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Old August 15th, 2013 (01:08 PM). Edited September 4th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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The Prince of Sweet Sorrow The Prince of Sweet Sorrow is offline
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[M] for blood, violence, language & moderate romance.

"Arceus created Pokemon, during the Making, and gifted them with the elements to protect themselves. On the era after the Making, the Age of Heroes, the gift of the elements led to the superiors being able to feed on the inferiors - the equality was broken, and hierarchy was formed, Kingdoms were raised, thousands died for a purpose no longer their own. The people were plagued by heresies that led to fierce wars and bitter divisions of our whole kind. Naturally, seeing the development of his creation, Arceus was none too pleased. Death was not his will; so he called forth the Paragon of the Dark, Darkrai, and gave him the Dark Plate. From it, Darkrai fused his spirit with those of a thousand Pokemon, and the Stranger was born."

Shango cringed, smirking his emerald eyes in suspicion."The Stranger?"

"That's what the Precursor runes from the Age of Heroes introduce him as. But we prefer to call him the Phantom Dancer. His mission was to ensure that there would be no more Kingdoms to die for, to establish the peace that was supposed to follow the Making of our world. And to keep in check these powerful crystals, the darkstars, to guard their secret and defend their existence."

"The Phantom Dancer's descendants are called the voidborn. Along with his powers, we inherited his cause: to guard the darkstars. The first of us descended into these lands from the northern mountains as the Zoroarks - and Chantalai Ancelotti was the first one to be fully active. Inspired by the lost history of his people, he created the Brotherhood of the Hashashin to continue the purpose of the Phantom Dancer. The assassins were made to kill those who possessed knowledge over the darkstars and sought to use them for their own gain."

"You said the Stranger was called the Phantom Dancer... how can it be? I am the Phantom Dancer," Shango declared.

"True enough, you're the Stranger's reincarnation. You're one and the same, a soul with the same purpose. You will protect the darkstars, learn from them, wield them, and kill for them."



Chapter 1: Royal Arrow to the Knee




There was a pond with running water, crystal clear, grass and trees growing all around it. On the rock above it, a golden crown was carved with the symbol of the Hesperian Empire under it: the Swellow. That was the resting place of King Eoleo, as an aquatic Pokemon like him would prefer it. He wasn't one for being inside palaces; recently, he had commanded his servants to prepare the pond outside, in the yard.

King Eoleo was an Empoleon, praised for his efforts to limit criminality and keep the smallfolk of Hesperia equal to the aristocrats. He wasn't famed for his wits or kindness as much as he was for his pride and stubbornness, and many of the Lords of the Empire challenged him as dull and unmoving, even went as far as to claim he's a coward for not going to war with the bold Stygian Empire. King Eoleo liked peace, and he would not hear anyone who would try to break it; he had many years to live, he felt, and he would do anything in his power to keep the peace and the residents of his Empire in bliss. His dream was to create the perfect order within his Empire, so that everyone would live their lives without any complaint.

He was particularly excited about this evening. A Stygian aristocrat had asked him to marry his daughter, Princess Rosa, and he would be visiting soon. That connection would seal the peace between the two nations for a long time... of course, he did see that this Stygian would one day be the King of Hesperia, if he married his Princess. Many in Hesperia claimed that he was an unsuitable match, as he was born so far away. But Eoleo knew better. This man, this Stygian aristocrat, he was coming from a family that bore the infamous name of the most brutal Hesperian dynasty that had been cast out centuries ago: Imperatore.

Their latest descendant was named Angelo Imperatore, a charming and clever Zangoose with lots of charisma. He was utterly convinced that that Zangoose was going to help him preserve the peace, and be the perfect King to leave behind as his heir... he also believed that Angelo would help him deal with that nuisance, the so-called Phantom Dancer, who was terrorizing the people of Stygia and opposing the Endarkened Ones. The aristocrats of Stygia, to be precise. Oh, he had plans for Angelo Imperatore. He was going to get him recruited in the order of the Endarkened Ones; he would share their goals and embrace them. The recruitment of another King would be another great victory for them. A pity he could not make something like that out of his daughter Rosa. All she cared about was the looks of her soon-to-be husband, though she was quite afraid as well.

She had come to him, as he was standing next to the pond quietly. Rosa was a beautiful Weavile in her twenties, the typical princess that awaited the knight in golden armor. She was commanding by nature, thinking of luxury and satisfaction as her birth rights; of course, Eoleo had raised her that way, to be a powerful woman who knew what was best for her. She had grown to be his precious, only child, and he had vowed to give her the best husband.

"Daddy?" Rosa said, "is he coming?"

"Yes, dear, Angelo will arrive soon."

"Oh, he's the perfect prince..."

Eoleo smiled happily, taking note of his daughter's appearance. She had taken care of herself well; she wouldn't disappoint him, he was sure.

Moments later, they heard sounds from the path. Soon enough, here he was, walking towards them. The Zangoose was clad in golden armor, like in the fairytales, his shoulderpads and braces full of spikes. His facial hair was long and wild and racing with the breeze. Although it was night, it shone with the distant lights of the palace on the other side of the royal garden. Angelo had wore a half smile that showed some of his sharp teeth, his green eyes flashing in the dusk. A third, watching him smile like that, would tell it was malice. But not Eoleo or Rosa. They loved him at first sight.

He kneeled in front of Rosa, taking her hand to kiss it gently, having his eyes fixed on her. His eyes were emeralds, her eyes were rubies, fitting jewels for their status of power. Rosa had almost fainted from the intensity of his look and his bright smile.

"Princess Rosa," he greeted her, then got up, still holding her hand, and nodded towards the King, as if he was welcoming him. "My King. Ever since I laid my eyes on your daughter, she captured my heart. I am here to ask of her hand, so that I may hold it for the rest of my life."

The King almost blushed from his courtesy. "Yes, you may marry her..."

"Wonderful. I would rather that happened as soon as possible." There was something cocky, something commanding in his voice that the King would not like if he was not too dazed by the man's attitude. He was going to be a King one day, after all.

"How about... in a month?" the King proposed. "The preparations had better be amazing. I only have one daughter."

"No, not so much time," Angelo said in a steel tone. "I say in three days." He leaned towards the King with a trusting look on his face. "The sooner the better. The Stygian High Command is up to no good. The peace has to be sealed."

"Ah," Eoleo exclaimed, wondering when the Stygian High Command was up to any good. "Yes, of course. I will need to discuss a few matters with you, Angelo, if we are to proceed with the marriage."

"They can wait a bit, no?" He turned to Rosa, to smile once again. "I would like some time alone with Rosa."

"Of course, of course! You can stay here. I will..." Eoleo looked awkwardly around. "I will head to my palace and make sure everything is in its place."

Eoleo left them alone, smiling as he listened to their fading voices.

"I wore my emerald necklace for you," she said, pretending to be shy.

"The only jewels I need are your eyes," he said sweetly.

They would make the perfect couple. Angelo was right; the marriage had best take place as soon as possible.



***


The day after the happy marriage, the heavy golden doors of the majestic throne room burst open and Angelo walked in, his golden armor clinging tight on his body. He got past the two Drapion guards clad in the platinum royal guards, headed straight for the throne, where King Eoleo was sitting, welcoming with his wings open.

"My son," he called out with a dull smile. He begun noticing Angelo's expression. He wasn't smiling like he was before; his expression was a stone wall of cold, hard determination. What he saw in his emerald eyes was not the shining and gallant Prince that had married his daughter. It was something entirely different. As Angelo approached swiftly on the steps, without kneeling or showing any signs of acknowledging him, King Eoleo got up from his throne.

Angelo grabbed the Empoleon's shoulder tightly with his left hand, and he buried his right one right into his torso, blood spattering all over the royal carpet. The King tried to scream, but the breath had gone out of him. He had fallen, stunned and overcome with astonishment.

"You have served your purpose," Angelo told him, crouching above him. At that moment, as he choked on his own blood, the King realized what was going on.

"Shango? You are... Shango. You... should... be dead. The... Nightingale... killed you."

The Zangoose's face was washed with a dark cloud of anger, his green eyes brimming with what seemed like a vicious satisfaction. "
The Pledge of Death is set in motion, Eoleo. I will not die. I will walk on this earth and I will draw breath, I will root every one of you, and I will not lay down until you are all dead."

Eoleo understood now. "So... you are the Phantom Dancer. Your efforts are futile... the Endarkened Ones will live on..."

Shango grabbed the Empoleon's crown with force, pulling it up to make him look at him right in his eyes. "I am the King of Hesperia now," he whispered, "there is no stopping me. The world has had enough of your manipulations, your lies and your pathetic scheming for order and control. Die, now, in peace." The storm had gone from his face as he let Eoleo's head down on the royal carpet.

"I should have known," the former King whispered in defeat, closing his eyes, "I should have known it was you... take care of my daughter..."

Once he was done, Shango got up in his golden armor and crossed the red carpet, headed for the door. The two guards were like statues, unblinking, having seen, but having done nothing. He stopped between them, without looking at either.

"An Ionian assassin has killed the King. Spread the word." An Ionian assassin. It was not entirely false.
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Old August 23rd, 2013 (01:05 AM). Edited August 23rd, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 2: The Imperatore Fraud


The wind was fierce, whole trees moving, their rustling raw and pestering to his ears. The grass under his thick boots was wet, a pond not too far from the spot he was standing, still and immovable as a statue. A high wall surrounded this garden, seemingly tall enough to be impassable. That was what the Stygian aristocrats of the Botanica thought, that their prized gardens, the most beautiful part of the otherwise disgusting Black Citadel of Stygia, were impenetrable. The Botanica was nothing but a cut off-spire that emerged right from the abyss, with only a bridge connecting it to the rest of the city. On top of that spire’s chalky edge, these gardens had bloomed magically centuries ago, when it was cut. Shango had told all of this to Hector, who was ignoring him as usual, obviously not too interested in historical matters.

Hector was eager and nervous, more violent in this state; he rustled the bushes of the gardens as he prowled among them, but nobody noticed as the wind carried the same effect. The wind, the perfect cover. Shango praised himself for his wits with a grin. Yet as Hector was prowling in the bushes, he needed not to. He was standing, watching a too curious guard headed his way and shouting a question. But the only thing the curious guard was seeing was a shadow overlapped by the intense sunlight that was brutally against his eyes.

“Who goes there?”

The guard of the aristocratic building moved towards him for a closer inspection, another one watching him carefully as he entered the woods of the garden. The shadow of Hector appeared behind the one in the entrance, his claws driven through a belly and a throat, blood trickling down, a silenced cry and some more rustling. The instant the other guard turned, he sensed a more dire presence behind him. Shango was standing behind him the moment he turned, but before the Krokorok could scream, unseen blades impaled his throat, lifting him up the air. The body was disposed into the pond, the clear water quickly stained with blood. Two Krokoroks would soon be found dead in the woods of the Botanica, along with their main target. Hector was standing there, in place of the other guard, grinning at Shango evily despite the blinding sun that seemed not to affect the two voids of eyes he had. He was a Zangoose, like him, only his facial hair was a lot wilder, tufts of it racing all around with the wind. He had even tied some of them to knots in an attempt to shorten them. The red fur of his hands didn’t look stained the blood of the life he had taken.

“Not half bad,” he rasped, his rough voice always touched by his bold feral spirit. “Not half good either!”

Shango smiled casually and walked through the path of the garden, headed to the entrance of the building they were about to enter. “I thought you would carve a piece to eat while we are on our way.”

“Hehehaha,” he laughed the way nobody else did. “I respect my brother's guards.”

“You wouldn’t even be contemplating killing your brother, if you held any respect for him,” Shango pointed out, his own grin hidden behind his mask. They weren’t in a hurry, so a little chatter with Hector would do them good. Suddenly, he had gotten serious.

“Wurmples eat your brains, Shango, you’re a damn hypocrite. Lecturing me about respect after you agreed to do this. Fine, I’ll let you kill him,” he started laughing again, “but only if you let me get into his place.”

“No,” he replied instantly in a strict expression, all the laughter gone from his face. “Fancy yourself a throne, huh?”

“And the wonder that sits next to it,” Hector said, his expression twisting with lust, perhaps on purpose. He meant of Princess Rosa, of course, the treat he was after along with the throne.

“No way,” Shango repeated intensely. He didn’t care for Rosa, nor for the throne for that matter, but it had to be him. Hector would screw the thing up, he knew. “Do you imagine yourself, going over King Eoleo’s palace to ask to marry his daughter? You’re gonna blow it up, brother.” They called each other ‘brother’ as an innuendo of their similar looks and the obvious relation that couldn’t be proven anyhow.

Hector now seemed angry. “Prove yourself worthy of the task,” he said, raising his hands, his claws ready. Shango’s grin became softer, but he moved nothing else.

“I thought we agreed on this.”

“You agreed with yourself, as you always do.”

“That’s because I can win this challenge of yours without striking a single blow.”

Hector looked at him, aghast. “What you call confidence knows no boundaries. I call it foolishness.”

“Try and see for yourself.” Shango had removed his hood, his green eyes sparkling like pretty gems through the holes of the Phantom Dancer's mask. His will was overflowing him, the sun was falling on his cloak, as if pushing him forward. He brimmed with a strange power, one that was capable of breaking the will of his opponent as easily as his hands broke stone. Hector put down his arms. They stayed silent.

“How do you do this? Damn you,” there was a tone of complaint in his voice, despite his fierceness from before. Sometimes, he became a child again.

Out of nowhere, a being of the ether popped on Shango’s shoulder, the sound of giggles filling the garden along with a flame brighter than the sun, but not blinding. It was his Victini, namely Tristana, the sprite of fire that always followed him and kept him eternal company.

“And where were you, little miss?” Hector asked her as if scolding her, having forgotten what had just went on. He didn’t really mind. But he didn’t know what powers Shango’s friend had either. When she did help them by exploding into flames, she fainted. She was weak, the way Hector saw it. Shango disagreed by some instinct of his.

“Right here,” she said. “I never left, why would I?”

“We thought you were guarding us! Go back to your spot!”

“Zaunix’s taken care of everything,” she responded. Shango raised his hand to scratch her between the ears, making her giggle again.

“Did he swallow them whole?” Shango asked, knowingly and somewhat teasingly. He knew how afraid his little friend was of their other friend, who was strange to say the least.

“Yes, he did,” Tristana whimpered, making the two Zangooses laugh. “How does he even do that? That’s not normal…”

“He is not normal,” Hector said, no pity in his voice.

The thought of Zaunix brought images to Shango’s mind in the present, making him shiver in his sleep. He was indeed not normal. A Scyther, not green like his species, but black. He had scythes, not two like a normal Scyther, but four, he had a head, but a misshapen and monstrous one. A mutant of a Pokemon with abilities unheard of to their world, Shango always thought of him as product of a rotten, corrupt imagination that was infused into the darkstar he once held in his hand, by one of its previous owners. But, apart from his appearance, Zaunix had kept the heart of a pure Scyther. His remembrance faded, as the dream advanced...

“We’ve lingered long enough,” the Shango of the past declared in his dream. He was headed into the building. Hector followed him soon after into the empty, quiet hall.

“You’d think your brother is playing tricks on us,” Shango said as he walked through it, towards the grand stairs that led to the upper floors. Real aristocrats, these Imperatores, ever since they were the Kings of Hesperia. They had fallen centuries ago, but Shango intended on bringing them back to power. The fact that he looked exactly like Hector and his brother, Angelo, was most fitting for their plan. Three Zangooses, looking exactly like each other. Shango was going to impersonate Angelo and ask Princess Rosa to marry him... he would be King of Hesperia in a few weeks of time. Only Angelo needed to die silently first, before anything.

“Please,” Shango said, grinning and pointing up the stairs, “after you, brother. I bet you would be happy to kill him. I hear he’s ill, lately.” There was something meaningful about his expression.

“The poison didn’t quite work, right? The dose was big enough, the Prophet knew what he was doing when he agreed to help us. But the fool used poison, against our kind.”

“Sometimes I doubt his wits,” Shango joked. In actuality, he knew what had gone wrong. The tears of an Altaria weren’t exactly a poison, they simply cut through whatever they touched as if it were paper. The Prophet had known that it would likely kill even a Zangoose, who had immunity to poison, but Angelo had proven to have a far stronger stomach than anyone would’ve believed. Perhaps because of the plants of the Botanica that entered it daily. Hector always mocked his brother for preferring herbs instead of raw meat. As for Shango, he wondered how Angelo had come to this, putting aside all his instincts for prey and meat.

“Well, we’re here to finish what’s left of him, lest he lives and remembers who poisoned him,” Shango said.

“That’s only gonna make it easier,” Hector commented, “my idiot brother would be missing a head if he even insulted this Prophet.”

“True, true.” As Shango walked up the stairs, a blinding light covered the hall. The image faded, continuing to be a memory.


***


The heavy doors of the throne's room opened slowly, waking Shango from his daydreaming. He was sitting on the golden throne, leaning on his left elbow and drumming his right hand's claws on the handle. The wind entered through the tall windows, making the Hesperian banners flap gently; the wind was fitting for the Swellow Hesperians kept as their symbol. A female Purugly walked in the throne room, reluctant and fearful. She eyed the Zangoose clad in the golden armor, sitting on very the throne King Eoleo was sitting on two days ago.

"Your Grace," she said instinctively, kneeling when she reached the steps. The way he looked at her made her quickly look down in fear. The new King did not like to be disturbed.

"Out with it."

"Your brother has come to visit..."

"Let him in," he said, waving his hand lazily. He noticed the servant was staring at him ceaselessly, staying put. "Is there anything else I need to know?"

"The Princess... I mean, the Queen is devastated by her father's death."

The King of Hesperia leaned on his right arm, touching his forehead and sighing. "I know. I would be, too."

The concerned maid left without another word; three minutes passed, until Hector Imperatore marched into the throne's room. He was wearing a bone necklace and a big pouch was hanging from his leather belt. Once he got past the two guards of the entrance, he glanced behind him and winked at them. Then, he faced Shango and walked over to him, without kneeling. They looked almost identical, especially now that Shango had grown out his facial fur so much.

"Hey, 'brother'," he snickered, then leaned forward so only Shango and him could hear them. "Got yourself a nice throne, eh? Might as well stay where you are."

Shango smirked his eyebrows in a serious expression, making it clear to his voidborn friend that he wasn't enjoying it one bit. "How fares the search?" his low voice was full curiosity.

"The darkstar's gone," Hector whispered, shrugging. "Nobody in this blasted palace knew of this 'treasure of the King'. In any case," his tone slightly changed, "I propose we focus on our original intent."

Shango was surprised to see how much Hector had changed over the years - six years had turned him from immature and impulsive into patient and calculating; he almost showed the qualities of an Hashashin. As for Shango, the years he spent away from the life of the Phantom Dancer were most rewarding to him. Not only he had become deadlier, but smarter as well. It was his idea to impersonate Angelo Imperatore, Hector's brother, and ask Princess Rosa to marry him under that name. Of course, that meant, the real Angelo had to die.

"I agree," Shango finally said, "it's no use lolling about here."

Suddenly, the doors of the room opened again and Queen Rosa burst in. She didn't look at Hector as she passed by furiously; she stood in front of Shango, crossing her arms and staring at him intently with her ruby eyes flashing. Shango's own stare was colder than the winter of Stygia. He detested her from when she was a girl, but he never had the faintest idea of what she would be like as a woman. It wasn't three days since he had married her, and he already wanted to be over with this King business. He was doing all this for a purpose, after all.

"Angelo! I demand that you investigate my dad's murder!" she yelled at his face, causing absolutely no apparent effect on him. She still did not recognize he was Shango. Foolish girl.

"I have done all I could," he said without blinking and subconsciously grabbed hold of his right wrist, the arm he was using to kill. "It was an Ionian who killed the King, that's as far as we know."

Hector put a hand on the Queen's shoulder and she looked at him angrily; Shango shot him a warning look.

"Don't worry, Rosa," Hector said in an informal manner, removing his hand from the ticking bomb. "We will get revenge for your father."

She raised her eyebrows in surprise, almost sarcastically as if she believed they were unable to do anything. "Oh, and what will you do to poor Ionia? Raise their taxes? Yes, I'll be satisfied with that!" she yelled again. Shango brought his hand onto his head, pushing his ears back. Her presence alone irritated him, let alone her voice.

"We are about to launch a full scale assault on Ionia," Shango stated in a steel tone. "I will personally lead my forces to Acheloos lake."

Rosa's red eyes flashed with what seemed to be lust for war, or so Shango thought.

"Then I'm coming with you," she stated stubbornly.

"You can't--" Hector started.

"Don't tell me what I can and what I can't do!" she yelled at him, stomping her thin foot on the floor. Shango took a fed up expression and waved his hand.

"Fine, you can come along."

"Really?" both her and Hector eyed him in astonishment.

"I thought you knew what you can and what you can't do," Shango said, a slightly mocking smile spread on his face. Her own face became red with embarassment, but she looked down in silence. He noticed she wasn't much concerned of her father's death, yet she wanted to invade Ionia with him to get revenge. Why was that? Shango couldn't help but wonder, because his assumption about Rosa's intentions wasn't born entirely off ground. She was sad about her father's death, but Shango didn't see her shed a single tear, despite what the servants were saying. That was suspicious.

A small, distracting smile appeared on the Weavile's reddened face; he could tell his charms had softened her up greatly, as she seemed to be a demanding and overall annoying person. But he couldn't deny that she was beautiful, too, although she looked like a withered flower compared to the remembrance of the Countess. Oh, Claire... Shango was daydreaming again, and Rosa seemed to notice.

"Angelo?" she called out, hands on her hips. "Are you sure it's clever to start a war? The people might be displeased... your name has a bad rep already."

"It's true, my brother," said Hector in a sincere manner that made him consider their words. "Hesperians haven't accepted us Imperatores just yet... they're saying we're the dynasty come again."

Aren't we? Shango mused, scratching his chin, then turned to Rosa. "Would you be kind enough to leave us alone for a bit?"

Rosa's lips became a firm line, her face shaken with irritation. Shango adopted one of his charming smiles, which were more lethal than his claws, as Azoreans put it. That wasn't true. Shango didn't waste his charm to everyone. "I promise I will keep you informed of our plans, my Queen."

Seeing a fight between her stubborn side and the captivated one, Shango turned to Hector and motioned him to come closer. With that, Rosa understood he would not accept a no for an answer and turned to leave. Along with her, her peculiar scent left the throne's room.

"She'll be a problem," Hector declared.

"A slight one."

"Oh, I'm sure you don't mind her pleasing you." Shango detected a hint of jealousy in Hector's voice and only smiled at the naivety of his friend; he had not touched Rosa yet, although she had allowed him to.

"Onto business, now. It seems that we cannot declare war simply because our King was supposedly killed by an Ionian."

Hector slightly nodded in agreement, his expression becoming serious at once; the Hector Shango knew didn't have this trait. But then again, the Hector he knew was six years younger. Shango's eyes drifted to the side of his golden throne, still unable to believe he was the King, and that he had truly fooled Eoleo with his impersonation. I suppose all Zangooses look alike. But he would rather be done with Kingship as fast as possible - Jericho was waiting to be killed in Ionia. That was their plan. Smash the Hesperian army against Ionia, full power, to destroy it absolutely. The reason... it was the most corrupt city. The center of operations of the Endarkened Ones. Shango would see the city burned to ground, just for that. Ever since the Ionian Verdict had denounced him as a traitor, every love for his homeland had vanished, to be replaced by a strange void that he thought was hatred... when he was younger, he had felt hatred for Nightingale, for what he had done. Now, all he could feel was cold fury, the need to go all out on them.

But since he could not command a direct attack on the city... a smile formed on his face. Time for the infamous plan B.

"Simply, we will have them attack first, but not by military means..." he said slowly.

"Do you think we'll be able to accomplish that?" Hector didn't seem quite sure he understood what Shango meant.

"No. Not alone. We must... procure some help from the outside."

"What're you thinking of?"

"Trading goods across Acheloos lake. If Hesperia ever was to build a ship on the lake, Ionia would lose its monopoly over the lake's waters. As stated by the Peace Treaty between Ionia and Hesperia, they are paying taxes to the Empire, in condition that the Empire does not invade the trades of the lake."

Hector looked down and scratched his chin; as he did that, Shango would have sworn he was looking himself in the mirror. He was about to say something, but Shango cut him off.

"Moving forces in a village near Ionia would cause tension."

"That won't suffice."

"... and we take down their coastal fort."

"That equals a direct attack."

"Not if we make it look like an accident."

Hector's black eyes met his green ones; he had an expression as if he was thinking hard. "Ah," he finally said. "So, with our forces nearby, Ionia will blame us... I hate to admit it, but it's brilliant, brother."

Shango said nothing in response, only kept his calm expression up. "Speaking of brilliance, how is my little Tristana?"

"Hah! Poor girl's still mad at you. Damn you and your schemes. You always get the girl mad!"

Shango sighed deeply and grabbed his right wrist.

"... Inform Zaunix of our plans, and tell him to meet us in Angula. Tristana has no word in this, unfortunately."

Hector put his hand on his chest, and Shango got up from his throne to mimic him. The two Zangoose shook hands with each other, exchanging the same, identical grin of mutual understanding. Sometimes, he truly felt as if he was related to Hector Imperatore.

"You're lucky you get to impersonate my brother," Hector said suddenly, glancing behind him, where Rosa had gone off to. Shango got where he was coming from.

"It was her first time. She wasn't very good," Shango lied, shrugging. Hector licked his lips.

"Still..." he persisted, "you'll be able to teach her a few things."

"I'd rather invest my time in seeing to our operation's success, brother," he said with a generous smile and patted Hector's shoulder heartily. His friend burst into a primal laughter.

"Shame, Shango! You were more of a ladies man, back in the day! Hah!"

Shango kept his smile up, agreeing with Hector. He had changed alot on the ladies department, especially after Countess Claire... who he thought to be the love of his life. Her death had almost driven him mad with despair, and he had travelled around the known world, seeking freedom from the bitter memory of her. After six years, that despair had turned into a boiling, unstoppable fury that often made him feel as if he had lost his sanity. At times, he felt as if his only objective in life was that of the Phantom Dancer: to eliminate the Endarkened Ones.

At any cost, he would wipe them from this world. Even if it meant starting a war.

Hector was now walking away from the throne, and Shango took back his seat in the ultimate position of the monarch, grasping the arm handles and staring forward. The void he was feeling was boiling inside him.

He sluggishly untied the red sash under his golden chestguard; facing inside, burried into his white fur, was the insignia of the Hashashin. His thoughts shot back to his friends and relatives, Enzo and Crystal, and he silently promised them a brotherhood free of any corruption, as he tightened the insignia in his fist with such power that blood came to bless it. He remembered Uncle Pasqual and what he had taught him about surpressing his emotions in battle, in order to fully utilize his brutality and skills. He taught him that life was a constant battle - and the ruthlessness and merciless he had to show in battle, he had to show in life as well. That was why he had killed the King so easily.

He wondered, was his anger for Jericho holding him back, and from the future he promised to the Hashashin? Or was it simply embracing him? Either way, it was time for a relaxing bath in the King's luxurious quarters.


***


One month had passed since the marriage of Angelo Imperatore and Rosa Nagrand, which reignited the flames of the Imperatore dynasty, causing reactions from the residents of the Empire. The sudden death of Eoleo Nagrand hit Hesperia hard as well; rumors that the new King had planned the assassination begun floating around, but they were disputed heavily and gradually died. Shango had to take precautions. Being an Imperatore wasn't easy. He had to face the people and do them kind deeds to show them he would make a good King. Having convinced the people that he had good intentions and plans for the future, he managed to ready a big part of the military force and send it to the town of Angula. He personally led them there and commanded the construction of a giant camp just outside the town. Over a hundred tents, ten soldiers in each, could fit into the camp; along with the King's personal tents. Most Hesperians considered the fact that the King was only protected by one thousand soldiers madness, but then again, they did not know who he really was.

The very first night of their settlement in Angula, Shango dismissed every servant and guard from his tent, granting them the night free. He and Rosa were alone in the tent, but he wasn't in the same mood as her. A cozy bonfire was burning in the middle of the tent, heating the quarters and lending them its shivering light.

The Queen was eyeing him naughtily from the cotton bed as he removed his golden armor; he profoundly ignored her and continued to put the parts of his armor on the table in front of him. He didn't like to admit it, but the armor was heavy. Reworking his battling tactics would be a must if he ever happened to battle in it.

"Angelo," Rosa called out to him. Shango briefly looked at her, then back at the steel chest in front of him.

"Hmm?"

Rosa got up from the bed and he turned to face her. Surprisingly, the Weavile had a fuzzy smile on her face as she approached him. He eyed her suspiciously, smirking his eyebrows; she simply giggled at his reaction, and put her cold hand in his chest. Shango bit his tongue, leaning backwards over the table. He was taller than her, yet she managed to lean over him, their bodies pressing each other, and kiss him. Her hands were now buried in his chest's fur, pushing him back against the table. The sensation Shango got from it wasn't the same as he always remembered it; he hadn't done that ever since Claire had died. He had been with many girls ever since her death, many more than the rest of his life, but none felt the same. When she let go of the kiss, she looked in his green eyes with a half smile, still leaning over him.

"I've got to reward my King..." she explained, "for taking the revenge of my father so seriously."

Shango chuckled and brought his hand on her face, gently caressing her cheek, all the way back to her ear's feather. In truth, he didn't know what to say. How to handle this. She was annoying at times, but that didn't give him the excuse to lie straight into her face. But then again, he had lied to all Hesperians about keeping a friendly relationship with Ionia, when in fact he was planning its destruction. He was lying to everybody, and he was manipulating a whole nation to be his weapon. His conscience was clearing. He was doing that for a higher purpose.

"I love your brilliant plan," she purred, lust for blood in her voice. "Force them to attack us..." she started laughing evily, then sighed, looking at him in admiration. "You know, I never thought you'd be this clever, Angelo..." She was ready to take their 'meeting' further. Shango thought of having his way with her; it wouldn't hurt any, and Hector didn't have to know. But she was annoying, so he had to pay her back in the same coin.

Shango grabbed the back of her head and kissed her deeply, again. He lifted her in his arms easily, throwing her on the bed and getting on top of her. He suddenly stopped, got up, wearing his mocking smile. "Speaking of my plan, I've got a meeting to attend to."

Her face was flushed, irritated that Shango had cut off so abruptly, and was now shaken with doubt and temper. "Wait... you were about to... hmph. I'll come with you, then," she said, getting up, but Shango pushed her back on the bed.

"No. You will stay here," he stated in an absolute tone. "I'll keep you informed. Don't worry," he added more gently, seeing she was ready to snap.

"Where will you be going?" she asked coldly, frowning. All the warmth from before had vanished from her and her look became twisted in a way that repulsed Shango. He begun feeling angry that his mind was ordering him to keep as far away as possible from such a person, but his body was constantly telling him to go for it.

"I'm going to see some old friends. They will aid us to our cause."

"Fine, then."

"But, you'll keep it a secret."

"Okay, okay!"

Shango grabbed a key from the table and walked away from Rosa, rolling his eyes. It was as if he was dealing with a child.
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Old August 23rd, 2013 (01:32 PM).
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I like to review writing one chapter at a time so thoughts don't escape my mind. After reading chapter one, here are my thoughts on it.

I didn't catch any grammar mistakes, but I felt like the chapter moved too quickly. I felt a little cheated by missing out on the wedding. I felt like it was a valuable scene where the reader could have been introduced to more character traits and made the reader care about the characters more. When Eoleo was killed by Angelo, I didn't feel any emotions. I felt like I should have because Eoleo seems like a very likable character, but there wasn't enough time between where we first meet him and when he dies to build a sort of relationship with the character. My suggestion would be to include the wedding so that the reader likes Eoleo more and it comes as more of an emotional jerk when Angelo, or I guess Shango, betrays him. I think the length would be fine as the second chapter is considerably longer and it would help even the two out.

First of all, I would put some sort of warning at the top for mild adult content for the blood and sexual language. I know nothing happens, but some people really take offense to the slightest sexual sayings and it wouldn't be nice to put anybody off.

Quote:
“Zaunix’s taken care of anything,” she responded. Shango raised his hand to scratch her between the ears, making her giggle again.
This sounds a little weird because normally these statements sound something like Zaunix's taken care of everything or Zaunix can take care of anything. Just a little something to consider revising as it sounds a little weird currently.

There's a twist I didn't see coming! I really like the twist you added and I felt like you didn't leave anything out. I have hardly any conflict with the second chapter. I think everything you wanted to come across did and it made the story a lot more interesting.

Overall this might just be the most detailed and polished fan-fiction I have ever read. I don't read that many fics, but I can tell you spent a lot of time on it. Keep up the good work and I'll be looking forward to the next update.
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Old August 28th, 2013 (04:13 AM). Edited August 29th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Thanks for your review. I'll consider writing the part of the marriage, but I felt it was little too irrelevant to Shango's story. Anyhow, here is chapter 3:


Chapter 3: The Voidborn Conspiracy


Shango sneaked out of the tent and blended in with the shadows the wooden logs that surrounded the camp provided. The full moon and the stars of the clear sky were illuminating the whole camp, yet he remained unseen from the soldiers that stood guard in front of each tent. Nights like these Shango was disturbed, because he couldn't move around freely and enjoy the advantage his eyes were giving him in the dark. He would never choose this night if he was going out for a job. Zaunix was the one to summon him tonight; but the mutant Scyther had no trouble hiding in plain sight.

Shango felt complete, prowling in the shadows as he was. It was the first time in a while when he stopped being 'Angelo' and returned to his old habits; the only thing missing was his cloak and mask. These objects were one of the reasons Shango wanted to see Zaunix, who had kept them safe all this time. The other reason was Tristana. Although he had missed her, he was afraid that she would be mad at him. When she learned of his plans, she heavily protested, claiming that war wasn't the solution. So many innocent Pokemon would die in this war, Shango knew it, yet he was willing to take this as far as it could go. He had his reasons, along with the other voidborns.

The main reason he was itching to meet up with Zaunix was putting in motion their malevolent plan: burn down Fort Stone, which resided next to the lake's coast.

He climbed up the sentry tower of the camp, the wind blowing through his exposed fur. A memory of the past, where he was flying, was shot into the plane of his reality and he felt as if he was reliving that moment. Seconds after, he was at the top of the tower, staring at the back of a Furret in a blue and golden uniform who was watching the darkness of the forest that surrounded the camp. Shango's quiet steps went unnoticed, despite the increased hearing Furret's possessed. His strong hands were wrapped around the Pokemon's neck, choking it for two seconds; he then slammed the Sentry's head against the tower. The damage was calculated - not fatal, enough to knock out the Pokemon.

"It's the only way of getting out unnoticed," Shango whispered apologetically to the Furret laying unconscious. He thought it was ironic how he didn't just kill one of his own men while he would soon send them all to die. He was such a hypocrite, but he didn't even care.

Shango looked down the tower on the grass below, thinking it was about fifteen feet height; he leaped without second thought and tumbled to the ground with ease. Getting up, he spent a moment to look around the trees, then directed himself towards the sounds and smells of Angula town.


***


"Phantom Dancer," somebody called out to him; the voice seemed to come from nearby, but Shango was in the middle of the road. He figured it was Zaunix by the peculiar way the cobblestone next to him altered and shifted under his look.

"Zaunix," he greeted him formally.

"You were successful," Zaunix continued, still invisible.

"I was. Our plan is coming along quite nicely."

"Come... Hector's waiting."

Shango followed the visually manipulated fabric in front of him to the closer house, the first one on the edge of the town. A small light was coming from the window of the small wooden house; it seemed so old and fragile, even the gentle wind could throw it apart.

Once they were at the doorstep, the door opened; an aggravated Hector greeted them and stepped aside for Zaunix to enter and become visible again. Shango followed right behind, his eyes exploring the room momentarily. It looked nothing special, a few wooden boxes on its sides, two beds made of leaves. The main source of light was a bonfire, its smoke coming out of an opening on the roof. Tristana was flying high, her body slightly glimmering red. She had crossed her arms as she always did when she was angry, but when she saw Shango, she couldn't help but dive into his welcoming arms.

"Shango! You could have died!"

"Half of my life I could have died."

"That's not true," she said, biting her lips. Tristana was a cute Victini with blue eyes and fluffy ears. Although her emotions were mixed, the heat radiating from her body was as cozy as always, enough to form a gentle smile on Shango's face. Hector rolled his eyes, closing the door and taking a seat around the bonfire next to the black Scyther. Shango sat on the ground next to them; across the brimming fire, the faces of the voidborns were staring at him petting Tristana.

"Look at all this hair," Tristana cried suddenly, grabbing the wild fur of his face and pulling it in a desperate manner.

"Hey, what're you on about?" Hector interrupted, grabbing his own fur and staring at Tristana angrily. It was obvious those two had gotten into an argument, and it wasn't about hair.

"He looks scary..."

"It'll stay like this for a while, I'm afraid."

Tristana's blue eyes were fixed on his green ones, and he could instantly tell what she was thinking. Typical of Tristana. He braced himself and all of his answers.

"Shango," she started, "you can't do this! So many innocents will die so you can take one single life!"

"Our goal is to vanquish the Endarkened One's center of operations, Ionia. Not only destroy the Chancellor."

"There's gotta be another way..." Tristana muttered, having calmed down a bit.

"If there was, we would have known it," Zaunix said. "Jericho has started a dictatorship inside his city, using the Ionian Verdict to enforce law. No one goes in or out. We can't sneak into the city by air, as the sky is guarded..."

"Besides, we've got a hunch something bigger is involved," Hector added, smirking his eyebrows and leaning forward, close to the bonfire. His black eyes seemed as if sucking in the reflection of the dancing fire in front of him.

"Oh?" Shango started doodling with his claw on the ground, looking down, but having his mind elsewhere.

"We thought we would have Eoleo's darkstar by our side," Zaunix explained, "but it was gone. He was holding it in his palace, but now it's gone."

"Get to the point, Zaun," Hector poked him.

"We found signs that enabled us to trace it," Zaunix continued.

"Do we have a location?" Shango had drawn four arrows, each pointing at the cardinal directions, and a circle in the middle. With his other hand, he subsconciously scratched Tristana's belly.

"Fort Stone," said Zaunix. Shango looked up at him plainly.

"One more reason to infiltrate it..." he said in a low voice. "But that means, Ionia is involved in the stone's theft."

"When exactly did it disappear?" Zaunix asked.

"The night of the marriage. I heard Eoleo talking to himself about it."

Silence fell amongst them; only the sound of the fire kept on. Hector picked up a stick from the stack next to him and threw it in the fire, renewing it.

"We ought to get going," Zaunix suddenly said.

"Where to?" Shango asked.

"Fort Stone, tonight."

"Why didn't you warn me earlier?" Shango complained in a slightly irritated tone.

"There was no way. It's tonight that we strike. If the darkstar is still in the Fort, we will find it. We take it, and we burn down the Fort."

Shango thought about Queen Rosa; she would surely be angry at him for not warning her for the fireworks. Paying her back to make her forget would be a must when he got back at dawn. Concluding at this, he nodded at Zaunix and got up. The Scyther headed over to a chest and showed him it.

"Your cloak, Phantom Dancer."

His mind quickly flew away from Rosa as he got up from his spot near the bonfire and threw Tristana to his shoulder. He kneeled over the chest with lust only known to him; the silly thought that he was addicted to the Phantom Dancer's cloak and mask crossed his mind, but he didn't pay much attention. When he opened the chest, his eyes feasted on the shiny, polished cloak and the steel mask that fit perfectly onto his face despite the wild facial hair. The runes on the sleeves and sides of the cloak were glowing very faintly, barely visible under the light of the bonfire.

He wore his hood and directed his ears out of it, while turning his sash inside out to show the insignia of the Hashashin. The feeling of fulfillment that possessed him was much greater than his reunion with his friends after weeks of pressure, sadly. He discovered he would rather work alone, as he did for all these years.

Zaunix looked at him. "Good. Now, let's head out. And remember, mind your stealth..."

"It depends on what you mean by stealth," Shango said with a slight grin under his mask. "Stealth is either not being seen, or not letting there be any witnesses."

Hector started laughing. "Oh, brother, your journey must've taught you something!"

"It has."
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Old August 29th, 2013 (02:38 AM).
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Quote:
Shango followed the visually manipulated fabric in front of him in the closer house, the first one on the edge of the town.
The bolded "in" makes it sound like the fabric is already inside the house. I would suggest changing it to "to". When you say "closer", it sounds weird because you're not really comparing the house to anything. I think it would sound better as "closest".

Quote:
"Oh?" Shango started doodling with his claw on the ground, looking down but having his mind elsewhere.
You need a comma after "down".

Quote:
"Why didn't you warn me earlier?" Shango complained n a slightly irritated tone.
You forgot the "i" in front of the "n"

That's all I found for grammar.

In all honesty, it's really hard for me to find something wrong with the fundamentals of the story. It's polished, flows, and even I don't get lost (trust me, I get lost in books ALL the time). I wish I could find something to critique on besides grammar, but I can't. Once again, I say nice job. I will be looking forward to the next chapter.
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Old September 2nd, 2013 (08:32 AM). Edited September 3rd, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 4: Fort Stone


The silence of this forest was well known to Shango; having grown up in Ionia, he had spent his early childhood hunting in these parts, around the massive lake of Acheloos. The Ionian Verdict was also assigning him with missions regarding the forest's protection. Memories well stored started jumping out of the depths of his mind, but they felt unknown to him, as if they belonged to another person. He was an entirely different person back then, blind and ignorant to the true ways of the world, but happy and carefree. Nothing but a child with purpose that had little of important impact on evil, unlike now. Violence and war he had only known in the tales Ascendio was telling him and from the history books of the Academy's library. The first step he took into knowing the world was with the Hashashin: Yanakard, Myriapolis. He met and fought the injustice with his own claws. Throughout his journey, he observed it from a far, avoiding to meddle with it - except in the Black Citadel.

On the Black Citadel, when he killed the newest member of the Endarkened Ones not long after they had recruited him, he had found out that they mainly operated in Ionia.
By then, he had quickly understood that injustice was a symptom and not the phenomenon. That's when he decided to uproot the problem right from its nest, by starting a war that would leave Ionia burning to the ground.

Had I been wrong, about this war I had started?

Wrong as it seemed from the perception of people, it was not for him, at least not right then. This wasn't about them anymore. It was about the darkstars, powers above all of them. If they were to be held by the Endarkened Ones... who was to say the whole world was not in danger?

He was always confident in his choices, and this was no exception. Besides, he did not see any other choice. Now that Ascendio had died, he had no reason to doubt his decision to destroy Ionia. His mind was at peace after the journey, with all the atrocities againist the people he had witnessed pushed back into a corner of his mind. If they could commit atrocities, he could, too. Time was perfect to fully devote himself to the Phantom Dancer's goal.


The three voidborn were slowly walking up a hill, only their steps echoing around nature. A slight breeze was only enough to move the leaves gently, seemingly stroking them before a storm. The full moon and the stars were lighting the forest and the lake; they could see its glimmering waters on their side as they elevated. Shango put off his mask and hung it from his sash, then removed his hood to let the refreshing breeze blow through his fur. Tristana was sitting on his shoulder, cuddling on his cheek and trying to grab his attention, but he seemed too focused to notice her.

"What's the plan?" Hector inquired, jumping on a rock. Zaunix leaped into the air, climbing higher up the hill then stopped to wait for them.

"Before we burn the Fort down, we make sure we have located the darkstar," the Scyther's loud buzz killed the peace of the night. "Commander James Vescourt is sure to possess the information we need. Ensure he survives."

They reached the top of the hill, from where Fort Stone was visible; the illuminated waters of the lake hugged around the hill where it was built. The forest underneath seemed familiar to Shango, though he hadn't set foot in this part of Hesperia for a long time. His eyes traveled from the Fort in front of them towards the north, in the direction where Ionia was; Acheloos lake was so big, the city wasn't even visible in the distance. All he could see was water on the horizon.

"There are two squads of patrolling guards down there," Zaunix said, scythe pointing at the forest below them.

"We hunt them," Hector said in a raspy voice, rubbing his hands and claws together.

"After we silence them, we infiltrate the Fort... somehow," the black Scyther continued. Shango looked at him. The moonlight made him look even more scary as it fell on his mutated head.

"Haven't you found a way in already?" Shango asked in an impatient, demanding manner. He glanced at Fort Stone again; a series of tall and pointy wooden logs on top of the hill surrounding cotton tents inside, two sentry towers at each side of the closed gate. He quickly looked for a way in.

"Not yet," Zaunix said, looking at the camp as well. Shango put his foot on a rock and leaned forward, half shutting his eyes as he scanned the area. After a few moments of thought, he concluded.

"Our point of entry is at the trees, next to the southeast tower."

Before Zaunix could answer, they heard Hector whistling subtly; he had his ears perked up like when Shango was hearing a suspicious sound. When they looked over at him, he pointed at the forest below. Shango could hear them too. Multiple feet were marching, shadows were moving between the trees. Hector quickly leaped down the hill, staying close to the ground. Shango had gone hunting with Hector, and he knew that when he moved like that, some poor soul was going to be lost soon.

Zaunix flew above them, flapping his wings quickly but silently. Shango put on his mask and hood as he descended along with his friends on their stealthy approach. Tristana shook on his shoulder; her small glow was gone, as she was invisible.

Hector leaped from a small cliff forming on the foot of the hill into the bushes, and Shango launched himself a tree's branch. He remembered how the Otori had taught him to hunt in the forest. Leap from above. They had taught him to walk on the trees as he would walk on the ground; he would be honest if he said he liked to be above his prey.

Meanwhile the Scyther, whose buzz would surely alert the patrol, flew higher and higher as the two Zangooses progressed further into the forest, towards the muffled sounds of the footsteps. Anticipation rose, Shango savored the moment of free run on the tree's branches where he balanced his body effortlessly. He heard Hector growling slightly but continuously, staying put in the edge of the same bush, on the side of the road. Shango stopped on the branch above him, sitting on his ankles.

A breeze blew through the trees momentarily, then calmed to leave everything unmoving; the predators had completely blended in with the darkness of their environment, Hector had stopped growling and the patrol was slowly approaching. The moonlight made the details of their figures clear: two Machokes in the front, wearing the green uniform of the Needlers. The four nether blades appeared on Shango's vambraces after a small, purple glow and the familiar metallic sound.

Tonight, you feast on Ionian blood, Shango spoke to his blades and made them dance with his imagination. With his eyes fixed on the patrolling guards, around eight in numbers, he readied himself, waiting for Hector to strike first. Once they had passed in front of the Zangoose hiding in the bushes, he let out a roar and pounced on their side; Shango leaped downwards as well. He kept an eye on Hector, who had ravaged half of the squad in seconds, roaring furiously and killing his targets with brutal, merciless blows. Shango on the other hand, his hits were more precise and deadly.

Within seconds, all of the Ionians were laying on the ground as they were caught completely off guard by the two prowlers. Blood was dripping down Hector's chin and hands, and he also had a wound on the side of his chest, which was going up and down from his uncontrollable panting. Shango, on the other hand, was clean, calm and serene. His blades faded into nothing.

"I owe you one of them," Hector joked and chuckled, then he raised his hand to wipe his mouth, panting heavily. Shango glanced at the ground: Hector had killed five, against his three.

"You try too hard, brother," Shango chortled and turned towards the camp. Zaunix arrived shortly after and landed next to Shango.

"Let Hector take care of the other patrol," the Scyther said and nodded at Hector, who launched himself out of sight; Shango heard rustling noises as he ran through the bushes. He assumed he knew where the other patrol was, somehow.

"You chase down our friend James Vescourt," Zaunix said. "I'll take care that his men are busy."

Shango nodded quietly and looked at the road and rotated his vambraces slightly, tied his sash tighter around him and pulled his cloak around him. Zaunix followed him on foot once he set out towards the camp; they were silent, always on guard. Shango was hearing all kinds of sounds from wild Pokemon in the forest, but something was sending them away. After a while, he figured it was Zaunix' repulsive power that scared the beasts away. The unnatural scares them away...

When the camp was seen from behind the trees, Shango climbed up a tree and moved around the camp, towards its east side, where the branch reached the sentry tower. Once he settled on the tree with that branch, well hidden in the darkness, he examined the camp in front of him. Zaunix came to sit next to him. Such strange company.

"He'll see us," Zaunix said, looking at the sentry under the tower, keeping watch. Then he raised his head upwards, and Shango mimicked him. Flying Pokemon were circling around above the camp. Their movements indicated that they were patrols. "Another problem to deal with."

"Take care of them," Shango quietly ordered. He turned to look at the invisible spirit on his shoulder as Zaunix vanished out of sight. "Help me with the sentry." It was an Electabuzz. He was aware of their abilities, and he didn't want to get close.

Tristana popped, and her look was angry enough to let Shango know she was pissed enough to start an argument. "I don't much like your tone," she said stubbornly, raising her hand. Shango frowned under his mask and jumped to the branch, running towards its end. He pounced on the sentry tower, landing right on the Electabuzz that was standing guard, before the Pokemon could scream; his claws were sunken deep into the Pokemon's throat. Shango felt the sudden pain of the static electricity run through his body, paralyzing him instantly. He rolled next to the Pokemon with a solid sound.

Tristana let out a small cry and landed next to his head; he tried to get up, but he only managed to roll and kneel. He knew the pain would go away, eventually.

Sorry! Tristana spoke to his mind, but Shango would hear none. His rising anger was silent, and quickly suppressed by his prying senses. The Victini held her breath as she too heard a Pokemon was climbing the stairs of the sentry tower. Shango tried moving his claws at first, then his hands and arms. Little effect.

He slightly grunted as he crawled towards the edge, where the stairs were ending.
He lay on the cold, wooden floor with arms slightly extended over the edge, barely visible from below. Blood was dripping down Shango's right claws as a warning sign to whoever was coming.

"Nathan?" a voice came from below, and the escalating Pokemon stayed put, waiting for a response. Shango glanced at the Electabuzz laying besides him; Nathan should have been his name.

"I'm coming up," the voice said and continued climbing the stairs.
The sound of the wooden stairs indicated that the other soldier, or sentry, or whoever was getting closer and closer to the point; Shango's mind shaped the mental image of the nether blades shooting out of his vambraces, stabbing the Pokemon's neck.

He had his nether blades impaled on a Linoone's throat, who was struggling and quietly squealing with an expression of pure terror, soon to drown in blood. Shango's green eyes contrasted the red of the blood that was spilled on his mask and on the emblem of the Verdict that was stuck on the side of the Linoone's fur. His light body rose in the air, impaled by the blades, and his front legs were brought to the blades in a vain attempt to pull them out.

Although three of the four blades had sliced through flesh, the guard didn't die instantly, giving Shango a moment to study the Pokemon's reaction; he used to do that a lot. The deadly momentum arrived, and with a swing, Shango brought the dead Linoone up the sentry tower. Blood stained the wooden floor, dripping down from the gaps.

He slowly got up, kneeling on his knee; the effects paralysis had worn off. Tristana was flying next to him, full of worries and a hint of fear. She was always taking that upset expression when she knew Shango was angry, but it wasn't often that he scolded her about her mistakes regarding missions. Right now, he ignored her completely. Rubbing his right wrist, he walked over to the edge of the tower and grabbed the steel pole that was supporting the roof, as to not fall down from the pain all over his body. From his experience and medical knowledge, he knew it was nothing serious and that he would be alright soon enough.

His gaze traveled from one side of the Verdict's camp to the other. Two houses in the middle, along with many tents similar to the ones in the Hesperian camp, a small warehouse next to the tower where he was standing and a flag pole with the Ionian flag slightly waving. Another sentry tower was located where the camp met the lake. Throughout the dark of the night, Shango managed to detect a hand on the floor, that surely belonged to another Electabuzz sentry. Obviously, Zaunix had passed from there. Movement from above caught his attention and he saw the great bug, darker than the night, assaulting the flying guards and consuming them whole while still in flight.

Tristana's voice interrupted his thoughts of the interesting powers of the void that were displayed in front of him. "Shango... are you angry?"

"Was. And it was wrong of me... if you don't wish to get involved in my business, I shouldn't force you to do so," he said a plain tone, still staring at the camp below him.

"Don't get me wrong... I always want to help you!"

"I know, Tristana, I know."

"I didn't want this to happen..." she muttered, looking down. Shango could sense she was avoiding to look at the dead bodies behind them, as she was always upset by the sight of death. Sometimes he wondered if she'd still be following him if they weren't friends for so many years.

His attention was suddenly drawn to the ground, where two guards, two Granbulls had their heads up in the air, probably smelling the blood.

"It's quite alright," he said, after a while of observing the beasts who were tracking the smell down.

"Oh my," Tristana gasped, having noticed the Granbulls that separated ways: one for each sentry tower, staring at them intently.

"I remember working with half a dozen of these Pokemon," Shango said, in a lower voice; his tone remained unchanged, calm and collected as always. "Unpleasant lot."

"They seem more pleasant than... death," Tristana noticed, reminding Shango he was constantly being judged. Meanwhile, the Granbull had gotten dangerously close to the tower. "Well... aren't you gonna do something about him?" she asked, her disapproval disturbing him slightly.

"Not yet," Shango whispered, his sparkling emerald eyes fixed on the shadows next to the closest house, where the moonlight had no access to. "There is somebody invisible there."

Suddenly, the Needler Granbull turned around as the door of the closest house opened. A Shiftry appeared at the doorstep, staring at the Needler angrily; Shango could tell he was Commander James Vescourt from the war medal that man had stuck on his leather chestguard. He wasn't aware of this Commander; he seemed just about his age, around 30 years old, which meant he was newly appointed to the task - besides, what kind of Commander has only a single medal to show off? He figured they just promoted him in the outskirts of Acheloos lake to get rid of him, as he did seem like an irritable person.

"Boram!" the Shiftry shouted at the Granbull, who stood firm facing him.

"Yes, sir!"

"Care to explain why you're out of pos?"

Pos, as in position, Shango thought. Ionians and their speak.

"I am to guard the camp," the Granbull stated plainly. Shango could sense his feelings from the top of the sentry tower.

"Well, do your job then!"

Commander Vescourt turned to leave, not to enter the house again, but to take the road towards the other house. The small road the soldiers had made up was full of dirt, but at least it was rock free. A tree standing on the side of that small road blocked all of the moonlight from illuminating it; Shango, deeming this was the perfect chance, glanced up at the sky where the unnatural, slight and subtle buzz was coming from. He thought he had heard the word go, but he couldn't be so sure. He simply nodded and focused his attention on the walking Shiftry. Tristana was now flying above his head, knowing that he was about to take flight. Of course, his target was too far away, but as he had it all in his mind, distance would matter little.

"Please spare him," Tristana begged in an upset whisper.

"I will," Shango said for once, deciding to see her reaction if he held this promise. Besides, there was a good reason to let him live... an inspiration of the moment hatched a plan to ensure the coming of the war into his mind. Just as he was thinking that, the massive black figure of Zaunix landed on the ground above the Granbull, immobilizing the Pokemon and forcing him to scream for all the camp to hear. Soon all the members of the Verdict would be coming to see what was happening, except Commander Vescourt of course. Shango leaped down the sentry tower, landing on the warehouse's roof steadily, then continued to leap on the flag pole's tip. His eyes caught the image of the Commander below him
turning around, just before he walked into the shadow of the tree. All in a second, Shango's balanced feet left the flag pole; he hung from a branch of the tree, and by dropping himself, he landed perfectly behind the Shiftry.

He grasped the Commander's belly and shaggy white mane, pulling him backwards and throwing him into the dirt. Before Vescourt could tell what was happening, Shango had gripped his neck with his right hand, the claws precisely placed on its side, ready to slice it open, and with the other hand scratching the side of his belly. The Shiftry's yellow eyes were widened in surprise, their pupils expanded in their attempt to pierce through the darkness and determine the species of his assailant.

Tristana's small heart beat faster, seeing her friend ready to kill as she had seen him do countless times before. Time had stopped for Shango, and he had instantly dove into the rift of James' life with no delay. Unlike the first times he had used this ability of the voidborns, instead of images, mind sequences appeared in the form of 'boxes full of sweets', as Shango had explained it to Tristana, sometime. These boxes were much like the results of an internet browser - just the data he was looking for and some other information, probably irrelevant. Processing one of these sequences of thoughts, various images appeared in his mind: two Bronzongs, obviously Keepers, were passing through the gates of this very camp, a chest made of tristanite floating in front of them; Commander James, from a different angle, keeping the chest in his private quarters inside the house, trying to break it open and pick its lock; Councilor Jericho, the most hated Armaldo, awaiting James to give him the chest; a massive ship, probably a frigate, making way from the camp and getting lost in the horizon with the beautiful sunset as background.

Shango focused his thoughts on the chest, determining the strange power the Commander was receiving the whole time it was in his possession; he identified it as a darkstar, and frowned upon seeing it gone. He abruptly interrupted his infiltration into the victim's mind and got off of the Shiftry, who stood there surprised.

"Why am I still alive?" he questioned Shango. The Zangoose, who was staring plainly forward, now looked at him. He ignored the screams and the noises of the channeled void that were coming behind him, as well as Tristana who was now invisible right above his shoulder, not daring to touch him when he was on duty.

"Your life is important. You may go."

Commander James stared at him doubtfully, wondering if Shango was toying with him. Shango could tell he was ready to fight by the way he was standing. However, the Shiftry chose to ask questions first. "Who are you?"

"Is it not obvious, Commander? Whoever moved to your neighborhood just a few days back?"

The Shiftry smirked his eyebrows, thinking for a moment. "You're an Hesperian."

Shango nodded. "Exactly. And we don't like this camp," he said, slightly grinning. He removed his mask purposefully in front of the Commander, who would surely see he was a Zangoose, and then turned his head upwards; releasing a stream of fire directly into the tree. The leaves caught on fire, which spread quickly. Seeing as the Shiftry was about to attack him, he turned at him and exhaled more fire, forcing him to jump out of the way.

Tristana grabbed the Phantom Dancer's mask and vanished into thin air with it, as Shango leaped backwards and faced the wooden houses, letting loose another flamethrower that ignited them; when his fiery breath found the warehouse, it blew up in an explosion that sent flying, flaming rubble everywhere. The tents caught on fire, the trees, the logs, everything.

Even though the screams continued, Zaunix appeared next to Shango and charged at Commander James, putting up a fierce fight. Shango didn't sit and watch the two, as he rushed towards the gate of the camp. Seeing as it was closed, and there was no way above the tall wooden logs that served as walls, he turned to the sentry tower that was next to the lake. He encountered nobody as he ran towards it, the fire brimming around him and the screams tearing through the night.

Rushing up the ladder he quickly found himself at the top. He glanced behind him once, admiring the gorgeous finale of this mission, then looked at the lake below him. The camp was built on a cliff, rather than its shore. The waters below him were deep enough for him to take the forty feet leap right into the lake. The burning camp was left behind him as another memory.
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Old September 3rd, 2013 (02:05 AM).
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All he could see was water in the horizon.
I think you should change "in" to "on", as the water isn't actually in the horizon.

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"Was. And it was wrong of me...
Consider changing the first period to a comma, to make it a complete sentence.

You did something I have seen very few writers do. You gave one of your victims a name.
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"Nathan?" a voice came from below, and the escalating Pokemon stayed put, waiting for a response.

I really liked how you did that because it made the reader realize that these pokemon aren't just nameless beings that no one will miss. It adds a layer of depth to the story. Many writers avoid giving people/pokemon names because of their short appearance in the story and they feel like it's not worthwhile. I don't want you to go around and start naming every single one of your victims because then it starts losing its meaning. Naming this one, random pokemon was a perfect addition and added a lot to the story in a short amount of time. Just thought I would point it out.

Once again you have created another great update, leaving me to correct the rare grammar mistake you leave behind. The story gets pretty violent and graphic in this chapter, pushing it towards an "R" rating. If this continues, I would change the rating from "T", but it's fine for now. I look forward to your next update.
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Old September 3rd, 2013 (01:55 PM). Edited September 4th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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@Slayr234 Done and done.


Chapter 5: the Return of the Spirit of the Hashashin

His footsteps were echoing in the dark, filthy street of the dark side of the Black Citadel Alamagna, the pavement cold underneath his bare paws. It was one of those starless nights of Stygia, when the Citadel was engulfed in total dark. And the citizens were right to fear the dark... all kinds of things came out at night. Thieves and rogues, hungry monsters looking to prey, and... the Phantom Dancer. The dark was his element, the shadow his one and only love; however, there was something strange about this night.

His first clue was that he was wearing no boots. He'd have to scrub his feet real hard, to clean them of the filth of these streets... second, he was standing in front of a sewer pipe. The dark was so dense there, so impenetrable, that even his green eyes couldn't pierce through it like they normally would. It was a liquid kind of darkness, dark in its purest form, if you could call it that. He stood there, waiting, for what, he couldn't tell. There was something captivating about the darkness. That was his second clue. He wouldn't normally waste his time staring inside a sewer pipe. This was one of those dreams - the dreams he was constantly getting while with the Hashashin, years ago. They had stopped... but now they appear again?

It was a lucid dream. He could control himself. "So be it," he said, stepping into the sewer, the darkness engulfing him. He felt nothing but great fear then, for some reason. There was something down there, something big and scary, powerful enough to fry him to ash and destroy generations. He kept walking. Death wasn't what he was afraid, and this was a dream... he thought.

Someone was embracing him in the dark. His eyes tried to adjust, but he couldn't. He remained put, feeling the cold around him. The sound of a mouth, a snout perhaps, worn with age, opened in front of him; it was the one who was embracing him. He started singing a hymn in a foreign language that was unknown, unheard. The song was melodic but harsh, charming and captivating... Shango was caught up immediately, and he knew the tune. It was the same in every one of these lucid dreams. A hooded stranger appeared in front of him, sometimes close, sometimes far, singing the very same song each time, but with a different pace and tune. Not once did he remove his hood, and his cloak covered every characteristic of his body. He couldn't make out a word of his song, either. But he was scared of him, now that he had come back. He was saying something terrible, something cold and despicable, not quite like the other times.

His eyes started adjusting to the darkness, the song stopped. Silence hung heavy on the sewer. The one in front of him had his cold hands removed from Shango's shoulders, breaking the embrace. He could see them, now, old, black claws grasping the lining of his worn out grey hood... he yanked it down, and he was no Pokemon, he was something else, a creature of another dimension. It had a single, left green lifeless eye that was exactly the same as Shango's in its core. The Zangoose kneeled in front of it, unable to run or comprehend with its nature. He couldn't describe what it was. But that thing leaned over him, gripping his head tightly with its claws digging into his scalp, and spoke with a chilling, dead voice.

"We are coming for you, Shango."



Shango woke up sweating in his feather bed, then threw up the insides of his belly to the side. It was nothing but a mixture of an alcoholic beverage made from a berry called Cola and ale. Cola berries were illegal, but Kings made the exception... and paid for it. I will never drink alcohol again, Shango silently vowed, taking solace in the fact that he didn't do it often. His green gaze drifted to the other side of the feather bed, where Rosa was sleeping quite peacefully.

He cussed under his breath. One more reason to regret drinking: he'd slept with Rosa... hadn't he? He could remember her being a little ***** about not taking her out to burn Fort Stone together, as if it was cake walk like their march up to Angula. He cussed again and headed out of the tent, his Drapion guards stepping aside. He thought of it twice, then looked back at them. "I don't feel so good," he declared, "you, empty a tent. Go on, it won't hurt them to sleep out. And you, go fetch me a girl. Let none know about this, or I'll have your limbs cut, boiled and served to you." He didn't mean it, of course, but he had to stand up to the persona of Angelo. And it was working out.They were gone, but he had remained in place. "I need to find out if I'm still sexually able for the night," he muttered to himself, "otherwise I might've actually... done it with Rosa." He needed somebody he could talk to for his dream, too. The Spirit of the Hashashin, returns to tell me they are coming back... what does that mean?


***


She was a beautiful Flareon from the town, making a pose at the entrance of the tent. He sat back on the pillows, watching her small, shy smile as she stood there. He waved for her to come in, and she did, with a graceful walk that pleased him, although he was careful not to return the smile.

"Your Grace," she said with an accent, "I have been asked..."

"I know, I know."

"I am Daniella."

"Come here, Daniella," he patted the pillow he was leaning back on, and she joined him, cuddling up next to him, though she kept her distance and legs to herself.

"Where are you from?" he asked her with the charming half smile he reserved only for the ladies. "Sounds like a Scorching Steppes accent."

She laughed heartily but nervously. "Uhm... maybe," she chortled again in a cute manner. Shango remained scrutinizing her silently, still smiling. She wouldn't meet his gaze, as she kept staring down shyly. He liked himself a shy girl, it reminded him of his years in the Ionian Academy of War...

"Don't worry," he told her, "I'm friendly with the Scorching Steppes. If you're an immigrant, I allow it. You'll be a rightful citizen of the Empire."

The Flareon looked at him as if she didn't believe him. Shango decided to take some steps towards the desired intercourse. "Yes, after this."

Now it seemed as if she was getting bold. She raised her brow playfully. "Oh? This?"

"Closer, Daniella, you're about to have your mind blown."

He grabbed her warm leg and put it on his belly. She looked at him, her pupils dilated, as if she was lost in a strange kind of power he was radiating... perhaps it was primal charm.

He liked her touch too much. That meant he hadn't been with Rosa tonight. And he'd probably never would be. Damn, he was the King, he could bring any girl in the Kingdom in his private quarters. As Angelo, that'd probably shame the Nagrand family, but as Shango, he'd love it. He was no true King, after all... so he might as well enjoy the things he'd enjoy as a free man.

After he was done having his way with her, she was too exhausted to hear of dreams of his and such. She ended up sleeping, while Shango sneaked out of the tent to the King's quarters. For the sake of his conscience, he told the guard to sign the girl in as a citizen of the Empire... well, I'd give her all my gold for her services, if I could, his last thoughts were, before he fell onto the feathery bed with the distant Rosa, the dream of the Spirit of the Hashashin already forgotten.
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Old September 3rd, 2013 (10:49 PM).
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A nice, low-key chapter. A good contrast from the last one.

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He grabbed her warm leg on his belly and put it on his belly.
I would get of the first "on his belly" as it doesn't need to be there.

We are really pushing the "R" rating with this chapter, because something actually did happen. I'll be fine if you decide to keep it "T" because you skip over it, but the idea is there. The chapter is a nice change from the previous one and the main character gets even more complicated. What I mean is that I'm still trying to decide whether or not I like Shango. It's a fine line to walk along and a great example of having a main character that's not totally likeable is the play "Death of a Salesman". I want to like Shago, because he's the main character and is a really cool guy, but he has darker qualities that make me prevent completely rooting for him. Good job and keep it up.
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Old September 5th, 2013 (12:29 PM). Edited September 6th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Quote originally posted by Slayr231:
A nice, low-key chapter. A good contrast from the last one.

I would get of the first "on his belly" as it doesn't need to be there.

We are really pushing the "R" rating with this chapter, because something actually did happen. I'll be fine if you decide to keep it "T" because you skip over it, but the idea is there. The chapter is a nice change from the previous one and the main character gets even more complicated. What I mean is that I'm still trying to decide whether or not I like Shango. It's a fine line to walk along and a great example of having a main character that's not totally likeable is the play "Death of a Salesman". I want to like Shango, because he's the main character and is a really cool guy, but he has darker qualities that make me prevent completely rooting for him. Good job and keep it up.
[/FONT]
The rating is changed, though I believe T was alright.

As for Shango, he was once really kind, nice and cool, up until his early adulthood, when he was indoctrinated into the ways of the Hashashin. Then he was met with the legacy of the Phantom Dancer and adopted his beliefs. As he grew up, Shango became an atheist, a nihilist and a naturalist - he does not believe in heaven or hell or in Arceus, he thinks lives have no meaning other than that you give them, and that there is absolutely nothing but oblivion beyond the natural world. All these beliefs combined, he thinks it alright to take lives relentlessly. His conscience is only upset when others around him are affected by murder and death - be it his loyal friend Tristana or the countless of families that would mourn the lives lost in the war.

You see, even if he does believe life has no meaning, he wants to end the sorrow. In a way, he is kind, and his heart aches when he sees sadness, sickness and poverty. But he has to have these darker qualities you mentioned, in order to achieve his goals, which in the end are for the greater good. The original motto of the Hashashin was, 'some lives in exchange for many'. He might not be with the order now, but he still follows their true meaning.



Chapter 6: the Ritual of Dark Intentions


There was a circus, in a town called Myriapolis. The city was the border between Hesperia and Stygia, so Pokemon from both Empires visited... and what better way to keep the minds of the masses away from the ongoing war, than a little show? Only, the circus was closed now. The night was dark, cloudy, the park empty but for a few stands next to some street lamps. The wind carried a few leaves as a stranger walked past the stand, a sign above it reading, "Ravenscare", the infamous circus enterprises that operated all around the two Empires. They were like nomads, these entertainers, scouring the rainy roads and mountains of Stygia or crossing the sunny, blooming plains of Hesperia, to go to the town that would put the fattest pouch of gold in front of them.

Seems innocent enough. What the commons weren't aware of is that Ravenscare was the tip of a shadow that loomed greater than the warlords and Kings... the shadow that belonged to the dark Brotherhood of the Hashashin, the unfailing assassins that wiped out disloyal powerful individuals in order to advance as a political faction of both the Empires. If there was ever a dispute between the Lords of Hesperia over who would become King, the one that decided were the Hashashin; in case any Pokemon opposed to their best interests rose to power, they were warned to change their minds. If they didn't change their minds, they were killed - silently and efficiently.

There was a Pokemon, standing behind the stand. It was a young Zoroark whose red, mean gaze was fixed on every passerby.
He wore a red sash, where the insignia of the Hashashin was concealed under his dark fur. He was hissing quietly every time someone just walked past his stand, but probably they didn't find card tricks much too entertaining. One man, a fat Hariyama that looked to be a nobleman was approaching his stand, having a look of superiority about him. That's him, the young Zoroark thought, flicking a bit of his powers to conceal his grin beneath his illusion. His eyes brushed past the rich man's belt, where many pouches of gold were hanging from, jingling with every step he took. He stopped in front of the Hashashin, revealing an envelope, but keeping it firm and staring at the Zoroark.

"Do you happen to be Dimitri?" the Hariyama asked.

"Depends. Who's asking?" the Zoroark didn't hide his grin this time as he leaned back on the fence. Behind him was the park, where Ravenscare had established their circus.

The Hariyama seemed irritated, a red vein bulging on his forehead. "Don't play games with me," he said, his teeth gritted. "Take this," he left the envelope on the table. "The ritual has been performed. I want King Angelo dead... do your thing." He placed the envelope on the stand softly, then left.

The ritual... Dimitri thought while staring at the envelope, the features of his face drawn into a smirk. If some random nobleman wants a King dead, he's gonna have to pay a lot more than that. He opened the envelope, finding inside only a hundred golden berries, the currency of both Empires. He jerked his head to the fat Hariyama who was just turning round the corner. "Stupid hick, I'll show you," Dimitri snarled, getting off his stand to run furiously after the rich man. He leaped on a roof of a small house, then to the rocky roof of another one that brought him above the street where the Hariyama was suddenly running, as if he had sensed danger.

Dimitri commenced a free run on the rooftops, keeping his eyes on the fat nobleman and his jingling pouches. These should do for wasting my time. The moment the Hariyama turned to the dark alley beneath him, the Zoroark's feet left the roof. After a brief flight, he landed onto the fat Pokemon, tumbling into the ground and gripping his fat neck with both hands, ready to slice it off. The Hariyama squirmed and tried to overpower him, but the Zoroark's face had transformed into a Gengar with green, fiery tongue that resembled an Arbok. A hysterical laugh rung into the ears of the nobleman; Dimitri always liked to scare his victims before he killed them. It was part of his play.

The Hariyama's eyes were wide open and he had stopped fighting back, as if he'd almost fainted from fear.

Suddenly, from the shadows of the alley, a darker figure materialized; Dimitri raised his head to see a slender, feline figure under a worn out grey cloak staring at him. Beneath the hood, there was only one eye, a sparkling green one that was wide open and staring at him. I know you, Dimitri was about to say, keeping a tight grip on the nobleman's neck.

"Do it," the Spirit of the Hashashin commanded in a hissing whisper that echoed in the alley. "You know how. He deserves it."

"He does," Dimitri snarled with his snout grit, staring fiercely into the Hariyama's eyes. With a shriek, the Zoroark buried his claws into his neck and sliced it open as if it was paper. He was careful to avoid the streams of blood that emerged out of the messy kill. It would take a while like this, so he leaned in and shot a blast of darkness into the mouth of the other Pokemon. When Dimitri raised his head to look at the Spirit of the Hashashin, he felt the adrenaline rush diminishing, and the well known feeling of dread emerging when the green eyed phantom was present.

"The ritual is performed," it said. "Shango must die."

Dimitri looked at it carefully. "Shango's just a madman. Look at him, being King and starting a pointless war. He could be just enjoying stuff." He ripped off the pouches off the Hariyama's belt and buried them into his messy black mane to find them later.

The green eye blinked one time. "How hopelessly ignorant... but the ritual's requirements will be met. You were chosen to kill Shango Maverick, and you will do so..." the Spirit took a step forward, suddenly a lot taller than it originally appeared. It now loomed above him like a shadow, the hood gazing down upon him. A strange, immense kind of dark power was exerted from it, to be all imbued into its dead whisper.

"... or die."


***


"The Spirit of the Hashashin is a myth, brother."

Dimitri was back behind his stand, gathering his stuff with his newly acquired pouches jingling. His older sister, a Zoroark like him, was standing over the stand, having just heard his story. He had indeed seen the Spirit of the Hashashin again... it commanded, directed him. But he didn't mention it to his sister, and now he realized it was a mistake that he did. Crystal wasn't a superstitious person, even though she was loyal to the Hashashin and all. He didn't dare snap at her that all he saw was real, though, because he knew how she responded with her own fury every time he did that.

"You're speaking nonsense, I saw it," he hissed angrily, then looked at her, smirking his snout in a twisted expression. She was about fifteen years older than him, with the aura of the kind of person who didn't take too much **** from others. Although she wasn't pretty, she was a deadly assassin and a powerful Pokemon. Actually, all the Ancelottis were powerful... but she was special. That's why Master Ignacio was contemplating on promoting her to a Shadow Hunter, most probably... Dimitri was so jealous of her, he'd gladly stab her throat to waist.


"Listen here," Crystal said in the bossy tone she often used, "just because you've a colorful imagination, doesn't mean you can just 'see' phantoms. Maybe you've gone mad and you fool yourself with your own illusions." Her laugh was kind of heartless. "We don't even know if it's really Shango who's behind this conspiracy of the Imperatores."

"Shut up! I know he is, the Spirit told me so. And I know you don't want him dead, because you're a friend of his. Oh!" He rubbed his chin rather thoughtfully, his eyes wide open in a maniacal expression. "Maybe you were more than friends! You were lovers, now it's clear, of course--"

"He's our cousin, you twit," Crystal screamed, reaching over the stand to bash him over the head. "Have some decency! We never kill our own."

Dimitri felt a rush of anger run through him. He stepped on the stand and leaped at her, punching her snout. The two rolled in the street, fussing about, but Dimitri had engaged in a fight he couldn't win. Soon, he was overpowered, with a bleeding snout and the air from his belly all gone as Crystal kicked him.

Just as she was about to slap him, a dark portal materialized on the wall with a slight sound of distortion. The heads of a dragon popped out into the night, floating right above them; he was a Hydreigon with an evil expression on all of his three heads. Although he didn't look like it, he was old, perhaps older than two hundred years, yet he was still one of the best and most corrupted Hashashin. He was a legendary assassin that has spread fear over his name, Nightingale, through the completion of contracts deemed 'impossible'.

"Go on," the Nightingale said, "I'd very much like to see how this ends."

Crystal let go of her brother's neck and slowly got up, staring at the Hydreigon furiously and with hostility. The Nightingale was the one who had thought he had killed Shango, here in Myriapolis... for that, Crystal hated him and the corrupted Brotherhood, even though she was a loyal part of it. "What'd you want? Not out for a stroll, I suppose?"

Her brother moaned in pain in the ground. Nightingale glanced at him, then back at Crystal.

"You wanted to stop the assassination of King Angelo, I'm told."

She looked around for any spies. Unseen, as always, and how fast they traveled. That's how the Hashashin learned everything between the two Empires in a record time. Spies, everywhere...

"No--" she tried to protest.

"Yes," her brother gurgled from his bloody snout. The grin that formed on Nightingale's center head was mercilessly evil.

"Of course. The ritual's been done, Crystey. You do know that suggesting we go back on that... is against our laws. Therefore, I must deliver punishment..."

Crystal started laughing, her shrill laugh echoing in the empty street as she slowly stepped away from her brother. "You've been waiting a long time for this, haven't you? You're pathetic."

With a speed Nightingale hadn't anticipated, she charged at him in a Night Slash that left a gash on his head, while she slipped past him under the guise of an illusion. Dark was the element of both, so she would be found quickly... she cast a powerful illusion of chains of ice onto the Hydreigon, locking him into place despite his roars. She transformed into a steely grey Muk that stomped onto him, devouring him. Of course, it was just an illusion, but beneath it, Crystal brought her claws onto his back with all the power she could muster.

She knew the dragon would retaliate fiercely - he was no weakling if he was two hundred years old - so she leaped back and started free running on the street, at one point leaping onto a roof and continuing running there. She assumed Nightingale would be following, so she kept running and running... she was no part of the Hashashin anymore, that was for sure. Where else was left for her to go? At Shango's side...

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Old September 6th, 2013 (01:42 AM).
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The plot gets even more intense as an assassination is about to take root...

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They were like nomads, these entertainers, scouring the rainy roads and mountains of Stygia or crossing the sunny, blooming plains of Hesperia, to go to the town that was put the fattest pouch of gold in front of them.
The last part needs to be revised a bit, it's currently a bit awkward.

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the unfailing assassins that wiped out disloyal powerful individuals in order to advance as a political faction of both the Empires.
There needs to be a comma between "disloyal" and "powerful" as they are both being used as adjectives.

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Although he didn't look like it, he was old, perhaps older than two hundred years old,
I would get rid of that last "old". It's just a little weird where it sits.

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Dimitri looked at it carefully. "Shango's just a madman. Look at him, being King and starting a pointless war. He could be just enjoying stuff."
I really like this part. We learn how other people see him that aren't aware of what's going on inside his head.

So the plot takes an interesting turn. We see how Shango's old group runs things and now we have an assassination attempt on our beloved main character, that Crystal will probably warn Shango about. I look forward to see how your story will turn out. It's definitely well thought out, good job.
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Old September 8th, 2013 (11:22 AM). Edited September 10th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 7: Power Play


Three days had passed since Fort Stone was burnt to the ground entirely, only cinders to be left behind. The Pokemon of the forest made sure the fire didn't spread around in the Ionian forest, holding it off of the nearby trees with strong winds created by the community of the Shiftrys. When Shango returned inside his tent at night, he had to face Queen Rosa's complaints about not taking her to the fireworks with him, but he calmed her down promising that other kind of fireworks would be coming soon. And he was right - much to Tristana's dismay, everything seemed like the civil war would start any moment, as Ionian forces had begun their movement towards Angula town through the forest. Shango was standing with his back turned to the city, his shiny golden armor equipped, Tristana levitating besides him. He was facing the lined up soldiers, ten thousand were before him, both men and women, ready to fight with their lives to defend their Empire's pride. It seemed as if the plan of the Phantom Dancer had worked in perfection. While Tristana was in a state of anxiety and nervousness, Shango was entirely in the flow. His mind was clear and focused, sinking into the role of the King completely. He felt it was easy for him, as if he had done it again; once this was all done, he promised himself he would conduct a little research about his roots, to find out if he had royal blood running in his veins.

He glanced at Hector Imperatore besides him, who had grabbed hold of his right wrist in the characteristic way Shango did it, and for a moment he thought that he was copying him. After meeting him again after all these years, he felt that a connection, stronger than friendship, was binding them, and that they were surely related. Even the cocky, almost overconfident way he was looking at the silent, disciplined soldiers below him seemed like him. That could very well be because of Hector being promoted to one of the three Generals of the army, which was done after granting him knighthood. Many candidates and competitors went to protest againist power being granted to a second Imperatore, but they were silenced under the King's command. Another Pokemon was standing besides Shango right then; a Nidoking with extra thin, silver armor that fit perfectly onto his body. His name was Charlie Addams, and he was the General in command of the heavy artillery and Front-Line soldier squads. He was quite fearsome in battle, and deadly as they put it; Shango liked him for his prevalence over the troops, as well as for his good will and devotion to him.

The third General was absent from the scene - Shango and his advisers had decided that it was best not to bring Hesperia's full might into this battle, as the White Citadel would be left unguarded; the Ionians could be planning to flank them, for all they knew.

Shango looked at the soldiers of the first line, one by one; they were only looking forward, not at him, as was the Hesperian ethic. Their discipline was unmatched, their deadly effectiveness in battle chanted in songs. The bronze of their armors shone under the intense rays of the sun. There was a distinctive smell on the forest, carried around by a breeze. All Shango could smell was victory at that moment; he felt so confident, all hints of fear had vanished now that the war had commenced, with the Ionian armies approaching Angula, according to their airborne scouts. The army was now standing guard on the path between Ionia and the town of Angula. It wasn't necessarily the best position, but it would have to do - they outnumbered their enemy, after all. Ionia was nothing but a powerful city state under the protection of the Hesperian Empire, and now they stood against all their might.

A Swellow scout dove from the sky, in front of Shango, and stood firmly with her wings attached to her body.

"Salutations, Your Grace. Four thousand are coming towards this way, using the main road," she informed him. Shango brought his hands behind his back as he stared at her with his eyes sparkling and a light, welcoming smile on his face. He then took a deep breath and looked over the bird's shoulder, towards the army.

"It has happened," he shouted, and the Swellow stepped away; he raised his eyes up the sky before continuing, readying himself for the best choice of words he could deploy to manipulate the Pokemon before him. "The city we had taken under our care, the city who forged the strongest of alliances with us," he paused, his gaze falling on the soldiers of the front line, "is now declaring war upon us."

He started pacing across the line of soldiers. "By claiming that we burned their Fort down, not only do they insult our honesty, but our pride as a nation. And now, they dare challenge us."

It was clear that Shango's words had caused tension amongst the soldiers; anger had begun boiling inside them, he could see it in their expressions; he hid his satisfaction, only memorizing each detail the moment to savor it later, even years from now.

"So if they mean to have a war... let it be!"

His eyes fell on a Vigoroth, as he was pacing in front of him; Shango momentarily examined the Pokemon's expression, which contained no anger, only sacred concentration on him... he instantly sensed something strange about the Pokemon, his intuition booming in his mind - that Pokemon was a voidborn, and that Pokemon was now acknowledging the fact that he was a voidborn as well. As he passed him, he heard the wind, the movement of the Pokemon towards him; he turned just in time to see the Vigoroth in the golden armor leaping onto him just as he had did so many times. Claws that were aimed for his neck were sunk into his left shoulder, right under his spiky shoulderpad, as he jerked aside. Shango's own claws had stabbed right through the Pokemon's thin torso, their tips emerging from his back, bloodying his arm and the ground. Gazing at the Vigoroth with hazy green eyes, Shango saw its image fade in a familiar way, leaving behind a completely different Pokemon.

He was now able to see through the illusion of the Vigoroth, into a young Zoroark, blood dripping from its snout as he coughed. Shango's eyes traveled to its belt, where the insignia of the Hashashin was tuckered onto; slowly turning to look back at the Pokemon, he was able to recognize it as Crystal's brother, the son of Uncle Pasqual, in other words, one of his cousins. In a final outburst, the Zoroark let out a dark pulse which was all consumed by Shango's right hand, as he sliced the Hashashin's throat with it.

Shango plucked the red claws out of his shoulder and kneeled, placing the Hashashin on the grass gently. Rest in peace, he thought, subtly closing the eyes of his dead kin with a movement that was unseen from his soldiers. The whole thing had happened in two seconds, and the soldiers were now surrounding them worriedly. Shango could tell he was not badly injured, the wound was not too deep. He was surely in pain, but he had experienced worse, and it was bearable. He got up from the ground, his eyes finding focus again and his mind suddenly become crystal clear. Seeing all the soldiers in the golden armors around him, he adopted a disturbed expression that was apparently scary.

"Hold your positions and leave that body to rot there!" he barked angrily. Glancing at Hector behind him, he shot him a reassuring look that was caught on by Charlie as well. The Nidoking was not worried at all, as if he knew King Angelo would be able to handle the situation. Shango put his hands behind his back, although his shoulder throbbed, and stepped over the Zoroark on the ground, plucking out the insignia of the Hashashin that was tied onto his cousin's red sash. The blood painting the luscious grass bed beneath him.

Shango quickly glanced at nowhere, where Tristana was flying, to ask for her silence.

"As you can see," Shango yelled out to the thousand of soldiers, the ones at the back disciplined enough not to ask what had happened, "somebody failed to assassinate me," he stated quite bluntly. Whispers traveled all across the lined up soldiers, then deadly silence followed. He raised his hand, showing the insignia of the Hashashin to everyone. "They are now sending the Hashashin after me. See how low Ionians can fall."

He glanced back at the dead Hashashin, wondering who would put up the task to assassinate the Hesperian King himself to a youngling such as him. The corrupted ones, probably - Shango's heart was filled with silent hatred and anger, as he was drown in regret for having to take the life of the young Hashashin. He had no concern of 'compromising the brotherhood' anymore, as it was a corrupted Brotherhood that needed to be compromised in order to be set straight. He only mourned about his lost relative. As he walked away from the body, he sworn in finding out who had sent Pasqual's son in such a dangerous mission.

Blood was running down his white fur, blending in with his red mark of a thunder on his belly. He only looked forward, where he should have been looking.

"Just like they killed our beloved King Eoleo, they now seek to kill me... defiance against the Crown proves the Ionian hatred towards us," Shango shouted again, although he was not wearing any crown right now. The soldiers before him had gotten anxious, he could feel it, the tension was rising upwards, especially after the failed assassination. The assassination had come as a blessing, actually. By repelling it himself, King Angelo's own powers were confirmed; the title of the Hesperian King could be given to any one with royal blood, but it could not be kept for long by the weak. "If this is not a reason to vanquish them for their insolence, what is?"

The whole army broke in an angry battle cry, pounding the ground with their feet continuously. Shango motioned all of them to turn around, face the forest where the road was leading into. It was such a sight seeing all of them turn around under his command, that it brought a gentle, almost malevolent smile on his face. He could see now how Pokemon could be corrupted by power.

The time was nigh.

"My King," Charlie's voice came from behind; Shango turned to face the Nidoking, his smile replaced with his usual expression of seriousness. "Are you not worried that the Hashashin might try again?"

"I welcome them to," Shango almost laughed, although he felt differently, "if I get to live through another attempt at my life, that will mean something for these souls I send onward to battle."

The Nidoking nodded curtly. "What you say is true, Your Grace. The men need morale along with a purpose."

"So, go on, General. I will sit this one out," he said, clutching the back of his shoulder to stop the bleeding. Then, he turned to eye Hector besides him with meaning. "You go, too."

Hector patted Shango's ribs in an unofficial salute and walked away, followed by General Charlie.

"March onwards!" Shango heard Charlie shout. He quickly turned his look away, suddenly overcome by the constant, burning pain on his shoulder. He was greeted by a small group of soldiers that were left to guard Angula; they removed his shoulderpad and guided him to the town gently. Queen Rosa fell onto him, seemingly worried about his condition. Shango wondered if she was truly worried or pretending. Either way he did not care.


***

Into a rich house of the city they were led, where Shango requested they leave them alone; he sunk himself in the hot water of the stone tub that was forged in the ground, with his shoulder bandaged tightly. He could actually feel it heal, but he had lost a good amount of blood. He was feeling sleepy, plus he had a Weavile above his head, wanting to get in the tub with him. The situation was making Tristana laugh and giggle in a corner, away from the two. She didn't seem worried about Shango, and Shango wasn't worried about Shango, so that made two of them. Unlike Rosa, who had taken it all seriously. Then again, the wound rendered him unable to move his whole arm. Add that to the movement impairment the heavy armor was giving him, he would not be able to fight at all. He felt disgust that a King had the ability to take a bath when his soldiers were out dying for the Empire, but he was no true King anyway. In fact, he could not wait till he was over and done with this ridiculously official and open figure of Angelo Imperatore - he wanted to return to the Phantom Dancer's ways and habits as soon as possible, but that all depended on how long the war would last. Yet... who was to say he couldn't be both?


***

Shango lay back, resting in the tub, staring at the white ceiling dreamily. As he had gotten into the steam engulfing him, he had got lost in his thoughts. Rosa had finally let him alone - she was tending to him for hours, ever since he got back. Now she had left out of the house for a stroll, hoping to get updated on the battle. Tristana had revealed herself, now sitting behind Shango and running her tiny hands through his hair and rubbing his ears. Although it felt good, his doubts, regrets and fears didn't allow him to enjoy his bath wholly.

"Tristana," he called out to her, not abstracting his stare from the ceiling.

"Yes, Shango?"

"Do you remember the Spirit of the Hashashin?"

"I do... it was it who gave you your cloak, wasn't it? Back in the Otori forest, where you followed it into that strange altar. What about it?"

"I saw it, in my dream. It was one of those dreams again... only now, it spoke to me in the common tongue. It warned me that the Hashashin were coming. It didn't seem as friendly as before... what's changed?"

"Well, it seems you must have done something wrong, that is harming the Hashashin..."

"How? I only want to rid the world of the Endarkened Ones..." Shango remained silent, thinking. There was a catch there, and he would find it.

After a few moments of silence, he said: "Do you think I had a choice? Could I spare the Hashashin?"

Tristana bit her lip in a slightly upset expression and thought about it for a moment. "No, Shango... even if you did spare him, the troops wouldn't show any mercy..."

A wave of sadness hit Shango, who looked down at his paws. He still couldn't believe his claws had taken the life of an Hashashin. The lives of the Ionians were doomed in service of the Endarkened Ones. The lives of the Hesperians that would die fighting would go for a good cause. But the life of a voidborn... that was precious to him. "I feel ashamed that I don't even remember his name."

Tristana stayed silent, as she truly did not remember either; she could only recall hearing it once, when Uncle Pasqual revealed himself and his son. She had stopped brushing Shango's hair now. Suddenly, his ears perked up and he sat on the bottom of the tub, facing the entrance of the bath. The gorgeous Weavile was standing there, with a wild, twisted expression on her face.

"Shango," she said, and Shango instantly tightened his claws, feeling the adrenaline rush through him. Her red eyes glowed victoriously as she stared into him. Now she knows. "You can tell your spirit to stop hiding."

Shango didn't move; she was too far away, but if she tried to run, he would catch her within seconds. Tristana popped next to him, staring back at the Queen angrily. She showed no fear as she walked near the tub, eyeing both of them in a strange way he would never forget.

"I overheard your sweet name," she explained slowly, as if savoring the moment. Shango was completely unaware of her intentions, so he stayed silent. "It's funny, how I didn't think it was you earlier. It's just that I thought you were too stupid to be a King."

Shango's lips had formed a firm line and his face was plain and empty. "You speak as if you think I would not grow up, after all these years," he said coldly. "Are you truly that naive?"

Anger flashed across Rosa's face. She was not used to be insulted, obviously, but she chose to ignore it and swallow her anger. After a few moments of silence, she spoke in a slightly aggravated tone.

"I demand an explanation," she said a little louder than normal, as if she was trying to prevail over him. "I hear you tarnished Ascendio in Myriapolis. You tried to kill that Armaldo, the Chancellor of Ionia... why did you vanish, Shango?"

"You can figure it out," Shango said and a warm, peaceful smile spreading across his face; it massively contradicted the situation, and Rosa was a bit shocked, exactly what he wanted. Let's see some emotion. Some weakness.

"The Hashashin of Ionia vanished with you... years later, you attempt to kill the Ionian Chancellor as one of them. And now..."

Her eyes widened in realization, not of his plans, but of his deeds. Shango
slowly got out of the tub, his fur heavy and soaking wet. He examined the Weavile, and he could tell what she was thinking momentarily, before she spoke in a whisper.

"... you killed my father."

"If you're planning on doing anything about it," he said simply, rubbing his claws against each other and staring at her intently, "do it now."

She returned the stare, then she burst into melodic laughter. "Don't be silly. You've done me good, Shango."

Shango raised his eyebrows as she walked towards him; he sensed she was not up to anything, and she let him touch his chest seductively, stroke his fur with her cold claws up and down and looking him straight in the eye with a tricky smile. "I was a Princess. Now I'm a Queen. Things have improved for both of us, wouldn't you say? Just tell me... why did you do this?"

"Do you not know with what your father was affiliated with?"

"Being a King, I dunno."

"It's best that you don't know, then. For your safety," he added quickly under her menacing stare.

"So you are the Hashashin on a mission..." the Weavile got closer to him as she spoke, and Shango subtly brought his claws close to her torso, where he could give her a swift death if she tried to harm him.

"I'm not an Hashashin anymore," he stated, smirking at the thought. He was an Hashashin by heart, just not of these modern, corrupted Hashashin. "Why would they try to kill me if I was one of them?"

"Right. Then what are your motives?"

"The darkstar," he said again, fully determined that it was best to tell her part of the truth. Her red eyes flashed as she heard of the gem.

"So, it charmed you, when you had touched it?"

"No. Other things charm me," Shango's tricky, elusive smile appeared, and Tristana, who sat on the floor the whole time, pinched her nose and quietly pretended she was throwing up. But neither of them noticed; Shango brought his claw close to Rosa's eye and gently brought it down her cheek. A little act wouldn't harm anybody, and his charm was the best way to distract her. Rosa's cheeks slightly blushed and she looked down, suddenly having lost all of her might. She looked like a teenage girl to Shango. But she quickly snapped out of it and looked back up at him in a renewed insistence.

"Why are you attacking Ionia?" she asked, removing her hand from his chest; Shango dragged his hand off her face as well, as the touchy moment was gone. "Do you know where the darkstar is?"

"Yes, and I intend to get it back at all costs."

"The Chancellor has got it," Rosa said, her face becoming even more red, this time from anger.

"How do you know?"

"I saw him inside the palace the night the crystal vanished."

Shango realized that Jericho could have attended his marriage with Rosa as well, if he had been inside the palace the day after. How did he miss this opportunity to kill him? But his death would have been in vain. The war-plan would still be in motion, as he still needed to vanquish Ionia's allegiance with the Endarkened Ones. If the Chancellor died, another one would rise to take his place. No, he needed to destroy the evil from its root...

"Well, it seems like our goals align," Shango noticed. His calm smile was veiling his thoughts, warding off Rosa's anger as she looked upon it. "I propose an alliance."

She stared at him intently for a single moment, then a half smile appeared on her face, hinting Shango that she was thinking about it. She didn't have many choices, after all. To his surprise, she brought her hand on his chest once again, getting close to him after all the tension of business.

"Hmm," she dragged her claws all across his chest to his neck, and his whole body shivered under her touch; mainly under the pressure of the concentration. He would have to act faster than her if she was to try anything. But she only threw him that look many girls in Ionia had, years before.

"I had another form of alliance in mind," she whispered, but before she could do anything else, Tristana shot herself up in the air and flew in front of the Weavile's face, pushing her back.

"Back off," she exclaimed, then proceeded to hug Shango's face. "He's mine."

Rosa started laughing, looking up as she did so. "Don't bother. He's not my type."

Shango remained silent, judging it was best to keep his opinion about her to himself. He wouldn't even mention she was willing to get personal when she thought she had married a guy named Angelo. In fact, he was unable to comprehend how Rosa had failed to recognize him so far... it had been many years, indeed, but still...

Meanwhile, Tristana had filled his cheek with kisses, then sat on his shoulder playfully.

"Maybe Hector is your type," Shango suggested plainly.

"We are married, remember?"

"I am married to nobody. You are married to Angelo, Hector's brother. I do not intend to stay a King forever, you know."

Rosa slightly tilted her head, staring at him as if trying to understand the meaning of his words.

"Hector will replace me," Shango made it clear for her.

"You can't be serious," she gasped.

"I can be serious, and I choose to be right now."

"... people will recognize him! You have different eyes..."

"We will just have to take care of that."

"How? You sound like a moron, you know."

Shango kept silent for a few moments, unaffected by insults. His deep eyes were fixed on Rosa. It was impossible for her to see through them to his thinking. After some thought, he replied. "It's not worth explaining right now. You'll just have to wait and see," he enjoyed her temper rising again, "or maybe you could just ask Hector himself. And I'm sure you're gonna be grateful for the win he's brought us today, correct?"

"It's almost as though you don't want me for yourself!" Rosa shouted in a complaining manner, crossing her arms. Shango was getting tired of this conversation really quickly - even though two years parted him and Rosa age wise, the years in which he would be able to flirt with her normally had passed long ago. Females had lost their place in his mind, as he simply did not have enough time to give... Claire's death had granted him two things, which he wasn't aware of at the time: freedom to travel the world, and freedom in general. He couldn't have started a family and be the Phantom Dancer. As he realized this during the later years of his travels, he felt bad for not holding himself back from the Countess; she would be alive if he had.

"I am not in the frame of mind to answer," Shango managed to say after swimming around in these thoughts.

"You're so calm and carefree, aren't you?" she snapped. "I haven't met a bigger fool. I can't believe I didn't recognize you in Angelo. You know what, you shouldn't be so calm, Shango. I can uncover this little conspiracy of yours if I want to, at any moment."

He looked at her with green eyes flaring menacingly; he was smiling broadly, as if bemused by her. Perhaps she could sense it; her will seemed to break, he had done it again. He brought his claw to her elegant neck, leaning forward to whisper into her ear. "Let me be clear, Rosa. Should you ever dare to cross me, I won't hesitate to cut off your head myself. Kings are known to get bored of their spouses." The menacing tone in which he said those words did it for her.

He adjusted his wet leather bandage over his left arm and jumped back in the tub with the hot water. Tristana was left behind, flapping her wings about. The spirit and the Queen spent a moment staring at each other with hostility, then both went off to their way. Rosa probably went to find Hector, and Tristana sat, rubbing the hair of her beloved... friend.
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  #13    
Old September 10th, 2013 (02:31 AM).
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Into a rich house of the city they were led, where Shango requested they left them alone;
You should replace "left" with "leave".

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"... you killed my father."
Dun dun duuuuuun! Sorry, I couldn't resist.

So the assassination attempt failed and another twist is thrown into the plot. The story has progressed pretty seriously for quite some time now and I don't think it would be a bad idea to include a more light-hearted chapter. One that doesn't necessarily progress on the plot, but rather make the reader smile and keeps the story interesting. Although this is clearly well thought out and a very serious story, it can get a tad dull if one is reading this as a whole, instead of one chapter at a time. Just to mix things up and add a new spice in there, if that makes sense. the story would still be great without it, but just thought I would put the idea out there.

I am already starting to like that Charlie guy. For some reason I can't exactly pinpoint, I've already decided that I like him, which is probably a bad thing for poor Charlie. Normally, whenever I start to like a character, that character dies shortly after, so Charlie is now, probably, cursed.

Have you already written these chapters out? I ask that because it seems that you are putting out these chapters far faster than I would be able to. Once again, you have written a chapter that makes the story a bit more interesting and adds to the suspense. Good job and I look forward to the next update.
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Old September 14th, 2013 (11:50 AM). Edited September 15th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Quote originally posted by Slayr231:
You should replace "left" with "leave".

Dun dun duuuuuun! Sorry, I couldn't resist.

So the assassination attempt failed and another twist is thrown into the plot. The story has progressed pretty seriously for quite some time now and I don't think it would be a bad idea to include a more light-hearted chapter. One that doesn't necessarily progress on the plot, but rather make the reader smile and keeps the story interesting. Although this is clearly well thought out and a very serious story, it can get a tad dull if one is reading this as a whole, instead of one chapter at a time. Just to mix things up and add a new spice in there, if that makes sense. the story would still be great without it, but just thought I would put the idea out there.

I am already starting to like that Charlie guy. For some reason I can't exactly pinpoint, I've already decided that I like him, which is probably a bad thing for poor Charlie. Normally, whenever I start to like a character, that character dies shortly after, so Charlie is now, probably, cursed.

Have you already written these chapters out? I ask that because it seems that you are putting out these chapters far faster than I would be able to. Once again, you have written a chapter that makes the story a bit more interesting and adds to the suspense. Good job and I look forward to the next update.


Charlie is mostly a supportive character, though I like him too and wish I could involve him more. And this is no Game of Thrones, so things don't quite work like that xD To answer your question, yes, I've finished this fic months ago, but I didn't feel like posting it until now. Though it was disorganized and a few chapters were missing (I skipped them), so some of the things I write are fresh. The following chapter is a mixture of fresh stuff and a flashback from an old thing I'd written. I give this as a small break from the action and a little more thought into the backstory, as requested.


Chapter 8: Love in a Dream


"Cola juice," Hector raised his cup. "What an invention, eh?" he rasped, emptying it at once. Shango was leaning over the table, with his claws still grasping the hilt of his glass, looking outside the window. It was but a small break from all the drinking.

"It's addictive, this cola berry," he said, pouring the contents of his cup into his mouth. He kept it in there for a moment, savoring the sweet taste. Feeling groggy, he reached for the cask on the table; he'd requested a whole barrel to be brought, so he could celebrate the Hesperian victory against the Ionians with his brother. Hector, as one of the Generals, had taken it upon himself; he even had forgotten that Charlie Addams had taken part in it.

So, he only kept talking about that, drunken on power and cola, lusting for glory and recognition. He was now retelling the events of those days he was out on the field, crushing the Ionians like little bugs and chasing them in their own forest. They were all afraid of General Hector's might, now, apparently... Shango didn't question that. He knew what his 'brother' was capable of in the battlefield, but he had no taste for stories made of his airy head.

Shango raised his hand dismissively, drunkenly, to stop Hector from talking and blocked a burp that rose to his throat. They looked at each other in the eye from across the table. Hector suddenly leaned back on his chair, putting his feet on the table next to the cask. He had one of those 'remember when' slick expressions.

"Remember when we were after the same girl? Back then, when we were kids?"

Six years ago. Shango wouldn't say he was a kid then. Hector surely was... he nodded slowly, his green eyes watering. "Yes," he whispered.

"The Countess Claire," Hector grunted, barking out raspy laughter. "What a fine lady, eh?"

Shango nodded again, silent, drinking another cup. He could feel Hector's stare. "What happened with you two?" the other Zangoose asked him. "You never told us."

Shango was too drunk to manage to stop himself from talking. Tears were dripping on his furry white cheeks. "I," he started, his lips trembling, unable to look at Hector. "She knew everything. About our cause, about who we were, about who our enemies were. She manipulated the Count to tell her everything... she was involved in all this mess... and now, she's gone." Throwing his cup aside, it rolled on the stone floor. Shango threw himself on the table and started crying for real. His chest shook with sobs, but he was silent. Crisis like these took him over from time to time, and they were all about the Countess. "She's gone," he whispered to Hector, who was frowning.

"Chill out, man, you didn't know her for long..."

"When I first saw her, it felt like I'd always known her." Shango tried to compose himself. He rose from the table to look at Hector, who was still casually leaning back on his chair. He didn't understand... Hector's way of thinking was his primal instincts. He went after any pretty female he saw. Shango was more sentient... more sentimental. He knew the Countess was special the moment he first saw her, singing in that festival and dancing around him. She knew he was the one, too, but she hadn't realized it.

She was playing with both Zangooses for a long time. Shango and Hector were enemies, then, and although Hector never knew, Shango would have killed him if the Countess had ever chosen him.

"I need to rest," Shango declared, his hazy glare fixed on Hector. "Go sleep with Rosa. I'll just lay here."

"Really?" Hector seemed to be surprised.

"Go, get out."


***


They were at Claire's villa, sitting on one of the many living rooms. The Count was apparently away; only the Chandelure that served as a butler 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 damage it. Claire seemed to notice his uneasiness; that's why she had sent the Chandelure to go find some wet towels 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.

It didn't really matter, any of it. Now he was taking the day off, and he was close to his sweet Countess.

Shango was now looking at the form of the beautiful Ninetails, wondering what she was thinking.
Her enticing smell was tickling Shango's nostrils; he moved his cushion a little closer in order to get a better whiff. She was looking upwards, as if posing. She sure liked being looked at.

"Is the Hashashin spying on me?" she asked, a playful expression on her face as she looked at him sideways.

Shango fiddled with his claws. "You're worth spying on."

"The Count is away," she said in a low voice, letting out a carefree sigh. "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 a fever, his head was that hot and dizzy from the moment. His heart rose in his chest. He ran his claws through her soft fur and looked deep inside her dazzling red eyes.

"You look gorgeous, Claire," he whispered, unable to hold his comment back. All this time, he was trying to compose himself of giving the Countess too much, as she was already aware of what she was, but he had to be honest with her.

"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. That was a step, after all this time.

"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. The Count... he was with the Endarkened Ones. If he died, the Phantom Dancer would have hit two Pidgeys with one stone.

Claire had drawn him to a far away land, this land where morals didn't matter. He would make her his through any means he could use, claim her by sending the Count to the Purgatory or wherever it was Gengars went to. It seemed like an exquisite trade, and he was able to tell that was exactly what Claire was thinking of. Great lust filled him as he looked into her, driving him into a storm of emotions suppressed for a long time.

"Until and after 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.
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Old September 15th, 2013 (03:57 AM).
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He was no retelling the events of those days he was out on the field,
I think you missed the "w" on "now".

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He'd swear he had fever, his head was that hot and dizzy from the moment.
He had a fever?

Ooh, a nice chapter indeed. I'm glad you decided to add this in, because it's really refreshing and an enjoyable chapter. Just how many girls will fall in love with Shango? The world might never know. It's a relatively short chapter, but I feel that it's just the length it needed to be. It didn't drag on, didn't get dry, and we learned Shango has a heart, somewhere deep, deep down. I don't have any complaints and/or suggestions this time around, besides grammar.

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The following chapter is a mixture of fresh stuff and a flashback from an old thing I'd written. I give this as a small break from the action and a little more thought into the backstory, as requested.
I'm glad my feedback is being accepted. :D
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Old September 21st, 2013 (02:50 PM). Edited September 22nd, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 9: Tylor Grubas





The end of the week found Shango in the big tent of the military camp. He was surrounded by the soldiers of Charlie Addams' elite crew. Hector was standing next to him. In front of him, there was a table with the map of Acheloos lake spread on it; various locations were marked red with different symbols. On the southern side of the lake, there was a big X where the Fort Stone was. About the northwest end of the lake was an O indicating the second and last camp that protected Ionia; a T was used to symbolize Telaar, the town east of the lake, and a N for the strategic location of an island near Ionia. The city itself was symbolized with a big I, on the north shore of the lake; it was divided in the middle by the Acheloos river that was descending from the north. Shango was now receiving a report from Hector, who had led a successful attack on the forest, overcoming the scouts of the Verdict. Who would've thought he was good at this job? Or perhaps he was just a good hunter...

"As much as we'd love to," Hector was saying, "we can't attack Camp Leaf," he pointed at the O on the map with his claw. "The town," he continued, dragging his claw to the T on the east side, "is a good ally of Ionia that will provide reinforcements."

"Your Grace," Charlie spoke, looking at Shango who was still staring intently at the map, "Telaar has established trade routes through the lake. They own these giant ships they call frigates that could be proven deadly from the water if we decide to assault the camp or Ionia. They have an entire fleet of these frigates that we are unable to disable."

Shango took a deep breath and looked at the Nidoking before him. "Do you know how to sail a ship, General?"

"With the right crew, I do know how."

He had thought so; Charlie Addams was a notorious leader of the Nautactus Republic once, the government of the pirates friendly to the Empire - he surely knew how to sail a ship. The problem was, there was no Hesperian ship in the lake. Shango's train of thoughts was followed by everyone in the tent. Silence ensued for a few seconds, then Charlie spoke.

"I'm familiar with somebody that's more than able to aid us, my King," he said.

"Then bring him to me at once," Shango ordered, now taking his gaze away from the General and onto the map. Charlie quickly headed over to the guard closest to the entrance; meanwhile, Hector had started talking again.

"I'm not a naval genius, Angelo," he said, having his black eyes fixed on the island near Ionia, "but it's clear that if we conquer this island and move our center of operations there..."

"Launching an attack from this camp here," Shango interrupted him, pointing at the O, "straight at I," then dragged his claw to the I, "while attacking by water... Ionia will be ended," he finished, his eyes glowing darkly. Charlie, who had returned to the scene, spoke again.

"It is evident that we destroy the camp and Telaar's reinforcements," he reminded them. "But it is impossible to reach the camp - this time, the Verdict is prepared. As far as I know, Seekers have prepared many tricks in the forests."

They have, Shango confirmed, thinking of all the traps, ambushes, as well as the advanced battle tactics they would use in the forest. The heavy, slow army of Hesperia would be having trouble if they confronted them in the forest.

"An attack on the camp will not suffice," Charlie said in a serious tone, "their active naval forces are all docked there - if we disable those before setting out on an attack on both frontiers of the camp, we will surely conquer it."

"Beautifully," Shango commented, repeating the plan in his mind. "Primarily, we will attack Telaar and request their neutrality in this war, after we make sure they can do nothing about it anymore."

Shango caught Hector's devilish smile with the edge of his sight. They always concurred in their tactics. "Then," Shango continued, "we will disable the frigates under Fort Leaf's control. After that is dealth with, we will claim this island for our own. Then, we attack Ionia from both ends."

"Brilliant, Your Grace," Charlie commented. "I will make preparations at once. Our guest will arrive shortly, I presume. Our teleporters will take care of that."

Shango nodded, dismissing all of them. Charlie walked off the tent with the rest of his crew; only two remained, two who were under Hector's command. They stood guard in the entrance, while Shango sat down his chair, Hector by his side.

"What do you think of all this?" Shango asked him quietly.

"The end is near. They will soon have one less hideout," he replied, meaning the Endarkened Ones. "Their meetings will be reduced. Things will be hard for them in a while. We'll be able to track them down more easily and kill them."

"Especially with Jericho out of the way."

"And Sigmund Blados. Don't forget about him."

"Of course. What's the situation with the Illinkar tribes? Is Zorthan after Ingvar?"

"Yes. He is still traveling to the north."

"Give him some instructions, lest he kill himself."

"He'll be fine, mate... I mean, Your Grace." There was a fine note of sarcasm on Hector's voice, but Shango ignored it.

"The success of the mission he took on was a long shot right from the start, I've told you and Zaunix."

"Maybe, but it couldn't wait."

"That is exactly why I gave you my consent."


***


The guest Charlie Addams had promised arrived two days later, with two additional Pokemon in the package. The Kirlia teleporters said they wasted too much time on trying to find them. According to the General, they are a pirate crew that is known for hunting treasures in the southern sea zone; the captain of the crew was apparently playing card games in the local tavern when they found him and the rest of his crew (who reportedly had secured the exits) and teleported him all the way to Hesperia with teleportation gems. The said captain actually thanked them mockingly, claiming that they saved him from the wrath of the pirates who were constantly losing to him in gambling games.

They were brought in the King's tent in the camp, along with twenty guards; Shango was sitting on his golden chair quietly once they entered. He threw quick looks at the three Pokemon in front of them, examining them; in the middle, there was a Sableye with a big crystal on his chest and a diamond necklace that was sure worth a fortune. Shango knew nothing of Sableyes, as they were not common in these lands, so he judged the man by his appearance: he seemed shady, that was for sure; though his mocking, teeth-revealing grin was indicating his playfulness. However, he felt as if something was quite wrong with him. He was able to detect some kind of spiritual power that was coming from him, and it had nothing to do with him being a ghost.

Aside from him, a giant of a Feraligatr with a black tricorne hat over his red fins and a white dress uniform jacket with blue lining, a belt around his large gut that was full of pouches and small bags. It also had a strange tool sheathed on a hatch resting on the side, known as flintlock pistol in our world, but it seemed to be very old. From the other side of the belt, a rusty machete was hanging down, touching the ground slightly. Leather boots were engulfing his heavy feet; above them, strange symbols were carved onto his belly, unlike anything Shango had ever seen. The Pokemon was grinning as well, but in a more threatening way than the captain, strangely; his red eyes proclaimed nothing good, but Shango was sure he would come along.

And finally, in the back, a Machop was standing half hidden by the Feraligatr's size. He was wearing a black band with a symbol around his head; a Charmeleon's head with a dagger brought downwards on it, and two words which Shango was unable to read from the distance. The Pokemon also wore a belt with two knives and a pouch. From his neck, an everstone was hanging; he seemed to be quite afraid, his expression let Shango know so. Maybe he wasn't the brave one of the group. None of them was older than him, he thought.

Once he took a good look at them, he turned to the soldiers behind them. "Where's General Addams?" he barked.

"He apologises," said one of the men, "but he cannot attend. He ordered me to tell you he will be at the docks, if it is absolutely necessary..." his tone was quite worried, as he knew full well that a King can be irritated, and heads were chopped off when Kings were irritated. But Shango knew the reason to why Charlie was in the newly constructed docks: he was building a ship, along with some carpenters. Shango simply nodded, sending all of them away. Two of them remained behind to guard the entrance of the tent.

"Your names," Shango requested without looking at them.

"Now wait just a sec," the Sableye said, adopting a rather insulted expression that seemed fake as it came out of nowhere. "You called us here to ask for our names?!"

The Feraligatr behind him let out a chuckle at first, then they all begun laughing at the same time, even the Machop; they suddenly lost their might in Shango's eyes. They now seemed like friendly pirates who were into it only for the funsies. He shut his eyes, patiently waiting for them to stop. When they did, he looked at them in the same serious, intense manner.

"Your names," Shango repeated. The Sableye captain exchanged a look with the Feraligatr behind him, then they looked at him again.

"A'ight," the captain chuckled, "Tylor Grubas, at your services," he said, bowing deeply and mockingly. The nerve of this guy. When he looked at Shango again, his grin had returned. "The Machop's name is Thomas!"

"Thomas Fallows, sir, King," the small Pokemon said hurriedly, quickly as if he wasn't used to talking much. He then bowed deeply, like Tylor, but the Feraligatr turned and landed his chop on his head.

"Tommie ye idiot, let th' cap'n bow as he knows, ye look like a frighten'd lass!"

"S-sorry," the Machop stuttered.

"This," Tylor said, pointing at the enormous Pokemon, "is Nautilus. 'xcuse him for the inappropriate... slur of his attitude. Oh!" he suddenly shouted, as if he had just remembered. His eyes got passed Shango, fixed on something behind him; he glanced back, but there was nothing there.

"Of course slur was the correct noun!" he said, mildly irritated. Shango looked at him astonished.

"Who are you talking t--"

"Never mind, you!" Tylor Grubas shouted, his eyes focused on him again. Shango slightly shook his head, deciding to get to the point before he started loosing it.

"Would you serve us in the war against Ionia?" he asked bluntly, knowing there was no negative answer they could give. Their captain started crackling with laughter, and Nautilus behind him chuckled.

"D'ya hear that, cap'n?!"

"I heard that just fine! Ho ho, this is so rich!" he exclaimed, his wicked grin dancing on his ghostly face. "Let's see... Hesperia asks the pirates for a favour! That's one for us and zero for you, in terms of parley!"

"Paaarrrley," Nautilus and Thomas shouted and bursted into laughter.

"I don't ask," Shango yelled, slamming his tightened fist on the steel table in front of him and silencing them. "I demand."

"Get a load of this, he's demanding!" Tylor shouted back at him, but he was looking above his shoulder again. Shango was close to losing his patience with them.

"Umm, captain?" Thomas nudged the Sableye's shoulder. Shango got up from his seat, making them fall silent.

"I repeat," he announced in a tone as calm as he could, "would you serve Hesperia in the war against Ionia?"

Tylor finally gave it some thought. "Well," he started saying in a slightly awkward look, "it kinda depends..."

"On?"

"Our payment."

"Your payment?"

"Our payment," Nautilus demanded. Even Thomas was getting more brave, as he walked besides his captain.

"Fine," said Shango, as to be rid of them as soon as possible.

"Hold on, this guy's got an awesome idea," Tylor said, again looking in the air. Then he turned back to Shango. "And a memorial statue for our services," he quickly added, then turned back to his crew. "How 'bout that, guys?"

"That is, if you die," Shango said threateningly, quelling their laughter.

"What's in it fer us, Crownie?" the Feraligatr asked him; he assumed he made a referance to the Crown.

"Two hundred golden bars," Shango said, knowing this offer would surely be likeable; indeed, he saw the Sableye's diamond eyes flash, but not with greed exactly.

"Deal!" Thomas the machop shouted immediately, only to receive another chop in the head by Nautilus.

"Shush yer mouth!"

Tylor rubbed his wrists. "Two hundred 'n fifty, with complimentary pretty gems."

"Fine, fine," Shango said impatiently, waving his hand.

"And what is it that you want from us?" Thomas asked in a mildly worried tone.

"We are making a ship for you to sail the lake with some of our soldiers."

"What kind of ship are we talkin' about?" Tylor asked him, looking down at his curly claws.

"A schooner, armed with hatches and tristanite hull armor shell."

"Wow!" Thomas exclaimed. Tylor quickly turned to his crew and they conversed in low voices. When he looked back at him, he seemed cheerful.

"Provided you let us keep the ship, we'll do anything you want!" he shouted. "Oh and name it Hollow's End, like our old ship..."

"That will be taken care of," Shango said with a relieved smile on his face. He sat down and waved his hand, sending them away as he leaned back, analyzing the information of the past scene.
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Old September 22nd, 2013 (12:07 AM).
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About the northwest of the lake was an O indicating the second and last camp that protected Ionia;
It seems there's something missing at the beginning of the sentence. You seem to be referencing to a specific spot, but never say which spot. Maybe put "end" after "northwest"? I think that might be what you were going for.

Alright, we start to prepare for the final stretch of the war. I like how you have Shango rely on help, instead of having him absolutely destroy everything himself. However, I'm having concerns that Shango might be too much of a "godly" character where everything goes right for him. I wouldn't say that's an issue yet, but just thought I would put the idea out there. Overall, a good setup chapter. The stage is set and I can feel an intense battle on the horizon. I'm looking forward to future updates and the ensuing battle.
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Old September 28th, 2013 (11:29 AM).
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Chapter 10: Rocks with Hands


The Hollow's End was floating close to the coast of the peaceful lake, its sails folded. In the eyes of Hesperia, it was an incredibly large ship. To Ionia, and to Shango to some extent, it seemed small, compared to the giant frigates the city used to travel across the lake. This ship was the only ship owned by the Empire right now; as the Navy was outcast from the southern seas centuries ago by the Nautactus Republic. The pirates of the republic, having a closer bond with the sea than Hesperians, managed to win the Shell War by recruiting the wild creatures of the sea to their cause. The ships of the Empire had no chance against the giant Wailords that crushed them when they dared wandering in deep waters, and on top of that, the myriads of Cloysters that were flung againist them from the sea bottom. But what truly had helped the Republic win this war were the achievements of Gale Stanwix - the pirate captain that became a legend after four consecutive wins against the Navy; legend and folklore claims that this Kingler had the Guardian of the Sea to his side, and that why the wind, waves and thunderstorms always favored him.

This was the story Captain Tylor Grubas was telling to the soldiers in the Operations Center that was moved to the top of the burnt hill, where Fort Stone was once. The Generals smirked in irritation and the King frowned upon Charlie Addams, as if saying bringing someone like Grubas for the job wasn't such a good idea. His General looked at him apologetically, and Shango took away his gaze.

There was nothing else left to discuss. With a motion of his hand, every Pokemon exited the small wooden house and headed towards the cliff facing the lake.

A month had passed since the beginning of the Hollow's End construction, a month full of painful losses for the Hesperian Empire. Despite their preponderance, the army was unable to counter the Needlers of the Verdict who pierced through their lines like cruise missiles, breaking their formation and scattering them around. Both of the Generals, along with the King, were quietly blamed for not having taken the Verdict's tactics into account.

Today was the day they launched the surprise assault on Telaar village. Their schooner awaited for them, anchored close to the cliff; its two sails were painted orange by the sun setting down the clouds on the horizon. The Hollow's End was a proud ship with its hull reinforced with the glittering tristanite. It had two masts, the front one significantly shorter.

As they stood on top of the hill, the waters of the lake way below them, their eyes were about the same height of the Hesperian flag (the Swellow's wings) on top of the rear mast, racing with the wind. Around its pole, a tight cord was tied, lining all the way towards the cliff to another pole with the flag, as to connect the ship with the camp. The pirates could easily climb on and off the ship by hanging from the rope... well, that excluded Nautilus, who would be forced to swim, as he was too heavy for the rope. The Feraligatr looked down upon the waters of Acheloos lake, leaning over the edge of the cliff.

"Ho, cap'n," he shouted, "them waters don' seem salty..."

"How does this thing float?!" Thomas blurted the question out. General Addams, who was the friendliest towards the pirates from them all, granted the simple answer.

"Of course they are salty... the sea is at least four hundred miles away, but the waters of this lake are salty."

"Oi, then," Nautilus scratched his belly; Shango's eyes were drawn from the yonder to the strange markings on the Feraligatr's gut. He had definitely seen those markings before, but he couldn't remember where...

"Catch ya on board, cap'n," the pirate said and lept off the cliff with incredible, unexpected agility. Shango observed the way the massive Pokemon fell, and judging by the fact that he dove down the water like a rocket, he concluded that the Pokemon was a skilled sailor and swimmer, if not a fearsome fighter.

"Argh!" Tylor shouted, pulling imaginary hair from his head and looking at the Feraligatr who was climbing on Hollow's End. "Madman! What of the plans?!"

Madman seemed to be some kind of nickname, because Nautilus turned to face his captain and he wasn't even insulted. "Wot plans?" he shouted back, his voice echoing in the face of the cliff back on the open lake.

"Just forget about it," Thomas said and rolled his eyes. Shango caught the Sableye acting strangely again: he was looking at somewhere, where there was nobody and nothing to look at. He started wondering if the man was seeing things, or worse, talking to them.

"Yes, you're right!" Tylor shouted, and he was surely not talking to his mate Thomas behind him.

The captain faced Shango then, half surprised, half disturbed. "If we're in for some naval warfare, three of us ain't gonna suffice!"

"Don't fret--" General Addams begun, but he was cut out by Nautilus' shout.

"Cap'n, there's rocks belowdecks!"

"Rocks?! What'd you mean, rocks?!" Tylor turned to Shango. "If this is some kind of joke..." he started saying, adopting a threatening look that momentarily made him look scary. "It'd be a darn good one," he added and crackled with laughter together with his mate; it continued until Thomas was rolling on the ground, and Tylor was clutching his knees, his sapphire eyes watered in tears.

"Scratch that, cap'n," Nautilus was heard again before anyone could explain properly to them. "These're Pokemon! Big, round Pokemon! Wit' hands!"

"I gotta see for myself," Tylor said, but before he could jump onto the rope, Shango extended his right arm to grab his shoulder; it was an unfortunate moment, because the way he grasped him looked hostile and the Sableye was shot up the air, startled, barely landing on the cliff. When he turned to look at Shango, his eyes flashed strangely, and his face had become plain as if he was going through some thought. Perhaps the ghost had felt something.

"Curious," he commented, "most curious, my King."

Shango kept a straight face as usual and observed him, trying to understand the meaning of this. Tylor was a ghost, ghosts had a better understanding of spiritual powers as they were one themselves; Shango glanced at his right arm, which was aching him constantly the past few days.
Memories flooded his mind, these of the darkstar merging with it, becoming the liquid darkness that filled his whole body with unbelievable amount of power and ambition. A realization was coming closer to his veiled mind, which emerged abruptly and hit him like a tidal wave: the voidborns surely weren't the only ones who knew of the darkstar. Tylor, being a booty pirate, was bound to know every single legend of a treasure that was spread around from at least the beginning of time - these people were artisans of treasure hunting.

Another fact, well hidden in his memory emerged quickly to follow the first realization: one of the Endarkened Ones was a pirate. Angstrom, the Heil of the Axe was the leader of the real pirates, the ones who sacked towns and attacked ships of the mere scavengers of the sea those who were calling themselves 'pirates' as an honorary term. Tylor, being one of the latter as Charlie Addams informed him, would have had quarrel with Angstrom... Shango felt the need to introduce the Phantom Dancer to his newfound pirate friends, as they could prove extremely useful allies when he decided to confront the pirate leader.

I will, some day, become a pirate myself, and hunt down Angstrom in his own field.

General Addams interrupted Shango's thoughts.

"We have armed the ship with the best crew of mountain Gravellers and Geodudes we could find," he said with a generous smile that did not fit a General of the Hesperian army. He now seemed more like the Nidoking of the Nautactus Republic Shango had seen in paintings... a pirate himself. Of course, Charlie Addams was a pirate too, once.

"Gravellers fling Geodudes, who explode on impact," Hector said and chuckled, "man, I'd love to see them going boom!"

Tylor looked at him intently, with a big smile on his shadowy face. "I'm starting to like this guy! We do share the same opinion for explosives! I'm sure he'd like a cruise with our cruiser. Hah!"

"No," Shango said abruptly. "He has a position to keep."

Grubas stared at him, possibly trying to determine if Shango was being evil or strict.

"Cap'n!" Nautilus was heard again. Tylor motioned to Thomas to go away, and the Machop grabbed hold of the rope and started his way towards the Hollow's End above the water. Shango didn't quite know why he dismissed him like that, but he could only guess. It had something to do with the ship.

"What's the plan, anyway?" the Sableye asked them.

"There's a town nearby, which favors Ionia," Charlie spoke. "We want you to destroy the ships on its docks."

"How many of 'em?"

"Must be three ships, three frigates of the same kind."

Tylor turned his back to them to look at his new ship and scratched his chin. "They'll know of Hollow's End," he said finally, pointing down at his new ship. "It's been here for a few days, so these guys will know they got competition."

"No, they don't know a thing," Hector said, "the area's camouflaged by our psychics."

"Awesome! Skill, right there, I'm lovin' it!"

"Got any questions, captain?" Shango asked him in a serious tone.

"I've got a question for you," Tylor said, turning to face him. "Why is it that you always wear armor?"

"I don't always wear armor," was Shango's tricky answer. Hector got the implication of his armor being nothing but temporary and grinned. "Alright then, is that it?"

"Yup. Just give me the signal, mate."

Shango thought it was ridiculous, being called 'mate' when three of the most important Pokemon of the Empire were present, including himself. But he disregarded that; he would eventually get friendly with the captain. He didn't seem so bad after all, and the anger his crew had caused him was mainly because of the pressure and tension of the past months. The Sableye jumped on the rope and quickly left the cliff to land on his ship softly.

Shango looked over at the Nidoking. "General Addams," he said, "be kind and leave us alone for a bit."

"As you wish, my King," Charlie said and departed. Shango grabbed Hector's hand, squeezing it and looking at him with the pupils of his large eyes dilated.

"Tylor knows about the darkstar," he said bluntly. "I don't know how, but he does."

"He could prove useful," Hector whispered, reminding Shango of when they had gone hunting together ages ago - he would whisper in that exact tone when he sensed they were getting close to their prey.

"Indeed."

"I don't trust 'em just yet... why don't you talk to them as the Phantom Dancer?"

"That's what I was thinking. I intend to board the Hollow's End to Telaar. I cannot make sure everything is properly done as King Angelo."

"I see what you mean... w
here's Rosa, by the way?" Hector asked him, looking down in pretended indifference. But Shango knew this man was never shy; he simply didn't want Shango to determine his thoughts by his expression, as he usually did.

"Rosa's off to the capital."

The other Zangoose shot his head up to stare at him. "Why?! I mean... yeah, one trouble outta the way... right?"

Shango laughed heartily and patted his friend's shoulder. "You're in love, brother. Love means trouble alright, but it's not out of the way just yet, is it?"

"Hmm..." Hector was smiling greatly, not a devilish kind of smile but a cheerful one. "Of course not. Haven't we vowed to never give up?"

Their claws made a steel sound as they were crushed against each other in a bro fist. The first time Shango had seen Hector in the forest outside Myriapolis, he'd never imagine that they two get to be that close, mainly because of Hector's disruptive and aggressive attitude. But somehow, their connection as voidborns helped their bond, and as much as their personalities were different, they did make a match after all. Besides, he seemed so identical to him, logic wise... In their minds, the grand plan of the voidborn was brought: Hector replacing Shango in the role of the King of Hesperia, always on the side of the voidborns, promoting their plans and ensuring their victories over the Endarkened Ones; a whole Empire would be under their command, so easily done.
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Old September 28th, 2013 (06:24 PM).
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Nolafus Nolafus is offline
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Alright, I'll take back my statement about Shango possibly being a "godly" character. I like how you included that their armies aren't faring so well. An interesting chapter that leaves more questions than answers, but that's a good thing, in this case. Everything is making sense and I'm not having any problems cluing in on what's going on. I would get to the battle soon, as I'm not sure how many more chapters I can wait.
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Old October 20th, 2013 (12:19 AM). Edited October 21st, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 11: Midnight Heat




The Hollow's End was floating close to the coast of the peaceful lake; in the eyes of Hesperia, it was an incredibly large ship. To Ionia, and to Shango to some extent, it seemed relatively small, compared to the giant frigates the city used to travel across the lake. This ship was the only ship owned by the Empire right now; as the Navy was outcast by the southern seas centuries ago by the Nautactus Republic. The pirates of the republic, having a closer bond with the sea than Hesperians, managed to win the Shell War by recruiting the wild creatures of the sea to their cause. The ships of the Empire had no chance against the giant Wailords that crushed them when they dared wandering in deep waters, and on top of that, the myriads of Cloysters that were flung againist them from the sea bottom. But what truly had helped the Republic win this war were the achievements of Gale Stanwix - the pirate captain that became a legend after seven consecutive wins against the Navy; legend and folklore claims that this Kingler had the Guardian of the Sea to his side, and that why the wind, waves and thunderstorms always favoured him. This was the story Captain Tylor Grubas was telling to the soldiers in the Operations Centre that was moved to the top of the burnt hill, where Fort Stone was once. The Generals smirked in irritation and the King frowned upon Charlie Addams, as if saying bringing Tylor for the job wasn't such a good idea. His General looked at him apologetically, and Shango abstructed his gaze. As Addams had promised of Tylor and his crew's success, he turned his eyes to the map on the table in front of them, then realized there was nothing else to discuss. With a motion of his hand, every Pokemon exited the small wooden house and headed towards the cliff facing the lake.

A month had passed since the beginning of the Hollow's End construction, a month full of painful losses for the Hesperian Empire. Despite their preponderance, the army was unable to counter the Needlers of the Verdict who pierced through their lines like cruise missiles, breaking their formation and scattering them around. Both of the Generals, along with the King, were quietly blamed for not having taken the Verdict's tactics into account. Shango didn't seem concerned about the unacceptable number of dead soldiers that were left behind in the battlefields, as he was utterly convinced that it was done for the sacred duty of the Phantom Dancer. Tristana constantly reminded him that even if the Endarkened Ones, leaders of all nations, were ruling, relative peace was at least preserved; to which Shango was answering, there would never be true freedom and this peace would mean nothing.

Today was the day they launched the surprise assault on Telaar village. Their schooner awaited for them, anchored close to the cliff; its two sails were painted orange by the sun setting down the clouds on the horizon. The Hollow's End was a proud ship with its hull reinforced with the glittering tristanite. It had two masts, the front one shorter; their eyes were about the same height of the Hesperian flag on top of the rear mast, racing with the wind. Around its pole, a tight cord was tied, lining all the way towards the cliff to another pole with the flag. The pirates could easily climb on and off the ship by hanging from the rope... well, that excluded Nautilus, who would be forced to swim. The Feraligatr looked down upon the waters of Acheloos lake, leaning over the edge of the cliff.

"Yo, cap'n," he shouted, "them waters don' seem salty..."

"How does this thing float?!" Thomas blurted the question out. General Addams, who was the friendliest towards the pirates from them all, granted the simple answer.

"Of course they are salty... it isn't known how, but they are salty."

"Oi, then," Nautilus scratched his belly; Shango's eyes were drawn from the yonder to the strange markings. He had definitely seen those markings before, but he couldn't remember where... "Catch ya on board, cap'n," the pirate said and lept off the cliff with incredible, unexpectable agility. Shango observed the way the massive Pokemon fell, and judging by the fact that he dove down the water like a rocket, he concluded that the Pokemon was a skilled sailor and swimmer, if not a fearsome fighter.

"Argh!" Tylor shouted, pulling imaginary hair from his head and looking at the Feraligatr who was climbing on Hollow's End. "Madman! What of the plans?!"

Madman seemed to be some kind of nickname, because Nautilus turned to face his captain and he wasn't even insulted. "Wot plans?" he shouted back, his voice echoing in the face of the cliff back on the open lake.

"Just forget about it," Thomas said and rolled his eyes. Shango caught the Sableye acting strangely again: he was looking at somewhere, where there was nobody and nothing to look at. He started wondering if the man was seeing things, or worse, talking to them.

"Yes, you're right!" Tylor shouted, and he was surely not talking to his mate Thomas behind him. The captain faced him, half surprised, half disturbed. "If we're in for some naval warfare, three of us ain't gonna suffice!"

"Fear not--" General Addams begun, but he was cut out by Nautilus' shout.

"Cap'n, there's rocks belowdecks!"

"Rocks?! What'd you mean, rocks?!" Tylor turned to Shango. "If this is some kind of joke..." he started saying, adopting a threatening look that momentarily made him look scary. "It'd be a darn good one," he added and crackled with laughter together with his mate; it continued until Thomas was rolling on the ground, and Tylor was clutching his knees.

"Scratch that, cap'n," Nautilus was heard again before anyone could explain properly to them. "These're Pokemon! Big, round Pokemon! Wit' hands!"

"I gotta see for myself," Tylor said, but before he could jump onto the rope, Shango extended his right arm to grab his shoulder; it was an unfortunate moment, because the way he grasped him looked hostile and the Sableye was shot up the air, barely landing on the cliff. When he turned to look at Shango, his eyes flashed strangely, and his face had become plain as if he was going through intense thought.

"Curious," he commented, "most curious, my King."

Shango kept a straight face as usual and observed him, trying to understand the meaning of this. Tylor was a ghost, ghosts had a better understanding of spiritual powers as they were one themselves; Shango glanced at his right arm, which was aching him constantly the past few days.
Memories flooded his mind, these of the darkstar merging with it, becoming the liquid darkness that filled his whole body with unbelievable amount of power and ambition. A realization was coming closer to his veiled mind, which emerged abruptly and hit him like a tidal wave: the voidborns surely weren't the only ones who knew of the darkstar. Tylor, being a booty pirate, was bound to know every single legend of a treasure that was spread around from at least the beginning of time - these people were artisans of treasure hunting. Another fact, well hidden in his memory emerged quickly to follow the first realization: one of the Endarkened Ones was a pirate. Angstrom, the Heil of the Axe was the leader of the real pirates, the ones who raided towns and attacked ships of the scavengers of the sea those who were calling themselves 'pirates' as an honorary term. Tylor, being one of the latter as Charlie Addams informed him, would have had quarrel with Angstrom... Shango felt the need to introduce the Phantom Dancer to his newfound pirate friends, as they could prove extremely useful allies when he decided to confront the pirate leader. He would do that sooner or later, his time would come.

General Addams interrupted Shango's thoughts.

"We have armed the ship with the best crew of mountain Gravellers and Geodudes we could find," he said with a generous smile that did not fit a General of the Hesperian army. He now seemed more like the Nidoking of the Nautactus Republic Shango had seen in paintings.

"Gravellers fling Geodudes, who explode on impact," Hector said and chuckled, "man, I'd love to see them going boom!"

Tylor looked at him intently, with a big smile on his shadowy face. "I'm starting to like this guy! We share the same opinion for explosives! Can he come with us?"

"No," Shango said abruptly. "He has a position to keep."

Grubas stared at him, possibly trying to determine if Shango was being evil or strict.

"Cap'n!" Nautilus was heard again. Tylor motioned to Thomas to go away, and the Machop grabbed hold of the rope and started his way towards the Hollow's End above the water. Shango didn't quite know why he dismissed him like that, but he could only guess. It had something to do with the ship.

"What's the plan, anyway?" the Sableye asked them.

"There's a town nearby, which favours Ionia," Charlie spoke. "We want you to destroy the ships on its docks."

"How many of 'em?"

"Around three."

Tylor turned his back to them to look at his new ship and scratched his chin. "They'll know of Hollow's End," he said finally.

"No, they don't," Hector said, "the area's camouflaged by our psychics."

"Awesome!"

"Got any questions, captain?" Shango asked him in a serious tone.

"I've got a question for you," Tylor said, turning to face him. "Why is it that you always wear armor?"

"I don't always wear armor," was Shango's tricky answer. Hector got the implication of his armor being nothing but temporary and grinned. "Alright then, is that it?"

"Yup. Just give me the signal, mate."

Shango thought it was ridiculous, being called 'mate' when three of the most important Pokemon of the Empire were present, including himself. But he disregarded that; he would eventually get friendly with the captain. He didn't seem so bad after all, and the anger his crew had caused him was mainly because of the pressure and tension of the past months. The Sableye jumped on the rope and quickly left the safety of the cliff.

Shango looked over at the Nidoking. "General Addams," he said, "be as kind as to leave us alone."

"As you wish, my King," Charlie said and departed. Shango grabbed Hector's hand, squeezing it and looking at him with the pupils of his large eyes dilated.

"Tylor knows about the darkstar," he said bluntly. "I don't know how, but he does."

"He could prove useful," Hector whispered, reminding Shango of when they had gone hunting together ages ago - he would whisper in that exact tone when he sensed they were getting close to their prey.

"Indeed."

"I don't trust 'em just yet... why don't you talk to them as the Phantom Dancer?"

"That's what I was thinking. I intend to board the Hollow's End to Telaar. I cannot make sure everything is properly done as King Angelo."

"I see what you mean... w
here's Rosa, by the way?" Hector asked him, looking down as if he was shy. But Shango knew this man was never shy; he simply didn't want Shango to determine his thoughts by his expression, as he usually did.

"Rosa's off to the Citadel."

The Zangoose shot his head up to stare at him. "Why?! I mean... yeah, one trouble outta the way... right?"

Shango laughed heartily and patted his friend's shoulder. "You're in love, brother. Love means trouble alright, but it's not out of the way just yet, is it?"

"Hmm..." Hector was smiling greatly, not a devilish kind of smile but a cheerful one. "Of course not. Haven't we vowed to never give up?"

Their claws made a steel sound as they were crushed against each other in a bro fist. The first time Shango had seen Hector in the forest outside Myriapolis, he'd never imagine that they two get to be that close, mainly because of Hector's disruptive and agressive attitude. But somehow, their connection as voidborns helped their bond, and as much as their personalities were different, they did make a match after all. Besides, he seemed so identical to him, logic wise... In their minds, the grand plan of the voidborn was brought: Hector, the King of Hesperia, always on the side of the voidborns, promoting their plans and ensuring their victories over the Endarkened Ones; a whole Empire would be under their command, so easily done.



***


The strong wind blew through the flags of the camp and the ship, the tightened cord screeching; a beam of crimson light passed through the clouds, dyeing the area a dark, menacing red. Yet, the top of the hill seemed peaceful, even when a cape came to join the flag's dance. The Phantom Dancer ran on top of the constantly shaking cord towards the schooner in perfect balance, slightly spreading his arms like a bird. He wasn't afraid of the wind that was screaming in his ears, and his heavy boots didn't seem to hinder him at all regarding his balance on the rope. He lept on top of the mast effortlessly, grabbed hold of another rope that tied the sail to it below and dropped himself, landing quietly and with ease on the deck. It had been four years ever since he had ever been aboard a ship, and it strangely felt good; he always liked sailing, and he had done a good amount of it in his lifetime, though not frequently.

"Welcome!" Tylor's voice reached his ears and he jerked his body around to see him holding the wheel, which was laughably twice his size.

"You make perfect camouflage," Shango commented; the Sableye had stayed put right from the start, blending in with the dark, crimson light.

"Unlike you! Hah! Take one step and my mate'll get a lil' twitchy wit' the blade."

The light illuminated his steel mask as he looked besides him. The Feraligatr was towering above him, unseen until now, quiet, holding his rusty machete tightly and grinning. The perfect predator, Shango thought. Thomas bursted out of a barrel nearby, one knife in each hand. He had clearly underestimated the pirates; they did seem to be cunning and smart.

"I'm not here to fight," he said, raising his hands - it was more of an offensive move than the pirates thought. He was ready to knock the machete off Nautilis' hands, but no such need arose. He took off his mask, which vanished in the shadows and pulled down his hood.

"Lookit that!" Nautilus said loudly and chuckled. "The Crownie! Why would ye go strollin' on our new ship, mask and cloak on?"

"Clearly, I'm not who you think I am."

"Then who?" the Machop asked, confused. Shango noticed the band on his head, bearing the insignia of a Charmeleon's skull with the dagger shot downwards; the two words beneath it were Never Forget. He would later ponder on their meaning.

"I am the Phantom Dancer."

Tristana suddenly popped on his shoulder, and the pirates seemed to be startled by her presence. "I'm Tristana," she introduced herself and flew over to Thomas playfully, who tried to catch her. The pirates stared at her in awe, as if they had never seen anything like her before.

"Oi, cap'n, are we seein' things?"

"No, Damon can see her too..."

"Who is Damon?" Shango asked sharply, his stare fixed on Tylor. He had the slightest of ideas of who Damon would be.

"Nobody," Tylor said plainly. Meanwhile, Tristana flew around Thomas' head, who looked as if he was having a fight with himself as he tried to catch her. The sight seemed to be hilarious for Nautilus, who was cracking up in a terrible laughter.

"Anyway," the captain shouted, looking at Shango intently. "What're you doing here? And tell me what kind of name is 'Phantom Dancer'."

"All will be explained shortly, mister Tylor," he said and walked besides him. The Sableye stared at him, astonished to hear him adress him as 'mister'. Not because he wasn't, but because Shango was supposed to be a King. "For now, I want you to set course for Telaar."

"Who commands, the King or the Phantom Dancer?"

"The Phantom Dancer, with the axiom of the King."

"Ahaha! That's rich!"

"Do as I say for now."

"Wait, wait, lemme get tis straight," Nautilus said, leaning backwards on the mast with his machete now safely put in the hatchet, a teethful, shining grin spread on his face. "When ye don't wearin' armor, yer the Phantom Dancer?"

"Let's just say... yes."

Suddenly, the deck's hatch bursted open, as if by its own. A Mr. Mime climbed the stairs; when she noticed of Shango, she let out a little scream, but before she could go belowdecks again, Nautilus grasped her whole body, lifting her up in the air with his arm and preventing her escape.

"Look a' wha' crawled outta th' bunghole! Where d'ye think yer goin', lass?"

"Who is that?!" she cried, pointing at Shango, her small feet waving helplessly in the air.

"Dun worry, he's with us ye silly wench!"

As Tristana flew over to her to calm her down, Shango threw a questioning look at the captain.

"Her name's Lucy, it is. She's our trusted protector."

"'In't that right, Lucy?" Nautilus asked the Mr. Mime, scratching her cheek with his claw, his grin a bit threatening. She had now stopped waggling; Shango noticed some kind of glowing clay was hanging down her neck. A Light Clay that enhanced the Wall moves.

"Y-yes!"

"She's using psychic walls to protect Hollow's End!" Thomas explained. Shango thought about how much she would aid them - the wondrous walls were certainly a great defensive addition to the ship.

"Alright then, shall we be off?"

"Of course," said Tylor and looked at him. "Ehh... you take the wheel."

Then he threw a thunderous look at somewhere on his left, as if he was ready to beat up somebody. Shango ignored it and took the wheel in his hands. It felt just about right, handling the wheel of a ship after so many years.

"A'ight, men," Tylor shouted. "And wenches," he added, looking at over at Lucy who was playing around with Tristana. "Prepare! Nautilus, raise the darn anchor!"

Nautilus bolted off all across the deck with speed; Shango saw him pulling the chain of the anchor up, and he was about to tell him how to do it correctly when the metallic sounds stopped as the pointy tips of the heavy objects were actually brought on board.

"Thomas, cut 'em sails!"

The Machop had already rushed up the brails on the side of the mast, making his way to the ropes the sails had been tied with. Tylor turned to Lucy with a grin.

"Up to the Watch with you!"

"I'm afraid of heights..." she muttered. Both of the sails fell down and they started to catch the strong wings that were raging. Shango stirred the rudder slightly to set the ship out of the small cove the cliffs were forming around it. Nautilus lept onto the brails with ease unusual to a Pokemon his size; he went to the watch point and sat down, watching the horizon.

"Hahaha!" Tylor's loud laugh was blown around along with the wind as the ship started moving out of the cove. "Cue the sailin'!"

Shango noticed Karnos was fading, leaving them in the darkness of the night. Looking at Tristana, she nodded quite irritably, then she got engulfed by flames that lit the Hollow's End from the bow to the stern. Tylor jumped into the hatch of the deck and Lucy sat down next to a barrel with Tristana above her head. He felt the ferocious wind blow his cape forwards as it pushed the ship, helping it gain full speed; it was a feeling of freedom and liberation for Shango. He was able to forget the whole business with the King in seconds, even the thought of the war was set aside, even though they were headed straight in it.

Tylor jumped out the deck with a map in hand, and as he was headed towards Shango and the wheel, he turned his head upwards to shout, "Tom, deploy full sail!"

"Aye, captain! Full speed ahead!" The Machop had lept on the main mast, releasing secondary wings that sped the ship up greatly. Shango had soon lost sight of the land behind them, as the lake around them was engulfed in darkness. Tylor kneeled, placing the map on the deck and revealing a compass from seemingly nowhere. Shango remembered what Hector had told him about the captain, regarding playing card games - Tylor was always bound to have something up his sleeve, literally, even if he didn't have any sleeves.

"Good thing you Hesperians thought ahead when you brought us these," Tylor shouted so he could be heard through the sound of the wind; he was observing the map of Acheloos lake and adjusting his compass. "Set course for the northeast," he added.

"I'm not a Hesperian," Shango said simply, looking forward past the sails, into the black waters. He stirred the rudder towards the northeast, where Telaar was waiting for them.

"Oh? It's 'bout time you tell us what you are. I don't recall anybody callin' you Phantom Dancer."

"Do you have any knowledge of the darkstar?"

Tylor looked at him intently, still kneeling over the map. His diamond eyes were reflecting Shango, the firm line of his mouth becoming a small grin. He glanced somewhere to the right for a single moment, then returned his gaze to him.

"You're the first one I hear talkin' about it... besides Heil of the Axe, of course. Anyway... it's said to be the greatest of all treasures. Nautilus over there," Tylor said, pointing at the Feraligatr sitting on the top mast, "is called Junior Taz. D'you know who Taz was?"

"No. What does this have to--"

"Oh, the horror! He's a legend amongst us, his father! Some blab stuff 'bout him being crazy 'n all, but me thinks otherwise... rumors 'bout his will are floatin' around, boys in docks say Nautilus' got to be the richest pirate who can't claim 'is booty! Hah, but poor lad doesn't seem to care 'bout that! Who needs riches when you're having fun, eh?"

"But why can he not claim--"

"Can't find 'em."

"What is them, exactly?"

"All the gold you can imagine, locked up somewhere in Oceania! But..." his tone got more mysterious and his eyes flashed, "Taz ain't a vain Pokemon as I remember 'im. Gold wasn't the only thing that man was after." He paused, enjoying the intrigue Shango's face was showing. "Nautilus says he'd gotten something else, amongst the riches he was stealin' from the navy," he added and chuckled, but then got serious real quick, and in fact, angry. "And that amateur, Heil of the Axe is tryin'ta find ol' Taz' booty!"

"... I know Heil of the Axe. Not personally, but I know him."

"Oh! You do! And what do you know about him?"

"I know that he is going to die by my hand."

"Haha! Right! And how're you gonna do that, wonderboy?" he brought his hand to his chin and looked upwards, as if he was thinking. "Hmm. I'll call you 'Wonderboy'. I don't like your other name."

"My conviction is abundant, my friend," Shango said in an intense, yet calm manner. As for the Wonderboy nickname, he did not protest.

"If you say so. Mind you, the odds are in his favour."

"We'll see about that. Would you be willing to help me, then?"

Tylor seemed to be thinking about it. He had now stood up, stepping on the map with one foot to prevent it from being carried away from the wind.

"You'll be famous if you take him down," Shango added the honeyed words that would surely lure the captain. "I will take care of him, and you will replace him as captain of his entire fleet," he continued, the code of the pirates of Oceania brought to his mind, "what do you think about that?"

"I'm always in for some adventure, Wonderboy. 'sides, Madman's gonna be real itchy to lay 'is hands on the treasure!"

"Excellent," Shango said, thinking he would work the details out later; if he had to betray the pirates to claim the darkstar for himself, he would, but he had a feeling he wouldn't need to reach the extreme.

"But we ain't done with this lake yet," Tylor reminded him.

"Obviously."

"Say... why did you start this war?"

Shango jerked his head to look at him. He had a cunning expression with a tricky smile, which now seemed typical of his.

"How do you know this?"

Tylor shrugged. "I had a couple of drinks with that guy, Hector. We played a few games, too..." That fool, Shango thought, smirking in disappointment of his friend. Grubas was proving to be a far more worthy man that he had ever thought, even if his ways were sneaky. "Hey," Tylor shouted, as if he just remembered something, "you still haven't told us who the heck you are!"

Shango pondered on the question whether he should trust the pirate or not. Partly, was the answer, I will trust him partly. "All you need to know is that I seek the destruction of Ionia and Heil of the Axe."

Tylor slightly tilted his head, as if trying to pierce through Shango's words; a few moments passed with Shango tapping his claws on the rudder. "What're you upto, Wonderboy?"

Shango didn't have to answer, as they were interrupted by Nautilus who had jumped down the mast, landing heavily on the deck in front of them.

"Ship aheeead!"

The clouds had cleared, allowing the moon and stars to light the horizon; mountains in the far back, and a firm, dark line of forest could be seen. Higher on the eastern shore of the lake was Telaar, but according to the calculations Shango had made back in the camp, they were thirty minutes away. Yet, there was a massive frigate tearing the waves, its white sails obvious from alot of miles away. Tylor turned to stare at Shango, who ignored him.

"Tell me this is a coincidence, Wonderboy. We hadn't agreed this."

"Calm yourself, we're sinking anyone who crosses us. Any ship which sails this lake is our enemy."

The captain crossed his arms and glanced behind him, where the empty poopdeck was. Then, he went over to the hatch and bent over to look inside.

"Ahoy, ye filthy landlubbers! Man yer battlestations!" he shouted. A lot of heavy footsteps were heard from belowdecks, as the Gravellers were getting into positions; the hatches on the side of the ship would allow them to throw rocks from belowdecks. Shango motioned at Tristana, who eyed him half sternly half worriedly as she flew over to him. He left the rudder for a single moment, to put his hood back on.

"What's happening?" she asked innocently, her blue eyes expanded in worry. She couldn't see through the darkness, but she knew Shango well enough to tell that he was smiling.

"They will try to sink us. Better stay with me, dear."

Tristana sat on the rudder as he stirred it; the wind blew strongly, turning the Hollow's End towards the west. Their enemy had gotten closer now, headed straight at them; a poor battle tactic, as Shango had learned from his experience at the western seas of the Azorian Kingdom.

Under Tylor's command, seven Gravellers exited the hatch and took positions across the side of the ship that was facing the enemy. They were holding rocks, Geodudes to be precise. Nautilus and Tylor were running up and down the stairs of the hatch, bringing more of these to the deck behind each Graveller; Shango approved of Tylor for helping, even though he was the captain.

"Thomas!" Shango shouted, looking upwards at the mast, where the Machop was sitting. Thomas seemed stunned for a moment, as he stared at him, but he quickly got over it.

"Your orders?"

"Cut that full sail!"

"Right away," Thomas shouted. Nautilus had set the Mr. Mime behind the mast, telling her to keep focused on creating the wondrous wall to protect them from the enemy fire; though she didn't seem up to the task at all, as her whole body was shaking.

"Stay here," Shango told Tristana, who was about to fly over to the Mime's side. She frowned greatly, knowing what was to come; she hadn't forgiven Shango about the battlefields he had caused earlier this month, and she wouldn't forgive him for this. He could feel an argument coming, but this time, he would do his best to ignore the spirit. His own convictions were sufficing for an excuse.

The ship lost its speed, as the additional sails were folded up by Thomas; the opposing frigate had started to the west, realizing that it was in a dangerous position as the Hollow's End and its Gravellers had a solid target.






"Frigate to th' starboard!" Nautilus shouted, staring at the enemy ship, the ends of his coat racing with the wind. He looked like a mighty Pokemon that could've very well been the captain of his own ship. Meanwhile, Tylor Grubas had vanished from sight.


"Ahaha!" the Feraligatr started a crooked laugh, "ye rookies got the stones for some naval warfare?!" he asked the Gravellers, and Thomas chuckled at the pun from the masts.

"In range! Aim!" shouted one of the Gravellers, the closest one to Shango; he appeared to be their leader. Tension arose as the ship was getting into perfect position for the rocks to be shot straight at the enemy.

"On my mark!" Shango yelled, as the frigate cut off its speed. On their bow, a Samurott was standing; as far as the moonlight allowed, he could tell that the captain of the enemy ship panicked, probably because they did not really know if the schooner was hostile or not. Their captain turned to face his deck, but it was too late.

"Fire!"

A wave of Geodudes was shot at the enemy ship, and the sound of wood cracking filled the sky, along with the laughter of the three pirates that were apparently having too much fun. But the best part was far from over - the Geodudes exploded on top of the frigate, shaking it whole apart. More than ten explosions lit the sky up, temporarily sheding light on the Zangoose's malevolent smile; despite it, he was feeling fury inside him, boiling and rising. The destruction of Jericho and Ionia was nigh.

The Ionian ship had sustained massive damage due to the positioning, but it was still floating. Suddenly, Shango heard a distant shout calling 'fire', and as the frigate had turned around, a flurry of small iron balls was shot at them; no wall came up to protect them, however, and the shots went right through the Hollow's End; her tristanite hulls repelled them, but the deck and the mast were greatly damaged. The Gravellers who had been hit seemed to be hurt as well, but they continued standing. Tylor rushed over to Shango, and together looked at the enemy ship as it was stirring away from them; the Samurott captain was staring at them from the stern of the frigate. Shango grabbed his forehead and took a step back, an unexpected vision striking him: Commander James of Fort Stone, giving the darkstar to Jericho... Jericho walking away... then this Ionian ship, this ship that they were trying to destroy, was sailing away from the camp... Shango jerked the rudder to the right, the Hollow's End taking a turn, going straight after the frigate.

"What're you doing?!" Tylor shouted.

"I will board them," Shango said with his green eyes glowing with fury, his body brimming with adrenaline. "Full sail, Thomas! Captain, I need you up the mast! Nautilus, the ship's yours!"

Nautilus didn't question Shango's orders, even though he wasn't used to anyone else other than Tylor giving them. He headed over and grabbed the rudder abruptly as Shango jumped next to the Graveller.

"Hold your fire!"

The Hollow's End was headed straight at the Ionian ship, which was about to fire again, but the two ships crushed. The bow of the schooner crushed againist the side of the frigate with a cracking sound, both of the ships shaken and those upon them flinching by the intensity of the impact. The massive frigate seemed unaffected by the impact, while the bow of the Hollow's End was partly destroyed.

Shango was on top of the front mast of the schooner when the collision occured, and he was forced to hold the mast tightly to maintain his balance. Screams from below filled his ears, but he payed them no mind as he was entirely focused on the enemy ship.

"Shango, be careful!" Tristana pleaded. The Hollow's End was turning around were now getting closer to each other, enough for Shango to leap from the Hollow's End mast to the opposing one. He landed safely on its tip and looked down - he had gone unnoticed by the panic that occured on the deck of the Hollow's End. The two crews had started a fierceful fight. As the frigate's deck was higher than the schooner's, their enemies jumped on their deck with more ease and swiftness. Shango caught a glimpse of Tylor, who had thrown a blinding light at the opposition, followed by multiple shadow balls that exploded in liquid darkness upon impact. His targets were blown back, hitting their own frigate and falling into the water through the small gap that separated the two ships. Nautilus had charged straight into battle, hacking and slashing through the ones close to him with abrupt, reckless and straightforward swings of his arms; he didn't even bother using his machete. Thomas had to deal with a Floatzel, and he used his daggers as an advantage againist it. Shango turned his gaze down the frigate, then onto its third mast across it. He lept onto it with ease, then stared directly down at the rudder of the ship, where the Samurott was standing, watching the fight from a safe distance away and giving orders from time to time. Shame, Shango thought, a true captain would join his mates into the fight. But what do Ionians know of honor?

Shango looked down the sail of the mast he was standing onto; surprisingly, it was not folded like the other sails, as to keep the ship from moving. Now it was slightly blown forward by the wind, forming a perfect slide.


"Oh dear," Tristana gasped when his feet left the mast in a dive. He flipped in midair, landing on the sail's soft substance and sliding downwards. The moment he stepped on something solid, he shot himself up, landing in front of the Samurott in a flash; their eyes met just for a moment, enough of the realization of the impending death to be spread in a horrified, shocked expression on the captain's face. Shango had stabbed him in the side of his throat and his lower chest, where his front feet met the rest of the body. His white whiskers were sprayed with blood and he leaned forward as Shango removed his claws from the sturdy body. They were precise hits, as he wanted his victim alive just for a moment...

He jumped right into the Rift of Life, instantly snatching a scene from the past: the Ionian ship arriving at the enclosed docks of the coastal Ionian Palace, the well known Armaldo waiting eagerly for it. When the frigate docked, the Armaldo boarded the ship, running as fast as he could with his heavy feet, and the captain greeted him with the chest; the Chancellor lifted it up with both of his scythes and just walked away, ordering the Keeper guards in the docks to pay the crew of the ship. Shango watched the image fade with Jericho crossing the garden behind the docks towards his palace, chest in hand. Now he knew where the darkstar was, but it wasn't quite positive information. When he confronted Jericho, he would have to face the Stone of Destruction, along with the rest of Ionia; suddenly, the task seemed difficult beyond impossible.

Shango was brought back to reality, the screams and battle cries, explosions and bones cracking filled his ears, his eyes were looking straight into the captain's blue ones. The Samurott was shaking strangely, as if he was trying to say something. He had fallen on the ground, his feet unable to hold him up.

"You must... stop... the Chancellor..." the captain coughed up blood, as his wounded throat bled continuously. He fell to the side, and Shango instantly kneeled next to him, his heartbeats quickening - was this not an Ionian?

"Who's asking?" Shango asked plainly, but his eyes turned white and he passed away. He slowly got up, the fierce wind hitting his back and causing his cape to wave over his side. Tristana had turned away from the scene, but once she felt Shango's doubts, she grabbed the end of his hood.

"What's wrong?"

"The Captain appeared to be againist Jericho. Perhaps I made a mistake..." he admitted, looking at the dead captain of the frigate in front of him with pity. But he was an Ionian, this was certain, and Ionians were his enemies. But, what he had said about Jericho... "Jericho is planning something," Shango whispered, having the darkstar in his mind.

"Um, Shango," Tristana pulled his hood away, making him look at the Hollow's End. Tylor's crew was cheering, along with the Gravellers. The deck was painted with blood and three of the Gravellers lay dead on it, but their mates would mourn for them later. Shango jumped on the Hollow's End, right next to Tylor who was behind the rudder.

"Where the heck were you, Wonderboy?" he asked with a laugh, "you missed all the fun, mate!"

The Gravellers started disposing the dead bodies off the ship as Shango evaluated the ship. It seemed to be damaged, but it was still alright; burnt wood from the explosions that took place, holes on the deck and cracks of the wood on the base of the mast. He grabbed the rudder quickly as Tristana became a flare, sheding her light across the ship. The moon and the stars shone brightly in the sky, now that the clouds were gone.

"Full speed ahead," he shouted at Thomas, who started climbing the brails.

"Hey, what of the ship?" Tylor asked.

"Blow it up."

"But the booty..."

"There's nothing of value on that ship."

"We could use it..."

"No, blow it up."

"You're not resourceful, Wonderboy."

"I prefer being logical. We don't have enough crew members to man both ships."

"So?! Just head back an' get more!
" Tylor said, pointing at the frigate which was left behind as they sailed away.

"Telaar saw the explosions, if we don't do this today, Ionia will send ships to their defense."

Tylor condeded and headed over to a Graveller, ordering him to a throw a last Geodude, precisely into the hatch of the deck of the Ionian ship. That he did, and a great explosion lit up the sky, making their ears flinch for a moment. The frigate cracked in two and started sinking, while the crew of the Hollow's End, wounded sailors or pirates or not, cheered as they sailed away.
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Old October 20th, 2013 (10:14 PM).
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Nolafus Nolafus is offline
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It took me a while, but I figured out that you rewrote chapter 10 a bit. I must say, I like it a bit more than the first one. I really like the voice you give the pirates, it really makes them believable.

The new chapter (I'm guessing, or at least new content) is very exciting. I liked it a lot and I thought it flowed evenly. I must admit I was a little confused about the captain of the enemy ship and the visions, but it could just be because I haven't read this in a while and I'm forgetting certain details. I was worried for a while that you had abandoned the story, but I'm glad you didn't with this update. For the record, that song goes perfectly for the scene. XD
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Old December 2nd, 2013 (03:08 AM). Edited December 2nd, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 12: Dead Town




"What now, Wonderboy?"

"Set course for Telaar, mister Grubas," Shango ordered and left the bridge to cross the schooner's deck. The Gravellers had all retreated belowdecks, along with those who had been wounded, including the Mrs. Mime. The deck was surprisingly clean from blood -
Nautilus would've had helped with that. He was leaning against the main mast in a carefree manner, despite him having scratches and bruises all over his body. He didn't seem to mind one bit; in fact, his peculiar smile shone cheerfully under the moonlight. Tristana flew over to the Feraligatr's side and he turned his head around to look at the spirit who was closely examining him.

"Ahoy there, me hearty!"

"Why are you so happy, mister?" Tristana asked him; she sounded a bit gloomy, as she still hadn't gotten over the fight that went on. Nautilus let out a chuckle and raised his strong arms in the air.

"Tis called bein' a pirate, lil' lass!"

"Do you get your kicks from killing others?" she inquired coldly. Meanwhile, Shango got past them and stood over the destroyed bow, paying no mind to its crushed remains. Instead, he had locked his eyes on the dark ahead, feeling that the wind was on their side. The two Pokemon behind him continued too loudly for him to ignore.

"Aye, rumblin' is part of'a freebooter's life, savvy?"

"How about doing something more peaceful, then?"

"Scupper that!" Nautilus shouted, seemingly angry. "Cap'n din't recruit me just fer funsies, lass! We has a dream!"

"A dream? What kind of dream?"

Nautilus' voice got mysterious and low, almost as if it was a whisper. "We're lookin' fer the riches my father had locked away!"

Shango perked up his ears as his interest was suddenly piqued - Tylor had talked about this treasure. A darkstar was amongst the booty, to hear the pirates tell it. His eyes drifted from the sea to the wooden deck absent-minded. Though he was expecting to hear the Feraligatr keep talking, Thomas' voice reached his ears from above as he was still up the mast.

"Aye! Legend has it that whoever gets his hands on the treasure becomes invisible!"

Nautilus crackled with laughter, his teeth producing a steel sound as they hit each other. "Invincible, ye moron! Not invisible!"

Shango suddenly turned around to face the pirates and Tristana flew over to sit on his shoulder. His green eyes flashed darkly as he spoke.

"I am interested in this treasure of yours," he said bluntly, glancing at the Machop sitting atop the mast to ensure he was still present. The pirates exchanged glances too.

"Why are you interested?" Thomas asked curiously rather than suspiciously.

"Research purposes. I rise this question: is it truly possible that a mere object renders you invincible?"

The two pirates seemed to think about it. Especially Nautilus, who had a troubled look on his face. Neither of them seemed to know the details.

"We don't know," the Machop said.

"That's what I want to find out," Shango said simply. A shadow approached the company from behind the mast; the diamond eyes of Captain Tylor reflected the moonlight in a menacing way, but the Sableye was brimming with excitement.

"Yo, Wonderboy! How 'bout a game of cards to break the tension? Eh?" He looked up at his crew who cheered happily. Shango, on the other hand, stayed unamused. Though a direct no was suitable, it would set them off greatly.

"Perhaps later. When we are finished with this war, we'll hang out."

"Aww, man," Thomas shouted, "I'm always in for some gamblin'!"

"Shut yer yap, Tommie, ye always lose ye booty and ask us fer more money!"

Tylor started laughing and Shango couldn't help but smile. "I will first play with him, then. You have a bad reputation for winning every time you play cards, Captain Grubas."

They looked at each other intently. "Yeah, I suppose so," Tylor said, making the sentence long as if he was picking his words carefully. "Anyway!" he suddenly shouted with renewed excitement. "Telaar is nigh, Wonderboy. Best we get in battle stations!"

Shango brought his claw inside his hood to scratch his chin thoughtfully. "That won't be necessary."

"What are your plans?" Tylor asked him with curiosity mixed with genuine interest - Shango could tell the Captain was starting to trust him and his decisions. A small, welcoming smile formed on his face at the thought.

"As far as I am concerned, Telaar is ruled by the people themselves..."

"Where are ye goin' wit this?" Nautilus butted in, eyeing him suspiciously. Shango turned to look at him slowly, slightly irritated for being interrupted in such an uncouth way. The pirate, although a pirate, seemed to notice his frustration and quickly looked down.

"I will first put their ships out of commission. Then, I will leave them a... message, to ensure them of my seriousness."

"And what would that message be?" Thomas questioned with a smirk. Shango looked up at him.

"It involves the death of many people in front of the rest," he said darkly.

"Shango!" Tristana shouted angrily. "More innocent people will die, because of your whims?!"

The pirates payed little mind to the angered spirit; instead they all stared at him, fascinated.

"So, Shango is your real name..." Tylor muttered with a sly grin. He then glanced up towards Thomas with meaning; in a second, the Machop had jumped down the deck and looked at them awkwardly.

"I, um, gotta go downstairs--"

"Belowdecks! What kinda pirate are ye?" Nautilus yelled and sent him off with his chop that missed this time. Thomas had bolted off to the hatch. Tristana was still fuming next to Shango, but this time he was angered as well, condemning her mistake, though he remained quiet.

"You can't do this!" Tristana exclaimed angrily, flying in front of his face. Her blue eyes were brimming with fury, but so was his.

"Feel free to find another way to stop Telaar from joining the war," Shango said flatly.

"There must be another way!"

"Nuh-uh," Nautilus butted in, "Gravellers be blabbing 'bout their stubborn spirit. There's no stoppin' these people!"

"We'll see..." Shango muttered with his eyes half shut. He turned around to look beyond the ship's bow.

"We're gettin' closer," Tylor informed him quietly.

"Leave us alone for a moment," Shango ordered, and the pirates slowly retreated to their posts. Silence ensued between Shango and Tristana, only the sonority of the small waves of the lakes crushing against the ship audible. Tristana kept staring at his back intently.

"If you do this..." Tristana started in a low voice; Shango could tell she was on the verge of crying, but he didn't care. He turned around again to face her. His anger had suddenly vanished, only to be replaced by sadness and disappointment that became too obvious in his voice when he spoke.

"Are you threatening me?"

The Victini's face dropped in some kind of wince; she was fighting with her emotions. But in the end, she didn't say anything. It was no use, right now. She knew better than to argue with Shango and his convictions. If he said he'd do something once, it would be done no matter what. But this was different, as Shango had never targeted innocent before, not on purpose at least. All these years, she was protesting against him taking lives, but they were at least hostile and Shango always explained why he was doing that. He always had a good reason that half convinced Tristana. But this time, he had gone too far. She was too stubborn to try to convince him to do otherwise this time.

On the other end of the argument, Shango's growing hatred for Ionia had spread towards their allies as well. If Telaar served the corrupted Ionians and their intentions, he was going to make sure they stayed in their place until he was finished with his business. And he didn't care how this would happen. Liberation is what he was fighting for all these years, and now he would put his feelings and friendship with Tristana aside to accomplish just that. Some lives were little cost for the big prize, Ionia.

The spirit flew to the top of the mast and sat on its tip. Thomas, who'd just got out of the hatch, joined Tylor and Nautilus in a quick team chat besides the foremast. Shango payed no mind, but when Tylor approached him, he was forced to look at the Sableye who had this awkward, small grin and an expression of understanding.

"Shango, boy," he started, braiding his hands together nervously; Shango figured the captain was once nervous, as a child at least. "You're famous, aren't you?" he said with a tone of mild admiration in his voice.

"The Gravellers can't help but talk, I see. Did you tell them I am on board?"

"No, they don't know 'nything."

"Good, because I would have to throw them overboard."

"They told me you were a Seeker, once... in the Ionian Verdict. Vanished and came back as an Hashashin... why?"

"It's a long story, mister Grubas."

"And we ain't got time..." Tylor said, looking over Shango's shoulder. Shango looked as well, to see the dark coastline on the horizon, and sails shining white under the moonlight - the sails of Telaar's frigates. They were only three frigates in the port, which wasn't as big as Shango had imagined. Tylor turned to him again.

"Just tell me, why are you doing this? Why the heck would you go through all this trouble - even become the King! How did this happen?! - just to kill a Chancellor?"

"It's not about killing the Chancellor," Shango said absent minded, "it's about sending a message."

"To whom?"

"To the likes of him."

"I don't understand."

"Nor need you."

"Heh! Then all we gotta do is play our part, right?" Tylor was thinking of the massive monetary reward, the gems and the ownership of the ship.

"Right. Tell your mate to raise the Ionian flag. We need to approach Telaar's port unnoticed."


***


Ten minutes later, the Hollow's End had cut its speed. Shango had told the pirates to wait for him inside. They were nearing Telaar's port, sailing close to their frigates. The Pokemon of the docks had all ran to greet the ship with the Ionian flag, but they seemed to realize something was wrong. It wasn't difficult to anyway, with a hooded and masked Pokemon standing restlessly on the bow.

"Who are you?" a Machoke sailor asked him. He and a bunch of other sailors were standing on the single spot on the port where the schooner could dock. Shango didn't reply; instead, he waited for Nautilus to drop the anchor, then he leaped from the bow in front of the Machokes, around five in numbers. The houses of the port behind them seemed to be quiet, as if deserted - these sailors were alone in the area. Tristana's heart beat faster in her chest, as she looked closely at the sailors, thinking these could be their last moments.

"I repeat - who are you?" the Machoke said again, an unwelcoming smirk spread on his face. The trick with the Ionian flag didn't seem to work.

"Nobody. I suggest you leave the docks."

"Huh? Why?" another Machoke asked; he didn't seem so bright. Shango differentiated him from the others by a club-like bruise on the upper half of his head.

"We're not leaving under a stranger's command," another sailor said.

"Fine. Then I suggest you warn the town, at least. Bad things may happen if you stay here longer."

"Like what?" the Pokemon with the bruise asked stupidly; the others looked at him. Shango was getting tired of this conversation really quickly. He was here to destroy Telaar's ships, not to argue with some Machokes. But it was his fault for not leaping in and taking their lives without being concerned much. And then Tristana thought him as 'merciless'. The moment he thought of Tristana...

Let me distract them, Shango...

Burn that house around the corner,
he thought strongly as he looked at the house.

No! There may be people inside!

How about that hay stack?
a carriage filled with hay was parked next to the bench and the dark statue that Shango was too busy to notice.

Fine, was the reply from Tristana. He felt her heat leaving his shoulder as she flew towards the hay stacks.

"What are those being used for?" Shango asked the Machokes, faking curiosity, pointing at the carriage. All of the Machokes turned around to see where he was pointing at. Then, they looked back, only to find out he was gone. The next second, a ring of cracked ground appeared around the carriage, then a pillar of flames was shot upwards, launching the carriage in the air and filling the area with burning hay stacks. The Machokes quickly ran next to their statue; the flaming carriage fell on a tree, igniting it right away.

Meanwhile, Shango was sitting on the mast of one of Telaar's frigates. He decided he wouldn't waste any more time looking at the destruction his fiery spirit caused. Glancing at the two other frigates to the left, he thought it wouldn't take much to destroy them, even though they were huge. Tylor was looking at him from the Hollow's End, along with the Gravellers who had taken position, awaiting for the signal; their ship had raised anchor again, as it was going to sail to a position where they could launch their attack. The sailors guarding the frigates would have to escape soon, or they would die, either by the explosions or the flames.

He turned to the Hollow's End to see Tylor standing on the deck, looking at him. "Hold fire until my signal," Shango said loud enough for him to hear. The moonlight falling on his cloak painted it dark grey, but in an instant, darkness was the only thing left behind where Shango was sitting.

Reappearing at the docks below, he stood, watching the flames go up and the Machokes trying to put them out. Citizens were closing in the fire, helping them. One of the Machokes, the one who had spoken with him formally, noticed him standing besides the crates that were holding the cargo the frigates carried to Ionia. The sailor approached him with steady steps and a determined look with a hint of anger. Evidently, he was going through the nitro of youth. Feelings of sadness overcame Shango, the kind of immense sadness that shake your spirit; he felt as if what he was planning to do had already happened, and his feelings were his retribution. The Machoke motioned at the others, calling them with him. They would soon come, but until then, he stopped at a safe distance from the hooded stranger.

"Are you responsible for this?" the sailor asked him, pointing at the fire that was raging behind him, burning the nearby trees. Shango's mind was already emptied as he heard those words - no feelings, no distractions from his aim. Only dozens of ways to kill the Pokemon before him were running through his mind's scope like a stream. Not fight, just kill.

"Indirectly," Shango muttered. "Gather your people. I wish to have a word with them."

The Machoke looked at him in disbelief, as if he was only kidding. "Angel of death," he gasped, his eyes widened in fear. Shango raised his eyebrows, keeping his calm. Angel of death? That's what the locals call the Hashashin.

"Are you an Hashashin?" the Machoke dared to ask, still unsure of how this was going to end. Shango, too, was unsure. He dragged the insignia of the Hashashin from the back of his sash to his gut. The flames across the docks were reflected upon it, as if the fire was burning inside it. The sailor focused his eyes in it, and Shango instantly detected something other than fear: admiration.

"Please," said the Machoke. "Come with me."

"No," Shango said, extending his arm. Two black claws emerged from the sleeves of his cloak, performing a taunting motion; Shango had gotten into a loose battle stance. "You come."

"I am not going to fight you," the sailor kept on. "Please, come with me. My people will be pleased to meet you."

Shango smirked his eyebrows and looked back at the fire and the people of the small village of Telaar trying to quell it down with water, wind and ground. Then, his eyes fell on the statue next to the docks, the statue that he hadn't noticed before: it was a male Haxorus, but he had his back turned to them. He turned his gaze to the Machoke.

"Why?" he questioned mildly.

"You are the Angel of Death... one of the Hashashin. Your Master... is our God."

Shango stared at the Machoke, evaluating his expression. He was surely serious, in fact, he seemed religiously upset. His arrival must meant something for the people of Telaar, something bigger than just a few trees he'd just burnt down. His Master...? Ignacio Phylax?

The fire behind them was finally put out, not before burning a good amount of trees in the area. The sailors ran next to their partner, tapping his shoulder and glancing at Shango one by one; their eyes were fixed on his insignia, which was now glowing ominously under the moonlight. They then looked at him in the same expression as the other Machokes.

"Come with us," the sailor said. Shango paced towards them calmly, his cape waving behind him with the gentle wind. Once he reached them, they turned around and lead him to the statue in a state of silence. Shango's eyes were fixed on the Haxorus as they got around it, until he was finally facing him. The expression is what impressed Shango; this Haxorus seemed like the warrior kind of Pokemon, one that possessed immense power. He had a bag on his waist, tied on his body with a belt crossing his chest. The bag was open and various things were visible inside it... along with the insignia of the Hashashin. Shango turned to look at the sailors; meanwhile, citizens had begun gathering around them, letting out small exclamations once they got to look at his insignia.

"Who is this?" he asked the sailors politely.

"Ignacio Phylax..." they replied, "our God, our Protector." Shango was struck with confusion, but he scolded himself; he didn't know anything about Ignacio's past, so he was not in a position to make assumptions. On another note... Ignacio was a Haxorus, as it seemed. It was difficult determining his species through the cloak, and mysteriously enough, nobody in the brotherhood could ever answer his questions regarding his species, not even Uncle Pasqual. Mystery man, right from the start, that Ignacio.

"God? Protector? What were his deeds?"

"Power. He was granted with the skill to take lives, even from miles away, to turn the skies blue and summon rain. As he served our village as a Protector, he repelled any outsider, any bad omen or bad weather. He blessed our crops and saved us from the curse that plagued our village for centuries."

Shango smirked his eyebrows. Not a single Pokemon on this world had the power to do all these things. Perhaps a legendary or two, but Ignacio was nothing but a mere Haxorus, a dragon being of brutal physical power. Unless... Shango's eyes fell on the bag again. It was there, what he was looking for, the crystal. The crystal that was now made of stone was amongst the items inside Ignacio's bag. He remembered the feelings the darkstar had passed through to him: ambition, excitement and power, all of which followed him all these years wherever he went and whatever situation he came across. As if he was infused with a holy, or unholy power that changed him through the years.

These feelings he had implement into his actions. Was his secure spirit making him successful? His successes was due to the blessing, or curse, the darkstar had given him, when he touched it. These feelings... it was possible to manipulate them in such a way, combine them the power of the crystal, in order to gain access to all these miracles Ignacio did to this town. That realization came out of nowhere, though - he was basing it on the seconds of him touching the darkstar, which had happened more than a decade ago.

A silent crowd had formed behind him, and he could feel their stares fixed at him; they were around fifty Pokemon around him, judging by the amount of sounds his ears were able to catch. Though they weren't hostile, he could sense - an aura of neutrality was floating above all of them. Amongst their spirits, he could sense the fiery one approaching him, invisible. Tristana levitated above his shoulder, sharing his thoughts and forging her own. The moonlight fell on the Phantom Dancer's steel mask as he looked at the Machoke with his vibrant green eyes.

"Do you know why he was so powerful?"

"Powerful?" the sailor asked, mystified by his question; he threw him a puzzled look. "No. He was beyond that. He was a being of perfection."

What a load of bullcrap! Tristana shouted angrily in his mind. He was using the darkstar to fool these people into thinking he was a God! Shango stayed silent. Tristana wasn't the one to have touched the darkstar. He didn't dare to admit it, but with the ambition he felt when it merged with his hand was enough for him to challenge the whole world - who knows what he would do if he was constantly holding it and was surrounded by Pokemon such as these? He would do the same, shamefully.

"And then, one day..." the sailor continued in a sad tone, "he left us. He left us forever. His departure was sudden and it broke our hearts... our spirits. Years later, we found out that he had become an Angel of Death, an Hashashin... we accepted that our godlike leader had devoted himself in bringing good in other places of the world. We long awaited and begged for his return, but he would not answer to us..."

Shango looked at the ground, pondering on the question these people were obviously unable to answer. Why did Ignacio leave the village, to join the Hashashin? How did he become the Master, since only the most trusted ones take on this title? The most trusted ones were those born, raised, built and trained inside the brotherhood. But Ignacio appeared to be at least Shango's age in the statue, which was probably built during his stay here. Then again, it was his name... Phylax. One of the five legendary families of the Hashashin. He wondered if he truly originated from the depths of the brotherhood, or he simply had the power to convince people otherwise. But there was something missing from the brotherhood he had created: the darkstar. The crystal was the component he was missing. Shango put together the pieces of the puzzle; that's why Ignacio wanted to find the darkstar, to find the lost power. That's why he had kidnapped him, bringing him back into the brotherhood, to feed on the possible answers he could give him after his encounter with the darkstar.

"I suppose," the Machoke kept on with a sigh, "you are here to help him."

"Help him, how?"

"Ignacio recently warned us of a war that was coming... a war in which we had to take the part of Ionia, as he ordered us. And we will do anything he says, for he is our Protector, and he knows what is good for us and the future of the village."

Shango was beginning to get sick of all this religious talk. He was never a fan of religion, yet he always respected those bearing that burden. But this was all too much. He couldn't stand the ignorance of people - the ignorance the Master of the Hashashin took advantage of to deem himself God. And they were now siding with Ionia...

"But why would Ignacio want you to side with Ionia?"

"Do you not want us to side with Ionia?"

"Answer my question," his tone had become slightly agressive. The Machoke kept on.

"You are an Hashashin, equal to him, as he says. If you truly are with him, then you would want us to side with Ionia. Ignacio has ordered us to keep Ionia safe, and that is what we will do, that is what we will give our lives for if we must."

Shango conceded quietly. The original plan he would have to follow, then. He looked at the ground, soothing his spirit from all the emotion and emptying his mind from all the thoughts, putting them away in a corner to study them later. At times like this, it was always best to refer to Tristana, his beautiful maiden and muse... Tristana, he spoke her name. She spoke back in a tone of understanding. You have my permission...

Dangerously close as the Machoke was, Shango grabbed his head and sliced its sides. The Pokemon fell hard on the floor under the shocked eyes of the citizens, but the moment they realized what was happening, another two of the sailors had fallen by the shadowy hooded figure of the Phantom Dancer. He kicked the next Machoke in the foot, making him kneel, blocked the other Machoke's karate chop, grabbed his arm and threw him at his partner full force. The two Machokes collided, their heads slamming with each other; metallic sounds were heard as Shango's Nether Blades shot out of his sleeves, impaling the two heads. The other Machoke fell onto him, the two of them rolling on the ground, but Shango sliced his throat and kicked the body at a female Delcatty who was charging at him, screaming with holy fury. The rest of the crowd was doing the same it seemed; just when they thought they had him surrounded, the ground broke and a pillar of flames, along with a searing shot, exploded at the citizens of Telaar, forcing a part of them to back off and allowing Shango space. His mind was at the ultimate state of focus as his Nether Blades found their way into the vital spots of the bodies of the poor, inexperienced Pokemon of the village, who were dead before they touched the ground. He did not block, he only killed instantly - the sailors were the only force of combat who could provide some small, pathetic yet, resistance to him, but now they were laying dead before the great statue of Ignacio.

Despite the slaughter before the eyes, and the raging flames of the searing shots of Tristana, the people of the village kept attacking Shango. He did not seem to hesitate at all; on the contrary, the emotion of rage and bloodlust that would overcome a warrior who possessed his skills were replaced by the cold determination of the assassin: he simply took lives, he did not battle. Those who ended up having a painful, disgusting death were often the ones who managed to launch the most successful attacks on him, but those were just blocked. At times, he was attacked with flames, which were warded off by the Phantom Dancer's cloak, or by huge rocks, which he managed to slip by as if he was but a mere shadow - nothing was stopping him, but the faith the Pokemon had for Ignacio seemed limitless, and it drove them right into the end.

The crowd had now descended to the ground. Little to no amount of residents were still standing up, but among those who were, was a seemingly worthy opponent. Shango's eyes crossed with the one who shot flames at him. A massive Charizard, a female one, had now charged in combat against him. He detected more than fury in her eyes, movement and state of mind: determination, passion and... something else he couldn't quite get.

She bashed her head against him, but as he fell on the ground, he instantly shot himself back up and stood immovable, inhaling calmly. The female Charizard looked at him in surprise for a second - her enemy did not seem tired or hurt at all. But, she would not hesitate to bite his head off. She charged in with her claws burning with the sacred blue and red flames of dragons, but Shango knew better than to touch her in the state. These flames were the only thing that could actually hurt his cloak, as it was made from the dragon's skin. He successfully repelled her hands, by knocking her right one away, ducking and slashing her belly, forcing her to back off. She spread her wings and charged at him, grabbing his arms and lifting him into the air; the dragon had gotten thirty feet high before Shango stabbed her arm and then her belly, before he started falling to the ground. Grinning evily, she watched him as he fell and fell... he crushed against the ground, kneeling... he was right back up and facing her in a battle stance she had never seen again: the one of the Medicham, inspired by the Hotori, that which helped focus the mind and bent the will of others with the majestic, charming movements. But the Charizard roared in fury and released a hellish maze of flames as she charged against him once again. Another source of flames was shot from the ground to counter hers, but she did not notice. As she reached the end of her own flames, where the hooded Hashashin was supposed to be, she abruptly realized he was gone. The edge of her sight caught the shadow, his shadow, and the next moment, hot blood dripped on the ground from her thick neck that was impaled from one side to the other by four nether blades, along with four claws. She was about to shoot fire as a final result, but her opponent, in precaution of that, did something. The blades emerging from the sleeves of his cloak twisted in a strange way and suddenly, her throat was stabbed from inside. The dragon, drowning in her own blood, conceded defeat and lay her head on the blood pool that was forming on the ground.

Shango pulled his Nether Blades off from the Charizard; they didn't have the usual shape of a small cutlass. They had large saw-like spikes on them, capable of slicing through tight skin as if it was paper. The blades soon disappeared as Shango faced the remaining Telaar residents, who kneeled, then fell face first to the ground. Shango glanced around. There was no spot on the ground that was not spilled with blood. Bodies were spreading from one side of the square above the docks to the other, laying dead in front of the statue of their so-called God. Tristana popped in front of him, checking on him.

"Are you alright?" she asked him with concern. Shango didn't answer. He didn't need to.

Ignoring the remainder of the residents, he bypassed the dead bodies and headed towards the docks. Tristana had already sat on his shoulder, snuggling with his hood in an expression of fear and disgust, mixed with concern for Shango; but he seemed absolutely fine. It wasn't the first time he had slaughtered so many at once, but both of them felt mentally fragile after such events. His goal wasn't to kill, despite if he would do it to reach it. For now, he simply stayed silent, the adrenaline wearing off and his body temperature dropping.

He looked up at a roof. Captain Tylor was standing there watching him, with his crystal eyes flashing under the moonlight. His expression was impossible to read, as was the rest of the aspects on the mysterious pirate. Shango raised his eyebrows, staring at him directly; his mask hid any signs of emotion his face would probably give away.

"Why are you not aboard our ship?" Shango questioned him sternly.

"Guess I didn't wanna miss the show. Wonderboy... it was clever of me to name you that! Ha!"

Shango stood there, looking at him for a second; the Sableye seemed to be looking elsewhere, like the times he was speaking to himself or somebody who evidently wasn't there. Shango subtly, slightly shook his head and he begun walking towards the docks, unwilling to speak. Tylor leaped behind him and walked beside him.

"You fought like a true warrior."

"I am no warrior. I do not battle. I am an assassin. I take lives."

"... by beating their arses off!" the Sableye chuckled, as if it was some kind of joke. Shango figured the man was used to dead bodies and carnage, being a pirate, so much in fact that he was able to joke about it. They locked eyes intently and stopped in the middle of the road.

"There's a difference between fiddling with the thin cord of life and simply snapping it, mister Grubas."

Tylor started laughing for some reason. He clutched his belly and looked upwards, to the starry night, where his laughs echoed. "You're so deep, man, like a Diglett! Ahaha!" and he kept on laughing. Shango smirked his eyebrows in disturbance as they continued walking towards the docks.

Don't get mad, Shango, Tristana pleaded him, but he was not in such a state of mind.

I won't. There's no use convincing people sometimes. Sometimes, it's better to stick with your beliefs without doubting them when people turn them down. Tylor has never been in my position, the one of the assassin. It's only natural that he would be unaware of the nature of the profession - he is a pirate after all. Freebooter, as they call themselves. What do they know?

"But seriously, how do you do it? That was rad! Dozens versus one! I like your style," Tylor said to him once he had stopped laughing.

Shango sighed in a sad manner, wishing he wouldn't have to answer, or rather, his answer wasn't truthful. "I've probably been through more combat than you will ever face in your life, mister Grubas."

"Oh come on!" he reacted right away, looking at him in disbelief with a petty grin. "How do you know that?"

"The way you think of combat gives your experience away."

"Now that's downright insulting, mate! Not cool!"

Shango slightly grunted and brought his hand inside his hood to touch his forehead, if he wasn't wearing the mask. The conversation would be entertaining under different conditions; but now he had just taken innocent lives, and was forced to talk about the way he did so.

"You misunderstood," he said finally, "I did not mean to say you were inexperienced."

"What, then?"

They had reached the docks. The three frigates floated intact on their right, bound on Telaar. The Hollow's End had gotten into firing position; they had even dropped anchor, it seemed. Nautilus and Thomas were watching them curiously, along with the rest of the crew: the Gravellers and the Mime. Tylor let out a sound as if he whistled and motioned with one claw raised. It apparently was some kind of signal, because the pirates hurried around the ship. Thomas grabbed the wheel and Nautilus lifted the anchor. The ship started steering towards the docks, where they were standing.

Shango sat on his ankles, his cloak and cape licking the wooden platform. He definitely needed some rest and some time alone, only with Tristana. He owed her an apology from the moment he had announced he would kill innocent people, back on the Hollow's End. Back then, he didn't know exactly who these people were, and who they were worshipping. When he had finally built his answer to Tylor's question, he spoke.

"I meant that you don't seem to take battling seriously. If you were doing it almost daily, you would see it otherwise."

"Be it that way or another, our vessel is here, Wonderboy!"

Indeed, the schooner's bow had gotten past their jumping range. Shango launched himself from the ground, landing on the deck effortlessly; Tylor followed him right after and they faced each other.

"Keep the silence, mister Grubas. I need some rest, and the last thing I want is annoying questions and false admiration."

"False admiration?! I'm sure you'll be famous in no time!" Tylor whispered quickly, looking back at his crew.

"That's exactly what I want to avoid..." Shango muttered quietly and headed belowdecks without any additional comments.

"Wait," Tylor exclaimed, "what about them ships?!" he pointed at the frigates on the docks of Telaar. Shango thought for a moment.

"There probably aren't enough villagers to man them. We will return to get them tomorrow."

The Sableye looked at him inquiringly. "Can we have them, after the war?"

"... if you can buy them at whatever state they will be in."

He decided he had enough chatter for today and went belowdecks; Tristana didn't dare bother him as he lay down on one of the cotton beds.
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Old December 2nd, 2013 (03:53 PM). Edited December 3rd, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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The Prince of Sweet Sorrow The Prince of Sweet Sorrow is offline
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Chapter 13: A visitor from the past





Tristana was faking threatening grimaces at him again, testing to see if she was really scary. Shango couldn't help but cover his forehead against the intense sunlight and smile wanly at her efforts. The hill they were sitting on was scorched by the bright evening sun.

"I'm scary, grrraar!" the Victini growled, gritting her teeth.

"You're cute, rather," Shango chuckled. She put her hands on her waste, then poked his nose.

"Do not underestimate me, Shango Maverick," she said. As she was floating in front of him, Shango realized how much she had grown over all these years. He didn't think it possible, but a legendary Pokemon like her had indeed grown. It could be his doing. Ever since he had found her on the base of her own stone statue, they had never parted ways. They became the closest partners there was.

She giggled girlishly and flashed him a brimming smile, which set off a series of thoughts in Shango's mind. What if that smile could be vanquished as easily as he took the lives of the people of Telaar? What if he lost Tristana in a moment of bad luck? She seemed to notice his feelings of worry, as they were presented on his face. Despite his wild facial hair and his efforts to hide his emotions, his face was still very expressive.

"What's wrong?" she asked worriedly, slightly descending so their noses almost touched each other. Her deep blue eyes were full of concern; Shango got lost in them and his thoughts for a while.

"I'm afraid I'll lose you," he said truthfully after a while. She threw him a perplex look, her affection well hidden away in it. The color of her cheeks had turned red from the usual very light orange.

"You should be more afraid for yourself," she uttered and looked down sadly, bringing her hands behind her back as if she was shy to face him directly. He didn't worry about himself. In fact, he discovered, he was more concerned about Tristana than himself. Deciding this in an instant, he grasped her small body with his strong hands, forcing her to look at him; she was biting her lips, overwhelmed and in awe. She was the cutest when she did that.

"I'm sorry, Tristana," he managed to say in a fragile voice that sounded much like the younger him, the naive, carefree, cheerful him that Tristana had first known. "I want peace. I don't want to go through this war. I have to. I don't want to lose you over this."

The warmth coming off from the spirit's body was pulsing, burning his hands, but in a way he was used to. She was staring into his green eyes, for a moment which seemed like years. Her tiny hands had gripped the little fur where his sharp black claws started and her wings were gently flapping in vain every once in a while.

"I like it when you hold me like this," she whispered, expecting him to immediately let go as he did every time she was telling him something similar. All these years, Shango and Tristana had been through many situations like this, but Shango always chose to avoid them. She was hurt inside, though she couldn't do otherwise. But this time, Shango didn't let go of her. He didn't feel it was necessary. Tristana looked at him sleepily, as if drunken, and he knew what she was thinking. She loves me. He wished he could say the same, but his friend would most likely misinterpret it. The sadness for this situation made his spirit sink and his face lose its shine. He thought it best not to say anything, as not to hurt her.

Simply caressing her head and ears, gently as she liked it, he let go of her slowly. "I owe you a lot," he told her, feeling discomfort for not being able to give her something in return. He had questioned himself, what he had given her all these years. Nothing but his company and friendship. And she had given everything, including her life. Why? Because she loved him. What kind of Pokemon had the willpower and self sustain Tristana had?

"No, Shango..." she whispered, looking down, "you don't owe me anything... I wouldn't ever ask anything for return."

This was wrong. He still felt as if he needed to give her something; he was sure she'd love it, but Tristana wasn't an ordinary girl and an ordinary gift wouldn't suffice in this situation. He would have to think of something different... eternal happiness is what Tristana deserved. How was she going to be happy, if he... didn't love her back the way she did?

Her great, cheerful smile had returned to her face. She dove right into his palm, forcing him to engulf her in it as if she was a ball. He felt her limitless energy rising upwards.

"Toss me!" she shouted, biting her lips naughtily.

Shango flung the curled up Tristana in the air; she became the source of a bright, white light as she exploded around. The hill was momentarily filled with her immense energy, which made the grass grow wild, wither and grow again. When she fell back into his hands, she looked at him sleepily. He was feeling so confident and full of energy, the grim thoughts from before had all vanished, replaced with positive ones. The Victini giggled faintly and Shango hugged her tightly, her face buried in his chest's hair. At that moment, he didn't need to tell her he loved her, because she already knew, and although it wasn't the kind of love she was seeking, she would still be happy.


***


Shango heard steps from the foot of the hill and he immediately looked to that direction, to see Zaunix - the light falling on the black Scyther didn't seem to illuminate him, as if it simply got past him. Shango realized just then, that Zaunix' shadow wasn't as dark as it was supposed to be. There was always something wrong about his existence.

Shango placed the sleeping spirit on the ground without taking his eyes off of his strange ally.

"Shango, I'm glad," Zaunix said in his loud, buzzing voice that had no warmth or emotion in it, even though he probably meant what he said. That was sure to scare off any rodent in a radius of a hundred meters. "The lake's operation had an auspicious ending."

"The lake is only part of the operation," Shango corrected him. "Even though innocent lives were taken, I agree - they won't bother us anymore."

"Ah, but they were just fools... believing in a mortal. There are greater things to believe into," Zaunix said and approached Shango. Last night, Shango had told Hector and Zaunix about the events that took place in Telaar, and they had both come in agreement that killing them all was his best choice - they would die when they joined Ionia anyway. Such was the logic of the voidborns

"I suggest you wear your cloak," Zaunix said as he reached him. He glanced at the sleeping Tristana momentarily, but he didn't say anything.

"There's no danger up here," Shango said and sat down on the grass. He looked at the view of the hill he had chosen to spend the night: the lake, reflecting the sun on its tiny waves, and the forest around it.

"You should go back. We'll be in trouble if they find out you're missing."

"Not yet."

Hector soon joined them; he was panting, his chest pounding as if he was running as fast as he could for miles. Shango expected to hear some urgent news, but Hector seemed to have ran just for fun, like he used to.

"Greetings," Hector said with an attitude, clutching his knees. His necklace of bones seemed fragile and about to fall off, but Shango ignored the urge to point that out.

"Let's get straight to the point," Zaunix spoke quickly, "we have successfully put Fort Stone and Telaar... aside. Our next move would be..."

"Our next move would be Fort Leaf," Shango said, braiding his claws and looking at the grass. Hector was towering above him with an excited look on his face. He didn't look like a general of the Hesperian army at all, though he was getting into the right vibe. The Imperatores were notorious for that bloodthirsty look.

"Easy prey," Hector cackled horribly, punching his palm hard, "I'm eager to widen my collection of bones."

"It won't be that simple," Zaunix said, scowling. "Ionia enforced their naval defenses by sending more ships to guard the Fort. It'll be impossible to get through all of them."

"Then what do you suggest we do?" Shango asked, feeling Zaunix had already cooked up a plan.

"We disarm them," the black Scyther said, his black eyes flashing. A devilish grin appeared on Hector's face. Shango nodded in understanding.


***


Zaunix bid them farewell and vanished instantly; they heard the sound of his wings swiftly carrying him away from the top of the hill. The sun was now right above their heads as the time had passed quickly. Hector had sat next to Shango; if the latter wasn't wearing his cape, you wouldn't be able to tell which Zangoose was Shango and which Hector from a distance.

"Everything's progressing smoothly," Shango commented, leaning forward over Tristana; she was sunbathing after the exhausting explosion of positive energy. Hector was leaning backwards on his hands.

"Except my appetite. I'm hungry, let's go have dinner in the woods. We'll invite some of the wild Pokemon!"

"Food will have to wait."

Hector's belly rumbled greatly. "Man, I wish I was in the King's Palace right now, eating a Miltank double my size!"

"That isn't the most interesting thing you can do in there," Shango said quietly with a meaningful grin, thinking his friend wouldn't want to miss the action the war was bringing for some food. Food was everywhere. Rosa was not. Hector had gotten the meaning, and he grinned back at him.

"I second that, brother."

"No, you first that," Shango said.

"Hah! Touche!"

Shango sighed, the tricky smile remaining on his face as he looked upon the lake. "I can't wait to meet Hector Junior," he said suddenly, then glanced at Hector to see his reaction.

"What?" he asked suspiciously. He wasn't buying it, typical of Hector.

"Rosa went back to the Palace," Shango started, watching him carefully, "not because she grew weary of the war. Because she was pregnant."

Hector's black eyes dilated as he stared at him furiously. "I'm gonna kill you if you're joking," he said menacingly, as if he was ready to attack him. Shango kept a silent vigil, his smile unshakable. Tristana had now opened her eyes, watching the two Zangooses above her stare at each other.

"That's impossible!" Hector said and licked his lips, looking at the ground and scratching the back of his head nervously. Then, he turned to look at him intently.
"It's yours! Yeah, it's yours. You're messing with me."

"I never touched her," Shango said raising his arms innocently.

"I can vouch for that," Tristana said in a sassy manner, making Hector look at her in fear. He was obviously upset - the hunter that feared no beast walking on this world, feared his own child. Shango found it was pretty ironic. He was sure he would manage his own child just fine, if he ever had one, so there wouldn't be any reason to worry about it.

"Well... why didn't she tell me?" Hector asked him in a last defense. Shango scratched his chin, looking down.

"Because she was afraid you'd react the way you did," he finally said. Then, he proceeded to pat his friend's shoulder.

"The child can't be that bad. Besides, we were planning on you becoming the king. You would have had a child with her, some day."

"But not now!" Hector cried and buried his face in his palms. Shango chuckled heartily and got up from the grass, his fiery spirit flapping her wings to reach his height. He extended his hand towards his friend for him to grab. Hector seemed hesitant for a moment, but then he grabbed his hand and let Shango pull him up.

"Let's not keep Addams and Grubas waiting. We will discuss this another time. Don't let your thoughts distract you from our cause."

Hector quietly nodded and walked besides him downhill.


***

Shango was walking through the camp with grace. All of the guards looked at him surprised, as they hadn't seen him exit his tent from last night, but he simply ignored all looks. He had sent Hector his way as their meeting was due in one hour; the poor guy needed some time to set his thoughts in order, and Shango acknowledged that. He had been through situations like these, but much different at the same time. No child was involved in them, at least. He figured Hector would perform better on the battlefield if he was calmed down; that's why he'd sent Tristana with him to comfort him. Surprisingly, them two got along very well together.

He turned right from the main path inside the camp, walking through two tents close to each other that had barrels full of water between them. He would save himself some time by cutting through these tents, rather than going around them. His own tent was on top of the hill, which wasn't where the road led to. Suddenly, his eyes caught a strange distortion of the barrels in front of him; he instantly recognized the type of power being used... but it was too late, as a white figure pounced on him. He felt strong claws on his neck before he could react, but they didn't rip through him; instead, they were put with pressure, threateningly. He found himself looking up inside a white hood, that of the Hashashin, who seemed to be a creature of feline body structure. His assailant was a little taller than him, and they smelled disturbingly familiar...

"So, it really is you," the Hashashin spoke with a rough, feminine voice that Shango didn' have trouble recognizing; the smell was unchanged, too.

"Crystal?" he asked, seemingly overwhelmed with surprise. The second that followed, he took advantage of her thinking. With unmatched speed, he grabbed her hand, twisting it and kicking her gut. She let out a shriek of pain as she was forced to kneel to the grass. He stared at her well enough; he hadn't seen her wearing the traditional cloak of the Hashashin, and he started wondering where the mane on the back of her head had disappeared to. Crystal let out a painful laugh, which sounded as if she hadn't laughed in a long while.

"Come here to kill me, have you?" Shango asked in a hostile voice that showed disturbance. "And you also sent another one. You should know better than this."

His strong grasp didn't allow her to get up, but she didn't even try. Shango perked up his ears and extended his senses, fully synchronizing with his surroundings. No other Hashashin is around. Crystal is all alone. She laughed again.

"I'm not here to kill you. Let go of me," she ordered in the bossy tone he always remembered; though now, she seemed much more threatening and... older.

"You're not here to kill me? Then what is the meaning of this?"

"I've ran way from the Hashashin. Like you. I always knew you were alive. A simple fall in a well wouldn't be enough to wipe you out of this world."

"You overestimate me, cousin. I am alive and well because of the intervention of certain individuals," he said stiffly, subtly hiding his happiness for seeing his old relative. He felt she was telling the truth, so his grasp loosened and she slowly got up. He could see the start of a smile at her dark snout, which was slightly exiting her hood.

Shango heard someone walking on the path. They were instantly engulfed as an illusion of barrels appeared between them and the road. Shango found out he could actually see through it if he looked at it intently.

"The other Hashashin..." Crystal muttered in a worn out voice that reeked of sadness. "Dimitri," she said, and Shango remembered. Dimitri was the son of Pasqual that held the shop in Yanakard thanks to the illusions, Dimitri was the young brother of Crystal. His cousin.

"I'm sorry for your loss," Shango said flatly, hiding his feelings entirely.

"It's not your fault, you had no choice... that bastard, Nightingale! He sent him on a suicide mission, just to get revenge!"

"Revenge? What happened?"

"Well, Dimitri... he wasn't too obedient. The pup was more rebellious than the Hashashin tolerated," she spoke sternly, as if she wouldn't forgive him that. Shango knew his cousin was always strict and disciplined when it came to the ways of the Hashashin. "Enough of that," she said dismissively. "What on earth are you trying to accomplish, Shango? And... are you... this 'Phantom Dancer' I've been hearing all about?"

"I see my accomplishments in the Black Citadel didn't go unnoticed."

"You seriously believe you aren't famous? Notorious, more like it. Tsk, tsk, that's not suitable for an assassin."

"People needed an idol, a savior to believe in. So, I gave them one."

"And now? How did you end up as a King? I'd never imagined--"

"It's a long story, really, and I'd rather not discuss it dressed up as a barrel."

"Good point."

"Nevertheless, I'm happy to see you again, after all these years."

"Come here, you," she uttered in a weak voice that made Shango's heart break. He wondered what she had been through all these years.

They hugged each other tightly, their bodies pushing together. It was a moment of bliss that brought old memories to Shango's mind.

"You've grown up so much, Shango. I'm proud of you."

"As I am of you. Abandoning the Hashashin, openly as you did... it takes guts."

"I'm made of guts," she said and giggled as she used to, but she immediately started coughing. Shango patted her back and guided her out of the illusion of the barrels.

"You're not too old for this, cousin, are you?" Shango quipped.

"Fool, we're at the same age."

"I'm special, though."

"Sure you are. Heh."

"Come to my tent. All shall be explained there... after the war meeting. Disguise yourself as a soldier, in the meantime."

The illusion around them faded, and a Rhydon soldier replaced the image of the Hashashin. They walked away from the barrels, followed the main road. They bypassed the tents, turning right towards the hill. Shango suddenly stopped a Pinsir soldier that appeared on the entrance of a tent.

"Give this order to General Hector: I want him to fetch Zaunix to the conference tent."

"Zaunix?" the Pinsir asked abruptly in confusion.

"He'll know," Shango said, ignoring the Rhydon's surprised look next to him. When the Pinsir was gone, the Rhydon's deep voice was heard.

"Hector? The same Hector we met in Myriapolis?"

"Yes, that Hector. I appointed him General."

"What! You know how he is! He can't handle such responsibility!"

"He is able to just fine, I believe in him."

The Rhydon soldier rolled her eyes. "I wish you'd clear this up for me real soon."

"Soon. Tristana is here too," Shango said, looking around at the road in case somebody was looking at them suspiciously.

"Tristy!" Crystal shouted a littler louder. "I thought she was gone... you know, before the Countess... um, died, she disappeared."

"I stole her."

"By the way, Shango... it was you who approached us in the squares, during the executions in Myriapolis... wasn't it?"

"It was me, yes. I wanted to put an end to it, along with my allies, but I couldn't do it without your help."

"Your allies... Hector and Zorthan?"

"And Zaunix."

"Really, who is Zaunix?"

"You'll see. He's an interesting Pokemon. Though quite... vicious and cunning."

"Wow. Is he handsome," Crystal asked in a rather indifferent tone, as if she didn't want to ask directly. But Shango could see right through it and he allowed himself a chuckle. As far as he knew, Crystal hadn't committed to anybody.

"It depends on perspective, Crystal. To the likes of him, he just might be the most ugliest of them all... which could be a good thing."

"I don't understand..."

They started climbing the hill where the King's conference tent was, with view the whole lake. It was the same hill that had quick access to the Hollow's End, which was docked in place right now, the cord that connected it with the land tightly bound onto the pole with the Hesperian flag that was waving up high.

"Has Hector grown up, too?" his cousin asked in a bitter tone that made Shango think she held some feelings for him, sometime in the past, at least. Shango smiled gently as he turned to look at her, but he only saw the unwelcoming, rough face of the Rhydon.

"He's become more... dependable. But Queen Rosa is pregnant..." he said, his smile becoming cheeky.

"So, you chose Queen Rosa to be the mother of your child..."

"If I had to choose between Rosa and a wild Houndour, it would be the Houndour. It was Hector who chose poorly."

"That idiot!" she exclaimed in a spiteful manner.

"It's a pity, he was such a player..." Shango continued in the same cheeky smile and tone, getting a bit more cheerful. He remembered how much he liked to tease Crystal.

"I'd love to see his sorry face," Crystal said with a hint of anger and jealousy in her voice. Shango started doubting her age.

"Hmm? Did you want to be in Rosa's place?"

"No! No..."

Shango laughed heartily, remembering how Hector was flirting with her years ago. In fact, he flirted with every female he laid his eyes upon... though, it seemed as if Hector and Crystal had shared something more than just intimate moments. Whatever it was they shared, it seemed Hector had forgotten all about it.

They reached the entrance of the tent on top of the hill, which was guarded by two Drapion guards. They stepped aside once Shango motioned his claw, allowing the Rhydon passage as well. The inside of the tent seemed to have changed from the last time Shango entered it: there was a chair with grassy cushions and handles. In front of it, the table with the map was unmoved. Two torches on wooden sticks were burning next to the chair; holes on the roof of the tent allowed the smoke to exit the place. Shango took his place and motioned at Crystal to stand by him.

"Stay calm now. Can you maintain the illusion?"

"Easily."


***


Shango was sitting on the new comfy chair of the King's tent. In front of him, there was the table with the map of the lake spread on it, at the height of his hands. Crystal's Rhydon illusion was standing quietly next to him.

The shine of his armor was missing from the room because he had left it where it was in the tent where he slept the night before. Low whispers could be heard outside, as the two guards at the entrance were conversing with each other, slightly disturbing Shango and his thoughts about the war. He suddenly felt a new aura entering the room, as if a gentle breeze brought a new presence. He knew this feeling: it was Zaunix' wings that were flapping quickly but so subtly that they were barely audible. The invisible being stood next to him quietly; Crystal didn't seem to notice his presence. Shango thought everything was set for the meeting to begin.

"Praetorians," he exclaimed. The two Drapions in plate armor came in one by one, as their size didn't allow them to pass through the entrance of the tent at once. They nodded in a serious, disciplined manner, the way of the Praetorian Guard and shouted: "Hail the Imperatores!"

Shango motioned his head towards the exit of the tent. "Bring me the Generals and the Pirate."

"Only the Captain?" asked one of the Drapions in a steel tone; he wasn't looking straight at him, only beyond him, as was the custom of showing respect to the entirety of the King. Shango considered that pointless, but he didn't say anything - he was pretending to be a King, and it had gone well so far, so he might as well receive all the respect they could give him.

"Only the Captain," Shango said stiffly.

"At once, your Grace." And they left the room, returning after two minutes, with the two Generals and Captain Grubas. Shango winked at Hector, who turned to look at the Rhydon intently, as if his senses were tingling. The Rhydon didn't react, but Crystal flinched under the illusion. Charlie was looking at her as well; Tylor was looking upwards for no apparent reason.

"Who is this?" Hector asked, smirking his eyebrows as he examined the soldier.

"Nobody of importance as of now. Carry on with the meeting as if she's not here."

"Are you absolutely sure, your Grace?" Charlie asked to confirm.

"Of course, do not ask that again," Shango said, widening his eyes as if he was insulted. The Nidoking bowed his head slightly, respectfully.

He felt the heat of Tristana as she flew from Hector to him, always invisible, to sit on the grassy handle of the chair. He subtly turned to smile faintly at her. We have a visitor, my dear Tristana...

A visitor?

Yes. A visitor from the past.
"So," he spoke out loud, looking at the three visible Pokemon in the room. "Gentlemen. Our final confrontation with Ionia is drawing near. We are just one step away from our target, and that step is Fort Leaf, the coastal fortress that is built on a cliff, much like Fort Stone. Come and take a closer look."

Hector and Charlie walked forward; Tylor seemed to be dozing off. "You too, mister Grubas." The pirate couldn't avoid Shango's intense gaze, so he walked besides the two Generals and leaned over the map.

"The Ionians have gathered their forces," the Nidoking spoke in a serious manner that Shango approved. "The massacre that took place in Telaar has become the most popular topic of discussion in Ionia - they are now left without reinforcements by lake. The coast is literally clear."

Shango was staring at his fingers drumming on his own foot. He nodded quietly, feeling Charlie had more things to say.

"They now do not expect a full frontal assault on Fort Leaf," he continued, everyone following the string of his thoughts. "It is now we must strike, but we cannot proceed entirely by land."

"They have seven frigates docked in the cove behind Fort Leaf," Hector said, pointing at the map on the curve of the lake that was forming a cove. On its two ends, there were Fort Leaf and Ionia. The more Shango looked at Fort Leaf, the more he thought it'd be easier to conquer it. Afterwards, it was march to Ionia.

Tylor crackled with laughter. "Heh! We'll just have to take 'em all out!"

Charlie turned his massive body to look at the little daredevil. "We have four ships, and they have seven, more than seven if the Ionians decide to send reinforcements."

Shango and Hector exchanged glances, thinking that could be taken care off: Shango would sneak into the fortress to disable the frigates. It would be way easier with Crystal on his side; her abilities would surely be proven useful.

"I forgot to mention," the Nidoking said in a plain tone, "James Vescourt has been appointed Commander of Fort Leaf."

James Vescourt was the Shiftry Shango had almost killed in Fort Stone. He turned to look at the invisible Tristana emphatically, blaming her for having pleaded him to spare the Commander. But that wouldn't be much of a problem. If that Commander died, another one would surely take his place.

"I also hear that Kingfisher has moved to Fort Leaf with a special troop of Needlers."

"Kingfisher..." Shango muttered. The leader of the Ionian Verdict himself, the Sceptile that was known as the 'Sharpest of the Needlers' and for a good reason. He looked up at General Charlie with his green eyes brimming with excitement. Meeting his old leader in battle... that was almost poetic. He would prove the ties to his past were all severed by driving his hand through the man's chest. "Wonderful. He will be caught off guard when we attack. We could possibly take his life as well."

"Neat!" Hector shouted. "They won't have a chance to elect a new leader!"

"Indeed. Charlie and Hector," Shango spoke quickly, "you two will be leading the ground assault through the forest. Make sure you progress as fast as you can. That way, the Seeker scouts will have less time to warn the Fort. Request the presence of at least two Pokemon from our ranged ones that know the technique Miracle Eye - that should suffice to foresee, disarm and avoid the Verdict's traps without suffering casualties. Tomorrow, at dawn, that is when you march."

The Nidoking bowed his head and Hector grinned and nodded. Shango turned to Tylor. "As for you, Captain Grubas... I appoint you Admiral of the Hesperian fleet. You, too, will sail at dawn against the frigates of Fort Leaf, along with the ships we... procured from Telaar."

"Admiral?! D'you get a load of that, mister grumpy socks?!" the Sableye was once again talking to the air, but Shango chose to ignore it. Charlie seemed used to it too.

"Wait," Tylor suddenly shouted, jerking his shadowy head to Shango. "We're four against seven here, Crownie. How are we--"

"All in good time, mister Grubas," Shango, grinning in a similar way to Hector's. "You know your orders, everyone. You are dismissed. Best of luck in the battlefield."

Charlie bowed respectfully again and left the tent first; Tylor was about to leave, but Hector grabbed the Sableye's shoulder, pulling him backwards.

"Not so fast," the Zangoose said.

"Yo, what's wrong with you?!" Tylor snapped.

"Stay with us a little more," Shango said. "We'd like to share some secrets with you. You've proven worthy of our trust, and skilled as a captain."

Shango positioned himself in his grassy chair in a fully relaxed state, before he looked at Hector and nodded towards the entrance. "Send them away."

Hector went over to the guards that were standing outside the tent. After arguing about safety, they finally gave in and went their way under the General's orders. Hector shut the tent off and stared at the spot where Zaunix was standing the whole time, immovable as a statue. The Rhydon next to Shango was pretty much the same. Tylor's eyes were shot at each one of them.

"What's going on...?" he uttered and let out a nervous laugh.

"You know that we share the same goal with you, mister Grubas," Shango started talking in a quiet, rather weary voice. "We are searching for a darkstar. A crystal with unusual powers beyond those of common Pokemon."

"How 'bout we team up?" Hector asked the pirate, baring his sharp fangs in a grin. The Sableye did about the same.

"Now that sounds amusing. What are your terms?"

"Terms?" Hector questioned, slightly mockingly.

"What's the catch?" Tylor said in a more serious tone that Shango hadn't heard of before.

"If you betray us or give us away, we will kill you. Simple," Shango said in the same, tired smile that vastly contrasted his words. Tylor let out more nervous laughs.

"Me, betray you? Not unless I had a damn good reason to! 'sides, I'm expecting a payment," he said threateningly, raising his claw at him.

"By all means, your payment is already settled," Shango said in a mellow tone. "Let me ask you... do you know, what a voidborn is?"

Tylor looked to the left for a brief moment, to an invisible consultant. "Yyyes and no."

"Well... let us introduce you to our friend..."

"Friend?! What friend?" Tylor asked, looking at the Rhydon suspiciously, who returned the look in the same intensity.

"No, not her."

"Must have other Pokemon helping you, then," Tylor concluded.

"Of course, Hector was one of them all along. We wish to make you one of us."

"Is Hector really your brother?"

"Not a chance," Hector said, then laughed.

"Anyway... don't be startled by his appearance."

"Whose appeara--" Tylor's phrase was cut off as Zaunix' image formed right next to Shango. The mutated Scyther was more than enough to scare the average Pokemon, but thankfully Grubas took the shock in without screaming. He was rooted in his place, looking at the monstrosity of a voidborn. The purple glow of his four scythes had filled the room.

"What... what the heck is wrong with him?" he managed to ask.

"I've heard a lot about you, Tylor," Zaunix said.

"Who told you?!"

"Them," he said, looking one time at Shango, then Hector. Tylor jerked his head to the left, then to the Rhydon, watching her suspiciously. She, too, seemed to shocked to see a greatly mutated black Scyther appear; thankfully, Shango had warned her of his appearance before, so she was kind of ready.

"That lady over here," Tylor shouted, "she ain't a soldier, is she? Else she would be screaming!"

"Nah." Hector laughed and patted the Sableye on the shoulder a little stronger than he meant to. Shango nodded at Crystal and the Rhydon illusion faded, the silhouette of the maneless Zoroark in the white hood and cloak replacing it. She was holding her right wrist, staring at Tylor; Shango knew she disapproved of pirates and thieves in general, so these two could be having trouble.

"Woah," Tylor muttered, this time seemingly ready, "you guys are full of surprises. I like that! Nothing like the ol' boring Nautactus!"

"Her name is Crystal," Shango proceeded to introduce her, "she's a true Hashashin, like me."

Shango patted Tristana strongly, forcing her to sit down, invisible as she was. He looked like he was patting the air, but he didn't mind at the time. The spirit hadn't noticed that the Rhydon was actually Crystal until she revealed herself. Patience, Tristana. You'll get to talk to her later.

But why? ...
she looked at him in a complaining manner, then glanced at the Hashashin besides the King.

Because I said so, he said firmly. Tristana kept staring at Crystal in a wretched expression that Shango didn't see, but knew it was there. Tylor scratched his chin, looking at the floor.

"Uhh... what'd you call them again...? Hash-what?"

"Hash-ash-in. That's where the word 'assassin' comes from," Crystal explained in a relatively cold tone, which she seemed to use a lot. "The Hashashin are a notion, a group of powerful Pokemon who seek the prevalence of peace and ensure that the nations under their protection are fully liberated and go through democratic procedures, in order to make decisions as a whole."

"Huh...?" Tylor muttered and briefly looked to the left, then to the ground, as if somebody was explaining to him. Shango found this intriguing: could the pirate captain really... see somebody that they were unable to see? That person certainly wasn't a figment of his imagination, else they wouldn't be able to know things Tylor didn't - but as Shango thought of it carefully, he realized that Tylor often seemed to have things cleared up for him.

"Oh..." he said, then smirked and looked at Crystal, as if examining her. The red sash tied around her cloak was much too striking to the eye, especially with the insignia of the Hashashin on it. "Wait, how do assassins accomplish that? Usually, in Nautactus, we pay assassins to get rid of our rivals..."

"Precisely," Shango said, "we get rid of our... political opponents, those who threaten the peace. The brotherhood has been corrupted, though. They sentenced me to death, and my friend and cousin Crystal here ran away from them, a brave act if I may comment on it..." he looked at her with a warm smile to thank her for coming to him. Beneath her hood, the smile was reflected on her snout. "I intend to cleanse the Hashashin from corruption..."

Tylor's diamond eyes widened in an unreadable expression. "What's this war have to do with this? What you call 'darkstar' may be hidden away somewhere in Carajol, definitely not here."

"There is more than one crystal," Zaunix spoke and Tylor flinched, as if he'd forgotten his presence. "One of the those, we are sure the Ionian Chancellor has."

"I get it now," Tylor said in a plain tone, as if he wouldn't judge any of them. In truth, he didn't really think a war was necessary to get a darkstar, but then again, he didn't know all the details. "So you decided to blow up Ionia because you're searching for a gem?"

"This Ionian Chancellor belongs to a group who also searches for the darkstar," Zaunix explained and Crystal looked at him surprised. Shango motioned her to be quiet. "They wish to use them in an ill way to achieve their goals of... basically world domination."

"This is all too big," Tylor commented. "I can't say no to joining you, can I? Yeah, thought so," he said as they all stared him down. "C'mon, heheh... can I at least have some time to think about it?"

"Yes, you may," Shango said, "but Zaunix here will be watching you, and he won't hesitate you to devour you and your whole ship if you try to escape."

"Devour? Seriously? You guys are joking, right?"

"We're not," Hector said, "but we laugh from time to time. Let's go have a drink, you and me!"

"Hold on," Shango interrupted. "We still need to plan our next step carefully. Let's get to the point. We plan on disabling the ships docked in Fort Leaf. Me, Crystal and Zaunix will infiltrate the Fort and possibly assassinate their leaders, if the chance arises. You, Tylor, will be headed straight at the Fort, bombarding its side, if you don't meet any resistance. The force of the bombs will create an opening to their walls, where Hector, Charlie and their troops will move in."

"Woo! Bet Nautilus wouldn't wanna miss this chance of cracking some skulls! Heh! Me and my crew are all in, mates!"

Shango let out a sigh of relief, as he could finally relax on the thought that Tylor had accepted to help them, willingly. He had no choice anyway.

As everything seemed to be going well, Shango got up from his chair and walked over to Tylor, who watched him carefully; the pirate clearly had doubts, as Shango felt his uneasiness and read it clearly on the ghost's limp body. Shango was comically four times Tylor's size, so he needed to kneel for their eyes to be closer.

"Think of the profit you may gain from this, mister Grubas. Being a member of our... syndicate can be proven useful in many ways. I'll leave you to think of those ways with our brother Hector over here. Trust him with any questions you have. Should you and your crew choose to follow us... tell him, and you'll be one of us."

Tylor stared at him intently for two seconds, his diamond eyes reflecting the flames of the torches behind Shango's back. He then glanced down and turned around, walking away. Hector ran after him, opening the entrance of the tent for him. Before he went out, he waved at Crystal with a charming smile; Crystal seemed not to notice, though, as she was staring at Zaunix intently, apparently examining him.

"He's not much of a handsome fellow," she commented, letting out a rough laugh. The Scyther slowly turned his head to look at her.

"Crystal, isn't it?" he said. "Hector's told me all about you..."

The Zoroark raised her head to rub the ears that exited her hood from the holes of the cloak. Shango was amused that she, too, found the buzz that was Zaunix' voice disturbing. He felt Tristana's stare locked at him, but he shook his head negatively to keep her from revealing herself.

"Hector knows a lot of things," Crystal said sarcastically. She in fact felt sad, but she didn't want to admit it.

"So, Crystal," Shango said, walking towards her with grace. "I assume you'll be one of us, now?"

"I have questions, first."

Shango nodded quickly in understanding. "Let me explain, then." He started explaining from the very moment he fell into the Well of Shadows. How he met Zaunix and how he forged a league with the rest, with a single cause: to find the crystals called darkstars and protect them. But at the same time, he explained how the Phantom Dancer and the idea of the Pledge of Death were born, and how they would have to race the Endarkened Ones to the darkstars. He told her of his journey to the western world in search of knowledge, wisdom and skills, of his exploits in the Black Citadel and how he had managed to assassinate Sigmund Blados underneath Tortura (to which she let out a gasp of admiration for his technique). Then, it was time to tell her about the plan he hatched when he reunited with Hector, Zorthan and Zaunix - the plan to kill Angelo Imperatore and replace him. How he went to the Hesperian palace and asked to marry Princess Rosa, while convincing the reckless King Eoleo that this was the right thing to do for the Empire. How he killed him right after the marriage and blamed Ionia, in order to execute the final part of the plan: the invasion in the city-state and ultimately its destruction. Crystal, much like Tristana, disapproved of the war, claiming it wasn't necessary and that there were other ways to steal the darkstar and destroy Jericho Santaros. Shango only replied with a 'what's done is done', but he didn't seem to regret his actions so far.

Crystal was staring at the burning torches, processing all the information Shango had just given her. "You know, I've been suspicious of a group higher in power than the Hashashin..." she said. "Nightingale seems to be in league with Pokemon outside the brotherhood, for years now... I have tried to deny his orders, as they were always aiming purely at the profit of the Hashashin or himself, and not the people themselves. But I was unsuccessful, most of the time... as for Enzo, he got beaten up so badly at one time, he hardly speaks now from the shock. It's... horrible, Shango," she said, turning to him. Shango could feel her sadness from where he was standing, and his frown was reflecting it. "The Hashashin aren't the same anymore. We claimed we worked for the people all these years, even when under the Cult's command, but I see none of this is true. There are good Hashashin who do their job correctly, but with Nightingale in power, they are forced to do his own bidding, which is rotten to the core... And the worst part, Master Ignacio does absolutely nothing about it."

Shango walked over to her and hugged her tightly for the second time that noon. He removed her hood, at last, to see a Zoroark's face that was worn out, overwhelmed by the sadness that seemed to be permanent. Now he could tell why her voice was so rough - her facial characteristics had gotten so as well. Crystal's fur had gotten lighter, with white strands of hair, her red eyebrows had lost their color and she seemed older than her age. When he pulled her hood down, the huge mane the Zoroarks have in the back of their heads suddenly appeared, falling on the floor; it was concealed with an illusion the whole time.

"Illusion trick," she said, smiling faintly and Shango chuckled. As he breathed, he inhaled more of her familiar scent that filled his soul with happiness. Zaunix had sat on his ankles, pretending he wasn't listening as to not disturb them.

"We'll make it right, together," Shango whispered, caressing her mane gently. She had placed her snout on his shoulder, looking at the distance dreamily. "I promise you that."

As they looked at each other in the eye, they seemed to glow with newfound happiness. Shango had let go of her, now strongly holding her shoulders together.

"Touchy," Zaunix commented in his usual impassive tone and stone expression. "I will be going, then."

"Meet us in the forest, 2 hours after midnight," Shango said without looking at the dark being who instantly vanished. Shango didn't need to look to feel him exiting the room; he turned to Tristana's location, or where he assumed she would be: on the table. She instantly appeared, shooting herself at Crystal.

"Crystey!" she yelled as she flew right at Crystal's face.

"Tristy, that you?" she asked, catching her. She looked at the spirit and let out an excited cry, which helped Shango smile greatly in the sight of those too.

"I missed you so much..." Tristana uttered, her large eyes full of hot tears. Crystal placed her on her head and caressed her head. "What's happened, Crystey? With Enzo..."

"He's alright... he's just different. You'll see when you meet him! Oh," she yelled, as if she just remembered something; she turned to Shango in a rather worried look that didn't fit her well. "Nightingale and the Hashashin will side with Ionia..."

A frown came to disturb the peace on Shango's face. He would have to re-think of their plans carefully, now that the Hashashin were in the game. Not that he didn't know it already - why else would they send Dimitri to assassinate him? But now it was official.

"We will fight them if we have to."

"But, they're powerful..."

"So are we."
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Old December 8th, 2013 (09:00 AM). Edited December 20th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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Chapter 14: Blood, Wood and Sails


Shango stopped leaping from branch to branch to sit down on one that was high above the ground. From there, he could clearly see the fires in Fort Leaf that was built on top of a hill next to the lake, just like Fort Stone. The docks weren't visible, as the rock on the side of the small cove was hiding them. His eyes traveled to the foot of the hill, where the high, white stone wall started and surrounded the fortress. At a point, cliff replaced the wall, the cliff that was facing the lake. The moon and the stars were shedding their shining light on the houses; it was the perfect night, though a bit too bright. He suddenly turned around, hearing the nearing sounds of Crystal's feet and her cloak as she leaped from tree to tree, along with her quickened, heavy breath.

"O-kay..." she managed to say, sitting next to him and breathing heavily, "I can... normally... keep up with you, but..." she paused, inhaling deeply. "It was a long way, and we didn't even stop once... how do you do this, Shango? It's like you've been doing nothing but jump from tree to tree the past years!"

A flattered, charming smile spread on his face under the Phantom Dancer's mask. "The mastery of a technique such as this takes a good amount of full moons, be it ten or a hundred. Afterwards, you do not forget it, and the rest is daily practice and keeping healthy."

Crystal looked at him, amusement hidden under her hood. "Speakin' of keeping healthy... what do you usually eat?"

"At times like this, nothing."

"I noticed, that's why I'm asking... are you sure it's wise, going on a mission of this magnitude... without having eaten anything?"

"Our digestive system disturbs our full focus, which I hope to manage during my every mission," Shango said in a serious tone, his green eyes reflecting the image of Fort Leaf as he examined it without paying too much of his attention to the conversation.

"Digestive system?" Crystal inquired, puzzled by the term.

"Our stomach," Shango replied quickly, returning back to his thoughts about the Fort.

"How do you know this stuff?"

He smirked his eyebrows, giving up on his focused examination of his target building and turning to his cousin. "I've spent time inside the society of the Hotori. They are true masters of concentration and know all the secrets regarding it."

"How...? How? You don't just 'spend time with the Hotori'. They trust nobody but themselves!"

"... and me, apparently. Enough chatter for now. We came here for a reason."

"Jeez Shango, since when did you get so uptight?"

"I will get uptight if the dawn finds us in the midst of our work," Shango said in the same serious tone. His boots left the branch and he tumbled to the ground after a short flight. After Crystal landed next to him, he started a sprint towards the hill.

"Shouldn't we be worried about patrols?" Crystal shouted, running behind him.

"Not yet."

They dashed through the forest until they reached the cliff. They stopped, looking up. The stars crowned the cliff above them.

"We climb the cliff to the other side, where the docks are."

"I don't think I can climb this," Crystal said, evaluating the rock wall in front of them.

"You can always swim."

"Ew, no."

"Alright then, stay here," his voice giving away his cunning smile.

"No way!"

Shango stepped aside, bowed and pulled off a theatrical move with his hand, showing her the way. "Ladies first."

"Why me?" she questioned suspiciously.

"So that I may catch you if you fall. Now, if you'd please..."


***


"You did fine, I see," Shango said when their feet touched the wooden roof of a house close to the shore. He glanced back at the cliff they'd just climbed all the way to; it was pretty much half of the cove, and it had taken them a lot more time than he thought it would have. In three hours, the first rays of the sun would reach the camp and staying hidden would be a lot harder.

Tilting his head, he realized that the rock looked as if it was ripped from a piece of land by a giant sword - it was that abrupt. A nudge on his shoulder made him turn to look at the Zoroark next to him. Crystal was looking at the cove where the frigates had dropped anchor.

"They're nine, not seven," she said. Shango's expression tightened a bit, his lips becoming a firm line as he looked over at the docks. Pokemon with blue accessories walked around restlessly in groups; these were the Needlers that worked with Ionia's navy, not only in Acheloos Lake but in the southern seas of Hesperia as well, even though Ionia's borders of authority were much farther away.

"Patrols..." Shango muttered, "they are going to see us if we attempt to swim to the frigates."

"I'm not swimming," Crystal said stubbornly.

"We'll take a boat then," Shango said, slightly disturbed. "I wish I had Tristana with me... we could just burn the frigates and be on our way."


"Well, why is she not here then?!"

"Tylor needs her more than we do. He will face direct combat, while we..."

He suddenly stopped talking and perked up his ears, looking down at the small path that led to the docks. Two silhouettes were walking in the dark, a male Cacturne and a female Floatzel with two blue scarfs and belts with the emblem of the Verdict's navy, the Seel, fastened on them. Shango and Crystal sat down so they wouldn't spot them under the moonlight; they appeared to be talking. When they got closer, around fifty feet, Shango was able to hear them.

"... we are stuck here, with ten hours of daily checkup on them damned ships, and six hours of patrol during the night!" shouted the Cacturne, aggravated.

"Jericho doesn't seem bright now, does he? Pushing Kingfisher and the Verdict so hard... one would think they're just using us."

"That's what they do, yeah. They're gunna need to double my pay after this. I'm sick of dealing with the stubborn, worthless nobodies of Pokemon Kingfisher calls 'artillery'."

Shango threw a questioning look at Crystal, but quickly retracted it as they kept on conversing; they would have soon reached the house, which seemed to be the home of Needlers like these.

"I agree with you there," the Floatzel said, looking down on the sand path. "But the artillery we armed our ships with isn't worthless - the Octillery, at least. They'll destroy any ship they come across. It doesn't matter how many ships the Hesperians got from Telaar or how they're gonna use them."

"Yyyeah, I see Kingfisher's plan here. Once we're done with them ships, we're gonna start bombarding their ground forces with octazookas! Hah! That'd be a sight I'd love to see!"

"Clever man, that Sceptile. No wonder he is our leader."

They entered the house, the sound of the door Cacturne slammed behind echoing around the small shore of the cove that was surrounded by the cliff. The rock walls multiplied the noise as it sent it back into their ears. Once the two Needlers were inside, Shango stopped listening and exchanged looks with Crystal; his green eyes were brimming like emeralds in the night, in an unusual way. Crystal's red eyes, on the other hand, were full of worry and concern.

"These Octilleries they were talking about..." she muttered, "they sound dangerous. What are we gonna do?"

"Relax," he said, keeping calm and smiling slightly, acknowledging the wits of Captain Tylor. "Don't think we aren't prepared to counter them."

"... there are nine ships... do you honestly think we can sabotage and disarm every one of them?"

"No. But we're aiming at the best we can do. Now..." Shango looked at the houses on the docks, the small boats that served to carry the sailors to their ships. "To meet with Zaunix."

He leaped down the roof, landing easily on the grass patch with absolutely no sound to betray their presence. He sprinted to the docks, keeping away from the sand path as much as he could; the bushes were nearby, if the need to use them rose. Crystal was following right behind him. They hid behind the long wooden house. Light was coming out the window and they could hear voices inside, but could see no Pokemon.

"I sincerely hope you have loaded the cargo on the frigates," one of the voices was saying. Shango recognized the voice of Commander James Vescourt, the one who escaped the fire in Fort Stone. He turned to look at Crystal questioningly, the moonlight giving his steel mask a strange light mauve hue.

"Cargo?" he whispered. Crystal gave him the same look. The other voice from inside the house was heard again.

"But sir, of course. We have carried out your order early this morning."

"Good, good. They should do their job well."

"The only weapon the Hesperians have on their ships are Geodudes, sir! Destroying their fleet will be cake walk!"

"Do not underestimate our enemies, soldier. Didn't they teach you this at the Academy? Humph... youth these days..."

"I apologize, Commander."

"Don't ever think like that again, d'you hear me? Last thing I want is us losing this war 'cause of pups like you thinking we've already won it! Yes, our new weapons will give us an edge against the Hesperians, and a better chance at winning, but in the end it all comes down to us. These Magnemites you've brought won't be shot at the enemy ships themselves!"

Magnemites, Shango thought, imagining the mass destruction these Pokemon could cause with their electric abilities and explosions. The hooded Zoroark next to him cussed, turning away from the window that went dark after the light gone out. An aura of sinister origins came to join them, and the bushes next to them filled with a cold and dark embrace, the harbinger of Zaunix' arrival. His black body blended in so well with the dark around them that Shango could only feel, not see him. His four monstrous scythes weren't glowing and the moonlight seemed to slip past his body, instead of falling onto it.

"There seems to be a... slight problem," he said in a low, ghostly voice that was barely audible.

"Octilleries and Magnemites," Crystal reported quietly. "What now?"

"They will be dealt with," Zaunix said, looking at her intently with his normal, unreadable expression - his massive fangs made him look scary under the moonlight, especially with the way they were glowing. "Not to worry. I bring good news. Zorthan has returned."

"How is that good news?" Shango questioned abruptly, smirking as he stared at him. "He was supposed to be after Ingvar!"

"Ingvar?" Crystal asked. "The Illinkar General?"

Shango nodded quietly. "He's one of the Endarkened Ones."

"See, the road to the northern lands appears to be blocked," Zaunix explained in a tone that seemed to give away slight disappointment. "But his psychic powers should be of help to us, yes, surely. And you..." he said, turning to look at Crystal intently, with his black eyes wide opened. His resemblance to a giant Yanmega was terrifying.

"What about me?"

"You can create illusions... this will indeed be useful in our struggle against the Ionian navy."

"What are you thinking of, Zaun?" Shango inquired.

"I will introduce our friend Tylor to Zorthan and convince him to get on board the Hollow's End. You two... dispose as many of these frigates as you can. Refrain from wasting time on destroying their artillery - I have found a way to counter it."

Shango nodded and the Scyther instantly vanished from sight. Crystal got up and walked towards the docks.

"What are you doing?" Shango barked in a whisper.

"Come, I have wrapped us in an illusion."

Shango shot himself up and followed her to the docks; the Pokemon of the patrol, all with blue scarfs, were walking away from them. The boats were gently floating in front of the docks; Shango looked at the Verdict's pawns to ensure they weren't visible, before he jumped on one boat. Crystal followed him, the boat making a small splash as she jumped on it.

"What was that?" Shango heard a voice from the patrol, and he gave Crystal an aggravated look, but she was looking elsewhere intently, with her red eyes glowing under the hood. Another splash, bigger than this one was heard at the other end of the docks and the patrol turned their heads to the other direction. Shango grabbed the oars and slammed them in the lake's waters. He saw the most convincing replica of the boat they'd just taken staying behind as they moved away from the docks.

"Nice one, Crystey," Shango whispered; he wasn't afraid of the sound of the oars, as he knew their boat that was trapped into the illusion wasn't only invisible, but inaudible as well. That's what he was hoping Crystal had done with it, at least. His cousin giggled and sat behind him, massaging his back as he pulled the oars back and forth, setting them farther into the cove's waters and closer to one of the frigates. He felt her hands warm on the cold material of his cloak, and her movement intimate and welcoming.

"I want you to call me Crystey more often," she said, leaning close to him. "Just to remember the old days."

"I don't want to remember the old days," Shango replied with a hint of childish complaint in his voice, as the memories from the distant past that included Crystal were bound with another Pokemon dear to him...

"Why nooot?" she whined in her girly, sassy manner that brought back more of the old memories in Shango's mind, precisely those when he joined the Hashashin; his Oath to them, Podville town and his first impression of the very Pokemon that was sitting behind him on a boat, after all these years. She did sound quite differently, but that was only natural - she wasn't a girl that was hardly out of her teenage years anymore.

"At times like this, it will do us no good looking back," Shango said in a sad tone. "We will freely commit to that once the right time arrives. For now, let us just look forward."

"That's pretty ironical, since we're actually looking away from our targets," Crystal noticed and they both started laughing, despite the seriousness of the situation. They stopped once they reached one of the massive frigates, which was now towering above them - a monster of a vessel, with three masts, a reinforced bow for additional ramming power and a heightened bridge.

"What do we do, Shango?" Crystal asked him, her tone giving away worry and concern. The happiness from before seemed to have faded, but Shango was still in that state.

"You stay here and keep me hidden, I will destroy their rudder."

She nodded, her hood hiding her face completely. Shango didn't stay on the boat any longer; he dove to the water, the sound of the splash absorbed by Crystal's illusions. Although he hated being inside a great mass of water, and the cloak and his fur was weighing him down, he swam to the back of the ship, where the rudder's end was. The water close to his hands flashed purple as the nether blades were shot out of his vambraces in the form of massive, curvy claws that were at least as long as his arms. The rudder's base was quickly cut off, the piece of wood getting lost in the dark depths of the lake; the blades vanished when the deed was done.

Crystal was watching him questioningly when he got back on the boat. "I don't get it, Shango. How exactly did we disable the frigate?" Shango turned to look at her with his eyebrows raised. He figured she'd never invested time in learning how ships worked; it was only natural, though, as most Pokemon on this continent had no need of ships, and the average Pokemon would never sail in their lifetime.

"The rudders are what help those ships steer," Shango explained after a while, grabbing the oars of their boat. They slowly made their way towards another frigate, under the moon and the stars that could be proven dangerous for their plan, if they didn't have Crystal's illusion to hide them from sight. "Without them, the sails will keep carrying the ships to the only direction they know of: forward, thus making the ship useless."

"That's genius, Shango," she said, poking his shoulder with her tightened fist and a great, supporting smile on her snout.

"Tell that to Zaunix. He's the one usually coming up with this kind of stuff."

"I don't like him much..."

"I didn't, at first, either. He seems... uncanny, he's always been this way. But he's proven to have the heart of a normal Scyther..."

"So, is that what he's supposed to be? A Scyther?"

"Yeah, weren't you able to tell?"

"Sadly... not. What... is he?"

"A voidborn, like us. Only in a... more advanced state, I would say. You've surely noticed how he is able to hide in plain sight."

"How exactly...?"

"Zorthan's explained to me once, but I didn't quite understand..."

"Tell me."

"He says our bodies vibrate in existence with a certain frequency, a rhythm which our eye is able to catch... well, Zaunix is able to control that frequency, so that he may extend or thicken it..."

"That sounds complex."

"Well, as it happens, he is able to consume objects larger than himself..."

"How?"

"I have no idea. Well.. here we are," Shango said, looking at the frigate that was floating gently with the waves. Shango was soaking wet from his previous dive, but he didn't expect to get dry before his new one. He repeated his previous performance, and the rudder of the frigate got lost in the depths of the lake. When he got back to their boat, he saw Crystal staring at the docks. He quickly realized light was coming, the light of the torches the Pokemon on the boats were carrying - headed straight at them.

"Uh-oh," Crystal muttered, "I think they found us out. What now?"

Shango thought quickly; looking at the faces of the Needlers on the boats, he was able to tell that they hadn't focused on something in the lake amongst the frigates, where they were headed, which meant they hadn't spotted them yet. Instead, they were twisted with worry. He started rowing towards another frigate, quickly and with strong pushes.


"Woops," Crystal said, "I forgot to maintain the illusion of the boat back in the docks."


"It's alright. Their Commander probably gave them orders to board the ships. He got suspicious, I reckon."

"And just what are we gonna do now? Board their ships with them?" she said sarcastically.

"Exactly. With two rudders out of commission, and a ship under our control, the odds are against them."


"I like the way you think..."

"Me too."

The boats of the Verdict reached the frigates and the sailors started climbing in; before they arrived, they seemed to be empty, as only the Octilleries were on board. Shango and Crystal had already climbed on board of a third frigate.

"To the top of the foremast," Shango said and they started climbing the brails. Crystal looked down at the lake's waters.

"What about the boat?"

"Let them be suspicious, it'll hurt none."

They were on top of the mast now, watching all the cove and the Fort built on top of the cliff, all illuminated by the moon; Shango's mask reflected its light, along with his green eyes. Crystal, next to him, was looking at the dark waters of the lake, away from the cove, which became one with the night sky in the far horizon.

"Now we wait," Shango announced and sat on his ankles, observing the little fires of the boats approaching all of the frigates that were stable in the middle of the cove. "Dawn should be here soon, I feel."

"I'll find us a better hiding spot," Crystal said, but Shango stopped her with his hand.

"This will do."

They watched as Ionian sailors climbed aboard their ship; Shango could clearly see a Pokemon with many medals on its arm, a Samurott, who was probably the captain. He turned his gaze away, at other frigates. Although dark engulfed them, he was able to see that their captains were all of the same species, Samurotts. Best Pokemon sailor, as Ionians thought it.

The sailors of their boat took their positions, opening the hatch and bringing out the Octilleries, along with the crates that probably contained the lethal Magnemites. Pokemon climbed on the brails of the sails, headed to the top of the masts; a Watchog was climbing towards them at full speed. The two cloaked Pokemon on the masthead exchanged glances, deciding on who was going to be the killer. Crystal was about to crawl to the edge of the masthead and set her deadly trap of claws, but Shango's hand pushed her back. He waved his two claws reassuringly, making her relax.

The Watchog's head emerged from the edge of the masthead, facing the Phantom Dancer's mask directly. Before it could react, Shango's strong hands wrapped the sailor's neck so tightly that he couldn't breathe; he pulled him up and into Crystal's illusion. Nether blades were shot from his vambraces, shredding through flesh and spilling blood all over the masthead. Thrown aside, the Watchog didn't move ever again; the constantly running blood was staining the blue scarf that was tied on the base of his neck, slowly painting it all red.

At his place, a realistic image of a Watchog was standing before Shango, who was looking at him examiningly. Then, he looked at the Zoroark that was sitting down, leaning against the end of the mast.

"Well done," he said with a warm smile. The next moment, his nether blades faded from existence, and he found Crystal staring questioningly at the spot where they had appeared, right above his claws.

"These are the trusty extensions of my reach," Shango explained as he sat next to her. Before he could go on details, the shock wave of an explosion pushed them forward; he grabbed hold of Crystal and the end of the mast to look backwards at the dying flames of many ships that had apparently collided together, with smoke rising in the night sky.

"Bingo," he muttered quietly, his green eyes reflecting the destruction below him.

"... the heck just happened?" he heard Crystal, somewhat afraid. Her ears had sprawled back to her head in defense of the intense sound that invaded them moments ago.

"Our rudderless ships collided with each other, it seems," Shango said cheerfully, ready to clap his hands; he'd said it as if he was sitting on a comfy chair, watching another show of Claire's back in Myriapolis. Crystal looked back at the ships.

"There's another ship there."

"Even better. Only six ships remain, and we have gotten hold of the sixth."

The remaining Ionian ships didn't seem to mind the sinking ships; instead they continued their way to the lake. Shango and Crystal remained quiet in the masthead, observing the replica of a Watchog sailor in front of them. The first rays of the planet Karnos illuminated the sky red, finally lifting the darkness. The color resembled the Watchog's blood greatly.

Ten minutes passed, until Crystal nudged Shango's shoulder, showing him the horizon. On the right side, the coast, and on the far south, the Hesperian ships were visible. The captains of the Ionian fleet started shouting orders and the sailors took their battle positions along with the Octilleries. Shango stood up, trying to spot the Hollow's End - the schooner had to be the smallest of them all. He locked eyes with it, thinking Tylor was in it...


***


Tylor's day hadn't started off very well. First, he woke up to the rumbling sounds of the Gravellers dancing with the music Thomas was playing with his harmonica. He decided it wasn't the best time to shout at them, as war was nigh and he wanted them in the right mood. Second, he learned they were out of diamonds for him to eat; he scolded Nautilus for not telling him earlier, then ordered him to move out from the Hesperian camp's cove as fast as possible, just to see the open waters of the lake. Their small fleet of four ships had to be in Fort Leaf by dawn, he explained, as that was when the ground forces of the Empire would storm the enemy Fort. In agreement with Hector and Charlie, Tylor, co and fleet would attempt to destroy the walls of Fort Leaf in order for them to enter unscathed. That was, as long as they got past their ships. But Wonderboy, his hooded relative and the other guy (Zaun was his name?) were going to tend to that.

Tylor had seated himself on the chair of the Hollow's End hall, where the meetings usually happened. The chair was too big for him and he regretted not bugging the docks for a perfect chair like Wonderboy's, which would be his size of course. Eh well. He drummed his dark claws on the wooden table, where the map of Acheloos lake was spread. Suddenly, he glanced upwards, at the shimmering ball of fire that was there for quite some time.

"Stay here when the fight starts, the fireworks of us pirates are ugly, lass!" he said. Tristana muttered something and remained floating.

A knock on the door forced Tylor to look up.


"Come," he said and the door opened, Thomas coming in with his usual worried expression on. He seemed unable to speak for a moment, and Tylor laughed at him. "What's wrong, Tom?! Lost your voice, eh?"

"C-captain, t-there's a-a..."

"A what? Speak up, boy!"

"Umm, Scyther, I think..."

"Ah, the Serious Hygiene Problems guy I told you about!" the Sableye shouted and shot himself from the Captain's chair to land in front of his frightened mate.

"He... he's not alone, Captain," Thomas said, glancing outside the opened door. Tylor did the same and headed out. Indeed, the mutant of a Scyther was standing on the deck of the Hollow's End. He seemed to blend in perfectly with the dark around him; there were no lights on the ship, by Tylor's command, as to not be spotted when traveling through the dark. Next to the Scyther, there was a Reuniclus with a terribly scarred face, large black eyes and a rather unique characteristic Tylor was seeing for the first time in a Pokemon of the species: veins folding all over the gel mass, from the little body to his hands and ears. Veins red and black, constantly pumping blood and pulsing.

"By the icy beard of Hailstorm!" Tylor shouted once he got a good look at the Reuniclus, who looked like he was mutated as well. Right then, as if Tylor had given some sort of signal, Thomas started screaming, clutching his head and ran inside the hall of the ship, shutting the door tightly.

"Tylor," Zaun begun saying, his buzz-like voice audible all around the ship, "let me introduce you to Zorthan, our friend and ally..."

Tylor looked at the Reuniclus again, realizing the Pokemon was frowning greatly. His expression was difficult to look at through all these scars the Pokemon had. Straight scars, not curvy ones, that looked like they were made from long claws. "Well, that was unplanned! Hah! I thought you'd go skewerin' Fort Leaf's fleet first," Tylor shouted, letting out a biased, nervous laugh.

"Change of plans. I had to bring Zorthan here."

"Hmm..." Tylor brought his hand to his chin, examining the Reuniclus from one side to the other. "He scared Tom. How the heck are we gonna have 'im on board? Too dangerous."

"You'll have to, as he'll be useful."

Tylor nodded slowly, looking to the right, where a Charmelion was leaning against the mast, sharpening his claws. Tylor ignored Zaun and Zorthan, who were expecting an answer, and locked eyes with his old friend.

"Reasonably speaking, he'll be a good addition of firepower and brains," the Charmelion said quietly. "Though I do advise you to be careful - he does not look like a Pokemon to be taken lightly. He looks powerful."

"That's nice, but he don't look too nice," Tylor replied, somewhat frowning. "How'd they get on board anyways? We'd left port already!"

"They can fly."

"Tylor," Zaun called out and Tylor turned to look at him surprised, as if he'd forgotten he and his friend were here.

"Yo."

"Are you with us?"

"Where else would I be?!"

"Jeez, get serious for a moment!" the Charmelion said, crossing his arms with a slightly disturbed expression that always got on Tylor's nerves. That look of superiority was the main reason Tylor ever got angry. It wasn't easy having a ghost constantly keeping you company.

"Shut your gob, Damon!"

Zaun looked around, slightly disturbed; Zorthan seemed as immovable as a rock, staring directly at Tylor with his piercing black eyes. An odd sensation warned Tylor that the psychic knew he was talking to a phantasm, and that he could see him as well... or feel, at least. Zorthan didn't make a move to inform his friend, though. In fact, he hadn't spoken at all.

"Hey, Zaun, this Zorthy of yours don't chirp a lil' bit," Tylor said, smirking. The black Scyther glanced at the Reuniclus.

"You'll have to excuse him... he doesn't talk much. He doesn't talk at all, actually."

"Why, what happen'd?"

"Umm," Damon the Charmelion said. He was looking at Zorthan as well. "He doesn't look too well, Tylor. Like I said before, tread him carefully, don't get too personal..."

Tylor nodded quietly as Zaun spoke, quickly agreeing with the Charmelion. "Let's just say he's been through alot."

"A'ight," Tylor said suddenly and cheerfully, "well, we'll be happy to have 'im along!"

"Tylor!" Damon said complainingly, gritting his teeth. "Did you hear what I just said?!"

Tylor waved his hand dismissively, not even looking at Damon. He could feel the shifting black eyes of Zorthan locked on him and he wondered exactly what that Pokemon had been through to end up like this. His frown seemed to be permanent and his eyes forever glowing. As a ghost, he could feel the Pokemon's spiritual power and immense ability of his brain; the problem could be just that, the Reuniclus had focused all the parts of his brain to a single cause, instead of multiple functions... now that's scary. What kind of Pokemon chooses to do that?


"Good, now that is settled," Zaun exclaimed, snapping Tylor out of his studies of the psychic, "I suggest you bring out the Gravellers. Enemy's approaching..."

Tylor looked over his yonder, but all he could see beyond the Hollow's End bow was dark. "Where?!"

"You will see them soon."

Zorthan suddenly floated over to the edge of the schooner and kept a steady position there under Tylor and Damon's surprised watch. Thomas was sobbing behind the door of the hall, where he was hiding.

"You better call battle positions," Damon said when he retracted his look from Zorthan.

"Stop telling me what to do!" Tylor said stiffly.


***


The red planet's light filled both sky and water, making the lake seem like a massive pool of blood. Symbolic, Tylor thought, as he stared at the horizon together with Damon. The lake would soon be stained with blood. Ten minutes before Karnos rose, an explosion occurred far away; Tylor and co thought Shango and Crystal were responsible, and rightfully so. Meanwhile, Zaunix had vanished from the ship, after saying he was going to find the other two. He'd left the silent Zorthan behind, who was levitating above the same spot for the past thirty minutes, on the right edge of the ship, as if waiting for something to come across his sight and blow it up. As Damon said, after examining the Pokemon, he appeared to possess immense psychic powers. Tylor wasn't sure how Zorthan was going to help; he would simply follow the original plan: go in and adapt.

Soon enough, Nautilus called the appearance of multiple frigates in the horizon; he jumped down from the masthead, landing next to Tylor with a loud sound. He glanced the Reuniclus who had his back turned to them, but Tylor put his hand on his mate's side, preventing him from going over. The Feraligatr's red eyes locked with his captain's.

"Who tis be, cap'n? Ee' the new guy?"

"Aye! Zorthey! An' he's gunna help us."

Nautilus said nothing as he looked intently at Zorthan's back. "Never seen a Pokemon such as Zorthey here," he said in a low voice, but Zorthan seemed to hear because he turned around. His great frown was still there, as if not even one muscle of his face had relocated since the last time Tylor saw him. As if it couldn't relocate. He didn't speak, he only stared down at Nautilus. The Gravellers who'd taken positions cowered under the menacing look of that Pokemon; Lucy the Mime had hid behind Thomas, who was also hiding behind a barrel, behind the main mast, away from the psychic's physical sight. Damon had crossed his arms, examining Zorthan carefully from as close as he dared to go.

"He doesn't like you calling him Zorthey," Damon figured out and Tylor nodded.

"Oi lads, let's not call our friend 'Zorthey', seems a bit too... ehm, cute for him." He gave Zorthan a biased grin.

"A'ight," Nautilus agreed, still staring back at the Reuniclus, "but I dun' like 'im starin' like tis."

Zorthan turned towards the lake again, but this time he saw the ships from Telaar sailing besides the Hollow's End; the massive frigates were fully armed with Gravellers, but they didn't have a hull shell made of tristanite, and they didn't have Lucy or Zorthan. Nautilus suddenly jerked his head towards Thomas and his loud voice made Lucy let out a little shriek.

"Tommie ye filthy rat, grab 'em wheel!"

"Oh... yes, the wheel!" the Machop bolted up the bridge to man the wheel. Lucy cried out as she was left without a hiding spot, but before she could flee, Tylor jumped over and grabbed hold of her waist.

"Stay here with us, lil' lass! This time, you'll do as we say!"

"O-okay..." the Mime said, trembling under his grasp.

"See them frigates?" Tylor showed her the horizon, which was full of shades of the crimson light; the ships were clearly visible now. Lucy nodded slowly, her frightened expression slowly fading.

"Well, things are 'bout to get down with them and us--"

Zorthan suddenly turned around and almost scared Lucy away. His eyes were glowing in a strong amber tone, staring at the Mime intently, who shut hers in great fear of being fried to death by the powerful Pokemon.

"Wha's happenin'?" Nautilus questioned, watching Zorthan suspiciously. His eyes stopped glowing and he turned around again; Lucy started breathing quickly.

"I need to lend him my power," the Mime said in a sleepy tone, as if she'd just woken up from a deep slumber. Tylor let go of her and she walked besides the floating Reuniclus, who was staring at the allied frigates. She sat down next to him and stayed immovable, just like him. Tylor and Nautilus exchanged looks and shrugged. Then, Nautilus raised his head to look at the sails.

"Cap'n, the wind's against us."

"Tom, change course to northwest!"

"Aye, captain!"

The Sableye and the Feraligatr walked over to the bow of the Hollow's End, to see the six enemy frigates approaching - now they could see all of their features: three masts, heavily armed sides and strong, iron bows that would crush them like paper if they weren't careful. Tylor rubbed his chin, looking at his enemy sideways. He wasn't the battle expert here, though in the outside world, he did seem like one. He turned to look at Damon, who was right besides him, looking at the Ionian ships.

"What'dya say we do?"

"I say we head in 'n crush 'em," Nautilus said with an excited grin, pumping his fists.

"No, not you," Tylor said, waving his hand. "You go and take care of them sails!"

"Aww... a'ight, cap'n, o'my way!"

Just when the Feraligatr left, a flash came from an enemy frigate on the back; Tylor felt Zorthan behind him and he turned around to see him towering above him. It turned out, Lucy was standing besides him as well, hypnotized.

"This flash was a burst of dark energy," Lucy explained sleepily, her eyes half shut. "That ship is taken by Shango and Crystal."

"Wonderboy and his girlfriend?! You mean they're on board?"

"Precisely. And it's his cousin, not his girlfriend... they've killed everyone on board - every crew member you see operating the ship is... fake. A dark and menacing energy is assumed by the species of Zoroark, Crystal's species, in order to create images, sounds and smells to fool our senses."

Tylor looked at Lucy carefully, slightly tilting his head. He was thinking there was no chance his Mime would talk like that. Shaking his head, he looked over at his friend Damon.

"Zorthan's took control over her, it seems," Damon said. "Reuniclus' are not able to acquire the ability of Hypnosis... Kind of makes me wonder where he got this kind of power."

"I see, I see, and me too," Tylor said, looking down momentarily, wondering like Damon, then at Lucy and Zorthan. "We'll have that in mind. Off with you."

The two psychics left, leaving Tylor and Damon alone at last. They both looked over the bow, to the enemy frigates that were approaching.

"Five minutes before we're in firing range," Tylor said, measuring the distance between the ships, their speed and the direction of the wind.

"Turn our ship around and fire at them, Tylor."

"What if they try to ram us?"

"You're faster, just punch the sails."

"Punch the sails? Watch your language, mate!"

"Oh, is this you picking me off for before?"

"Yes, you get on my nerves!"

"Not as much as you get into mine!"

"Pff," Tylor turned around, to Thomas. "Steer that ship to the west, Tom!"

The Machop flipped the wheel and the wind carried the Hollow's End sideways. Now, they were in firing range, and the enemy frigates were headed straight at them. Tylor rubbed his shadowy hands together, grinning greatly as he looked at his opponents.

"Alright, let's toast 'em boys! Load 'em hot rocks!"

The Gravellers of the right side of the ship took hold of the silent Geodudes and leaned over. "Make ready!" Tylor shouted, having his eyes and grin fixed on the first frigate. "Fire 'way!"

Many rocks were shot at awfully high speed against the frigate, finding their way to the deck above their bow. As explosions torn the sky, Damon drew Tylor's attention by showing him another one of the enemy frigates, who had turned around. The Sableye turned up to Nautilus.

"Kick the full speed, cut 'em sails!"

"Aye!"

"Tom, keep straight course!"

"But Captain, they're gonna fire at us!"

"Keep at it, I say!"

Zorthan and Lucy started glowing blue; a rift of psychic energy connected the two, throwing sparks of energy around from the intensity. Tylor covered his ears, the sounds of more explosions from behind them coming; at the same time, his eyes were aware of the situation on the enemy frigate: three lines of fire were ready.

"Brace, crew!" he shouted, just before a wave of Magnemites was shot towards them, making sounds like flying bullets; they had all connected with each other, forming an electric barrage that flew towards the Hollow's End, but just then, there was a flash of blue light that blinded all of them, a thunder that was thrown into the sky by Zorthan's extended arm, and a massive shield that had stopped all the Magnemites mid-air. Zorthan's eyes were glowing amber, blue and black with the intensity of his powers, and Lucy had shut hers tightly, clutching her head in an attempt to relieve herself of the pain.

Another Thunder was shot from inside the shield and the Magnemites were sent flying backwards to the enemy ship; screams were heard as the thunder wave hit the ship, but then, the worst arrived for their enemies: the chain of Magnemites started exploding from one end to the other, sending pieces of wood flying around and causing smoke to engulf the frigate. All this, under Tylor's crackling laughter, which was soon joined by Nautilus'. The two pirates could barely stand as they started folding up on their bellies from the laughter. The shield in the sky vanished and the rift that connected Zorthan and Lucy weakened greatly, losing its shine.

"Tom, turn it north!" Tylor shouted, looking at the other ships.

"But sir, they didn't sink yet!"

"To hell wit 'em, and to hell wit yeh," Nautilus screamed at him, "do what the cap'n says or I'm comin' down to steer the ship with the round gasbag ye call a head!"


As Tylor chuckled, multiple black shots crossed the sky from the ravaged, smoking enemy ship, crushing against their iron hull and deck. Tylor fell backwards as the whole ship shook and the Gravellers started yelling in dismay as the black substance had stuck on some of them.

"Octazookas!" they yelled, trying to clean whoever of their mates was hit by it. It seemed to have caused some damage, but the shots were thrown at random - if the smoke didn't block their enemies' views, the Octazookas would have been lethal from most of the Gravellers on board. Instead, the Hollow's End took the damage to multiple parts of it, although the iron hull protected it.

"Mates, the ships are turning! On my mark!" Tylor shouted, staring angrily at the frigate, his diamond eyes shining. Upon hearing his orders, the Gravellers who were able grabbed Geodudes and made them to a ball, readying fire. "Fire!"

A flurry of the rocks was shot against the back and the side of the Ionian ship, which cracked under the explosions that followed. The last thing that sank to the depths was the Ionian flag, only a cloud of smoke remaining as proof of its existence.

"Down she goes! Hahaha!" Tylor shouted, laughing with all of his mates - even the Gravellers had gotten into the spirit. But their laughed was soon quelled as they turned their heads to look at another enemy frigate, which was coming right at them. Tylor dashed from the bow of the Hollow's End to the bridge to knock Thomas off the wheel and flip it to the max left with one strong swing. The Gravellers begun yelling and moaning again, but Zorthan and Lucy had stayed strangely calm. Their psychic bond strengthened again and a thunder was shot at the frigate's foremast, igniting it right away; thunders were thrown continuously off of the Hollow's End side, diving into the flaming masts of the frigates and roasting their main mast. The ship begun losing speed and the Hollow's End was able to outspeed it and turn to the right under Tylor's skillful touch, getting into position for another flurry of Geodudes.

Tylor begun laughing at their enemies, who were screaming, and he glanced over at the ship which was approaching by the side; a hooded figure was standing on its bow, Wonderboy, and everyone aboard that ship seemed to ignore him.

"They are an illusion," Damon reminded him and Tylor remembered what Zaun had said; he nodded at the Phantom Dancer, who nodded back. They both turned to their business, as they both had enemy ships nearby.

"Pump these scumbags wit hot rocks," Tylor shouted at the Gravellers, then turned up to the mast, where Nautilus was, "Nautilus, pull them sails in!"

"... hic! Aye, cap'n, ye got it!"

"'ave you been drinkin' again?!" Tylor shouted in a pretentiously angry, his voice having a hint of the incoming laughter. Before Nautilus could answer, Thomas shouted.


"Fire!"

Another flurry of Geodudes was shot at the flaming frigate, which returned fire at the same time; Zorthan and Lucy's telepathetic link bursted out, sending another shield up the sky, which blocked the Magnemites successfully. The small Mime fell to the deck and the blue light of the connection faded, but nobody noticed - the Magnemites weren't shot at their enemies this time, but fell into the water instead, exploding right there. Meanwhile, the explosions and the flames had overwhelmed the frigate, which started sinking. This time, Tylor wasn't laughing; he'd turned to Thomas.

"I'm the Captain here, Tommie! I say fire when we fire!"

"Oh... but we were in perfect position," Thomas muttered, looking down. Tylor shot a friendly punch at his ribs, chuckling.

"Pirates don' look down, me hearty! Ye did alright!"


The Magnemites which exploded underwater generated big waves, but the ship was turned and they hit the aft of the Hollow's End, shaking it only mildly. Nautilus and Thomas gathered around their captain, who was looking at the fight that was taking place behind them - all of the Hesperian frigates were sunk and two of the six Ionian frigates were still floating, one of them being the one under Wonderboy's control. The morning sun had risen in the horizon, lighting up the sky, but the Hollow's End remained in the smoke the naval battle had caused.

Tylor looked over at the Ionian frigate, which had turned at them, then back at Wonderboy's ship - only to see it empty. The Sableye's grin faded as he searched the deck and the masts for any sign of him or Crystal.

"Huh? Where'd they go?"

"Tylor!" Damon shouted, pointing at the enemy frigate. "That thing will fire any second now!"

Tylor rolled the wheel to the right, watching his enemies carefully.

"You're not gonna ram them, are you?"

"Not yet. Zorthan!" he shouted the name, "fry their brains! Hahaha!"

Only then he noticed that Lucy had fainted; Thomas ran over to her and picked her up, disappearing belowdecks quickly. The sound of Magnemites was heard, just as the Reuniclus started glowing purple and blue. The wave of electricity wasn't blocked by any shield this time; the Magnemites crushed on the deck and on the masts, leaving the Gravellers unaffected, but the explosions that occured threw aside every Pokemon, burning some, scattering them; some were thrown overboard, too. Zorthan was the only one standing after the explosions, the side of his gel blackened by the fire. He had raised his gel arms in the air, his eyes glowing with immense power again - amber, blue, black, amber again. A heart gripping metallic sound was heard from far away and Tylor tried to see under the smoke - he heard sounds of pieces of wood breaking, and screams which were immediately silenced by disgusting sounds that seemed like heads and bodies exploding under tremendous pressure. Once the smoke cleared away, Tylor was able to look at what had happened. The frigate was cut in half, as if sliced by a sword, and the first half had been trapped in a sphere of psychic energy, which suppressed it until it was a mass of wood, iron, blood and sails; Zorthan was moving his hand in a circular motion, in front of his face, his eyes locked on it. He then performed a motion with them, sending the sphere crushing against the other sinking half, causing terrible sounds that no Pokemon had heard before. Once the layer of psychic energy that kept the sphere was unleashed, a psychic explosion overwhelmed all the material, crushing it and shattering it to little bits that continued floating on the lake's surface. Even the smoke was suppressed by the psychic powers and was sent underwater.

"Wow," he muttered, overcome by the show. "That was rad! Rad!"

"Rad!" Nautilus repeated, slamming Thomas' back and throwing him face down to the blackened deck.

"Rad," the Machop repeated after his mates in a muffled voice.

Tylor ignored the cries of the Gravellers, who had apparently lost two members to the Magnemites, and ran next to Zorthan, who had stopped glowing. Tylor looked at the destruction the psychic-type had caused again, this time from the psychic's scope of view. Then, he turned to look at him in awe.

"How in the four frozen seas did you do this?!"

Zorthan kept staring at the floating remains of the ship, a true mess of wood, blood and bio mass, sayingnothing in response. He seemed not to even have listened to Tylor.

"Anyway..." the Sableye turned to his crew. "We showed 'em who's boss, mates! Haha! Wasn't that just awesome?!"

"Avast, our victory," Nautilus shouted pridefully, "tis calls fer an ale, aye cap'n?!"

"Aye!"

"But not fer poor Tommie, 'cause his belly don't seem able ta handle i'!" the Feraligatr smashed his knee with his hand and started laughing, holding his belly. Thomas crossed his arms and went belowdecks, probably going to bring the said ale. Tylor turned to Damon, who was standing over the bow, looking back at the area.

"Our frigates didn't do much," the Charmelion commented.

"Oh, but that don't matter, Damon! We sufficed!"

"Of course we did!"

"What about Wonderboy?"

"Yeah... what about Wonderboy?"
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Old December 20th, 2013 (07:04 PM). Edited December 20th, 2013 by The Prince of Sweet Sorrow.
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The Prince of Sweet Sorrow The Prince of Sweet Sorrow is offline
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Chapter 15: Fort Leaf




Shango was looking at the remains of the ship which had tried to ram them, when they realized that the Ionian ship had been taken over. Crystal's night daze technique proved to be far more powerful than what they had expected - the two Hashashin didn't need a crew to destroy a ship. Their powerful ranged attacks sufficed, along with Crystal's gigantic, mind freezing illusions that drove some of the enemy sailors to the point of insanity where they started attacking their own. It was an entertaining sight, the full power of a skilled Zoroark, an Ancelotti.

He was smiling peacefully behind his mask now, though it didn't quite fit the situation. Then, explosions occurred underwater behind the Hollow's End, which was facing them with her aft. There was a problem with their ship, though. Their side was turned to the waves which struck them violently, almost knocking it over. Shango had clutched the foremast of the frigate, maintaining his balance on the ship. But once he heard Crystal shriek, he jerked his head to the direction of the sound. Meanwhile, the ship had stabilized from the waves. The sailors and the captain had faded now, the illusion had broken violently, and Shango figured she had fallen to the lake. He rushed to the side of the ship to see her shadow under the waves. She doesn't know how to swim, Shango remembered and tried to keep his calm. He jumped off the deck, diving into the cold waters of the lake.

Swimming through the waves, he dove further to reach Crystal, who was sinking deeper. His heart was pounding fast as he pulled her waist up; he realized water was weighing his cloak and fur down in the dark depths. The same was happening to Crystal's white cloak, and he conceded in an instant: he would have to rip it apart. His claws shredded the material easily and he swung it off of her. She didn't look at him, as she had seemingly fainted, but he wasn't waiting for her approval anyway; he knew she prized her cloaks and prepared himself to answer to her when they got on the deck. He grabbed her waist and pulled her upwards, despite the weight of his own cloak. With a few tries, he reached the surface and breathed air hungrily. The head of his cousin emerged right next to him; her massive mane was weighing her down greatly, as was Shango's, but he managed to keep themselves up.

He begun swimming slowly towards the ship, dragging Crystal from her mane with him. Now he was sure she had fainted, as her eyes were shut and her breathing was slow. Once next to the ship, he ran his claws through her tight mane and started climbing the side with his other arm. His muscles were all pulled to the maximum under her weight as he pulled her up; he threw her up to the deck, not gently, and climbed behind her, then fell onto her and rolled her over. Breathing heavily himself, he threw his mask aside and started pounding on her chest; two seconds later, she let out the water she had drank to the side and started coughing. Shango fell backwards, clutching his chest and smirking during the aftermath of his efforts to save her. Suddenly, he was ever so grateful to the Hotori for teaching him how their lungs worked and how to swim properly.

"I'm sorry," Crystal said, coughing still. Shango said nothing; he instead got up with a slight grunt and offered his hand. Once she was up to her feet, she shook her mane around to get rid of the water, while Shango was picking up his mask.

"Where's my cloak?" she jerked her head to him angrily.

"I had to take it off. You were too heavy."

"That wasn't necessary!"

"It was..."

"Hey!" the voice of Tylor sounded from afar, breaking the tense moment. They both looked at the damaged schooner that was nearing them, with the Sableye and his crew of Nautilus, Thomas and the Gravellers looking at them. "Am I interrupting something?"

"No, mister Grubas," Shango said, still looking calmly at Crystal's fuming face, "you arrived at the perfect time." He turned to him. "Isn't Zaun with you?"

"Negative, Wonderboy! He brought us Zorthan here and left."

"Ah, Zorthan..." Shango jumped down to the Hollow's End deck and spotted the Reuniclus immediately. When they faced each other, he could immediately tell there was something up with his old friend. The way his eyes shone contrasted his great frown, which was once an unexplainable, twisted grin.

They shook hands and stared at each other. "It's good seeing you after all these years," Shango said, knowing Zorthan wouldn't respond. Crystal landed on the deck behind him; she simply nodded when Zorthan fixed his stare onto her. She wasn't as close with him as she was with Hector.

"Ahoy, cap'n..." Nautilus said, looking to the northwest. "We got places to be, dun' we?"

"Correct!" Tylor shouted cheerfully, then turned to the Machop next to him. "Tom, set course for Fort Leaf! Tonight, we dine and dance on their corpses! Haha!"

"Tonight? It's barely morning," Thomas said, slightly confused.

"Dun' fuss yerself wit the cap'n's speak an' do as he says!" Nautilus yelled and Thomas bolted away. Shango rubbed his forehead in a vain attempt to relieve himself from the stress.

"Walk with me," he told Tylor and started walking towards the bridge.

"I've got a question," the Sableye said slowly.

"Out with it, then."

"I thought the plan was to attack them while they were still docked. Why'd they appear in the lake?"

"They received new orders. I don't know what for."

Tylor braided his hands together and looked down. "What of the frigate?" He showed him the Ionian frigate they were leaving behind; it was partly destroyed by another ship ramming it, the same ship that was utterly destroyed by Crystal's illusions.

"We have no need for it," he replied, then looked at the Sableye, who was smirking. "Disappointed that you couldn't keep any of the ships, aren't you?"

"Yeah... you've no idea how big of a chest full of booty ye can get by sellin' a single ship in Nautactus! Two of those monsters and Nautilus could eat food and drink rum for the rest of his life!"

"You wouldn't spend it all on that, right?"

"No, of course not! I'd get me some food and rum, too! Hah!"

"Where is Tristana?" Shango asked abruptly.

"She ran off to Hector once we were done with the ships," Tylor responded quickly.

They reached the wheel, which was handled by Thomas. The Machop was nervously walking forward, suddenly aware of their presence. Tylor jumped onto the wheel so their faces were at the same height.

"Oi, Tom, go check on them Gravellers! Make sure they're ready for what's coming!" Thomas nodded.

"Land-ho!" Nautilus shouted from atop the mast. Indeed, the west coast of the lake was near, where Fort Leaf was. Hector and Charlie were supposed to be outside the Fort's walls right now.


***


They were atop a hill where they had full view of Fort Leaf; its torches had been put out, as the morning sun had risen two hours ago. Hector was surrounded by the Praetorian Guard, which he had recruited to his cause, convincing them to leave the King alone in his resting tent - though they didn't look very happy about being around Hector. His mood was fragile, after hearing the news for Rosa, but that wasn't only it, apparently. The little invisible spirit that had decided to follow him was arguing with him every possible minute of the day - Tristana was right now floating above his head, invisible, looking at the Hesperian soldiers in golden armors.

"See that Fort there?" Hector asked wildly, pointing at Fort Leaf with his black claw. The elite soldiers nodded quietly under their General's temper. "Good! Now, tell me I won't be seeing it for long!"

Before the bravest of them could answer, an Azumarill messenger rushed up the hill, a single golden letter in hand. He reached the circle of the Praetorian Guard, who blocked his way; the messenger threw them a hateful look, probably thinking how good it'd be to be a member of the elite guard.

"Let me pass, letter for General Hector!"

Hector nodded and motioned his claws for the Azumarill to come. The messenger handed him the letter, but he didn't take it; he instead remained looking at him.

"Read it," he ordered, and the Azumarill dropped his face.

"My friend and brother, I have--"

"Enough! Let me read it!"

"A-alright," the messenger handed him the letter, trembling under his anger. He left as quickly as possible while Hector was reading the golden letter against the light.

"Too angry," Tristana whispered above his head, making him throw an angry look up in the air. When Hector was done reading, she landed on his golden shoulderpad and pulled the hair of his cheek to draw his attention. "Is it from Shango?"

Hector simply nodded, looking down and thinking. "Alright," he said finally, raising his eyes to look at Fort Leaf and the lake. "Our ship will be here soon. Get ready for some combat, ladies."

"Ship? Not ships?" A brave Mamoswine in golden plate armor inquired, stepping forward.

"As it happens, only one ship survived," Hector said without looking at his soldier. He'd brought his hands behind his back.

"The pirate's ship, eh?" another Pokemon from the second line asked, in a slightly disapproving tone, as if they were hoping the pirates would all die.

"The pirate's ship," Hector confirmed.

"Will they have enough firepower to bring down their walls?"

"I count on that, yeah. Enough with the questions, it's about time you move out - I already see our ship."

The soldiers atop the hill turned to look at the lake; indeed, the slim schooner of the pirates was now visible in the golden waters of the lake, coming straight at Fort Leaf. A satisfied grin spread on Hector's face. Right now, the only thing he wanted to do was destroy something. When the Praetorians turned to look at him, they understood that, and under his motion, they moved down the hill. They went through the Hesperian deployment that had kept perfect line up on the foot of the hill for the last two hours; as taught, the Praetorian Guard with the shining golden armor stood in front of all the soldiers, all of them commanded by Hector who followed the trail of the Guard. Everybody was facing Fort Leaf that was visible above the forest in front of them, but they all kept an eye on their General. Once he motioned his hand forward, they marched; the Praetorians lost speed to surround Hector in the middle of the formation. It was the moment of the mighty and gallant army of Hesperia to march towards their opponents, fight with grace for glory. The earth shook with their step, the trees of the forest fell to the side under the immense power of the Pokemon in the front. This march is what preceded the utter destruction of Hesperia's opponents in war.

The last trees in their way fell to the ground and they all raised their heads to face Fort Leaf. Multiple mages of the Verdict had taken positions atop the walls, ready to fire at them and force them to scatter, but Hector didn't worry himself with that. The body of psychic Pokemon between the Praetorians and the rear guard specialized in shielding, granting the army a safe approach at their target; the idea of the energized shields was used by the first Imperatore in the legendary dynasty, Lucious, who was famed as the invincible General and King and as a tactical genius. Many of his battle tricks, tactics and formations had earned their permanent place in the future generations of the Hesperian army; it made Hector's chest inflate with pride for his ancestor. But the dark side of him hoped he was born King, or General at least, and not an orphan that came to be known as simply a skilled hunter who'd hunted any wild Pokemon that walked in both Hesperia and Stygia.

Now he promised himself he'd be written in history books for this war - the cruel ambition was evident in his eyes the moment he locked them at his target, his prey. Nobody saw that look, as they were looking forward, like taught, except Tristana, who watched him worriedly. She was concerned about the godlike feeling pride and might brought to Pokemon, that often led to their destruction. But as long as she kept near him, she would make sure nothing happened to him; Shango wouldn't like losing his General, and much more he wouldn't like losing his friend. His letter from the ship had calmed her down a bit, though she was wondering what happened and how he'd managed to send a letter when in middle of a lake.

She flied over his head nervously and grabbed the tip of his ear, bringing it close to her mouth. "What will happen now?" she asked in a low voice, so only he could hear. Hector raised his eyes and tilted his head, resisting the urge to grab her as if she was a bug Pokemon that pestered him.

"See that ship?" Hector gestured his head towards the lake. He could only see the mast of the Hollow's End above the heads of the soldiers, but Tristana could see better.

"Mmm."

"They're gonna destroy those annoying walls for us."

"Oh, right... that sounds messy. Wait, Shango's with the pirates, hmm?"

"Not anymore, he said he's going inside the camp."

"Why?"

"I don't know, he has his own reasons."

The marching army stopped on the cobblestone path, in front of the entrance of Fort Leaf, only the sound of another marching body of Pokemon, far away, still sounding. The Hesperians looked up at their opponents on top of the walls, to spot a Sceptile with a purple band falling on his chest; the Pokemon looked mighty as it stood on top of the walls, facing the army fearlessly. But the look of a single Pokemon was vain in front of the Hesperians, who knew that they were more than able to crush a mere Fort. They all recognized the leader of the Verdict, Dominique Kingfisher, which meant the battle that loomed ahead would be fierce, even if the Fort wasn't armed with the power the Hesperians had.

Hector looked up at Dominique with a slightly mocking grin. "Let's cut to the chase," he said, showing his white fangs at the Sceptile. "Will you surrender?"

The Sceptile chuckled quietly at first, his grin countering Hector's. He turned his back to the Hesperians to face his own people.

"Will we?" he asked mockingly. All the Pokemon inside the Fort let out cries, forming a loud no, soon to be joined by Dominique's laugh. "Never!" he shouted, turning back to Hector.

"That's fine with us," Hector said, looking around his soldiers; they noticed the notion and they all nodded quietly - it was almost scary, the discipline each the silent soldiers showed. Silent but deadly. The sound of the marching Pokemon had reached them now and Hector turned to see Charlie and his group of soldiers arriving next to him; his formation was much smaller, but his soldiers were people of his own and they cooperated much better. Hector turned his head back to Dominique, who hadn't lost his air of perseverance, despite the fact that the odds had now changed; not that the leader of the Verdict didn't expect the second General of Hesperia to be at their doorstep.

"I suggest you surrender, Dominique," Charlie shouted.

"The answer is the same."

"That's a pity," the Nidoking chuckled, his soft laugh echoing around the field. "We would have treated you with honor."

"What honor remains to a Pokemon who surrenders to their enemies without a fight?"

"Hah!" Hector let out his own laugh, which sounded cruel. "Right, that! I see you want to die so much, Dominique, I'll grant you your wish!"

"Better die in the battlefield than your filthy hands!" the Pokemon behind the Sceptile cheered and shouted in agreement, embracing their leader's grin.

"So be it," Charlie said, "you shall be crushed, then," the Nidoking turned his head to Hector, who nodded. Charlie let out a single battle cry, which was soon followed by many cries of his soldiers. Many things happened at once: Charlie and his soldiers charged at the iron door which separated the Hesperians and the Verdict, the mages of the Verdict launched water and fire ranged attacks at the army, which were blocked by an enormous psychic shield that was raised in defense.

The distant shout of Tylor Grubas signaled the start of the bombardment, a flurry of Geodudes hit the walls of Fort Leaf and exploded on impact, causing rocks to fly in every direction and smoke to engulf the area of impact. General Hector and his soldiers stayed put under the shield, awaiting for the next flurry of Geodudes until the destruction of the wall to the point where they would be able to enter through. Ranged attacks were thrown from the Fort to the Hollow's End, but they all seemed to change direction under psychic explosions that occurred mid-air; Hector smiled to recognize his friend's Zorthan's mixed psychic attacks, his signature and personal development of his own powers that maximized the effect of his abilities.

The siege had now started. The final front between Hesperia and Ionia would fall soon.


***


Dominique Kingfisher ran through the Needlers of the Ionian Verdict towards the first houses that were inside Fort Leaf; some of the Geodudes were flung inside the Fort, exploding on roofs and throwing rubble around; the special force of Needlers that were ready to defend the Fort's walls were waiting right behind the bombarded area. They knew they would die, but still they would fight pridefully for Ionia; that was what made Dominique smile gently at his own soldiers. The image he'd shown before, to the Generals of Hesperia, had now faded, though he still looked mighty.

"Where is Commander James Vescourt?" he inquired, looking calmly at the Needlers; about a hundred were ready to answer him, but a Shiftry appeared in the back. Commander James Vescourt, in lead of the defending force.

"Come here, you," the Sceptile said and motioned him over the houses in the back of the Fort, which were the safest ones as the attacking ship couldn't reach those. The Shiftry followed him quietly with a frown and gritted teeth. They walked normally, despite the sound of the explosions and the iron door that was rammed constantly.

"You realize that we will all die here?" Vescourt asked in a worried tone.

"Get ahold of yourself, Commander!" Dominique stopped in the middle of the path that led to the wooden houses. He grabbed the Shiftry's purple band and shook it in front of his face. "What are you wearing this for?! Jericho overlooked Fort Stone's destruction to give you another chance, and you won't grab it to clear the failure off your name!"

The Shiftry looked down in shame, quietly, and the Sceptile let go of his band to look at him intently. "I expect you will hold the walls enough for us to make a surprise exit - it's our only chance of taking a good amount of them, quickly and surprisingly. They haven't seen what's coming."

Commander James looked up at Dominique with an inspired look. "Yes! You're right! Let us fall then, together, for Ionia!"

"For Ionia, brother," the Sceptile said and patted his shoulder. The leader of the Verdict turned around, towards the soldiers that were awaiting behind the entrance of the Fort. He didn't see the shadow that sneaked behind the smiling Commander, nor hear the sound of blades impaling both chest and purple band, staining it with red. James Vescourt fell to the ground gently under the silent shadow's guidance. The Sceptile was walking away, oblivious of the murder that happened right behind his back, and the Shiftry's eyes that were locked at him and his vain attempt to call for help, only for bloody, quiet gasps to come out. His head slowly turned up to face his hooded assailant, blood dripping out of his mouth.

"Y-you again," he managed to say. "W-why are you doing this?"

"I bring liberation from the shame you should be feeling for your Fort. You should have died with it, as the Verdict commands."

James' yellow eyes were opened wide and he let out one of the gasps of the impending death. He blinked a few times, trying to determine if the glow of the green eyes behind the mask was real or not.

"And who are you... to know the Verdict's rules, but work against it?"

"Your spoiled Chancellor should have told you already."

"Ah..." the Shiftry coughed blood and pulled himself together one last time. "Shango... you're an Hashashin... but they work for us."

"They are, and they are going to pay," Shango said softly, letting the Shiftry's head fall to the ground. The Commander ceased to fight when he saw the dark silhouette of the Hashashin walking away.


***

"And the walls go boom! Hahaha!" Tylor was dancing on the deck of the Hollow's End.

"What's so funny, pirate?" Crystal asked abruptly; she had crossed her arms, staring him and his crew disapprovingly. She was in a bad mood ever since Shango forced her to stay with them while he went off to the Fort, and now Tylor had to bear her presence. Tsk, he thought as he looked mockingly at the Zoroark, Wonderboy left us here with this unpleasant lady. And I thought he was couth and such! Nautilus stepped between the Sableye and her before the Captain had a chance to answer.

"Tis' funny, 'cause tis' excitin'!" Tylor abruptly nodded Nautilus to go up the mast and he went off with a disappointed look.

"People will die here," Crystal reminded him, "it's not something to be happy about."

"People die everywhere every minute," Tylor countered, "if some more will die right here, right now, we might as well enjoy it and not sit back and cry!"

"Are you implying that I'm crying?" she asked threateningly, gritting her teeth.

"Oh, no-no-no!" Tylor shouted, his grin hiding the slightest hint of sarcasm.

"Captain," the leader of the Gravellers nudged his shoulder, "we're ready to fire!"

"Then fire, ya lazy catmeows!"

"I don't think that's a solid insult," Damon shouted, so he could be heard throughout the sound of the Geodudes exploding. The Charmeleon was sitting on the deck, right next to Crystal, who was watching the Captain with her piercing stare; Tylor couldn't help but look at Damon.

"Sometimes, I wish I could sew your mouth shut!"

"What did you just say to me?" the Zoroark said, gritting her teeth and stepping towards Tylor.

"Oh me? Heheh," he chuckled nervously, taking a few steps back and braiding his hands, looking everywhere but Crystal, "nothing, not to you at least!"

Tylor clutched his head, trying to repel the resonating laugh of Damon. Before he could attack the phantasm of a friend he had, Thomas called for him, showing him the Fort. Crystal looked as well, to see the walls of Fort Leaf crumbling down, and the Hesperians charging right into the smoke that was clearing quickly. Screams ensued as the armored Pokemon crushed against the force of Needlers that defended the opening on the wall as valiantly as they could.

"Looks like we're done here," Tylor announced, looking at the battlefield with satisfaction as it unfolded.

"Why don't we fire right into them?" Thomas asked, biting his finger.

"No, Wonderboy won't allow."

"But why?" the Graveller leader persisted, clutching a Geodude strongly.

Tylor shrugged without looking at his mate. "I dunno. Maybe he's afraid of us hitting one of his own."

It was true; Shango had left Crystal behind to make sure the pirates stopped with the bombardment, telling her there was a good chance the bombs got Hector as the two factions collided in the opening. She hadn't shown it, but she was deeply concerned about Hector. Her gaze ran through the golden armors of the Praetorian formation in search for the wild Zangoose, and she indeed found him: a deadly dance of claws in the front line of the Hesperian formation. Just like a predator, he leaped at the first Needlers he found, roaring and tearing them apart with blinding speed. The ones who were actually able to land a good blow on him caught on fire and were thrown back at their allies, hit by the invisible force of Tristana, who refused to use her powers to kill directly. Without leader, the Verdict was quickly forced back inside the Fort. Meanwhile, Charlie and his troops had broken the iron door, forcing Dominique and his own to retreat, only to meet Hector and his soldiers. The right wing of Hector's formation was pushing the isolated part of the Verdict further inside the camp, while the rest surrounded Dominique and his remaining Needlers. The leader of the Verdict was expecting help from the Pokemon above them, on the walls, but they all lay dead - Crystal had seen them fall one by one by Shango's hand.

The two ends of the Hesperian army met, as the Verdict was totally destroyed, and just then, the flag of Ionia that raced with the wind on a pole above the camp was brought down, replaced by Hesperia's. The blood of the slaughtered stained the green grass outside the walls of Fort Leaf, but the inside was much worse - the ground had become dark red under the corpses of both the Pokemon who fought to defend, and to attack. This day would be written in history books as the day prior to the fall of Ionia, and these two put together, the two most bloodied days in almost two hundred years - the record always being held by an Imperatore.


***


"Hector!" Crystal exclaimed as she ran towards the bloodied Zangoose; he'd thrown his golden shoulderpads on the ground and was now standing in front of the set of houses inside the Fort. Fort Leaf was entirely cleaned by Ionian medics that gathered the corpses, before anyone was allowed in, and Crystal was waiting first in line to get in. She fell on the General, hugging him tightly.

"Wow, Crystey," Hector said, holding her waist with a surprised grin, looking sideways at her massive, dirty and wet fur.

"Are you hurt?" she asked, forcing him to look at her by grasping his shoulders.

"Yeah, he is." Shango appeared silently next to them. He was wearing the King's golden armor, along with his cape.

"Ow, it hurts," Hector got the message and played along, clutching his side, where his fur was bloodied. In fact, it wasn't his blood that stained it, but Crystal didn't know that.

"Come with me," Crystal ordered and caught his hand with a serious expression, then pulled him in the house. Hector turned and waved hurriedly at Shango with a meaningful grin as he disappeared through the door. Shango started laughing, until Tristana appeared above his head, watching him questioningly.

"What just happened?" she asked in a quite worried manner. "I thought I... managed to protect Hector..."

Shango grabbed the spirit and scratched her head, smiling. "And you did well."

Tristana perked up her ears and vanished out of sight as soon as she heard heavy footsteps. Shango turned to see Charlie walking through the series of houses inside Fort Leaf.

"My King," he greeted, slightly bowing. "I think it necessary that we depart for Faro Isle ASAP, except... you do not wish to postpone the final assault, do you?"

"No, no, we move out to Faro Isle right away," Shango said, waving his hand. Faro Isle was the key to entering Ionia unscathed, just as he was planning to do; it was the small island in front of the citadel that would serve as a naval base.

"As you wish. I will inform Tylor Grubas of your newest orders, as to get him moving. But, may I raise a question?" the Nidoking seemed concerned about something, so Shango nodded, looking down, to make him continue. "Only one ship is under our possession... in fact, it is the sole ship remaining in the whole lake. Will it suffice for a frontal assault on Ionia's walls?"

Shango turned his eyes away from the dirt in front of him, to look at his trusted General darkly. "Frontal, you say? I never spoke of such... it's evident that we can't use a single ship for that cause."

"Then...?"

"You'll see, General. You'll see."
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