Chapter 8: The Spirit of the Ice
Chantalai was up early next morning, as usual these days. He found Conrad holding the white cloak againist the light. When he heard the Zoroark walk in, he turned around and greeted him swiftly, then got back to his work. Chantalai realized he had not eaten anything the past twelve hours, so he looked around, noticing a plate full of berries on the iron table. There was a rich variety of berries, and although Chantalai preferred meat, he would have to eat those for now.
'How's the cloak going?'
He sat down on the iron chair, watching the tailor rip the back part of the cloak.
'My mane is big, it won't fit inside the cloak.'
'I know, that's why I'm adjusting the back of the hood - your mane will have to be exposed.'
Chantalai started doubting if the cloak would ever help him. His eyes caught the chestguard and the belt with the pistol he had left on the floor next to his chair; he begun attaching it to his body, thinking he would put the shoulderpads and belt above the cloak. Conrad was done working after some minutes, and he helped Chantalai wear the cloak. The hood hid his face from the light, the sleeves concealed his red claws and the ends of the cloaks covering his knees. His enormous mane fell on the floor from an opening in the back of the hood. The Zoroark felt ridiculous - he had not put anything like that on him again.
'Don't you think it's eye-catching?'
'It'll still protect your identity.'
'What about the mane?'
'I can't do anything about that.'
If I could only hide it with an illusion... an idea flashed in his mind as he attached his shoulderpads. He then slowly wore the belt with the pistol around his cloak, tightening it onto his body.
'Do you know where I could find any power cubes?'
'You can find anything in this city...' Conrad said with a grim expression that Chantalai would only understand later. 'The artifact store in Trade Square has this kind of things. But keep in mind that they're expensive.'
Chantalai nodded in appreciation and moved towards the exit. Conrad sat down on his chair and watched him.
'Chantalai, careful with the guards.'
'They're the ones who need to be careful.'
Chantalai ignored him and walked in the corridor and from there into morning Erca.
Navigation through the huge city was difficult for Chantalai, who was now walking with the crowds of Pokemon once again. Many of them looked at him suspiciously - not many things had changed from yesterday. There was an urgent need to hide his mane, which probably gave him away. A Pokemon in a cloak was not exactly a subtle approach to his duties; everyone was glancing at him, and then looking away thinking he was probably a rogue of the desert, a traveller with no home. Chantalai could feel the crowd's thoughts and emotions, but they did not bother him. He simply continued his way to the center of the town, where the Trade Square was supposed to be.
The Trade Square was a round plateau with various stores all around it, including Lewis's Post, a cafe where lots of mercenaries used to hang out. The square itself was decorated with electric wires that lit lamps above the streets, and the red flag of the Stygian nation was waving gently under the morning light of Karnos. Every morning in this side of the Outer World was as red as this one, Chantalai thought. He then stared at the tiles of the round plateau, which beared some strange blue symbols, possibly runes from the south. They were peculiar writings, and the forces they subtly channeled into this world were passing unseen from the ones without the 'gift'. Chantalai was not aware of this when he examined the symbols from afar. He immediately fixed his eyes on Lewis's Post, where the armoured mercenaries filled the whole place up, already from the morning.
With the back of his cloak and his mane waving, along with the red flags, his hoodied figure changed in a blink of the eyes, hiding his true appearance from the innocent. An armoured Haxorus with a cape had taken his place - he looked like a traveller. He went and sat on a table near the loud bunch of the lazy mercenaries. Those Pokemon were drinking, singing and fighting, all in the table. Lewis, a Psyduck, was running up and down his cafe, serving the thirsty soldiers with more flame quiver; his strongest drink. The Haxorus grinned at the nearby soldiers, who were not yet drunk. They got up and approached him suspiciously.
'Who are you?'
The Haxorus's grin did not disappear, instead he spread his arms wide, welcoming them.
'Friends, sit down and drink with me! I'll pay for everyone!'
As the greedy soldiers sat down around the table, the Haxorus motioned at Lewis the Psyduck, who was sweating over the hard work.
'Get us two flame quivers, friend.'
He nodded and ran back inside; Chantalai closely inspected the mercenaries who were now making quiet conversations with each other, still suspicious of the outsider. Another one of Chantalai's plans surfaced in his mind, and he set it in motion immediately.
'Are you having a good time, here, chaps?'
His voice sounded massively changed; there was a wide range of things he could do to deceive. Sounds and voice, along with images were the most important characteristics his illusions had. The mercenaries fell for everything, as expected.
'Yeh, we're havin' a good time alright! But what're yeh doin' here, stranger?'
'I am coming from the northeast in search for merchandise. Magical stuff, you know?'
They were listening to him like little children. Chantalai was enjoying their stupidity. The bottles arrived, he grabbed them and poured it into everyone's glasses. He ordered even more flame quivers, even though they were extremely expensive. Slowly, he unfolded a fake story, which the mercenaries were listening to as they got more and more drunk.
'As a kind person, I would like to help your employer, the Baron! You just need to tell me where to find him!'
The drunken mercenaries did not notice how dangerous his question was.
'Foolish lad! Eheheh.. we.. ehh, don't know where he is.'
The Haxorus revealed a pendant with a huge ruby from his belt, and put it in the middle of the table. The mercenaries looked at it, crossing their eyes slightly from the drinks.
'This will be yours, if you tell me where he is.'
They started trampling their words, Chantalai glancing at the nearby table. The other mercenaries who sat there looked at him suspiciously. Finally, someone said, 'we really don't know where he is... but we know that he'll be meeting with the Pope the day after tomorrow... Lanterno Mori, the Pope of the Dark Cult.. wasn't it that, guys?'
'And.. do you know where lady Alinthea is hiding?'
'In her house, of course.'
The Haxorus suddenly got up from his chair and headed towards the crowd. The angry mercenaries were chasing him, screaming about all the flame quivers he had ordered, but once Chantalai had blended with the crowd, they lost him forever.
Chantalai was circling the information he had just collected in his mind. He could have the chance of killing the Pope of the Cult; but he needed to share this information with Conrad first. Apparently, the meeting was secret, and he could very well understand why it was secret. Baron Necro, the Merchant King, meeting with one of the highiest in hierarchy of the Dark Cult, just confirmed the Frontier's suspicion of the Baron's connection to their enemies. They had now silently conquered the city through the Baron, who was just a tool.
Chantalai's figure certainly did not go unnoticed. The cloak and the hood scared some adolescent Pokemon in the nearby Kecleon store. He headed there through the crowd of the Trade Square. He pushed away some Pokemon in line who complained at first, but then looked at the white cloak and thought again, more carefully.
'Where can I find a power cube?'
His voice was strange and his tone so demanding that it made the green Kecleon raise his eyebrow, seemingly unafraid of a 'mercenary' who would destroy his stand for no reason.
'We certainly don't have one over here! Now shoo, we have other costumers--'
Chantalai grabbed the Kecleon's neck with both of his hands, his claws locking around it and raised the whole Pokemon in the air. The Pokemon around let out screams and then suddenly went silent, as if they were not allowed to scream.
'I said,' he paused, his eyes glowing red under the hood, 'where can I find a power cube.'
This time it wasn't exactly a question, and the Kecleon had lost his cockyness. He pointed at the store across the square.
'Old Antique's shop'
Chantalai let him fall down on the back of his stand, turned around and walked away. The Kecleon stared at him behind his stand, making sure he was gone.
Antique was an aged Kabutops sitting on a chair behind a stand with many artifacts on it. Chantalai paced towards him with his cloak waving in the wind; he did not care that he had drawn attention. He had forgotten the subtle ways his father had taught him, preferring to use brutal force to accomplish his goals. The Kabutops was busy with another customer; a massive Salamence was examining the artifacts carefully. The dragon seemed vicious and extremely dangerous, despite young. Chantalai thought he was about twenty five years old, around his age. He stood next to him, listening to the conversation the artifact merchant and the Salamence had started.
'This,' the Salamence pointed at an orb with a brimming flame inside it, 'is made from us. Where did you find it?' Chantalai thought that by us, he meant the dragons. His father had once told him the dragons of northern Stygia were very agressive towards the outsiders who stepped foot on their land, Draconia. He thought it was only natural to be suspicious about finding an artifact made from his people in another land - he would feel the same.
'I only sell them, but if you're so persistant, fine! I'll tell you. A fellow dragon of yours, passing from here, sold it.'
The Salamence shook his enormous tail; he was clearly upset, but he spoke no more, the merchant turned his attention to the tall, hoodied Pokemon. Once he saw him, he smirked.
'Came here to vandalize, have you?'
'You'd already be dead if my intentions were anywhere near that.'
The Kabutops laughed, but he stopped as he noticed there was no sign of laughter under Chantalai's hood. He cleared his throat.
'What do you require?'
Meanwhile, the Salamence was now staring at Chantalai, who would not turn to look at him. The merchant searched beneath his stand with his scythes, smirking.
'I'm afraid we're out of stock. What do you need those, anyway? Nobody knows how to use--'
'Yes, yes like nobody could use this,' he pointed at the pistol attached on his belt. The merchant opened his eyes wide.
'That's death you're holding. Do you know how to use it?'
'I want it, how much are you selling it?'
'I'll give you a bullet between your eyes, and I'll take everything you have. How 'bout that?'
The Kabutops laughed again, this time biased as he was sure the stranger had not come here to laugh. The Salamence next to him grinned.
'I have a power cube,' he said while opening a sachel that hung from his neck with his teeth, then placing a small orange object with a square-like shape in front of Chantalai, who had turned to the dragon. Chantalai picked up the cube from the ground and spinned it around his claw while the other two were staring. The Zoroark was smiling under the hood; he could feel the stored force inside the object in his hands. It wasn't much, but it was enough to last for days.
'So? Are you selling it or what?'
He taunted the Salamence, who kept a straight face in response.
'What are you giving me?'
'I don't have time for this.'
The Salamence looked at him from top to bottom. The cloak did not reveal much of his species, except the massive mane hanging from the back of his head, its tip touching the ground.
'How about that pistol?'
'You can't use it.'
'I collect rare things.'
'Do you have any money on you?'
'Do I look like I have money flowing out of my non-existant pockets?'
The dragon only grinned in response, knowing Chantalai's intentions from his previous interactions with the merchant.
'I have no need for it, you can keep it.'
Chantalai simply nodded and turned to leave, ignoring the Salamence giving him curious looks.
Satisfied by the results of his witty use of his abilities, he ran from rooftop to rooftop, with his cloak swishing in the wind. He focused on his promise about brining Alinthea to safety, forgetting about his mane. He wondered where the daughter of the former Merchant King would live; then he remembered Raskalov speaking about the Fiery Palace. Chantalai's eyes fell on a nearby stone tower, about sixty feet up in the air. He rushed towards it, and started climbing it once he reached it. The wind was getting fierce up there, his cloak racing with it as he stuck his claws into the openings of the stone, pulling himself up like he did when he climbed the northern cliffs of the city to enter unnoticed. Some times, like this, he was jealous of birds and their wings who could fly around easily. But then he thought that, if he had wings he would not have arms and claws.
He reached the cone roof of the tower and hung from a stick which had the Stygian flag tied onto it. With extreme precision and unshaken balance, he walked on the stick and stood on its tip. The whole city was beneath him; he turned his head in every direction, unafraid of the height, or wind that would blow him away if he was not careful. Chantalai spotted a massive, red building on top of a hill, on the southeast part of the town. The foot of the hill was surrounded by white walls with flame-like patterns on them. He half shut his eyes, staring at the Fiery Palace with a serious expression carved onto his face.
The Zoroark snapped his head, bringing himself back on reality; his illusion was about to break. He stared at the Pokemon who were guarding the entrance below. More elite Bisharps. He had a faint idea about what they would be doing there but they were no match for a dragon. Watching them walk together made him realize he was some kind of bodyguard. They passed through the guards, no problem and headed towards the city. Meanwhile, Chantalai jumped down from the white wall and followed them to the city, still invisible. With his eyes fixed on Alinthea, he mixed with the crowd of the streets. His illusion faded, a hoodied Pokemon appearing in the middle of the others, without anybody noticing. He gently pushed them away, making way while still staring at the Ninetails. He was losing her from time to time, but the Salamence's huge red wings were a beacon amongst the sea of the crowd.
Suddenly, some merchant, a Grumpig, blocked Chantalai's way. The Zoroark glanced at him, the glow of greed in his eyes giving his profession away: he was a merchant, presicely a tailor as he was wearing a strange garment known as 'jacket' to us.
'Oi, would you care for some new clothes?'
'You're in my way,' said Chantalai coldly, his eyes now staring back at the red wings of the Salamence. However, he would not move; he was expecting the merchant to move.
'Oh! But your cloak seems a bit old, why don't you drop by my shop? We have sales!'
Chantalai lost his patience. He raised his arms which were well hidden under the white cloak and pushed the merchant away. But the merchant was rather persistant, and he got in his way again.
'Come on now, don't be diffi--'
The Grumpig cowered under Chantalai's next touch; cold darkness had formed on his hand, well hidden under the white cloak, which pushed the merchant away for a second time. The merchant, horrified, gave up and Chantalai started pushing his way through the crowd again. But the Lady and her escort had vanished.
When he realized this, the Zoroark bit his lips in anger. He sprinted towards the wall of a house, jumped on the window clutch, pulled himself up, jumping again on the roof. His eyes travelled through the crowd in search of the massive bodyguard, ignoring the strange looks the Pokemon from below were giving him. He started running full speed, leaping from roof to roof with his eyes always on the crowd, until he finally saw the enormous red wings. The two were apparently planning to go outside the city; they passed through the guards of the south opening in the walls of Erca.
There's a lagoon outside the city, if I'm not mistaken...
He continued jumping from roof to roof with great agility, his cloak not hindering him one bit. With a simple thought of his, he took the form of a Haxorus who was running suspiciously fast and he leaped down on the street, landing seemingly hard. He passed through the guards; if they could see under his illusion, under his hood, they would see a menacing expression of anger. He had almost killed an innocent, and although he did not want to admit it, he was mad at himself.
The guards let him through, looking at him curiously as always. Chantalai wished he could kill them all, wipe them from the face of the world, just to let his anger out. His father's intense training had made him a fierce, swift warrior, but it was all now taking a wrong turn, without him realizing. Bloodlust was the next step from arrogance. The Zoroark silently continued his way after the Ninetails and the Salamence; he noticed it had suddenly gotten gold. The beauty of the peaceful plains went unnoticed by Chantalai. They eventually reached a lagoon; the two Pokemon went down a hill and stopped next to the water.
Chantalai, now with his original form, had climbed up a tree and was now sitting on one of its branches. Only then he realized how much he missed trees and nature. These thoughts calmed him, somehow, but he focused on Alinthea again. He wondered what they were doing there - they were simply sitting on the grass, looking at the water and the far away mountains of Hesperia. Hours passed like that, with Chantalai sitting in an owling position atop the tree, observing the Ninetails and the Salamence with the patience he had before, while waiting at the white walls of the Fiery Palace.
He landed behind the other two Pokemon, who did not notice. He had a more clear view of the optacy now: it was, indeed, a Zoroark engulfed in a silver mist. It was standing on the water, now staring at the Pokemon in the coast with its empty eyes. The forme then pointed at Chantalai and disappeared in an instant. He felt like he was routed onto the ground, stunned from the shock. The Ninetails and the Salamence jerked their heads towards his direction, only to see a hoodied Pokemon with a cloak standing there.
Chantalai asked as nicely as he could. His voice sounded strangely unused and scary under the crimson light. The bodyguard seemed to recognize him.
'Aren't you that traveller.. from Trade Square? Yes, you are! I gifted you that power cube.'
It had suddenly started snowing. The Zoroark removed his hood, revealing his enormous mane and his tough facial characteristics. Seeing this, the dragon stepped away from some reason; Chantalai paced forward, kneeling in front of Lady Alinthea who was speechless.
'I mean no harm. The Frontier has sent me to protect you, lady. Lumos, precisely.'
The Ninetails smirked her eyebrows and gave him an odd look. She seemed to be evaluating him. She then spoke, with a melodic voice that was competing with that of the Queen of Alamagna.
'That is sweet. But how do we know that?'
The dragon behind Chantalai chuckled. Chantalai ignored him; his mind was racing for a moment, but then his expression tightened.
'You'll have to trust me.'
'Your hood does deem you suspicious already. Who are you?'
'I am Chantalai Ancelotti. Lumos and Conrad have sent me...'
'Conrad?' Alinthea seemed surprised, her red eyes opened wide, looking into Chantalai's. 'You know him personally?'
The Zoroark nodded.
'The Tailor does not spare his name to the public. You must truly be from the Frontier!'
Chantalai cocked up a smile. How could he not know of this? He slowly got up to his feet, still looking at the lady.
'Lady Alinthea,' he said in a serious tone that made her raise her eyebrows, 'your family has requested I bring you to safety.'
The Salamence's heavy feet were heard pacing behind Chantalai.
'Look pal, lady here says she wants to stay in Erca, and that she'll do. The name's Richard Blados, by the way.'
Alinthea giggled, Chantalai not losing his smile although the dragon's tone would normally irritate him.
'I have a promise to keep.'
The Ninetails shrugged and turned to look at the water on the coast.
'And I have a life to lead. My father can't do as he pleases.'
Chantalai did not insist, thinking it would be pointless.
'I am also here to kill Baron Necro.'
Alinthea and Richard looked at him stunned. Chantalai simply wore his hood again, hiding his snout in the darkness.
'I'll explain my plan.'