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*Rated T for violence and gore*
The Tale of the Hashashin takes place in a world beyond infinity, a world filled with wonders: the Outer World. It is purely inhabited by tribes of Pokemon who find themselves under a constant war, with their single goal being survival. Our story takes us in one of the many villages in the northern-most mountains of Stygia, where a legendary national hero is about to be born. His fame will not be disputed even after one thousand years, although some considered him a brutal killer with no respect for the Pokemon lives.
*This Fan Fic is based on Odyssey, a Roleplay created by Supervegeta. It is more of a series of events completly irrelevant to the Roleplay, which are happening in a completly different part of the world and in a different era.
Chapter 1: Like father, like son
The Ancelottis were certainly not one of those families you would call normal. They were the last people you'd expect to fight valiantly for their village, because all of them were dark Pokemon, shady characters. Yet, nobody would bother them about their legacy and ideals - a menacing curtain of shadows was covering every single one of them. They seemed to share a secret, a secret so powerful and dangerous that only a few truly acknowledged it.
Adalbert Ancelotti, a Zoroark, was the owner of the local mines, which extracted tristanite, a strange grey-colour mineral; it was indeed extremely rare, and it was used only for creating armours for the Ancelottis. Those armours were lighter and harder than the usual platinum armours their enemies - the Dark Cult - were using in battle. Adalbert himself had designed a special armour to fit his body structure without degrading his agility and maximizing his extreme skill in the martial art he himself had created. This martial art involved fast but focused and precise hits with claws on specific parts, accompanied with the optical illusions the Zoroarks were able to create. Adalbert was planning on passing this unique combat style down to his son, Chantalai, a seven year old Zorua who was considered a prodigy by the Ancelottis. Chantalai had shown extreme potential in combat from an early age, showing signs of his father's own skills.
Adalbert Ancelotti woke up inside his house's bedroom, a rare occasion of him not wandering off to sleep in the forest or up the cold mountain range of the north. The first rays of the morning sun penetrated through the cloudy sky to light up the village; it was ironical, as dark days were approaching the region like menacing thunderclouds on the horizon. Adalbert grunted as he wore his silver chestguard and shoulderpads he himself had created. His armour weighed more each day that passed, but he had accepted that aging was something inevitable. He shrugged the thought off his mind and walked out of his bedroom, headed towards the dining room, only to find it empty. Normally, his son Chantalai would be there, eating the berries his father had instructed him to eat, which were supposedly healthy for him. But only the Pidoves outside the window were breaking the silence of the house - his senses tingled as he walked over to the table.
Suddenly he heard a sound from above like something was cutting through the air towards him. A black furball landed on his shoulderpad, laughing and hugging his head.
'Ha! You're dead, dad!' shouted Chantalai with his usual pep in his father's ear, who could not help but smile as he gave him a side look.
'I see you've already understood the basics.'
Adalbert, still smiling, looked around the dining room for any signs that Chantalai had eaten his food; his eyes were fixed on some pieces of fruit on the floor.
'Ready?' he grabbed thefurball from his shoulder and threw it outside the open door, without worrying about hurting him. Indeed, the Zorua landed on his feet and cried out happily as he dashed off to the garden. Adalbert walked over to a wooden bucket full of water he always kept next to the door and splashed his hands before listening to his son's cries about training. He followed the small rodent to the woods, happy that little Chantalai was eager to learn how to fight properly - it was essential these years, after all. His mind was suddenly clouded with the thoughts of a surprise assault from the Dark Cult which had established a camp nearby, a camp he was unable to infiltrate so far. The locals thought of him as a dangerous, short-fused miner who got lucky and rich, and now was ensuring his own survival; but it's best they did not know about his true job, the one of the spy, an information convoy between the Stygian natives and the Dark Cult. Such a job was to be kept secret, even from their own allies - only the leader of the village was aware of it, purely because he was an Ancelotti himself.
Adalbert's train of thought was abruptly cut as Chantalai was jumping up and down on the spot, bursting with energy. His whole fur shook with his excitement, the Zoroark positioning himself, perking up his body.
Father and son were standing in the middle of a forest clearing, with the cold grass drenching their feet and the refreshing morning breeze dancing on their faces. The sound of a rambling rivernearby was echoing through the forest, which was engulfed in a mist, giving off a mysterious feeling. The leaves of the trees blocked most of the bright sunlight, but the beams of light that passed through were illuminating the soaked ground which emitted a strange, fertile smell. Adalbert looked at the scenery while filling his lungs with the fresh air; Chantalai mimicked him while sniffing at the ground with his usual curiosity. The next moment he stared intently at his idol, his eyes glowing with ambition as he hanged from his lips - Adalbert started talking, his iron-hard voice making the Zorua sit still.
'It is about time we started talking about evolution. In order to achieve perfect balance, you need to learn how to stand on your two feet.'
Chantalai nodded vigorously, even though he only understood the key words: evolution and balance. 'I'm ready, dad!,' he chortled happily, his father continuing with his little speech.
'You'll never fall down in your life again, if you manage to stand on your two feet before you evolve.'
Adalbert walked over to his son and grabbed his front feet, raising them. Chantalai was now standing on his two feet, with the help of his father. He eyed him with admiration, but he didn't return the look. He was serious now, Chantalai noticing that and trying to mimic his focused expression. But he was unable to hold himself back and said:
'Dad, you said I'll evolve! When will I evolve?'
'You'll evolve when you've trained enough,' he said while looking at him firmly. Chantalai's red eyes were opened wide in a wonderful daydream; his father let his son's front feet fall down, bringing him back to reality.
'Do it yourself now,' he ordered with a steel tone nobody could say no to. Chantalai tried to hold his balance while on two feet, and he only managed it for a few seconds. He was excited at first, but then he thought it was boring and pointless. However, he didn't dare slack off as Adalbert had taught him that slacking off would bring punishment. After he trained for two hours constanly, Adalbert spoke.
'Enough of that for now. Show me something frightening with your illusions.'
Chantalai's eyebrows became one as he concentrated. He was but a child, but he managed to create an image of a Linoone running towards his father; Chantalai had observed the Linoones running in the forest, and he copied every part of their movements in his memory, like his father had told him. The illusion disappeared once it reached Adalbert, who didn't show any signs of approval. Chantalai felt picked off, but he reminded himself he could always do better.
'What are you afraid of, Chantalai? Show me something you're afraid of,' Adalbert said plainly. His son's eyes opened wide once again, this time in fear. Then he smirked again; a long body of a Pokemon appeared in front of Chantalai - it was an Arbok which was slithering towards his father. The serpentine Pokemon flung itself to the Zoroark and vanished right after. Adalbert slightly smiled, but his smile disappeared as fast as the Arbok had. The Zorua saw it and a wave of cold happiness and accomplishment hit it; he was pleased with himself, but he would not laid back. Adalbert recognized the feelings of his own son in his look, but said nothing about it.
'Let's move onto the concentration and focusing lessons.'
Chantalai nodded vigorously again and followed his father towards the river. The rambling sound got more intense as they approached the side of the flowing water. It wasn't as big as it was furious - the water fell down the Amaro mountains with extreme force, forming many waterfalls on their way down. Right now, father and son were watching a relatively small waterfall throwing its water down from about six feet.
Adalbert pointed at the waterfall and said, 'Go under that and sit on that rock.'
The little Zorua smirked again, as if he was concentrating. 'But dad, isn't that dangerous?'
'You'll go through many dangerous situations in your life, but this waterfall isn't one of them. Now go!' He said and pushed his son forward.
Chantalai did as he was asked and let the water fall on his head, without even wondering how that would help him. He sat down on the rock, with the water landing on his head. It was a strange feeling, even refreshing. The waterfall wasn't as strong as it seemed at first, the little rodent thought. He could take the water's pressure now and was in fact able to think crystal clear. Within the two hours his father had left him there, he begun realizing what focusing is.
Adalbert had disappeared and some Linoones had appeared from the forest and started mocking Chantalai.
'Don't you have anything better to do, jarhead?'
'Yeah! You're infecting our river with your presence!'
And they went on, but Chantalai managed to ignore them like his father had instructed him, overcoming the childish side of himself. The Linoones left after a while, going behind the trees; Adalbert was waiting for them there, where he paid them for their services to attempt and distract Chantalai - this was a detail of the training Chantalai himself would never learn.
The Zoroark jumped on the rock behind Chantalai. 'Come,' he said softly. Chantalai relieved his head from the flowing water. Only then he noticed a cave behind the waterfall. He jumped in excitement and joy as he followed his father inside.
'What are we gonna see, dad?'
'Wonderful things!' Adalbert said in a excited tone that resembled his son's and walked further into the darkness. 'Go on and fake an illusion to light this cave up,' he said right after. Chantalai concentrated once again and a small flame appeared, lighting up the cavern. It then faded, only to be replaced by a bigger one produced by his father.
The cavern had stairs leading to a circular room. The walls had runes glowing blue on them; they seemed not to reflect the flame Adalbert was holding above their heads. They, in fact, seemed to be out of this world. The little rodent shook his fur in an attempt to ward off the cold that was passing through it. He looked around; the walls were surely made from Pokemon, but the runes were emitting a strange signal that not many could understand.
'What are those, dad?' Chantalai's voice echoed in the cave. He was observing their blue glow with this mouth slightly opened in glee.
'Those,' said the Zoroark with a mysterious tone, 'are the heirlooms of our ancestors. You, the youngest Ancelotti, are our heir. Those runes are the continuation of an ancient script, written by somebody that... clearly has visited other worlds.'
The Zorua sat on his rear feet and tilted his head in a puzzled look. His huge eyes were reflecting the unearthly blue light of the runes. 'I don't understand...'
His father's laugh echoed in the cavern; Chantalai smirked, trying not to be annoyed - he didn't like to be the subject of laughter, even for trivial things.
'You will understand, one day, son.'
Adalbertwas taking Chantalai to the cavern for the following five years, right after the training session. The kid prodigy was now able to stand and walk on his two feet as a Zorua, create extremely realistic illusions that would send a full-grown warrior running and concentrate his attention on solely one thing, neglecting any other information from the outsideworld. Along with this training, his father taught him the anatomy of certain Pokemon species, covering a range of almost three hundred. Little Chantalai was bored through this, and he was unable to understand how this knowledge would help him, but he would eventually find out. Adalbert had started subtly passing down the martial art he himself had created onto his son; he would teach him combat maneuvres and ways to use his claws to rip through specific parts of a Pokemon's body. Chantalai realized why his father hadspent so much time teaching him the anatomy of the species that inhabited Stygia.
Meanwhile, Chantalai's personality had undergone changes as well - he was not so gentle any more, nor innocent or good-willed. He would pluck any food his father was holding, not fully realizing he would be later punished. The Zorua was turning into a truly disruptive student, even from this age; he preferred to learn things himself. However, his personality collided with the iron-hard discipline his father had taught him ever since he was a kid. Adalbert was forced to be much more austere with his son, and the distance between them grew.
Despite the years that had passed, Chantalai had not learned what the strange symbols on that cavern meant, and Adalbert was telling him he was not mature enough to understand. That simply enraged him, but he never showed it. He would try to translate the runes himself, but to no avail.
For the first time in years, Chantalai was interrupted during his training. He and his father were creating examples of illusions, holding them in reality as long as they could, when a harsh-sounding voice was heard behind the trees.
The form of a Weavile appeared in the clearing where the Zoroark and the Zorua were standing. The Weavile was wearing a silver tristanite armour similar to his father's and had a kindhearted face that contrasted his nature. Chantalai charged at him and fell into his arms, crying out.
As the little rodent curled up in the Weavile's arms, Adalbert approached him with a slight hint of fear in his expression; the little one was too excited to notice.
Adalbert extended his hand, Chantalai climbing up to his uncle's shoulder so he would be able to reach and shake Adalbert's hand. Their red eyes met in a power play that lasted only a moment.
'Any news?' the Zoroark said, still bearing that worried look. Raskalov grabbed the Zorua from his shoulder and placed him on the ground.
'Let's walk,' said Raskalov and begun walking towards the river. Adalbert threw a look to his son, saying stay right where you are, and left, following the Weavile.
Chantalai wasn't used to staying still, except when he was under the waterfall - the water calmed him, somehow. Some times, he was so concentrated he fell asleep, but his father didn't appreciate it. Now his mind was veiled with the thought of his uncle. Raskalov Ancelotti was secretly the leader of the village of Krept, where the family of the Ancelottis were running their secret operations. The Weavile, even though he was kind towards his family, was vicious and ruthless - he made the death of the former leader look like an accident and took charge of Krept under a different surname. When Chantalai's father had told him all this, he realized what it meant to be an Ancelotti and thought that the thoughts of killing the members of the Linoone gang who opposed him all the timeveiled his mind like the clouds on the peaks of the Amaro mountains. What the little Zorua wasn't aware of was the biggest secret of the Ancelottis - and he felt that uncle Raskalov and Adalbert were talking about it every time they met, which wasn't often. His curiosity tortured him like the sight of Pidove eggs he wasn't allowed to eat.
Chantalai ran silently with his eyes fixed on the two, hiding behind the trees and the bushes. The Weavile and the Zoroark walked towards the river without saying a word to each other and followed it up to the waterfall, where they entered the cave. Chantalai's heart was racing - what was he going to hear? He entered the cave silently behind the two and jumped on a rock, hiding in the darkness. Meanwhile, the two had climbed down the stairs of the cold cave, their voices echoing in the walls.
'Why are you here? Not Frontier's business, I suppose?'
'Our enemies have progressed northeast of Alamagna and have set a camp on the edge of Vanir forest. Us and Krept, we share the same problem,' he said, sounding worried as well now. Us, as in the Ancelottis, Chantalai thought.
'And what would that be? If you're talking about..'
'Yes, it's about that. You're well aware that the Dark Cult is... searching for something. And the worst part is, they know where it is and they have the ability to claim it by force.'
'That can't be. How could they know...?'
The Weavile grabbed the Zoroark's shoulders.
'Adalbert, hear me out. You have to let me see--'
'No. Only your intentions and desires will be fatal for you when you lay your eyes upon it - it can read your mind. Yes, it can, and when it does, it'll make you kneel and crack your head like an egg from the pressure of the thoughts. No normal skin is even able to touch it. Everything it touches becomes dust, it vaporizes every living being.'
Chantalai couldn't see Raskalov's expression, but he assumed it was even more terrified. The little Zorua begun to wonder what was it they were talking about and if he would ever know. Is this the only secret our family keeps? He was unable to fully understand what was happening, as he was only twelve years old.
'How fitting,' said Raskalov to Chantalai's surprise. Doubt was obvious in his voice. 'Are you telling me the truth, or are you manipulating your own family? You know that the code of the Ancelottis deems betrayal as an unforgivable mistake, right?'
Now it was clear his voice had changed; anger had filled his tone and the Weavile's claws were extended. Adalbert kept his calm, cold stare and Chantalairealised that, despite he had never seen him fight, he was a truly powerful Pokemon. The dark power he emitted was reaching the Zorua on top of the rock, and it made his small heart cower in fear; just who was his father? Was this all power coming from the secret he was holding?
'I am only protecting you. If I wanted to use this power for myself, you wouldn't even know about it, not to mention you'd be dead by now. Or worse.'
Raskalov seemed hindered by Adalbert's words; Chantalai heard a subtle, shuffling noise next to him. He jerked his head to see a Mienshao entering the cave silently and hiding behind a rock. The symbol of the Dark Cult, the black heart with the crossing blades was painted on his cape. A spy! Chantalai thought from where he was. He manipulated the darkness next to him, like his father had taught him, acquiring a state of invisibility. He sneaked quietly behind the Mienshao and without giving it much thought, he jumped and stuck his small claws onto the spy's long neck. The Mienshao let out a cry and threw him away, but it was too late - he then fell on the ground, with the blood staining the black cape with the symbol of the heart.
'What was that?' Chantalai heard Raskalov and Adalbert rushing up the stairs of the cave. They stopped as they saw the Zorua standing next to a blood pool with a Mienshao drowning on his own blood.
Father and uncle didn't know how to react to Chantalaicommiting his first murder from age twelve. They weren't sure if they should be happy or worried about the killer instincts that had developed in the Zorua from such an early age; they did know that they were passed onto him from his father. Adalbert was not only working as a spy for the Frontier - he was also the silent terror of the Stygian citadel, Alamagna. He had spent his youth protecting the Frontier from inside assaults; the Dark Cult would aim at the morals of the Stygian natives. That way, they started a political revolution to cast the Stygian King away from the citadel, but with eliminating the crucial targets of the revolution, Adalbert spread the fear in the citadel and the revolution was quelled. His victims, mostly Dark Cult members, were usually found dead with no signs directing to their cause of death. Raskalov was now wondering if Adalbert was raising another killing machine to continue the Frontier's silent approaches. Those two were the only skilled ones in stealth, as they were able to delude everyone around them with a single thought; the Zoroarks were unseen species in Stygia. The tribes of those Pokemon were living in the far north, beyond the vast mountain ranges, but somehow Adalbert had ended up in the south, in Vanirterritority. Father and son, were the only ones of those species in Stygia, Raskalov was certain of that.
They decided to praise little Chantalai, and during the next years of his training, his father taught him one hundred different ways to slit somebody's throat, depending on the species he was upagainist. After four years of harsh training on wild Pokemon, Chantalai finally evolved. Until then, he did not seem to be bothered by the idea that he murdered a non-wild Pokemon. But now that he was a Zoroark, he became proud of it, and asked his father when he could repeat his success. Adalbert was almost scared by his son's determination, thinking that if he would take a wrong turn somewhere, Chantalai's ultimate victim would be his own father. Although Chantalai showed compassion, dedication and skill in fighting, he loved his father, too. The thought of inheriting the mines and his massive fortune by killing his father never crossed his mind. He would only receive the training his father was putting him through with no complain and a desire to keep going.
But Adalbert had not only trained Chantalai in combat and stealth - he had forged his son's soul in a deeper, darker way. He made him discover his ability to manipulate the darkness with his powers and explained where their powers were coming from. The Nether Plane. The black void that was consuming the world, sucking it into nothingness, into unknown. It was approaching from the sea of the northeast of Stygia; nobody on this world could imagine how fast it was growing or what it was exactly. The scholars of the Academy of Knowledge, located in Alamagna, believed it to be the 'cataclysm', exactly what the purpose of the Dark Cult was about: to 'save' them from this devastating calamity that was approaching.
Chapter 2: Crimson Light
It was a nice day in Vanir forest, the bird Pokemon were chirping, the sun was heating the whole area up - something really rare on this part of Stygia - and Chantalai was standing on top of a rock. The Zoroark's dirty mane was waving with the wind; he was trying to look directly into the sun while 'meditating'. His father had instructed him he did this in other places than the waterfall.
Two Linoones from Krept town were staring angrily at him from the ground; Chantalai had serious reasons to avoid them. They were wearing two black bands on their heads with thunders on their foreheads. They seemed really pissed off - they were shaking their tightened fists up in the air as they screamed.
'Give back what you stole from us!'
Chantalai looked at them with a calm expression. He was only twenty years old, but his eyes could inform someone smart that they would be dead in seconds; the Linoones kept bothering him, however.
'I haven't stolen anything from you. You better leave me alone.'
He smirked, now looking at the sky. The Linoone Gang in the town was getting on his nerves lately, and he was getting on theirs. But those Pokemon were extremely persistent; they climbed up the rock. Chantalai got up from his spot on the tip of the rock and faced them.
'We know you took some gold from our chest!'
The Zoroark folded his arms and bit his lips. He promised himself he would leave no traces next time. Now the Linoones were approaching on their four like predators. As they reached him, Chantalai unleashed a dark pulse, throwing both of them back; he pounced on the nearest Linoone, ripping the side of his head with his claws. The poor Pokemon grabbed the wound, trying to make it stop bleeding, but it was too late. Chantalai was already turning to the other Linoone who, despite being fearless, was now staring at the Zoroark in fear. But he managed to overcome the fact that his brother died in front of his eyes and charged forward.
The Linoone with the black band started a fury swipe assault at Chantalai, who was parrying every hit by deflecting his foe's claws with his own. The pace continued, both of them seemed equally powerful, but then suddenly, the form of Zoroark vanished and it was replaced by that of a giant Heracross. His foe was stunned and routed to the ground as the giant bug attacked him; under the illusion, Chantalai performed an uppercut, sticking his claws deep into the jaws of the Pokemon. He threw away the dead Linoone, the Heracross illusion fading the next moment.
'Any one else wanting to die today?' he asked the dead bodies sarcastically. As he walked away from the corpses, blood was dripping down from his claws. No Pokemon had seen what had happened, except the birds which flied away as the Zoroark climbed up a tree and blended with the darkness.
'Chantalai!' shouted his father when the Zoroark returned home late at night. His red claws wereclean, reflecting the light of the candles in the kitchen. Adalbert's expression was a mix of anger and admiration; Chantalai found it hard to take him seriously.
'Another two murders!'
The younger Zoroark clutched his heart with both of his hands in a comical move full of mocking intention. 'Oh no! Well it ain't the first time. Not the last, either, right dad?' he said cheerfully, smiling and winking. His father sighed and looked down on the ground.
'You're not supposed to kill your allies!' Adalbert said and walked over to his son to grab his shoulders and look him in the eyes. Chantalai was caught off guard and his smile disappeared.
'They were bothering me. They attacked me first,' he said in an apologizing tone. However, his father knew him well: honesty wasn't a strong trait of Chantalai. In fact, it wasn't a trait of his at all...
'I heard rumours that you stole gold from their gang. Why? We have an entire vault full of riches, Chantalai! We're far beyond "rich", and you waste your time with stealing gold and not even doing the job right! Cover your traces before you leave the crime scene, boy,' he snapped at a rather fatherly tone Chantalai never took seriously. The days Adalbert was a mighty spy and teacher were over, now he was losing control of his son gradually.
'Teach me, then.'
'I will, one day...'
They heard somebody walking on the yard; Raskalov entered the kitchen from the open door. Adalbert walked over to him with his arms opened, hugging him. Chantalai put his hand on his heart, performing the Stygian salute of the army. His uncle copied him after he got off Adalbert's hands. The Weavile had a serious expression on, which was making him look older than he really was; he glanced towards Chantalai, but Adalbert raised his hand.
'He's staying. He's old enough. Now what's wrong?'
Adalbert inquired, afraid that the news would be about the murders. But Chantalai knew Raskalov wouldn't be worried about that, on the contrary, he would be happy. He was half Ancelotti anyway, even though he did not bear the surname. Despite that, Chantalai wasn't seeing him often because apparently, he was busy with the recent Dark Cult assaults on Krept. He could feel his tension as he spoke quickly and taking deep breaths after periods.
'The villagers are getting fed up with the assaults as more and more die, Adalbert. Their camp is on top of a rock in the Dead Clearing.' The Dead Clearing was a rocky area of the forest with no trees that resembled the Wastelands of Stygia, but it was surrounded by Vanir forest. Adalbert cracked his knuckles with a determined expression.
'What do you want me to do?'
'You, nothing, you can't do anything... they know you're coming, they know... somehow, they're aware of your tricks.'
The older Zoroark perked up his body. 'Humph.. "tricks"... they're not merely tricks.' Chantalai nodded in agreement to protect his abilities, but nobody noticed him. He stepped forward.
'Can I go?'
Raskalov and Adalbert seemed worried. 'No! Of course not,' Raskalov shouted, Adalbert staring him down. Chantalai knew from the flash of their eyes that they admired his guts.
'What are you gonna do, then? They'll crush our forces like bugs.' said Chantalai with a smirk - he was new to this, but he wasn't ignorant. Even he understood that they were fighting a long lost war. 'And we don't expect any reinforcements from Alamagna, as the Queen is under the Dark Cult's control.'
The Weavile sighed. 'Maybe this is the end of Krept as we know it. Those good-for-nothing "crusaders" are hiding behind the banner of the Dark Cult and the excuse of a holy war, only to destroy everything in their wake...'
Adalbert shook his head. 'We'll have to keep fighting. What's the situation inside the forest?'
'We sent two of our scout teams for recon and they never came back. And our citizens are refusing to fight...'
Cowards, all of them! thought Chantalai. An unnatural urge to kill every villager rose, but he swallowed it up. He remembered his father saying, work for whoever pays more, but this was a different case. If Krept went down, the Ancelottis would fall as well. But Chantalai was suspecting that the Dark Cult had other business in the other side of the Wastelands - Vanir forest was hiding the secret they'd been looking for, and its caretaker was his father. Chantalai spoke again with a stone-hard determination that resembled his father's.
'Then let me scout in the forest and lead your forces behind the enemy. We know Vanir better than they do, and if we strike swiftly, the impact will be a lot bigger.'
The Ancelottis turned to look at him astonished.
'Impressive! You are a battling prodigy, after all. Your plan might work,' said Raskalov while rubbing his chin. Chantalai folded his arms.
'Tonight, before Karnos' light, in the square of Krept,' said Raskalov plainly and left. The sun was already setting.
Karnos was the red planet with the rings that appeared in the sky after midnight for an hour, and before the dawn for another hour. Two times every month, the crimson light would be almost as strong as the sun's, but with a menacing touch that would make the residents of Vanir hide in their homes. They believed that Karnos was the home of the Gods, and that the crimson light the planet spread on Stygia was the lost blood of all the fallen warriors that had fallen protecting the region from the Dark Cult. At these two times in the month, the planet would appear much bigger than the sun in the night sky, offering a majestic sight only for Chantalai and his father to look. The Ancelottis did not believe in the nonsense of the Vanir residents, as they weren't original Vanir.
The citizens of Krept, despite fearing the wrath of their Gods and Karnos, gathered in the square of the village, which was pretty much a single road and houses around it, on the foot of a hill. Shouts were heard as the Stygian natives were preparing for battle, attaching the armours onto their bodies.
Raskalov had climbed up a platform and was giving orders to the soldiers. Chantalai was walked down the north street with his dark powers overflowing from his body; Karnos toned him up massively, especially when it was 'full'. The Weavile greeted him with a wave of his hand and focused on his business.
The soldiers begun moving out under Raskalov's command. His silver armour was shining red; Chantalai was jealous. His father had told him that he would gift him a tristanite armour if he managed to help Raskalov and Chantalai had taken him seriously. Tonight, he would protect the family's name from those who claimed that they left Krept to the hands of their enemies.
Chapter 3: Dark Matter
Two hundred armed Pokemon villagers set out for the forest. Karnos was fading in the sky, leaving only the torches of the marching Pokemon to light the sky - clouds were blocking the stars, it was one of those pitch-black Stygian nights. The rambling sound of the footsteps of the villagers scared the wild Pokemon of the forest away. Chantalai walked of them all, ignoring their looks of jealousy and whispering to Raskalov next to him.
'We will strike, and we will vanish in the shadows as fast as we can,' stated Raskalov, repeating their main plan.
'How many are we dealing with, again?' inquired Chantalai. He was looking up at the dark night sky, listening carefully to the sound the wind made blowing through the leaves. His ears were perked up, searching for any sound that would give their opponent's position away.
'Five hundred,' said the Weavile with a grimace onto his face. The Zoroark suddenly stopped and looked at somewhere between the trees. He sprinted up a tree log and stuck his claws inside it, pulling himself up quickly. Chantalai was sitting on his ankles in an 'owling' position on top of a branch, staring at the darkness like a predator. Meanwhile, the small army of villagers had stopped. They're silent, thankfully...
Chantalai jumped from tree to tree, using his claws to maintain his balance. He stopped again at some point, hearing sounds from up ahead. With his hand on his mouth, he mimicked a strange sound of a bird to signal the others. He heard them moving to the left and hiding in the bushes. The Zoroark kept sitting on his ankles, waiting for the forces of the Dark Cult to pass under him. From the sounds, he figured they were multiple squads of fifty Pokemon or so, while the Stygians were one big group. They were able to ambush and kill those fifty in seconds. Voices were heard, echoing from far away.
'We shouldn't have come here,' moaned a voice in a childish tone.
'Everything's going to be fine, the Pope surely knows what he's doing,' replied somebody in an annoyed tone.
'I don't trust this place... I think I'm hearing voices... I'm telling you Vanir is cursed, the whole area reeks with the dead...'
'Snap out of it! These are just rumours to scare off the cowards like you!'
The voices were getting closer now. The Pokemon stopped talking and walked past the tree Chantalai was hiding, approaching the Stygian army. Screams teared the night sky apart; in a moment, more than one hundred of the Stygians had fallen onto the Dark Cult's squad and forced it to back off towards Chantalai's tree.
Chantalai leaped down the branch, landing on a Medicham and sliding his claws through its back; the others in front of him didn't even notice him - he formed a dark wave of energy in his hands, a night daze, and shot it towards them. It went through them, blowing them onto their allies; fifty Pokemon were slain within seconds, just as Chantalai had predicted.
More screams were heard from afar, Chantalai figured the other half of the Stygians were ambushing another squad. Raskalov wasn't with this one hundred, but they seemed to have orders; they started hiding in the bushes. Nobody in Stygia could deny the Vanir residents' ability in swift combat, that's why the forest was a deathtrap for their enemies; some of them wondered why the Dark Cult made the mistake of sending forces into their forest. Some didn't.
Chantalai ambushed another squad with the Stygians, taking more lives than he ever had altogether, and he was starting to like it. Adalbert had implemented the philosophy of the fragile body onto him: everybody can die, with thousands of different ways. You just gotta pick one of them and do the job.
After half an hour, two hundred enemy Pokemon were 'polluting Vanir forest' with their dead bodies. Four more squads begun to retreat from the forest; Chantalai immediately caught up with Raskalov, who had bloodied claws like himself (his armour was somehow clean) and instructed him that they were able to chase them to their camp.
'I don't know, Chantalai... they were only four hundred. Where is the rest?'
'It doesn't matter, we'll just have to destroy their camp, and they'll lose this!'
'I'll take one hundred Pokemon with me, including you. Rest go back,' Raskalov shouted in a determined tone. He patted Chantalai on the shoulder, saying 'Well done, your father has taught you well. He would be proud of you.'
'This isn't over,' said the Zoroark and pointed to the southwest. 'Let's go and finish this.'
The Dead Clearing seemed like the Wastelands, 'dunes' of some kind of grey dust were forming on the eternal rocks of the area. Not a single plant could grow there, it was like a curse had fallen on this land to keep it in this state forever; fifty miles of death. Chantalai used to go there with his dad and play hide and seek, or train away from the curious eyes of the villagers.
Raskalov's army of one hundred marched on the dust, chasing the fleeing forces of the Cult through those 'dunes', which looked like small hills. Their camp was normally visible during the day, if a massive cloud wasn't in the way, but during a night like this - it was extremely difficult to navigate. The darkness was getting thick and the army lost its way three times. Chantalai could not see their enemies anymore. Raskalovmurmured something angrily.
'I hadn't thought of this bad weather. The clouds are blocking the stars! We can't proceed, and we certainly can't walk twenty miles into this wasteland!'
Chantalai slowly nodded, and the villagers behind them agreed with upset looks.
'We must go back!' somebody shouted and the others shouted in agreement with him.
Raskalov turned to them and they stayed put. One hundred Pokemon before him were making rustling sounds as they whispered; Chantalai folded his arms and eyeballed them. He knew they'd rather go home.
'People, they've had enough for today! Let us return back victorious and rest! They will be scared for the rest of their life after this wound we opened!'
Some of them clapped and cheered and started moving backwards. It took them a good twenty minutes to reach Vanir forest and they crossed it. The darkness ahead was now as close to black as it could be - but it was broken by the torches of the villagers. Chantalai's ears caught whispers from the forest and for a moment he thought their truly existed. But after a moment, they vanished. He thought of the Dark Cult's attack and wondered, why would they attack like that? In squads? A terrifying hunch veiled his mind and the realization that came right after struck him like a thunder, dazing him. Screams could be heard from far inside the forest; the Stygians started to run towards their village in fear, as did Chantalai. The night sky was lighted up by a huge menacing fire.
The Zoroark's eyes were reflecting the fire. They opened wide just for a moment; he then charged down the hill, leaving the others behind him. He ran through the burning houses at full speed, ignoring the screams of the villagers. The small army of the Dark Cult was moving up the hill towards the Ancelotti mansion. Chantalai chased after them even though he was already exhausted. Fear had gripped his heart, an emotion unknown to him as of until now. The possibility of his father being dead tortured his mind as he ran up the hill.
When he reached the top, he hid in the trees and proceeded towards the mansion. Flames had engulfed the house, sparks flying everywhere and voices mixing with the sounds of the fire. Chantalai approached silently and climbed up a tree, full knowing he was unable to confront one hundred Pokemon by himself.
The Dark Cult had surrounded the house; Chantalai saw his father exiting the burning house, holding something in his tightened fist.
'Ah, there he is!' a rough voice spoke from the crowd of warriors, 'Our rebel, Adalbert Ancelotti!'
Chantalai heard the last words twisted through the sound of the burning wood. The warriors laughed, but Adalbert was standing firm in front of them, with his flaming eyes fixed onto somewhere in the crowd.
'You have no business here,' he said in a calm voice. The wooden doorstep under him cracked slightly, more laughs from the crowd.
'You're holding the answer to this war. Give it to us, and we will leave you unscathed,' the same voice. Chantalai could finally recognize the Pokemon; it was a Mienshao wearing a dark, flexible armour.
'I can vaporize the lot of you with a single thought. Knowing this, you came here, asking for what I possess. You fools,' Adalbert exclaimed and shut his eyes. A black thunder was shot from the sky, but something else happened at the same moment. The house collapsed from the fire, and the wooden door hit the Zoroark on the head, knocking him out.
Chantalai watched the Mienshao from the tree, who was pacing towards Adalbert. He stopped andkneeled, with his eyes fixed on something that laid on the ground; Chantalai couldn't see clearly. The Pokemon got up to his feet and looked at Adalbert again.
'Looks like you weren't able to do anything. I'll leave you to die in the hands of fate, as a punishment for the trouble you have caused to us,' he said and spat on the Zoroark, who was still laying on the ground. The little army begun moving out, disappearing in the woods.
Chantalai leaped down from the tree and ran next to his father. The morning Karnos had dawned, spreading the red light all around Vanir forest. The burning ruins of the house were painted red as if they were spilled with blood. A great chunk of wood from the roof had collapsed onto Adalbert; Chantalai tried moving it aside, but it wouldn't budge. As his rage peaked, mixing with the rest of his emotions, he threw a wave of darkness at the wooden chunk, knocking it away.
'Father!' He shouted, kneeling over him. A massive wound on his chest let Chantalai know all of his ribs were broken and the wounds were bleeding non-stop. Adalbert raised his head, tilting it slightly as he looked at his son with almost a puzzled look. Chantalai instantly thought his father had no idea what had happened.
Adalbert looked around, his puzzled look replaced by an expression of terror.
'They took it!' He blurted out and coughed blood. Chantalai glanced around, but he already knew he couldn't do anything. It was all a blur for him, a symphony of sounds and a carnival of visions.
'They took what?! You have to tell me,' he shouted and grabbed his father's shoulders. The older Zoroark's eyes turned white; Chantalai felt his dark soul leaving his body.
'Head south, son, get it back. Avenge me. Have faith in the dark, but also in the light.'
Adalbert passed away in Chantalai's hands. A dark aura was released into the air, weighing the atmosphere extremely as if it was a thick cloud. Chantalai was blown back onto the grass; he stayed there, watching the dark cloud veiling his father's body. It dispersed into pure energy and was immediately covered by the cloud; the next moment, it was all gone, the cloud had vanished and the air was clear again.
The younger Zoroark remained there for two minutes, unable to believe what had happened. He slowly got up after he got over the shock and tightened his fists. They may have gotten rid of my father, but they'll NEVER get rid of me... I'll kill them all.
Chantalai walked away, with his mind on the verge of cracking under the pressure of the emotions. He ran down the hill in search for Raskalov and the rest of the army; but they were nowhere to be found. The flames on the village had subsided, along with the screams. The silence of the dead was unbearable for Chantalai. The dawn found Vanir forest to light up the blood on the ground, but the Zoroark had already left for the south, where Raskalov would have gone.
Chapter 4: The Six LeadersThe cold wind whipped the arid wastelands of Stygia, blowing dust high. The eternal blackish clouds prevented the sun from turning these parts into deserts with shimmering sands - now the rocky ground was purely formed by the dust falling from the sky. For eons, Pokemon from all around were traveling through these vast wastelands in the middle of Stygia in order to exchange wares, using specific routes to ensure their safety. But now dark years, even darker than the clouds in the skies, were above the world - the bloodthirsty warriors and mercenaries of the Dark Cult, driven by their 'righteous fury' into a sacred war, had started conquering the wastelands, making their way to the north. Their only motivation being the bible their Prophet was holding, they would leave nothing but ruins of the Stygian Nation in their wake. But there was a secret reason behind this sacred war, a living mystery that was pursued by Chantalai Ancelotti, who was now crossing the wastelands.
The eerie figure of the Zoroark sizzled the wastelands. He raised his hands to protect his face, leaning forward, defying the fierce wind that blew dust that pinched him all over. His breath rose as mist in front of his face as he forced himself to continue his path. Each step he took, he felt the sorrow about his father's death and his village's destruction turn into an apathy, his weakness into stone-hard determination. Now that some time had passed and Chantalai was able to grasp what had happened, his vengeful emotions rose like a tidal wave in his heart, pushing him into the unknown, uncharted wastelands. Anyone who would see Chantalai moving like that through these lands would consider him a fool - but he had a plan. His eyes were fixed on the hill that was on the southeast, according to the compass that was tied onto his leather belt. He would climb the hill and peer into the horizon, hoping to see a sign of Raskalov.
Exhaustion, hunger and thirst struck Chantalai as he started climbing the hill. The Zoroark flinched, a strong wind blowing against him, he almost fell down. He kept one hand on his forehead, protecting his eyes from the dust, and the other he used to pull himself up the rocky hill by sticking his claws on the ground. Now behind the hill, the wind had calmed down - Chantalai found himself on the top after a few minutes that seemed like hours. His enormous black mane shook violently to the wind atop the hill; the view of the wastelands was nothing like he had imagined. The dark clouds blocked most of what there was to see in the horizon, and the dust clouds which were wandering lower, closer to the ground, did not help things. Desperation gripped his heart like an iron fist. He could not see any sign to direct him in this mass of dust. Chantalai sat on the cold ground, staring at the south with sore, empty eyes. His father's last words suddenly appeared in his mind.
Have faith in dark, but also in the light.
Light would help him here, if only those clouds moved a little... He raised his head high, staring at the distant red planet that appeared in a gap between the clouds, Karnos, which was visible during the day this time of the month. His grandfather would always say that Karnos was the place where the Gods of Light and Dark, Good and Bad, White and Black resided. Without thinking about his religious beliefs, his hands joined together in a prayer towards the God of light, naively requesting their assistance.
Chantalai Ancelotti opened his eyes wide, trying to grasp what suddenly happened in the sky; the dark clouds that were pinned down on the sky had moved suddenly, allowing the sunlight to hit the ground. The horizon on the south was clear, revealing a small camp with grey tents inside it. A smile ran across Chantalai's tired face as he saw it, the first smile after his father's death. He slid down the hill and dashed full speed towards the camp, forgetting his exhaustion and his prayers, deeming this event as a coincidence.
The camp of the Frontier was surrounded by pointy wooden logs. Two red flags with big blue X's and three stars under them were held high in spears next to the entrance of the camp. Chantalai stared at the flag of his own nation with pride as he walked towards the camp. Two Pokemon, two Drapions, were guarding the entrance; they appeared to be Knights. Their already sturdy bodies were protected by heavy silver armours. Capes painted with a pattern similar to the nation's flags ran down from their shoulders to the ground. Chantalai thought anybody who had to deal with them must have been miserable, but their opponents vastly outnumbered them and the power of the Knights was not enough to overtake them.
The Zoroark stopped running and looked at the two pincers the Drapions had raised to warn him. Although he felt he would fall apart, he gathered his energy and pushed himself a bit more. His voice sounded serious and collected, to his surprise.
'I am Chantalai Ancelotti from the village of Krept. Is Raskalov with you?'
One of the Drapions stepped forward, his enormous armour clinging onto his body. He seemed to be examining the Zoroark.
'Indeed, he is with us. You appear to be an Ancelotti, alright. Wonder how you got through the wastelands by yourself, boy.'
The Knight glanced back at his ally, slightly smiling, like being an Ancelotti was a joke. Chantalai just glared at them, smirking and resisting the urge to spit his mouthful response. So that's how far my family's fame has reached, he thought, I'll show them. My legacy may end with me, but I will restore my family's reputation, one way or another...
He walked through the Knights who remained to their spots like statues.
The inside of the camp was different than Chantalai had expected. Many grey tents hosted poorly equipped Pokemon soldiers - nothing like the Knights that were guarding the entrance. They had set two bonfires in the middle of the camp and some Pokemon who looked like thieves had sat all around them, cooking meat in sticks and giving it to their fellow soldiers. The Zoroark felt pity for all of them, even if he wasn't in a better condition. What were all those people fighting for?
His feet crunched on the ash of the ground that had become nearly solid from the cold wind. His sensitive nostrils were twitched, it smelled rotten in there. Sounds of a hammer crashing against steel were heard constantly from somewhere in the camp.
A voice was heard from behind him; Raskalov himself, a muscular Weavile was standing on the entrance of the nearest tents. He was wearing a golden chestguard and spaulders and had a red sash with a blue X and three stars on it tied to his waist. A blue, shield-shaped emblem was stuck on his thin chestguard, let everyone know he was one of the Commanders of the Frontier. Like always, his bright red eyes gave off the feeling he had a kind heart, even though he seemed vicious on the outside. Chantalai eyed him, half happy for at last having found him, half angry for him abandoning the village.
'Raskalov!,' the Zoroark rushed to him with a worried face on, 'where have you been? All they left of Krept...' he paused, unable to find the courage to complete his sentence, but the Weavile motioned him to stop and sighed in disappointment. Chantalai wondered if the leader of his old hometown was even sorry for what happened. Raskalov proceeded to explain.
'Look, son, I am not responsible for what happened in Krept. I had no choise but to leave with our forces - otherwise, we'd be crushed. All was lost before we could do a thing. The leaders of the Frontier have called me here, and I could not refuse.' The Zoroark remained silent, the Weavile motioned him to come inside the tent, 'Come in, they are inside right now. We are having a conference.'
Chantalai slowly followed Raskalov into the tent, deciding that fussing over what happened in Krept would do them no good. He was determined to help the Stygian forces win the war of the Frontier. A burning passion mixed with his strong desire for revenge. His eyes flashed when he first looked at the five Pokemon that were standing inside the tent, who seemed startled by his appearance; he liked their reaction, although they were his allies. Raskalov presented him with a pompous voice.
'Gentlemen, this is Chantalai Ancelotti. I am sure you are all quite aware how his father, Adalbert, was helping us?'
The five leaders nodded, and Chantalai's chest was inflated in pride. Each of the leaders had been dressed differently, but were all heavily armed nonetheless. A Zangoose, a Braviary, a Tauros, an Altaria and a Shiftry were standing on their feet with a large map of the Wastelands unfolded on the table in front of them. Chantalai recognized some of them - he had seen them in various paintings and portraits. The Zangoose, who was wearing a cowboy hat and had two revolvers strapped onto his belt, was named Lumos; he once had complete control of the city-state of Erca, but he was recently forced to leave under the Dark Cult's pressure. His eyes showed that he was good-willed and determined. The next leader Chantalai noticed, was the female Altaria: the necklace she was wearing was made purely out of flowers. She was Queen Serena of Alamagna, the biggest citadel of Stygia; she was probably meeting them in secret, as the citadel was under the Cult's control.
The Tauros introduced himself as 'Bloodhoof' of Kardia and indeed had a bloodied mane, the Braviary as 'Fiaje' of Kardia and the Shiftry as 'Qualem' of Pietra. Chantalai thought of it for a moment, then he realised that each of them was the leader of an entire nation; the Tauros was the leader of the Hotori tribe, Fiaje the leader of the Eshir nation and the Shiftry in command of the Tocan.
'Glad to finally meet you, boy!' chortled the Zangoose, grabbing a cup of water from the table and pacing over to him, 'you must be real thirsty, yeah?'
Chantalai slightly bowed to Lumos but at the same time snatched the steel cup and poured the water down his sore throat. Water dripping out of his mouth onto his fur, he silently thanked the Zangoose who gifted him a hearty smile. He glanced at his pistols on his belt; he always wanted to use one of these. But the thoughts of his father's secret circled in his mind; he faced Raskalov who had now joined the rest of the leaders.
'What was my father doing for all of you, exactly?'
The leaders nervously looked at each other. Raskalov sighed again and stared intently into him, starting to speak.
'... Losing Adalbert Ancelotti cost us greatly. Your father wasn't only providing us with valuable armours, but he was performing spy services for the Frontier as well. Your kind have outstanding deceiving abilities.' He paused, and then added, 'No offense.'
Chantalai knew all that, his father himself had told him. But, how did he end up to be Alamagna's hero? What was that power he held? Chantalai spoke while staring at the ground.
'That's only part of it, isn't it?'
It took them a moment to reply. Finally, Serena spoke with her melodic voice tickling their ears.
'Indeed. He was not only infiltrating the lines of our enemies, he was taking out certain targets we needed out of the way as well. We are...'
'... hoping you would continue your father's legacy and provide your services for the greater Stygian good,' continued Lumos, with a sharp expression on his face. 'The Dark Cult has been extremely aggressive, they managed to turn the entire Erca against me. Now we are trying to get it back, but it's no use; we have to cross the wastelands, and when we get there, we will be massively outnumbered by their forces. Not to mention we don't have any time. They are launching multiple attacks to the camp far in the east, and if we don't help them..'
The Zangoose twitched the tips of his cowboy hat nervously. It was clear that his own words had upset him. Chantalai ran his hand through the mane that was hanging from his back. He had no reason to refuse to fight in the Frontier; he had nowhere else to go, anyway. Besides, he was starting to like the job his father was doing... He stared at Raskalov, who looked desperate, even though he seemed like a mighty warrior.
'When do I start?'
He saw their faces bright up; maybe the Ancelottis weren't the cowards everyone thought they were.
The leaders eagerly informed Chantalai about the situation in the east camp in the forest. It did seem grim - the forces that the Dark Cult had established on the edge of the forest were great in numbers and extremely well-armed. Hermes, the Pidgeot in charge of the camp, had no chance against them as he did not have half the men Ramos, the Gengar Dark Cult's lieutenant had. The forest did not have vast passages, which favoured the Stygians, but it was also cold and dark, meaning the dark and steel-type Pokemon of the Dark Cult's armies would be fighting in their environment. As Lumos stated, they needed a tactical genius to take them down, but Chantalai simply stated that wits was all they needed. With these thoughts running in Chantalai's mind, he followed Raskalov outside the tent where night had fallen.
'Son, I didn't expect you'd so readily accept our offer. Isn't it too much to take in?'
Chantalai looked at Raskalov as they walked through the camp, passing the bonfires with the rogues and soldiers staring at him with curiosity. He could sense concern in his voice - it's only natural, he thought, Adalbert and Raskalov were close childhood friends. He thought of his question thoroughly, it was difficult to answer for some strange reason. It's like he was destined to do this.
'No, I was ready for it. My father had told me he kept... things hidden from the public.'
'Ah, I see. Speaking of your father, Chantalai, he had gifted me one of his most finest armours he'd made, but I have no need for it,' he said with a faint smile. It was true; his gold armor reflected the moonlight that passed through a gap of the eternal clouds. It seemed very durable, Chantalai thought. The Weavile continued, 'If you are going to fight with us in the east, you're gonna need an armour. How about I give it to you? It was your father's, anyway.'
The Zoroark nodded quietly, too tired to show his appreciation; Raskalov understood, and he just pointed at a tent, telling him that it had food and water there, and that he pass the night in it.
Chantalai had a weird dream of his father handing him a small leather pouch, but before he could open it and see what was inside, shouts from outside the tent woke him up. Still feeling sore from the walking he did yesterday, he slowly got up with a grunt, trying to remember where he was. Then, when he saw the grey tent around him, the details of the events from last night slid into his mind. He scratched his eyes carefully, walking out of the tent to detect where the shouts came from - every soldier had gathered around the ashes of the two great bonfires. Chantalai counted about hundred heads, including Raskalov's head which was raised higher; he was obviously stepping onto something, which turned out to be the table he had on his tent last night.
The Weavile was apparently shouting at a small part of the soldiers to move out towards the forest - Chantalai stopped paying attention. He smirked and looked around, trying to find the leaders of the other villages, but with no luck. Then a sudden realization hit him. Only a hundred soldiers for protecting the six most important people of the Stygian side? This meeting was secret, it was kept secret from every other camp of natives which would be bigger and possibly being watched. He admired the leader's wits, to meet up at this small place. That, or there weren't more than fifty soldiers in any other camp.
Chantalai shook off his morning thoughts, thinking he had jumped onto conclusions. He remembered how his father always reminded him not to be hasty, then the thought of the armour he had gifted Raskalov popped into his mind. He was way too tired last night to realize how big his desire to wear that armour was.
A warm hand patted his shoulder; the Zoroark looked at the Pokemon behind him. He was an old Magmar with wise, blue eyes and a friendly aura. He was wearing a belt which was running across his chest, from his shoulder to his waist, equipped with iron work tools. A hammer hanged from the side of his belt. Chantalai raised his eyebrow to welcome him.
'Hullo, Chantalai. I'm Francis, the blacksmith of the camp,' informed him the Magmar, 'Commander Raskalov ordered me to give yeh the armour he gifted yeh. Follow me, if yeh'd please.'
Chantalai, with his excitement obvious in his face, followed the Magmar to the far end of camp. A heavy, iron table was placed on the ground and a rocky well was built next to it, smoke coming from its depth. Curious as he always was, he peered inside the well, blowing the hot smoke away from his face, but the bottom could not be seen. He turned back to Francis who had leaned into a wooden chest behind the table.
'How did you dig this deep into the ground? It's impossible to get through all that rock.'
The Magmar replied without looking at him, busy as he was with the chest.
'I'm a specialist, not only with blacksmithin', but with diggin' holes, too. I heated up the stone with my breath, an' then I pierced through it with one of these,' he grabbed an object from near the table, turning his attention away from the chest, and showed Chantalai. It seemed to be some sort of drill - he admired the blacksmith's invention.
'Oy, 'ere it is!'
Francis raised a chestguard and two spaulders from the chest and walked over to the Zoroark. He immediately recognized tristanite; he was a hundred per cent sure his father had made this piece. He grabbed the chestguard, which was surprisingly his size, tapping on its shiny surface. A strange thought crossed his mind: this armour did not support the body structure of a Weavile. Why had his father gifted Raskalov something he was unable to use? Had he maybe predicted the outcome of the recent events?
The blacksmith brought him back to reality by coughing fire all around. Chantalai subtly backed off, waiting for the Magmar to get over his coughing crisis.
'If yeh want teh buy anything, yeh know where t' find me. I wish yeh good luck!'
He patted the Zoroark's shoulder again, who was still holding the chestguard on his arms. As Francis was off to his business, Chantalai slipped into the tristanite armour. He felt it extremely light onto his body - he was sure it would not degrade his agility. But he doubted its sturdiness, although he had heard stories about the legendary ore his father was extracting from the depths of Amaro Mountains.
'Moving out!' Chantalai jerked his head to see Raskalov commanding the Pokemon in front of him to exit the camp. He motioned at him to follow and Chantalai nodded, knowing he was in for some adventure.
Chapter 5: Behind the Enemy Line
Raskalov, Chantalai and a group of twenty soldiers were headed east, crossing the dangerous wastelands. Chantalai thought traveling with others was much more relaxing, as they kept him company. The loneliness from before had vanished; now he could get his mind off his father with conversation. Raskalov, Chantalai and two of his men, a Raichu and an Absol were walking in the front of the group, discussing the Dark Cult's rapid influence over Stygia.
'... and to think they have already conquered Erca! That's their first step towards US, Raskalov. Erca is in the tip of this wasteland to the south - now they can and will move to the north.'
The Raichu seemed to be nervous and worried, a behaviour not fitting for a soldier of the Frontier. Chantalai himself disapproved it, although he fully understood the fears of his ally. Raskalov managed to calm him down.
'No, Erca is not lost yet. They may have spoiled it rotten, those Dark Cult cowards, but the people are free from their grasp. They may be roaming the streets, poisoning them with their ill ways, but there is still hope... right, Chantalai?'
The Weavile nudged Chantalai's arm who seemed to be staring at the ground. The Zoroark jerked his head, his enormous mane swishing through the air, almost scaring them with his look. 'Yes, all is not lost,' he said quietly, now staring back at where he was walking. The Absol behind him spoke up.
'How about you go there, Chantalai? If any of us shows up there, we'll get killed, but you can go unnoticed.'
'.. they don't know about any Zoroarks or your special abilities. Your kind is not known to Hesperians. Because they're basically Hesperians, those from the Dark Cult.'
Chantalai nodded with his red eyes still fixed on the ground and a serious expression spread across his face. He had read about the Hesperian Empire on the history books. They thought they looked so nice in their golden armours that were worth fortunes, Chantalai mocked them for their foolishness. But since they were the enemies of their enemies, the Dark Cult, they could as well be their ally. Not like it mattered now - their enemies were unstoppable, way too powerful even for the small, inexperienced army of Hesperia or their Ionian Verdict.
'What do you think of the Hesperian Ionian Verdict? Could they help us in any way?'
Raskalov, who was peering over the horizon for any signs of the distant forest at the moment, glanced at the Zoroark. 'The Ionian Verdict is entirely focusing on keeping the peace inside the Hesperian Empire - they will have no interest in fussing over with our problems,' he said grimly. 'Although they are an extremely powerful lot, highly trained elites of combat and such, they still would not be enough to match the Dark Cult's forces. They're just too many!'
'Yeah, they were supposed to be preserving the peace in their Empire, but they failed. The Dark Cult rose inside it and they thought they should just kick it out, transferring the problem to us!' shouted the Raichu, disgusted. The Absol sighed. Chantalai thought this was true; the Ionian Verdict could have eliminated the Dark Cult if they wanted to, but their philosophy was to keep as many Pokemon alive as Pokemon, as commanded by the Hesperian King.
'And how did the Dark Cult gain so much power in so little time? They were only migrating from Hesperia, and they managed to gather so much army in just a decade,' Chantalai blurted out. He was still not fully aware of the details of the War of the Frontier, as Krept was in the far northern parts of Stygia where the Dark Cult had never set foot on, until recently.
'They conquered all of southern Stygia. But I shouldn't call it Stygia - the Pokemon in those parts did not acknowledge our nation, and contested as they were between us and Hesperia, they were easy to bow the Dark Cult's rule. The Pokemon of the south, great in numbers, joined the Dark Cult under its religion, directed by that filth, Ali Kemal the 'Prophet'. He drives them into a 'sacred' war of expansion of their religion against us, making us face all this! I doubt Stygia will ever be the same, we might even get completely destroyed!'
Chantalai continued to walk without saying a word, lost in his thoughts. He had now abandoned his old self, having finally accepted that his village was forever lost. He had left everything behind, suppressing his feelings of sorrow and sadness for his father's death, and was starting to become focused on his revenge. That alone started a massive change inside him.
Raskalov shouted he saw the first trees of the sparse forest that was unfolded up ahead.
The hot season was over and the flora of this strange world was blooming, only to be burned down by the snow that was coming. The cold aura of the trees hit the soldiers, who were now walking on surprisingly lush grass.The conversations had ended by the order of Raskalov; the enemy could be lurking anywhere. The leader send Chantalai to scout for them ahead, as he was the most agile one, and quite capable of climbing onto trees and leaping from one another, using their leaves as coverage. Before he left, they agreed on the signals of moving forward and stopping.
The Zoroark bolted from the group, the soldiers admiring his speed. He jumped onto a rock, dashed up a fallen tree log and leaped into the air, grabbing a tree branch and pulling himself up. He glanced behind him at the slow-moving group of Pokemon; they seem nervous, Chantalai thought as he leaped again towards another branch. The leaves were yellow, red and green coloured as they always were this season - they made a lot of noise when someone stepped on them. Chantalai suddenly stopped, staying put in the branch in a strange owling position his father had taught him. He perked up his ears and looked to the southeast, his eyes half shut. He was hearing the ramble of the feet of multiple Pokemon moving about fifty feet away - he immediately whistled like a Chatot to signal his allies to stop with his heart racing.
Chantalai, who was sitting on his ankles, maintaining his balance on the thin branch of the tree, possessed a menacing figure that none would notice unless they looked up. But the Pokemon he had heard seemed to be moving away from their position, and indeed after some moments the ramble weakened and weakened until it was completely lost amongst the other sounds of the forest. He performed the Starly signal with his teeth and he heard his allies walking behind him, and they coordinated their path onto the forest towards Hermes' camp.
The nation's flags were racing against the cold wind, the East Camp looked exactly like the South Camp in the wastelands, both inside and outside. Many grey tents with the X and the three stars under it were surrounded by pointy wooden logs. The only difference was that this camp was on top of a small hill but was still massively covered by the thick trees. Chantalai and the others were greeted by the guards who seemed like normal soldiers, only more agile due to living in the forest.
Hermes, an armoured Pidgeot walked up to them once they were inside they camp. He was wearing a piece of armour with a special design onto his wings, which was shining beautifully under the moonlight. Raskalov, Chantalai and Hermes formed a small circle.
'Commander Raskalov, my friend! It's been a long time!'
The Weavile looked happy to see the Pidgeot, and Chantalai couldn't help but notice Hermes's hearty smile. With his eyes fixed on the Pidgeot's beak, he evaluated his personality in seconds; he seemed like a relaxed Pokemon from the lack of movement and the tone of his voice. He also detected a certain swag that was fascinated. He had already started liking him.
'Indeed, Commander Hermes. How are things over here, in the East Camp?'
Hermes folded his wings tighter onto his body, and glanced at the great tent next to him. The entire East Camp was behind him, staring at Raskalov and Chantalai; they were wearing red capes with the symbol of the nation and bronze armours. Obviously, they had never seen a Zoroark before.
'Why don't you come in?'
Raskalov looked over at Chantalai who crossed his arms and stared at the Pidgeot. His stance seemed to surprise the Weavile, for some reason. Chantalai appeared more mature and focused to the cause, now that he had agreed to take on the job of a spy. But it was more than that, Chantalai was now giving the impression of a killer, even though he had not killed many Pokemon before.
'I have.. an ally over here, that I'd like you to meet. It's Chantalai Ancelotti from Krept. I believe his powers can come in handy to us; he has offered to work as a spy.'
Hermes stared at Chantalai from head to toe, possibly measuring him. He flapped his wings as he said, 'I see, I see!' and walked over to the tent, the other two following him. The tent did not seem like what Chantalai had expected; it was actually a hole in the ground, with stairs leading onto the floor. The tent made it seem like a small cave - the Pidgeot spread his armoured wings and flew over to hang from an opening in the wall. The other two climbed down the stairs. Chantalai was impressed by the armour that did not affect his ability to fly, but before he could ask anything about it, the Pidgeot started speaking.
'They are closing in, Raskalov. The Dark Cult took the pitiful Pokemon of the south and turned them into bloodthirsty warriors. My sources are telling me that these warriors we're fighting against were just their trainees... I can't imagine how their elite warriors are like. They're gonna crush us like bugs, Raskalov!'
Chantalai knew that Hermes was confident, despite his words. The Weavile grabbed his chin and paced around before answering with a serious voice.
'No, not if we can outwit them... I'm sure that Ramos is mostly relying on his power, and not tactics.'
'I still don't see how we can turn this around. Even with you here, we won't be able to cope with their power. They already outnumber us one to three!'
'Yes, but we have a secret weapon... Do you know what's a Zoroark?' Raskalov said with a tricky smile on his face. Chantalai remained silent, Hermes seemed confused.
'Zoroark. They are species from the far north. I hear they possess amazing abilities, which help them conceal things. They make great spies, because they hide so well!'
Hermes seemed fascinated. He looked over to Chantalai with interest and asked him, 'Would you demonstrate your powers for us, then?'
The Zoroark kept silent again, only a faint smile appearing onto his face. He was going to surprise them - his claws snapped together, making a metallic sound that sounded extremely strange for some reason. The next second, flames appeared out of nowhere, surrounding Chantalai - from the gaps of the fire, he could clearly see their amazed faces.
'Is this real...? What am I seeing?'
Chantalai spoke for the first time, his voice seeming unused for a while.
'No, it's not real,' he said and pointed at the Pidgeot on the wall, directing the flames towards him. He almost fell, but as the flames licked his armour, nothing happened. It seemed strange, and the Zoroark did not want his illusions to be proven wrong - the flames disappeared the next instant.
'Amazing!' Raskalov shouted, clapping excited, 'I never knew this was possible! We can fool an entire army with this, Chantalai,' the Zoroark stayed silent again. He clearly was not in the mood. He would rather work alone, like his father had instructed him. He was not just a tool.
'We don't have time - Ramos will attack tomorrow. I suspect he will not bring all of his forces, but they'll still be more than us.'
'I have a plan,' stated Chantalai who had a brilliant idea, 'do you maybe have a pistol?'
Hermes looked at him puzzled, but answered quickly, 'Yeah, we have just one - bought it from the north, but we don't even know how to use it. What're you planning to do with it? I haven't even told you the details of the batt--'
The Zoroark cut him off, 'I don't need any details, just a handgun. Tell your men to be ready for gunfire. And don't worry, I know how to use it.'
The next morning, when Chantalai walked out of his personal tent, one of the soldiers gave him a pistol and some packs of bullets saying it was a gift from Commander Hermes. He held it in his hand and aimed at a Starly on top of a tree; but he wasn't going to shoot it as to not cause too much noise. The steel pull and trigger were enticing his claws, he could not wait to try it. He had read all about those technological wonders in a paper his father gave him, but he never told him where he got it. Those pistols were said to be from be coming from a village in the far northeast, close to the Nether Plane.
Raskalov saw him fiddling with the gun and he walked over to him. 'Nice tool, huh? Lumos is quite fond of those things, but I'm not even sure he knows how to use them.' Chantalai looked at the Weavile, surprised. 'So Lumos doesn't know how it works? Who does, then?'
'Nobody knows, Chantalai. They pull that thing backwards but nothing happens.'
Chantalai looked at the gun and the small pack of bullets in his hands. Then he started laughing. He hadn't laughed after his father death and his laugh sounded strange.
'It's not loaded!'
'Look,' he opened the pack and grabbed six bullets, then placed it to the ground and clicked the gun's small hatch open with his claw; he then slid the bullets, one by one inside the gun and closed the hatch.
'See, now it's ready to kill,' he said while picking up the bullets from the ground. As Raskalov was looking at him, stunned of him possessing such knowledge, Hermes approached them from the bonfires.
'So did you figure out how to use it?' asked Hermes with an excited expression on his face.
'Yeah, it was easy.'
'By the way, Chantalai.. we have a few complications with the upcoming battle.'
The Zoroark remained silent, looking at him, provoking him to go on.
'You see, Ramos has those damned air predators that will rip us apart if we don't give them any attention. But they are flying, and we can't do much, we'd only waste time trying to hit them.'
Chantalai seemed to be thinking for a moment, staring down at the ground. Then he spoke.
'Let me take care of those. I will be hiding, ahead of you, and when the fight breaks in, I'll make sure they're silenced forever.'
There was something in Chantalai's tone that frightened the Commanders, and the Zoroark noticed. He knew what he was thinking, are all the Zoroarks like that?
'Uhm, there's one more thing. The soldiers that guard Ramos wear impenetrable armour, meaning we won't be getting to him easily. If you could take those out in the fuss of the battle as well, we might be able to kill their commander without having to go through his small army.'
Chantalai nodded. A plan of action had already begun forming in his mind.
The crucial day of the East Camp's war had come. The Stygian natives marched out of the camp, with little to no preparation or any tactic whatsoever; they relied mostly on brutal power. Only the dark ally of the army was taking into account everything. Chantalai's purpose in this battle was to ensure the safety of his own allies by strategically eliminating certain targets - and he was starting to like this whole concept, saving many lives in exchange for a few, hostile ones.
Chantalai was scouting ahead from the group again, atop the cold branches, but this time he did not hear a sound from the forest. The silence was heavy on the hearts of the Stygians; around two hundred Pokemon were marching towards the south. They reached a dangerous point in the forest, somewhere in the middle between the two camps. That area was suitable for an ambush, Chantalai thought. He whistled and the march following him immediately stopped. He perked up his ears again, looking at the darkness between the trees from above. After a while, he realized he was hearing something strange, something coming from the clearing ahead. Many small, continuous noises... breaths. Chantalai panicked for a moment; he stared deeper into the darkness, grabbing the pistol that hung from his belt. Then he looked back at where his allies had stopped, jumped from tree to tree to reach them from above, making sure not to be seen from the sky. Chantalai was sure their enemies would notice they had suddenly stopped. What would happen next? Both sides knew where the other was, did that really favour them? Suddenly, an idea struck him.
He dropped silently in front of Raskalov who was in the lead. The Pokemon soldiers were not startled by his sudden appearance. The Weavile with the golden armour looked at him intently, examining his serious, tightened expression.
'They're waiting for you at the clearing ahead. But I have a plan... stay where you are. When you hear the screams... attack the clearing.'
The face of the Zoroark darkened even more as he saw the horrified and puzzled faces of his allies. He felt like a completely different and independent Pokemon from those he was helping right now; he turned around and sprinted up a tree, dug his claws into its trunk and started climbing up until he was able to reach its branches and blend with the darkness once again. He rushed, traveling from tree to tree, towards the breaths of his enemies, stopping when he saw two Staraptors hiding in the shadows five feet away from him; they surely hadn't noticed him. He could not go any further.
So be it, then.
A marching sound, much louder than the one the Stygians made, was heard from behind the Dark Cult's little army. It sounded like the entire Stygian nation was marching towards their enemies. Many heads were heard turning around, and their breathing getting more intense. Chantalai counted up to three hundred Pokemon in the shadows, all around the clearing. They started to back off from the shadows, slowly filling up the space of the clearing.
The Dark Cult's Pokemon were heavily armoured and seemed extremely dangerous, even when they were startled by Chantalai's illusion. Every one of them wore a black cape with a white heart and two swords crossing it, the symbol of the Dark Cult. Chantalai half shut his eyes, maintaining his owling position on the branch, observing his enemies while concentrating on bringing the sound of his illusion closer. He saw the Staraptors abandoning their positions on top of the trees; they were now flying above the clearing in distress, unsure of what to do. Everything was working perfectly for the Stygians, who had meanwhile moved in the shadows of the clearing, behind the startled and puzzled warriors of the Dark Cult who were staring silently at the south towards the rambling. Meanwhile, Chantalai spotted Ramos, their Commander, a Gengar with a massive silver armour, who was also wielding a long spear with a flag bearing the symbol of the Dark Cult. Chantalai thought he would deal with him later - the Staraptors were first on his list.
Most of the Dark Cult had rounded up the clearing, trying to hide from the enormous army that was supposedly coming from the south. And just then, a horrible, high pitched scream was heard from the middle of the clearing, making every Pokemon flinch. Then, many things happened at once - the noise of the army behind the trees suddenly stopped, Raskalov, Hermes and their army of two hundred struck the Dark Cult from behind and the Zoroark pounced on the nearest Staraptor who was nervously flying about in the air, five feet away from him.
Chantalai grabbed his feet and quickly pulled himself up to the back of the Staraptor. When the Staraptor realized what was happening, it was way too late. The Zoroark stuck his claws into the Staraptor's neck, blood rifts squirting all around. By instinct, he directed the wings left, both of them started to fall towards another Staraptor who was trying to deal with Hermes closer to the ground. The massive armoured Pidgeot was way too powerful for a predator like his enemy; falling at great speed, the black shadow of a Pokemon left the dead Staraptor fall and pounced onto Hermes' opponent, sliding his claws onto his neck with precision while landing on his back.
As the second giant bird started to fall, Chantalai leaped towards Hermes, who grasped him from the dense, dirty fur of his shoulders and carried him higher, where a Staraptor was ready to dive at the Stygians below. The Zoroark snatched his right wing and teared it apart, painting it red with already bloodied claws. They both started to fall to the ground at incredible speed; he pulled himself to the back of the helpless Staraptor, sticking his claws onto the bird to finish it off. The next moment, he left the dying Staraptor to fall on the ground while he leaped onto the nearest branch. One last Staraptor was left, and it was right now attacking the Stygians, who seemed to do exceptionally well againist the fierce warriors of the Dark Cult; they were definitely winning, thanks to the element of surprise. Chantalai watched the battle unfold as more and more Stygians forced their way into the clearing, pushing their enemies out of it. He figured one Staraptor could be taken off without his help.
He took a deep breath and fixed his eyes on Ramos and his elite guards below him; they were fighting fiercely the attackers. Right then, the battle seemed to have gotten to a bit of a turn. The Stygians were now struggling to hold their position in the clearing while their enemies begun fighting vigoriously, blood from both sides being shed on the grass.
Time for our trump card, Chantalai thought as he unsheathed the pistol from his belt, immediately pointing at the Gengar five feet below him and pulling the trigger - there was no way he could miss. A loud sound cracked like thunder around the forest. Chantalai noticed the Dark Cult panicked; they had never heard something like a gunshot. But Ramos was seemingly unaffected by the shot. The next moment he sank into the ground, vanishing from sight, leaving his elite guards behind. The Zoroark smirked, figuring gunfire would leave every ghost Pokemon untouched, and scolded himself for not predicting it. Now Ramos was alive and well underground where there was no chance of following him.
Having failed in his primary task, he would now focus on the battle; he stared down at the elite Bisharp soldiers, keeping his calm. Even though he was still young, he had found inner peace through his studies of his father's martial art, and he would use it to the maximum. His armour reflected a beam of light as he leaped down, landing on one of the five Bisharps, slicing through his chest, the menacing red eyes momentarily found the black eyes, seeing the despair that death brought. He was careful not to touch any of the pointy parts of the soldier's body.
The Bisharp was laying on the ground as the other four attacked the Zoroark, considering him easy prey. It was like time stopped for Chantalai; he jerked his head to look his opponents in the eye, even if they were charging at him. His speed proved to be greater than the Bisharps; he grabbed the first one's steel arm and pulled it towards him while the claws of his other hand found their way through his steel body's spikes, slicing his ribs. He deflected the next Bisharp's steel hand with his bloodied claws and pushed him backwards, making him lose his balance; he quickly drew the pistol from his belt and fired, the two remaining Bisharps rooted in place, staring at what the Zoroark was holding, and then at their fallen ally, blood running down his face creating a pool in the ground.
They were skilled soldiers, though, and they quickly recovered from the shock of an object which brought instant death. The two of them surrounded the Zoroark who had put the pistol back in his belt and was now standing guard with his arm raised; he performed a taunting motion with his left hand's claws.
'What are you waiting for?' The Zoroark said with a faint, evil grin on his face. The battle was raging on without anybody noticing the two Bisharps and the Zoroark aside from it. The Bisharp in front of Chantalai charged at him, preparing a deadly strike with his steel claws, but he ducked in time to avoid his swing and slashed his gut with a nasty metallic sound, making him bend over. Then he jumped on the Bisharp's back, throwing him down face first and sliding his claws on his spine, but the other Bisharp behind Chantalai swung his arm, hitting the Zoroark on his right shoulder and pushing him aside from the Bisharp that was laying on the ground.
Chantalai grabbed his shoulder in pain. The evil grin had disappeared from his face, which now had a scared expression. His opponent approached him with the same cocky grin Chantalai had before; but he certainly was not aware of what's to come, what was hiding behind the Zoroark's fake expression. When the Bisharp was about one feet away, Chantalai's mouth cracked open, releasing a black smog which appeared to be his tongue; his eyes went black and the horrible scream from before was heard again as a huge, blazing Arbok made from black fire emerged from the Zoroark's mouth to attack the Birsharp who flinched in horror.
The Zoroark quickly got up, the black Arbok disappearing from sight. He pounced on his opponent's chest, throwing him down and sticking his claws in his eyes. The Pokemon underneath him stopped struggling againist his grasp after a while, finding a horrible death. Chantalai jerked his claws of the Bisharp's head, still leaning over him, he looked at the battle in front of him. The Stygians had won.
The Stygians had casualties, but the price was small to pay. Three hundred warriors of the Dark Cult had died and fourty natives had fallen with them, staining with blood the sparse forest. Soon, though, the snows of the cold winter would cover every corner of it, burrying everything under two feet of snow. Chantalai would not stay that long; but his job here was not finished. Ramos still lived, which meant trouble. While every Stygian returned to their camp happy about the outcome of the battle, praising Chantalai for his services, mourning the loss of their comrades. Chantalai was walking behind the bunch with a smirk, staring at the ground. He was angry with himself.
They reached the East Camp, everyone settled down next to the bonfires, taking off their armours, capes and flags. Chantalai found a patch of grass and sat down, with his claws still bloodied. Raskalov approached him and patted his back; he observed a massive wound running down his face, which had apparently been treated with some kind of healing fruit juice as it was blue. Raskalov stood above him, looking down to him.
'Good job, son. We crushed them, thanks to you!'
'Ramos is still alive. I suggest we march again today to crush their camp.'
'Now, now. We mustn't be greedy. We don't know how much army Ramos has exactly behind his camp's lines.'
Chantalai got up and walked away, ignoring the others who were feasting nearby. The Weavile ran behind him with a worried face on; he seemed much weaker without his golden armour on.
'Wait! Where are you going?'
'I'm going to finish what I started.'
A strange wind blew through the trees of the forest. It was getting dark, only the crimson light of planet Karnos lighting the night sky; the black figure racing atop the trees went unseen, unheard. The Dark Cult's camp was surrounded by pointy tree logs, just like the Stygian camp, but it was much bigger. Chantalai was spying on his enemies from above the trees, thinking he would have easy access with a simple leap onto those wooden houses they made; he just needed to find Ramos's house. But that wasn't too hard, as he saw Ramos entering the biggest of all houses, which was to the southernmost borders of the huge camp.
There weren't many Pokemon in the camp; give or take fifty soldiers Ramos had left behind. He was so sure they would win with only three hundred soldiers, but he hadn't even calculated the South Camp's forces that aided the East's. Not that they were much to worry about, but Chantalai was part of them. Chantalai was still angry with himself, but it only fueled his motivation. He stood on the branch with his ears perked up and his red eyes glowing in the darkness; he rushed and leaped forward towards the roof of a wooden house, landed softly and looked up. He was on top of the house which was right next to Commander Ramos's house, but it was too far away for Chantalai to make the leap.
The Zoroark stayed in an owling position right at the tip of the house's roof for about two hours, patiently waiting for his prey like a predator. He could not go inside the house without being noticed, and it did not have any windows for him to jump into. He observed the soldiers that were walking around closely; he thought their morale was completly shattered. When Ramos finally showed up, they had all gathered in front of his house to attend to a strategic council. Chantalai heard Ramos's unused voice as he spoke with two Bisharps next to him.
'Our Prophet has stated it clearly. We do not return to New Alamagna without winning the war of the Eastern Frontier - the gods will be angry with us, and we will have the fate our opponents in battle should have,' the Gengar paused, looking at his remaining soldiers, 'I am not aware of what happened back there. It could be a trick those natives cooked up...'
Meanwhile, the Zoroark had jumped from the roof into the shadows. The light from the two torches that were burning next to the entrance of Ramos's house did not reach the shadows behind the little army which had focused its attention on their Commander. Chantalai noticed had no other way to conceal himself in order to get closer; an illusion, a Tyranitar, replaced his original form. He stood behind the army without being noticed as Ramos continued blabbing. He subtly pushed the Pokemon in front of him, slowly walking forward; he was in the first line, after a while. His heart was racing; the whispers about this suspicious Tyranitar which was even more suspiciously small, spread across the Dark Cult's soldiers.
Ramos stared at him with a plain face, their red eyes met. The Zoroark's hand was engulfed in liquid darkness that stained the ground; the dark powers that were drawn directly by the Nether Plane were the most powerful ones. Only pure dark-type Pokemon like Zoroarks were able to cast them. Soon after, the illusion faded, Chantalai pouncing on the seemingly untouchable ghost Pokemon about two feet away from him. His hand found its way through Ramos's gas body, striking right into his soul and shrouding it with the darkness Chantalai had casted.
The Gengar vanished from sight with a scream, Chantalai kicked the elite Bisharp next to him in his knee, making him kneel; he slashed his face off and he fell backwards, screaming, Chantalai already countering the other attacking Bisharp and making him flinch. He stabbed him in the chest two times and pushed him back, now facing the army in front of him with a grin spread across his face; it had all happened too fast for them to understand what they had just seen. And before they could charge, the pure darkness he held in his hands shrouded him all over. It was then shot againist the Pokemon in front of him, and when it cleared off, the Zoroark was gone.
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.
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.'
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.
I'm curious, did you chose the title from the real life Hashashin?
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.
It was now evening. The red planet had disappeared from the sky, the bright, intense sun roasting the rooftops of Erca, where Chantalai was right now. There was a refreshing breeze coming from the grasslands, but it was not enough - the Zoroark was sweating under his fur. He was used to the cold temperatures of the north. Winter was late this year and the summer before it was more intense than any summer he had been through. Chantalai shook his head and stared at the orange cube he was holding. He channeled his dark powers again, implementing the stored power of the object onto the back of his head, where his huge mane was, attaching it to the hood. There was a permanent illusion now - everyone who looked at him would be unable to see the mane on the back of his head, only his hood.
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.
Chantalai was standing atop the white stone walls that protected the Fiery Palace. With a simple trick, he was invisible to the eyes of any Pokemon. Only a truly special species of Pokemon could detect him - but he was sure that kind of Pokemon was not around. He was currently observing the palace on top of the hill, waiting patiently like a predator. He was well aware that Lady Alinthea would be startled by his presence. She would not believe that he was with the Frontier, either. So, he decided to act like her guardian angel; once she was still free, harm could find her anywhere in the city, and he would be there to prevent it. But so far, he had not even seen the Lady. The only Pokemon he had seen were the guards on the entrance and the ones flying around the hill, above the palace. He waited and waited for hours with the sun burning his back. It was near-afternoon when he saw two figures exiting the palace. He was surprised when he recognized the Salamence from Trade Square walking down a hill with the most beautiful creature Chantalai had ever laid eyes upon: a Ninetails. With his guard up, now, he stared at Alinthea, having forgotten completly about the Salamence who was accompanying her.
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.
The sun had fallen down, and now Karnos was up in the sky once again, this time lighting it weaker with its crimson light. Chantalai was staring at the waters which were waving calmly, when it happened: a majestic form of a wolf-like creature made from silver mist appeared in the lake. It looked in the sky for a brief moment, then it took a deep breath like it was about to sing. Alinthea and her escort had stood up, and Chantalai had his eyes half shut, trying to determine if what he was seeing was real. Suddenly, a cold wind blew out of nowhere, a wind so strong that made the Zoroark lose balance, forcing him to leap on the ground.
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 slowly paced towards Alinthea but the dragon blocked his way.
'Were you waiting for him?'
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.'
I really like this. Good work, mate.
Animal Crossing New Leaf (twice a week)
Pokemon Y (probably 2-4 hours a day)
Pokemon White 2 (trying to finish the Join Avenue)
Pokemon HeartGold (trying to catch all legendaries)
Pokemon Black 2 (Nuzlocke)
Friend Code for 3DS:
Chapter 8: Divine Temple
In a single night, Erca was covered in snow. The streets were almost blocked by the snow, the Pokemon would slowly disappear from them. Chantalai, who was used to these conditions from his homeland, had no problem running on the thick snow. After he parted ways with Alinthea and Richard in front of the Fiery Palace, he crossed the empty streets, navigating. He had already learned the city's paths; a map of some kind, was carved onto his memory.
Karnos was gone from the night sky, to return in the dawn; it had given its place to millions of stars, which were closer to each other than how we see them in earth. Chantalai raised his head to observe the sky, noticing the positions of the stars had changed ever since he had last looked at them. He stopped, briefly, in the middle of the street, to admire another wonder of this world. His thoughts jumped to Alinthea, for some reason; her silk fur, her passionate eyes and her delicate manners. He snapped out of it only when he walked into Conrad's secret shop. The Tailor greeted him firmly and ordered him to sleep, after giving him some berries - Chantalai did not refuse, as he walked slowly like a ghost through the corridor towards his room.
'So what did you find out, Chantalai?' Conrad was sitting on the table, Chantalai had just woken up and was wide awake, standing on the doorstep of the dark room.
'Baron Necro is meeting with the Pope in secret, somewhen today. I don't know where. I've found Alinthea, too.'
'Forget about Alinthea! They won't harm her! Focus on taking down the Baron!'
Chantalai was getting angry now. He headed over the table and slammed his tightened fists on it, producing a strange metallic sound that echoed in the room. Sparks flew off his eyes as he stared at Conrad who had a tight expression on his face.
'Why don't you get off this place and go protect her, then! It seems like I am the only one working here!'
Conrad joined his hands together and looked at Chantalai calmly.
'I went out yesterday. I know where the Baron will be this evening.'
The Zoroark's misplaced anger vanished when he heard Conrad did not just sit home. He lifted his fists from the table and looked around, finding the cloak and his armour on his chair. He begun attaching his only belongings onto his body. He tightened the belt around his cloak as he was thinking. Conrad continued speaking.
'Trade Square, the Dusknoir will initiate the Carnival of Life and then leave the scene - keep an eye on him.'
'The Carnival of Life?'
'It's an anthem dedicated to Life. It is of Hotorian origin.'
'What kind of carnival is it?' Chantalai asked, intrigued and with his eyebrows raised. He knew the Hotorian nation was representing the peaceful perception of life, but they still held the honour of war againist their enemies, the Tocan.
'The carnival calls everyone to dress up as their most important aspect of their lives; great vehicles representing various parts of a Pokemon's life will roll in the main street in two days after the Merchant King signaled the start of the carnival.'
'All this is extremely convinient for me,' Chantalai said, not caring about the Carnival itself; he caught Conrad looking at his cloak, and the two made the same thoughts: it would help Chantalai stay hidden.
'Chantalai, before you go, there is something we two must discuss.'
The Zoroark stared at him, peering into his eyes. He crossed his arms, waiting.
'The powers you have will help the Frontier greatly, and that will not go unnoticed. You'll soon be a legend,' Conrad said with a touch of jealousy in his voice, 'but you are still a spy, nothing more, and if they catch you, they will torture you to reveal our secrets.' He got up, headed over to the drawer and opened it, picking up a small box from inside. The Zangoose approached Chantalai, offering him the box. 'These are capsules filled with poison. You do prefer death over the torture the Dark Cult would put you through, correct?'
Chantalai nodded and snatched the box, opening it. It was full of green capsules containing a lethal dose of poison.
'Keep one in your mouth and bite it down if you ever get caught.'
The Zoroark put a capsule in his mouth, as instructed. He felt it was sturdy enough to keep intact; he put it under his tongue, just in case. It stuck there as if it was poured with glue before. Chantalai looked at Conrad again, nodding to thank him while attaching the box onto one of his belt's hatches. At that point, he did not believe he would ever need to use poison.
***Chantalai was now atop one of the buildings that surrounded Trade Square. Pokemon, citizens and travellers, had gathered around a castle-like building in the northern side of the square, filling it up entirely. He shook his head in response to the cacophony the crowd's cheery conversations emitted; he suddenly realized that his hearing was stronger than it was before - he could separate each noise in his head and focus on it. That way, he could hear what each Pokemon was saying. He could even hear the Pokemon that decided to stay in their houses that were all around the square. Chantalai suddenly remembered his father who was able to hear someone calling him from the village, which was at least two miles away from their house.
Bells sounded from the castle-like building; Chantalai realized it was the Dark Cult's church. They had built it as a symbol of honour and peace with the city, but the Frontier had serious reasons to believe their purpose there was to control the city. The Pope Lanterno Mori, coming from the citadel of Alamagna, would be there to communicate with Baron Necro, nonetheless. Necro was running the town now, and every close-minded citizen would fall for the trap the Dark Cult had set againist them and follow the Dusknoir to the dark religion that was coming from the south. But Chantalai knew there were still people who valiantly fought againist the Baron, even in secret.
A dark figure exited the church and the whole crowd applaused. The Zoroark stood silent on the tip of the roof of the building in his owling position, with his eyes fixed on the Dusknoir and his personal guards, some creepy looking Banettes. The Baron raised his hands in the air to make Ercans stop their applause; Chantalai detected the darkness in his heart from where he was sitting and wondered how the people could trust such a Pokemon. He seemed to had seen the powers of the Nether Plane himself, and was somehow inspired by them.
'This day, we celebrate the opening of the Carnival of Life, a traditional anthem that will last five days, as usual. I, being the Merchant King, will commence the carnival by ordering the first shots of the fireworks I personally paid for!'
He motioned his hand to the guards behind him, Chantalai looking at him ironically, thinking how easily he would send him to the Nether Plane. Despite his arrogance, he held himself back. As the black fireworks darkened the sky, Chantalai approached the Dusknoir who was leaving the scene. The Baron seemed bored of all this, somehow, like he was forced to do it in order to please the crowds.
Chantalai spotted a Honchcrow in the darkness of the alley on the back of the church, where the Dusknoir was headed. The Honchcrow was waiting for the Baron to reach him; the Zoroark was right above them, still walking on the roof. His shadow was falling on the roof next to him, thankfully - the two Pokemon below him did not notice him. They didn't speak, only nodded to each other and headed deeper into the back alley. Chantalai leaped on the building behind the church to get a better view of the pair as they moved along. He observed them closely with his keen eyes piercing through the darkness. They seemed to be opening some kind of door; the Zoroark leaped down, landing quietly behind them. The illusion he had created manipulated the surrounding darkness, which now served as his veil. The Pope and the Baron walked inside the secret opening behind the church and Chantalai slipped behind them.
Stairs took them to a corridor lighted up by bizarre blue flames. They started walking through under the menacing light, with Chantalai invisible behind them, keeping a safe distance. It seemed like they were walking for days; the Zoroark knew they were directed to the northeast. A distant sound found its way into Chantalai's powerful ears. It was intensifying as they approached to its source; he counted one mile before the corridor ended. His hearing had definitely improved greatly in a single day.
Soon, the black stone that was shapen by Pokemon to form the corridor's floors and walls disappeared, giving its place to harsh rocks. It was now a tunnel; the tunnel led them to the source of the rambling sound: an underground river. Chantalai's nostrils twitched under the odd smell. He then detected a source of light. His illusion of darkness still protecting him, he looked up at the ceiling and gasped from the sight. An architectural wonder was unfolding in front of his eyes. Cliffs, full of green, formed the walls of the cavern. Sun rays entered from the ceiling, A great template on the ground held seven ten-feet cylinders made from stone, four of them made from white stone on the left side of the template and three on the right, made from black stone. There were black rocks scattered around the spot where the last black cylinder was supposed to be was, as if it was destroyed. The vigorous river was rambling under the template.
Chantalai realized the template was some kind of bridge as he followed the other too, who were not looking around with the same excitement he had. When the Zoroark approached the cylinders, he noticed that they beared strange runic symbols that flashed blue. He opened his eyes wide, examining them; their light seemed to be from another world. Chantalai launched himself from the ground silently, easily, grabbing the edge of the black cylinder, pulling himself up and staring down at his targets, who had now stopped in the middle of the template. He then felt the presence of something else in the chamber; on the edge of his eyesight, he caught a massive white figure which was dwelling on the left end of the chamber. Its dragonic structure, standing at above fifty feet, was extremely overwhelming, the light falling onto its white snout, transforming it into a menacing monstrosity. Chantalai had trouble taking his eyes from the statue, which seemed so realistic; he wondered where the dragon was looking... at the right end of the chamber was another massive statue of a draconic figure, only this time it was completly black. The two Pokemon of the statues seemed to be staring at each other. Chantalai noticed the river appeared from below the white statue, crossing the chamber, flow under the template-bridge and disappeared under the black statue.
A cold, unused voice snapped Chantalai from his thoughts about the chamber. He stared at the Dusknoir and the Honchkrow below, always invisible.
'I welcome you, Pope of the Dark Cult, my greatest ally.'
The Honchkrow said quietly, nodding at the Dusknoir. 'How are things progressing?' He inquired, with a steel tone. The Baron rubbed his etheral hands.
'The operation is running smoothly, master. My mercenaries have conquered every corner of Erca and are shuting down any shops that open without my permission. It's safe to say that I am the new Merchant King! Ah yes, the people of this city declared me that.'
Chantalai detected a passion for glory and recognition in the Baron's voice, and the way he said those things made the Zoroark want to leap down on the template and kill them both on the spot. But he waited, he waited for the best possible amount of information this meeting would give him.
'I see, I see.. I hope you are using the gold we gave you with utmost care.'
'But of course, the gold is safe within the walls of the church as requested.'
'We have invested a great deal of the Dark Cult's gold into this city, Baron, and if it is lost, the responsibility will fall heavy on you.'
'I have understood that, master.'
The Baron's words were cold, and the Pope noticed that.
'I am simply reminding you. If we are to spread the God's will around this foreign land, we might be able to prevent the Cataclysm from blasting it to the Nether Plane. That would be... such a waste, don't you agree?'
Chantalai eyed the Pope. He seemed more collected than the Baron; he was calm, Chantalai even thought he was wise Pokemon. That sparked a doubt within him - what if the Dark Cult was fighting for a good purpose? He looked around in the chamber. What was this place? What Pokemon were these statues representing? All this was strange in his mind, the Dark Cult's religion seemed untouchable. It was like the Frontier was raising a barrier between it and the invaders that possessed this new knowledge, claiming they have predicted the so-called Cataclysm and that they already know how to stop it. Chantalai shook off any doubts as he stared at the white statue. Then it struck him - were those two Pokemon were the Gods of White and Black. He peered at both of the statues with respect, especially the White God that had enlightened his path back when he was crossing the Wastelands. The thought that what the Dark Cult represented could be true circled around in his mind; he promised himself he would investigate the Cult further, while still siding with the Frontier.
Lanterno's red eyes reflected the light that was coming from above. His wings remained attached to his body the whole time. His firm attitude made Chantalai think he was truly a great Pokemon and recognized him as a worthy opponent. He was even surprised the Pope had not noticed his presence on top of the black cylinder. Looking at the Honchkrow, he realized something was strange with him - it seemed like that Pokemon was not what it appeared to be. Chantalai wondered what was going on with the shape that seemed to change slightly under the unearthly light. Necro, on the other side, was staring at the light; the chamber did not look like it had a ceiling, yet only a few rays of light reached the template. The Zoroark took his eyes from the two, now looking at the statues again, which had caught his attention. They had charmed him, like the girls of his hometown used to do, like Alinthea did; he memorized their shape and characteristics, carving them deep into his mind.
'So, have you uncovered all the secrets of this temple?' asked firmly Baron Necro. The Pope gave him a disappointed look. 'You mean to tell me that you have not looked into it yourself?'
Chantalai could feel the Dusknoir's nervousness in his voice as he told an obvious lie. 'Yes... Of course I have, master. But the temple has proven out to be far more trickier than I expected.'
Lanterno shook his head. 'You are a ghost. These things should be your specialty. We did not hire you only to pose as a King.' His austere tone made Chantalai grin, as he thought the Pope was secretly having fun. That grin became even bigger when he detected the Baron's offense in his words.
'I run Erca, I'm not only a poser.' The Honchkrow laughed, but said nothing in return.
'The kidnapping of the step daugher of Lumos is a crucial step to ensure our victory. That way, we will completly ward the city off from the Frontier, but you have done nothing towards that matter.'
The Dusknoir nodded slowly, 'I will see to it that she will be taken to the hospital, where she will be kept captive, with the excuse of paranoia. Rumours say she sees an Ice Spirit... who will prevent us from believing those rumours?'
The Baron's words were spoken as if he was grinning; Chantalai felt the urge to kill them again. The Pope seemed content, only for a moment. He spoke after a few minutes, looking over at the broken black cylinder.
'See that cylinder over there? We found the darkstar inside it. I would expect the rest of the cylinders had the same fate when we entrusted you with the Divine Temple.'
'I am sorry, master, but I am not in the frame of mind to deal with this temple - the city has kept me busy with its responsibilities.'
The smirk on the Honchkrow's face showed his exact thoughts: he did not believe one word the Baron was saying. He continued to stare at the cylinders; Chantalai realized he would be seen if he stayed on top of the cylinder for more. He would wonder what a Darkstar was later, now spying on them unnoticed was his priority. But, the light had gotten intense as the sun was falling straight down the template, the darkness had faded, and so Chantalai's illusion. Suddenly, for a frightening moment, the Pope's eyes met the Zoroark's, who was owling on top of the black cylinder. Lanterno let out a cry, the Dusknoir jerking his head towards the hoodied assailant.
Chantalai stayed frozen on the spot, considering his options. Talking would get him some time; he would later scold himself for having dropped his illusion. Now, he would scare them away with some tricks - he thought it's better to be feared than to be unknown. He had no plans of striking either of them, and the time they would spend protecting themselves for him would be valuable.
'And who would you be?' Lanterno asked with a worried tone.
'I am many things' said Chantalai with a grin they could not see under the hood. He showed absolutly no fear, already making him a considerable opponent for the two of them. The Pope and the Baron glanced at each other, Chantalai noticing that. His laugh sounded menacing, exactly how he wanted it to be. He knew that these two were well-aware that only somebody dedicated would follow them there, somebody who would have intentions to harm their well-thought out plans. Lanterno seemed disturbed.
'And what are you going to do now that you overheard our little conversation?'
His tone was sarcastic; Chantalai did not lose his self conciousness and responded in a joking manner that sounded serious after all.
'Your so called Gods are listening to us... what if they came alive?' Chantalai's red eyes flashed strangely and Lanterno broke eye contact, now staring at the two giant statues. The ancient Gods had woken up from their slumber, approaching the template with the ground shaking with every step they took with their massive feet. The Zoroark landed softly behind them. He knew he had to play this correctly in order for him to stay alive; it did not matter that they had seen him, only that he had acquired invaluable information.
The Gods roared with might, staring at the puny creatures that were frozen on the ground below them. Their feet were deep inside the river, but its flow seemed unnaffected - not like his enemies noticed the paradox. Darkness and light arose like tidal waves and hit the template like earthquakes, making the two run away in fear for their lives. The Honchkrow turned his head for one last look at Chantalai. A massive monstrosity was coming out of his hood, the Arbok that was made from green, ominous fire. It hissed and charged at the Pope who ran, almost flying, even faster inside the tunnel with the Baron. Just then, a cracking noise was heard and the tunnel collapsed, the grin on Chantalai's face disappearing. He dashed towards the collapsed exit, only to see darkness fading from the rocks; the Dusknoir had destroyed his way out.
Chantalai fell on his knees, dazed from the size of the illusion he had just created. After a minute, he was starting to get back to his senses and tried moving the stones, but they wouldn't budge. He let out his anger by passing more darkness from his hands to the black stone. After some time he spent laying on the floor, recovering from the dizyness, he convinced himself that illusions should not be used as an offensive mechanism and he regretted his arrogance; who would he have to brag about scaring the two most important Pokemon in southern Stygia if he died in a hole like this?
The Zoroark looked around the Divine Temple. The light coming from above was his only hope, but he had no way of reaching it. He examined the chamber more closely, noticing the grassy cliffs. They are easily climbable, he thought. Then his eyes fell on the Black God; the statue's figure, which he had used so arrogantly in a mere illusion seemed to be staring back at him. Chantalai, fearless as always, keeping his calm, headed towards the statue from the river's coast. Only then he realized its rambling sound and how much it disturbed his sensitive ears.
On the feet of the statue, there was another template, where the waters of the river disappeared under it. The draconic figure that was moving so convincingly a moment ago was towering above Chantalai's head. He stared at the Black God, admiring the characteristics of his body; he didn't know if he felt respect for his image or for the power emanating from the statue. Then, his eyes fell on some runes that were carved onto the template, right next to its right feet. With his curiosity intrigued, Chantalai kneeled to examine them. He had nowhere to write them onto, so he put the left end of his cloak across the runes, picked up some dirt with his claw and started copying the runes one by one, thinking he would later try to translate them.
When Chantalai was finished, he smiled. He thought that if he ever got out of the temple, the time he spent here would be worth it, as he would have learned more of this mysterious religion the Dark Cult was so passionate about spreading. His thoughts travelled to Alinthea, him suddenly remembering that the Baron would hold her to hospital if he found her - and Chantalai was trapped inside a cave, unable to protect her. He shivered in the thought of the hospital; Conrad had told him that it was not a place where sick Pokemon would go, those would just be healed by the medicine the Kecleon nomads were selling around the city. The hospital was a place of living horror, as Pokemon whose spiritual health was shaken were supposedly imprisoned there. But Chantalai knew from Conrad that the Baron was using it as a prison to throw every Pokemon who would defy him, and torture them until they died.
Chantalai shook his head in anger and disgust. He promised revenge to himself and all the Ercans, as well as the Frontier. Trying to focus on getting out, he started climbing the statue, sticking his claws wherever he could; the black stone it was made of was impenetrable, however, and he needed to muster all of his climbing talent to reach the head of the statue. The head of the dragon had brimming red eyes that seemed real as the glowed in the darkness. Chantalai realized they were made from rubies, after a closer inspection.
From the black dragon's head, he started climbing the cliff. It was very easy for him as he spent a great deal of his childhood climbing this kind of cliffs. He was soon hanging from the ceiling's grass, but as he progressed towards the center of the chamber, where the light was coming out of a hole, the grass disappeared. It was then when he realized he was in a dangerous position; the river was continuing to flow vigorously beneath him, and if he fell down, it would certainly drag him to his death. A sound was heard from above and the rock ceiling started collapsing, not being able to handle the Zoroark's weight. Chantalai had one second to leap in any direction in order to avoid falling into the river. His feline instincts tingling as he fell towards the template, his hand grasped something unseeable right before he fell, reducing his fall. He landed right on the black cylinder he was standing half an hour ago, instanly raising his head upwards to see the whole ceiling collapsing onto the chamber. His hands were joined together, like back in the wastelands, in a prayer to the Gods, specifically the Black one. It only lasted a second. The next second there was darkness.
This is very neat, you have a very professional writing style. I'm digging the GTA IV names you gave certain characters, btw. :D
Pain is only temporary, giving up lasts forever.
Chapter 9: The Hospital
The intense sunlight made the Zoroark open his eyes. He was feeling strangely... intact. He took a look around, only to see rocks covering the temple. He was still standing on top of the black cylinder, with the rocks that had collapsed from the ceiling all around him.
'These miracles are really starting to get on my nerves' he said to himself, getting up. He realized the sound of the river was gone. The two statues were under the rocks now, Chantalai reckoned. The only part of the chamber where no rock had fallen was the black cylinder, for some odd reason. He observed the rest of the cylinders were still intact, though partly covered by rocks. The template seemed to be cracked up in the middle under the weight and the force of the falling objects.
He once again forgot about the miracle and looked up; the sun shone brightly from above, rocks forming a climbable path towards freedom. The air was much more fresh now, Chantalai inhaling with happiness. He would later regret not investigating the unseeable object that saved him. Once he got out of the hole, he realized he was in another temple which had an open roof, letting the sunlight fall directly into the template underground, where he was a moment ago. He was amazed by the artwork on the walls of the square, simple temple: the two Pokemon, black and white, fought with each other with giant jolts of electricity thrown from the Black God and torrents of fire from the White God. On the opposite side of that wall, some kind of map unfolded, taking up the whole eastern wall. As Chantalai would find out later, this was the map of the world, the Outer World as it was named by the priests. Chantalai peered at the compass tied on his wrist, then felt the wind blowing through his cloak. He figured he was in a high place and looked around for some signs. From the exit of the temple (or, it's entrace), he could not see any trees, only clouds. He rushed outside, realizing he was on top of a hill covered by the clouds that travelled close to the ground, as it usually happened in the grasslands. That meant he was somewhere in the grasslands. His only thought was to go to Erca and warn Alinthea about the Baron's intentions. He would later come to study the temple.
He peered down the hill - it was pretty difficult to climb down, as the wind blew, reminding Chantalai of the river which was now blocked. What had happened to all that water, he wondered as he jumped down from rock to rock, his cloak racing with the wind. Once his feet were touching the soft and wet grass, he glanced at his compass again and headed inside the cloud towards the southwest. After a while running, the great shadow of Erca's walls hit him. Tired as he was of climbing, he walked up to the guards and fell on his knees. He left that image of himself behind as he walked invisible behind them, inside Erca with a slight smile on his face, well-hidden under the hood.
Chantalai headed straight to Conrad's shop, thinking Conrad would update him. They greeted each other in the shop's entrance; the Zangoose seemed a bit upset.
'Where've you been?! The whole city is looking for you!'
'Tell me what happened.'
'Lady Alinthea has been arrested by the Baron's forces, who claimed she was mentally challenged! This is the greatest insult the Baron has commited towards the Merchant King's family...'
The Zangoose was breathing heavily and his face was transformed from the anger. Chantalai did nothing to calm him down; he was angry as well. He had already taken the decision of lifting the whole hospital up in the air. Conrad suddenly continued speaking angrily, like he remembered something important.
'And the Baron has given the city an order to arrest you! What did you do when you were gone?!'
Chantalai explained what happened the last twelve hours as fast as he could. He had no time for this.
'Will they hurt Alinthea?'
'You can bet they will.'
'Oh, so now you care about what happens to her! You know what, I'm just gonna deal with this alone!' Chantalai exploded, his eyes burning from the anger. He turned around and exited the shop, putting his exhaustion aside.
Chantalai had climbed up a tower; he could now see the whole city. The cold was piercing through his dense fur, but he didn't seem to mind. He observed every corner of Erca; the red light of the planet Karnos was lighting the whole city up, as if it was dayling. These days of the month, Karnos was getting closer to the world, and thus bigger. But Chantalai was not admiring the stars today - he was searching for the building of the hospital. He detected a square, stone building on the West District of Erca which beared the symbol of the Dark Cult, a heart with two blades forming an X stuck on it.
Chantalai was now hiding in the bushes outside the building's side. He hadn't understood how time passed as he walked through the city. Once again, he observed the building patiently while he was on his four, like a predator. Silence had fallen, and suddenly he realized he was able to hear someone breathing nearby - it was a massive Pokemon. The Zoroark jerked his head behind him, recognizing the Salamence, who was hiding in the darkness.
Chantalai got up and approached him. Richard seemed sad; he looked him in the eye.
'You won't be able to get Alinthea all by yourself.' He said austerly. Chantalai ignored his remark.
'How about you and I work together, then?'
'I don't know about this...'
'I've already spent an hour evaluating the hospital. I can't get in from the front, but it's easy if you get me there by air, while I shield you from sight with my illusions.'
Richard nodded slowly, seeming convinced. Chantalai hopped on his back, careful not to be hit by the dragon's huge wings; he remembered the flight Hermes had given him in the battle of the Eastern Frontier.
The Salamence kicked the ground and they found themselves midair in no time; Chantalai had already manipulated the sky, making them invisible. He took a moment to admire Erca from above, he could not believe he was flying. He tried not to look down as they charged down the square yard of the hospital.
Richard landed softly on the ground, still invisible. Chantalai jumped from his back, instanly evaluating the place. Guards everywhere - they were wearing these light armours. An Aggron, two Bisharps and two Mawiles were patrolling the area, two Bisharps in each entrance and exit. Making them around ten guards, not taking into account the ones that were inside the building. Chantalai motioned Richard to leave, as the illusion was tiring his mind.
'Wait for my signal'
Once the Salamence was out of his reach, the illusion broke, Chantalai's image appearing for a mere second in the middle of the hospital's yard. The guards saw him, apparently, and headed over to where he was. Chantalai thought of dealing with them right now, but on his second thoughts, he decided not to raise any alarm. He slid invisible, like a ghost, towards the entrance of the building.
'Did you see that?'
'Something was here, and it looked like what Baron is searching!'
'I'll get a promotion if I catch him, for sure!'
Chantalai almost laughed. He continued his way, the two Bisharps in front of him completly unaware of the fraud in front of their eyes. The Zoroark slipped between them.
Screams reached his ears as he entered the hospital. He walked through the hall with ease, climbed up the stairs and headed over to a doctor's office, thinking he would get some information about where Alinthea was. The doctor, a female Gardevoir with a tattoo of the black heart and the blades carved on her chest, raised her head from her desk to see a door opening by itself. She walked around the desk, Chantalai enjoying the terrified expression on her face. He broke the illusion and jumped on her, grabbing her neck and holding her down againist her desk.
'Tell me where Alinthea is, and you might live.'
The Gardevoir remained silent; her eyes glowed blue for a second, Chantalai feeling a weak, unseen force pushing him away. His red eyes sparked with anger when he realized she was using her psychic powers. With a menacing whisper, he gripped around her neck with both of his hands so she wouldn't scream.
'These tricks won't help you here. Get it?'
Her eyes had opened wide in terror as she was looking at Chantalai's expression. He, on the other hand, wouldn't be so violent if it wasn't for Alinthea. Seeing she wouldn't speak, Chantalai's face transformed into a Spiritomb, which opened its mouth wide and released darkness. A high pitched, terrifying scream was heard, only in the doctor's head.
He left her neck go. She couldn't speak from the shock, only cower in fear from the shock. Well done, he thought sarcastically to himself.
'This is for the prisoners,' he said coldly, sticking his claws right through her torso, exactly where the Dark Cult's tattoo was. Blood was spilled everywhere; Chantalai heard footsteps outside. He instanly grabbed the Gardevoir and placed her behind the door, him transforming into her in a second. A Bisharp walked in and before he could say anything, Chantalai mimicked a female voice.
'Knock the door before entering, dummy!'
'Uhh, yes, ma'am. May I ask what happened to your voice?'
'Just drank something weird my grandma sent me.. what're you doing here anyway?'
The Bisharp looked apaled for some reason. Chantalai wondered if he would meet the same fate as the Gardevoir behind the door did.
'Alinthea's refusing to speak. What do we do?'
'Refusing to speak'? About what? Chantalai nodded to himself under the illusion. The sooner he killed the guard, the less he would have to fight afterwards. He approached him, the Gardevoir illusion staying put. The Bisharp knew something was wrong and he backed off.
'You do nothing. You die.'
He said coldly, again, with the same tone of a killer. The image of the hoodied invader froze the Bisharp to the ground for a second. Chantalai stuck his claws inside the Bisharp's eyes, like his father had taught him. With his other hand, he grabbed his steel neck to prevent him from screaming; he kicked his knee, the force making the Bisharp kneel, the Zoroark took his claws from his head and slid them in the Bisharp's chest, still gripping his neck.
Chantalai's enemy was dead within seconds. He forced his claws out by kicking the Bisharp away, lifted the dead body with difficulty as it was heavy due to the steel, and placed it behind the door with the Gardevoir.
Any more? He thought mockingly to himself as he walked out of the office, leaving a blood pool behind him. Chantalai perked up his ears, listening to the whole hospital. Screams, Pokemon begging and dying breaths could be heard from around the corridors. After a while of staying on the spot, he detected the voice he was seeking: Alinthea.
Chantalai bursted into the room by breaking the steel door, entirely. Like a madman, he charged at the Gallade who was in front of Alinthea. The Ninetails was sitting on the floor and watched as Chantalai pounced on the doctor, slamming him down. A nasty sound was heard as the Gallade's neck was snapped. Chantalai finished him off by ripping his chest open with his already bloodied claws. He then faced Alinthea and kneeled in front of her; her expression was slightly apaled. It seemed as if she hadn't gone through any pain.
'Are you alright, Lady Alinthea?'
She nodded quietly, then eyed the dead Gallade behind Chantalai.
'Did you really have to do that?'
She said austerly, but she smiled right after. Chantalai took off his hood and smiled back.
'Somebody has to do the dirty work.'
'Oh.. and why is that somebody you?'
'My father was serving the Frontier as a spy, and so am I. I participated in the battle of the Eastern Frontier.'
'Isn't that nice?'
Chantalai detected admiration in her voice. She got up to her feet and approached him. He could feel the warmth under her fur; he looked her straight in the eye.
'Let's go, my saviour!'
Alinthea said, giggling as she walked past him. The tips of three of her tails gently touched Chantalai's face, who was staring at her exiting the room; he was briefly stunned. Then he bolted outside and walked next to her.
'Where is Richard?'
She was calm, and she calmed Chantalai down, too. He put his hood back on.
'Outside. I have to warn you, Lady, we might face some combat when we exit the building. Do you maybe want to stay here while...'
'No, of course not! I wouldn't leave you alone!' She said with another giggle. Chantalai thought her voice was sounding like a melody in his ears.
'Do you know how to fight?'
'Boys used to fear me, you know...'
Chantalai didn't lose his smile. He glanced at Alinthea, unsure of whether she was being serious or not, but once their eyes met, he knew she was simply teasing him. He took his eyes from the Ninetails, now looking at his right sleeve, which was painted with blood. He would have to clean it up later.
Chantalai suddenly stopped, and with him stopped Alinthea.
'What is it?'
He motioned her to be quiet and perked up his ears while staring at the floor. He stayed like this for ten seconds; the patrol was coming right towards them, as the climbed up the stairs. Chantalai was tired, and he was aware that casting illusions in this state wouldn't work quite well. They had nowhere to hide.
'Lady, please wait here.'
He said with his nicest voice. He touched Alinthea for the first time by putting his clean hand on her shoulder. She stayed put, silently as Chantalai left without even looking at her. He thought he was going to be distracted by her image, thus losing focus on his illusions.
The Zoroark silently approached the stairs and looked down, seeing four dark figures coming upstairs. He suddenly realized he could smell them - two of them were Mawiles, and the other two were Bisharps. He evaluated his options, raising both of his hands and looking at them. Then he looked up the ceiling, a torch of some kind was hanging from there. He jumped on the wall and kept his body next to the flame. His enemies had almost reached the second floor the light went off.
Chantalai launched himself from the wall, the darkness covering him like a curtain. He landed on the two Bisharps in the front, slicing their necks with force and precision, always careful not to touch their head's razors. Chantalai immediately got up and slashed deep one of the Mawile's throat, making him scream, then he kicked the other in the gut and pounced on him as he backed off, throwing him down and killing him on the spot.
The Zoroark got up with a slight discomfort running down his spine. I took four lives in three seconds... father would be pleased, his thoughts were interrupted by Alinthea who walked over to the scene; she saw the bodies on the floors and let out a cute howl, Chantalai jerking his head towards her.
'Excuse the mess, Lady.'
He bowed to her, smiling, even though he was surrounded by death and the blood was spread on the floor. She stared at him, Chantalai avoiding her eyes - he felt she did not approve of this. They started walking down the stairs, the two falling in a cold silence. He felt his insides harden; if Lady Alinthea did not like what he did, he was not going to stop doing it. Helping the Frontier was his father's job, and he would continue it as well - Alinthea was only a subject the Frontier was interested into. Alinthea broke the silence as they walked through the dark hall.
'Oh, Chantalai, Can you not refrain from taking lives so nonchalantly?'
'I have been given a task. It matters not how I will complete that task - only that I will see it is done. I'll kill anybody who stands in my way.'
Chantalai was looking at her firmly when saying this. His expression was indicating he fully believed what he was saying. He saw a sign of admiration in Alinthea's face, but she soon turned her head around, staying silent. The Zoroark kept looking at her.
'We will have to face some combat out there. We can't get out without being seen.'
The Ninetails nodded, without saying anything. Chantalai motioned her to stay put once again. He vanished from sight and walked outside the entrance, where the two Bisharps were standing guard with their heads turned towards the yard. The Zoroark paced silently in front of one guard and performed an uppercut that hit the Bisharp's jaw with force, the claws killing it instanly; he stuck his claws out and moved as fast as lightning towards the Bisharp before him, who was then turning his head. His claws went through the Bisharp's throat. Both of the guards fell on the floor, Chantalai motioning Alinthea again. She followed him outside, trying not to step on the blood pools.
Chantalai broke his invisibility, gasping as he did so. He was starting to get tired, both physically and mentally. He faced the guards with Alinthea standing behind him; they started shouting and charged towards them. A thick stream of fire was shot againist them from Alinthea, Chantalai looking at her, surprised with a slight smile. The fire melted a group of steel Pokemon on the spot. More guards were running towards them; Chantalai stared at their opponents, thinking they were too many to deal with. He opened his arms and mouth wide, the flaming cobra appearing from his mouth again, spitting green fire, hissing at the guards. Green flashes lighted the whole sky. The animation left some of them cowering in fear, some others launched ranged attacks againist it. Once they saw it could not be affected, they thought it was fake and charged againist Chantalai.
The hoodied Zoroark emptied his mind of any emotion and focused; raw darkness was formed in his hands, covering them entirely. The next moment, a thick wave of darkness was launched againist the guards who shouted as it hit them, blowing them back. A Manectric threw a thunder at Chantalai from the side, but he dodged it and impaled the guard with the darkness on his hands. He violently slashed another Manectric's face with both of his arms.
Suddenly, a dark, winged figure attacked him from above - a Golbat. Chantalai tried to get the Pokemon off his fur, but it was gripped tightly, leaving him exposed to the guard's attacks. A metallic sound was heard as something scratched his chestguard. He felt a stinging pain on his belly right after; he swung around, trying to free himself from the Golbat who was laughing. His illusion of a giant Gengar faded right away as he took another hit in the chest - just then, a burst of fire blasted the Golbat away. Chantalai fell on the ground, touching his belly. Hot blood was spilled on his fur and cloak from a big and deep wound. His vision blurred, and after some moments he passed out.
Chantalai returned to conciousness after ten second, he looked around to see why he was still alive. The Salamence, Richard, had arrived and was smashing the guards around with incredible power. His claws were engulfed in blue and red fire, the sacred fire of the dragons, which burned his opponents lethally. Alinthea was right besides him, still shooting fire. A thunder was shot againist her, hitting her in the chest. She fell down, having fainted. Some kind of unknown power made Chantalai launch himself from the ground; he lifted Alinthea to his arms, and without giving it much thought, he focused his mind on a literally groundbreaking illusion. The ground shook, rocks flying everywhere. As the guards were falling down by the realistic quakes, the Zoroark carried the Ninetails over to the dragon and hopped on his back. The giant Pokemon nodded in recognition, then kicked the ground, launching into the night sky. The Golbat that had grabbed Chantalai and a Gliscor were chasing the Salamence, who turned his head around to eye them.
'Let me deal with them,' shouted Chantalai. He tried focusing his mind on an illusion, a Gengar with six long arms appearing behind the dragon. But as Richard was ascending, Chantalai needed to hold on tight to him and Alinthea to make sure she wouldn't fall; he lost focus and the Gengar faded.
'Hey, you wimps! Stop sending us fake images!'
I'll send them something real, Chantalai thought, turning around; he launched another wave of darkness with a nasty sound. The daze hit the Goldbat and the Gliscor who were flying close, taking them down. Chantalai hung from the dragon's neck with one hand, and with the other he was holding Alinthea's arm. Finally, Richard stopped ascending. Chantalai laid on his belly, hugging Richard's neck. Alinthea was now concious, holding onto her bodyguard's torso behind Chantalai. The cold wind was whipping their faces as they flew outside the city, towards the grasslands.
Chapter 10: The Ionian Verdict
The rising sun painted the grasslands golden, the black clouds having disappeared now. This was the last warm day of the grasslands summer; the three travellers continued their way north from the ground. They were silent as they were recovering from the last night's events. Chantalai was walking next to Richard with his head down. He wanted to return to Erca, but the dragon refused to take him there. They both knew that, with the fuss they caused, the Baron would get extremely wary now, making Chantalai's job much more difficult. He suddenly remembered that the Bisharp had mentioned something about Alinthea not talking. The Zoroark looked at her and she looked at him back with a warm smile, although her eyes seemed a bit sad.
'What did they want from you?'
'They were asking for my father's whereabouts...'
Chantalai nodded and turned ahead again. His thought travelled to Conrad - was he alright? He decided that escorting Alinthea to her father was more important.
A gentle breeze passed through his hood. The Ninetails was now walking next to him.
'I'm sorry I didn't listen to you... I'm sorry I didn't leave town when you told me to.'
Her voice was soft and sincere, Chantalai staring at her intently. He finally shook his head and looked forward again.
'What's done is done. You're safe now, that's all that matters.'
'I must have brought ruins to your plans...'
'Don't worry about it. You know me.. I've no problem with taking some more lives.'
He was slightly smiling now, but it was barely visible under the hood. Alinthea remained silent, and so Chantalai continued.
'You fought really well back there.'
She giggled, Chantalai almost laughing with no reason.
'Weeell, I wouldn't have been able to get out myself!'
Figures were visible in the horizon of the endless grasslands, north of them. Chantalai noticed that, the other two noticing right after.
'Do you think we should approach them?'
Richard said with his loud voice.
'No, they're probably nomads.'
'But they could help us!' said Alinthea in a particular irresistible manner. Chantalai stopped walking, crossing his arms, having a firm expression. The other two stopped as well.
'We don't need their help.'
He said stubbornly. The Ninetails walked over to him and put her paw on his shoulder. His expression softened a bit. He suddenly had the urge to tell her she was beautiful, but he resisted as it was not the right time.
'Don't be so selfish, Chantalai!'
Her childish voice made her remark sound cute rather than serious. Chantalai dropped his strict expression, thinking that travelling with the nomads could be profitable. He uncrossed his arms and jestured his head to the others to start walking again.
'Move it then, if you want to reach them today.'
'Hello, strangers. We come in peace.'
Richard was walking forward in order to do all the talking. Chantalai was standing on the back, staying silent as always. The nomads seemed terrified of the massive dragon - every Stygian had the right to be afraid of dragons - and they barely even noticed Chantalai. Their leader, a Chimeco who was whistling calmly every time the wind blew, was now
'A dragon, coming in peace? You don't seem like you are from around here...'
The Salamence shook his head, preferring not to answer. Chantalai noticed that and his suspicion was raised. Truly, he did know nothing about that dragon except his name. He crossed his arms, deciding other matters were more important right now. Alinthea spoke next.
'Well, we won't hurt you! May we ask, where are you going?'
The nomads seemed relieved they weren't thieves - Chantalai imagined they've had their share of fear. A Roselia next to the Chimeco pointed at the north.
'We're headed north, to the depot. Then, we'll be headed east.'
Chantalai walked ahead, standing next to the dragon. He could smell the fear of the nomads; his hood did not help at all, but he was not going to remove it. They could recognize his face from the signs in Erca.
'Here's a deal for you, then: you lend us some supplies and we'll protect you from the inevitable attack of the thieves.'
The Castform, who appeared to be a weather scout, gathered the nomads around him, leaving the three travellers outside the circle. They were whispering fast as if they were afraid someone was lurking nearby. Chantalai was looking at the position of the sun and Karnos to determine the time. Evening. The depot is a day ahead of us... The nomads finally turned to them.
'You are free to stay with us. But no slacking around here, we want to reach real soon! Four hour break after Karnos goes down, 'kay?'
'Deal. Now get us some food, we're starving.'
Chantalai said with a cold, ordering tone. Alinthea looked at him as if she was upset, but Chantalai ignored her. The nomads were mainly carrying berries and fruits; that was their meal. Chantalai complained about meat, and Richard agreed with him, but Alinthea told them to be quiet.
They were walking under the bright sun, a rare phenomenon of the grasslands which were supposed to be rainy at this time of the year. Chantalai was walking next to the nomads, with one ear listening to Alinthea talking to him about rather trivial but entertaining things, and the other listening to the sound of the wastelands. The Chimecho came to them and spoke in an official manner.
'We told you where we're going, why won't you tell us where you're going as well?'
Richard decided to trust him, as the nomad leader was smiling and seemed friendly overall. Chantalai thought it was foolish of him, but he later discovered that Richard, personally, had nothing to be afraid of.
'We were sent in Erca in mission for the Frontier. No, they're not chasing us, do not worry...'
The leader seemed rather content to know them, Richard and Alinthea responding to that positively. Only Chantalai kept his doubts up, as always. He stared down at the Chimecho, examining the Pokemon carefully without saying a thing.
'My friends call me Azath... your names are?'
Chantalai jerked his head to look at the other two to warn them not to answer, but it was too late.
'My name is Richard Phylax, descendant of Vellas.'
'Call me Alinthea!'
The Chimecho opened his yellow eyes wide, looking at Richard. Chantalai was surprised too. Vellas? The legendary Hesperian King?
'Vellas! You must be from Hesperia!'
'Indeed I am.'
Chantalai wondered what a Hesperian dragon was doing in Stygia. The Chimecho quickly lost interest in the Salamence and turned to Alinthea.
'You said your name was Alinthea?! Are you the daughter of the Merchant King?'
'The former Merchant King, yes...'
'No! Lumos will always be the true Merchant King for us nomads. We were so peaceful when he was in charge, but now things've changed.'
Chantalai was still thinking about Vellas; from what he knew, he was the first King of Hesperia and second-in-command of the Ionian Verdict that was formed in Hesperia by his closest friend, Pyrodax. All this was roughly a millenium ago, but Chantalai did not fully realize that. The others continued their chat, until the nomad asked for Chantalai's name. Alinthea poked him to answer.
He said unwillingly, not even looking at the Chimecho. Azath simply nodded, thinking it'd be better not to mess with a hoodied Pokemon.
The nomads walked for hours under the brimming sun with the grass relaxing their feet with its cold aura. As the sun finally settled down, the three friends were talking about how Erca would be after they left it; Chantalai was waiting patiently till the midnight break so he could freely speak about the Frontier's business. He did not want any nomad hearing their conversation, but that was impossible as they were walking right next to them. Chantalai heard they were calling them mercenaries, and he was fine with this nickname for now.
The nomads, about thirty Pokemon, fixed their tents on the ground. The Castform told the three 'mercenaries' to light dig a hole in the ground and light a fire, then stay awake and guard them during the five hour break. Chantalai agreed to this with a firm nod and had a private chat with the Castform.
'So you're working for the Frontier... we are, too, secretly.'
Chantalai seemed interested; he looked at the Castform, wondering why he hadn't told them so far.
'And what is your job as a nomad? You're only selling fruits.'
'Ah, that's where you're wrong, my friend! We leak information out of Erca. We, the nomads, circle around the Wastelands, visiting Frontier Camps and delivering messages or information.'
'Impressive. You work under the cover of innocent nomads, yet you play an important role in the battle.' said Chantalai, but he still kept his doubts up; the nomad had no proof to back up what he was saying.
'You skimmed it real good, friend. And you? What are you doing?'
Chantalai pointed at Richard and Alinthea, who were resting by the camping fire they had lit.
'Right now, protecting those two.'
The Castform nodded and departed, wishing Chantalai good night. The Zoroark headed over to the bonfire the other two had set on the ground.
'What did you two talk about?' Alinthea asked plainly, Chantalai laying down and looking at the red night sky.
'They say they work for the Frontier, but no one can be sure.'
The other remained silent. They soon fell asleep, despite their promise of staying awake; nobody had really slept after the hospital event. Chantalai was sunk in a soft and peaceful dream he could never remember...
He suddenly opened his eyelids, the thousands of stars of the Stygian night sky being reflected onto his eyes. He perked up his ears, hearing a slight shuffling sound from somewhere nearby. Somebody was approaching, an extremely light and small Pokemon. Chantalai launched himself up and looked at the Pokemon; it was one of the nomads, the Roselia. She looked at him horrified - the hoodied, feline Pokemon was truly menacing in the dusk. Before she knew it, the Roselia was down on the ground, Chantalai kneeling above her with his claws locked around her neck.
'What were you trying to pull off?'
'N-nothing, friend.. I was just gonna-'
Alinthea had gotten up and ran next to Chantalai, trying to get him off the tiny Pokemon.
'Don't kill her!'
'She was creeping up on us!'
'I-I wasn't.. I was simply bringing you berries!'
She looked to the right. Chantalai looked through the darkness, and he realized there was a basket over there. He slowly got up and cleaned the sleeves of his bloodied cloak.
'Next time,' he said harshly, and without apologisizing, 'bring us the berries while we're awake.'
He went back to sleep, with his nerves stretched out.
With the first light of Karnos, the nomads were up and running. Chantalai got up as well and walked silently alone. He wasn't in the mood of dealing with what happened last night. He simply ate his berries and left the others talk with each other. He saw the leader Roselia talking with Alinthea and Richard on the back.
Chantalai went in the front and asked for some water; last night he had remembered the blood that stained his cloak, and he realized why he was getting all those weird and curious looks from the nomads. He tried cleaning his cloak with the water, but he only managed to make the cloak cold. He was forced to order some kind of special liquid to clean the stain up; he also requested some bullets for his handgun. The nomads were starting to get annoyed by his attitude, but they all avoided his deadly stare when they were about to deny him something.
'Do you even know what those bullets are for?'
Chantalai looked at the merchant, a Bronzong, while loading his guns with six new bullets. He said nothing in return, only put the pack with the rest of the bullets next to the poison capsules on his belt... he realized he had a poison capsule on his mouth this entire time. Or did he? There was nothing under his tongue. The capsule had disappeared.
'I use those bullets as magnets!'
The Zoroark had no time to answer to the merchant. His ears caught a distant sound. He looked at the foot of the mountains and saw multiple waves of swift Pokemon (around twenty or so) of the grasslands charging towards the nomads.
As the merchants panicked, Chantalai dashed towards the thieves. He was itching to try something new he had thought with his illusions, and those petty thieves were just right for practising. He heard Alinthea shouting, but he ignored her as he ran fearlessly againist the thieves who were startled. A Linoone was first in line; a huge Dusknoir appeared from inside Chantalai's hood and landed on the ground in front of him, hiding him entirely. Towering twenty feet above the ground, it was covered in a strange, vibrant dark light and its characteristics were far more scarrier than a normal ghost; a feeling of death was emitted from the illusion, making the thieves cower in fear.
The Dusknoir attacked simultaneously with Chantalai, visually killing the Linoone with a fist covered in darkness. In truth, Chantalai had jumped on the Linoone, killing it easily by running his claws inside the poor Pokemon's back. He moved like lightning towards the closest thief, a Sandslash who was all curled up on the ground. The Dusknoir opened his arms wide and the 'mouth' on its belly shot out a wave of darkness that blew the Sandslash away, him landing on his back. Chantalai pounced forwards and stuck his deadly claws inside his opponent's belly.
The other thieves started screaming in fear. The illusion suddenly faded, Chantalai rushing towards them; he stepped on a Breloom's foot, slashed his face and impaled his fragile chest. Chantalai unstuck his claws, dodged a swift attack from a Vigoroth and sliced his neck with incredible speed. The next thief, a Zigzagoon, was able to see his snout grinning slightly under the hood. Chantalai fell onto the small Pokemon with no mercy, outmatching its speed. He threw it in front of the other thieves, who were appaled. He stopped, staying put. His cloak had not been stained by any blood whatsoever; he stared at the thieves, who were unsure of how to proceed.
'Leave those nomads alone. They never harmed you.'
The thieves backed off, seeing what Chantalai had done to their friends. Only another Linoone stood in the front, who was apparently second in command. Chantalai instanly thought he had just killed his brother, who was their leader.
'But how will we live? That's our job...'
'I don't care about your lives, I will take them as willingly as I took those of your allies.'
The thieves were obviously shaken by his cruel words. Meanwhile, Alinthea and Richard had reached Chantalai and were standing behind them. The Zoroark had now crossed his arms, staring at the Linoone who was not leaving.
'Was that Baron Necro you had with you?'
Chantalai thought of it for a moment as he examined the thieves; they were relatively well equipped and seemed to carry money with them. Only Necro would pay them for their services; time to ruin this for Necro, he thought evily.
'Baron Necro killed your allies. He does not require your services anymore.'
Alinthea and Richard glanced at him, then they decided he knew what he was saying.
'Now mind your own business and let us mind ours.'
He turned to leave, the Salamence and the Ninetails following him. The thieves slowly approached their dead allies that were laying on the ground to offer them a burial. The blood stains on the grass went unseen under the crimson light of Karnos, only to be revealed when the first rays of the sun hit the area.
The group of Pokemon finally arrived at South Camp. Chantalai remembered when he met the six leaders inside Raskalov's tent; it seemed like a very long time ago. Now Raskalov and Hermes greeted the nomads, btu they did not notice the travellers in the back. Alinthea thanked the nomads and they gave her a fiery orb, an artifact of some sort. Richard claimed that it was an object made by dragons; Chantalai had already left the bunch. The nomads were scared of him for what he had done to their Roselia leader.
Raskalov seemed content to see him, he quickly ran to him and hugged him like a father would do, with his golden armour pressing againist the Zoroark. Chantalai felt awkward - he was too old to be hugged.
'Chantalai! I'm so glad you're back!'
'How did you recognize me under this cloak?'
'Lumos told me his brother Conrad gifted you his cloak,' chortled the Weavile with a cheerful tone that made Chantalai smile. He did not seem like a Stygian leader at all. 'Hey! Hermes, get over here!'
The Pidgeot was talking with the nomad leaders. Chantalai noticed they were trading items when Raskalov shouted; Hermes flapped his wings and flew over.
'Chantey, what're you doin' here, you bad boy'
Chantalai smirked when he heard that terrible version of his name, but he was smiling. He did not admit it, but he had missed the Stygian spirit these war leaders were representing. He eyed the Pidgeot, who looked like a winged vanguard with his armour.
'I brought you Alinthea,' he said simply and pointed at the Ninetails who was talking and laughing with the nomads. Richard saw Chantalai and poked Alinthea. She turned to look at Chantalai, then started walking towards them; he detected signs of sadness in her look.
The leaders were clearly satisfied at some degree. 'Well done, Chantey, you got good company, on your way here, eh?' said Hermes, but Chantalai had no time to answer. 'Bet she gave you trouble! She's difficult to handle, I swear!' Raskalov shouted and they both bursted into laughter. After they were done laughing, the Weavile motioned at a soldier nearby.
'Call Lumos, he needs to see this.'
'Is Lumos here?' inquired Chantalai, surprised. But then again, where would he go? he thought right after. Alinthea reached them and muttered something; Chantalai examined her. She wasn't looking at him.
Lumos exited a tent and ran to them. His cowboy hat was missing and the revolvers on his belt seemed old and rusty. The Zangoose greeted Chantalai and Alinthea with a slight smile and only that. Chantalai figured they had argued about if she would stay in Erca or not and now things were kind of touchy between them. The former Merchant King grabbed Alinthea and jestured towards his tent. They left the two leaders with Chantalai; suddenly their moods changed to serious as they eyed him.
'What happened with the Baron?'
'He is alive. However, I've collected some invaluable information.'
Raskalov motioned Chantalai and Hermes to come to his tent. Once they were inside, the Weavile was lighting some candles up and Hermes was behind the strategy table. Chantalai begun talking.
'The Dark Cult's church is connected to some temple, the Divine Temple,' he said, the other two looking at him intrigued, 'I followed the Baron and the Pope, who was visiting the town in secret, in that temple. It turns out that the Dark Cult has lended the Baron a great amount of gold to help him maintain his dominance over Erca. If we take that gold away, the Baron will be extremely weak. And that will be our time to strike.'
'Why did you not kill them there?' inquired Raskalov, Hermes was looking down silent and skeptical.
'More would take their place - the Prophet doesn't depend on important figures. If we manage to kick them out of Erca completly, then we will have truly won.'
'You spoke about a temple... tell us more,' ordered Hermes.
Chantalai told them everything that had happened in the temple, and what there was inside the temple. They seemed stunned from the surprise.
'The statues in there... the ancients Gods of Black and White, the Gods the Dark Cult is basing its religion upon. And you said they wanted something from there?'
'There were cylinders with runic symbols on them. A black one was missing. They implied that something was inside the cylinders and were about to destroy one of them, but I stopped them. Do you know what the cylinders could hold inside them?'
Raskalov nodded his head negatively. 'No. We're not aware, but you spoke of symbols... I know somebody who could decode those.'
Chantalai instanly remembered the runes he had copied onto his cloak. He looked at it to see them still there. They seemed even more menacing than before, even if they were not blue.
'So you propose we go there and claim the place? But you said that it's semi burried, right?' said Hermes.
'Rocks fell as I tried to climb back up. I'm somehow alive... I felt like something was keeping me from death.'
The Camp leaders looked at each other, wondering if what Chantalai was saying is true.
'If the place's been burried, we need to get some Pokemon to get the rocks out of the way so we can see the cylinders.'
Chantalai sat on a chair, exhausted from the trip. He watched Raskalov pace back and forth. He stopped after a while.
'If we can get our hands on some precursor technology, the odds of this war could be even. I'll see to it that our army is ready.'
Raskalov said and Chantalai took his eyes from him to look at Hermes.
'And you? What're you doing here?'
Hermes looked back at Chantalai.
'The East Camp doesn't need me any more. We have joined our men together. We have about four hundred now that we got reinforcements from Altica.'
Altica was the northeastern part of Stygia, where the Dragon's End mountains dwelled and their citadel Acanthus was located. Chantalai remember his dad talking about another tribe of the north, the Illinkar. He wondered if they were officially fighting for the Frontier.
'We'll take three hundred with us and raid the Divine Temple, and we'll be taking Hermes with us too,' clarified Raskalov and the other two nodded. He turned to Chantalai. 'The Frontier is grateful for your services. Here's your reward,' he said and grabbed something from his belt; it was a pouch full of noisy gold coins. He threw it at Chantalai who caught it above his shoulder, grinning. Hermes walked out of the tent to inform the soldiers.
'It's worth four thousand dollars.'
Chantalai said nothing. He thought his father was well paid for his services, but he did not speak his mind up. He'd rather get paid more. Raskalov stood in front of him and leaned forward slightly.
'Chantalai. You said Baron is gaining influence by the gold he has gained from the Dark Cult. If we are to destroy him.. we must destroy his sources.'
The Zoroark nodded under the hood. Raskalov's red eyes flashed.
'I wouldn't ask a normal spy for this. Once you're done weakening him, finish him - but be warned, he knows you're coming. He somehow knows you are a killer.'
'I told Conrad the Baron will be silenced, and that I will do. Nothing will stop me.'
Raskalov seemed pleased. 'That's the spirit, boy! You look and talk just like your father!' Chantalai took that as a great compliment. He nodded, got up and walked outside the tent with the pouch in hand.
Lumos and Alinthea were just outside; Chantalai noticed how beautiful Alinthea was again. The intense sun was reflected on her fur, making it white, and her eyes were flashing red as she looked at him.
'Thank you, Chantalai, for bringing her here. You casted your mission aside...'
Chantalai said nothing as he looked at the Zangoose. He knew that Alinthea was not willing to come to the Frontier, and he was not feeling comfortable being the one who forced her to. He glanced at her, but she didn't seem upset anymore. Alinthea gave him a hearty smile and he smiled back. Lumos noticed their moment.
'Beautiful, isn't she?'
Chantalai raised his eyebrows under the hood. He kept smiling.
As Alinthea giggled and looked on the ground, Chantalai approached the two. 'Lumos. I'll force the Baron out of town. If you appear at the right time, you'll restore your place in Erca.'
The Ninetails eyed him, worried, letting one of her tails subtly touch his shoulder. Lumos seemed surprised.
'You'll return in Erca?!'
'No, Chantalai, stay here..' muttered Alinthea. It sounded like she was begging, but Chantalai had already taken his decision.
'I will return in Erca. I need to finish what I started,' he smiled at Alinthea to calm her down. She paced forward, her snout reaching really close to his hood and she whispered, 'I'll be waiting for you, then.'
Chantalai felt like he was energized - he now had a strong motive to stay alive and finish his mission. Their eyes met for a moment and Chantalai almost thought of abandoning his duties. He looked at Lumos.
'We'll be getting three hundred men to raid a certain location outside Erca.'
'That'll cause trouble with the Baron, you sure we should proceed like that?'
'We don't have a choice right now. Besides, it'll be a good way to extend our dominance over the Wastelands.'
'But what are you raiding, exactly?'
'The Divine Temple,' Chantalai said with a sarcastically pompous tone.
After three days, the Stygian forces had formed another camp on the foot of the hill the Divine Temple was located. The camp looked exactly like the others: two Stygian flags were raised on the opening of pointy logs that surrounded the tents. Around three hundred Pokemon were chunked up in the camp; they had also claimed the hill as theirs. Chantalai was now in Raskalov's tent with Raskalov himself, Hermes, Lumos, Conrad and an old-looking Noctowl. The sight of that Noctowl made Chantalai think he had seen him somewhere else - and he considered it a bad sign. Raskalov introduced him as the scholar who would translate the runes for them, who was named Eosforos. He was coming from an Alamagna Academy of Knowledge.
'Alright, men. The operation will be carried out with extreme care, yeah? If we manage to get the job finished without the Ercans noticing, we will avoid a collision with their mercenaries.'
Everyone nodded. The Weavile turned to Chantalai. 'I want you to escort the excavation team to the temple, along with our scholar friend.' The Zoroark nodded and put his hand onto his heart, performing the warrior's salute. Raskalov did the same and turned to Hermes.
'I want you to be on constant lookout - if the Baron will strike, we need to know of it sooner so we can prepare our forces.' Hermes nodded, letting Raskalov continue. 'Our stand here is powerful - they can't surround us, they may be outnumbering us but the path between the hills is relatively narrow. We'll crush them with our superior skill.'
He then turned to Conrad and Lumos. 'Conrad. You will be the one to take your brother inside Erca, quietly of course. Keep informing us of any news from the city, too.'
'What will you be doing?' asked the scholar with a curiosity Chantalai found most annoying. It was as if he was saying that Raskalov would just sit there and do nothing. However, the leader did not take offense.
'I will be organizing our forces; I will also send scouts and recognition groups to the hills in case they hit us from above.'
Every Pokemon in the room fell silent. Chantalai walked out of the tent, the scholar following him.
The excavation group mainly consisted of trained Sandslashes, around fifteen of them were following Chantalai, who walked in the front with the Noctowl right next to him; they were climbing the hill, which was getting abrupt at some points. Clouds were blocking all view from the camp beneath them. No flying Pokemon could find its way to the top of that hill. Chantalai's eyes fell on the runes on his cloak.
'Can you translate those?'
Eosforos leaned over the end of his cloak, which he was holding up so the Noctowl could see.
'Here it says, "Black will hide you from harm, and White will guide your intentions". Where did you find these runes?' he asked again with the same annoying curiosity. Chantalai did not answer; he rubbed the runes off from his cloak. Black will hide you from harm, and White will guide your intentions. Only later in his life he understood what that meant.
They reached the top, the temple was standing pridefully in front of them. Chantalai looked inside the temple, where a massive hole was instead of an altar. Every Pokemon looked down at the hole; the bottom was not visible. The dark clouds prevented the sun from reaching that area. However, Chantalai could now feel that something was down there. At that point, he could not imagine what was hiding down there. He commanded everyone to climb down; he hung from the grassy cliffs that surrounded the cavern and made his way down to the rocks that had fallen on the bottom, blocking the river.
When they were all safely standing on the bottom of the cave, the Sandslashes started taking rocks out of the way, clearing the template. Only one cylinder, the cylinder where Chantalai had miraculously landing on was not burried under the rocks. The scholar had lit a light ball, which was extremely helpful againist the thick darkness of the cavern. He and Chantalai were standing next to the black cylinder with the blue runes, which were still glowing.
'Can you translate them?' asked Chantalai impatiently as he stared at the symbols. The Noctowl shook his head.
'They seem to be an unknown language.'
'What do you mean? You were able to translate those I had on my cloak, which I took them from here, therefore you will be able to translate those.' Eosforos looked at him as if he was only a disturbance. Chantalai thought there was something fishy about his attitude; but he did not investigate, as the Noctowl insisted he was not able to translate the runes.
Another three days passed; the excavation team had almost finished with the cave. They had revealed the black dragon statue, causing much controversy as to what it is between the Stygians. They did not know what to do with the rocks that had fallen inside the temple either; they were taken out by the Sandlashes, who were piling them up just outside the temple, on top of the hill. Meanwhile, the scholar had copied all of the runes into pages, Chantalai thinking he would take them to the Academy of Knowledge.
The third day of excavation, a terrible scream was heard outside the temple. Chantalai rushed outside and heard more screams echoing underneath the clouds. He rushed down the hill, leaving the excavation team and the scholar behind. Chantalai reached the camp; he looked around to see nobody - he saw them all in the front of the camp, where the screams were heard.
Raskalov was in the back, waving at him with his golden armour having lost its glimpse.
'Chantalai! The mercenaries are attacking us!'
The Zoroark ran over to him. 'How many are they?'
'They must be over seven hundred.. but they are attacking us from two sides! The teams which were scouting the hills were found dead, they destroyed them...'
Chantalai did not speak of his anger. He remained dead calm. 'How did they know where we were? How could we not see this coming?'
'I don't know.. Hermes is injured, I don't know where he is, he might already be dead...'
He patted Raskalov's shoulder to give him courage. The Weavile was getting too old for this, he thought momentarily. Necro's mercenaries knew their location, and the scout's positions. I smell betrayal. What if they caught Lumos and Conrad as well?
Chantalai pushed away any other thought and rushed to the Camp's entrance. Outside the camp, all of the Stygian forces were fighting off the mercenaries in the narrow path, but the rest of the mercenaries were coming from the hills of the southwest. The situation was grim, but Chantalai did not frown.
He rushed, invisible, towards the hills on the southwest, breaking apart from the Stygian army. He glanced behind him at Raskalov who was charging againist their enemies; he then looked forward to see the mercenaries coming in groups from the narrow southwestern path. Chantalai hid in the bushes, taking his revolver out of its hatch. He had a plan; he aimed carefully at the first group. He pulled the trigger and the sound cracked like thunder in the area - a mercenary fell, and every other group stopped to look at what happened. Chantalai fired the handgun again with precision, taking another life and making them back off. He fired again and again, until they were literally running for the hills. Chantalai, despite his tension, laughed out and headed towards the spot where the mercenaries had fallen.
He examined the fallen Seviper first - it had a belt with a sack of coins and a necklace of some sort. Chantalai grabbed the small sack and emptied it of any coin, adding them to his own. He was about to move to the next one, but he heard a sound from behind the trees. Chantalai raised his head to see the mercenaries appearing - they had surrounded him. A Rampardos caught Chantalai's attention; it was an enormous Pokemon in a silver plate armour.
'Look what we found guys, the fairy who kills us!'
The Rampardos said and the rest laughed. Chantalai slowly got up to his feet, darkness forming in his hands. He adopted a battle stance and was about to send a wave of darkness in front of him - but a sharp voice coming from afar stopped him.
'Stop right there'
The mercenaries turned around. Lower than them, a group of Pokemon in golden armours were standing, and a Garchomp in front of them. The sight was truly marvelous; Chantalai wondered how much powerful these Pokemon were. Each of them seemed skilled in the art of war, yet they did not have that bloodthirst the Stygians had. The Garchomp walked forward - he seemed mighty despite the distance.
'I am Anthrax "Ace" Lane, honourable general of the Ionian Verdict.'
Chantalai opened his eyes wide in surprise. The Garchomp was being serious - they truly were the Ionian Verdict. What are they doing here? He eyed the Rampardos on the right and snickered at his puzzled look. The Garchomp paced towards them; now that Chantalai was able to take a closer look at him, he recognized an extremely powerful Pokemon.
'I see you have surrounded a Zoroark. That's not exactly fair, don't you agree?'
The leader of the mercenaries, the Rampardos paced towards the Garchomp as well. Chantalai thought of something; he knew what the Zoroarks were.
'What we are doing is none of your business, you golden wanna-be'
Ace moved as fast as lightning - only a sharp eye like Chantalai could catch his movement. The Garchomp actually covered twenty feet of distance in a second, the next second pummeling the Rampardos to the ground. The mercenaries were stunned by the speed and skill of that Pokemon; Ace whistled right after and the Ionian Verdict charged againist the mercenaries. Chantalai could not believe in his eyes - the warriors with the golden armours were extremely organized, dedicated and skillful; every one of them seemed to be able to deal with ten or more opponents at once, as the mercenaries outnumbered them. The Garchomp, who appeared to be the leader of the group, swished through the battlefield like a lethal machine, eliminating his opponents with swiftness and precision; Chantalai noticed that he was always striking specific spots, making the mercenaries fall quickly and silently. He secretly admired the skill that was far better than his.
All of the mercenaries got slaughtered in a matter of minutes in front of Chantalai's eyes. More than two hundred Pokemon were laying dead on the ground, and the Ionian Verdict had not lost one man, they did not even have one injury. If this force turns againist Stygia, we will be exterminated... I must play this nicely.
Chantalai approached Ace and kneeled in front of him.
'Get up. I am no King, I am simply representing the Ionian Verdict as a general.'
As Chantalai got up, the Garchomp looked over his shoulder to a Jolteon. 'Search for survivors. Keep them alive and tell them to carry a message to whoever is paying them to do this miserable job: the Hesperian Empire temporarily claims this area of Stygia. I don't reckon he is dumb, he will realize that if they refuse, the King will declare war.'
The Jolteon nodded firmly; Chantalai glanced at it and the soldier glanced back at him with a sharp look and a grin on his face. He then dashed off, Ace turning to the Zoroark.
'Now... what's up with you? Why are you wearing a hood and who do you think you are, fighting with two hundred mercenaries?'
Chantalai was offended, but he did not show it. He reminded himself to go easy. Sublety is what he needed now; time for some acting.
'I'm wearing hood so the mean men like them don't recognize me! I was simply passing by and they attacked me...'
'Hmm... what's your name?' inquired the Garchomp, skeptical. A dead silence had fallen behind him - no member of the Ionian Verdict was talking, nobody was moving and everybody was looking forward.
A sigh of relief exited from the lips of the Verdict members, for reasons unknown to Chantalai. They even exchanged weird looks. He would later find out that, changing his surname was one of the wisest decisions in his life.
'And tell me, Cortez. What lies behind those hills?'
Ace's tone had changed now, it had softened up a bit. His bloodied razor-like fangs and claws contrasted this calm personality that was arising. Chantalai did not know whether that Pokemon was a threat to the Stygians or not.
'A temple with a big hole in it, nothing too big.'
'I'll be the one to judge the "nothing too big". You will kindly take us to the hill.'
Chantalai took a convincing worried expression. 'The mercenaries are fighting with the natives over the temple just north of these hills! I don't want to get involved...'
'We will lay claim on that temple, so they might as well end their quarrels.'
The Zoroark nodded, his heart racing. What do those people want?
That thought was torturing him as he guided them through the hills. The light of the night Karnos filled the sky as if it was blood.
Chapter 11: The Stone of Destruction
Chantalai was walking silently next to Anthrax "Ace" Lane, the Garchomp who would play such an important role on the matter of the Divine Temple. The Zoroark reckoned he was able to kill the dragon on the spot, but running away from those Pokemon was out of the question. Besides, he thought, this could get us somewhere. Manipulating them will be easy.
'Where are you coming from?' The Garchomp asked Chantalai, turning his head towards him.
'I'm an Eshirian, from the far northwest.'
'Eshir, I've heard alot about them... they were the only ones to refuse to aid the Frontier, weren't they?'
Chantalai went along Ace's chatting mood. 'Yeah, those bastards! Even Illinkar has sent reinforcements! But no, the Eshir want to live their own dream and think that when the Dark Cult will reach their grounds, they will leave them unscathed!'
He knew that Ace did not really care about the business of Stygia. The Ionian Verdict were the ones to drive the Dark Cult out of the Hesperian grounds, thus bringing them to Stygia. And they would not apologise for that. Ace shook his head.
'There is always war around here. Nobody can live in peace.'
Maybe if you didn't claim Stygian grounds for yourself, there would be peace, thought Chantalai. Bunch of hypocrites... they speak of peace and justice and yet they're willing to destroy everything by taking so many lives.
They passed the narrow path through the hills and screams filled their ears. Chantalai could almost touch the Verdict's power - the instant they heard of battling, they slightly changed their formation and readied battle stances. He thought their iron-hard discipline was amazing. His eyes caught the Garchomp motioning at somewhere behind them as they walked down the hill towards the two parties crushed at each other. Chantalai watched the mercenaries overtaking the Stygians - the fallen Pokemon exceeded four hundred. He wondered if Raskalov's body was amongst them, and if Hermes had died a long time ago; he pushed away those thoughts and convinced himself they were alright. He mourned the allies that had died today; they had died because he brought them here. An extremely loud voice coming from behind interrupted his thoughts.
'Hey! Hey! You, stop fighting! STOP FIGHTING!'
Chantalai smirked, covered his ears and turned behind him. A Loudred was shouting at the Pokemon who were battling down the hill, but none would listen. Ace turned to the Loudred.
'Enough, Loudio. Chant-what's your name again?'
'Yeah, you. Wait here. If you run, we will find you and we will kill you.'
Ace whistled again and the Ionian Verdict charged forward. Chantalai was left behind, wondering if the Ionian Verdict would take more lives today. The Zoroark stood there alone; he thought that if he was controlling a team of extremely skilled Pokemon dedicated to one cause, his cause, he would be able to accomplish everything. The Frontier would win this war.
He watched as the Ionian Verdict got between the two parties, pushing their way to the middle without harming anybody. The Garchomp motioned his fan-like arm and some Pokemon with golden armours were spread across the battlefield, forcing the two parties to stop fighting. Ace perked up his body and looked at the Stygians first, then at the mercenaries.
'What do you want here?'
A voice Chantalai knew well sounded from the Stygians - he saw Hermes with a broken wing and his armour semi-destroyed standing in front of them. Ace eyed him from head to toe.
'Christopher II, the King of Hesperia, has claimed these hills as Hesperian territority for a short period of time. Go home.'
The Pidgeot folded his wings and screamed in a high pitched voice, 'you can't just come in here and do that!' The Garchomp grinned in response, 'it turns out I can.'
Ace turned to the mercenaries and seemed to be thinking for a second. The Jolteon spoke this time. 'Go tell your leader that if he decides to do anythin' funny, we're gonna have war, 'kay?'
Everything seemed to end there. The mercenaries were departing and the remaining Stygians, about one hundred, hid in their Camp. The Jolteon ran up the hill with incredible speed to meet up with him. Chantalai decided to chat with him before they climbed up the hill of the temple.
'What's your name? Or title, whatever'
'The name's Zippo "Reyzor" Cena'
Chantalai looked at Reyzor, and he looked at him back. 'Do you understand the meaning of freedom, Reyzor?' The Jolteon broke eye contact and remained silent. Just as I thought. They are nothing but tools.
They reached Ace and the rest of the Verdict members who were standing like statues in the middle of the battlefield, between the dead bodies of the Pokemon that had fought there. The sight made Chantalai shiver.
'Let's go, take us to the temple.'
Chantalai nodded and headed forward. He started climbing the hill, leaving the dead bodies behind him. Four hundred lost, plus two hundred mercenaries from before. The death he witnessed gripped his heart like an iron fist, hurting it at first, but making it tough like a stone.
***They were inside the temple. The Ionian Verdict, silent as ever, was observing the template and its cylinders, as well as the giant black statue on their right. Ace was examining the blue runes of the black cylinders. He called Chantalai and showed him the runes.
The Zoroark crossed his arms and stared at the Garchomp.
'First tell me what do you want here.'
The Garchomp sighed, 'fine, fine. Christopher II has requested we find any precursor technology and destroy it. Once and for all.'
Chantalai laughed. 'You hate the Dark Cult, don't you? Why don't you hit them, instead?'
Ace smirked. He was growing impatient. 'I've got orders to follow. If I question those orders, I'm not worth being in this position. Now - we don't want to waste any more time, go on and translate the runes.'
Chantalai kneeled to look at the bottom of the cylinder. The runes were strange, symbols he had not seen before. They did not seem to be starting or ending somewhere either. He had to think fast.
'It says that the Black and White Gods will descend... a great catastrophy is approaching - and these cylinders hold the keys to stop it.'
'Enough,' the Garchomp said and motioned at a Rhyperior. The massive Pokemon fell on the cylinder and crushed it open. A strange sound resonated in the cavern; the Ionian Verdict saw a dark stone floating in the air, where the cylinder was a second ago. Everyone was stunned, feeling the overwhelming power of the black gem - it then flew towards Chantalai who caught it in the air. The moment it touched Chantalai's hand, the sound resonated again, only much stronger. It pulsed even faster and hit the Pokemon in the golden armours like a massive tidal wave, knocking them unconscious.
A winged beast bursted in the cave; Chantalai recognized Richard, who grabbed him and made him jump onto his back. He departed right after.
During this, Chantalai did not realize what was happening around him - he was focused on the feeling of the dark gem on his hands. It was like he could feel its destructive power passing onto him, but at the same time it was so powerful that its power could not be harnessed. He wondered why the stone was flinged towards him once it was free. What else did it hide, except the power to knock out fifty members of the Ionian Verdict?
'Chantalai! Are you alright?!'
Chantalai murmoured something, still staring at the gem. He felt it cold in his hands, he felt like it was built to be used only by his hands, for some reason. Is this precursor technology? He snapped out of his thoughts when Richard was flying towards the Camp on the foot of the hill.
'No! Not the Camp, we must go'
'What happened, Chantalai?'
Still dizzy from the shock, he locked the gem tight in his hand and explained from the start what happened in the Temple.
'Oh! They'll surely chase you down...'
'The Baron is responsible for all this. He will die for causing the loss of so many lives,' said Chantalai, his anger firing up like volcanic lava. He felt the object in his hand reflecting his feelings, multiplying them. Chantalai was horrified for a second - what was he holding?
Richard simply nodded. 'I won't argue with you. We will be going in Erca, if that's what you want. But the Ionian Verdict will chase you down.'
Chantalai opened his hand and looked at the gem. He had a dark expression on as he said, 'let them come. I'll be ready.'
***Conrad opened the door's shop and bursted outside.
'How am I supposed to hide a freaking dragon?' he said while staring at Richard.
'There's no need for that. I have friends in town who'll hide me.'
Chantala sighed and walked inside the shop, leaving the dragon in the back alley. Lumos was sitting on a chair with his legs crossed and his old cowboy hat on, the revolvers on the table next to him.
'Hey, Chantalai. How'd it go?'
Conrad walked in the room just as Chantalai collapsed on the chair. He stayed silent for a moment, then looked at Lumos, then Conrad.
'I'm sorry,' he said, and placed the dark gem on the table. He explained everything that had happened ever since they parted from the South Camp. They were astonished when he finished; Lumos was looking at the gem, and Conrad was pacing up and down.
'I think I know what this is,' said Lumos as he pointed at the black gem. 'Raskalov has told me... it is a darkstar. Not many Pokemon are aware of the existance of the darkstars, and little is known about them.' He looked at Chantalai, his green eyes flashing in the darkness. 'Your father possessed one of these objects.'
Chantalai looked at the darkstar. It seemed like a diamond stone, only black. An eerie feeling had wrapped this gem; it wasn't floating, like back in the temple. The Zoroark opened his claws and the darkstar was flinged towards him. The other two were looking at him stunned.
'How do you do this?'
'I'm not sure'
He left the darkstar on the table and opened his claws again. The gem was flinged once again, reaching for his claws automatically.
'My father had one of these? I never knew... what was he using it for?'
'Raskalov knows everything about it - he was the leader of the village, after all.'
Chantalai nodded. He didn't tell the other two, but he felt the powers inside the darkstar were somehow connected to his own powers. It was like they shared a deeper bond, like father and son. He looked at his own reflection at the gem. It then suddenly disappeared, leaving the darkstar as black it can be. He was startled by the change; it was as if somebody had opened the window. A thought appeared into his mind, as if it was not his, I can rule the world with this darkstar. It scared him, but he did not let go of the gem. No... I'd rather use this power for the greater good. I could implement it in my ways - what do I do better? I assassinate the evil ones. Then another thought popped in his mind, can I fight evil with evil? Maybe I cannot... but the Hashashin could. It was a sudden inspiration, an unexpected flash of knowledge. Hashashin. That's what he and his followers were going to be called. Hashashin. The moment of thought was gone as Conrad's voice interrupted Chantalai.
'What will happen with the others in the Camp? The Ionian Verdict might kill them all... and what if Raskalov is already dead?' said Conrad, still walking down. He seemed extremely upset. Chantalai shook his head in sorrow that did not truly touch his hardened heart. Raskalov was like a second father to him, even though he knew him very little. He tightened his fist with the darkstar inside.
'Enough of this. I'm here to give an end to the Baron's reign, not to cry over what happened.'
Lumos nodded, agreeing with him. 'I have organized a rebellion. We are working underground.' Conrad stopped walking, drew a chair and sat down on the table with them.
'And I have gathered information regarding the Baron's sources. It seems like he is keeping the Dark Cult's gold in their cathedral. Where could it be more safe, anyway?'
Chantalai laid back on his chair and looked at the ceiling. 'No place is safe with me around.' Lumos and Conrad looked at each other and chuckled. 'You are overconfident...' Chantalai looked at them. 'I am simply confident. I'd rather be sure about my powers instead of overlooking them.'
'.. Lumos, do you think you could plan a rebellion, after we are done stealing all the gold?' Lumos nodded but Conrad looked at Chantalai apaled. 'You're planning on stealing all this gold?!'
The Zoroark was staring at the darkstar again. The gem had charmed him in a special way; he was twisting it in his hands, observing its beauty. After a moment, he answered to Conrad. 'Yes, we're stealing all the gold from the cathedral.'
'But we don't know where it is, in the first place.'
Chantalai got up his chair with his eyes flashing red. 'Then we will burn the place down.' Lumos and Conrad glanced at each other. Their similarity was incredible.
'I'll come with you, then,' said Conrad. 'I'll go fetch the cloaks. I've made two more for me and my brother - we depend on them alot,' he explained, seeing Chantalai's puzzled look. He nodded right after, having a plan already formed in his head, even though he had not seen the cathedral from inside.
'Let me rest for a while; Lumos, you go fire up the crowds. Conrad.. we're leaving in three hours. I want it to be night.'
Conrad was picked off, as he wasn't used to receiving orders. Lumos didn't have any problems; he grabbed his cloak, threw the cowboy hat on the table and grabbed his revolvers. He then looked at them and put his hand on his heart. They mimicked him, and he left the room. Chantalai went to sleep in the other room.
Chantalai launched himself from the soft bed. Conrad heard him and got up as well. The Zoroark fit the gem in a hatchet of his belt. They silently wore their armour and cloaks and exited the shop. They swiftly climbed up a roof and navigated - Conrad started moving northwards, jumping from roof to roof and Chantalai following him from behind.
'Here's the cathedral.'
Chantalai looked at the building on the far end of the Trade Square. He stood on this very roof the day he followed the Baron and the Pope inside the tunnel; now the cathedral seemed much more overwhelming in the night. Its stones had strange shapes, some shapes of Pokemon - after a while observing them, he noticed the figures were Zoroarks. What are Zoroarks doing in a Dark Cult cathedral? Chantalai wondered. His eyes fell onto the opened door of the cathedral - a bright light was lighting the whole Trade Square up.
'How are we going to get the gold out?' inquired Conrad, looking at Chantalai.
'We'll figure something out. Now hide under my illusion and we'll walk in the cathedral.'
They leaped down the roof, landing in some bushes. The darkness was thick around there as no light could reach that point. The flags waving on the wires above the streets made Chantalai remember that it was the week of the Carnival of Life and that it would provide them with great cover. Conrad shook his shoulder, pointing at somewhere in the square; Chantalai stared at the Pokemon in the golden armours that were sitting on Lewis's post.
'The Ionian Verdict is here... this means trouble.' murmoured Conrad.
'Keep on track. We should be able to fool them. Now, go' said Chantalai and an illusion wrapped them both. He felt the darkstar on his belt shake with power; it was somehow intensifying his own power. They crossed the square, invisible, and sneaked into the empty cathedral.
A giant candle was hanging from the high ceiling, lighting the whole place up. A red carpet was leading to a small platform, and at least fifty chairs were put on each side of the carpet. On the far end of the cathedral, a coloured window showed a Zoroark holding a dark gem in the air. Chantalai looked around - the sides of the temple had windows as well, windows that represented Zoroarks dancing.
They were just standing in the middle of the cathedral. 'Are you seeing this, Conrad? What are those Zoroarks?' Conrad shook his head. 'I don't know... let's move. I see a door on the right.'
They headed towards the silver door and tried opening it, but it wouldn't budge.
'Hold on,' said the Zangoose and stuck his claw inside the lock. He picked it after twenty seconds and they found themselves in a corridor with the same concept as the one the Baron and the Pope had walked in a while ago: black stone and torches with blue flames. Voices were heard from the depths of the corridor. They were headed towards the back of the cathedral.
They reached a semi opened door, still invisible. Chantalai's power was not drained by the illusion, surprisingly. The darkstar was constanly supplying him with energy as it touched his fur. They peered inside - another circular cathedral, smaller, darker and without chairs, was ahead. The Baron was standing in the middle, talking to some guards with dark armours bearing the symbol of the heart crossed by two blades.
'I want to retrieve gold, NOW' ordered the Baron.
'We apologize, sir, but we've got direct orders from the Pope to start saving the gold.'
The Baron seemed frustrated. He vanished from sight and the guards returned to their posts. Chantalai whispered 'Why can't he just pass through the walls and get the gold?'
Conrad shook his head. 'Resources are telling me that this vault is no ordinary vault - the Dark Cult knew the Baron wouldn't be able to resist'
Chantalai felt the presence of more Pokemon above - he sneaked in the room and raised his head above. He spotted flashy red eyes in the darkness. Golbats. He then looked at the guards that were spread around the cathedral; more than fifteen of them were standing in the darkenss like statues, most of them steel-type Pokemon. Grey light was passing through the cathedral's windows, giving the place an eerie feeling.
Set the mood
'Let's clear them, nice and easy,' whispered Chantalai. Conrad nodded and they both crossed the cathedral's left side, hiding in the darkness even if there was no need. They approached two Bisharps who were guarding the platform beneath the great window representing a white Zoroark and the darkstar. Chantalai and Conrad stuck their claws on the guard's neck, slitting them open. They grabbed and placed them quietly in the darkness behind the platform.
Their next targets were guarding the other side of the platform - they fell on their arms with the same way. Four guards were down in a matter of seconds; Chantalai heard a voice.
He broke the illusion and pounced on the guard who was approaching them from somewhere in the darkness - he fell down and never got up again. Chantalai unstuck his claws from the Bisharp's throat and deflected an Escavalier's spear-lance hand. Conrad jumped onto their opponent, and threw him to the ground with a nasty sound as his claws penetrated his chest.
A strange sound was heard from above them - a massive Pokemon had launched itself from the ceiling; it landed on Conrad's lower body and gripped him with a vine; it was a Ferrothorn. The Zangoose grunted from the pain and blood started staining the floor as he struggled to get out of its grasp.
Chantalai saw with the edge of his sight guards appearing from the shadows and Golbats coming from above. He joined his hands together, manipulating darkness. Much more darkness was gathered in his hands, and with a sudden crack, an explosion of dark power filled the room; a rift of energy was created between the darkstar and Chantalai's hands. He almost felt it touchable - a power beyond any, so catastrophic that it could leave the entire cathedral to ashes. The pulse of darkness that was sent towards every Pokemon on the cathedral knocked them back unconscious, like it had happened with the Ionian Verdict - numerous Golbats fell down, the Bisharps and Escavaliers smashed againist the ground. The Ferrothorn was blown away; Conrad followed it, landing on the platform.
Chantalai rushed over to him and kneeled. 'Conrad!' Blood was dripping down his jaw; his belly was seriously injured, his cloak covered in blood and bits of the dark power Chantalai channeled before were disappearing from his body. As Chantalai removed his hood, the Zangoose opened his green eyes and tried to say something, but Chantalai stopped him. The Zoroark got up and looked at the white figurine on the window, the Zoroark holding the dark gem.
'I'm not gonna pray this time.'
He said coldly, without him even knowing why. He was still looking at the strange window. He kneeled again to the Zangoose with a hardened expression. Their eyes met again; Chantalai's voice cracked.
'Close your eyes, friend... I won't be able to do that.'
Conrad slowly closed his eyelids. Words came out of his bloodied mouth.
'Take.. care of.. my son.'
The Zangoose left his last breath - Chantalai heard his heart stopping. The son of Conrad Cortez was Kenny Cortez, but Chantalai was not aware of his whereabouts. He perked up his ears to hear more sounds from behind him. The guards were getting up.
He did not know why, he scratched the darkstar as he got up; his claws were instanly covered in darkness. Chantalai charged againist one Bisharp, who was still dizzy from the explosion of darkness. He ripped through his knee, making him kneel then stabbed him on the back of his neck; as he fell down, Chantalai dodged a blow from the Bisharp nearby, grabbed his arm and impaled his chest, his claws going through the sharp spikes.
With a swift illusion, he sent an image of his towards the right, where the Escavalier attacked. When he realized he hit air, it was too late, as Chantalai had pounced on him and snapped his neck with an abrupt movement of his hand. He let the darkness on his hands expand to his whole arms; now he was able to fire night dazes at the Golbats who were flying once again. He continued his relentless assault on the guards with an unspeakable, silent fury and a vengeful spite for his fallen friend. He was injured alot of times, but the emptyness he was feeling inside was overtaking the pain.
Chantalai was done with the overkill. More than ten guards and a bunch of Golbats were laying dead on the ground. His white cloak had become red; he kneeled to the ground, touching his chest and left arm where two massive wounds were dripping blood. Multiple scratches were aching other parts of his body as well, but the pain was focused on the big ones. He panted heavily, his vision was blurry and his mind was racing; he thought of getting Conrad outside, but that would mean he would have to carry him and he was in no condition to do that. Finding the vault was out of the question - he did not even see a crypt or anything. Chantalai was simply... looking... at the ground. His vision cleared up and he blinked; he was looking at some small runes encraved on the floor. He suddenly felt like there was nothing beneath his feet. He opened the hatch on the floor and saw stairs leading into darkness; he promised himself that Conrad's sacrifice would not be in vain.
With his mind empty, he climbed them down in a pitch-black corridor. His eyes were opened wide as he walked through the darkness. There was nothing living down there, he could feel it. No breath to be heard, nothing.
His eyes were used to the darkness after a little while - he could see a big door in front of him. Without giving it much thought, he drew the darkstar from his belt and raised it high, gathering energy on his hand. The rift was created again, sounding like a thunder. The door opened in front of Chantalai, as if it had no lock at all. The vault was filled with light; the flame of the blue torches was reflected on the bars of gold - around one hundred golden bars were there. He started carrying them to the stairs, ignoring the intense pain; he didn't have a place where he could hide them in mind.
Chantalai got out of the hatch on the floor and looked around; he decided to ignore the dead bodies of his enemies. His eyes fell on the white Zoroark again - he wondered how the Dark Cult was aware of his species and why they would draw them on the cathedral. He then noticed that the window could be broken; approaching the window, he threw a night daze at it. The force of darkness collapsed with the coloured window, blowing it to pieces. Chantalai looked outside the window and saw the backalley where the Pope and the Baron had disappeared. He slowly started to throw the gold bars away; his movements were shown that he was badly hurt. However, he did not give up for the sake of Conrad, who was now laying in the darkness next to the platform.