactly this place could have been created. So lost in thought over the grand entryway that he almost didn’t hear Empyr talking to him.
“. . . outlaw doesn’t slip by you, no matter how slow you think he may be. If he makes it to the warp panel that leads to the next floor, he’ll be out of the dungeon instead, escaped from us. As I doubt I need to remind you, mystery dungeons never cater to us, but to the residents. Outlaws are no different. Anyone seeking shelter against the law is more empowered while in these dungeons. I’ve no doubt that this kid will be a challenge. Actually,” Empyr paused while he dug around his bag to review the mission. Leafblade spared a glance into his new friend’s bag. He had to suppress a small chuckle as he saw that its organization was perfectly neat, almost sickening. All the berries in one section of it, seeds right next to them. Then the apples followed by various colored orbs, notably the sky-blue sphere that every team should keep on them: an Escape Orb. “This may end up being where he is at. Central Cave’s location is not known to many explorers or outlaws, and these rumors that the outlaw’s base is on this island were from multiple air teams seeing increased activity here. Unless he knows we’re here and is using each of the caves to hide in, this should be where he’s at.”
Nodding his head in agreement, Leafblade continued to follow behind. Empyr had told him earlier that Northern Cave was a battle ground to anyone who thought themselves strong enough to take the gauntlet of reaching the bottom, and sure enough, he was true. At first, it was a bit challenging facing against the many foes who had sought a challenge worthy for them to face, but once the duo found a rhythm that complimented each other, no one had stood a chance against them. They both had been silent most of the journey, only talking to call out various strategies when fighting. Within those silent moments, Leafblade’s curiosity over who this outlaw was but had kept his assumptions to himself.
On one occasion, right around the sixtieth floor, Empyr got blind-sided by one of the denizens and was knocked out on the spot. Digging through the bag for one of the Reviver Seeds they had found earlier that day, he pulled one out, thanked Empyr mentally for his organization, and crushed it in his hand to allow the dust within to work its magic. Sprinkling it over his current partner’s nose, the effects were immediate; Empyr’s eyes shot open and the bruise that dominated the left side of his face lessened in intensity, decreasing from a huge welt to a small bump.
On the last leg of than journey, around floor sixty-eight, that gnawing curiosity was aching in the recess of Leafblade’s mind; the question he was too curious about to keep to himself any longer, “You mentioned earlier today that you think this is an outlaw notorious for a spree of thievery. Who exactly is he, though?”
“Actually, he’s a kid. Been raiding various exploration teams through trickery, posing as an orphan in need of help before catching others unaware and leaving them with next to nothing.”
“Just a kid. How has he escaped capture then?”
“Resourcefulness. I know,” said Empyr looking over at Leafblade’s face. “Hard to imagine a kid being the next evil genius; however, it’s not too farfetched since last time I checked, two teams of two kids had saved the world in the last decade.”
“This is horrible. He doesn’t deserve this. He could just be a troubled child who just doesn’t know how to live on his own!”
“There can be multiple reasons why he’s stealing. Regardless though, our officers will decide what is best for the kid. Every outlaw has a story, convincing or not. No matter what, he still is a notorious thief, and we simply ensure he is captured. Nothing more or less. Now come on,” Empyr said, preferring to drop the subject. “The panel is right over there.”
Empyr was quick to note Leafblade’s horrified expression, yet he couldn’t see the true reason behind it. It was a kid. No kid, no matter how intelligent, could fabricate a complete lie without mingling truth into it. He probably was an orphan, on his own, no one to look after him or raise him properly. Leafblade guessed that this outlaw had to be near; he could feel it. Activity had been light the past few floors. One would think that luck was favoring them, but when ten floors were like that, something was up. This kid was near. Earlier in their adventuring, they came across a few Stun Seeds and kept them in case the kid decided to flee. Empyr had been right in his thinking that every outlaw had a story, but in his experience, laws shouldn’t always be followed to the letter. Circumstances arise that judicial punishment just wasn’t the right course of action. And right now, this was one such case; at least, Leafblade hoped so. He needed to be right.
“Hey, can you hand me one of those Stun Seeds, just in case,” peering directly at the triangular seed, topped with a rather poisonous, yellow flower.
“Yeah, sure. Here. Glad you finally see reason,” Empyr responded, handing one of the three they had on hand and not displaying any sort of suspicion. Good. They walked over to the panel. Leafblade stopped. Empyr was looking over at some item lying of the floor farther away, probably deciding if it was worth getting or not.
“Hey Empyr. . .”
“Yeah?” asked the Empyr as he turned to look at Leafblade, only to find a flower under his nose. Giving the seed a good squeeze, the powder contained within flew into his face and nose. It absorbed into the Empyr’s body as the namesake of the seed took immediate effect. Within in seconds, Empyr was locked in place, most his muscles paralyzed by the effects of the powder from the Stun Seed. Empyr only had enough to time to recoil in surprise before that expressions was frozen across his face. Leafblade reasoned that Empyr would be stunned for about eight minutes, plus another three minutes to recover, giving him enough time to hunt down the outlaw on his own and hopefully reason with him.
Stepping onto the warp panel, the familiar tug and dizziness of being transported to another part of the cave came and went. He was dumped into a cavern covered in grand stalactites covered. Yet even those did not match what lay all across the floor. Conical sand pits were eaten out of the floor, and Leafblade was aware of only one species that could create such traps.
Somewhere to his right, a voice called out, “Can you help me? I’m stuck in one of these pits and can’t get out.”
So that was how the Trapinch tricked others. “That won’t work this time. I know who you are and what you do?”
“I guess I should have expected as much,” the voice called back, this time much more firmly, though it still held the pitch of a kid.
“Listen, I don’t have much time; I don’t want to fight you. Only to understand how a kid like you ever let themselves become this.”
“That won’t work. I know who you are and what you do,” the kid called back in complete mockery.
“Really then, who am I then?”
“An explorer come to arrest me.”
“And normally that would be true. In fact, that would be the other guy I came here with would fit that description. He’s fully committed to turn you in, but I know that won’t help you. Will it?”
A moment of silence passed before the kid spoke again, “No, you’re lying. If you came with someone else, he’d be here with you. You don’t know what it’s like, not having a family to care for you, no food to provide for you. I do what I do to survive.” You’re trying to trick me.”
“Wise words for someone so young, but do you think your parents would agree with your choices? I doubt it. Look, you may choose to believe me or not, but my name is Leafblade. You may have heard of me; the one who stopped the meteor several years ago. I know what it’s like being on your own, trust me. I don’t want to see you turning out worse because the law here doesn’t understand. I’m offering you a way out; I’m offering to raise you myself, join my team even if you want to. But please, I ask that you give up this life. It doesn’t do you any good. What would your parents say?”
The kid laughed. “My parents abandoned me. Told me I was a disappointment and left me for dead. Can you relate to that Leafblade?” There was so much anger. What would drive anyone to hate such hatred for family?
“No, unfortunately I can’t relate. However, that doesn’t mean you should lead this kind of life over something your parents hated you for. Surely this isn’t who you actually are. You can’t be telling me that you actually dreamed of being an outlaw. I’m offering you a way out.”
Another silence hung over the chamber. Too long this time. In those few minutes that ticked away, one single, throbbing thought penetrated Leafblade’s conscious; Empyr was shaking off the effects of the poison by now and would be arriving shortly. This needed resolution now.
“Well?” Nothing. “Well!” Still nothing. He was about to call out again, when a small voice whispered slightly behind him, right next to his feet, “I guess I’ll give you that chance. You’re right though, being outlaw wasn’t my choice. I just wanted to prove something to my parents.”
A shiver coursed down his spine as the whisper was only a few feet behind him; however it passed soon after as a sense of relief flooded his entire being “Those are some messed up parents then. But come on, we need to le---“
Just before he could finish his sentence, Empyr was plopped down right in front of him, a look of absolute hatred painted on every muscle of his mouth. “How could you---”
Leafblade didn’t wait to hear what Empyr wanted to ask. Not wanting to stay any longer, Leafblade launched himself towards Empyr, causing him to stumble into one of the sand pits. He turned back around to see the kid shivering by the wall, eyes wide at the scene unfolding before him. It was his first ever look at the Trapinch. His skin was a much darker tone of brown than others he had seen, yet his legs were about a few inches larger than the typical stubs his species had. Scooping the kid into his arms, Leafblade ran towards the nearest passage out of the cavern, taking care to not fall into the other numerous traps the kid created. This caused him to slow down his efforts as a misplaced step would ruin any attempt to run away. Yet even with his quick, precise steps, there was no way to escape unharmed as a noticeable drop in temperature permeated the room, and he was nowhere near the exit.
“Why is it getting freezing?” cried the kid in his arms, echoing the thought that he himself just realized, yet Leafblade knew. Effective tactic considering as it would harm both of them immensely since both of their bodies didn’t handle cold well.
“It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
Leafblade preferred to just leave the question open ended. He already knew that the kid knew had guessed right. Particles of snow were descending in a huge air current. Leafblade anticipated it to be directed at them first; however, stopping for a moment to see where it was going, he saw the current was directed to where Empyr was at, freezing the gravel and dirt enough to allow the penguin to climb out of the trap. A smart move, thought Leafblade, and would have thought more on it if not for the fact that the next current was now flying towards their direction. He was close to the passageway by now, only a few more pits to dodge. Making a rash decision to forego safety, Leafblade decided to mad dash for the exit. Luck, being as tricky as it always was to everyone, favored both Empyr and Leafblade. Leafblade made it to the passage and escaped into its darkened safety, but not without enduring the razor cold winds of the Blizzard attack.
The biting cold began freezing his limbs into a stasis, reminiscent to what he himself did earlier, just without the excruciating pain he didn’t cause. His breath came out in labored breaths, amazed that he was even still conscious. The temperature started warming back to normal, allowing his limbs to regain their own warmth. Precious minutes passed until Leafblade was able to regain control of his limbs. Empyr had taken every necessary step to be about a few more hops to where they were at, leaving not a lot of room to effectively out distance him anymore. However, that was no reason to at least try, and Leafblade took off sprinting as fast as his slightly frozen limbs would let him.
“You’re freezing,” whimpered the little ant-lion in his arms.
“I know. I may need your help though. Escape isn’t looking to be very hopeful, so I’ll need you to steal one more thing should the need arise. I’m sure you’ll know what to look for when the time comes. Will you do it though?”
The kid trusted him already. If only he wasn’t stuck in this situation, Leafblade may have felt slightly better about it. Behind them, Empyr was closing the distance between them, already cleared of the traps, and Leafblade hurried faster with a roaring rush of water erupting behind him. A branch in the path was coming up, leaving the possibility of escaping still open; at least, that was before he took the turn.
Back at the guild, Empyr was sitting in the commons room, waiting for the officer on duty to come and get the sitrep on the mission. He had taken the few days to get back to the guild thinking about whether to have officers track Leafblade back to Scout Town or not. He hadn’t know what to say, what to feel. He’d inquired when he got back if Leafblade ever showed up; as expected, he didn’t. Cielliene, his ex-human, Torterra partner had offered him her sympathy. Yet beneath her response, she had understood Leafblade’s action. She had said that this wasn’t the first time he had made this kind of choice; that he needed to understand what the truth was and decide for himself. He heard those words before, yet last night, he hadn’t understood where. That morning, he was then told to wait in the commons room until Officer Static was available. So, he sat there for nearly half an hour now until finally, Static showed up. “What happened?” droned the triple magnet with no emotion at all. Just a monotone voice.
Empyr looked at the officer, knowing what he should to say. “Nothing. Outlaw was taken care of.”
“I don’t see him here.”
“It’s taken care of,” answered Empyr with complete finality.
“I see. Shall we send others to get them back here?”
A swell of anger rushed through him, and he could feel his cheeks turn slightly purple and red. He’d spit fire if he could, but he understood why Leafblade did what he did. However, Cielliene had been right. “No, the kid will be alright. Nothing can be done for what was stolen, but maybe the kid will atone for his actions. He’d better.”
“I see.” Empyr thought he heard a sense of amusement within the repeated statement. He almost dismissed it as fatigue until a small orb appeared from behind the magnet, hovering inside a steel container. “This arrived before you came back. The guild master assumed it was for you. Is it?”
A small laugh seeped out of him of his beak. Of course, he would. He just couldn’t leave without leaving something behind as if to say “Sorry, for everything.”
“Yeah, that’s mine.” The Magneton allowed the orb to hover down into Empyr’s awaiting fin until it was placed into his bag. Cielliene had been right. Only, Empyr found it amusing that was the second time he was forced this decision; the amusing part being that it was with the same species line. In that realization, Empyr wondered if the two might actually be related.
He was back home, his now adopted son with him. He had told the Lapris that had ferried Leafblade to Treasure Town everything. She nodded, never saying a word; then again, she rarely ever did. However, when they were back, she did speak. “If Empyr desires to hunt you down, I won’t stop him. You know that right?”
“I do, but thanks for at least letting us escape.”
“You’re welcome; I hope that your actions pay off if indeed Empyr doesn’t come after you as you think he won’t.”
“Thanks again. Farewell.”
With that, she left, sailing away back to Treasure Town. He was left staring out across the sea, even after she disappeared from sight. He never did get to admire much of Treasure Town while he was there. A shame really as that was why he wanted to vacation there to begin with. However, he still ended leaving with something: a family. The waves lapped against the shore. Off in the distance, a looming volcano sat at the edge of the skyline, home to where his partner was raising his family. Leafblade turned to look back at the path that wound its way back to where his team’s base was located, his home. He took a few steps towards the path, only to stop as he realized the Trapinch was still looking off towards the distant blue.
“What’s up, Dustshade?” A name he had come up for the Trapinch on the long journey back here. He had liked it right off.
“You mentioned back in the cave that you had experienced a similar situation. I was abandoned because I showed signs of being too nice. We were part of a clan of dragons that prided themselves in being strong through violence. Exploration teams of all calibers, including Empyr’s Pokepals team, never tried challenging their rule. That’s probably why Empyr didn’t want to let us leave; he would have finally struck some kind blow against the clan, even if it was through an outcast. However, I took up thievery to prove to my parents in some way that I was worthy of being in the clan, as proof that I could lead it. When you tried reasoning with me, I did early on want to simply deceive and actually outright kill you as per custom of the clan. However, I was intrigued when you said you’ve experienced something similar. I didn’t know you, and you didn’t know me. Yet how did you know I was any way similar to you, and what exactly makes us similar?”
He turned to look up at Leafblade, eyes longing for an answer. Leafblade walked up to his son, sat down next to him, and they stared out at the sea together. The kid waited in patience, not saying a word. At length, Leafblade let out a sigh, sending away all the doubt he had pent up within him through that sigh and smiled. “Well, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. So here it goes. I’m called Leafblade since I have no memory of my old life. I was once a human and. . .”