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Chapter 27: The Rifts of Life
The clouds had moved aside, allowing the first crimson beams of the morning Karnos to illuminate the city, and along with it, the square in which Shango and his allies had spilled the blight, poisoning the ground. The chemicals had changed its brown colour to black; under the crimson light, this monstrosity the voidborns had created fit the descriptions of the Dark Cult's 'World after the Cataclysm'. No snow could top the heat that was coming from the area and no smell could cover its horrible stench. Signs spread across the edges of the black scar, warning the first citizens to encounter them about the death that was lurking. The hours passed and the light of Karnos faded, replaced by the early morning sun; yet the square looked just as much horrifying.
Shango was watching over the site from a rooftop, sitting on his ankles. The slight breeze made his cape wave along with it, the slow topping on his shoulders as it fell at a slow pace. His cloak warded off any cold, thankfully, and the spirit he was holding on his hands had taken the form of a harmless flare; enough to heat his hands up.
Just as he thought he was glad Tristana wouldn't get to see this, she took on her physical form and opened her eyes. "Tristy," he muttered, still looking forward and smooched on her forehead. Her blue eyes searched for his, but he had them focused on some Pidgeys who flew right into the square, landing on the black ground. They chirped, unaware of the danger - they would soon be infected. Shango panicked, seeing them flying away; this way the whole town would be infected by the plague. How couldn't he had seen this? He suddenly hoped Zorthan was sane enough to create a not so lethal plague. As if that could be modified...
"Hmm?" Tristana poked her chin in an attempt to make him look at her; but his eyes were fixed on the yonder, where the birds had flown.
"I'm awake," she announced, looking at him sideways in hope of attracting his attention. But his attention was still focused elsewhere. It always bothered her when he was lost in thoughts like that, and now that she couldn't see his expression, she couldn't determine what he was thinking of exactly. "I'm okay, thanks," she said a little louder than needed, clearly disturbed. Shango finally looked down, as if still lost in thought, but the spirit was looking away. A faint, kindhearted smile had formed beneath his mask.
"Goddess," he called out, knowing she was always flattered by the not too metaphorical adjective, "you did a wonderful job, you make me proud." Saying that, he gently run his two claws from her head to her back. The look he received was intense, but she wasn't angry; Shango was able to determine her feelings for him just by looking at her eyes. He quickly looked at the crowd down the street, feeling uneasy under her stare. The words she didn't speak then sufficed for the effect, but Shango was grateful for her silence at that moment.
The symbol of the templars struck out to him down the street - the black heart with the crossing blades. Templars were investigating the cause of the fuss. About bloody time, Shango thought, getting up from his position. Tristana flew off his hand to hover above his head; he continued to stared down the crowded street, tightening his fists.
"Come on, Tristy," he said in a low voice. He raised his hand, motioning her to follow with his claw. "We've got places to be."
Later that day, on another one of Myriapolis' rooftops, Zaunix, Hector and Zorthan were standing firm with their eyes skimming through the crowd that was gathering in front of the Dark Cult's Cathedral. The snow had now stopped falling, clearing the view entirely; a stone template was placed in front of the Cathedral and templars had begun taking positions all around the area.
They only looked away when they heard light footsteps on the stone of the roof behind them. Shango approached and stood by them, glancing at the crowd.
"It seems that they relocated," Zorthan noticed.
"You don't say?" Hector sat down and brought one hand to his forehead.
"Our plan has worked, gentlemen," Shango said, not forgetting the plan was purely his.
"How are we going to get to them?" Zaunix raised a scythe, pointing at the template. Shango's eyes were drawn to the highest point of the Cathedral's building, where the Aerodactyl-gargoyles were standing guard under the circular red window. A sword-like stone was tearing the sky apart above the window, accompanied with many smaller ones that made the building look like wearing a crown.
"Leave the Judge up to me," Shango said, still staring at the building intently. "On my signal, you and Hector distract the templars surrounding them. Zorthan will have to make sure the two teleporters are put out of commision before joining in."
The voidborns stayed silent for some moments.
"What of the Executioner? What will be the signal?" Zaunix was the most curious one. His questions amused Shango, who slightly grinned.
"You will know when it's time to strike. As for the Executioner... the Hashashin will take care of his fate. Take your positions before our game arrives."
"Hold on a minute," Hector protested, "why do you have to do all the planning?"
Shango turned look at him. "Because I'm the most capable one. Any more questions?"
After a silence that lasted only one second, Shango turned to the Reuniclus; he had taken his mutated form, red fluid flowing through the veins between his body and hands. "Zorthan, make sure you approach them from behind."
Zorthan's metallic chuckle made Shango cringe from its intensity. "I can make them stop existing by snapping my fingers, boy."
Shango smirked his eyebrows, as he wasn't used to being called boy. He momentarily wondered just how old this Reuniclus was; he barely knew anything about Zorthan.
Zaunix stepped between them to get attention. "I usually do the planning, but your plan seems good."
"Let's make it be, then. Free this city of the templar grasp."
With no more words, Shango lept forwards, tumbling to the ground and stealthily blending with the crowd. He could feel the people's anticipation and anxiety, but his was a different kind. With a slight move of his hand, he pushed his ears inside his hood to avoid being recognized. Eyes on lookout for the white hoodies, he stayed hidden until he spotted the Hashashin and subtly moved towards them; they had taken a position near the back of the crowd, where they were hidden by the shadows of the houses. From that point, they had perfect view of the Cathedral and its template. Typical of the Hashashin to be so calculative.
"Well done, shadow," Enzo said, slightly mockingly as Shango approached them. He ignored his comment.
"I will target the Judge and my... associates will keep the templars budy and silence the teleporters."
"Aww..." cooed Crystal in an expression of mock hurt, "all that's left for us is the Executioner?"
"How the heck are you gonna get to the Judge?" Enzo asked abruptly.
"From the Cathedral."
"But it's impossible to climb..." he muttered, without looking at it; they had studied well, Shango thought, and the thought had crossed their minds as well.
"Not for me."
"So arrogant..." Crystal said in a low voice, rolling her eyes; Shango could see through the darkness of his hood easily. "You remind me of somebody I know."
Enzo grabbed her shoulder softly. "Knew," he corrected her. Shango kept perfect calm, knowing they wouldn't be able to find out it was him.
"When the Judge dies," he interrupted them harshly, "you go after the Executioner. Understood? Great."
Before any of them could speak, he turned away and headed towards the house closer to the Cathedral; his cape waved behind him as a strong gust of wind blew through it. Moments later, he was on top of the roof closer to his target building. Of course, even the Pokemon with the strongest jump couldn't reach the Cathedral from there, but Shango had another route in mind; the route he took to follow Jericho and Desmondius inside the building a while ago: the rocky cliff.
Clinging onto the cliff, the thought of what he was going to do made his heartbeats faster. If he didn't execute this properly, he would die on the spot. He moved sideways on the face of the cliff towards the Cathedral with ease; climbing up at a point, where he would be able to jump to its tower with the bell. This time, didn't jump down, but he hung from the tower's sides before he dropped himself on the stone roof. In front of him, the circular swords formed the crown, tearing the air with grace.
"Pointless decorations..." he muttered to himself as he hugged the middle one, which was the highest. The sword was hiding him from the other side, where the crowd awaiting the execution was; he peeked at them a few times to make sure he wasn't dreaming.
He pulled himself up, hugging the sword and making his way up to its peak. It seemed as if he was close, but it always turned out that there was more to climb. The wind had gotten more vicious as Shango elevated, and the view from up there was majestic - he could see all of Myriapolis. When he finally made it to the peak, he balanced himself on his ankles with ease and looked around with curiosity outmatching his slight fear of falling from somewhere so up high. The clouds had almost covered that part of the sky, slightly veiling his view of the ground. But the clouds were soon carried away, revealing the ground. Lots of Pokemon had gathered around the Cathedral, staring at the template, where the Judge and the Executioner had started doing their job. Shango's keen eye detected the two white hoodies that had taken positions not too close but not too far from their target; Zorthan's bulky figure was briefly seen to the left, but Shango lost sight of him early. Zaunix was nowhere to be seen, and Hector was hiding behind the first line of the crowd, ready to pounce on the templar line.
His heart jumped as he noticed Pokemon on the roofs, and by taking a closer look, he could identify them as templars. Pokemon who fought from distance, mages no doubt. Shango cursed for not having predicted this - his plan was anything but flawless. The plague would cost some lives, but this precaution the Executioner and the Judge took could ruin their hole plan.
As he was thinking that, one of mages was swallowed into nothingness. He raised his eyebrows, fixing his eyes on the spot. It seemed completly empty, except a faint, distant purple glow of some kind of destructive energy was waving around. Zaunix. Shango took his eyes to the next mage, who was swallowed quietly into the void; before the body had disappeared completly, he was able to see a Scythe pressing againist a throat, silencing the victim. A grin spread across his face. He liked Zaunix.
A pile of dead bodies had started forming aside from the template, which was perfectly aligned with Shango's position; the Sigilyph's image resonated in his mind. Judge Kayle's psychic voice was reaching his ears, along with the cries. Also, a yawn came from his pocket; Tristana had woken up from her after sleep. He pulled her out gently, and she let out a squeal when she looked down.
"Where's the ground, Shango?!"
He stayed silent, now looking at the Sigilyph gently flapping his wings; Tristana looked down again, letting out another squeal.
"Don't tell me you're gonna jump!" she cried. He nodded quietly.
"Shango! You'll get yourself killed... Don't do this, please!"
But Shango wasn't listening. He felt the wind's direction, evaluated the Judge's movements on the template and braced himself. A strange calmness had overcome him, and he wasn't afraid anymore. He looked at the dark sky, the clouds, his green eyes flashing behind the mask of the Phantom Dancer. The moment was filled with nothing but concentration on his target, his mind being on a state of peace despite Tristana's continuous warnings. He took the leap in a sudden movement forward, his feet leaving the tip of the Cathedral's highest point; he spread his arms wide to prevent his body from rolling into the air. His cloak was racing behind him, cape opening wide like a torn parachute againist the wind, making him seem like a giant golbat. The ground, the template, the crowd, all got closer to him within seconds - he saw the Sigilyph turning around, sensing what was coming; Shango landed on him, his claws immediately sunken into the Judge's round body. Pushed to the ground by tremendous force, the Sigilyph died on the spot.
Chaos ensued right after - shouts and screams were heard from the crowd and the templars, psychic explosions, heavy steps. Shango shot himself up, eyeing the Rampardos who was standing beside him on the template. The two white hoodies climbed up from each side, ready to assault Executioner Van Alsum, but an explosion of darkness pushed them all back; the Rampardos had grown black wings, the wings Shango had seen in Jericho's fort. The power of the voidborns, right there, in front of him. Shango's eyes met with the monstrosity, and he instantly recognized a darkstar's vibe of power. Time had stopped entirely and he was drawn forward, not in the substance level but in the field of supernatural. A colorful, mostly black rift was descending onto the Rampardos from the sky, and Shango noticed that another one, his rift, was engulfing him. It had a massive black scar above his head and many more, smaller ones closer to his hood. He could feel that, inside these rifts, memories of a life were flowing with the present, and that the black scars were the connections of his life with the stone of destruction. The Executioner's rift was completly black, as if his whole life was filled with a darkstar. A thought occured to Shango, despite the halt of time that was shocking: this Rampardos had been created by the darkstar itself, made to destroy - that's why he was an Executioner.
Shango discovered he could dive into his opponent's memories, just like he had done with the Prophet of the Dark Cult. A whole life flashed in front of his eyes, it wasn't his and he could not relate to the images, but at a point (he wasn't sure when), he saw the figures of the Endarkened Ones forming a circle in what appeared to be the Wastelands of Stygia; Shango recognized the area from the grey sand. In the middle of the circle, the magnificent, dark glow of a floating stone radiated, engulfing the circle in its power. He could also see the Rampardos watching, as if Shango wasn't seeing this through the Executioner's own eyes. After that image, he noticed all the random images that flashed in front of his eyes contained the Rampardos - he was looking at his memories from a different angle.
The recent memories of the Executioner flashed, childs crying, streets and snow stained with blood, the crowd screaming and the templars silencing it; an intense wave of nether power rose into Shango's mind, forcing him to kneel and clutch his head. His eyes were closed to ward off the tension and he gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the pain on his head and on his right arm.
When his eyesight was restored, he quickly glanced at his aching arm, pulling the sleeve of his cloak down; it was entirely covered in liquid darkness, as if he had just touched a darkstar. He slowly raised his head to see the Rampardos fallen on the ground, no wings attached, his eyes turned white. The two Hashashin were standing at both sides of the template, stunned by what had happened; the liquid darkness had left a stain on the Executioner's rock head - Shango's claws had pierced through it as if it was made of paper. After about one second, the darkness dispersed into the air, leaving the red and white fur of his hand fully exposed. He quickly hid it under the sleeve, jerking his head towards the Hashashin in an expression of fear they could not see.
"Shango?" Crystal gasped, Enzo taking two steps back at the same time. Shango felt the heat of his body become one with Tristana, who had dove inside his cloak during his confrontation with the Executioner. But by doing that, she had slightly moved his sash, revealing the insignia of the Hashashin that was fastened onto it. Run!, Tristana squealed into his mind, and he quietly agreed, launching himself from the template and running straight into the screaming crowd. The Cathedral's bell was ringing like crazy, its sound travelling to all Myriapolis and echoing into Shango's ears, making him feel dizzy.
He bolted through the crowd, pushing Pokemon away from his way. He felt a stinging pain on his right arm and his mind was dazed by the events of this execution. Glancing behind him, he saw Crystal and Enzo chasing after him. He was aware that it was beyond difficult to shake an Hashashin, especially if you were a voidborn, so he went searching for Zaunix and the others; he eventually spotted Hector and Zorthan fighting side by side, but the templars outnumbered them by far - a sea of black had cornered them. Shango removed the mask and grabbed his hood, releasing a flamethrower. The stream of fire razed every Skuntank on the way, setting them on fire, making way for Shango to rush into the maze and go on a fury of swirling claws on the templars; thus creating an opening which Hector and Zorthan saw. Shango put on his mask again and motioned for them to hurry.
Then something weird happened. White stripes ran across the ground and the air, forming perfect cubes. Shango's movement slowed down greatly; he noticed the same was happening to everybody but the Reuniclus, who levitated towards him with incredible speed. Trick room, Shango could identify this move; it was being taught in the Academy of War as a technique of speed manipulation, mainly usable by psychics.
Hector was shot forward by a blast of psychic energy, being launched out of the trick room. Shango tried his best to get out of there as soon as possible, as the Skuntanks begun chasing them. Turning around, he faced the Hashashin who stood before them; he thought only a miracle would save them now. Not that the Hashashin were hostile, but if they found out he was alive, Nightingale would be getting word. Or maybe it was already too late; the Shadow Hunter would be able to infiltrate their memories and find out. Then an idea crossed his mind: what if that memory was erased?
He glared at the Pokemon in the white hoods, raising his aching right arm instinctively. Time halted once again, and two rifts appeared above the Hashashin's heads. Shango, familiar with the procedure now, dove straight into them, their memories flashing in front of his eyes just like what had happened with the Executioner. Most of the images were random and Shango couldn't grasp their meaning, but what he was looking for surfaced at once; he saw himself, a Pokemon of medium but strong build in a black hoodie; his sleeve was up, revealing his red and white arm with the two sharp claws extended. Shango kept the series of images regarding this memory in his mind, and with a single thought, he shattered them into pieces that were scattered all around their rifts.
He was abruptly brought back into reality, the sound of the bell and the screams of the running crowd filling his ears once again. The Hashashin were standing in front of him, as if struck by lightning. Shango thought he was sad he could not let them know he was alive somehow, but he steeled himself and ran away, following Hector to a road that was soon flooded by the templars chasing them.
The templars had lost sight of them momentarily, and as Shango was about to jump on a sign and from there on a roof, he was abruptly pulled into a dark alley by what seemed to be a furry monster. He fought back for a while, before the scent went right through his nostrils. Claire. He raised his head in slight complain to see a grand, reassuring smile on the Ninetails' face. He opened his mouth, but she told him to shush and glanced outside the dark alley; the templars bolted by, not even turning to look at their hiding spot.
"So, Phantom Dancer," she smiled at him, and he was immediately drunken by her charm; he was starting to think the power she had over him was bad, but at the same time, he didn't want to care. "Are you an Hashashin?" she asked in a carefree tone, her warm tails still wrapped around him. Shango's dizzyness all faded away, to be replaced by fuzzyness.
"No," he muttered, his pupils dilated as ever. Not anymore, he wanted to add, but the phrase didn't surface, thankfully. He had this paranoid fear that she could tell who he was by the pace of his heartbeats.
"What reasons did you have...?"
"I fight for freedom. Justice. Liberation," Shango cut her off, smirking for some odd reason, but she could see none of it. Her ruby eyes flashed and her smile, which seemed genuine, grew bigger.
"Intriguing..." she said in a low voice, pushing Shango againist the cold wall; she pressed againist his chest with one of her front feet. "And why is it that you're hiding your face behind that mask?"
The dead end again. Shango subtly tested the power of her tails, but he saw there was no escape. The only thought that crossed his mind, a crazy one, was to kill her on the spot. But was his identity really important to be kept secret? He would never kill a jewel like Claire. Besides, she was beautiful, and she was impressed... why not let her know?
"Because I'm supposed to be dead," he said, as his last chance of her letting go of the matter of the mask.
"Oh?" she leaned in, her snout entering his hood; he could feel her slow, hot breath on his neck. "Were you betrayed by anybody?"
The realization that she knew hit Shango like a tidal wave. He raised his hands and deattached the mask of the Phantom Dancer off his face; she had backed off a little, so she could see him whole. His expression revealed nothing but kept, unquelled fury. He saw no surprise in her expression, but a spark of success - the Countess was happy she was right. The silence that ensued between them was filled with tension, but Shango didn't know if this situation favored him or not. Thinking of it now, he knew nothing of the Countess. How she knew all this stuff about the Hashashin and the voidborns.
He grabbed her front foot that was pressuring his chest and put it away. "Are you happy now that you found out?" his voice was not filled with anger, it was as plain and simple and he could make it be. She looked down; Shango thought she was looking like a child being scolded at, but once she looked back at him, her expression was playful. She didn't seem to be affected by his anger.
"Why, Shango? How?"
"First," he said, raising his claw to point at her, "you tell me how you are so informed about the voidborns and the Hashashin."
She stared at him for a second, her face immovable. "I manipulate Desmondius," she said bluntly. The hint of brutal seriousness and honesty in her voice intimidated Shango. "He tells me everything about his connections with the Endarkened Ones."
Shango smirked his furry brows, his lips becoming a firm line. "Is that why you married him in the first place? Why do you want to be involved in all this?"
"I married him to quench my curiosity," she said, answering to both of his questions. "Now, tell me. Why are you hiding? Or rather, I will tell you. Oneiro is corrupted and wants out out of the frame."
Shango nodded slowly, subconciously raising his hand to shove his ears out of his hood's holes. Her beautiful smile had calmed him down greatly, despite the subject of the conversation. He felt fuzzyness overcome him again, the heat returning to his body.
"You know..." she started saying, having a cute, seemingly innocent expression, "speaking of Desmondius... he has been harassing me. I think he has found out about my intentions, dear Shango..."
So, that's why she wanted me to 'take care' of him... why not, after all? He's a member of the Endarkened Ones. He would die sooner or later.
"I never knew you could pull off such moves," Claire continued, referring to the Phantom Dancer's achievements in the executions. She blinked her eyes seductively. "Surely, somebody of your class would never fail such an easy task."
Shango didn't want to admit it, but her words made his chest inflate with pride; if she was really admiring him, he was on the right path.
"You know what," she spoke, before he could, "let us discuss this... elsewhere. It is quite cold in here."
He threw her a look of doubt, thinking there was no way she was cold. But he didn't complain, only smiled slightly infatuated and let her take him away from the cold alley.
"I'm surrounded by capable Pokemon who don't need me in battle. If they get themselves bloodied, and I am clean by the end of the battle, how long before they start questioning my bravery?"
- Garland Fordring, leader of the Exathian Gold Tribe
Chapter 28: The Assassin's Amour
They were at Claire's villa, sitting on one of the many living rooms. The Count was apparently away; only the Chandelure seemed to be in the house. Claire was sitting gracefully on a huge red cushion, and Shango on a blue one. He was feeling uneasy at first; the Countess' home didn't seem welcoming, at least this part of it. And the scratches he had suffered last night were aching him, not to mention his cloak was slightly ripped on these areas. It bothered him insanely, it seemed as if he had defiled the sacred cloak by allowing his enemies to hit it. Claire seemed to notice his uneasiness - that's why she had sent the Chandelure to go find some wet tissues and sewing equipment. Shango was forced to remove his cloak and give it to the ghost in order to fix it; he felt helpless without it, and the feeling was intensified with Tristana's absence. But he didn't mind, as long as he was close to the Countess.
Shango was now looking at the form of the beautiful Ninetails, wondering what she was thinking. She had turned her head upwards, as if she was enjoying being looked at. Her enticing smell was tickling Shango's nostrils; he moved his cushion a little closer in order to get a better whiff.
"The Count is away," she said in a low voice, letting out a sigh; but she was smiling. "He will be away for some time..."
She got on her feet, Shango staring at her determined face in awe as she approached him. Her figure was massively overwhelming; she cuddled around Shango, her tails wrapped around him. They looked at each other intently, the Countess having a challenging smile on her snout. He'd swear he had fever, his head was that hot and dizzy from the moment. His heartbeats rose as he ran his claws through her soft fur and looked deep inside her dazzling red eyes.
Suddenly, the Chandelure emerged from the floor next to them, the ominous purple light of its candles filling the room. Shango's cloak was floating next to the ghost, as if someone was wearing it; it looked polished and new, somehow. Multiple wet pieces of cloth were placed next to the cushion they were sitting on, and the cloak was sent flying againist the couch, where it landed softly.
"Thank you," Claire said to the ghost with a grateful smile. It simply nodded and sunk into the floor.
The Countess faced Shango, her look alone reassuring him that the ghost would keep anything a secret.
"You look gorgeous, Claire," he whispered, unable to hold his comment back. He needed to be honest, after all.
"Really?" she asked, blinking her eyes in a cute manner; but she knew already. Shango dared to stroke her neck's fur, and she let him.
"Mhm. It's such a waste that you have married Desmondius..." he whispered, bearing a dangerous, menacing smile that was identical to Claire's.
"Ah, but he will be dead, soon..."
Claire put her head on his shoulder and sniffed on his neck; he ran his two claws through her mane again, from her head to the base of her tails, causing her goosebumps. She giggled and they looked at each other again; Shango thought it was great, planning the murder of her husband. Such thoughts weren't according to his character, but Claire had drawn him to a far away land. He would make her his, claim her by sending the Count to the other world. It seemed like an exquisite trade, and he was able to tell that was exactly what Claire was thinking of. Suddenly, great lust filled him, driving him into a storm of emotions for the Countess.
"Until then..." he whispered, kissing her neck, descending on to the mane on her chest...
"... we shall be together," she completed his phrase, closing her eyes and letting out a small sigh, letting herself drift off to the tempest of... love?
Shango woke up in a sea of tails, a comfy and fuzzy bed, proof that the long last night wasn't merely a dream. The assassination of the Judge and the Executioner seemed like a distant, unpleasant memory; he didn't even care about the voidborns looking for him. All that mattered was Claire, and she was besides him. How easy it would be to just remain there forever, staring at her cuddled up on him. Forget about the Endarkened Ones and let them rule the world - they were mortals, after all, they were bound to die some day. The role of the Phantom Dancer could be taken on by somebody else, easily...
Shango shot himself up, shaking these thoughts off his head. He rubbed his face with one hand, looking at the couch where the black cloak, his boots, the mask and his sash were left. Leaving Claire's furry tails, he headed over to the couch a grabbed his garments. He quickly tied the red sash with his insignia around his waist, wore his boots and put his cloak on, but before he could wear his mask, Claire raised her beautiful head and he turned to look at her.
"Going somewhere?" she asked in her most feminine voice that amused Shango to the point where he was smiling greatly and slightly apologetic.
"A thousand pardons, my Countess," he said in a formal manner, taking on the face of a gentleman which was profoundly funny, causing her to giggle. "Duty calls!"
"You weren't that much of a gentleman earlier..." she said, a seducing smile spread on the sides of her snout.
"You didn't want me to be," he countered, with his own charming half-smile. They both laughed and exchanged lustful stares; until Shango wore the mask of the Phantom Dancer, which latched onto his face's fur easily. Claire shot him a sad look.
"I thought we had made an agreement," she said, looking up at him as he walked past her. He turned around and kneeled in front of her, raising her chin with his claw and tickling it slightly.
"All in good time, dear. I have to make sure my allies are alive and well."
She positioned herself better on the huge blue cushion and stared into the brimming green eyes that slightly illuminated the steel of his mask.
"Do you really have to go?" she cooed, as if she was a teenage girl. He only smiled in response and stroked the side of her snout, before he left the room with light steps.
Shango walked in the dense darkness of the Well of Shadows; the center of the pentagon was lit by the otherworldly grey light, the Rhydon statues around giving off the feel that they were alive. But there was another source of light, a vivid red one; Tristana was flying about in the middle of the pentagon as a flare, above Zaunix and company. They had all layed flat down on the cold stone, except the Scyther, who was sitting. Shango walked over them, wondering why they would be sleeping like that. He noticed Hector and Zorthan were on their normal formes, before Tristana took shape and screamed his name. She dove downwards, right into his hood.
"I was worried! What happened?! They forced me to stay here..."
Tristana's loud voice echoed in the round chamber, waking Zaunix up. The voidborn opened his eyes abruptly and got on his feet; Shango pushed Tristana out of his face.
"Shango," Zaunix exclaimed, "well done. And I see you've learned how to infiltrate minds..." Shango raised his eyebrows, thinking Zaunix seemed to be fully awake as if he was never sleeping. And judging by his loud voice, he didn't care if Hector and Zorthan were sleeping.
"You mean those rifts?"
"Yes... the 'rifts of life', as our archaic mentors put it. Now tell me... where were you?"
"Nowhere where it would concern you."
Zaunix looked at him, tilting his mutated head with the huge sharp fangs extending out of his mouth. "The Count has gone missing," he informed him, as if he knew of exactly where he was. Shango wondered if he had slipped into his mind, but he felt like nothing of that sort had happened. Zaunix had just seen Claire pulling him into the alley.
"What do you mean, he's gone missing?"
"One of my contacts saw him exiting the town early this morning."
"He hovered over the lake and just vanished."
"We will be targeting him once he returns. Until then, let the others recover from their wounds."
"I see you had yours taken cared of."
"Yes," Shango said, tilting his whole body and smiling in the remembrance of Claire gently pressuring the wet tissues againist his scratches. "Any news on Jericho?"
"He's locked himself up in his fortress in Ionia... I reckon it is impossible to reach him. Over one thousand are guarding the palace. Not to mention he has passed a law of hoodies and cloaks."
Shango stayed silent. All this was simply a test for his patience, patience which he was taught by the Hashashin.
"Are the Hashashin safe?" he asked, concern obvious in his voice. Zaunix took a moment to answer.
"Good," said Shango, looking down at the grey stone. One of Zaunix' scythes landed gently on his shoulder; bringing a strange feeling to Shango, the feeling of the deeper connection of the voidborns. Tristana was sitting on his free shoulder, biting her bottom lip and looking innocently at the Scyther.
"You did well in erasing their memory, Phantom," he buzzed.
"The world is better off without Shango," he commented jokingly in a low voice, without smiling at all.
"Ah! On the contrary! You freed Myriapolis of great evil!"
"You seem so content in this victory, forgetting that it is ours, and not mine."
"Spoken like a true brother... I am surprised you have shown such devotion to us so far, Phantom. We don't look like the good guys, now, do we?"
"We share the same cause, Zaunix. Looks matter little. I may look scary to a child, but to my Tristana here I am the most adorable Pokemon," he said with a grand smile, raising his hand to scratch the spirit's chin with one claw, still looking to the voidborn in front of him.
"I see your point."
"And I still can't understand why you were sleeping on the floor like this," he said, glancing at Hector and Zorthan laying on the floor. It was extremely strange, seeing a Reuniclus fallen to the ground.
"The Imperatores wouldn't put any beds down here when they made this place..."
"Let me sleep elsewhere, then. I don't think I'll ever be in the mood of hugging the floor."
Zaunix started laughing, though it sounded horrorful, a pestering buzz to Shango's sensitive ears. Tristana let out a laugh as well but, knowing Shango, she got serious and started rubbing the tip of his ears.
"I'll go get some air," said Shango, letting out a sigh and turning around to exit the Well.
The following days passed like a blur to the voidborn, who were carefully scheming the Count's death. However, he had vanished from town and the news had spread all around real fast. Meanwhile, Shango was visiting the Countess alone every day for about a week, keeping her company and forcing any curious citizens out of the manor when needed. He had told her of what Zaunix' contact had said: that the Count flew over Acheloos lake and disappeared in the darkness of the night, just like that. Despite their search for the Count, Claire seemed little concerned about finding him; Shango assumed she believed that he wouldn't come back ever again. She had expressed that opinion to Shango the last night they were together, when she was proven wrong...
"Where do you think he's gone, then?"
They were cuddling with each other on the very same living room they sat on the night that followed the assassination of the Executioner and the Judge. Shango was stroking her shiny fur, and she was pressing againist his chest with her front legs.
"I don't know... he's never been away for so long. He's a ghost after all," she said the word with a hint of disgust in her voice, "he travels quickly."
"Well I know I'm glad for his absence," Shango said with a cheeky smile, bringing his hand on the back of her head. She smiled back and Shango knew she understood him fully. The time he had spent with her the past week made him realize they had alot more in common than what he'd initially thought. He came to admire her noble qualities, her intelligence and class; he found out that she was impressed by the display of power and he often showed off. It wasn't exactly according to his personality, but it captivated her, so why not? It was the first time he found somebody so identical to him, yet it had become clear that Claire was his ideal partner and match for him. Shango was overwhelmed with happiness every time he laid his eyes upon her; now he wasn't captivated only by her physical charms.
They were staring at each other intently, as if their eyes couldn't feast enough of each other. They did this alot, Shango had noticed. This particular moment was one of Shango's favorite, as he could easily predict how things would develop right after. He laid back on the cushion and relaxed himself, feeling happiness fill him entirely... but suddenly, the air turned cool; he perked up his ears and turned to the right, into the darkest corner of the room. He slipped away from Claire's grasp and shot himself up from the cushion, still staring into that specific spot. He felt a presence, filled with rage, doubt and viciousness.
Two red eyes emerged from the wall, the faint light from the candles on the walls giving an outline to the Gengar; Count Desmondius was standing in front of them. He looked much more intimidating than the last time Shango had seen him. He had lost his creepy smile, which was replaced by a firm line of sharp, white teeth.
"So much for your devotion," the Gengar's spiteful voice echoed around the room; he was facing Claire, who got on her feet with a stone like expression on her face.
"What, did you think I'd live happily ever after with somebody who desires to rule the world?!"
Shango glanced at her astonished; he had never heard her scream before, nor that particular tone of hers. Something had disturbed her usually calm and peaceful attitude - a wave of surpressed anger. Count Desmondius was simply staring at her, but his own anger had diminished; he was weak. Shango realized that he was but a pawn in the game of the Endarkened Ones. Nothing but an unimportant member that would help the great monarchs gain full control over the regions. He was oblivious to their greatest of plans, possibly because his heart wasn't as merciless as some others...
"Did you think it was fun, hearing all of your stories?!" the Ninetails snapped furiously again.
"So you were faking, then..." the Count said in a low voice; Shango saw spite was filling the void anger had left. He thought of it best not to interfere with the two.
"You are pathetic," Claire stated in a calm manner. Count Desmondius remained stunned, his red eyes widened in anger and surprise. He slowly turned to face Shango.
"And who are you?" he whispered menacingly, then the spark of recognition flew across his eyes. "You... you're an Hashashin... Shango Maverick."
"Irrelevant," Shango commented, covering the distance between him and the ghost with one single leap. Darkness formed on his right hand, and before the Gengar could react, Shango stabbed his ethereal body right between the eyes. The Count let out a horrible scream and started to disperse into a black fog.
"Ah... no," he wheezed and coughed. His eyes turned blue and a massive wave of darkness that looked like his hand was shot at Claire, engulfing her. Shango's eyes widened in fear and recognition of the technique: destiny bond. Before he could blink, Claire had been completely covered by liquid darkness and he could not see nor hear her; he turned to the dispersing Gengar next to him and grasped his light round body tightly. The blue eyes were locked at him, his weak but vengeful grin brimming on his face, until it vanished into nothingness, along with the rest of his face.
Shango ran over to the cloud of darkness, fear veiling his judgement, and shot his right hand right into it in search of Claire. But soon, the cloud dispersed into nothingness, just like the Gengar; no sign of the Countess was left behind. She had vanished on the spot. Shango kneeled on the floor in hope of finding anything, but he knew it was all in vain. Ghosts or their powers left no trace on the physical world.
"No..." he whispered, unable to grasp what had happened. His eyes watered from sadness and anger that filled his heart as suddenly as Claire had disappeared. She was gone, and if the thought that he had been unable to do something about it would torture him for many years to come; the sweet memory of the noble Countess would haunt him in his sleep.
"I'm surrounded by capable Pokemon who don't need me in battle. If they get themselves bloodied, and I am clean by the end of the battle, how long before they start questioning my bravery?"
- Garland Fordring, leader of the Exathian Gold Tribe
Last edited by Ray Maverick; June 19th, 2013 at 03:54 AM.