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Old August 10th, 2012 (09:42 AM).
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The Prince of Sweet Sorrow
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Age: 19
Gender: Male
Nature: Lonely
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Chapter 6: Erca



'Wait... Ramos is dead?'

Raskalov and Hermes gazed at Chantalai, who returned their look with a serious expression, his red eyes glowing in the dark of the night. They were standing in the middle of the South Camp, next to the bonfires, with every soldier listening intently - they had not removed their armours yet. Chantalai's tristanite chestguard had gotten bloodied without him noticing, but it was barely noticeable under the scarlet light of Karnos.

'Ramos won't be giving us trouble anymore.'

The two leaders seemed stunned, Chantalai could tell from their faces. He felt satisfied now that he had killed his target; he was slowly transforming into a dedicated, methodical killer.

'.. How? How?'

'I sneaked inside their camp and killed him while he was giving a speech to his remaining army.'

'How did you kill him? He's a Gengar! And how did you get out of there?'

The Zoroark smirked. All these questions begun to bother him. Right now, he wanted to be alone to plan his next move. However, he answered patiently.

'Night daze, the force of the nether plane. Dark powers suck ghost types in the void. As for how I got out..' he paused, enjoying the moment, 'I deceived them with more dark powers.'

Everyone was clearly impressed, but Chantalai preferred to go unnoticed. He noted that next time he did something for the Frontier, he would request secrecy. A spy working in the public like this was no spy at all - but then again, he did not spy. He took on the task of eliminating a crucial for the battle Pokemon. Thinking deeply about this, he turned his back to the commanders.

'Now let me get some sleep. I'll be leaving for Erca early tomorrow.'


***


Early the next morning, Chantalai was outside his tent, stretching out his body and feeling the morning breeze through his dirty black fur. He picked up his armour, which he had taken off last night, and went over to the bonfires in search for some water to clean the bloodied chestguard. Nobody was up yet - except Raskalov. He happened to be holding a wooden bucket full of water; the Weavile seemed less threatening without his golden chestguard on. The two Pokemon greeted each other with a handshake, Chantalai slightly smiling in response to Raskalov's heart smile.

'What are you gonna do with this?'

Chantalai asked, looking at the bucket. Raskalov placed it on the ground and splashed his hands inside, then bringing them to his face. The Zoroark laughed stiffly, like he hadn't laugh in a while. He did the same, trying to scratch the blood off from his claws; then he did the same with the chestguard - the tristanite did not have a single flaw on its surface, once it was cleared. Chantalai wore it proudly; Raskalov patted him on his shoulderpads once he had wore those as well. He looked him in the eye.

'What are you going to do in Erca, Chantalai?'

'I hear the merchants are having trouble over there. Lumos told me a Baron is bribed by the Dark Cult... I'm going to silence him, once and for all.'

'Be careful. Baron Necro has an army of two thousand mercenaries, all for himself - he basically runs the city and owns the council of the merchants. Getting near to him won't be easy, and killing him... nearly impossible.'

'I can compromise with possibilities. Manipulate them, to be precise.'

There was something in Chantalai's tone and grin that convinced Raskalov he was not a normal Pokemon, and that he was being serious.

'... Lumos will be waiting for you at the depot.'

Chantalai nodded and run his claws through his red mane to straighten it up. He wondered how the depot would look like. It was in the middle of the great grasslands, the southern part of the Wastelands. He stared at Raskalov as he turned to leave, speaking once again.

'Follow me.'

Ordered the Weavile, and the Zoroark paced behind him as they walked outside the camp. The two guards were sleeping next to the camp's entrance. They stopped, looking at them. Raskalov smirked.

'There's nothing to worry about now that Ramos is gone. We went ahead and destroyed their camp last night - the army had already gone.'

They left the soldiers to sleep and turned to the right. Chantalai noticed some enormous Dodrios standing next to a small hole in the ground which had water in it.

'What are these?'

Chantalai asked, full of curiosity. He examined the closest Dodrio from where he was standing. It did not appear to be intelligent, but it was trained to stay on the spot, somehow. Raskalov explained.

'These Dodrios are our quickest method to travel. They don't speak, as they were once wild, but you can direct them easily. Pick one, as a reward for the services you offered to the Frontier.'

The Zoroark stared at the Weavile, who stared back at him.

'I'm not getting on top of any of these.'

'They travel real fast, you'll need one - you can reach Erca in just two days.'

'Two days!'

Chantalai hopped onto the biggest Dodrio he could find. He wasn't especially heavy, and the Dodrio responded to him right away; he turned its head and looked at him with its sharp eyes, staying on the spot. Chantalai realized that if he turned the Dodrio's head, it would start running. He looked at the compass that was tied to his arm like a watch, then at Raskalov. The Weavile looked quite sad.

'We'll see each other again, Raskalov.'

The Zoroark said, turned the Dodrio's head towards the west and poked its belly with the claws of his foot. The bird started running until it was lost from sight.

***


They were travelling for hours. Once they had gotten off the forest, they moved towards the south with incredible speed. Chantalai hadn't missed the dust of the Wastelands at all, but it was all better now that he hung from the neck of the huge bird Pokemon. His mane was racing with the wind as they both ran through the rugged lands. One day of travelling had passed; the Dodrio was now running on lush green grass, sign that they had entered the flat grasslands. They reached the depot by the night. It was a small wooden kiosk with no more than five Pokemon under it; the two Kecleon salesmen, a Chatot apparently keeping them company, a Houndoom that appeared as if he was hiding in the shadows and the Zangoose Chantalai expected to see. Although he recognized him at once, Lumos was wearing a white cloak and a hood that covered his face and body.

Chantalai ordered the Dodrio to wait outside the kiosk (without being sure it could understand him) and he jumped on the ground, Lumos walking towards him while looking around, like they were being watched. The Zoroark noticed that and he mimicked the Merchant King, but the dusk the grasslands were engulfed in did not allow him to see farther than ten meters away. The only source of light was the depot, which had a huge candle hanging from the ceiling, with a flame brimming brightly.

Lumos and Chantalai shook hands; Lumos started speaking fast and with a low voice.

'I heard about what happened in the east, good job. I kept thinking of how you were able to fool them with the sound of the entire Stygian army...'

Chantalai looked over Lumos' shoulder at the Kiosk, the Houndoom had raised his head and perked up his ears towards their direction. He spoke in a low voice as well, slightly grinning.

'I have my own ways. Now be quick, and tell me about Baron Necro.'

'This Baron, you see, has taken over the merchant council after they forced me out of the city - he has immense power under his command, with all these mercenaries. Now he's not only the Merchant King, he's the King of the city in general. Worst of all, he asks that we pay him to move our forces through the city to attack the Dark Cult.'

The Zoroark was looking at the ground, nodding whenever Lumos stopped. He seemed lost in thought, and seemed like he wasn't paying attention. On the contrary, the information was invaluable and another plan formed in his mind. It was like the chess he once played with his father - all about tactics. Lumos continued speaking, now with a more desperate tone.

'Chantalai, I received a letter.'

Chantalai raised his head and looked inside the hood, but he could not see any of the Zangoose's expression; he was most puzzled by it, and his curiosity abotu the content of the letter bursted up like magma.

'Who was it from? What did it say?'

'It was a warning... my daughter is in danger.'

Lumos's voice cracked up. After a pause, Chantalai bulked up and pumped his fists, having lost his strange grin now.

'They won't harm her, and they'll never get a chance to. The first thing I'll do when I reach Erca is find her and bring her to safety.'

The Pokemon under the hood sighed; a movement behind him caught Chantalai's attention. The Houndoom had gotten up and was paying the Kecleon for the food he had ordered. Chantalai turned back to Lumos and spoke even hastier.

'Do you have anything else for me?'

'.. search for Conrad the Tailor. He's one of us.'

Chantalai nodded firmly. Seeing the Houndoom exiting the wooden kiosk, preparing towards the south, Chantalai's assumptions were confirmed; he ran up to the Dodrio and jumped on its back. He turned its head towards the direction the Houndoom had bolted to. The Dodrio started running at full speed, closing in on the fleeing Pokemon.

'Who do you work for?'

Chantalai shouted, the Houndoom turned his head, glancing at the Dodrio and the Zoroark. He ran faster, outspeeding them. Enough of this, Chantalai thought. A stream of green flames appeared from the sky, lighting the whole area up - it hit the Houndoom who flinched in fear. The next moment, Chantalai had launched himself from the Dodrio, landing on the Houndoum and throwing him on the ground.

'Who do you work for?'

He repeated, holding his opponent down on the ground by stepping on his belly and gripping his neck in case he spat flames. The Houndoom's claws were scratching Chantalai's armour without causing any damage. Chantalai thought it was pointless trying to get a word out of the Houndoom; Baron Necro had sent him, it was obvious. His claws ripped through the spy's neck, leaving him struggling on the ground.

'If I just killed an innocent, it was for a good reason.'

Chantalai got up, thinking his meeting with Lumos would stay secret. Every one who stood in his way would meet the same fate.


***

Erca was a huge city on the tip of the grasslands. Two cliffs facing the north, where Chantalai was coming from, held wooden and stone houses. In the middle of them, more of those houses were built; the biggest district dwelled there, containing the biggest trading stores of Stygia. The city was a convoy between Hesperia and Stygia, as the Trade District in the middle was the only way from the south to the north. Passengers in the past years left a great deal of money in this city-state, which was now purely controlled by merchants and their so called 'King'. Chantalai had never been in Erca, not even in the Wastelands he just got through, but the Dodrio seemed to know the way. It ran tirelessly, leading Chantalai towards the city. Multiple guards were standing firm just outside the great walls.

Chantalai got off the Dodrio and closely examined the city's walls from afar. His red eyes fell on the two cliffs, then on the guards. Which was the best way in? He could not get passed the guards with the Dodrio, and if he climbed up the cliffs he would have to leave it behind, too. As the wind blew through the Zoroark's mane, he patted the Dodrio on its ribs, wondering how to explain to it that it was free now. The bird stood where he left it, staring at him; he started climbing the cliff to the east. The rainclouds that were drifting in the sky had now descended on the ground, blocking all view - the Zoroark went unnoticed. He stuck his tough claws into the black rock, pulling himself up, and repeating until he reached the top.

The wind was fiercing on the top of cliff. Chantalai's mane was swishing around as he looked over Erca; the city unfolded in front of him, a majestic sight. Chantalai was routed on the soft grass for a second, admiring the large city, thinking the world he lived in was full of many more wonders like this.

***

The Trade District proved to be far more big than Chantalai imagined. He was thinking it was surely one of the wonders of the world he was living in. The streets and the stores brimmed with activity unknown and unwelcomed by Chantalai, who tried to avoid the crowds as much as possible. He wandered in the streets for hours, searching for Conrad the Tailor. Every time he would ask for directions, the citizens would cower in fear then set off, looking at the Zoroark like he was mad. They had not seen his species again, obviously, and they were intimidated by his appearance.

Once Chantalai passed a particularly dark and small alley, a voice whispered to him to come over. His hand was instanly veiled by liquid darkness as he approached the two bright green eyes that shone in the alley. His curiosity was tingling. When he got close enough, he could recognize a figure in a white cloak and hood. The figure laughed.

'No need for violence, Chantalai.'

'Who are you?'

The hoodied Pokemon removed his hood. He was a Zangoose with emerald-like eyes and a scratch on his cheek. The Pokemon looked exactly like Lumos. Chantalai examined him closely without showing his surprise.

'I am Conrad, the Tailor, Lumos's brother.'

Chantalai lowered his guard, letting the darkness vanish from his hand. He stared intently at the Zangoose before him.

'So you are his brother.'

'Indeed, I am. I was expecting you... come in, come in.'

He said, his tone being intimate, guiding Chantalai into the back of the alley, where a hidden door dwelled. The door led them into a dark corridor and from there into a square room with no apparent exits or windows. The room contained tailoring supplies and tools; Chantalai was not surprised in the slightest, but he was fascinated by Conrad's resourcefulness.

'Are you hiding from the authorities?'

He asked him while taking a look around. Tailoring was a newly found art to the Pokemon. Conrad had to be one of the first ones practicing it. He took off his white cloak and sat on a chair.

'Yes, I am hiding from that filth, Necro and his mercenaries. Have a seat.'

Chantalai quietly sat opposing to him. The iron table was rusty beyond belief, and so he did not touch it. He crossed his arms, staring at Conrad who was now examining his claws. The Zangoose did not look like a tailor, Chantalai reckoned, more like a hired killer. But most Pokemon would say the same about Chantalai, too, so he avoided to point it out.

'Want anything to drink?'

Chantalai nodded negatively.

'Did Lumos inform you about the situation in this blasted city?'

'Yes - Baron Necro has gathered a small army of mercenaries and the rest of the merchants of the city have been forced to declare him the Merchant King; granting him control all of the whole city.'

'Great. And what are you doing here?'

He had a stern look on his face, like he was dealing with a child. Chantalai took offense in that, but he did not speak of it. Only actions truly speak, like his father was saying; he was determined to kill Baron Necro, and he was always devoted to his cause. Adalbert was serving the Frontier with danger of his life, and so Chantalai would do.

'First, I'm going to track my enemy down, see what he's upto. I'll then decide when the right time is to hit him.'

The Zangoose seemed skeptical for a moment, scratching his chin and staring at the surface of the old table. His green eyes flashed peculiarly, him now looking at Chantalai.

'Maybe you do have a plan. I suggest you begin your search from the Trade Square - Necro's men hang out there. But, you will have to be careful. Do not reveal yourself or your species... they apparently have the authority to kill whoever seems suspicious in the slightest.'

Chantalai thought of what Conrad had just said. Then he glanced at the white cloak which hung down from Conrad's chair. It was a menacing cloak, a possibly bad omen to anyone who looked at it.

'You have my thanks. The information you've given me will be put to good use... do you have anything for me that would aid me?'

The Tailor noticed Chantalai glanced at his cloak. He laughed, but the Zoroark kept a straight, serious face.

'You will not go unnoticed with one of these. People are afraid... besides, it doesn't quite fit you.'

'I can use my powers if I want to sneak around in stealth,' said Chantalai coldly. Then, he added, 'the cloak would certainly help me keep anonymity. Whatever reasons do you have for using it, then?'

'I am the sibling of the former Merchant King - Lumos and everyone connected to him is unwanted in this town. Like you said, the cloak keeps me anonymous. I still have business here, you know.'

'And what kind of business would an exile, like you, would have?'

Chantalai noticed Conrad had not mentioned Lumos's daughter in captivity. Did he not know? Did he not care?

'I am simply working as a spy for the Frontier, like you are.'

'That is reasonable,' said Chantalai quietly, proud that he was helping the Frontier as something more than a spy. He ran his hand through the huge mane that was falling onto the floor, behind the back of the chair. The moment of silence was broken by Chantalai.

'And what about Lumos's daughter?'

'You mean his step daughter, Alinthea.'

'Daughter or step daughter, I'll make sure she is safe and sound before I do anything else.'

Conrad gave him a disturbed look. He did not seem to appreciate what Chantalai had just said.

'You're wasting your time. If you go directly to the Baron, he will not have a chance to harm Alinthea. She is right now sleeping peacefully in her house, I assure you of that.'

Chantalai could feel it was dark outside; he was tired from his journey through the grasslands. Conrad seemed to notice; he got up, leaving the cloak behind him.

'I have a place for you to stay. As for the cloak... I can modify my own cloak to fit your body's structure.'

The Zoroark nodded, silently thanking him. He closed his eyelids, thinking about tomorrow. Tomorrow, Erca would start to change.
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