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Old October 27th, 2007, 10:44 PM
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JX Valentine
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Harassing Bill
Age: 26
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Sorry for the late response. I wanted to couple it with the release of the next chapter. ;

@ jb: What Alter Ego said is right. The fic doesn't actually take place in a medieval time period. It's actually in the distant future (although I do a terrible job at actually portraying this). The knights theme to the Game is pretty much just a theme.

Thanks for your review, though.

@ Alter Ego: I've thought about what you've said (and what we've discussed via PMs), and I'm trying a bit of a combination in this chapter. If it's any better, I'll try to keep it with the next chapters.

With the comment about the box, I can assure you, there is an in-story reason for that. XD I know I can do some lame cop-outs when I'm particularly tired, but you won't have to worry about this being one of them. It's also tied in with the reason why the Trio is intentionally failing, but that's a secret that won't be revealed for a few more chapters.

Thank you for your review as well.


That said, the latest chapter -- which, interestingly enough, is the last chapter of the original series. (Yay! New stuff coming soon!)

Act Six: Rules

Encyclopedia of World Knowledge
Entry: Methysergide Acid Diethylmide

A user typically calls it "angel fire," "angel ball," "spore," "honey," or simply the acronym – M.A.D. About twenty years ago, Dr. David Puck had managed to accidentally discover it as he had tampered with naturally occurring chemicals found in Breloom caps. Hypothesizing that the drug, based on the chemicals found in pores known to produce Spore, would temporarily soothe an insomniac into a safe slumber, he synthesized several capsules and tested the new drug on lab Rattata. The result: twenty rattata lying peacefully at the bottom of a cage for a period of twelve hours. A few years later, M.A.D. had gone out on the market as a miracle sleeping pill.


As soon as night fell on Illyria, the club, for lack of a better phrase, came to life. Its beat resonated into the street as the lost children in their dark clothing shuffled their feet into the dark, humid space. Inside the shady interior, a young man in a red sweatshirt sat down at a table. He bowed his head and pulled his red hood further over his forehead as he kept an eye on the crowds.

Less than a year later, the government had discovered that drowsiness was merely a possible side effect on human subjects. If taken by a patient who had normal sleeping patterns, for example, the drug merely triggered hallucinations and false senses of euphoria – a trip. When the government received this news, M.A.D. was pulled off the market immediately.

Something large blocked the flashing light from above the center of the dance floor. The man looked up to see a dark-haired woman standing over him.

"Knight Hook?" she asked.

He looked up. "Knight Spider. Didn't think you'd show. Have you got the goods?"

"Have you?"

However, those two decades had provided enough time for people to discover what it did and how to make it. M.A.D. was a semi synthetic: a drug that could easily be derived from a combination of breloom spores and everyday household cleaners. Manufacturers would spend hours toiling over bathroom tubs and sinks until they managed to obtain the viscous liquid known to be M.A.D. in its purest form. From there, M.A.D. left standing in glasses would dry and evaporate slowly, leaving the salt form known as "spore." M.A.D. soaked into blotters or on the sides of pokéblocks were known as "angel fire" and "honey," respectively. However, the most alluring form of all was a form made when drops of the drug were rolled into round caps of colored gelatin and chilled until the gelatin formed a rubbery, semisolid exterior around a liquid M.A.D. center – "angel ball."

"Yeah."

He slid a brown envelope from beneath his sweatshirt and placed it on the table. Olivia's eyes narrowed as she looked at it.

"It was hard to get it, let me tell you," he said. "The girl doesn't get out much, so it's hard to tail something I couldn't find."

Olivia said nothing as she picked up the envelope and opened it. Slowly, she tipped it until its contents slid out a few inches. In the dim light of the club, she could make out a storefront.

Because angel balls are essentially droplets of concentrated M.A.D. the size of the head of a thumbtack, angel balls have gained a street reputation as being the most powerful form of M.A.D. on the market. Even if a user would snort three lines of spore or consume two pokéblocks or blotters painted with honey or angel fire, that person simply would never reach the same high as someone who downed one or two angel balls. In addition, as a result of this reputation, the angel ball was the most sought-after form. A user would have paid millions of yen just for a single ball. Dealers, of course, knew this fact all too well.

"You did well," Olivia said.

At that moment, a woman in black sauntered over to the table with a tray balanced on her shoulder. Olivia sat across from Knight Hook with a grin as the woman reached onto the tray and plucked two glasses from it.

"What's this?" the man asked as a glass of dark liquid was placed in front of him.

"A drink," Olivia said, "to our deal. It's on the house."

The woman walked away as the man looked at the glass skeptically.

"What is it?" he asked. "And what about my end of the deal?"

"Just beer." Olivia looked at the table. "As for your second question, you're quite right."

Olivia reached into her pocket until her fingers clasped something smooth. She pulled it from her pocket and placed it in the middle of the table. Knight Hook's eyes fell on her hand as he licked his lips in excitement. Noticing her business partner's enthusiasm, Olivia smirked as she drew her hand away to reveal a folded piece of white paper with a small lump in its middle.

The effects of M.A.D. in any form were akin to a combination of L.S.D. and ecstasy. Users would, in a few moments after ingestion, experience temporary euphoria – a love for life and everything that moved – accompanied by visual and, in some cases, auditory hallucinations. These effects tended to last for anywhere from two to twelve hours, depending on the dose and physical attributes of the user. Soon after, the user would enter a "downer" period for about ten hours, in which he or she experienced extreme forms of depression or apathy as well as a temporary deprivation of depth perception. In addition, its long-term risks tended to include permanent neurological damage, resulting in permanent depression, psychosis, brain damage, or even death. Nevertheless, users who encountered none of these long-term risks would most likely become dependent on the drug to avoid the downer period.

Knight Hook used one hand to draw the paper close to him. Slowly, he pulled its corners until it unfolded like a blossom in spring. In the center of the paper lay a small, blue ball about the size of the head of a thumbtack. Knight Hook's tongue flicked into the open again to run across his chapped lips.

He plucked the ball from the paper with his thumb and index finger. Carefully, he drew it upwards to examine it carefully.

"Very nice," he said. "Looks home-made."

"It is," Olivia responded dryly before she took a sip of her own drink.

Step one. Ingestion. Most forms of M.A.D. were usually taken orally except in the case of spore, which was either inhaled nasally in powder form or melted on a metal spoon and injected directly into the bloodstream with a hypodermic needle, depending on the preference of the user. In the case of angel balls, it was customary to take the angel ball between the tongue, roll it until the gelatin cap melted slightly, and swallow it. The ball would break on its way down the esophagus, so a drink of water or an alcoholic beverage was usually taken with the capsule to wash the contents down the throat.

Knight Hook pushed the ball into his mouth. His tongue played with its slippery coat for a moment before pushing it into his throat. He followed with the drink, which he didn't bother to really taste. If he had, he would have noticed that it tasted oddly acidic for beer.

Step two. Digestion. The body absorbs M.A.D. rather quickly, so the effects tend to come just as swiftly. M.A.D. molecules travel through the bloodstream and towards the brain. There, it acts as a catalyst to increase production of serotonin, the chemical responsible for positive emotions, by tenfold while acting as a mild neurotoxin to induce hallucinations. The result is a sudden, quick rush of positive emotions coupled with the experience of an acid trip.

Only a few minutes later, Knight Hook's pupils dilated. Olivia watched in amusement as his head tilted back, foam dripped from the corners of his mouth, and his body convulsed in his chair.

It is important to know that an overdose or repeated use will result in a destruction of brain tissue. Survivors are typically rendered brain dead, but such people are incredibly rare. Most of the unlucky souls experience a complete system shutdown: the brain is so damaged that even all unconscious processes such as breathing ceases.

Knight Hook's head slammed into the table. Olivia hesitated a few moments before placing a hand near his open mouth. No breath caressed her palm. With a smile, she stood, envelop in hand. Then, she walked a few steps, towards the back office. She stopped when she stood beside the body of Knight Hook. Her eyes narrowed as she glanced towards him. Without a word, she slipped a hand towards him and patted his pockets. Briefly, she paused as a smile grew across her lips. Her hand dipped into the pocket she just touched, and a few moments later, she pulled out a key. She inspected it quickly before placing it in her pocket.

Knight Spider: Acquisition of Key 171 – Hook. Processing… Processing… Processing… Complete. Acquisition successful. Have a nice day.

---

"Haunter! Finish it with Shadow Ball!"

Obediently, the specter slid beneath the light of the streetlamp. His eyes narrowed as his disembodied hands moved around a ball of pure blackness that seemed completely untouched by the yellow light above him. Instead, it seemed to feed off the light as it pulsated between the ghost's palms. Finally, the ghost lurched forward, and the ball shot towards the green bird as it struggled to stand.

The bird didn't even bother to dodge. It waited for its fate until the ball consumed it and the ground around it. When it passed into the ground, becoming one with the natural shadows of the night world again, the bird lay unmoving amidst cracked pavement. Its owner, a tubby male, dropped to his knees.

Entry: Midsummer Game

Midsummer Game rules, rule two: There are three objects of the game. First and most obvious, to reach the Midsummer Vault before any other player; second, to survive by fulfilling all tasks given to you; and third – which is more of a strategy than an actual goal – to collect the other players' Midsummer Keys.


Viola blinked. Her opponent bowed over his limp pokémon. She saw his body shake, and she swear she could hear a whimper. Beside him was her goal: the package.

Rule three: Just as there are three objectives, there are also three ways to acquire the other Midsummer Keys. The first possibility is that a player acquires the key by chance – that is, by finding one. Although it is possible to do the same for the other keys to limit the number of players that initially join the game, most players will only find one key through luck alone, and that key is their first.

She stepped forward with Haunter following closely behind her. When she was close enough, she knelt and reached over the unconscious bird to take the package.

The second is through the death of another player. Players may "inherit" a key (along with all others that the dying player has acquired) if the original owner willingly gives it to them just before death. It is also possible and fair to take keys from the dead, even if they were not willed to the living player. Taking just one key from another player in this fashion would automatically transfer all others that the deceased held to the player's collection.

Before she could take the package, however, the other Knight reached into his pocket and held his key in front of Viola's face.

"Take it!" he said.

The third is simply by waiting until another player is defeated (but not necessarily dead) and then taking it when the player either willingly or forcibly surrenders his or her key. One of the customary prizes when a player is defeated is their own key, especially if the defeated wishes to forfeit the Midsummer Game. Alternatively, if a player drops in rank until the title of Midsummer Knight is revoked, the closest Knight is free to relieve the former Knight of his or her Midsummer Key. Likewise, a Knight who has yet to be inducted has a chance of having his or her key stolen prior to beginning the Midsummer Game. The most likely scenario is usually the first, given the nature of the Game itself.

Viola blinked again. "What?"

"Take my key!" her opponent said. "Please!"

"But… I don't want your key. I just want the package. My Master said I need to just get—"

He shook his head. "I don't care! Take it!"

Viola frowned. "I don't want your key."

"I can't stand it anymore!" He stopped to sob. "I've been playing the Game for months, and it's been driving me crazy! I can't do anything without having to think about my Master, and all these people keep on trying to kill me! I can't do this anymore! Just take the key and leave me alone!"

He threw the key at Viola and stood. With a quick motion, he pulled a poké ball from his pocket and recalled Xatu. Then, before Viola could protest, he turned and ran.

For the next few moments, Viola stared blankly at the back of the man. When she could no longer see him, she blinked for a third time and looked down at the key on the ground just in front of her. Cautiously, as if the white metal would burn her fingertips, she touched it and then withdrew her hand slightly. Finally, she plucked it off the ground and put it in her pocket. With a bit less hesitation, she grabbed the package, stood, and walked back the way she came.

Knight Illusion: Acquisition of Key 178 – Gate. Processing… Processing… Processing… Complete. Acquisition successful. Have a nice day.

---

Entry: Verona City
Subentry: Politics


Voices shouted. The smell of sulfur and gun smoke lingered in the air. Not one soul remained on the street except Viola, now on her way home. Everyone else knew they were coming just by the wind.

Verona City, Kanto, has the unique social system of being an isolated city state. That is, while Japan's federal laws apply there, technically, the laws of Verona City override them in most cases. The city government itself is ruled by an elected official that serves for roughly four years, although it is possible for such a leader to be elected for an unlimited number of terms. As the mayor and his council hold complete power over the city, the political turmoil within the area is particularly significant. Specifically, as of current, two particular political parties fight for the coveted position of power, and these parties are known by the names of their most prominent leaders, the Capulets and the Montagues.

"Houndoom! Flamethrower!"

Viola looked over her shoulder. The voices were getting closer, and she could swear she could see the red glow of fire dancing on one of the walls. Somewhere beyond it, a blood-chilling scream echoed off the brick façades.

Local legend states the parties began as a single force of political might, but they diverged centuries ago over business differences (specifically, within their primary trade of shipping) just before the autonomous government of Verona City was established.

Although Viola knew she needed to keep walking, she remained where she was, in the shadows just beyond the yellow light of a streetlamp. Once more, the red glow of the hellhound's fire flared against the brick walls. Feet pounded against the cement.

"They're almost here," she said to herself. "You should move."

No one is perfectly certain what each party's ideals are, but it is generally thought that Capulets are conservatives whereas Montagues are more likely to take liberal sides of an issue. Within each party, however, its members merely state the difference between good and evil.

She saw shadows approach. Quickly, she stepped to the side until her back met the brick façade of a shop. Soon, she saw five figures in black with the shapes of a houndoom and a sandslash trailing behind them. A jet of water arced into the spot over which the two pokémon dashed just a moment ago. When the attack stopped, what was left was an indentation in the street with cracks lacing in an intricate spider web away from its center.

For this reason, the younger generations, who are typically born into their respective parties, see only the allure of fighting and eliminating evil – that is, the members of the other party.

Seconds after the jet of water came, an arbok and a golduck landed. Behind them, six other figures in black approached. Of the first five, only one stopped and turned, a redhead with his green eyes on the poison and water-types and a hand on his belt.

"Keep going!" he yelled to his companions. "I'll hold them back!"

He unclipped a ball from his belt. A finger pressed the button on its face, causing it to enlarge in his hand. Quickly, he tossed it in the air and watched as it split open and spewed white light towards the ground. In seconds, a creature crowned with a giant blossom appeared.

"A vileplume?" a woman's voice muttered.

Viola squinted, but she saw nothing but the woman's silhouette. She could tell her arms were crossed but not much else.

"I've got it, Merc," one of the others – a man – said. "Golduck, Ice Beam!"

The redhead retaliated. "Vileplume, Sleep Powder!"

The flowered twirled, but the duck was already in motion with its beak wide open and bright, blue light blasting forward. Before so much as a single blue speck of dust could emerge from the stamens of the plant, a bolt of blue lightning struck him squarely in the center of his blossom. With a startled shriek, Vileplume was knocked back, ice crystals forming on his petals and a cold pain ripping through his body.

"Golduck, Confusion!"

Immediately, the duck spread her arms. The jewel in the center of her forehead took on a red glow as a blue light surrounded her body and entered her eyes. Vileplume struggled to stand, but as a blue aura ebbed on his skin, he felt something – an electric pulse – run through his muscles. Suddenly unable to move on his own, Vileplume could do nothing except stare helplessly at Golduck as he rose into the air. Golduck focused only on tossing the flower around, and with each thought, Vileplume tumbled through the air. His flower head smashed into the concrete, occasionally leaving cracks and green blood in the cement wherever Golduck chose to have him land.

"Golduck, enough."

Obediently, the duck tossed Vileplume at his master's feet. By then, Vileplume was beaten, bruised, and most of all, unconscious, with trickles of blood running down his face. His trainer shook as he stared wide-eyed at his Pokémon. The woman stepped forward, uncrossing her arms as she gazed at the man.

"That was too short of a battle," she said. "This one's a little weak. Did you evolve it into a vileplume as soon as you got it or something?"

The defeated trainer clenched his teeth. "A week ago."

At that, the woman put a hand on her head. "Je-sus! You're not worth our time, kid, but I'll tell you what. We'll leave you and your friends alone for now if you just hand over your key to my friend here, okay?"

Golduck's trainer stepped forward. "Hey, that sounds fair."

"Don't knock it," she said. "You're the one who's getting it."

The vileplume trainer hesitated, staring at his six human opponents first before looking at the golduck and the arbok. With a shaking hand, he unclipped Vileplume's poké ball from his belt and recalled the injured pokémon. As soon as the vileplume vanished, the trainer pushed the button on the ball's face to shrink it before clipping it back onto his belt. With a quick movement, his hand plunged into his pocket and drew from it a key, which he held between his fingertips. The golduck trainer approached and accepted it.

Knight Horse: Acquisition of Key 045 – Garden. Processing… Processing… Processing… Complete. Acquisition successful. Have a nice day.

"Grazie," he said. "Now get out of here."

Without another word, the vileplume trainer fled. For a long moment, his opponents simply watched until finally, the woman turned towards Viola.

"All right," she said. "Get out here so we can see you."
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Anima Ex Machina (Chapter 20 now available)
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