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Rated [T], for violence.
Maybe you have seen my other fic, Tales of the Hashashin: First Book. Maybe you haven't. Either way, this is the 'Second Book', which is not a continuation of the previous one. This fic is related to the franchise of Odyssey, a roleplay made by Supervegeta. Held in an entirely different continent, and before the events of the roleplay, those two are not affiliated in any way.
First I'd like to say that this is the first piece of novel that I am fully determined to finish. My inspiration, if not quite obvious, was the popular Assassin's Creed games, novels and comic books, as well as various MMORPGs that I have played over the years. With the Tales of the Hashashin, I attempt to bring the assassins into my own perception of the Pokemon world, which has received its good amount of influence from Odyssey. It kinda fulfills my own wishes about how Pokemon should be.
Having said that, I wish that you'll enjoy this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it.
'All these years, I have fought, and for what cause? In the end, I find myself blind to the horrible truth of our world...'
Four hundred years after Chantalai Ancelotti's death, the Dark Cult has dominated the Stygian grounds, attaching itself onto the Stygian Empire, controlling it and corrupting it to the core. The Cult is spreading its religion with force, crushing the small resistance by the rebel native Stygians. The only ones who resisted and managed to survive were the secret organization Hashashin. Being a notion of freedom, and not a solid nation, they kept their liberating activities underground. However, the Dark Cult proposed that they work for them in promise of unspeakable wealth as their reward. The last hope of the Stygian natives was vanquished when they saw the Hashashin siding with their enemies. The brotherhood Master Chantalai Ancelotti had built was now laying in ruins - the Hashashin would take innocent lives away for gold. The native Stygians, once friends with them, were now afraid of their own shadow as they knew that inside every dark corner of this world they lived in was hiding an Hashashin, ready to slit their throat in the slightest misstep towards revolution. All of Stygia belonged to the Dark Cult, who enforced an Emperor of their choice on top of the Stygian High Command and creating the Templar Order in order to maintain their religion and ensure its growth.
The Cult, along with the massive Stygian Empire on its side, eventually turned against the neighboring Empire, Hesperia, their original target. Having built a gigantic army of mercenaries, native Stygians and fanatic members of their own Cult, they marched against Hesperia to disrupt the peace, with intentions of destroying it completely. The Prophet of the Dark Cult announced that the Ionian Verdict and the Hesperian Empire would bow to the Dark Cult. But the very same Verdict that had once driven them out of the Empire, now held them off of it, remaining faithful to its cause - protect Hesperia from the scourge of this Cult.
The Dark Cult weakened greatly after its losses in the Hesperian grounds. Peace fell amongst the Empires, the Stygian natives were silenced by the Cult, although their spirit remained, the King of Hesperia became even more abusive with his power... a shadow even greater than that of the dark clouds of war engulfed the world. It came to be in a state of perfect order and control. But how good was this? They say that those who believe they are free when they are not are the most enslaved of us all. The leaders that openly rule this world could have their authority challenged by the people any time. What about those who ruled from the dark?
Our story follows a seemingly unimportant individual, for now... due to his legendary but unknown heritage, Shango Maverick will grow into a... 'political' figure of significant power, known as the Phantom Dancer. Inspired by the ways of the Hashashin, he will seek to free the Empires from corruption and shape a better tomorrow for the people, as well as rebuild the brotherhood. The world will come into its golden age, and the Phantom Dancer will once again be praised as a legend...
#1, The Hashashin of Ionia
#2, Reconnaissance Operations Front-Line Soldier
#3 The Shadow
#4 The Darkstar
Part 1: Rise of the Phantom Dancer
Chapter 1: The Hashashin of Ionia
Night, silence. Only the distant sound of the patrolling guards' steps echoed in the dark streets of Ionia. This was the perfect time for the thieves to come out, nobody was awake to catch them on duty. The city would be calm and deserted until the morning.
The royal guards were pacing quickly, staying in the middle of the road and avoiding any narrow streets where the moonlight had no access to. They weren't afraid of any thieves or rogues; you'd be insane to attack those guards, anyway. No, the guards were afraid of the dark. There are, indeed, threats hiding in the shadowy alleys of Ionia. They come out this time of the night to terrorize the citizens. But now, all that there is left to attack is guards and thieves, as the citizens had realized that the streets weren't safe at night.
Ionia's streets were trusted by the city's residents, until recently. A strange, unknown feeling of a higher presence appeared in every corner or straight road after the sun went down. Taking into account the brutal murders of many royal guards, the Ionians have come to the conclusion that the brotherhood of Hashashin has descended from the north. Now the menacing image of this group of assassins is haunting the whole city of Ionia. Of course, the citizens are not aware of this; this is confidential information between the aristocrats of Hesperia, the King and council, and the Ionian Verdict. The Verdict had been created with the sole purpose of banishing the Dark Cult that plagued Hesperia with its ill ways, and was now dealing with other threats inside the Empire. They were trying to uncover the motives, numbers and locations of the Hashashin, who relentlessly killed guards. Keeping the citizens in the dark about the Hashashin caused the birth of many terrifying tales and exaggerated explanations of the murders that only boosted the fear.
A member of the Ionian Verdict, a Seeker in particular, was standing firm, hiding in the shadow of the Lighthouse. That mysterious building in the middle of the town dwelled right in the middle of the Trade Square for about one hundred years. Its door was locked and nobody knew what it was used for exactly, not even the Verdict. The Seeker has gone unnoticed one more time, thanks to the darkness that surrounded him. His name is Shango Maverick, the uprising hero of the Ionian Verdict. A Zangoose known for his speed and skill, but mostly for his devotion to his duties and his noble qualities.
"The kid is a prodigy," his teachers in the Ionian Academy of War had said on his evaluation trials. "His skills are extraordinary for someone his age!"
It wasn't just the fact that Shango was a prodigy that made him so adapt at everything he did. It was that he was a voidborn, or so it had been suggested by the professionals of the Academy. He had been touched with the Nether Plane's dark powers, but no one was ever able to prove it. The voidborn are considered a threat towards the Hesperian Empire, because the Dark Cult's Prophecy is claiming that this kind of Pokemon originally belonged to their ranks. Shango had no blood connections with any family of Ionia, which was fairly suspicious; the infant Zangoose was found floating in Acheloos River by an aristocrat of Ionia, Baron Ascendio Nome and was adopted by him. Shango had developed into a promising warrior and an upcoming great hero of the Ionian Verdict, despite being only seventeen years old. And now, he was sent to deal with the Hashashin themselves; as a Seeker, his job was to spy and steal information in account of the Verdict. Although he was promoted from a Seeker to a Keeper and then a Needler, he stated that the life of a bodyguard (basically a Keeper's job) or the harsh responsibilities of the city's protector (a Needler's job) was not how he envisioned his life; he thus returned to being a Seeker.
It was quiet outside. Not even the Hoothoots on the trees were blabbing tonight as usual. The patrolling guards were approaching the square. Shango had a dark, odd hunch. The Zangoose was hidden well in the shadows, leaning againist a wall. He was wearing a dark blue cloak, a hood which allowed exit to his ears, a dark cape and leather boots; rare equipment. You could only get clothes in tailor shops, by special request.
Everything was quiet in the Square, only the lonely sound of a broken window that was gently shaken by the wind was reaching Shango's perked up ears. It was a clear night with absolutly no clouds, only the moon was sheding its light on the square, where the steps of the guards now echoed closer and closer. The breeze of the night touched Shango's face under the hood gently, as if trying to warn him. His hair was electrified from anticipation, his green eyes burning with the fire of youth and excitement. He secretly hoped that something would happen tonight, even if it meant a life would be removed.
Four guards, a Machoke, a Cacturne and two Granbulls were crossing the square now. The moonlight fell on their armours, shrouding them in a strange aura. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a circular portal of darkness was formed above the guards; Shango had frozen in fear of what he was seeing. A tri headed dragon bursted downwards right from the Nether Plane. Before they realized what was going on, before even getting the chance to scream, they were all put down to the ground. Their bodies were sizzled by the darkness and the beast then flew up the sky, disappearing from sight.
Shango fell on the pavement with his heart pounding like crazy. He tried calming his breath down. He had witnessed an Hashashin on duty with his own eyes. Four lives in one second... he thought darkly. The beast had taken four lives in one second. How did this happen?
The Zangoose still had his guard up, in case the dragon was nearby. When he gathered the courage, he approached the corpses of the dead soldiers, the sound of his boots on the cobblestone echoing. He quickly examined the bodies from a safe distance. It was as if their skin was ripped apart by thousands of needles, and the expression of fear was frozen solid on their faces. Their armor remained completly untouched. He glanced up towards the starry night. The peaceful moon seemed to be mocking the dead now. A shiny object on the ground caught his attention; he kneeled and picked it up, observing its strange light and his own reflection on the stone. He recognized it as one of the evolution stones, but he didn't know which.
"What in the world do they want?" Shango quietly questioned himself, tightening his fist around the object as he stared at the sky where the beast had disappeared. He was now convinced that the dragon-like Pokemon had dropped it.
It was now time to report back to the Ionian Verdict.
"So, you're telling us that a beast appeared from the Nether Plane and attacked the guards?" inquired Jericho Sandaros, an Armaldo, the Supreme Chancellor of Ionia. Next to him was a Sceptile namely Dominique Slasher, who was in the lead of the Ionian Verdict. The two of them exchanged troubled looks.
Shango was standing before them. He still had his cloak and hood on, as such were the rules of formality. Behind him was standing his step-father, Baron Ascendio Nome, a mighty looking Scizor. They were in the Ionian palace, which was far beyond grand. The walls had drawings of epic fantasy, representing some Pokemon going through some kind of Odyssey taken from an old myth. The red carpet lead to a throne-like chair decorated with crystals. Ascendio always believed the Ionians overdid it with such things, but he had still granted them access to his massive wealth, only for them to waste it on appealing palaces. Shango felt repulsed, but he had never stated his thoughts. Now he had his emerald eyes fixed on the Armaldo with a rather serious expression on. The Chancellor and the leader leaned in together and whispered something. Then they looked over at Baron, instead of Shango.
"We know what it was," stated the Sceptile. "It was Oneiro 'Nightingale', the most feared assassin in Stygia."
Silence fell into the room for a moment. Jericho's expression made him seem overly disturbed. Then Ascendio spoke in a worried tone. "But what is he doing here?"
Dominique shook his head. "We do not know, but it must be important since they sent him." He looked over at Shango. "There was nothing you could do, Maverick," he said sincerely. "The lack of action from your part is entirely justified."
The Zangoose remained silent. Even if he was in the frame of mind to challenge openly the Hashashin, he never had the time to do so. As for the shiny stone he had found, he didn't say a word about it, considering it non important. Maybe he'd sell it at a good price at the local antique shop. Shango was always resourceful like that, Ascendio had taught him to be an opportunist instead of spoiling him rotten with his riches.
"We cannot afford to lose one of our best Seekers to Nightingale. The matter will have to be handled by the Needlers," stated Dominique, looking at Shango, whose face was expressionless now. But inside, he was thinking that it was a lost chance of being promoted to a lead Seeker; he wasn't afraid to cross ways with that Hashashin, but now that the leader of the Verdict had decided otherwise, there was nothing he could do about it. There would be other opportunities of promotion, anyway. The Baron would make sure of that, although Shango never asked for his step-father's help regarding his career's matters.
Jericho and Dominique seemed skeptical. They were throwing each other glances, Shango could tell something was bothering them.
"Maverick," started the Sceptile with his hands behind his grassy back, "we are about to share information kept hidden by order of the council of the King. Can we entrust you with them, knowing you will keep the utmost secrecy?"
"Good, I would have to have your head if you said no," said Dominique with a grin. Shango didn't have any doubts that he was being serious. The Verdict wasn't kidding around, and the traitors could only hope for a quaint death.
"The King has sent a recognition mission to the Contested Lands."
The Contested Lands of the west were the part of this world which was constantly blasted by war. The two Empires, Hesperian and Stygia, were laying claim on these foreign nations, turning them into battlegrounds of dominance. Their main native enemy was the Fire Clan, which is protecting its lands from the two Empires, blending in the wars between them as well. Shango nodded to make the leader of the Verdict keep talking.
"Well, the mission has been lost in the uncharted lands beyond the southwestern mountain range," said Dominique in a serious tone, having lost his grin now, "and we are now recruiting our best members of the Verdict to bring them back. We are asking you to go to the Contested Lands, locate and bring that squad back."
Shango was slightly surprised at first, but he didn't show it. He couldn't say he hadn't seen that coming. "I am honoured to take on this mission."
"Splendid!" shouted Jericho, raising his pinchers. "We are currently gathering more members for the mission. You will be informed when we are done preparing, and you should be ready to leave soon. As for the Hashashin," the Armaldo paused, looking at Shango's plain expression.
"Leave him up to me."
Somebody was knocking on the door. Shango opened his eyelids, smirking his eyebrows in a slight disturbance. He recognized the way that particular somebody was knocking on the door; it could only be Baron Ascendio who slamming it with his steel pinchers, causing his whole hut to shake.
"Shango, open up!"
The Zangoose glanced outside the window to see dark. He got up from his cotton bed, wondering what Ascendio was thinking, knocking on his door this late.
"Alright, alright!" he said, managing to hide his irritation. He quickly wore his boots, put his cloak, cape and hood on. Then, he crossed his small house and reached for the door to knock it open. The Scizor was standing on the doorstep, holding a pouch.
"Come, my boy," he said and motioned. The Zangoose closed the door with his green eyes fixed on him.
"What is going on?"
They followed the rocky path Shango himself had made to exit the small garden of his turf. There was no moon, no stars, only clouds. Yet, the lake of Acheloos, where the city of Ionia was built next to, along with the city itself, was illuminated by the moonlight that sneaked through the openings of the clouds.
The night was fairly cold, and Shango felt rain was coming. His nostrills took in the scent of the flowers of his neighborhood, probably for the last time in a long time. He would surely miss the Kecleons' shouts as they fought over who would sell the oran berries, he would miss the bunch of clowns and street performers that entertained him for a single silver coin, and he would especially miss the girls of the neighborhood.
"The team is ready."
"I see they didn't waste any time."
Small raindrops started falling slowly as they walked down a road that was surrounded by trees - Shango was already seeing pools of mud on the ground with his imagination. They reached the peaceful and dark Trade Square, where the most murders had been commited. Shango thought that it was quite possible that the Hashashin were watching them right now, but he kept on walking. The palace was on the other end of Ionia and they would have to cross all of it to reach it.
"You are leaving tomorrow," Ascendio informed him and turned to look at him. "You've become a grown up, now, Shango. I am both happy and sad that you'll have to leave on this mission. Happy that your career will be shot upwards, ensuring you a good future and sad that my son will have to leave on such a dangerous journey."
Shango looked at him. "I'll be back, father. I won't be gone forever," he said after a moment and gave it some more thought. "I'm happy I will take on something more serious than spying missions."
The rain had now become intense, but neither of them seemed to mind; Ascendio was purely made out of steel, and Shango had his own cloak to ward it off and his fur to keep him warm.
The Scizor smiled genuinely at him, but Shango had already turned his head elsewhere. His eyes were fixed on a source of light across the street; the flames of an Infernape were lighting the night. He was staring at Shango with a grin full of yellow teeth; his black eyes were menacing - he emitted something strange, something that Shango recognized, somehow, but could not define. Strangely enough, the rain did not seem to affect his flames in any way, not even visually... Shango noticed that the fire-type was dressed as a firebreather, particularly a red uniform and blue vambraces. Those people performed all over Ionia, and he had gone to see their shows multiple times, but the sight of this Infernape was something out of the ordinary.
The Infernape stood immovable as they crossed the street. Shango's eyes fell onto two red spots in the darkness behind him; eyes. He took his own eyes away to glance at Ascendio, who had a moody frown hovering over his face.
"Weird bunch," he said when they were at a safe distance away. Shango nodded, but he quickly forgot the event, thinking of the Contested Lands as they crossed the bridge over the river that flowed through Ionia, diving it into East Ionia and West Ionia. The palace was close now. They stayed silent as they reached the gates, the Ampharos that guarded them stepped forward to ask for clearance, but once they saw Ascendio, they bowed and backstepped. The Scizor and the Zangoose went through, entering the majestic garden of the Ionian palace. All kinds of plants and berries were blooming, and now the bushes were full of flowers as Spring was coming. However, they'd seen this garden so many times they ignored it completely. On the far end, figures could be seen standing by the light of the torches. Once they were closer, Shango's eyes could pierce through the night to see a group of Pokemon standing next to the fountain that continuously spew water. Chancellor Jericho was one of those figures.
"Ah, Maverick! You're here, at last," said the Chancellor, greeting him with his pinchers spread. Shango could now see the others; various species, seven Pokemon that looked tough and experienced. All of them were at least thirty years old. The Armaldo turned to them.
"This is Shango Maverick, a Seeker; he is the eighth member of your team."
They all nodded towards him, keeping strictly formal stances. Jericho turned to Ascendio and thanked him for some reason, then looked at Shango.
"This," he said, pointing at a male Furret with a helmet and goggles, "is Cena."
They both nodded at each other with a glow of recognition in their eyes. Shango knew this Furret - he was a talented Seeker that was famous for the dangerous missions he had pulled off in Stygian grounds. Fredric, as was his first name, was also known for his services to the aerial forces of the Verdict.
"Meet another Seeker, Sunny," said the Armaldo. Shango's eyes fell on a female Bayleef that was wearing the spy's blue cloak but no hood. He was surprised she was named 'Sunny', it was such a strange surname. It was known that the Keepers of the Verdict only used their surnames instead of nicknames, but what kind of name was Sunny...? Jericho solved his question right after by leaning forward and whispering, "she is the daughter of Kingfisher, but she's using this name for cover. And this Tahan," a green Bronzong was floating next to the Bayleef; their colours seemed almost identical, from what Shango could see. He had heard of the Bronzongs being skilled Keepers, but he was not aware of this particular Bronzong. They were just too many and had those weird surnames; they were usually coming from the west.
"Behold," Jericho spoke again, "our famed 'Swifty'!"
A Manectric winked at Shango, smiling. He returned the smile. This Keeper had saved Jericho himself from the Dark Cult, and that's why he was receiving some extra care that Shango's eyes caught and disapproved greatly. He liked him, however; he seemed like a relaxed Pokemon.
"And this is 'Brutalinax'," said the Armaldo, introducing a mighty Garchomp that stared at Shango with a piercing look. The Zangoose felt a true warrior was in front of him, his power seemed overwhelming even from distance. Brutalinax had served the King as a member of the Praetorian Guard during the first war of the Contested Lands; he was a veteran Needler of the Ionian Verdict.
Now, if Swifty and Brutalinax seemed like a good addition to the team, the next two would make the mission alot easier.
"The two Needlers that will be accompanying you are Chan and Lee," said Jericho and pointed at the remaining two Pokemon. A Hitmonchan and a Hitmonlee were standing next to each other. They firmly saluted Shango with serious expressions; he could clearly see that they were veterans as well.
"Now," said the Armaldo, facing the small team, "everyone's ready. Your objective is simple: cross the southwestern mountain range, where our recon mission was sent and lost. Sunny here will guide you with her maps," Shango noticed the bag the Bayleef that was hanging on her side, "the leader of this team is Brutalinax," stated Jericho. The Garchomp's face didn't even shift despite everybody glancing at him. Jericho walked over to him.
"This is the King's orders written in paper," he said and grabbed a paper with the red mark of the King from his belt and handing it to the Garchomp. Brutalinax gave it to Lee, who carefully slid it in a glass sheath and put it in his bag carefully. This paper would clarify their purpose in case they came along any other Hesperians.
Jericho was looking at the rest of the Pokemon. "Remember to keep this mission secret. Should you succeed in bringing back our lost members, you will be deemed as heroes of our Verdict by the King himself."
They all nodded. Every member of the Verdict would take on this mission, but only the best of the best were chosen for this. Shango was feeling small and inadequate compared to the rest, but he was going to give it his best. Although, the idea of crossing the southwest mountain range seemed too dangerous for all of them to risk their lives just to save a recon mission.
"Time is wasting. Off you go!" said Jericho and directed them towards the gates of the palace's garden.
Ascendio, who was silent during the introduction, grabbed Shango's hand. They looked at each other.
"Be careful, son, be careful... those lands are unforgiving," he whispered. Shango nodded quietly and followed the others, leaving the garden of the Ionian palace.
"Farewell..." muttered the Scizor, looking down.
As the distance between them and Ionia grew, its protective walls disappeared in the clouds that had decided to descend. The sun of the dawn was sheding a weak light that barely got through the thick leaves of the trees. Then the dawn flew away with the fog, giving its place to an extremely hot evening.
Everybody was sweating as they progressed through the forest, trying to stay in the shadow of the leaves as much as possible. Brutalinax's dragon skin was protecting him, and he was the only one who was able to endure the heat. Shango would give his cloak away for a silver coin now; but he discovered that he needed it during the night. They chose to stay next to a river, and the night there was cold.
Brutalinax and Sunny were walking in the front, and the rest of the members of the Verdict behind them. Shango had started a conversation with Cena, who proved to be an interesting Pokemon. Soon afterwards, Swifty had joined them.
Chan was whistling whilst walking and looking around the trees. Lee was throwing death stares at him for a while, until he couldn't resist telling him to shut up. They started a full-scale argument and Shango figured they were doing that alot, despite being a pair. Swifty was glancing at them with his eyebrows smirked in irritation. Two hours later, the argument had come to their battling skills, and they'd have solved it in a duel if Brutalinax hadn't separated them quite violently and with a terrifying expression.
After that took place, the group went silent for some time. They exited the forest and the intense sun hit them on their backs; they were now in open grassy hills, following a sand path that led to the distant western mountain ranges that were visible in the horizon. They could see a village amongst the hills - Sunny informed them that's where they would rest for the night.
"It's about time," said Cena with a tired look.
They headed towards it with a quicker pace. Chan and Lee got in an argument about who was able to eat the biggest amount of food, and this time Brutalinax didn't stop them; he was busy talking with the Bayleef. Shango subtly walked up closer to them so he could eavesdrop.
"Beyond this village, there is nothing - just us, the mountains and whatever lies beyond," said Sunny and Brutalinax smirked, skeptical.
"We'd better get all the supplies we can carry, then."
The Zangoose behind them lost speed and joined with Swifty and Cena, telling them the news. They all remained silent till they reached the village, where they were welcomed like the King himself; they had been informed of their arrival, apparently. There were many members of the Verdict here because of the Bastion of Bonacia. Guarding the grounds of the Empire from the Dark Cult wasn't an easy job, and the other members of the Verdict that met up with the travelling group were happy to see new faces. They invited them to an inn where they all feasted, except of Shango. The Seeker had another hunch of his; when they entered the village, he had caught a glimpse of a shadow on top of a roof that disappeared right after. He knew that nobody would believe him except his close company, but he believed they were being followed. He was assured of that when he saw a pair of red eyes glowing in the darkness across the street - and he was sure he had seen those eyes before.
Shango didn't sleep well that night. He was up before the dawn, staring at the crimson planet and the surrounding stars that were stuck on the sky. All the gold of the world wasn't worth such view! But he wasn't thinking of the view; he was thinking of the shadowy figure on the roof and the red eyes he had seen the other day.
Later, when everybody was up, he approached Brutalinax and confessed his fears. The Garchomp seemed to be thinking about it for a moment.
"I will keep that in mind, Maverick. As for you, you better relax. We're probably the most powerful team of Pokemon in this Empire!"
"I would say so too," said Shango, but he had his doubts.
They headed out of the village early morning, bidding their Verdict brothers and sisters farewell. The southwestern mountain ranges were visible in the horizon; they would reach it in about half a day. And then, they would cross that mysterious land in search of the lost explorers.
Last edited by Shango; January 22nd, 2013 at 02:55 AM.
Chapter 2: Reconnaissance Operations Front-Line Soldiers
Beyond the mountain range of the southwest was located a burning and rugged land, ravaged by war between the Stygians and the Fire Clan of the south. Both were claiming these grounds, turning them into massive graveyards and ruining them forever with fire. These lands were called the Scorching Steppes, and they stayed uncharted by the Hesperians due to the war that raged on them. But now the Fire Clan had dominated, the King thought it was safe to send a reconnaissance mission of his best soldiers to create a map and ensure they note down all the elements the Hesperians needed to tend to in order to proceed into this dangerous part of the land. The team that took on such services for the Empire was named Reconnaissance Operations Front-Line Soldiers (or R.O.F.L.S. for short), and they were now wandering the southeastern steppes, lost and with limited food supplies.
Baron Marcus Vanchez, the leader of the expedition, was not in a good mood. As a matter of fact, he was never in good mood, and that's why his subordinates always avoided to bother him. But if one could ever be in a worse mood than him, it was Princess Rosa. A good question to be raised would be, what in the world would a Princess be doing in an expedition in these foreign lands? No one really knew, not even Marcus. The Princess was a fifteen year old Weavile with tricky red eyes and short build, characteristic of the Nagrand family; her attitude was extremely disruptive and she was always being difficult. She managed to slow the group down and get them lost, but nobody would dare complain. Rosa was right now in the said bad mood, walking apart from the group on her own with only a robe protecting her from the intense sun.
"Apparently, the Princess is displaced with her servant, Maria," said Raigeki, an Electivire, to his friend Hinotama, a Magmortar. "She refused to massage her feet with our remaining water."
"Bet it's because she's too lazy, rather than avoiding to use our precious water," said the Magmortar and the two bursted into laughter as if it was some kind of inside joke between them.
"Shut your yaps, you gravitationally challenged oafs! I'm trying to think," shouted Marcus, the Excadrill in lead of the group. Why he called him gravitionally challenged instead of just fat would remain a mystery, because, nobody dared to question this man.
"By all means, carry on, sir," said Raigeki with a slightly ironical smile the Baron did not notice. The Excadrill jerked his head towards another member of the expendition, a Bibarel named Kastor.
"You!" he said in his loud voice and demanding tone, making the Bibarel face him, "go get that maid to explain to our princess that we don't have enough water and we all might be dead by tomorrow!"
Kastor sighed and nodded, then turned and looked at Maria, a Lilligant, who was right behind him and had heard all of what Marcus had said. Kastor and Maria were good friends, they would share everything; but in this trip, they would only trade complaints about Princess Rosa.
Maria rolled her eyes and walked unwillingly towards Rosa, who was profoundly ignoring all of them. As she engaged in a conversation, Marcus gathered his subordinates close to him with a single glance; the soldier's were now well-aware of these glances. Raigeki, Hinotama, Kastor and the last member of the expendition, a Grumpig by the name of Kazzak formed a walking circle. Kazzak was carrying papers with him in a bag tied around his chubby body; he was responsible for drawing the maps, but so far, he had not progressed at all.
"Listen up, ladies," the Baron shouted in a whisper. He glanced at the Princess and her 'maid' and then back at his soldiers, warning them not to be loud. "Does ANY of you have a clue why the King made us take his prized daughter in these wastelands?"
Kastor, who was the most devoted to their leader, spoke first. "No sir, but we cannot answer that question right now, so I will pose another question: why did he keep her departure with us a secret?"
The Excadrill scratched his chin with the end of his drill hand. Kazzak spoke next, "she has got to be important for this mission, somehow. But we do not know how, yet... we should wait some more."
"Waiting's for losers," said Hinotama and chuckled. "I'd rather go ask her myself!"
Marcus slammed slammed his drill on top of the Magmortar's head. "Silence!" he ordered, shooting a worried glance over the Princess and her servant, who were now arguing as usual. "Do you think she wouldn't have told us by now?"
"No, I think it's quite more important than that," stated the Bibarel. Everybody looked at him; they all appreciated his opinion, even Raigeki and Hinotama. "We will find the purpose of her presence in this journey, sooner or later. All we've got to do is stay quiet and be ready for whatever's to come."
"Good thinking, soldier! But we don't even know if we'll survive here..." said Marcus, looking around. The Scorching Steppes had gotten their name from the ashes the grass had turned into and the red sand that made the area look like it was constantly in fire.
The Weavile and the Lilligant approached the circle; they subtly lost formation as to not arouse suspicion. Rosa and Marcus had those frowns that would scare any person in his senses, and the rest fell in the silence that dominated them the past months. Suddenly, Rosa broke it, letting out a girly scream. At first, the soldiers rolled their eyes and prepared their ears to hear another of her usual rants, but they saw she was pointing as somewhere in the horizon.
"Village ahead of us! Ahh, at last, I'll be able to have my feet massaged!~"
Marcus fixed his eyes on the spear logs that surrounded the 'village'. Red flags were racing with the wind above it. He then turned to the Weavile. "This, Lady Rosa, is one of the Fire Clan's camps..."
She jerked her head to stare at him with a menacing look on her face. "What do you MEAN!" she yelled, "Maria tells me we're running out of water, so that's a perfect chance to find some!"
Marcus shook his head. He had no choice but to lead them right into a camp full of bloodthirsty warriors of the Fire Clan. It was highly unlikely they'd ever leave the place alive.
"I doubt they'll have any water," said Hinotama. "Us fire types don't need any of it..."
Marcus frowned, considering the possibilities. Kazzak, as a psychic type, was not used to these rough conditions and was willing to risk his life for some water. Not to speak of the Bibarel, who was more water dependant than any of them. "We don't have any other leads right now. "
"I agree, it's our best chance," Kastor supported him. Even though he needed the water most, being a water type, he never showed any signs of weakness and he would always share his water with Maria or Rosa.
They reached the camp after twenty minutes; they had picked up the pace, since water was promised. These desperate search for water tortured them all along their journey, and they'd been pushed this far many times before, so they were all used to it. Except Princess Rosa, of course.
Flames were the symbol represented on the flags. It was simple yet menacing - the symbol of the Fire Clan was feared amongst the peaceful residents of the Steppes, who were burned to death by the invaders from the south. And those who survived were crushed between the Stygians that rushed in these lands. How would they be welcomed? Would the Fire Clan be friendly towards them? Those questions circled Marcus's mind as they walked towards the spears that could very well be their end. The camp seemed bigger than what they'd seen so far - maybe the Fire Clan had formed a town of some sort.
Howls were heard from two watchtowers inside the camp. Marcus and his squad kept their guard up, ready to slip into their battle stances and form a circle around the Princess to protect her. The howls suddenly stopped.
The group headed the order, keeping a safe distance from the closed gates. They saw two Growlithes in each watchtower; Marcus thought of ordering the group to move out immediately, but he didn't.
"What do you want?" asked one of the fire Pokemon.
"We only need some water, and we'll leave you in peace," said Marcus.
The guards started laughing. They stopped after a while under the Excadrill's serious expression and they glanced at each other. One of them jumped from the watchtower inside the camp and the other stared at the group intently. The gates opened after some moments and the guard returned to his post on top of the watchtower.
The group slowly walked inside. The camp was seemingly empty, literally, but after a closer observation, the Hesperians noticed holes in the ground all across the fifty yards of the camp. When all of them were through, two Houndooms pushed the doors, closing them. A single fire-type Pokemon appeared from a hole on the far end of the camp and walked towards them through the path. It was a Typhlosion with a stare colder than the wastelands of Stygia. Marcus had no idea who it was, but he could feel the intense power of this Pokemon from where he was standing - this Typhlosion was the second sun on the battlefield.
"Hey there, young warriors," the Typhlosion said in an unexpectedly soft and calm tone. His accent was weird, but nobody noticed; everybody was busy with trying to define the power this Pokemon emitted... it was almost unnatural, Marcus thought. He also thought of not questioning the statement that they were young. Then he noticed the fire-type was holding something on his tighened fist.
"I am Sigmund Blados. And you are?"
It's like everyone was frozen under his unwelcoming, yet soft tone. This Pokemon would fry fifty of them without breaking a sweat. Marcus managed to say, "we are travellers," but Sigmund didn't react. The Excadrill noticed something weird, then: the Princess was staring at the Typhlosion's fist, instead of his face like everyone else. And his face was surely drawing one's attention, although looking him straight into his yellow eyes seemed dangerous.
"I can see that," the Typhlosion said sarcastically, approaching them with his fist still extended and tightened. "You are Hesperians," he said as if it was a known fact.
Marcus heard someone from behind him swallow and Maria sobbing quietly. Suddenly, the idea of coming to the Fire Clan's camp seemed like the most idiotic idea one could ever had to Marcus.
"And what would Hesperians be doing around these parts?"
Nobody answered. It was like they knew it was all in vein. If they told him they were mapping out the Scorching Steppes, they'd ask them why. And when they did, they'd know Hesperians would be coming here with bad intentions. Suddenly, fire-types popped out from the holes, surrounding them. Hinotama was the only one who could be hoping for mercy.
Sigmund, who appeared to be their leader, leaned forward and half shut his eyes in a menacing look. "Come to steal my treasure, have you?"
"No! Of course not, we don't know anything of a treasure..." shouted Marcus, his tone descending as he finished the sentence.
"Oh? And what is the Princess doing here with you?" asked the Typhlosion with a slight grin as if he had just won a mind game. Marcus thought of telling him he sincerely had no idea either, but Rosa stepped forward and spoke.
"Yes! I'm after your darkstar!"
Everyone looked at her, stunned by surprise. Except Sigmund, who let out a laugh. "And how were you planning to get it?" he inquired, suddenly serious again. Rosa remained silent, and Marcus wondered what she was truly thinking; he frowned, measuring their possibilities of survival through all these fire types. There were none. The elite warriors of the Hesperian Empire would die like this right in the Fire Clan's turf. And what was that 'darkstar' they were talking about?
"Tell you what, friends," Sigmund's tone suddenly changed again, although the last word was undoubtedly sarcastic. "I'll hold you here as hostages. I will question this lady about her knowledge of my treasure," he said, looking at the Weavile, "and for every unanswered question, I will execute one of you."
Marcus felt fear behind him, but not into him; this wouldn't end good for them in any way, he knew. Their lives were all up to the princess.
"Go on and kill them, see if I care! Let's see who you'll kill once you're done with them, freak!" Rosa shouted fearlessly at Sigmund who opened his yellow eyes wide. Marcus knew she was bluffing, but so did Sigmund. If Rosa did not give him the information he needed, whatever it was, they would kill them. If they did, they would still kill all of them except the Princess - they had no use of the soldiers, anyway. They would all die in the hands of that Pokemon either way.
Chapter 3: The Shadow
Brutalinax and his squad continued travelling towards the mountains, using Sunny's compass necklace to navigate. There was a certain path between the mountains that wasn't dangerous, according to the Seekers that were sent to prepare the grounds for the main reconnaissance mission that would come here. The Seekers did not follow the path to the end, though - that was not their mission, after all.
"No Hesperian has ever gone beyond these mountains," Swifty informed the group. "Not because we couldn't, but because we shouldn't. You see, locals believe the Contested Lands are cursed with the spirit of death and they're afraid to even set food there."
"And what's with the King sending a reconnaissance mission there?" wondered the Furret. Frederick Cena proved to be the curious type; he had managed to fish up some interesting information about Brutalinax's favourite food (the macaroons, apparently, made of wheat and meat) and Swifty bribed him with those to reveal some information about the lands they were headed into, as it was kept as confidential information up until now. From what the rest of the Verdict's elite members heard, these lands sounded cursed for sure - the Fire Clan must've corrupted them.
"I suspect an imperial march onto these lands," said Shango in a serious tone. "That's why the Empire needs maps."
Brutalinax jerked his head. "Shush, you rodents! Blabbing about the King's intentions isn't our mission!"
Shango put his arms behind his head and smiled peacefully. "I'm merely questioning his motives. We are risking our lives, anyway. Should we not be aware of the reason?"
The Garchomp said nothing in return, mainly because the Zangoose had a point. He would very much want to know why they were sent so far away from their homes, too.
"I see the passage, guys," shouted Sunny. The Bayleef half-shut her eyes, staring at somewhere between the mountains; they were about two hours away from there. Everyone was relieved they would reach the mountains before evening - that would mean they would've crossed the passage by midnight. The villagers had warned them not to spend the night there, and Brutalinax chose to trust them.
Tahan, the Bronzong Keeper, was strangely quiet. He was levitating backwards on the back of the group, keeping rearguard; Shango slowed down to walk besides him.
"Everything alright?" Shango asked the Bronzong. It was extremely difficult to tell what this kind of Pokemon were thinking, as they were expressionless, but Shango had a hunch. Tahan replied without looking at him.
"Oh?" Shango looked down at the rocky path, awaiting for an explanation. He took out the shiny evolution stone he kept in the inner pocket of his cloak and started fiddling with it.
"I fear there is somebody who desires to... meet with us." Tahan threw him a side look, and Shango noticed with the edge of his sight; he could now tell his comrade was worried about something, other than their mysterious follower.
"How do you know?" Shango questioned him, ignoring the look of the Bronzong.
"They expulse a strange kind of power... a dark one, I would say," another side look. He finally decided to speak directly. "The same one as you do."
Shango felt surprised that Tahan was able to tell, but he chose not to believe him; if he was ever found out to be a voidborn, his future would collapse, not to mention he would probably end up being hunted, dead, or worse. The Bronzong had no way of knowing, anyway... unless he himself was a voidborn. Shango's eyes flashed devilishly as he looked at Tahan.
"You are a voidborn," he stated in a whisper. The psychic voice of the Bronzong produced a sound as if he was exhaling, sighing to be precise.
"I would not know," he said, then jerked his head towards their back, Hesperian plains only to be seen. "They're getting closer," he gasped.
"How many are they?" Shango asked curiously, trying to look over his yonder. He saw absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. Why is it that only Tahan can feel them, but not me?
"I cannot tell."
"Perhaps we should inform the others."
"Good thinking, friend."
Tahan turned around and floated above everyone, headed towards the Garchomp. As Brutalinax raised his head, Shango perked up his ears and subtly approached them to listen to their private conversation.
"We are being followed," stated Tahan in a cold, robotic manner.
"Are you sure?"
"Is this a rhethorical question?" asked the Bronzong irritably. "Of course I am sure," he added after a moment. Shango thought that Tahan had gone through the Seeker's job. Brutalinax turned to look at the Zangoose, ignoring the fact that he was probably close enough to listen to them.
"Come over here, Maverick," he ordered and Shango approached even closer. His eye caught Sunny winking at him; she was eavesdropping as well.
"What did you say you saw back in the village?" inquired the Garchomp with a frown.
"Somebody was up in a roof and two red eyes were watching the inn where we stayed."
Brutalinax took a moment to think, then turned to the floating Bronzong.
"What did they look like?"
"I don't see them. I feel them..." said Tahan in a mysterious manner.
"What do you feel, then?" asked Brutalinax and rolled his eyes. He clearly wasn't a believer of spiritual powers. But then again, he was a dragon; they had other things to believe into, like their own sacred powers.
"I cannot define this type of... energy."
"It's good to know it's approaching," said Shango, glancing behind him.
"We'll just have to be ready," said Brutalinax. He didn't even try informing the group - he knew everyone would know soon, nobody could keep a secret in this team with so many Seekers. He started to miss the iron hard discipline of the Needlers.
They continued their way towards the mountains; a cold breeze ran through the Zangoose's fur, making his cape and cloak shiver. He glanced behind him again, only to see empty fields and plains.
The mountains were now towering above them like massive spikes. They would be normal if they weren't so steep - and lucky for the Verdict, Sunny knew exactly the way through them. The passage was a maze-like, steep path and navigating was extremely hard as the rocks were deceiving the eye. But the Bayleef knew the path so well, it seemed like she had been there at least ten times. Shango told her that he admired her and that he aspired to be as a skilled Seeker as she was. She only told him that he should've expected she was skilled just because she was Kingfisher's daughter.
The Verdict crossed the waterfalls, steep rocks and bottomless craters of these dangerous mountains, while fighting off the wild Pokemon. Shango's acrobatic skills proved to be most useful in this passage and everyone wondered where he had learned these and, most importantly, how. He simply explained it was part of his job with a tricky smile.
The red, sun burnt wastelands of the Scortching Steppes opened in front of them. None of them had seen such a sight. The sun was setting down, painting the whole sky orange to fit with the ground; no wild Pokemon lived there. And if they did, they would live underground. The group settled on a small cave on the foot of the mountains they just crossed. Everyone was exhausted from the walking, but they still left someone awake to guard all of them, just in case; they didn't seem to worry much about whatever was approaching. Shango fell in a sleep, and he had a strange dream... a Pokemon in a cloak and hood identical to his, was standing in front of him. He was a little taller than Shango; he was talking with the wisdom of centuries, words and phrases that Shango thought they were from another world, but he still could not understand a single phrase. It seemed as if the figure started hymning, but the vision got blurry and vanished as the Zangoose opened his eyes. He noticed it was still night; the moonlight fell on the dead, burnt trees in front of the mountains. It was a horrifying sight, but Shango focused all of his attention elsewhere.
A shadowy figure was standing on a rock behind Swifty. The Manectric was chosen to guard them during this time of the night, apparently. Shango opened his eyes wide, expecting the silhouette to disappear after he blinked, but it seemed as if it was moving. Towards them. Swifty noticed him getting up and looking somewhere behind him, and he turned to look too. Now the moonlight fell directly on the figure that was approaching them with swift jumps from rock to rock. It was an Accelgor.
"Hey, you!" shouted Swifty, baring his fangs and charging his fur. He was ready to attack, but Shango had a strange feeling they wouldn't need to fight. Accelgors were hive minds and clever species - if they had evil intentions, they wouldn't go out in the open like that. Whoever it was, they wanted to get noticed...
The bug Pokemon raised his head and stared at them with his black, piercing eyes. Half of his face was hidden in shadows, but Shango thought he saw a small ironic grin which quickly vanished as he spoke.
"I'm surprised you guys got so far already."
He was at a safe distance away from the Verdict. Shango walked over to stand next to Swifty to observe the Pokemon that was right there, thirty feet away. The Manectric reacted to the Accelgor's attitude by letting some threatening sparks out and growling.
"Who are you? Do we know you?"
The bug type Pokemon folded his arms and observed them with a serious expression for a single moment. "No," he said, "you don't know me. But you can call me Shadow."
Swifty seemed shocked for a moment, but he quickly got over it. "You're an Hashashin," stated the Manectric. Shango looked at the Shadow, overwhelmed by surprise; indeed, the insignia of the Hashashin was fastened on the Accelgor's chest membrane. He wondered what reason could the Hashashin be doing, following them... he thought that the Accelgor could be a voidborn like Tahan had said.
"Why are we still alive, then?" Swifty asked in a sarcastic tone. Neither of them knew about the Shadow; not his power, not his speed, not his skills. The Accelgor grinned in response. His whisper was heard all around the valley like the Dark Cult's hymn of death.
"Because I didn't want to kill you."
Swifty didn't lose self-control, and if he was quite worried, he didn't show it. They could now both tell that he was an extremely powerful Pokemon. Shango slowly awoke the others as the Keeper continued speaking.
"Why are you here, then?"
Brutalinax rose like a predator and stared at what seemed to be a hostile Pokemon. The Shadow simply grinned as he watched all of the members of the Verdict wake up and rise from the ground to look at him.
"I know where your reconnaissance team ended up," he stated hurriedly. Whispers from the other side. Swifty made way for the Garchomp to step forward and face the Hashashin.
"You're an Hashashin, why should we trust you?"
"I've got something interesting to show you," the Accelgor said. He reached under one of his sides and pulled the membrane up, grabbing something that was hidden under it. He raised his hand in front of them for the Verdict to see. Everyone held their breath: it was Kastor's Verdict emblem. Kastor was well-known all around Hesperia because he was the only member of the Verdict to join the R.O.F.L.S. missions, sent exclusively by the King. Brutalinax immediately responded in a burst of rage.
"Where did you find this?! What did you do to them?!"
"... I have no quarrel with you. You are just tools of the King."
The Garchomp was red with anger it seemed as if he would explode any second. Shango thought the 'tools of the King' insult was far too much for any member of the Verdict to handle, and it was far worse for their leaders; Brutalinax would've attacked the Hashashin if Lee wasn't holding his shoulder. Meanwhile, the Hashashin kept a straight face as if he hadn't noticed the impact of his words, and as if he was simply stating facts. A thought crossed Shango's mind: what if the Hashashin truly knew something more than they did?
"The ones you're looking for are being held in a camp by the Fire Clan," informed them the Shadow in a plain tone. "And this is the emblem of your beloved Kastor. I found a Bibarel's dead body just outside their camp, and what do you know. It had this emblem!" he shouted, raising his arms and chuckled as if he was a clown. Suddenly, the resemblance of the Shadow to a clown seemed extremely strong to Shango for some odd reason. His laugh echoed in the mountains and in their ears, confirming he was absolutely sincere. The Verdict took a moment of silence, mourning their fallen hero. Brutalinax was the first one to recover.
"And why are you telling us?" asked in a wild tone. The Hashashin suddenly got serious, losing his grin.
"It is within the Hashashin's interests for you to succeed in this mission."
Nobody knew how to react to this strange statement. Hashashin, supporting them? Shango thought that they only cared about the outcome of the mission, as if it'd somehow affect them... there was something fishy here.
"I can take you to their camp," continued the Accelgor, but Brutalinax rudely interrupted him.
"What do the Hashashin could possibly want from Hesperians?"
The Shadow didn't show any irritation - Shango thought he was especially chosen for this job for his diplomacy. Thought the laugh before wasn't diplomatic at all. Or was it? Maybe that's the way the Hashashin displayed their might.
"I've told you enough already. I take you to the camp and help you retrieve your friends, then we peacefully part ways. Or I walk away and leave you searching these blasted lands for the camp - and when you do find it, all of them will be dead."
Silence fell amongst the members of the Verdict. Brutalinax then ordered a minute for a personal conference with his team, to which the Shadow said nothing and nodded them to go on. The Garchomp gathered them around him and started speaking; some of the Pokemon glanced at the Accelgor who stood like a statue on that rock he had landed when Swifty spotted him.
"First off. How could you not 'feel' him coming, Tahan?" inquired Brutalinax, facing the Bronzong. Tahan spoke with his robotic voice in a strange whisper that made Shango's ears perk up like he had just found his wild meal.
"As I've told you before, I am unsure of what I felt, and it suddenly subsided at some point."
Shango grabbed his right elbow and his chin. He looked at the ground, thinking. "What this Hashashin says is suspicious. If the Hashashin truly wanted to help us, why didn't they send a dozen of them? As the lore says, only ten of those guys can break the whole Empire apart..." he said that with a hidden admiration in his voice. Ascendio had grown him up with various tales of the Hashashin, and he considered them living legends instead of an organization of assassins that worked for those who paid them the best.
"You've got a point, Seeker, but I doubt even half of what they say about the Hashashin is true. We don't really know any of them."
Shango shook his head and shrugged. Yesterday, he had witnessed an Hashashin on duty, and all of his fears - more like assumptions - were confirmed by the dragon-like beast. The power of the Hashashin was clear enough for Shango to see.
"We have no choice but to trust him," said Chan, obviously not willing to agree.
"Are you done back there?" shouted the Hashashin. "If we don't get moving, they'll all be executed when we arrive!"
They all turned to look at him. Shango thought the Shadow had an attitude like he knew their decision all along, and then questioned the validity of that - could the Hashashin have calculated everything?
"You," said Brutalinax, with his eyes glowing with anger, "are hiding something from us."
The Shadow threw a menacing grin at the Garchomp. "The world is filled with smoke and mirrors, mister Brutalinax. You can't know everything."
"How about you cut off that attitude, or we ain't going anywhere! And your organization won't exactly like it, will they?!" spit Brutalinax and Chan and Lee held him back.
"The King won't like it if you fail, either. And while I, as an Hashashin, am equal to any other Hashashin, you will be deemed as worthless tools and executed..." he whispered in the same manner, leaning forward. The eye that was visible from the moonlight was half shut. This was certainly not one of the pair of eyes Shango had seen before.
Last edited by Shango; November 29th, 2012 at 06:45 AM.
Chapter 4: the Darkstar
They were forced to accept the Hashashin as part of their team, despite Brutalinax's protesting. The Shadow led them towards the southwest, and he wouldn't even let them rest at night; not that they wanted to rest, as they were afraid of the fates of the Pokemon on the lost mission. The Hashashin was walking silently in the front, not disturbing anyone. He didn't display a single bit of his personality the following days. Shango thought he truly knew where he was going, as he didn't ask for help from Sunny and her maps. His figure intrigued him greatly, so he approached him. He walked next to him and faced him with a grand smile.
"What's on your mind, Hashashin?"
"I miss my people," was the unexpected answer that caught Shango off guard. The Shadow seemed a bit sad for a moment, but his expression hardened.
"I miss my people, too," said Shango in reply. His thoughts flew from the ongoing conversation to Ascendio. It was highly possible that he'd never see him again. Maybe they would all die in the hands of the Fire Clan, trying to free the members of the R.O.F.L.S.
The Hashashin spoke as if he read his thoughts.
"Perhaps you won't see them again."
"And what about you? Are you afraid of death?"
The Hashashin started laughing. "I don't die that easily," he stated.
He was speaking the truth, surely. His tone made Shango think so.
"Why are you Hashashin so powerful?"
The Shadow chuckled again. "Define 'powerful'."
"They say ten of you can destroy an Empire," said Shango with a serious expression.
"That was in Chantalai Ancelotti's days. Now we're far more powerful," he replied with a menacing grin.
"If you're so powerful, then, why haven't you took down the Empires already, then?" Shango inquired, mildly sarcastic.
"That would greatly disrupt the balance of the world. Have you even considered the consequences of one of the Empires falling? No, the Hashashin are fighting for the liberation of Stygia, for freedom of the natives and for justice throughout the world."
"So far, I only hear you get paid to be the Cult's lackeys."
"You obviously can't see through things, if you believe so. We extort massive amount of wealth from them in exchange some thousands of lives, while earning their trust as well."
"Ah, I see where you're going with this..." and why should I trust what you're saying? he almost asked, but he held himself back.
"Exactly. When the time's right, we'll strike back."
A shout was heard from the back of the group. The furret got passed Shango with speed; he followed him with his eyes, only to fix them on a green figure laying on the ground a moment after. Cena leaned over the Pokemon, then looked at them.
"It's Maria, the personal Lilligant servant of Princess Rosa!"
The group ran towards the grass-type Pokemon. Cena informed them that she was alive.
"Get her some water!" ordered Brutalinax. Shango opened his small glass bottle and poured the remaining water all over the Pokemon's body. Sunny approached her and put her foot on her belly for some odd reason. Maria was panting heavily and muttering a phrase all over again, while looking upwards.
"Oh look, she's crying," noticed the Hashashin in a rude tone. Then he looked at the Pokemon who stared him down. "What? Touchy..." he said and fell silent.
The Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan helped the Lilligant up and held her. She looked around, as if she had just awoken from a long dream.
"Who are you people?" she asked shyly and with a quite worried tone.
"We are from the Ionian Verdict, do not worry," said Chan.
"We are here to save you," stated Tahan.
A weak smile appeared in Maria's face. But it vanished right after. "Kastor is dead... he sacrificed himself to let me escape..." she started crying again. The Hashashin crossed his arms and looked away.
"They.. they are holding the others," she tried to say, but the Shadow interrupted her. "We know."
"Wait, what is the Princess doing here?" asked Brutalinax. The Hashashin acted immediately - he stared at the Lilligant with his pupils dilated in the scariest of ways.
"Wh-who is this?" she asked terrifyed, pointing at the Accelgor, whose face hardened. Shango wondered why he would do such a thing.
"He is an Hashashin," the Zangoose said. "He guided us here."
Sunny clutched Maria to prevent her from falling down again from the shock. The Hashashin spoke again.
"I really hate to break this to you people, but if we don't get moving, we'll only find remains of your old recon. mission," he said in a serious tone.
"As if you care," said Brutalinax out loud. The Shadow turned to face him with an expression that resembled stone.
"You're right. I don't care - let's just all sit here and have a picnic."
They soon got moving through the desert, giving the Lilligant all of their water sources to keep her from dehydrating.
"I see the camp!" shouted Cena, who had the keenest eyes of the team after Shango. "We will be there in one hour!" The Zangoose would've seen it, too, if he wasn't busy talking with the Hashashin. They were walking next to each other in front of the group; the others had noticed that, and had assumed he was doing his job as a Seeker, fishing for information.
"I can't understand why you're helping us, Hashashin," Shango was saying.
"And you wouldn't understand if I told you," was the reply.
"It'd take me three days."
"Can you at least tell me your real name?"
"It's Bart, if you want to know it so badly."
Brutalinax then approached them and spoke with a loud, commanding voice. "Hey! Can it with the chatter! We're approaching the camp!"
The Accelgor turned to the Garchomp. "I seriously hope you're not planning a full frontal assault on it."
"That's exactly what I'm planning."
"Just a piece of advice, strategy genius, if they see us, their prisoners will be dead long before we know it."
"Alright, then what do you suggest we do?" Shango asked before the Garchomp could explode.
"I will sneak inside by night--"
"No, I don't trust you. Cena will come with you," yelled Brutalinax.
"Cena can't follow me inside the camp," the Hashashin said, looking at the rodent behind him. Then he looked at the Zangoose. "Only this guy - Shango, right? - can follow me inside."
Shango's heart jumped with excitement, but he did not show it. A special mission, with an Hashashin? That would be interesting. Brutalinax stared at him. "Will you be alright?"
"Of course, you can count on me!"
The group hid behind a hill, and when the night fell, the Shadow and Shango departed for the camp under the starry night. They had agreed that flames from inside the camp would be the signal for attack. They were now walking on the dry sand that was burning hot from the sun that scorched it all day.
"What's the plan, Bart?"
The Accelgor smirked his eyebrows as if he was bothered by Shango calling him by his real name. The stars were reflected on his big black eyes.
"We sneak into the Fire Clan's turf and contact your friends, see what's up. Then we kill their master and set the camp on fire - our allies will attack."
"But how will we deal with so many enemies?"
"We will think of that later. Now, I suppose you can jump higher than six feet?" he asked with a subtle smile.
"Alright, then... We will leap into the camp from that hill next to it, see?"
Shango looked at where the Accelgor was pointing; a pile of rocks next to the camp. The pointy spear logs that surrounded the camp were were about six feet high at that point.
"Yeah. Let's go," said Shango, but Bart held him back in the shadows the hill provided.
"Wait. The guards will see us." He looked up in the sky. "See those clouds? We'll wait for the sky to be covered, then we move."
Shango looked up as well to see clouds in the horizon that were coming towards them. He smirked. "That'll be in hours..."
The Accelgor sat down on the ground with his eyes fixed on the Fire Clan's camp. "We can't do otherwise."
So, they sat down. Shango had laid down with his hands behind his head as a pillow. The Hashashin stood as immovable as a statue, staring at the camp for hours with a determination unknown to Shango. The Zangoose had gotten the evolution stone Nightingale had dropped in the crime scene and started fiddling with it to spare himself from the tension before the mission. Bart eventually noticed the stone.
"What's this?" he asked, with his eyes wide open in surprise.
Only then Shango realized the Hashashin could recognize the item. It was no use lying now.
"Your friend Nightingale dropped it. I was spying on him," he said blatantly with a plain expression that baffled Bart.
"You mean, he didn't notice you spying on him?!" he shouted.
"I am starting to lose faith. Maybe he's gotten old, after all these centuries..." then he started laughing.
"Well... don't you want it back?"
The Accelgor stared at the shiny rock the Zangoose was holding with a worried smirk. "No, thanks. You can keep it."
"Good, because I wouldn't ever give it to you."
Their laughs echoed through the wastelands. A wind stream blew some dust from the ground, carrying it around like a menacing ghost spirit that foretold death and desertion.
The clouds had now covered a big part of the sky, blocking the moonlight; meanwhile, to their good fortune, the area was shrouded in a thick mist. The Hashashin suddenly got up from his spot and motioned at Shango, who launched himself up from the ground. They both dashed through the mist, seemingly not know where they were headed; but the Accelgor found the pile of rocks in just five minutes of navigating.
Climbing it up was no challenge for either of them - they quickly jumped above the spear fence and landed quietly inside the camp. Shango observed the ground and its holes; it seemed to be a huge extent of just holes. He could barely see the other end of the spear logs in the dark. He glanced at the Accelgor next to him, who read his thought - how will we find them?
"We'll just search the holes," he whispered. "Don't split up."
And they went peering inside the holes in the ground. They seemed bottomless, and the dark of the night didn't help them at all; Shango thanked his eyes for being so keen - without them, he'd surely fall in one of those traps. The two of them kept wandering all around the camp for an hour, searching for a sign of their allies. Shango was getting fed up with searching, but then something happened; the Hashashin was no longer next to him, out of a sudden. He wondered if he already had betrayed them, but decided that stopping to think about it would only mean wasting time, so he continued his search.
As he was peering inside another bottomless hole, he felt an odd presence behind him; as he turned around, somebody pushed him inside the hole. Before he went down, his eyes caught a quick glimpse of a Pokemon in a white cloak, with a hood covering their head.
He kept falling and falling, until he landed on his four feet, without harming himself. Another advantage of being a Zangoose. He clutched his head, as if it was killing him in pain. In fact, he was trying to find a hint as to where he had seen that figure again... then he realized that Pokemon, with the exact same structure and cloak, was on his dream last night. So it was not the Hashashin who pushed me... But whoever is this man, and what does he want?
Shango would try to find some answers later. He was able to climb back up, but his subconscious pushed him forward; his instinct was telling him that something lay just ahead. A scent of burning flesh reached his nostrils, but that didn't hinder him. He glued himself to the rocky wall inside the shadows, with his senses in full alarm and his eyes opened wide to receive any possible suspicious movements in the dark ahead. He perked up his ears, realizing a voice was echoing in the cave.
The Zangoose put on his hood and started pacing quietly towards the voice; he was more silent than the predators of the Ionian forest. His ears suddenly caught another voice, a feminine one this time. Intrigued, but still careful, he walked deeper into the darkness until the voices became really clear. He could now see that the cave was turning to the left, and that light was coming from there. He peered from the corner to see something that would make his heart race.
Deep underground, the Fire Clan had created a massive chamber entirely made from tristanite, a legendary mineral which had a silver and turquoise glow and was said to be fireproof, light and frankly indestructible. In the far end of the chamber, there was a massive statue of a Pokemon that was relatively small in real life; Shango recognized it as the Victini, the God the Fire Clan worshipped. The walls of the chamber had paintings of otherwordly beauty on them, carved onto the tristanite like jewels; however, nobody could touch them, as an eight feet crater separated them from the ground of the chamber itself. A blue, vibrant light was coming from the bottom of those craters, but something told Shango it wasn't the time to find out what source of energy would be projecting such glow.
Two figures were standing in the middle of the chamber, the statue of the Victini towering above them. A Typhlosion and a Weavile in a dress. Shango immediately recognized the Princess of Hesperia, but he was not aware of who that Typhlosion was; in fact, it was the first time he was seeing a Typhlosion with his own eyes. He seemed extremely powerful at first sight. Shango also noticed he was holding something on his tightened fist.
"For the last time. How did you know I have control over the darkstar?" the Typhlosion asked Rosa, who had crossed her arms. She looked unharmed, thankfully.
"You're gonna have to ask my daddy!" she shouted back in a stubborn tone that would annoy the most drunken Pokemon.
The Typhlosion circled around her slowly. "You do know, that if you take a single step, I'll vaporize you." his voice was sounding menacing as it echoed inside the chamber. Rosa looked at him with an expression full of anger, her piercing eyes burning him with her own passion.
"That's why I haven't ran away, you moron!"
"And if you don't tell me how you and your father know of this, you're going to stay here for an eternity."
"Let's see if you have the patience to deal with me, you oversized mutant of a Pokemon!"
Just then, the Typhlosion jerked his head upwards for some odd reason. A second later, a shadowy figure landed on his shoulders, throwing him down; his hand let go of a dark stone that was sent away with a clinging noise that echoed all around the chamber. Shango recognized Bart the Shadow, trying to land a hit on the struggling Typhlosion, but he was soon hit by a blast of fire that sent him flying next to Rosa, who took immediate action; she bashed her small body againist the Typhlosion who'd just stood up, and despite her size, she threw him back again, making him fall onto the crater, directly into the source of the blue light. As the roars of the mighty Pokemon faded, Shango walked forward from the shadows into the chamber, with his eyes fixed on the dark stone.
He felt a massive, uncontrollable power emanating from it as if it could destroy a thousand armies. The Zangoose's green eyes were reflected on the dark stone as he approached it, kneeling over to pick it up from the ground.
"No!" screamed the Hashashin and started coughing as he was immobilized on the ground with his body burning. "Don't touch it!" Shango raised his head and looked at him under his hood. It was the first time he had seen the Hashashin being worried - but why? Rosa, too, had noticed him and screamed for him to stop, but the stone was drawing him forward like a Volcarona being drawn to a distant light. He touched the black stone, picking it up from the ground. His own reflection was now clear on it, then it disappeared as if a curtain was covering it. He tightened it on his fist, it touching his claws and imbuing them with its destructive power; he felt a deep connection with the gem, as if he was actually made from it.
He raised his head to look at the other too with a slight mocking grin, now that he had touched it. The Accelgor stood up, still coughing, although the flames had been put out. Part of his body was black and rotten, but he still seemed to be healthy. The Weavile approached Shango with a strange expression.
"You're still alive..." she whispered, trying to look under his hood.
"Why shouldn't I be?" Shango inquired, with his voice sounding strange in his head, just like the Weavile's expression.
"That gem..." she begun to say, but the Hashashin had silently approached them. He had stopped coughing now, and his black pupils were as dilated as they could get.
"Give me that."
His ordering tone confirmed Shango's assumption - he was no longer his ally. He tightened his fist even more, feeling like he was harnessing a power beyond their world. Now he understood why the Typhlosion was holding it like that.
"Come and get it yourself," he whispered.
The Hashashin suddenly launched a shadow towards the Zangoose, but he was ready. He nimbly dodged it and charged against him, with darkness dripping from his claws. Rosa backed away as a fierce fight commenced; although the Hashashin was hit from the blast of fire before, he seemed to have recovered unnaturally quickly. They were now even, though, as none of them could get a hit on the other - the speed they were using was blinding. The darkstar had merged itself with Shango's right hand; he felt that hand was now stronger and faster, somehow. The strength and speed he needed to keep up with his opponent were massive, but he was able to muster it to counter him. He went on an assault of swift and powerful hits against the Hashashin's defenses, and one of them ripped through the membranes of his chest, making him grunt and throwing him back.
The Accelgor stood up rather quickly, but he was panting heavily.
"You... who are you? How can you keep up with me?"
Shango said nothing in return. A thought crossed his mind at that moment - he truly did not know who he was, and the darkstar that was attached onto his hand was guiding him through a path of light and knowledge, knowledge that seemed disturbingly familiar yet so far away, that he was unable to harness.
The Hashashin backed away with his eyes fixed on the dark liquid that was dripping from Shango's hands.
"This isn't over, Shango. We will return," were his last words, as he launched himself from the ground, touching the walls of the chamber and kicking himself higher, vanishing in the darkness above them. Shango stood unmoving for a second, then he fell on his knees, the gem escaping his hands. He suddenly felt dizzy, as if his head was overloaded with drunkening power.
Rosa kneeled next to him, clutching his shoulders; she removed the hood and looked him straight in the eye. His look was unearthly, like he had just waken up from a strange dream.
"Are you alright?" she asked and shook him.
"Uhh," he paused and blinked a few times, realizing that the darkstar was not in its rightful place between his claws. "I don't think so..."
"Power overload," she said half jokingly, getting on her feet; she picked up the darkstar from the ground. Then, she stared at the Zangoose who had just gotten up.
"How were you able to touch it?"
Shango was getting tired of this question, and suddenly he could see his surroundings extremely clearly. Just as sudden, rumble was heard from above. The chamber shook with quakes; Rosa got to the exit of the chamber, where Shango had came from.
"We'll figure out later. C'mon, let's get outta this place before it blows up or something!"
He simply nodded, letting her go, but he stood right where he was. During this time, more quakes shook the chamber, but he could only stare at the hooded guardian that was sitting on his ankles, on top of the Victini's left wing. Though the darkness under his hood was impenetrable, he appeared to be staring at him.
"Who are you?" he managed to shout, despite the dizziness. But the figure vanished right after; a corner of his subconscious was filled with that same hooded somebody, as if it was only a figment of his imagination. His eyes fell on the foot of the statue. A small red and white Pokemon was laying there unconscious. Shango opened his eyes wide, trying to decide if what he was seeing was real or not. He approached, with his steps echoing in the chamber.
He leaned over the Pokemon; it was an exact copy of the Pokemon represented by the statue above him. A Victini was laying there, breathing peacefully. Shango figured it was sleeping, and he wondered what had happened and why it was there. He didn't remember it being there when he looked at the statue for the first time.
He decided to take it with him; as soon as his hands touched the Pokemon's white fur, it was awake and looking at him with sleepy eyes.
"Who are you?" asked a feminine voice.
"I don't know. People call me Shango Maverick, but I'm not too sure anymore."
The Victini blinked, observing him in surprise. "My name is Tristana. I'm not too sure who I am either!" she said in a cheerful voice that made Shango give her a grand smile.
"Let's find out, then. The Pokemon who took you here aren't exactly good-willed," said the Zangoose and put the tiny Pokemon on his shoulder. He felt like it was the right thing to do - mainly because he felt like her power was similar to what he felt when he touched the darkstar. It seemed as if it was infinite, and he had instantly liked her by the way she was smiling.
Chapter 5: Escape
Shango climbed out of the hole that Pokemon had pushed him into; screams were heard from outside. Rosa was just six feet away, staring at the troops of the Fire Clan that had gathered in the entrance, getting out of the camp.
"Better disappear," whispered Tristana in Shango's ear and giggled, "I'll be right next to you!"
The Zangoose walked over to Rosa; he would later think over what had compelled him to take the legendary Pokemon with him.
"What's going on?"
"You tell me," was the answer from the Weavile, who looked at him sideways with a grin. "You are from the Verdict, aren't you? You're here to save us!"
When Shango nodded, thinking his hood had given him off, Rosa turned to one of the holes. "Come," she said and he thought that she was talking to him, but the next moment an Excadrill pierced the ground before them, an Electivire and Magmortar appeared next to him.
"What's going on?" asked the Excadrill abruptly in a rude manner and furious eyes. He looked over at Shango and his face was lighted up a bit. "Ah, the Verdict! Here at last, eh? Let's get goin', then."
He was apparently Baron Marcus Vanchez, leader of the reconnaissance mission; by the time Shango realized this, all of them, including Princess Rosa (who had removed her dress) charged in the back of the Fire Clan forces that were exiting the camp. Shango followed into the crowd and started fighting his way out; he discovered he could form darkness on his hand, making the impact of his strikes alot stronger.
They slashed and hacked the backs of the fire types; their opponents eventually noticed what was going on and they panicked. On the other side, the Ionian Verdict was bravely fighting them. Marcus and his team slipped away from them once they were out of the camp, and once the members of the Verdict saw them, they started retreating; the Fire Clan outnumbered them, and they would soon be dead.
Baron Marcus set off a massive earthquake that made them all flinch, giving them time to group up with the Verdict and start running towards the emptyness of the wastelands. Shango noticed Swifty and Chan were missing; he would ask questions later, though. Rosa was running, clutching the darkstar with her hand.
The Fire Clan, headless as it was, gave up the chase.
"So, why are you here, Princess Rosa?" asked Brutalinax. They were in safety, far away from the Fire Clan's camp.
Rosa threw Shango a death stare, telling him to stay silent; and he got the message. Nobody knew of this 'darkstar', and he had no intentions of revealing any information. The gem that had given him the power - no, actually, awoken some of his powers - to stand up to the Hashashin had been hidden from sight by the Princess. That's what the King was hidding, then... was the reconnaissance mission sent to these lands for the sole purpose of escorting the Princess to the darkstar? Maybe. I'll demand an explanation later.
"That's none of your business!" she said as if the Garchomp was her inferior. Brutalinax smirked and looked at Marcus, who rolled his eyes. Those two had an argument over who would be in the lead after this, and Brutalinax won only because of the King's official paper and mark. They were all devastated by the loss of their two men, Chan and Swifty, though; they honoured them with the hymn of the Ionian Verdict.
Nobody was in the mood to chat. Shango had told them what happened in the chamber, excluding the information about the darkstar and the legendary Pokemon. The betrayal of the Hashashin wasn't met with great impact - they all knew it would eventually happen. He did however help them in their cause. They would now return to report to the King, as commanded by the Princess.
The fourth day travelling through the harsh wastelands, they reached the foot of the mountains and decided to set up there and rest. The night fell and Karnos's red light filled the area. Everyone was sleeping heavily, somebody was snoring loudly, and Shango couldn't shut his eyes. He had the same dream again: this white-cloaked sinister figure was in front of him, hymning and talking in a language that was unknown to him.
Shango stood up and looked at the red planet that was stuck on the night sky. A familiar voice echoed in his mind, and without him being startled, Tristana suddenly landed on his shoulder and became visible.
"Why did you follow me here?" asked Shango quietly, still staring at the sky.
"Why not?" she asked in a cheerful tone that seemed to be permanent. "You were the one who broke the seal and summoned me to this world, after all!"
Shango took his eyes from the sky to look at her, surprised. His hood was down and the gentle wind blew threw the hair on his face. "I did no such thing."
"Oh, but you did," she said happily, staring at him directly into his eyes. She had blue eyes that glowed in the darkness.
"But what did I do?"
"I'm not sure, but it was so sweet of you!" she said and pinched his cheek in a playful mood.
"Shh, they'll wake up!" he whispered, but he was smiling. He took the tiny Pokemon onto his hands and petted it; she only giggled in response. He was still feeling a massive power inside her. "So, Tristana... you said you've no idea who you are?"
She looked at him with a confused expression that made him want to burst into laughter. "No... I remember falling asleep, but nothing else apart from my name."
"Hm, now that's weird," said Shango, but another voice from behind startled him and made him drop Tristana.
"Who're you talking to?"
Rosa was standing there, eyeing him with a curious and evil look at the same time. Shango looked down, but he didn't see the legendary Pokemon anywhere. Then he looked at the Princess again.
"Nobody. Why are you awake, my Princess?" he asked in the same mellow voice he was using to flirt with the girls of the neighborhood.
"I couldn't get any sleep. I also want to talk to you," she responded calmly, with a serious expression. Shango got the message and smiled at her.
She approached him and revealed the dark gem from her pouch, putting it in front of his face. Shango observed it for a moment then looked back at her. He was still feeling that enormous power pulsing away from the gem.
"See this?" she asked, smirking.
"Yes," Shango muttered with an innocent look.
"Well, you aren't supposed to see it," she said with a grin, "because it's not there!"
And she hid the darkstar in her pouch again with a laugh. Shango smirked againist her attitude, reminding himself to be nice and gentle.
"I get the message, you want it to stay a secret."
The Princess observed his face with her red eyes glowing. "You ARE bright, aren't you?" she said with a more friendlier grin, but Shango was serious now.
"Why did you try to stop me from touching it?"
She turned her head to look at the others sleeping, her feathers swishing in front of Shango's face, who smirked. I bet she's doing that on purpose... but her expression was serious and secretive when she turned to look at him again.
"This thing here, mister...?"
"Maverick, Shango Maverick," he said and winked with a tricky smile. She chuckled in response and quickly got serious again.
"Well, mister Maverick, this thing is capable of destroying any living being who touches it."
"Then how come it didn't destroy me... or you?"
"Because... you see, me and my father are voidborns."
Shango raised his eyebrows in surprise. "And?"
"And only voidborns can touch it - we've got the right vibe of power to touch it, you know?"
"I see," the Zangoose said, but he didn't really understand. "Where are you going with his?"
"You are a voidborn," she said, with a hint of jealousy in her voice, as if she only got the right to be a voidborn. What is a voidborn, anyway?
"I suppose you didn't know any of this," she continued with a slight, mocking grin. Shango thought of how easy it would be to choke her on the spot, but he managed to laugh at the thought.
"The doctors of the academy said I was one, but they were never able to prove themselves right..."
"Who are your parents, Maverick?"
"I don't even know... Baron Ascendio found me in a river with a small note, containing only a prayer and my full name."
She took a moment to respond. "Aww, that's cute," she said in a plain voice that made Shango start laughing.
"Well," she started when the Zangoose stopped, "the voidborn are what the name suggest them to be - we are born from the void, just like this thing that doesn't exist is!"
"Uh-huh, so what does that mean, exactly?"
"It means that we have access to this jewel," she said, pointing at her pouch, "and it also means we have enchanced abilities granted by it."
Shango titled his head slightly. "That explains my 'unnaturally massive strength'."
Rosa nodded. "How do you think you were able to keep up with that Hashashin? They're warriors of legendary power, not even the Hesperians can deny that, although we're too proud to suck it up."
"So, this Hashashin... he wanted the darkstar--"
"Shush your mouth!" she whispered menacingly, throwing him a death stare. "Don't mention it! But yes... he wanted it for themselves - they were always power hungry like that," she said. Shango had a different opinion, but he said nothing. He still had faith in the Hashashin, somehow - or was he being fooled by his words? Bart the Shadow betrayed them after all.
"But what does this thing even do?" he asked, full of curiosity.
"Patience, Maverick... you'll find out in time. My daddy plans on promoting you to his very personal servant, you know."
"But how, he doesn't even know m--"
"Shh," she said, and this time she gently put her white hand on his mouth with a playful smile. Shango only then realized how beautiful she was. But that moment didn't last.
"Now, off to sleep you go," she said in a demanding tone, expecting him to fall asleep on the spot. She left for the only grass patch around here which she had claimed for herself.
Shango sat down and stared at the sky again. The crimson light had disappeared, giving its place to the moonlight and the stars. Tristana popped up onto his left shoulder.
"I don't like her," she said, making a grimace that Shango didn't notice. He stayed silent. His future now seemed bright. The images of the ones that sacrificed themselves so he could succeed in his mission circled in his mind, but the menacing shadow of the Hashashin was towering above him. We will return. They were fully aware he knew about the darkstar, and while they wouldn't be able to reach the Princess or the King themselves... he was an easy target.
The group entered the Hesperian grounds in the afternoon of the next day. Having completed their quest, they were met with great honour in the closest village to them. However, they got moving as fast as they could; word of their success had already reached the White Citadel, and they had already become heroes. They arrived at the capital of Hesperia a week later, only to be welcomed by one of those parties King Eoleo Nagrand the II threw from time to time. Shango stayed with the others inside the palace, which was alot different than the Ionian palace. It was not as rich, but it was still overwhelming; its white walls gave off the whole Hesperian might.
A few days later after the ceremony, Shango was called to the King's quarters. They were simple and with no decoration at all, but they were vast, and the bed seemed extremely soft; he wondered where the darkstar was.
The Empoleon, known as King Eoleo Nagrand, was standing there with his daughter hugging his enormous belly. Shango kneeled on one feet; he was wearing the Seeker's clothes, as always.
"Hello, Maverick. You can get up now," he said in a pompous but jolly voice. Shango did as he was told, now facing the King. He couldn't believe this was real.
"I hear that you know of our darkstar..." he said in a serious tone that made Shango feel bad.
"It was an accident, my King," he said.
"Ah, don't worry about it! Accidents happen," he said cheerfully and glanced at Princess Rosa with a meaningful smile. Shango mustered all of the power of his determination to keep himself from laughing; he managed to respond with a grand smile. Rosa understood none of the signs.
"My daughter is quite keen of you, you know," Eoleo stated with the same meaningful smile, leaning forward as if he was telling him a secret. The expression on Rosa's face was priceless, and Shango was afraid she would explode right there.
"But don't get any ideas, Maverick, she's way out of your league," he said and Shango almost started laughing. He nodded quietly, agreeing. He was sure Tristana - who was invisible as always, next to him - wouldn't approve of her either. They had become great friends with the Victini now.
"Anyway. For your deeds, the courage and dedication you showed in the Scorching Lands, you will be promoted to my personal assistant," the Empoleon stated.
Shango put his right hand onto his heart, suddenly remembering that it was the hand that got bound with the darkstar. "It is an honour for me, but what about the Ionian Verdict?"
"Ah, but that's what you'll be doing. You'll be my voice inside it."
He knew where this was going. The King would receive massive influence over the Ionian Verdict if this happened, but he didn't really care. He would now live the rich and glamorous life of a superstar and further his career as a hero that would be carved on the memory of Hesperians forever. Perhaps he was a bit too ambitious, but he was always aiming for that which was out of his grasp, so that he may achieve what it actually was. Such was the wisdom he had developed in 17 years of life.
"I accept, then," he said and he felt the burning flames of the Victini next to him. Her heart was beating faster and faster for some odd reason.
The King let out a laugh. "Alright, then! It is time we discussed of this darkstar, yes?" he nodded his head towards his bed, and Rosa went there, picking the pillow up and grabbing the darkstar from beneath. How cliche, Shango thought, but then again, this place is impenetrable... nobody is able to steal it.
"Do you know what a darkstar is, Maverick?" Eoleo said, as he held the gem onto his hands. Shango shook his head negatively.
"It is the gift of the Archaic Precursors to our generations. These gems are beacons of unspeakable power that, if used right, can destroy the whole world... you are able to accomplish whatever you wish for, with one of these. No more than five Pokemon know of its existance."
"I see," was Shango's quiet response.
"However, I can't quite get it to work..." the Empoleon continued. "Do you want to hold the darkstar, Maverick?"
Of course he wanted - and in the mere thought, the darkstar flew from the King's hands with blinding speed towards the Zangoose, who caught it in midair with his amazing reflexes. The King's expression turned dark.
"How did you do that?" he asked. Now his voice wasn't so friendly. Shango didn't know how to play this right. Perhaps the King was jealous, and in that case, he was in danger. Though, he knew he was useful to him, which meant he wasn't disposable. He wielded the darkstar correctly, anyway.
"I'm not sure. I thought of holding it, and it just happened."
"Think of something else... think of me using it," he said. There was something weird in his tone which the Zangoose didn't like. Now he was sure that him, along with most of the Kings, were corrupted; he personally didn't care, as long as he was paid his money and glory from what he was doing. Doing the right thing was another business.
"Alright," he said, and imbued the dark gem with his thoughts. In fact, he wished Eoleo would never be able to use the power of the gem. As he threw it towards Eoleo, he noticed his greedy expression which only lasted for a mere second, before becoming veiled again.
After many tries, the King was still unable to use it. He was fuming in disappointment. "We will try again, tomorrow. You will stay in your private chamber, of course, until further notice."
Shango rolled his eyes. Getting rid of him wouldn't be easy.
Last edited by Shango; December 16th, 2012 at 09:18 AM.
Chapter 6: The Return of the Hashashin
Three years had passed since the return of Shango Maverick in Hesperia, with no major or important events taking place. He had already become a nobleman that attended the Ionian council on the King's behalf. King Eoleo Nagrand had given up his attempts to manipulate the darkstar's immense long ago, and Shango would never find what he intended to do with him. Much to his disappointment, early the first year of knowing her, Princess Rosa was secretly sent in Erca. He truly had forgotten about her and the business with the darkstar, as well as the Hashashin, and had focused on the Ionian Verdict and the King's demands. The hooded figure of his dreams had also disappeared from his subconscious.
He was already richer than Ascendio Nome, but he found out riches were not suiting him; he missed the days of the Seeker greatly. Meanwhile, his friendship with Tristana had grown strong. Him and the fiery spirit would never part ways, although they didn't even know why they were stuck together. They had just found the friend they always wanted in each other. Plus, Shango found her company quite useful, as she had taught him how to use the technique of flamethrower, although she seemed unable to use any kind of hostile ability of that sort. Her advice seemed to be accurate and her words of comfort always effective; this was proven when they were going through difficulties with the King's temper and demands.
If we take a look at Shango from the political view of Ionia, he had become an admirable celebrity in Ionia, but his fame stopped when he abruptly vanished from the world. He was last seen attending an Ionian council; it was only finished by night, and he was forced to walk to his turf by then, as reported by the other members of the council. Various assumptions were made, but the fact that he was once threatened by the Hashashin was not brought up by the Nagrands, who were well aware of that.
But this is the tale of Shango, so we shall be seeing this through his eyes. How it really happened. He was slowly pacing through the trade square, observing the lighthouse which could not be opened by any kind of method the specialists used. It was then when he realised the Infernape he had seen three years ago was standing across the square, staring at him. The pair of red eyes was behind the threatening Pokemon as well. Shango turned around to see the familiar Accelgor appearing from the shadows. More Pokemon appeared from the dark around the square, including the incredibly powerful dragon known as Nightingale. Next to the Infernape stood a female Zoroark, species that Shango nor any Hesperian or Stygian had seen before. With his pupils dilated, he spotted a figure coated in black was blending in with the shadows amongst the Pokemon that had surrounded them; he realized it was a tall Pokemon wearing a black hood and cloak so that his body was covered entirely. Not a single clue was given about his species. The only thing Shango could tell was that he was tall and bulky, much more than himself.
"Shango Maverick," spoke that particular Pokemon in a rough and deep masculine voice, walking towards him with heavy footsteps that made strange sounds as what appeared to be claws hit the cobblestone of the square. He was forced to look up into the impenetrable darkness of the hood. "It's nice to finally meet you. We have heard so much about you."
"What do you want?" asked Shango coldly, baring his fangs. All of the Hashashin could stare through him with their piercing eyes. He was not feeling safe without the Seeker's hood, but he hadn't wore it in a long time; Tristana was invisible, flying above, but she could help none. He threw her a quick glance, warning her to stay close.
"Information, of course," said the mysterious hooded Pokemon and laughed. His laugh seemed old and friendly, in a way. He appeared to be their leader, . "Have you any knowledge regarding some... darkstar?" he whispered.
Shango thought he was probably too important for them to kill him. Stay hidden, he directed his thoughts to Tristana, whose eyes had become large as she was on the verge of crying. He pitied her full of concern face. He came to the decision he firstly thought as most viable one: fight back. Jerking his body back, he charged at the Infernape; he saw him, he was sure of that, yet he remained unmoved. Much to Shango's surprise, he went right through the flaming Pokemon as if it was only an image. He fell abruptly on the ground and darkness immediately engulfed him like a mist; something landed heavy on his head and he was thrown unconscious.
When Shango opened his eyes, he felt truly sick. He slowly started to comprehend with his environment. A bed. Good start, he thought to himself. A window where the sunlight entered from. A blue carpet of extraordinary beauty, unknown to him - but he could tell it was probably Stygian, from its grey color. A wooden door in the far end of the small room with the white, worn out walls he was into. He heard Tristana speaking to his mind, giving him a bright idea of dealing with the Hashashin. He then remembered what happened in the Ionian trade square: he was kidnapped by the Hashashin, if the mysterious Pokemon in the hood and the rest who surrounded him in the square weren't a dream.
Suddenly, the sound of the door that got unlocked cracked in, and when it opened, the Zoroark he had clearly seen in the square entered, holding a piece of brown food on her hands. Her appearance only proved his assumption wrong - this was all real. He preferred himself to fight, but strangely, her otherwise wild face seemed friendly.
"Hello," she said in a cheerful voice, as if she was truly happy Shango was there. The Zangoose only stayed at bed and tilted his head, eyeing her confused. He had to play this right.
"I brought you some food," she approached him and gave him what she was holding. "It's chocolate." Shango was surely hungry, but he took the piece of chocolate with slow movements, still staring at the Zoroark. He was still staring at her when he ate it.
"Who are you?" he asked, in a convincingly confused tone. "Who am I?" he asked, looking at his hands, then around him. It was like the Zoroark's face was hit by a tidal wave; Shango enjoyed the effects of his acting, but kept himself from grinning.
"You mean..." she muttered, observing him, "that you don't know who you are?"
"No..." he said plainly. "Where am I?"
"Excuse me," she said with a dark expression and hurried out of the room; she didn't bother locking the door. Shango silently thanked Tristana for the idea she gave him. He was sure the spirit was above him right now, smiling proudly as she always was when proven useful. The Hashashin would have massive trouble with the amnesia; he chuckled at the thought. That would give him time to escape.
Still feeling kind of dizzy, he walked outside the room into a hall. Nothing special was there, only some drawer that contained strange garments. As Shango heard voices from the other room, he perked up his pointy ears.
"He's lost his memory, apparently..." said the voice that belonged to the female Zoroark.
"Perhaps it is better that way." said Nightingale.
"No, you fools. Without his memory, he knows nothing of this darkstar!" this was their leader, Shango was sure of that. The voice was the same as the tall Pokemon's he talked to in the square.
"You misunderstood what I said, Master," said Nightingale, slightly irritated. "What I meant was, if we build him to be an Hashashin, he will be on our side when he truly remembers. Besides, he truly is an Hashashin."
A pause in the conversation, silence from the other room. Shango did not know if things could get any more complex. He, an Hashashin? Tristana's flames flared upwards as her heartbeats quickened along with his.
"Y... you've got quite the idea, Nightingale. Since when are you so bright?"
Shango heard footsteps, so he took a garment outside the drawer and adopted a clueless expression as he holded it up and observed it. It appeared to be a white cloak with a hood attached onto it, but it was very different to the Verdict's Seeker uniform. Yet, it was cool to touch, and he bet he would look cool under it.
The door of the room opened; the tall Pokemon in the black hoody lowered his head to pass through the doorstep. He stared at the Zangoose looking around, seemingly lost. Shango turned his green eyes to him in his most innocent look.
"Greetings," he said with his eyebrows slightly raised, having a foolish smile on his face.
The Zoroark and the Hydreigon were right behind their "Master", with slightly worried expressions, as if Shango was a time bomb that would go off any minute. The matter of the darkstar seemed too important - perhaps it was wrong of Shango to never attempt to steal it from the King.
"Hello, little fella. Are you aware of who you are?" the Master asked in the same friendly voice he used back in the square. It was the kind of voice you'd expect a frail yet wise old man to have, who is absolutely harmless. It set something in Shango's mind off. How could the Master of the Hashashin be so... friendly? The man seemed almost as if he had good intentions.
Shango shook his head negatively in response, while trying to push away his thoughts so he could bring them up later.
"You are the last of the Mavericks, Shango Maverick."
"The last of the Mavericks?" asked the Zangoose with genuine interested mixed with curiosity and confusion.
"Exactly," spoke Nightingale. "The Mavericks were once the most powerful family of the Hashashin..."
Shango opened his eyes wide. He, an Hashashin? There was no way. They were definitely trying to trick him, as they had said before. But why would they lie about his entire family? He pulled himself together, trying to get over the shock and muster all of his patience and calm.
"Hashashin? What is this? And where is the rest of my family now?" he asked in the same convincing, confused look.
The Master crossed his arms, which appeared to be a lot smaller proportionally with the rest of his body. He glanced back at the other Hashashins. The Zoroark stepped forward.
"We, the Hashashin, are an organization dedicated to preserving the peace and justice over the Stygian natives that were forced under the Dark Cult's rule."
Yeah, that's the original definition, when they first formed four hundred years ago, Shango thought sarcastically. Nightingale floated next to his master with a small grin. "As for your family, I disposed all of them. They were traitors."
Shango tried his best to hide anger for the statement, as he detected no lie in his voice. Nightingale had done what he just said, and he was proud of it, he could tell by the way he was grinning. Shango's eyes flashed with the darkest of emotion: hatred. So it was all true: that's where he originated from, the Hashashin. They operated mostly in Stygia, and the river which brought him to Ionia and into Ascendio's hands was beginning from Mt. Aegis, which was in Stygia. He wondered what had happened and he was thrown into the river - it could have to do with his family being 'traitors'. Either way, he was going to find it all out here.
"Traitors?" he managed to ask with a trembling voice, forgetting to ask what the Dark Cult was; thankfully, nobody noticed.
"Indeed," said the Master. "They dared to commit incest amongst the families of the Hashashin; your grandmother from the side of your mother was a Cortez, your mother was an Ancelotti and your father was the only Maverick to survive the Ionian Verdict's assault to our stronghold in the Ishtero Monasteries," he stated, paused and took a deep breath as if he was relishing those events and facts. Shango smirked his eyes, sensing that the words of the man before him were clouded - it was quite possible that he was lying. "According to the Laws of the Five Families, nobody and under no circumstance is to mix the bloodlines - but your parents and grandparents did, and the result is right in front of us. You, my boy, carry the legendary blood of three of our families. We were not quite aware of your existance, until recently..."
Shango looked at him with his mouth half opened. Too much information to take in, but that was to be expected.
"You do understand, what this means, of course. You have many family members amongst our ranks. In fact, three fifths of our people," his voice was heard as if he smiling.
Arceus, or whoever is in charge, must be joking with me, Shango thought as he looked at the Master in disbelief. A weird thought crossed Shango's mind. "Am I related to you?"
The Master laughed for a while. "No. I am Ignacio Phylax. The Phylax's are one of the two families that are left unspoiled by incest." Shango couldn't grasp why the mixing of the families wasn't allowed. "However, this gal over here," said the Master, pointing at the Zoroark, "is your cousin. Her name is Crystal Ancelotti."
Crystal gave him a hearty smile that greatly resembled to his, as he shockingly realized just now. Shango's world started falling apart as each passing moment, something confirmed his connection to the Hashashin. "What species is she?" he asked with curiosity. All of the Hashashin laughed, as if it was an inside joke.
"She is a Zoroark, boy," said the Master. "We consider Zoroarks sacred masters of the art of assassination - their body's structure and the ability to create illusions easily place them on top tiers of the Hashashin. The greatest of assassins were Zoroarks. Chantalai Ancelotti himself, the one who founded the Hashashin, also our legendary hero and mentor, was a Zoroark. This kind of species is the characteristic of the Ancelotti family; each family has one, except yours truly. The Mavericks were mostly random Pokemon we recruited to our ranks due to the respect they showed us."
Each piece of information was a treasure for Shango, but he had a hard time accepting it. "Why were the Mavericks so powerful, then?"
A moment of silence fell amongst the Hashashin, who exchanged nervous glances. Finally, the Master decided to speak. "You'll come to know, eventually," he said mysteriously.
"Which are the rest of the families and their characteristics?" Shango asked quickly. The questions he had seemed countless.
"The Hashashin were formed by the last of the Ancelottis at that time, Chantalai. He recruited two more families in that era - the Phylax's, and the Cortez's. The symbol of the Phylax's is a Salamence, as the first Phylax member, Richard Phylax, was one of these dragons. As for the Cortez's, it was the Zangoose - you got that trait from father, I suppose. At a later time, all of the Dawsons joined our ranks to fight against the Dark Cult; their symbol is the Weavile. And then, the Mavericks."
"I see..." as an amnesiac, he wondered what to ask next. All this information had gotten his head spinning. "What is my part in all of this? Why am I still alive, if incest is a crime amongst the Hashashin?"
"Because..." the Master paused, apparently thinking. "We decided that you could be proven useful."
"Useful, how?" his sincere tone woud keep fooling them for a long time... because after hearing all this, he intended to find out more, which meant he had to stay more.
"Oh, but we just told you. You combine three of our bloodlines. Truthfully, after our consideration on the possibilities, you just might be the most powerful Hashashin in existence."
Shango's eyes widened in the coming of such news. He didn't know how to respond to any of this, only question them. So that is why he vastly outmatched his peers back in the academy, simply because he was the son of three of the Hashashin families? What was so special about them, anyway? Is that why he was able to keep up with Bart the Shadow, a seemingly experienced and deadly Hashashin who was double his age?
"Well, I'd bet my claws you have many questions," said the Master. "How about you follow your cousin here? I am sure her knowledge will suffice to quench all of your questions."
Shango slowly nodded, eyeing Crystal, who was smiling cheerfully. How did I get myself into this?
Last edited by Shango; December 16th, 2012 at 09:19 AM.
Chapter 7: Ravenscare
Crystal Ancelotti took Shango out of the house he was located. It was on top of a hill in a green, open field; there was a single tree that shed its shadow on the roof of that house. They were now walking down the hill towards a peaceful village with stone houses that had roofs with tiny red tiles and small chimneys which were smoking.
"Where exactly are we, Crystal?" asked Shango with the same genuine interest.
"This is Podville Town. Southeast Stygia. These lands are under Hotorian command."
"Oh... what do you mean by Hotorian command?"
"The Hotori are one of the eight tribes that inhabit Stygia, but I won't list them all for you," the Zoroark said with a subtle smile; she winked at him. "Even I had trouble learning them!"
Shango felt the wind blew through his fur, the scent of flowers entering his nose. The feelings of freedom and happiness he felt were unexplainable, but fear for the future was a shadow that engulfed all of them. He felt the urge to ask more about his family, about his father, about his mother, but he felt like it was not the right time. His questions would be probably reported to command, anyway, so he chose not to risk anything.
"What are we doing here?" he incquired with an innocent expression that fit an eight year old boy. Crystal stared at him.
"You only care about what you are doing here. Don't ask too many questions. The Hashashin want you to focus on your own work."
Shango rolled his eyes. "Then what am I doing here?" Good question, he said to himself. The town was getting closer and closer now; they entered a sand path that led straight in it.
"There is a Saloon - Ravenscare - that belongs to us somewhere in the town. A part of our crew is waiting for you there to meet them."
"I'll stay here," she said and suddenly sat down on the grass on the side of the road. Shango started laughing, clutching his belly.
"I'm serious," she stated. Shango got serious as well, under her meaningful expression. "And don't you try to run away," she said.
"Alright, bet'cha I'll find it."
And he dashed off towards the town.
The town proved to be far more great than Shango had imagined. All the small houses created comb-like paths that were so narrow, only two Pokemon Shango's size could pass through them at the same time. Tristana was sitting on his left shoulder, talking non-stop.
"... and you should escape when the night arrives, if you don't, you--"
"Hey! Zip it up there, I'm trying to find my way to the main street!"
Shango had accidentally entered one of the narrow paths, and now he couldn't get out. He was slightly pissed off, but at the same happy - he had never been in Stygia, and getting to know more places was interesting. He'd always wanted to travel around the world.
"Oh, why didn't you say so?" said the Victini and giggled. "Try the roofs, Shango."
The Zangoose stared at a wall and ran towards it with great speed; he lept and kicked it, launching himself high enough to grab the end of a roof and pull himself up.
"Wall kick, impressive," Tristana said in a playful manner.
"You better learn some tricks for battle, or I'm selling you for trash in the nearest merchant," replied Shango in the same manner, but she fell silent.
Shango didn't have a good view of the town from there; the houses were not particularly tall and were about the same height. The feel of that red stone under his feet was rather strange and he thought of geting back on the ground, but his eyes caught something moving in the next roof; he jerked his head to see a wild Starly flapping its wings. Shango would deem that as his meal if he was hungry, but the chocolate Crystal had given him kept him good, so he decided to leave the little bird alone.
The Pokemon of the area would surely know of the Ravenscare Saloon, Shango thought, so he descended from the rooftops and asked the first Pokemon he came across - a Breloom.
"Do you maybe know where the Ravenscare Saloon is?"
The Breloom looked at him in disbelief. "We don't have any Ravenscare Saloon in this town," he said and paused, examining him. "You must be new around here..." then he walked away. Shango frowned and continued his way down the main street. Not many Pokemon were walking around; as it was a relatively quiet town, Shango wondered if they knew how to party.
An enticing smell found its way into Shango's nose, and he jerked his head towards it with his eyes wide opened. "Flowers!" Tristana screamed, Shango staring at her. "No! You'll set the whole town on fire like last time!"
"You're mean, that's not true!" she shouted in his ear, but they both laughed anyway, until the Zangoose's eyes fell on what seemed to be a restaurant. A Drifblim was standing amongst the flowers of the garden outside the building; the Pokemon was staring at Shango as if he was one of his family members.
"Are you looking for the Ravenscare Saloon?"
It was a psychic voice directed towards him. The Pokemon around ignored the Drifblim as if it didn't exist. He realized no one heard the Drifblim but him, as it spoke into his mind. The Zangoose nodded and glanced at Tristana next to him that had apparently heard the voice too. She looked at him with her big blue eyes and then vanished from sight.
"Right this way, Hashashin," spoke the Drifblim with the same ominous tone. It raised one of its four yellow-tipped limbs and pointed inside the restaurant. Shango slowly walked towards that direction, eyeing the ghost Pokemon with his eyebrows slightly raised in suspicion.
Voices were suddenly heard from inside as he walked in; he felt like he entered an entirely different world. There was a room with stairs leading up, and a a wooden bar filled with all kinds of bottles. The bartender was a Metang, which was right now skilfully using its psychic powers to pour the liquid into glasses. He didn't appear to notice Shango, who looked around to see empty tables. Above the bar, there was a giant sign, 'Ravenscare'.
"How could that guy not be aware of this Saloon? He appeared to be from town," Shango whispered over to his shoulder, where the fiery spirit was sitting.
"Maybe this Saloon is only permitting access to the Hashashin!" Tristana whispered back in an excited tone.
"That explains how the Drifblim knew me," Shango replied after some thought. Suddenly, Crystal came down from the stairs on the left side of the Saloon.
He stared at her surprised. "How did you get here before me?"
She chuckled. "You're too slow, Shango. Come upstairs, I have a couple of friends I'd like you to meet."
I wonder if the rest of the Hashashin are as friendly as this girl. What reason do they have they to be friendly? They are murderers, Shango thought as he followed his Zoroark cousin upstairs, his heart beating with anticipation and curiosity. Maybe I'll meet more of my relatives...
"That Metang in the bar," Crystal started speaking, "isn't one of us, so you really keep your yap shut about our business when talking to him. Capiche?"
"Huh? Then what's he doing here?"
"Let's just say one of us knows how to control minds. And if it gets any idea of what we're planning upstairs, some one will have to erase his memory."
Shango was appaled. How could they use a Pokemon like this? Is this cruel, or what? spoke Tristana into his mind; he could feel her floating above his head now. He was ready to reply, but they reached the second floor. That's where the voices Shango heard before came from.
The room was entirely made of wood, just like the ground floor. Four tables with four chairs around each of them were spread, forming a circle around the center of the room. Four Pokemon were sitting on the nearest table; Shango didn't look at them carefully - he hadn't forgotten to act clueless. But the second he laid his eyes on one of them, he instantly recognized him. The Infernape that appeared in the streets of Ionia was staring at him, grinning in the same manner that revealed all of his yellow teeth. Shango wished he could ask him how he had disappeared when he tried to hit him back in Ionia, but that would give him away. Next to him was the familiar sinister bug Pokemon, Bart the Shadow; he was staring at the Zangoose intently, but with no apparent bad intentions. The other two Pokemon on the table, an Ambipom and a Bisharp, seemed to be observing him from eye to toe.
Shango assumed they would all know that he had lost his memory already; he wouldn't know how to react if Bart confronted him. It was possible that the guy still wanted revenge for the fiasco at the Scorching Lands. The Accelgor didn't look like he had forgotten, but at the same time, his look didn't seem hostile, and Shango was thankful. Bart had changed little in these 3 years. He remembered his last words, which hinted that the Hashashin would return. And that they have, and here he was.
"Shango!" Crystal exclaimed in a cheerful tone, "meet my friends and family, Pasqual," she said, looking over at the Infernape, "Bartholomew," the Accelgor slowly nodded as their eyes met, "Enzo," the Ambipom waved one of his tails, "and Vincenzo." The Bisharp nodded with a welcoming smile.
Enzo and Vincenzo, eh? Crystal looked at him as if she read his thoughts. "They're called the Dawson Brothers around here."
"Oh... nice to meet you all."
Vincenzo stood up with a metallic sound caused by his powerful steel feet. "A pleasure to meet you, Shango Maverick," then he proceeded to shake hands with him. As Shango looked in his black eyes, he wondered how many Pokemon that seemingly nice Hashashin had destroyed. His curious and kind stare, mixed with his tiny welcoming smile made him doubt his membership in the brotherhood; though, now he realized, the lot of them didn't seem scary at all. None of them, at least, except Nightingale. Tristana must have been thinking exactly the same, because he sensed a bit of disbelief from her part.
"Yeah! Nice to meet you, man," shouted Enzo, launching himself from his chair, landing next to his brother, in front of Shango; the Ambipom grabbed his other hand and started shaking it vigorously. When they finally let go of him, Shango glanced at the other too who were rooted to their chairs. The Infernape named Pasqual had something really odd about him, something Shango had detected back in Ionia. As if space around him was virtually... challenged. The feeling he was giving was extremely unnatural and mysterious, though his stare wasn't exactly mean, but rather... curious.
As for Bart next to him, he was probably still upset about losing the fight before. Or he just didn't believe handshakes were necessary, like Shango did.
Pasqual finally stood up as well and extended his arm. Shango reached for it, and the Infernape gripped his hand with great force, as if he was trying to break it. He shut his eyes while Shango looked at their hands - something was very wrong here; his hand didn't feel how it looked like exactly. Where there were the blue fingers of the Infernape, he felt fur. On top of that, he felt as if his mind was being messed with. Tristana's subtle thoughts transfered to his mind: was uncle Pasqual invading his brain?
"Have they told you who I am?" he asked. His voice surely hadn't been used in months. The Infernape took his eyes from Shango to look questioningly over at Crystal, who nodded her head negatively. Then, he looked back at Shango with a sense of amusement on his face. "I'm your uncle. Mentor of the junior Hashashin."
Shango raised his eyebrows in surprise. So the strange Pokemon was his uncle. He wondered if he was powerful - he looked old, yet still in shape. That's what made him mentor, probably. Uncle Pasqual turned around, his hands behind his back. He walked over to the window of Ravenscare Saloon and looked down.
"Do you know how the Hashashin work?"
"No, I do not," he replied in a pompous voice that apparently sounded rather funny to the Hashashin, who all chuckled, except his uncle. His mentor turned around and faced him, having lost his grin.
"Some call us brutal killers. Some others mercenaries. Hah! That's exactly what we want them to see. We are an absolute, independent organization which looks for its own survival, but mainly, we are the pursuers of liberty and peace. We cleanse the land from the filthy animals that take control of it by eliminating them," he paused to take a deep breath and started coughing slightly. When he stopped, he spoke again. "Clearly we cannot work in the public eye - especially our trainees, they can't. So, we disguise ourselves as street performers. Yes," he said, seeing Shango's surprise. "Our circus enterprise is far too grand for us to be suspected. Ravenscare is known all around Stygia for its shows."
Shango grabbed his chin and looked on the floor, wondering if that was just Pasqual's perception of things, or that was the reality of the brotherhood. A realization emerged from his subconcious: there were street performers in Ionia, and the scary part of it was that he had once worked with them to get the attention of the girl he had set his eyes on. Could they be the Hashashin? And what were they doing in Ionia?
Ravenscare was the name of the shop, and the name of the circus enterprises as well. "So I'll have to be a street performer?"
"Just like us," said the Infernape with his yellow teeth flashing in a grin.
"But I don't know any tricks." He could only balance on a tight rope without much effort, and that had gotten old in Ionia - too many Pokemon had great balance, as they were beings of nature.
"We'll teach you!" shouted Crystal, like they were about to go on a grand adventure in the end of the world. Enzo grabbed Shango's hand and examined it.
"You're agile! Maybe you could be an acrobat like me and Bart here!"
Shango smirked his eyebrows as he looked over at the Shadow. He didn't seem like an acrobat at all, though he had proven himself to be capable of high jumps. All those membranes attached onto his body looked like they would fall off any second.
"Hands off!" Crystal pushed the Ambipom away from Shango and clutched him. "He's gonna be a firebreather, we need one of those anyway. You can breath fire Shango, can't you?" she asked and pushed him with her elbows, winking.
"How'd you know?" he asked at first, but then realized his mistake. "I mean, can I breath fire...?"
Tristana's invisible flame next to him got more intense; he was glad nobody else was feeling her heat. The Victini was simply reminding him not to give away that she had taught him how to use flamethrower.
"Did you know, that as your Voidborn relatives, we have access to certain information of yourself, as you have in ours?" Bart finally spoke. Shango was now worried - did they also have access in his memories? Then they would be able to see that all this was an act. But how come they didn't try it? Or, maybe they did and found nothing for some odd reason.
"No, I didn't know... so what am I doing as a firebreather?"
Pasqual faced him and spoke. "You are simply a trainee right now... you'll be collecting valuable information for us. Move up our ranks, and you'll be an assassin. After the rank of the assassins... you become a Shadow Hunter."
Seeing Shango's troubled expression, his mentor continued. "The Shadow Hunters are the elite of the Hashashin - the ones our Master uses only for the most difficult of missions. Those are truly powerful Hashashin who live up to the world's reputation for us. There are currently eight Hashashin Shadow Hunters..." said the Infernape and looked over at Bart, "Bartholomew here being one of them."
Shango thought this Bart guy never seized to amaze him. How many other surprises was the Accelgor hiding? Pasqual crossed his arms and looked at Shango with his piercing eyes.
"Today, our little Saloon here will be hosting a show. We suspect the arrival of a spy; the Dark Cult is suspecting the location of the place. We simply kill the spy before they report back to the Dark Cult."
"But won't that confirm their assumptions about Ravenscare?" asked Shango. Since when the Hashashin fought the Dark Cult? The others laughed.
"You're clever, but we've got this one covered. Our man inside the Dark Cult informs us that the spy has not stated that Ravenscare could be one of our possible hideouts - meaning that if we kill him on the streets, nobody will ever know..." Shango liked the Infernape's dark tone, somehow. They had obviously thought of everything. Much as he'd like to avoid to kill, he couldn't see a way of getting himself out of this; he would have to play along for now.
"So, am I to track down the spy?"
"Yeah," said Crystal, patting him on the shoulder, "I'll help you."
"Wait, so you know who they are...?" asked Shango with a slightly disturbed expression. The Infernape chuckled.
"Of course we do... There's nothing gettin' past us, boy. You should keep that in mind."
Shango wondered if his words held an implication. That could mean his memories were in danger.
Last edited by Shango; December 21st, 2012 at 03:09 AM.
Chapter 8: As an Hashashin
The noun found Shango and Crystal sitting on one of the chairs of Ravenscare; the last rays of the setting sun crept in the room through the windows, painting the Ravenscare sign on the far end of the room orange, along with the rest of the room. At times like these, when the Verdict didn't require active duty, Shango would go dashing through the Ionian forest in search of a massive tree to climb and watch the sunset along with Tristana. And now, he was planning a murder with a cousin he didn't even know he had. In all his seriousness over the mission, his face had tightened in concentration as he looked at his braided hands in front of him.
"For your information, little cousin," Crystal was saying, "you should lure your target away from the bar..."
"How am I to do that? I don't even know who he is!"
"You can find out easily. As for luring them out, a simple threatening note will do..."
Shango threw her an examining look full of his own doubts. I've never used a threatening note, he thought but he kept himself from saying it the last moment. It could give him away.
"After the note... what do I do?"
"You kill him. Simply, with no witnesses."
Shango lowered his head, concerned with this task. He had killed before, many times, both wild and normal Pokemon. The former ones he hunted in the forest, and the latter ones were mostly outlaws and pirates of the southern seas; in other words, they deserved their fate. He never felt comfortable taking a life, but he couldn't do otherwise when he was working as a Needler for the Verdict. Tristana never liked it either and she was always trying to prevent him from hurting any Pokemon; he knew he would have to put up with her now.
***Ravenscare Saloon was filled with Pokemon in just a few hours. Apart from citizens having a good time in the seemingly innocent Saloon, all the Hashashin he'd met in Podville were there. His eyes ran through the crowd examiningly, noticing the Pokemon that had gathered in the middle of the room: they were playing music, and their singers were Chatots. Tristana was flying above him, invisible, clutching his ears together as he had told her, to prevent him from losing his focus from the cacophony. She, along with him, observed the Pokemon inside the room, but they were seeing none that was above suspicion. Uncle Pasqual had laid back to his chair, paying no attention to him, while Crystal was glancing at him every now and then. She winked, smiling slyly, and he retracted his look as to not seem like he wasn't working. Once his eyes were off of the young Zoroark, they fell onto a Toxicroak on the other side of the room. The Pokemon was looking everywhere except the singer Chatots, where everyone was supposed to look; it had a curious look. A curious look that would soon get him killed, as Shango thought; he had locked his eyes on the table in which the Pokemon was sitting. He got up and subtly walked around the tables, taking the hidden note off the fur of his belly. It slipped into Tristana's hands, but nobody saw the movement, not even the Hashashin.
The invisible spirit flew over the Toxicroak, who was staring at Uncle Pasqual at the moment. The Infernape was grinning back at him, showing his yellow teeth, almost welcoming him. The letter suddenly appeared in front of him, as a shadow got past behind him - Shango's shadow. The threatening letter seemed to work, because the Toxicroak's expression changed the more he read; he looked behind him, in the dark corner, but nobody was there. He looked around, at all of the Pokemon of the room, to see the table of the Hashashin - he could tell it was them by the Infernape who was looking at him funny. He got up, keeping his calm, and walked over to the stairs; seeing as the Hashashin made no move to kill or at least catch him - they wouldn't be so stupid, as to do it in front of so many people - he normally went down the stairs, looking behind him occasionally. When he was at the last step, he glanced behind him one more time. The Metang bartender looked at him funny and turned around to manage the drinks and the glasses; once the Toxicroak turned around, his eyes were locked with the green, emerald like ones of Shango's. Blood rippled out of the throat and chest of the Pokemon, to fall on the red fur of the Zangoose in front of him; the Toxicroak fell forward, dead within seconds, only to be caught in Shango's arms. He let no blood stain the floor as he dragged him outside the shop silently.
When the bartender looked around questioningly, in a look as if he was lost, the weird Toxicroak was gone.
Shango heard hands clapping behind him; he turned around to see uncle Pasqual and Crystal, grinning at him. They were at the side of the road, next to the Saloon; the street was empty, as the night had arrived and all Pokemon of the town were resting in their houses, except those who were partying in Ravenscare, oblivious to the drama that had just went on outside it. Pasqual laughed and approached Shango, who had a plain expression on as if he didn't do anything great.
"Well done, boy... tell me, how did you know it was him?"
"He was looking around instead of having fun. And he looked at your table more than twenty times. That's what I call suspicious behavior."
"Haha! Yeah, you're right. But that doesn't prove anything."
"This does," Shango said and showed him a pendant with the symbol of the Dark Cult: the heart, being crossed by two cutlasses. The Infernape's shone as he locked eyes with it. "He was wearing it on the other side, so the symbol wasn't visible," he explained plainly.
"Shango," Crystal exclaimed, stepping next to him, "that was perfect, all of us said so - don't think they didn't, just because they keep quiet! They just don't like complimenting people!" she said, with a complaining tone that made Shango smile. He could imagine the Hashashin being a strict society.
"No blood behind, they kill was silent and quick... where did you learn all this?" she went on and he had to look away from her.
"Come on, Crystal," Pasqual exclaimed, "don't you see he's a natural?" the Infernape said with a shine of admiration hidden in his eyes and grin. But what caught Shango's attention wasn't the admiration. He knew he was admired by many people, even those he didn't like - like Jericho Santaros. But in the eyes of Pasqual, however uncanny as they seemed, he saw pride. He was proud of him. That was his truest reward, even though he didn't know the man; Tristana's heart beat strongly above his head, he could feel her warmth, as she could fully understand his thoughts.
"I would expect nothing more than the son of Alexander," Pasqual whispered, with a tone of sadness, as he patted Shango's shoulder.
"Alexander..." Shango whispered back questioningly. "Was that... my father?"
"And Alice was your mother," Crystal added, noticing how Shango looked as if each bit of information was as valuable as gold to him. "Alice was my mother's sister..."
"What... what happened to them?" Shango asked.
"They were sentenced to death," Pasqual said quickly and clutched his chest, inhaling. Crystal grabbed him worriedly.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Yes... yes, I'm fine," Pasqual replied and took a few breaths. Shango raised his eyebrows, thinking all this was too important for Pasqual. Perhaps his parents were friends of the Pokemon. Crystal looked at him.
"Let's talk about something else. What did you do with the body?"
Shango looked down at his hands - the blood they had touched didn't stain his fur one bit, as they were already red. But they were also full of dirt. He pointed his black claw at the side of the road.
"He's buried seven feet underground."
"Wow!" Crystal exclaimed in admiration. "How did you do this...?"
"If you know how to dig, it's easy..." Shango replied with a warm smile.
"What if the Granbulls of the town find the body?" Pasqual asked in a skeptical tone.
"I burned it," the Zangoose readily replied, letting out a fiery breath as proof of his abilities; though, in truth, Tristana was the one who did the deed. Pasqual was excited and patted his back again, laughing cheerfully, as if he'd just spoken his first words. Now the Infernape seemed alot different from back in Ionia, Shango thought - he had changed so much.
"Well done, again, Shango. You've gotten your father's wits!"
Shango's chest filled with pride, even though he wasn't happy that he had taken a life. He'd just have to convince him to live with it for a while - many Pokemon died every day, what difference did it make if he was the killer, or somebody else? Besides, he always disliked the Dark Cult and their ways...
"Alright, then!" Pasqual exclaimed. "It's time for the Oath to the Hashashin!"
"Oath... to the Hashashin?" Shango asked, a bit worried. This didn't sound good, oh no, and Tristana flared up next to him. He needed to talk to her, right away, but he couldn't at this moment.
"Yes," Crystal said, "you'll be one of us for good, soon. At last... I've waited for this moment ever since I heard of you!"
"Wait," Shango said, thinking about his memory, "who was I... before I lost my memory?"
"Umm," Pasqual said, throwing a thunderous look at Crystal, who cowered; Shango almost laughed at her reaction. "You were... one of us, just not officially."
He speaks the truth, I feel, Shango conceded with his uncle. Now I'm one of them. No, I've always been.
Chapter 9: Oath to the Hashashin
The sun rose, dousing the village and the surrounding fields with light. Shango opened his eyelids and looked at the sleeping Zoroark next to him. She likes to sleep, he thought and chuckled. He slowly walked away, exiting the shadow of the tree; he was now going to talk to Tristana.
She appeared on his shoulder when he was at a safe distance away from his cousin. The Zangoose sat down and the Victini jumped in front of him.
"Shango, you can't do this!" she whispered, her tone and eyes giving away her desperation.
"Why not?" he asked her, slightly grinning.
"You've sworn to the Ionian Verdict! You can't... join them... you're not a killer!"
The pupils of his eyes were greatly dilated as he stared at her, thinking of her words. His grin had now disappeared.
"My parents were killers. But they had a sacred purpose, as the rest of the Hashashin. Don't you understand?"
Tristana sighed and tilted her head, observing Shango like a mother, rather than his friend. Shango continued. "I've found my origins now. I can't just escape..." he muttered, now looking down. She jumped on his shoulder again and stroked the fur of his cheek.
"Even if I did try to escape, I would be killed on the spot," he said as if he was almost sad, looking at her sideways. "Besides, there are some questions that need to be answered..." he said finally, looking forward in a dark expression. He was thinking about the deaths of his parents.
"Fine, Shango. I'll follow you wherever you go," Tristana said and flew in front of his face. A great smile appeared on the Zangoose face for a moment; then he perked up his ears to the direction of Crystal. Hide, Tristy, he thought, and his fairy vanished out of sight.
He heard Crystal approaching him. "Everything alright, co's?" she asked as she sat next to him. In front of them, Podville unfolded at the foot of the hill. The morning songs of the birds filled the area, but Shango wasn't in the mood - he'd rather eat those birds.
"Yeah, I'm alright, just a little nervous about the Oath..."
"Oy, don't worry about that!" she said, letting out a small laugh. Shango wondered how this Pokemon was an assassin, but he also had a feeling he would soon find out. "I was nervous, too, but it's nothin'," she told him.
They sat there for about half an hour; Crystal was humming along with the birds, and Shango was scratching the ground with one of the claws of his right hand. He could still feel the darkness he had channeled last night inside his hand - was it because of the darkstar? The move he had used was called 'Night Slash', or so Ascendio was telling him when he was little. It was the move that characterized the Hashashin, because all of them, regardless of their type and species, could use it.
"Why is everyone able to use Night Slash, Crystal?"
"Oh, it is the gift of our bloodline. I guess I can tell you now - we owe this power to the darkstar... Those who have been touched by it were able to manipulate the darkness of the Nether Plane in such way, so they can channel any kind of dark power. We, their descendants, are only able to use Night Slash," she said in a mysterious voice.
"What is a darkstar?" Shango asked in a fake confused look. He knew very well what it was. Part of it still lived inside him. But he was curious to hear the perception of the Hashashin.
"Not many Pokemon know of these gems outside the Hashashin... I am not supposed to know, either. I am just a good spy," she said and winked at him with her usual tricky smile. "They say the darkstars are the broken pieces of Arceus's Dark Plate. Can you believe it? I don't even know if Arceus exists..."
"What do they even do?" he asked with anxiety obvious in her voice. The Zoroark looked him inside his eyes.
"They corrupt, Shango. We, the true voidborn, originate from it, so only we are able to communicate with them - any other living flesh that touches it, gets vaporized in an instant. Nothing but ash as remains."
Shango remembered Princess Rosa informing him about all this the night after they escaped from the Fire Clan's camp. So, he was truly a voidborn, whatever that was.
"But where are the darkstars?"
"Nobody knows - historical records reveal multiple appearances of these gems in various time periods and locations, but all tracks have been lost. Our Master is searching desperately for one; it will give us the power to face the Dark Cult directly, he says. One thing is for sure - Chantalai Ancelotti once wielded one of these gems, when he was alive."
"... anyway, Shango. We need to get going."
Shango slowly nodded, the thought of the Oath returning to haunt his mind. They both got up and headed towards the house on the other hill.
"Shango Maverick, do you know why you're here?" asked the Master. As usual, he was covered in his black robes which hid any clue that would give away his species. Shango, however, was looking straight inside the hood.
"I am here to take the Oath," Shango replied in a plain tone. All the Hashashin he knew so far were in the room of the house he had woken up two days ago - Nightingale was levitating behind the Master, Crystal and Pasqual were standing next to Shango, and behind them, Bart the Shadow, Enzo, Vincenzo and the three fat ladies were watching them.
"And do you know what that means?" the Master asked in a rather serious tone Shango hadn't heard before. "It means that you are accepting our ethics, our goals and dreams as your own. It means that you will fight with the rest of us for the sake of liberty and justice. If you refuse... We will have to dispose of you, as you are already aware of many of our secrets."
"I will take the Oath, Master," said Shango. The towering figure of the Master approached him and put his hands on Shango's shoulders. He felt sharp claws on his fur, but he did not turn to look. As he looked inside the hood, he wondered why he was so important to this Master; would he attempt to make him remember about his past, or would he play along for now? That's what Shango would do, play along for now.
"Do you swear in your life, that you will be protecting our brotherhood and its secrets no matter the circumstances?"
"I swear in my life," said Shango fearlessly, putting his hand on his heart. The invisible Victini that was clutching his foot was brimming with fire and energy as her heart beat faster.
"Do you swear in your life, to work with the Hashashin for the rest of your life, and that you will never commit to an action againist them?"
"I do," Shango stated in the same tone. The cloaked Pokemon in front of him got hold of his hand, piercing his paw. Shango felt some kind of strange, undefined energy run through his veins when the Master touched him. Blood fell on the floor as the Master let go of him and raised his own bloodied claw in the air. "This is the evidence of your Oath," he whispered, but everyone heard him. He then motioned his other hand behind him, and Nightingale arrived, holding a silver emblem of the Hashashin and a red sash.
The Master grabbed those items and handed them to Shango. "These are the certificates of your Oath. You will be now bearing the symbol of the Hashashin."
Shango examined the symbol he had just received.
It's made of tristanite, Tristana informed him. Shango's green eyes reflected the symbol for a moment; he thought it greatly resembled the starting letter of the word Hashashin, in a way. He quickly tied the red sash around his waist and stuck the symbol of the Hashashin onto it.
"I hereby give you the code name 'Skidred' in hope that it will embrace your sharp claws," continued the Master. Skidred means 'sharp blade' in the language of the Precursors, whispered Tristana into his mind. It is an honourable name. Shango was about to ask her where she knew all this stuff, but then the Master turned to the others in the room.
"This is a historic day, brothers and sisters. Today, we officially baptised the descendant of three of the Hashashin bloodlines as one of us, disregarding the past of his recent ancestors and the law that states nobody is to mix the blood of our families. As the Master of our brotherhood, I have reconsidered his case and decided that it will not harm any of us to have him here. That, however, does not mean that the any of the Laws of the Five Families has ceased to apply."
They all slowly stood up. "You are dismissed," whispered the Master. Shango felt Pasqual pat his shoulder with his hot hand. He turned to face the Infernape, who was slightly grinning, just like the day when he saw him in the streets of Ionia. That day, he had seemed scary and threatening, but now he knew he had found a strong ally in him. At that moment, he questioned the rumours of the ethics of the Hashashin - they weren't truly evil. Nobody who knew them well could prove that, at least that's what Shango started to believe.
"What am I to do now, uncle?" he asked, smirking his eyebrows. Everyone else was leaving the house, just like that; maybe the Hashashin never considered any event of this sort sacred.
"When I get the chance, I'll teach you how to fight like an Hashashin. For now, do as your cousin says - you still have to prove that you are worth being called an Hashashin, boy," Pasqual said in his steel tone and patted Shango's shoulder again before going away. Crystal then commenced a hug attack that ended with both of them on the ground.
"Bravo, cousin! You make me so proud!" she shouted cheerfully and grabbed his cheeks.
"Hey! Get off'a me!" Shango was laughing, as the rest of the Hashashin remaining in the room were. He was not aware that this kind of happiness existed.
Last edited by Shango; January 21st, 2013 at 02:02 PM.
Chapter 10: The Hooded Figure and the Altar of Shadows
Shango and Crystal were heading towards Podville Town under Karnos's midnight light. The sky looked like a pool of blood, but the Pokemon of this world were used to such sight every night and before dawn. The Zoroark was staring at the red planet with a kind of attention Shango hadn't seen before.
"What's so special about Karnos?" he asked her, observing her at the same moment.
"It's where the Gods of Black and White live. That's where the Nether Plane draws its power from - like the sea draws power from the moon," she replied without looking at him. "And the stronger the Nether Plane is, the stronger the dark-types are, and of course, we, the voidborn."
"Yes, Nether Plane. The void that consumes our world. Some say it's infinity, but I dunno about it..."
"I see," said Shango and glanced to his shoulder where Tristana was standing, invisible. He couldn't wait to talk to her; but he couldn't reveal her now - he would have to explain where he found her.
They entered the quiet and peaceful town, their steps echoing in the streets as they progressed on the sand path.
"Is 'Crystal' some kind of code name?"
"No. they didn't give me any code names," she responded with her eyes fixed on somewhere ahead. Shango looked as well to see a wheeled stand parked in front of a fence at the side of the road. Two torches stuck inside the ground were shedding their light across the empty street.
"What's this?" he whispered, with his guard up. The Zoroark started laughing.
"It's the vessel that gets us around. Ravenscare!" she said and pointed at a sign above the stand. The name Ravenscare was drawn with pretty flowers... and a Salamence destroying them with fire. As her loud voice was heard (probably all around the neighborhood), two familiar shady silhouettes appeared behind the stand.
"'Hey, you two," shouted one of them. Shango recognized Enzo the Ambipom; the one next to him was the Bisharp named Vincenzo. "You rookies ready to have some fun tonight?!" shouted the Ambipom, just as loud as Crystal. Vincenzo next to him buried his face in his palm and muttered, "oh, brother..."
Before Shango could protest, or even ask what kind of 'fun' Enzo was talking about, Crystal nodded vigorously.
"Yeah! Let's get going! Where to?"
"Horlon Forest, it's the Druid Festival Under the Full Moon!"
Shango raised his claw in the height of his face in a questioning manner, "wait, what will we be doing there?"
"Celebrating your promotion, I suppose," said Vincenzo in an expression that revealed boredom. Shango didn't take offense - he was bored of celebrations too, but in this particular case, this was good. It meant he would get to know them better. "C'mon, hop in!" shouted Enzo, motioning to them with his tails. Shango got aboard the moving stand, feeling kind of ridiculous at first.
"How does this thing move?" he asked Crystal, full of curiosity.
"You'll see," said Crystal and winked at him, right before Enzo started shouting again. He seemed to be the talkative type.
"Ramos! Ramos, wake up you lazy fatass!" the Ambipom was looking at something beyond the fence behind us, something that Shango couldn't see.
A giant bear escalated from the ground almost immediately; an Ursaring was standing behind the fence, where it was sleeping moments ago. Shango's eyes opened wide, trying to grasp the might of that Pokemon. The small black eyes were giving off the feeling that this bear was wild, and that it had destroyed many Pokemon before. But when he spoke in a deep, calm voice, Shango was assured that he was a good Pokemon.
"Somebody called?" he asked, looking at the four Pokemon aboard the stand. "Oh, I get it... rolling duty again."
He jumped above the fence, landing on the other side with a small quake. Shango glanced around, fearing they would wake up the innocent citizens. At the same time, he wondered how this mighty bear ended up doing "rolling duty" for the Hashashin.
"Who are you?" he heard the deep voice of Ramos ask. He jerked his head towards the bear, who had just noticed him.
"He is Shango Maverick, our newest assassin. I suggest you get moving, or we'll lose the Festival" Vincenzo said in a mild tone.
The Ursaring grunted as he turned around to grab the rope that was on the ground next to the stand; he tied it around his waist, and when he started moving ahead, the whole stand with the sign of Ravenscare started moving. Shango hadn't experienced something like that, as he had never gotten on a vehicle before. Who would want to ride a moving thing when you could run? Tristana seemed to like the feeling, and he sensed she was smiling and was cheerful in days, he could tell by her pulse. He ended up smiling as well, trying to relax and enjoy the ride. Enzo chuckled, patting the moving stand and glancing at Shango. "Latest technology, bro. Don't tell me you thought we were gettin' 'round the towns, on foot?"
Crystal and Enzo clutched each other and started laughing like he had just said an extremely funny joke. Shango's smile was enlarged, seeing them, and when his eyes met with Vincenzo's, he could clearly read his thoughts: they're crazy. So, they smiled at each other, forming a secret, unspoken alliance. Only then Shango noticed the whip that hung folded from the Bisharp's belt, and he wondered what its use was. He decided it wasn't the time to ask, and he turned his head to watch the scenery of the moving trees as Ramos pulled them through the street - soon, they would be out of Podville and into the forest on the northern side, now deeply inside the Empire of Stygia.
"What is this festival you mentioned?" Shango asked suddenly.
"The Hotori Druids gather in one of the ponds of Horlon forest every month," Vincenzo proceeded to explain, "they honor nature and the wonders of our world."
"And what will be doing there?"
"Giving a show, of course!" yelled Crystal, excited at the very thought. Then she looked at her peers. "Shango, you'll be our firebreather. Enzo here will making acrobatics and Vincenzo will be taming the 'wild' beast that is Ramos!"
She pronounced wild sarcastically, and Shango thought it was easy for the crowds to buy that Ramos was a wild Pokemon. Suddenly, Vincenzo's whip made sense. It was an ingenious marketing maneuver. "But what will you be doing?" he asked his cousin. "The clown, of course. People love my illusions!"
And the conversation went on, as they were leaving Podville behind them; the Ursaring did not seem to be tired at all, even after two hours. The Pokemon must have been used to this kind of work. They had entered the forest a long time ago, and the red planet had disappeared from the sky as well, giving its place to a full moon. The moonlight barely passed through the thick leaves of the forest, but the gentle wind managed to touch Shango and refresh him. He was afraid of the heat emanating from his fairy Pokemon reaching the others, but they did not seem to feel a thing.
After some time, they heard voices from the depths of the forest. Ramos lead the moving stand through the sand path, trying not to shake it too much. Ahead of them, there was a clearing in the middle of the trees allowed the moonlight to fill the area; a pond with crystal clear and reflective water was waving calmly. On the other side of the pond, multiple grass and water type Pokemon were sitting on the lush, rich grass, forming a circle. And in the middle of them, a great fire was brimming, teaming up with the moon to light up the clearing. The druids, once they heard the wheels of the stand rolling on the sand, turned their heads in obvious disturbance. But once they saw the Pokemon, they stood up, leaving the seriousness and devotion of their rituals, to cheer like the Hashashin. Some druids run around the pond to greet them cheerfully, shaking hands and tails with Enzo, who was the first one to reach them. Crystal grabbed Shango's shoulders and forced him to face her.
"Listen up, Shango," she started, "these people are familiar with us, but they don't know we're Hashashin, so lay low, 'kay?"
"Why are we even here?" Shango asked with a plain expression that hid the original question he couldn't voice: what business had the mighty Hashashin with some partying druids? He thought all the Hashashin do were scheme in the dark and eliminate their enemies to advance politically and amass greater fortunes. But this... they were just going to put on a show. He recalled what he knew about the druids of the Hotori... they were hive minded people - they did not trust outsiders. Yet, they trusted the Hashashin... perhaps they are playing a diplomatic game here, one that he was not aware of.
Crystal glanced at the druids, following his plain look.
"Oh, nothing. Just a little thing we like to call 'spying'. They're Hotori, you see - and we need to keep track of their movements. This Tribe is dangerous, even when peaceful."
Shango nodded, cocking a smile as his assumption was confirmed. Crystal had already jumped off the stand, and so had Vincenzo. Shango jumped down as well; he felt the sand wet under his feet. Ramos stopped the stand and Vincenzo placed it so the sign reading 'Ravenscare' was turned against the druids. The Ursaring then roared, and the Bisharp grabbed hold of the ropes, bringing him in front of the cheering druids.
Crystal walked next to him, but didn't stop next to him when he kept a safe distance from the crowd.
"Greetings druids, Ravenscare has arrived," she yelled. A massive Venusaur had stepped forward from the druids; he appeared to be the Archdruid. He slowly gave a great pouch full of coins to Crystal, who turned to hurl it at Enzo. The Ambipom caught in the air with a theatrical pirouette and landed on top of the sign of the stand. Crystal winked at Shango, who kneeled like a prince and faced the sky, opening his mouth. The next moment, he was shooting fire endlessly as the invisible fairy was supplying him with all the energy that he needed.
The flamethrower was shot to the starry sky, offering an amazing sight to the druids who let out cries; Shango then stopped to take a breath, and he would start again, but then a great roar from the Ursaring broke to the skies. Ramos's massive figure was towering above the crowd, having his arms raised as if he was attacking. Vincenzo's whip hit the 'wild' Pokemon, who let out a cry and turned to face the Bisharp.
As Shango was watching the show from the sidelines, Crystal was found next to him. "Don't worry, the whip doesn't really hurt him," he whispered, looking at Ramos and his tamer fight each other pretty convincingly. Shango thought it was amazing so far; he admired the spirit the Hashashin put into this, but he had a feeling he hadn't seen anything. Enzo launched himself from the stand, landing on top of the Ursaring. He started laughing maniacally, clutching Ramos's back. Laughs were spread as Ramos started rampaging, seemingly out of control, trying to throw Enzo off his back.
The Ambipom jumped into the crowd, stepping on the heads and backs of the grass Pokemon. He performed a couple of flips in mid air, then suddenly disappeared. A stream of green fire appeared from nowhere in the sky, engulfing all of the area in a mist that seemed unreal. Shango glanced at the Zoroark, who had a strange glow in her eyes; she was apparently casting illusions.
A Salamence appeared from the mist and roared with all the might of its lungs; the trick was clearly aimed to scare, but the druids cried in support as the dragon kept circling above their heads. Just then, when everyone was looking above, Shango saw something in the crowd. It was a white hood, an impeccable darkness underneath that prevented his keen eyes from seeing through it. The hooded figure of his dreams was standing right there, staring directly at and through him with a piercing gaze that didn't seem to exist - the whole scene was unreal, the druids looking up the sky, while that hooded Pokemon between them all ignoring everything that went on.
After three seconds that seemed like an eternity, that somebody in the white hood turned around. The Zangoose saw the back of his white hood, two black ears falling in the back. Under Tristana's urging, he charged in the crowd, nobody noticing him as they were busy with the show Crystal was giving. He gently pushed the druids out of his way, even though he was running, slipping past them easily. He had his eyes fixed on the black cape of the unreal Pokemon. He finally exited the crowd, his eyes catching the white of the cloak disappearing into the bushes; without second thought, he jumped into the bushes as well and tracked the white down, amidst the dark of the night.
Shango saw the white hoody running between the trees at the same speed as him. It suddenly glanced behind, the dark in his hoody still impenetrable; Shango was forced to stop from the intensity of the look, but the hooded Pokemon kept going. It was as if they wanted to make sure they were being followed. They disappeared in the trees and Tristana popped next to his shoulder.
"Who is this?" she asked in a quite worried tone, holding onto his shoulder for dear life. Shango had never told her about his dreams - mainly because he had not seen that particular one again, and, because she got too worried about these things.
"I don't know," he replied between his breaths as he ran through the trees. He had focused his eyes on the figure, that seemed otherworldly... like it was an illusion. But Crystal was nowhere near, and how could an illusion appear in his dreams? He had also seen it in the Fire Clan's underground chamber. But just who was it?
This night hunt continued for about ten minutes, until a rock wall appeared behind some trees, blocking his way. There was a small entrance to a cave, right there on the ground, and the mysterious figure was gone. The Zangoose kneeled and examined the entrance carefully. His instinct was telling him it was safe, but Tristana was shouting in his ear.
"We're gonna be fine," Shango said as he hurled himself into the cave; it appeared to be a slide that lead him deep underground. The darkness was thick in the tunnel for a moment, but then Tristana started glowing as if her body was a shimmering flame. She was holding onto his chest tightly as they slid, and he felt her warmth taking over him. She was such a great help at these times, but he sure wouldn't tell her so she wouldn't get cocky.
Shango finally landed somewhere on his four feet, and the Victini flew above him to sit on his shoulder again.
"Never again," she said jokingly, her voice echoing in the cave. Shango looked around, only to see he was standing on a rock, endless darkness around him. "Uh-oh," he muttered as he touched the rock with his claws to check for its stability. It seemed to be fine, but he could tell there was nothing beyond it. He was standing on a column, right above the abyss. Suddenly, he jerked his heads towards a direction, perking up his ears, which were picking up a distant sound of some kind of psalms.
"Shango, look," whispered Tristana. He looked at her sideways, then turned to look at what she was looking at. The light of her fiery body fell on some other rocks were ascending right from the abyss; the gap between them was fairly large.
He took some steps back, as much as he could on the rock. "Hang on," he said, and before Tristana could say a thing, he dashed forward and leaped from the rock. The black abyss threatening to swallow him whole passed under his feet; the Zangoose landed on the rock, tumbling on it and regaining his balance quickly so that he may jump again if the rock crumbled away. He glanced behind him, at the gap he'd just crossed with a single leap.
"Fifteen feet," stated Tristana. Her tone gave away her smile; Shango was smiling also.
"Impressive, aren't I?"
There was another rock, to where the psalms were coming from. He repeated the jump, executing it carefully like the first one; beginning to pick up the pace, the thought of unraveling the mysterious of the figure drove him forward. After some leaps, he reached a point where a rocky wall was blocking his way. Shango grabbed hold of the Victini and threw her upwards; she flew a little, looking around as her light was shed all around the cavern. Tristana then let herself fall directly onto the Zangoose's hands, looking up jauntily at him with her sparkling blue eyes.
"There's an opening up there," she said. "You can climb this."
Shango nodded and launched himself from the rock, his claws finding their way into the rock wall's openings and holding him onto it. A couple of small rocks fell into the abyss, never to be seen or heard again. He pulled himself up with swift and agile moves, reaching the opening in the rock Tristana informed him about. Another cave. The strange songs seemed to be coming from there. Shango started running forward with the light provided by his fairy revealing his path; it was a labyrinth-like maze, but there was only one way forward, thankfully.
The narrow cavernous path suddenly ended. Shango almost fell down on the abyss in front of him, but he managed to keep his balance. Then he raised his eyes; a vibrant, green to gray light was lighting the cave up. Thirty feet under him, the floor of the cave was perfectly shaped, worked by Pokemon as it was. An altar made of grey stone was raised right in the middle of the cavern; and in front of the altar, the Pokemon in the white cloak was kneeling, hands raised high. The hymns of Shango's dreams suddenly came to reality with this realization - that's what he was he was hearing this whole time. Along with that realization, he was able to spot some of the features of the body of the mysterious Pokemon - it was certainly of feline structure, while it resembled closely to him.
The hymning seemed to be from a completely different world, vibrant and unreal like the light that fell from the ceiling of the cavern. It was as if it crossed dimensions to be heard in this one; it charmed Shango, it made him feel whole as if his subconscious could understand the meaning of the words, but he truly did not in the very end. Then, it suddenly ended. Shango snapped out of it; he realized the figure was staring at him again, deeply and piercingly. Suddenly, terror jumped out to engulf his heart: what if that Pokemon was the enemy?
Regardless of his fear, he leaped down the rock, charmed by the figure. Landing was easy - everything seemed easy at the moment. Tristana seemed to have been enticed as well, as she was simply looking at the figure - it was only ten feet away from them.
"Who are you?" Shango managed to ask, his mouth left half-opened after he finished his sentence. "You reek of fantasy..." he whispered to the unmoving figure, not daring to approach further.
"What do you want?" the Zangoose continued and took a step closer, trying to pierce the darkness under the hood. It was all in vain - despite his powerful eyesight, the hood was perpetually covered by a veil, like it was hiding the face of this mysterious Pokemon on purpose. The figure opened his arms wide, welcoming him in a great hug.
Drawn forward by an indestructible desire, he took another step forward and hugged the Pokemon for reasons even he did not know. He was taller than him by one feet exactly; Shango felt a familiar source of power inside that Pokemon. It was a darkstar, surely, the hand that had merged with the gem was now tickling him at the back of that Pokemon. Yes, of course. Whoever that was, they had been touched by a darkstar, and not just once; forever, for a million lifetimes. Not just touched, they were made from a darkstar.
"Who are you?" he whispered again, looking inside the darkness of the cloak. The psalms this Pokemon was singing before were still echoing in his mind, though it was silent now. He felt a raging power inside, threatening clouds, an unspeakable power; he let go of him. To his surprise, he finally spoke, or rather, a message was left in his mind.
The Spirit of the Hashashin.
The storm came out as fierce wind. Those were the last words of the hood\ed Pokemon before it dispersed into a mist that shrouded Shango; it was like he could inhale it inside his own body, and so he did. He fell on his knees in front of the altar, panting heavily. His stomach was burning, his heart was beating faster and the pupils of his eyes had dilated so much, the emerald shine was lost - only black remained. After a few moments, he blinked, realizing that a white cloak with a hood and a cape were laying between him and the altar.
"Shango, are you alright?" he heard Tristana ask. "What happened?"
"I don't know... Did you hear that?"
"Spirit of the Hashashin..." she repeated slowly, looking up and thinking about it.
"I've never heard of such thing..." Shango muttered; then he thought that maybe the phrase was not actually literal. That hooded Pokemon could be an actual person... but who? One thing was for sure, before him was the same white cloak that Pokemon was wearing. The Zangoose picked it up from the shoulders with the kind of attention you lift the most precious jewels in the world. The material of the cloak was unknown to Shango - but it seemed limp, it easily fit according to his body's structure when he wore it. Despite its ends touching the ground, it would not impair him from running.
Beneath the cloak were some tight finger-free gloves and a cape, everything made from skin of the dragons; they were fireproof and nearly indestructible. He attached the black cape onto the shoulder of the cloak; he then examined the gloves. They appeared more like braces especially made to fit his hands. When he touched them, he felt an invisible force radiating from them, like they were not just braces. I'll get my uncle to look at them.
"You look alot different," Tristana admitted with an amazed expression, observing him from head to toe.
The gray light continued to hit Shango, who had now wore all of the clothes the hooded figure left behind; if he was a little taller, he would look identical to him, or so he thought. He smiled under the hood, feeling truly free in that cloak. He tied the red sash with his emblem around it to hold it up. It was much better than the old cloak of the Ionian Verdict.
"Come on," Shango said, with his eyes fixed on the rocky wall, his way out. He motioned at the Victini, who flew up and sat on his left shoulder, as usual.
"Let's get outta here, before I get the urge to hug any more strangers," he said in a humorous manner with a whole smile carved on his face. He sprinted up the wall and grabbed hold of the rocky edges; he discovered the gloves helped him greatly in climbing.
"Where's this light coming from, anyway?" he wondered out loud as he looked up. There was an opening on the ceiling of the cavern; he hung himself from the ceiling and made his way to it. When he reached it, before he pulled his body up, he glanced back at the altar.
Shango detected the source of the gray light: multiple gems were stuck on the walls of the cave that reflected a beam of moonlight originating from another opening in the far back of the tunnel. The Zangoose watched his reflection on the gems, the hooded Pokemon with the cloak, one and the same. It was now him - or was he seeing somebody else?
"Oh, my, Shango! These are diamonds," Tristana giggled, jumping down from his shoulder. As she fiddled with one of the rocks on the floor, Shango kneeled and picked some of them up; those would make him rich!
"Give them here. Your friends will be jealous," she said and snatched the small pieces of jewels from his hands. He looked around; but there were no more shattered gems of the kind, and the ones of the walls of the cavern wouldn't budge. He thought of digging them up... but then again, he was never fond of riches. It was the simple things in life that mattered most to him.
Tristana didn't share his opinion though; her partner started laughing at her behavior and grabbed her tiny hand, forcing her to follow. He walked towards the opening, the Victini clutching onto the gems as her biggest treasures.
"Diamonds are a girl's best friend," she stated, gritting her teeth from the effort of carrying so many diamonds.
"There are more valuable things in life," said Shango, looking at his gloves and cloak.
All of the Pokemon near the pond, including the Hashashin, were disturbing the peace of the night by snoring loudly. It sounded like Ramos's roars, but he was also snoring loudly, fallen in front of the stand. Shango had just woken up his cousin Crystal, who was rubbing her eyes. The Zangoose shook her shoulders.
"Crystal! What happened here?" he asked in a worried tone. She looked around, trying to wake up. She seemed drunk.
"Oh, that? We were just partying, man, weren't you here?"
"No, I wasn't."
Crystal then observed him with her eyes half closed. She suddenly looked menacing, the fierce look making her seem like how he was imagining the Hashashin.
"Fancy clothes, cousin," she said, looking at him examiningly, "where'd you find them?"
"I walked to the north and I found--"
But something interrupted them. Darkness erupted from the depths of the pond, creating a whirlpool - the next moment, the massive dragon emerged out of the water. A Hydreigon, terrifying sight in the middle of the night, and especially because it was none other than Nightingale. He looked surprisingly calm as he examined the area, utilizing all of his heads; after a while of quiet, he faced the two Hashashin.
"Partying again, eh?" he snickered with a threatening grin. "I strongly suggest you cut these out before Master learns you're wasting your time, loitering around..."
"That's what business with the Hotori now is, right? 'Loitering around'?" Crystal said, her tone giving off a feel of her disapproval towards the dragon. "We're simply following orders. What about you? What'd you want?" Crystal asked plainly.
"I want many things, but the one you should be aware of is that Master requires your services in Yanakard, north of here," the dragon replied coldly. His right head suddenly snapped its jaws, as if it caught a bug.
"What's happening?" the Zoroark sounded rather upset.
"The Cult has slid their own command into town. Try not to lose your heads when you arrive there," he said in a mocking tone before he dispersed into darkness. Shango recalled that same voice stating that he had killed his parents, and hatred rose in his heart again. He would learn more about Nightingale. But other things were more important at the moment.
"Yanakard is the waypoint of middle-eastern Stygia... if the Cult remains in control, they will soon proceed to the Horlon forest and conquer the grounds of the Hotori Tribe, something we have strove to prevent for centuries now."
Crystal was facing Shango now, and she finally looked innocent and feminine, just as she was supposed to be looking at her age.
"The Hotori are our allies, Shango, even if they don't know it."
"How does that work?"
"... I don't know. Let's wake the others up. We have a long way to go to Yanakard."
Last edited by Shango; February 2nd, 2013 at 11:50 AM.
Chapter 11: Alexander?
The sun had just settled behind the mountains of the west, in the depths of the horizon, painting the sky orange and purple. The clouds that usually cover Stygia had disappeared, strangely, offering clear sight to the travellers. Crystal had tripped three times already, as she was staring at the sky as if it was a magical object of captivating beauty, and the rest had to agree with her. They were all walking now, the stand moving besides them; their journey on their proud vessel was getting boring and monotonous. Two days had passed till the events of the Druid Festival, and Shango hadn't parted with his newfound cloak, even when he went to sleep. Tristana liked his new look, comparing it to the cloak of the Verdict, which was 'tighter and smaller and less cool'. Lately, she was on a cheerful, petty and teasing mood, filling his mind with her sharp comments, ideas and thoughts. But he would have none of it.
Shango seemed to worry about his past, especially about his step father. Ascendio Nome was so proud of him, and he simply disappeared from Ionia without saying good bye... not that he ever had a chance, but Ascendio wasn't aware of that. He wondered what had crossed the Scizor's mind after his disappearance. All aside his step father, he wasn't missing any of Hesperia. He felt like his place was now in Stygia, perhaps it always was. His place, amongst the Hashashin. Though he was afraid of whatever future might hold for him, he was somehow welcoming it. The glorious life of a nobleman of the free city of Ionia wasn't what he desired, he realized. All that fancy talk and dressing was the hypocritical side of life: beneath the high class of the Empire, poverty, struggle and sorrow filled the streets and the grand forests. He would rather see to that, instead of attending Ionia's council meetings, which were directed by the main question: how would the city's balance be spent best in favor of the strong ones.
The Hashashin... he had seen how they worked. It wasn't like how he had heard - there was connection between everyone, unlike what he had heard: that they are lone killers, always striving for the better of themselves, but still bound to rules set by the head of the brotherhood. No. What they were doing was corporate. They were helping each other. Being aware of that, he was sure uncle Pasqual wouldn't deny him his help. He was looking forward to his meeting his uncle. He would surely have the answers he was seeking about these braces he had found. Besides, the old man had promised to teach him how to 'fight like an Hashashin'. He didn't have a clue yet, apart from that time he fought the Shadow - but then, he was drunken with the power of the darkstar and he couldn't quite recall what his own movements were and how they affected his opponent's attitude in combat. Perhaps the Shadow wasn't as strong as he believed at first, and the powerful image the organization had created about themselves was just a phony. Stories from his childhood once made him believe that a single Hashashin could deal with hundreds in combat, but from what he had seen so far, that was impossible to be true. While Crystal seemed capable, she was too kindhearted to hurt anybody. It was true she was young still, but the fact remained. He didn't believe she had even killed anybody. Enzo was the same; as was Vincenzo. The Ambipom and the Bisharp didn't seem to be serious and dedicated enough to be killers. As for Ramos, he had no doubt he was an extremely powerful and experienced Pokemon, but, he had seen plenty of those in the ranks of the Verdict.
Crystal's voice suddenly brought him back to reality; he realized he was staring at her.
"I see Yanakard," said Crystal, looking up the cliff. Shango turned his head to see the gray stone buildings of the city on the edge of the steep cliff. There was no protective wall around them, as no opponent would reach them from the cliff.
"All right! Lollipops, here I come!" Enzo ran forward with his tail-hands gripping imaginary candies. He seemed to be in a hurry.
"Huh? What is he talking about?" Shango questioned, tilting his head as he looked at the running Enzo.
"Oh, he just likes lollipops," Crystal answered and giggled while staring at the excited Ambipom, who was now doing flips in the air as he ran up the hill. Shango did an expression that went unseen, questioning that Pokemon's connection to the Hashashin. Or rather, the seriousness of the Hashashin altogether...
They followed the path to the west through the fields that were full with flowers. When they reached the hill that would bring them to the same height with the city-state, they helped Ramos by pushing the stand. If Shango looked at them some years ago, when they were operating in Ionia, he would never think they were Hashashin; the circus business was truly the perfect cover. He vowed to ask uncle Pasqual who was the one that came up with it.
They were silent on their way to Yanakard. Shango was picking up some tension. Like the others, he was not aware of why they were needed in Yanakard, and according them, that city-state had history with the bloodthirsty Illinkar, the icy tribe that resided in the northern wastes. The Dark Cult had once made a secret agreement with the Illinkar that didn't go unnoticed by the Verdict, and of course, not unheard by Shango's ears. The Illinkar were to bring their armies in the plateau behind Yanakard, to get rid of the troublesome town that caused much fuss in the Stygian Empire after the war. The Cult wished to maintain its 'friendly' bonds with the other Stygian tribes they had conquered, so they simply hired the Illinkar to do their dark bidding. Now, the Dark Cult had taken over the town and the Hashashin presence in it had dropped greatly, as Crystal had informed him. Would they have to cross the Cult?
The great walls of Yanakard got even greater as they approached them. Archers were keeping their loyal vigil on top of them, ready to protect their city. Nobody was to enter apart from its own citizens, and the traders who had been officially invited. But, it seemed that the Hashashin were also familiar with the guards on the entrance. In truth, they were bribing them to let them pass, threatening to kill him if he ever spoke, of course. What was it gonna be, some extra money, or the end of his life? Not a very hard choice for anybody. Vincenzo flashed the papers of Ravenscare Enterprises and they were through in minutes. Without a second suspicious glance from them.
Shango was examining the city as they progressed further in it with curiosity mixed with dark interest. The houses seemed to be made entirely from gray stone, the roofs triangles with heavy, durable wood from the pine trees of the north - the Hotori wouldn't let anybody near the trees of their own forest, so the citizens of Yanakard were forced to travel across the plateau to bring lumber into the city, from the foot of the northern ranges. The stones were also brought from there, the gray mountains of northeastern Stygia. They were worked upon with extreme care - no pointy edges, only beautiful and slippery surfaces, making the houses look perfect. The Zangoose's eyes scanned the surrounding buildings; nothing seemed to be out of his reach, despite the surface not offering him standing when he climbed. He would be able to climb to the top of the tallest building of the area, if he ever had any need.
He was completely absorbed from his studying of building structures, when Crystal clutched his arm with massive strength he never expect her to have. She faced him with an expression that let him know now things were about to get serious, one he'd never seen again.
"Quick, hide," she said and looked forward again. Shango suddenly stopped moving and blended with the walking crowd behind him, letting the Pokemon be his hideout. He suddenly became somebody with a white cloak and a hood, a traveler, perhaps, by the look of him; he grinned at the feeling this ability of his gave him. It felt nice, being hidden once again, like a predator. He almost forgot to silently question Crystal what the meaning of this was.
Ahead of them, the Hashashin stopped their stand and stared at a certain direction; following their eyes, Shango saw and smelled two giant Skuntanks wearing white, silk braces on their right front feet. The braces had a black heart marking on them, being crossed by two shortswords. Shango recognized it right away - it was the symbol of the Dark Cult and the Templars. As a former member of the Ionian Verdict, Shango had shared the hatred of the Verdict towards the Cult. Now he could see why Crystal asked him to hide. He wasn't exactly anonymous to the Cult, as he was once with the Verdict. But that wasn't the only reason. He was an Hashashin now - the symbol on his sash claimed so - and the Cult had a much bigger quarrel with the Hashashin than the Verdict.
The two members of the Dark Cult seemed to harass a Swalot that appeared to be a citizen. The Pokemon passing by glanced at them and then quickly took away their eyes; Shango could feel their fear of losing their heads. He could now see the terror the Cult had spread in Stygia first-hand. With his eyes fixed on the evil Pokemon on the side of the street, he removed the symbol of the Hashashin from his sash, putting it aside. There was a sudden urge within him. He stopped walking, staring at the Swalot who was cowering, backstepping towards a backalley. Shango grabbed hold of his own wrist, bringing it in front of his red sash, as he stood there watching them. Some of the Pokemon around looked at the hooded Pokemon, being aware of his cloak, the symbol of the Hashashin. The Skuntanks disappeared in the darkness of the narrow alley and the Zangoose walked amongst the crowd, unnoticed by his Hashashin fellows that were still standing by. Shango wasn't sure of what they were planning on doing, but he knew one thing: he was going to kill the members of the Dark Cult.
His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the alley; it seemed to be a dead end, and the Swalot had cowered to it. The giant Pokemon had their backs turned to the Zangoose, who approached them with his claws extended. Shango twitched his nostrils to repel the stench, but he didn't mind in the end - soon, the scent of blood would fill them anyway. The fiery spirit on his shoulder shook with fear and tried to warn him just before he talked.
"Don't you have anything better to do?" his voice didn't sound like him - it was deeper and more threatening. His face was well protected under the hood, the Skuntanks could not see a bit of it. They turned to face him, knowing he was an Hashashin despite seeing no insignia. Their looks were ruthless and evil for a moment, but then they were shaken by what appeared to be acknowledgement.
"Well, if it isn't Alexander..." whispered one of them with a biased grin that gave away insecurity. Shango smirked his eyebrows together in wonder. Who is Alexander? Was he wearing the same cloak as me, is that how they recognized him?
"We thought you were gone from town," the other Skuntank chuckled. It sounded biased, as was his grin.
You ought to play along, Tristana spoke to his mind, getting him to think that the situation was truly favoring him.
"So you found the chance to terrorize the city again," he said calmly, with the same menacing tone. He could see fear in their eyes, and he wondered a million times who this Alexander was.
"No! Of course not--" begun saying one of them, but the Swalot walked forward.
"They were trying to force me to leave the city!" he shouted in determination.
Shango didn't need to be asked twice. He charged forward with his arms slightly extended, as if wanting to hug the opponent. The move caught them by surprise and he managed to slash the nearest Skuntank's ribs, but the templar jumped away before he could do more damage. The other Skuntank attempted a night slash, but Shango was faster - he avoided the dark-type's extended feet and pounced on it from the side, throwing it down and sliding his claws on the vital point of the base of the neck. Blood was spilled on the ground, his hands soaked with it.
Right then, Shango was thrown away from the dead body, rolling aside; the Skuntank was right above him, ready to bite his head off. Their eyes met for a moment. "You... you're not Alexander," he whispered in shock. The Zangoose grabbed his feet and cracked them up under his strength with a nasty sound, his opponent letting out a howl of pain; his already bloodied claws were stuck on his chest, and his opponent was suddenly out of breath.
Shango threw the dead Skuntank away, careful not to touch any more blood. His hands and chest were already stained; now he was suddenly worried that somebody would have heard the howls, the Hashashin probably, and would have gone to see what had went on. He got up to his feet, to be faced by the Swalot right away.
"Alexander..." he spoke with concern, "where have you been?" the citizen asked quietly, with a sad expression. Shango stayed silent for a second, observing the Pokemon. He was a trader, surely - his belt was full of pouches with powder and coins.
"Taking a break," he said plainly. He didn't like lying, but when it became necessary, he was good at it. Shango pointed his claw to the Swalot. "You be safe from now on. Stay out of trouble."
"Is there anything I can do to repay you?"
"Bring me some water. I need to wash this filthy blood off my hands."
The Pokemon started laughing. "Since when did you get so touchy, Alex?"
As Shango stayed silent, staring at him intently, the trader was gone. This Pokemon seemed to be familiar with this phantom, Alexander. He was back after two minutes, carrying a steel bucket of water. Shango kneeled and sank his bloodied hands in it and washed them; then cleaned his chest off as well. He didn't want the Hashashin to see any signs of combat. The Swalot kept staring at him.
"Haven't you gotten old?" he finally asked, looking at him suspiciously.
"The bringing of justice and liberation aren't limited by age, my friend," Shango uttered, forging a faint smile under the hood. The Swalot still seemed troubled.
"... by my calculations, dear Alexander, you are about seventy five years old... nobody can take out two of those," he pointed at the templars, "at that age."
Shango stared at him and slowly got up from the ground. He was taking big risks, pretending to be someone else, and he was ready to take an even bigger risk. If this Alexander was wearing a hood, he would have been an Hashashin.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked, keeping his cool.
"You're an Hashashin... Alexander," the Swalot whispered.
"Exactly. That should answer all of your questions," Shango said and walked away.
The sun had just settled behind the mountains of the west, painting the sky orange and purple in the depths of the horizon. The clouds that usually cover Stygia had disappeared, strangely, offering clear sight to the travellers. Crystal had tripped three times already, as she was staring at the sky as if it was a magical object of captivating beauty. She and the rest had agreed to walk for a bit; their journey with the stand was getting boring and monotonous. Two days had passed till the events of the Druid Festival, and Shango hadn't parted with his newfound cloak, even when he went to sleep. He had started to feel bad for Ascendio Nome; he was so proud of him, and he simply disappeared from Ionia. But surprisingly, he did not miss any of Hesperia. His place was now in Stygia, amongst the Hashashin, even if he was pretending to be a street performer for the rest of his life. Not that he was planning on doing that. Right now, he was looking forward to his meeting with uncle Pasqual, who would have some answers for the glove-braces he had found. But he was also curious as to what he had to teach him regarding the way the Hashashin fought. Stories from his childhood led him to believe that one of the Hashashin could deal with hundreds, but from what he had seen so far, that was impossible to be true. While Crystal seemed capable, she was too kindhearted to hurt anybody. Enzo was the same; as was Vincenzo. As for Ramos, he had no doubt he was an extremely powerful Pokemon.
"I see Yanakard," said Crystal, looking up the cliff. Shango raised his head from the ground to see the gray stone buildings of the city on the edge of the cliff.
"All right! We gonna eat sum' lollipops, yeah!" Enzo ran forward with his tail-hands gripping imaginary candies.
"Huh? What's he talking about," asked Shango.
"Oh, he just likes lollipops," Crystal answered and giggled while staring at the excited Ambipom, who was now jumping up and down. Shango almost brought his paw to his face, questioning that Pokemon's connection to the Hashashin.
They followed the path to the west through the fields that were full with flowers. When they reached the hill that would bring them to the same height with the city-state, they helped Ramos by pushing the stand. If Shango looked at them a year ago, he would never think they were Hashashins; the circus business was truly the perfect cover.
They weren't talking on their way to Yanakard. Shango was picking up some tension. Like the others, he was not aware of why they were needed in Yanakard, and according to the others, that city-state had history with the bloodthirsty Illinkar. Dark Cult enforced that northern Stygian tribe in the past, so they would quietly get rid of a troublesome town without hurting their reputation amongst the other tribes. Now, the Dark Cult had taken over the town and the Hashashin influence over it had dropped greatly. Would they have to fight the Cult?
The great walls of Yanakard got even greater as they approached them. Mage-guards had taken positions on top of them, ready to protect the guards below with ranged attacks; generally, nobody passed the gates, but it appeared that the Hashashin were 'familiar' with one of the guards. In truth, they were bribing him to let them pass, threatening to kill him if he ever spoke of course. Vincenzo took simply flashed the papers of Ravenscare Enterprises and they were through in minutes.
Shango was examining the city as they progressed further in it with curiosity mixed with dark interest. The houses seemed to be made entirely from gray stone. Everything was made out of stones that were worked on with extreme care - no pointy edges, only beautiful and slippery surfaces. The Zangoose's eyes scanned the surrounding buildings; nothing seemed to be out of his reach. He would be able to climb to the top of the tallest building of the area.
He was completly absorbed from his study of building structures, when Crystal clutched his arm with a massive strength he never expect her to have. She faced him with a serious expression that let him know now things were about to get serious.
"Quick, hide," she said and looked forward again. Shango suddenly stopped moving and he mixed with the walking crowd behind him. He suddenly became somebody with a white cloak and a hood; he grinned at the feeling this ability of his gave him. The other Pokemon next to him did not even notice him, somehow.
Ahead of them, the Hashashin stopped their stand and stared at a certain direction; following their eyes, Shango saw and smelled two giant Skuntanks wearing white vambraces on their right front feet. The vambraces had a black heart marking on them, and Shango recognized it right away - it was the symbol of the Dark Cult. As a former member of the Ionian Verdict, Shango had known the hatred between the two factions.
The two members of the Dark Cult seemed to harass a Swalot that appeared to be a citizen. The Pokemon passing by glanced at them and then quickly took away their eyes; Shango could feel the fear of losing their heads. He could now see the terror the Cult had spread in Stygia first-hand. With his eyes fixed on the evil Pokemon on the side of the street, he removed the symbol of the Hashashin from his sash. That was the reason Crystal told him to hide - if the Dark Cult saw the symbol, they would certainly try to kill him. Thinking this, he tried to contain the urge to engage with them in a fight, but he couldn't resist.
He stopped walking again, staring at the Swalot who was cowering, backstepping towards a backalley. Shango grabbed hold of his wrist, bringing it in front of his red sash. As the Skuntanks disappeared in the darkness of the narrow alley, the Zangoose in the cloak walked amongst the crowd, unnoticed by his Hashashin fellows that were still standing by. Shango wasn't sure of what they were planning on doing, but he knew one thing: he was going to kill the members of the Dark Cult.
His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the alley; it seemed to be a dead end, and the Swalot had cowered to it. The giant Pokemon had their backs turned to the Zangoose, who approached them with his claws extended. Shango twitched his nostrils to repel the stench, but he didn't mind.
"Don't you have anything better to do?" his voice certainly did not sound like Shango - it was deeper, as threatening as a whisper. His face was well protected under the hood, the Skuntanks could not see a bit of it. They turned to face him, their looks ruthless.
"Well, if it isn't Alexander..." whispered one of them with a biased grin that gave away insecurity. Shango smirked his eyebrows together. Who is Alexander? Was he wearing the same cloak as me, is that how they recognized him?
"We thought you were gone from town, mate," the other Skuntank chuckled. It sounded biased, as was his grin. Shango thought quickly - the situation was favouring him, so he would play along for now.
"So you found the chance to terrorize the city again," he said calmly, with the same menacing voice. He could see fear in their eyes, and he wondered a million times who Alexander was.
"No! Of course not--" begun saying one of them, but the Swalot walked forward.
Shango didn't need to be asked twice. He charged forward with his arms slightly extended to intimidate the foe; he slashed the nearest Skuntank's ribs, but he jumped away before he could do more damage. The other Skuntank attempted a night slash, but Shango was faster - he avoided the dark-type's extended feet and pounced on it from the side, throwing it down and sliding his claws on the vital point of the base of the neck. Blood was spilled on the ground, his hands soaked with it.
Right then, Shango was thrown away from the dead body; the Skuntank was right above him, ready to bite his head off. Their eyes met for a moment. "You... you're not Alexander," he whispered in shock. The Zangoose grabbed his feet and cracked them up with a nasty sound, his opponent letting out a howl of pain; his already bloodied claws were stuck on his chest, and he was suddenly out of breath.
Shango threw the dead Skuntank away, careful not to touch any more blood. He got up to his feet, to be faced by the Swalot right away.
"Alex... where have you been?" the citizen asked quietly, with a sad expression. Shango stayed silent for a second.
"Taking a break," he said plainly. He didn't like lying, but when it became necessary, he was good at it. Shango pointed his claw to the Swalot. "Be safe from now on."
"Is there anything I can do to repay you?"
"Bring me some water. I need to wash this filthy blood off my hands."
The Pokemon started laughing. "Since when did you get so touchy, Alex?"
As Shango stayed silent, staring at him intently, the citizen was gone. He was back after two minutes, carrying a steel bucket of water. Shango kneeled and sank his bloodied hands in it and washed them; he didn't want the Hashashin to see any signs of combat. The Swalot kept staring at him.
"Haven't you gotten old?" he finally asked.
"Justice and liberation aren't limited by age, my friend," Shango said, a faint smile appearing under the cloak. The Swalot still seemed troubled.
"... by my calculations, dear Alexander, you are about seventy five years old... nobody can fight that good at that age."
Shango stared at him and slowly got up from the ground. He was taking big risks, pretending to be someone else, and he was ready to take an even bigger risk.
"Do you know who I am?" he asked, keeping his cool.
"You're an Hashashin, Alex..." the Swalot whispered.
"Exacty. That should answer all of your questions," Shango said and walked away.
Whoever that Alexander was, he was an Hashashin that helped the citizens of Yanakard. All Shango had to do was ask about him. With these thoughts in mind, he wandered the streets of Yanakard, always hidden from the public eye; he was afraid of being recognized as Alex again. He felt the urge to hide somewhere and talk to Tristana freely, but he decided againist it, although he was feeling her curiosity flaming up. Luckily, he was found by Crystal soon enough.
"Shango!" she shouted, grabbing his arm. "Where've you been?! We moved on when you were left behind..."
The Zangoose shrugged with a convincing plain face. "I got lost."
"Oh..." the Zoroark muttered.
"Listen, Crystal, I've been meaning to ask y--"
"Not now, we've gotta hurry," she said abruptly and turned around. Shango followed her quietly. "By the way, here's your share of the gold," she threw him a pouch full of gold coins; he caught it and looked at it surprised.
"What's this for?"
"The Druid Festival, of course."
"So, I'm getting paid? Sweet!" he yelled and hung the pouch from his sash.
"By the way, I forgot to tell you - hide your symbol, it's not welcome here," Crystal added in a more serious tone.
They turned right into a dark and filthy street; Shango looked all around with the same curiosity he had shown before. But before he could examine the architecture, his cousin pulled him towards her.
"Go inside this shop and order a 'lamp'. Subtly show your symbol and get the 'lamp'."
"Never question my orders," she said in a motherly tone. Shango said nothing. He looked at the shop; it was full of all kinds of tools and other stuff Shango was not aware of their use. As he walked inside, his eyes were instantly drawn by a massive figure in the far end of the shop. A Krookodile with a mean expression and threatening eyes was sitting on a steel chair behind a bar; next to him, in a smaller chair, a Krokorok had the same expression. Their relation was so obvious, Shango thought nobody would have ever questioned it.
The hoodied Zangoose walked over to the bar without looking anywhere else other than inside the black eyes of what seemed to be a merchant.
"I'm looking for some 'lamp'," Shango said quietly, subtly pulling off the symbol of the Hashashin from inside his cloak and holding it onto his hand; the Krookodile did not break eye contact with Shango. He only nodded towards his son, who got up from his chair and went somewhere behind Shango. When he returned, he was holding a key. Shango turned to him, finally take his eyes from the merchant that was staring down at him intently, and took the key. He then proceeded to grab his pouch, but the Krokorok stopped him and nodded towards the entrance.
Shango left the shop, ever silent. Crystal was waiting for him outside.
"What in the world was all this about?" he asked, more to himself than Crystal in fear of 'questioning her orders'.
"D'you get the 'lamp'?" she asked impatiently and grabbed the key when he showed her it. "Alright, let's get goin', then, I'm starting to get real sick of this place." And she bolted.
They walked for a while through some narrow streets that seemed impossible to navigate through. But Crystal knew where she was going, and Shango didn't dare to upset her with any more questions. He lost himself in his own thoughts about Alexander, but they were soon cut off as they suddenly entered a dark alley like the one the event with the Skuntanks took place in. The stand of Ravenscare was waiting for them in the far back, along with the rest of the Hashashin in the group.
"At last!" said Vincenzo in a tone that clearly stated he was fed up with waiting.
"A'oy, we been waitin' for hours!" shouted Enzo. His tails were holding two lollipops each.
"I see you found your lollipops," noticed Shango with a smile onto his face.
"Aye! Want one?" he said with a crazy smile to counter Shango's calm one. "Think fast!" he threw all four lollipops, and before even Shango got to know what had happened, he was holding all of them from their sticks in his hands. The others looked at him as if he was some kind of paranormal phenomenon. How did I do that?
"You can keep 'em, mate," said the Ambipom. Vincenzo lifted a box and rolled his eyes.
"We 'ave plenty of those, ya see," continued Enzo as he grabbed more lollipops from inside the box.
Meanwhile, Crystal caught Shango's attention. She was just staring at the wall.
"What are you upto?"
"Shh, I'm trying to think."
Enzo came and sat next to her, staring at the wall and tilting his head. "What're you using to think?" he said and started laughing. Vincenzo chuckled as well; Ramos snored, as he was sleeping, apparently.
"Something that you don't have!" said Crystal with a grin. Enzo stopped laughing and made a grimace that involved his tongue. The Zoroark suddenly stuck the key into an invisible keyhole in the wall, or so it seemed to Shango. She turned it, and the wall just moved out of the way.
"Oh, magic! This is rad, man," sounded Enzo. Crystal was the first one to walk inside.
It was a dark, empty room with a closed window on the opposite wall of the entrance. The room big enough for all of them to sleep there, but it smelled so weird, Shango put the side of his claw on his nose to block it. Ramos, due to his size, couldn't get through the door so he muttered something about sleeping outside.
"What is this smell?" Shango inquired, looking around.
"Oh, that? Decomposing flesh," she said in a normal tone. Right then, Shango spotted the dead body of a Noctowl in the corner. His eyes opened wide at the sight.
"Get it out?"
"You've got nerves of steel, that's why," Crystal said and they all started laughing, except the Bisharp. As Vincenzo took the Noctowl outside, Shango went ahead and opened the window.
"What is this place, anyway?"
"Our hideout, yo!" shouted Enzo as he took off his belt, put it on the ground and bolted outside. Shango carefuly put off his cloak, folding it and placing it on the corner which was stinking less.
"Alright, now that we're alone--" started Shango, willing to ask about Alexander, but was interrupted by Enzo who bolted back inside.
"Carlos is here! Carlos is here!" his voice sounded melodic, as if he was singing. "Better get outside, mates."
Crystal and Shango followed the Ambipom outside the dark room; Karnos's crimson light filled the area, indicating that it was past midnight. The Krookodile merchant was standing on the alley, in front of the Ravenscare stand, crossing his arms and staring at them with the same mean expression as if he found biting their heads off a good idea.
Vincenzo and Enzo were standing next to each other, facing Carlos. Ramos was sleeping behind the stand.
"H-hello, Carlos!" said Enzo with a trembling voice once they were all there. Crystal chuckled and leaned towards Shango, whispering, "Carlos is the only one of us who can take care of Enzo's disruptive behaviour!"
"You're finally here," said the Krookodile with his arms still crossed. Then his black eyes were fixed on Shango. "Newcomer, eh? Don't waste yourself on these guys here, boy," he said and chuckled, with a massive grin that revealed his sharp teeth. The others chuckled as well, but theirs were biased. Shango wondered who this Carlos was, and what he meant by 'wasting himself on them' exactly.
"You can go," the Krookodile said, looking at the others. They seemed to hesitate for a moment. "Get moving!" he shouted and they vanished inside the house.
"Come closer," he spoke in a low voice Shango barely heard. He doubted if going closer was a good idea. He glanced behind him, in the darkness, then looked at Carlos again; he approached slowly.
"I could've sworn, boy..." he whispered, "that Alexander came by my shop... and bought some 'lamp'."
Shango cursed the cloak inside his mind. Everybody mistook him as this Alexander, and he didn't even know who he was; the 'Spirit of the Hashashin' had given him the cloak, and that only gave birth to more questions. He looked the Krookodile straight in the eye without showing any fear.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Of course you don't... somebody told me you lost your memory, right?"
Shango nodded and the Krookodile started a twisted, loud laugh that made him sound like a pirate; it contradicted his low, whispering voice. Shango figured Carlos was doing that alot.
"Alright... I promise I won't investigate anything for now. Alexander is dead, you know. At least for us Hashashin!"
He then turned towards the door of the hideout. "Come out you filthy animals!" he shouted. Shango was sure the entire neighborhood heard him. The Hashashin walked outside one by one.
"Who is this boy?" Carlos asked them in a tone that revealed... concern? It sounded strange to Shango's ears.
"Shango Maverick, sir," muttered Enzo.
"Maverick, eh? And he doesn't remember a thing?"
"No," Crystal said plainly. Shango could feel the words that hadn't been said were as meaningful as the ones that had. They were hiding something. The Krookodile scratched his chin.
"Now, onto business, gals. You've been called here for one reason: kick the darned Cult outta this city," Carlos walked over to them with his hands behind his back. "You are to attent tonight's events on the Trade Square; as performers, of course."
"What will be happening there?" asked Vincenzo, seemingly unafraid of Carlos. The Krookodile thought about it for a moment, staring at the ground.
"The Cult will be giving a speech. We will make sure they never deliver the message... know what I mean?"
"You can count on us, sir!" the Ambipom and put both of his tails on his chest.
All Pokemon of Yanakard gathered in the Trade Square, crowding the place up. The cacophony of all the conversations combined together was even worse than the morning chatter of Chatots. In the middle of them all, on top of a small hill were standing three Pokemon with vambraces bearing the symbol of the Dark Cult; two Houndooms and a Lopunny, who was holding a paper. But these weren't the only Templars in the area - Shango and the rest of the Hashashin had spotted guards amongst the crowd, as well as some of them circling all around the Trade Square.
Shango had wore his cloak without fear of being recognized. He had yet to find any information regarding this Alexander; and the rest of his accomplices were occupied with their own business. They had sneaked into the crowd, jumping down from the roofs. Ramos had intimidated the guards, who let him pass normally in fear of any of their limbs being snapped off. They were now staring at the Templars atop the hill, who were chatting quickly with each other; Shango was looking elsewhere entirely. South of the square, there was a ledge and a peculiar statue ever farther. He couldn't see clearly through all the Pokemon, so he decided to get closer.
Crystal grabbed his shoulder. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"I wanna see that statue," he said, glancing at her. She sighed for some weird reason.
"Fine. Let's go - their speech won't start any time soon, by the looks of it."
They pushed away the crowd, reaching the bronze statue. Shango opened his eyes wide to get a load of what he was seeing. A Zangoose in the very same robes he was wearing was raising his hand in the air, with his claws extended like he was about to fight. Next to him, a female Zoroark was standing behind him, grabbing his shoulder and looking straight forward with an expression that reminded Shango the one Crystal was taking when things were serious.
Shango quietly jumped down the ledge, looking up at the statue in silent amazement. Crystal followed him nervously.
"Is this... us?" he whispered, staring at the statue.
"No, Shango... it's not. It's Alexander and Alice, the saviours of Yanakard."
He touched the bronze statue as if it was a source of power.
"There is an old tale... that this city was saved from the Illinkar armies that descended from the north by these two; Alexander and Alice..."
Alex & Alice
At a time when the Dark Cult had still massive influence over any town of Stygia, fourty years before the life and times of Shango Maverick, Yanakard grew to be one of the most powerful city-states of Altica. The riches that were brought to it by the caves full of tristanite ore beneath it blessed the lands around; but soon, the citizens would deem them cursed, as such riches drew the attention of the Illinkar. The Illinkar were bloodthirsty warriors of the northern icelands that were launching surprise attacks on various locations of Altica, stealing resources and ravaging the lands.
The mighty armies of the Illinkar arrived at the Terra Plateau, outside the walls of Yanakard with intentions to destroy the city. The God they were worshipping, Kyurem, was on their side as well; the residents of Altica could see the massive shadow of the dragon Pokemon on the ground as it flew on the skies, spreading snow and freezing the land. The summer was hot, until the Illinkar arrived - every farm was burned, burried under six feet of snow; the bloodthirsty warriors would not waste time and men in an attempt to conquer Yanakard, though - they would just let the Stygians rot away in the snow, surrounded by every corner. As the city-state was built on the edge of a great cliff two hundred feet high, the residents of Yanakard had three choices: jump down it, hoping to survive, stay in their beloved city and die like rats in the snow, or go forward and face the vast armies of the vicious and ruthless tribe that had them surrounded.
Everyone inside the city had given up, but most wouldn't dare jump off a cliff; so they stayed inside, waiting to die. Food supplies had long drawn out and the city was on lockdown. Nobody was able or allowed to go in and out. Except two particular Pokemon, the Pokemon that are represented as statues in the middle of Yanakard's Trade Square up until today...
The snow was so thick, their feet were sinking right in it. They had just gotten passed the walls of Yanakard by climbing them. No normal Pokemon could climb the sharp rocks of these walls, but then again, those two were not normal Pokemon. They were now two shady silhouettes in the terrible fog that also brought hail and snow, walking amongst the houses that were almost completly burried under the snow. One of them was a male Zangoose, namely Alexander. Next to him was the female Zoroark going by the name Alice. The two of them were identical with the statues that would be build to honour them two years ago.
"I hate snow," whined Alice as she tried to get her feet out of the thick layer of snow. The Zangoose rolled his eyes.
"Are you girls always that touchy?" he said out loud, slightly smiling.
"Oh? Getting to know us now, aren't we, Alex?"
"Of course. Why not, anyway? You're most interesting!" he replied with the same smile and a hint of flirtation in his voice. He glanced at the Zoroark; he could tell she was infatuated by his constant flirtatious behaviour, even though she was hiding it. Things were complicated between the two, you see.
"I hope you know what you're doing," she whispered, Alex barely hearing her from the sound of wind.
"I always know what I'm doing," he replied arrogantly, but it was mostly the truth.
They reached a building with a chimney that let out black smoke; it was probably the only firehouse in Yanakard that was still burning. The supplies of wood were only kept for the leader of the village only. Some deemed it an injustice, and Alex and Alice couldn't agree more. The Zangoose glanced at his partner behind him with a disgusted face and his tongue out, before he knocked on the door.
"Since when do you enter houses from the door?" Alice asked him in a playful manner that made him smile again. He was smiling alot lately - ever since he met her, to be precise.
"Apart from every aspect of mine, I like to be polite," he replied in a gentleman's voice that didn't seem fake. "I am also very modest," he added jokingly.
Just then, the door opened, a male Azumarill with a face roughened from the tight conditions of this life appeared on the doorstep.
"Who are you people?" he asked in an expression that clearly stated that they were not welcome. He had understood they weren't residents of Yanakard from their looks, apparently.
"Oh, allow us entrance to your lovely house," Alex said with a grin that showed all of his white, sharp fangs. He rudely bypassed the Azumarill and was immediately followed by the Zoroark who slightly pushed the leader out of the way.
They walked inside the warm house with their eyes fixed on the fire burning in the firehouse; multiple boxes were spread all around that contained all kinds of food. The leader of Yanakard ran behind them.
"How dare you!" he yelled and was about to grab the Zangoose's shoulder, but he turned to face him with an expression that shook his heart with terror.
"Yeah, you have an indeed lovely house," his grin had disappeared and his tone was colder than all the snow that raged outside. "I wonder where you found all this food. Stole it from the citizens, eh?"
Before he could answer, Alice spoke in a relatively softer tone. "We're not here to scold you, mister Jarn'Ed. We're here to help you."
The Azumarill named Jarn'Ed crossed his arms. He was about fifty years old and still had no family; probably for reasons the Dark Cult knew.
"And how are you two going to help us againist an entire army?"
Alex spoke in a mocking tone, his grin returning to his face, "leave that up to us, jarhead - what was your name again?"
The leader took an expression that showed he was deeply insulted by Alex's manners, but Alice interrupted him again. "Are you willing to help us?"
"Help you? How?" he asked. Something in his tone revealed to them he was a coward.
"We will bring the God Kyurem right in the middle of the town where we will defeat him," she said simply, like it was an every day task. Jarn'Ed looked at them as if they were insane.
"You people are crazy! Get out of my house," he yelled and grabbed Alice's shoulder.
"Wrong move, gringo," said the Zangoose and pushed him away with such force the Azumarill fell to the ground; Alex pounced on him, pinning him on the ground with his claws.
"Alexander!" shouted Alice, seemingly angry. She was admiring him, deep down, because he knew how to get what he wanted. As the leader was struggling under his grip, Alex turned to look at his partner.
"I love it when you call me that!"
"W-who are y-you people?!" the Azumarill managed to ask, still struggling. Alex thought it was time to throw his trump card.
"We are Hashashins," he said while looking at him straight in the eye; his emerald eyes glowed with passion as he held the leader down.
"Y-you traitors! You sold us to the Dark Cult!"
"We are not serving you, nor the Dark Cult," said the Zoroark coldly, crossing her arms while staring at the helpless Azumarill. "The Hashashin aren't helping you either - we two just take liberties."
"Now, if you don't do as we say, your body will be hung from the tallest building of the main square," Alex whispered in a menacing tone; both of the Hashashin knew they were not as cruel as to do that, but the leader was not aware of that. His eyes were open wide.
"What do you want, then?" he asked, when he finally calmed down.
"We want you to evacuate the main square," informed him the Zoroark, "take the citizens as much farther away as you can."
Alex let go of the leader's neck and stood up above him without saying a word. Then he looked over at Alice. "Let's get outta here before this guy here gets mad," he said and adopted a fake scared expression that made Alice start laughing.
And they left.
"We're in so much trouble," muttered Alice as they walked through the snow; they had now gotten outside the city's walls, now crossing Terra Plateau towards the north, where the Illinkar armies dwelled.
"I've always wanted to fight a legendary," said Alex, covering his forehead and eyes with his arm to protect them from the snow.
"I was talking about the Hashashin, Alex," she replied in a serious tone. "The Dark Cult wanted Yanakard out of the way, and we're supposed to help them get what they want..."
"How many times do I have to hear this story?" he yelled angrily through the raging wind. "I don't care about the stupid ideals the Hashashin are forcing into us! What is more worth it, our lives, or the two thousand lives of Yanakard?"
Alice had nothing to respond to him. At times like this, she admired the selfish spirit that was hidden under Alex's multiple layers of selfishness and cockyness. His whole personality was weird and enticing, in a way.
Far ahead, amongst the white of the snow in the ground and the grey of the sky, a darker gray appeared. Warriors standing in formation. The Illinkar were standing like this, unshakable, for months; it was one of their war customs. As the two Hashashin approached them, a group of soldiers was motivated againist them.
"We come in peace," shouted Alex at them on top of his lungs.
"Almost," Alice added in a lower voice and they both chuckled.
The shadowy figures in front of them approached even more. A Beartic was the leader of the group; the Pokemon was wearing a crown on his head. It was the monarch of the Illinkar, no doubt.
"We don't sign any contracts for peace," he shouted coldly. "Quickly tell me what you desire, before my men take your heads!"
Alex was about to answer him with something that was probably inappropriate, but Alice stopped him. He run his claws through the fur of his head to shake off the snow.
"I challenge your God to a duel," he shouted without any signs of fear or paranoia in his voice. Conversations started amongst the soldiers with a tone of doubt. Alex truly knew what he was doing - according to the Illinkar customs, no warrior on their ranks could refuse a duel, and that included their God as well. Refusing the duel would mean the loss of their honour, and the honour amongst the Illinkar was the most sacred aspect of a living being.
"You don't stand a chance," said the monarch. They barely heard him; his expression was weird.
"Hope costs us nothing!" the Zangoose shouted back with a cocky grin.
"Fine then. You shall be crushed by the might of our God!" replied the Beartic. He was clearly upset, and that gave them the edge.
"Bring it on! You know my terms. If I win, you leave this land and go back to where you came from!"
"You fool! You are disrespecting our God by simply thinking you could win!"
Alex did not respond to that. "Cast him in the middle of Yanakard - what a better way to win over the city, don't you agree?"
The Hashashin turned around, leaving the Illinkar in controversy between them.
Back in the main square of Yanakard, Alex was staring at the sky with Alice right next to him; they waited, but they knew Kyurem wouldn't arrive so early. At some point, the Zangoose turned to his partner, who eyed him with concern.
"My life depends on you," he said in a serious tone and grabbed her furry shoulders, looking her straight in the eye.
"That doesn't make me feel better," Alice muttered, breaking eye contact and looking at the snow their feet were slowly sinking into. Alex shook her slightly.
"It makes mefeel better. I'm sure you're gonna do fine, Alice," he touched her chin, making her look at him again; her concern was obvious.
"What about you? You won't last a second..."
"You're underestimating me, sweetcheeks," he said with one of his charming smiles. The Zoroark couldn't help but smile back.
"I have faith in you," he continued, "have faith in me, Alice."
Alex let go of her, wishing he hadn't. "Try to get in position now, yeah?"
She quietly nodded and turned her back to him; she slowly walked towards the only house that wasn't burried under the snow and kicked open the door. The Zangoose took his eyes off her and stared at the sky fearlessly, the wind racing through his fur.
A massive figure appeared through the clouds, the snow suddenly getting more intense as if the presence of that Pokemon affected it. The giant dragon flapped his wings and dove to the ground. Kyurem landed on the snow, his feet halfway burried through it, he paced forward towards the Hashashin.
Alex's heart was racing faster than the snow above him, and although the monstrosity that would be his opponent in a duel seemed deadlier than one thousand soldiers, he never questioned his own powers and ideals. The dragon's voice sounded unused, as if it was coming from the bottom of the ocean.
"Who are you, to build up the courage to stand up againist ME?"
He smashed his front feet on the snow and roared to the sky. The Zangoose adopted a battle stance he had developed on his own. This'll be the battle of my life, he was thinking. What an unfair battle. Or not? I came here to cheat. That's the only way to win. Cheat in a duel between a God. Who am I? Another God? Or just one Hashashin? He glanced at the house where Alice had disappeared to, and he thought there was a good chance he wouldn't see her again... hold her onto his arms. Alex would simply have to delete that possibility off his mind; find the courage to believe that he would win. He remembered the statue of the Spirit of the Hashashin in his homeland - their mentor, their guide and their sacred father. The remembrance alone gave him enough strength to face Kyurem, extending his claws towards the beast.
"Why don't you find out who I am in battle?" he performed a taunting gesture with his claws, slightly grinning. The dragon roared again and launched a stream of cold air, manipulating the snow in the area into a giant hurricane; when the attack was finished, Kyurem looked pleased to see Alex fallen in the snow. But that only lasted for a moment - the Hashashin got up and charged at the dragon with incredible speed, his feet barely touching the snow.
The Zangoose stuck his claws on the base of the dragon's throat, who roared again; the attack had gone through, and when Kyurem swung his body violently, Alex was already gone from his eyesight. Half a second after, he landed on the back of his neck, sinking his four claws imbued with poison onto the dragon. This time, the beast was ready - although he could not face him, he exhaled ultracold air that circled around his body, blowing the Hashashin away about thirty feet. Alex rolled onto the snow, and it took him a moment to catch up with the momentum, but he got up and faced Kyurem; his attacks hadn't done more than just stings onto the dragon's body, but he was plan was not to fight him that way. The fate of Yanakard rested on his shoulders, and on his claws of course.
This time, the God proceeded into a frontal assault by opening his wings like a jet plane. He charged towards Alex, who tumbled to the right and launched himself from the bed of snow into the air. He landed on Kyurem's back; the dragon exhaled air once again, but the Hashashin was gone again. Alex slashed the dragon's feet in a second, then raised his claws upwards onto its belly. He lept into the air again, his claws piercing the neck of the beast. He would now give it all in a waltz, a deadly dance of his claws and a speed performance around the God.
But with a sudden, abrupt move, Kyurem shot him in the air; the stream of cold air was repeated again, this time hitting Alex full force. He was barely able to get on his one knee now, panting heavily and with his heart ready to explode. Then it happened: the clouds in the skies turned black, lightnings crossed the sky. The ground started shaking and the snow started melting. Kyurem was pinned down to his spot, staring at the sky; a massive shadow had appeared amongst the clouds, coming right at them. The ground underneath the snow erupted with magma, another shadowy figure beneath it.
The God of Black, Zekrom and the God of White, Reshiram, appeared almost at the same time. They stood next to the kneeling Hashashin like guardians; Kyurem was frozen on his spot, and as he was, the two Gods assaulted him and he begun roaring. The Hashashin gathered all of his courage and covered the distance between him and his opponent with speed; Kyurem had lowered his head, that giving Alex the opportunity to pounce on it. He stuck his claws right into the beast's eyes. This time, cold water was spilled from the beast; it appeared to be his blood. Kyurem roared and shook his body violently again, but Alex had already launched himself backwards.
Blinded as he was, he let out another mighty roar and flapped his wings.
"What is this? You are to fight one on one on this duel!"
He was screaming, his voice echoing to the skies. He didn't seem to care about being blind, and that surprised Alex. Panting quickly, he glanced at his hands, icy water was covering them. Then he looked back at Kyurem.
"There were no Gods," he said between his breaths. "It was all a trick," he shouted. It was true - the sky had never broke open, and the snow had never melted. It was merely an illusion.
The God snarled, facing the direction of the sound of his voice.
"I suggest you and your army leave Yanakard. You lost the duel - you can't go on."
"TRY TO STOP ME!" he screamed. Alex dashed to the right, as Kyurem launched another hurricane-like stream of air towards the direction he was facing; the Hashashin took a deep breath. It was time for the last resort, his last of the last of trump cards.
He released flames out of his mouth - a powerful flamethrower that licked the God, who started screeching. The dragon opened his wings and flew upwards, chased down by the flames. Blinded as he was, he didn't know to which direction to fly. Alex never got to learn, anyway - he fell onto his knees, then let himself fall to the snow.
Alice rushed next to him and kneeled. She was dizzy from the force of the illusion she had casted, but she would get over it. No Zoroark could create such an illusion without having been touched by the powers of the Nether Plane, and thankfully, Alice was a voidborn like the rest of her family.
Alex slowly opened his eyes. "That was nice. Fight of my life..." he muttered, staring at the sky and blinking a few times. "We did it, Alice."
Shango was staring at the statue while Crystal was telling him the tale of Yanakard. The time he spent examining the details of the two bronze Pokemon in front of him seemed like an eternity.
"These are your parents, Shango," said Crystal in a low voice as if she was mourning them. "Alexander Maverick and Alice Ancelotti - my aunt... look."
Crystal pointed at the template of the statue, where the two names were carved. He stayed silent without taking his eyes off the statue. So, my parents saved Yanakard from Kyurem and the Illinkar... he felt a flare next to him, Tristana wanted to be set free again. Shango wanted to talk to her, but that was impossible right now.
"They were great," muttered the Zoroark; she hugged him and Shango felt her sorrow run through him. But he wasn't feeling anything like that. On the contrary, he was feeling happy and proud of his parents, even though he had not met them before. The tale had given birth to many questions in Shango's mind. He patted his cousin's enormous mane.
"It's no use crying over them. Their age has passed now," he whispered, stroking her mane. He felt as if he knew her years, not just a week. "Tell me, how did they end up... being together?"
Crystal let go and looked at him. Her eyes were slightly blurred from the tears, but she seemed to have kept her self control. She wiped them with her hand and took a deep breath. "At that time, the Hashashin were working for the Dark Cult. They did not desire the loss of Yanakard to the Illinkar, so we did not either - but your parents defied Master Ignacio's orders and saved the entire city. They became legends in Yanakard and got themselves this statue you see here. For their punishment, Master Ignacio made the mistake of making them work together on low-profile, unimportant missions. And that's how it all started..."
"But what was the big deal with them saving Yanakard?"
"Don't you see, Shango?" she looked over at the statue. "Their names were carved on a statue - our names. The Mavericks and the Ancelottis are now known Hashashin families, while they'd prefer staying secret..." Crystal seemed to be getting more sad with each word; she looked down on the grass.
"I thought Chantalai Ancelotti was supposed to be known as the first Hashashin."
"It doesn't work like that. History has long forgotten of him; natives consider him a hero of the resistance, and nothing more."
Shango was now looking down as well. "You know, Crystal, I'm afraid the citizens think that Alexander... I mean, my father, is back."
"That is because you are using the traditional cloak the Hashashin are known to use, which your father used as well," explained Crystal. Shango caught something in her eyes and he guessed right away; she was wondering where he really got that cloak. After a moment of silence, the distant sounds of the conversations in trade square only echoing in their ears, Shango decided to speak up.
"The 'Spirit of the Hashashin' gave me this cloak," he stated, unsure of what he was doing.
"Shango..." Crystal started, looking at him as if she pitied him, "there's no such thing..." she whispered in a sincere tone. Shango kept a straight, serious face.
"You are free to believe what you want, as I am."
Shango recalled the sinister, mysterious hoodied Pokemon that haunted his dreams, singing that psalm in a foreign language. He was able to remember clearly what had happened in front of that underground altar; that same Pokemon had pushed him in the right hole inside the Fire Clan's camp. Crystal wouldn't understand, but Shango did not mind - he preferred to keep information about this entity to himself. Although it claimed to be the spirit of the Hashashin, he doubted that the Hashashin themselves knew what it was. When he touched the Spirit, he felt like he was the first ever to see or hear the hymns that echoed in the cavern.
A deep, metallic voice made Shango jerk his head towards the crowd and perk his ears up. Somebody from the Square was talking in a greatly enhanced voice that pierced through everybody's ears; as Shango and Crystal listened to it, they jumped up the ledge and closed in on the crowd of the square, leaving the statue of Alexander and Alice behind them.
"Citizens of Yanakard. You have been summoned here by the Dark Cult's Templars for an announcement that all of you should pay attention to," said the metallic voice. Shango's eyes pierced through the Pokemon in front of him to see a Klinklang surrounded by Skuntanks on top of that hill. His voice must be telepathetically enhanced, thought Shango and scanned the Pokemon around the Templars; indeed, a Reuniclus was floating behind the Skuntank on the Klinklang's right.
"That's Zorthan," whispered Crystal, following his eyesight and leaning forward in an attempt to get a better observing position. "He's a paid headhunter, one of us," she added. Shango examined the psychic-type; there was something really odd about his face... then Shango realized half of it was covered by an enormous, maniacal grin. Tristana started shaking next to his shoulder.
"Your city has proved to be most useful to us, and for that, we are grateful!" continued the Klinklang. It was as if he had rehearsed his speech. "To show you how generous we are, we will award you with a leader."
Upset whispers were heard all around, conversations started flaring up, until somebody from the crowd spoke. "We had no leader the last thirty years, and we don't want anybody!"
All of the templars turned to face him; Shango couldn't see who it was or what species, but he could tell it was a feminine voice. He spotted movement in the crowd and turned to look. The Hashashin were closing in on the templars subtly - under the hoods and cloaks, Shango recognized Enzo and Vincenzo, who were now standing right behind the front line of the crowd.
"Don't you need a cloak?" Shango whispered to Crystal, who nodded negatively with her eyes fixed on the templars.
"I have my illusions. Let's go closer - it's about time."
Shango's heart begun racing as he slid through the surrounding Pokemon like a ghost. The whispers kept going; the tension was shot up high, as the metallic voice continued sounding.
"We are doing this for your own good, people," the Klinklang said louder, the ear-piercing voice making everyone flinch. "Meet your gallant, new leader! Amir, come forth!"
A Rhyperior that was standing behind the templars all this time paced forward with heavy steps, standing by the Klinklang. Shango focused his attention on this Amir, closing his mind from all the irrelevant sounds of reality - the disappointed screams of the crowd, the whispers, the chatter of Chatot nearby - but just then, a familiar voice broke all of the other screams.
"No! If anyone should be our leader, it's Alexander!"
The Hashashin jerked their heads at once; Shango recognized the Swalot he had saved before. Silence fell onto the square, it was impossible to tell the expression of the Klinklang as it barely had one.
"Alexander is dead," the templar stated, but they obviously had doubts. The killing Shango had done had certainly not went unnoticed.
"No!" shouted the Swalot again, the whole crowd listening to him now. "He's alive and well!"
A seemingly crazy idea bursted into Shango's mind. The Zangoose reached for the symbol of the Hashashin inside his cloak and stuck it on his belt. He ensured his hood was completly covering his face; then he pushed the Pokemon in front of him away. Crystal said something but he ignored her. His right hand was engulfed in darkness as he charged forward away from the crowd, pouncing onto the Klinklang with his left hand extended. The moment went by too fast, but he felt the darkness penetrating the blue orb that appeared to be the Pokemon's eye; his claws sank into it as the steel Pokemon fell backwards from his weight. Sparks flew out of the eye, but none managed to hurt Shango.
He raised his head to face the Skuntank next to him, unsticking his hand from the Klinklang who was letting out strange sounds. But before he could do anything, one Hashashin fell onto the Skuntank; it was Enzo, certainly, darkness dripping from his right sleeve as he pulled it out of the Pokemon's throat. A wave of electricity got passed Shango, hitting the other Skuntank; Vincenzo charged in, silently, performing a move Shango was seeing for the first time in his life. The Bisharp's cloak was covering his feet, but Shango saw his powerful steel foot stab the Skuntank's foot, pinning it down on the ground; claws were stuck on its jaws into a deadly uppercut.
It all happened too fast, two seconds the least, but once the crowd understood what was happening, the Pokemon started screaming. There were some cheers, too, but Shango didn't hear them. A Skuntank pounced on him, they fell on the ground but Shango kicked the beast off almost instantly; his claws found their way on the vital spot of the templar's throat, penetrating it deeply for a lethal hit.
Look out!, Tristana's voice echoed in his mind. His eyes caught a glimpse of shimmering fire on his left, him diving on the right to avoid it. The guards had arrived to circle around the Hashashin that fought all of them at once. Another Skuntank charged on Shango, who sidestepped quickly and slashed his leg; but his enemy unleashed some kind of acid that made Shango step backwards, bringing both of his hands in front of him to protect his body. Just then, he felt a burning pain on his back, his blood staining the cloak; he leaned forward, trying to reduce the immensity of the terrible feeling.
As he kneeled for a mere second, his eyesight became blurry, but he was sure he was seeing something very wrong in front of him: a giant, flaming bird was covering the area with a vibrant light. He glanced at the Skuntanks next to him who were overwhelmed by fire that was shot from it. What is going on? Am I seeing things...?
Then he realized no real damage was done from the fiery bird - it was merely an illusion. Crystal was doing her magic. With this in mind, Shango launched himself from the ground, pushing himself to the extreme. He landed on the Skuntank with the wounded leg who was screaming in delusional pain, throwing it sideways and sticking his claws onto its belly; then he torn it apart by sliding them all across it.
The wound on his back was nothing big, he figured; he discovered he could manage the pain easily. It was as simple as taking it from where it was and putting it away, on a dark corner of his mind, replacing it with anger. The area was covered in a thick, purple fog, all of a sudden, and this was definitely not an illusion. It was a poison cloud, no doubt. Shango promised himself he would get out once he had finished the Skuntank that was still being 'burned' by the flames. It was the one that had hurt him.
Shango mimicked Vincenzo's move and pressed his foot againist the templars, weighing him down; he raised his claws upwards with one hand and slashed his face with the other. As the Skuntank screamed, the Zangoose kicked its chest and slashed his side so deeply, his opponent would surely die from bleeding in minutes. It fell onto the ground and Shango grinned, but it turned into a smirk of pain. Being a Zangoose, he was immune to poison and the effects of the cloud, thankfully.
He lept out of it and his eyes instantly caught his two Hashashin allies finishing off a guard. Their cloaks were bloodied, but not as much as the ground was - they must've had killed around fifteen Pokemon. The crowd had backed off to the ends of the square, staring at the Hashashin, unsure if they were holy saviours or dangerous killers. Shango walked forward, realising he was on top of the hill.
Shouts begun to tear the silence. Shango spotted the Swalot cheering, and soon others followed him. How do I proceed? he thought, directing his thoughts towards the invisible fairy that was flapping her wings above his head all this time. Play along, came the answer into his mind. He slightly nodded and let out a groan of pain as he raised his hands, his bloodied claws extended to the sky. Shango was now his father, Alexander.
"I mark the end of the Dark Cult in Yanakard," he shouted, altering his voice greatly. From what Crystal had told him about Alexander, he was always cocky and proud, so that's what he needed to be right now. "The Hashashin are now working for you, people."
Shango felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to look. It was Vincenzo that stood by him.
"What are you doing?" he whispered, but his tone showed no signs of disapproval from his part.
"Saving these people from this plague," he whispered back with a grin. "What does it look like I'm doing?" he added in his altered voice, more as a joke that made both of them chuckle. Looking around, Shango realized the Rhyperior named Amir was not there.
"He escaped," said Enzo blatantly, approaching the other two. His cloak was painted with blood so much, its white was barely visible; Enzo himself seemed to be perfectly fine.
"That's such a shame," commented Shango, crossing his arms, staring directly at the crowd. "We'll just have to take care of it another time."
The two Hashashin behind him glanced at each other, and Shango noticed although he was not looking. His smile and claws was the only part of his body visible to the crowd now.
Amongst the cheering Pokemon, Shango spotted Crystal, who had this great smile that was similar to his in so many ways. Next to her, the Reuniclus named Zorthan was staring at him as if he was calculating his strength. Shango wondered if he was insane as he looked at this terrifying grin that was still pinned onto his face; it reminded him of the Krookodile, Carlos. Too many strange Pokemon here in Stygia... I'm starting to miss Ionia.
"Let Alexander be our new leader!"
"Drive the Cult off from our city!"
"We don't need anyone else!"
Shango thought things started going out of control. He could not be a leader - he wasn't even who he was pretending to be. Patting the invisible Victini on his shoulder with a subtle move, he asked for her guidance once again.
Transform into a Slowpoke. It always helps!
At times like this, you're no help... You make a terrible sidekick!
Up until now, I thought you were the sidekick!
Tristana started giggling, only to be grabbed by Shango's claws and squeezed tightly. Watch it!, she said, irritated, but Shango had turned his head to look at the Hashashin. Now, the darkness of their two hoods seemed truly impenetrable.
"What was that, Skidred?" asked Enzo in a low voice.
"I didn't know you giggled like a little girl..." Vincenzo said slowly, Shango almost smelling the Bisharp's suspicion in the air. He was unlucky - they did hear Tristana, even though the crowd was still shouting. You doomed us, Tristy.
As the Zangoose clutched the fairy onto his hand, his eyes caught a shadow jumping down quietly behind them. The other two turned around; Bart the Shadow had joined them with a perfectly intact cloak. His cloak was particularly flexible to fit his body's structure.
"Guys, we must jet," he said quickly.
"Agreed," sounded Vincenzo.
"When the heck'd you get here, Barty?" asked Enzo quietly, with more respect than he usually showed to others. Bart, shorter as he was, looked inside Enzo's hood and spoke after a moment of thinking.
"Let's just say I ran into some trouble, and I troubled the trouble more than it troubled me. But that's another story - how about we get goin' for now? I'll tell you the details later."
"What about the crowd?" Shango inquired, relieved the subject had changed. The Ambipom chuckled.
"Let 'em think Alex's back, no biggie!"
Bart lept from the ground, crossing the air as easily as gravity drew him downwards. Enzo and Vincenzo followed him to the nearest rooftop. Shango glanced at the citizens of Yanakard below, realizing for the first time that they were massive in numbers. He could not just disappoint these people. But right now, other things mattered most.
Shango and the rest of the Hashashin arrived at their hideout on the southwest part of the city, to be greeted by an angry Krookodile and a fed up Crystal; the Zoroark was pacing up and down.
"So?" asked Carlos, crossing his arms and looking mainly at Bart, probably because he had got the highest rank of them all. The Accelgor spoke normally as if he was used to the Krookodile's threatening tone - as if they were equals. What was Carlos's rank, anyway?
"Suffenas is dead, along with the rest of his crew."
Shango thought he was probably referring to the Klinklang that held the speech in the square. When Crystal saw him, she approached him and put something cold on his back, right where the wound was; the cloak had been torn apart. She grasped his shoulder with her other hand and instructed him to keep his cloak on. Tristana was well hidden inside his cloak, heating up his chest with the heat expulsing from her tiny body. Shango's eyes met the Zoroark's and he whispered thank you as he felt the pain go away slowly. He would ask what it was later.
"... there was someone else that needs to not-be-here, yeah?" said the Krookodile, his voice echoing in the small dark room and into their ears.
"We were unable to intercept Amir's escape," said Vincenzo in a steel tone similar to the Accelgor's.
"That will cost us greatly," said Carlos sternly, looking at each of them separately for a few moments.
"Why? People said they don't want'im," said Enzo.
"The Dark Cult has immense power inside Yanakard," said Carlos abruptly, louder than needed. "You only vanquished a part of it by killing Suffenas - and Amir the Death Dealer is the leader of the rest of it now."
Shango knew Amir was one of the Cult's members right from the start. Who else would they promote to power? That Amir was a Death Dealer... Shango recognized the term from the stories of the Stygian Frontier; the Pokemon known as 'Death Dealers' were weapon and armor producers. In other words, Pokemon that were using war as a way of making money, hence the name.
"Anyway..." muttered the Krookodile, trying to contain his anger. "We will discuss this tomorrow - in the meantime, I will put my spies to work. Find out what we can about this Amir..." he said and walked away. His behaviour was kind of strange, Shango figured; that passive state was not what Shango had expected from Carlos. There was something troubling him.
Carlos left the room, closing the door behind him quietly. The Hashashin glanced at each other for a second, then silently begun taking off their bloodied cloaks. Crystal helped Shango remove it; Tristana flew away quickly, hiding in the corner. Only then Shango realized beds made from leaves were brought into the room.
His cousin examined the wound carefully, making him sit on the leaves.
"You're gonna be fine, cousin," Crystal said with a smile, patting the cold thing on his back gently. Shango remembered when he woke in that little house in Podville a week ago - it felt like ages ago. How had he gotten so close to the Hashashin in so little time?
"What's this thing?" Shango asked her, looking over his shoulder.
"It's a mint tissue. Sounds ineffective, eh?" she said and chuckled. "Well, it's obviously not. This mint is made from the Hotori - it's magical and rare. Be glad I wasted it on you!"
Shango grabbed hold of his wrist, taking off his vambraces and putting them aside. He then looked directly into her red eyes.
"Thanks, for the illusions."
The Zoroark stared at him for a bit, her smile unmoving. "It's alright," she muttered.
"'ey, what're you two talkin' about?" Enzo butted in between them with a leap from his bed. He sat on his ankles, his arms falling on the floor in front of him; Shango threw him a side look. He had this strange smile on his face that gave rise to some questions in Shango's mind.
"Go to bed," ordered Crystal in a friendly tone, punching the Ambipom on his shoulder.
"Ow! That hurt, I'll have you know!" yelled Enzo with a fake, disturbed face on. His Bisharp brother grabbed him from the shoulders and pulled him backwards.
As the two started fighting, Shango laid down. What a day! He thought to himself. He desperately wanted to talk to Tristana...
"You're tired, aren't you Shango?" said Crystal and patted his chest. He liked her touching his fur, strangely; however, a slight nod was enough to make her get up, mutter 'sweet dreams' and go to her bed.
Shango shut his eyes tight, the legend of his parents coming back to storm his mind as he drifted to sleep. He could've sworn the dream he had was about the Spirit of the Hashashin talking to him and he could fully understand what it was saying, but he had already forgotten about it the next day.
Chapter 15: Showdown
Shango woke up early, or so it seemed. The room was dark, but a few beams of light managed to pass through the closed window. His ears picked up only the sound of the breaths of the Hashashin, who were sleeping deeply next to him. Eyes on the ceiling, he grunted.
How can they sleep like that after such killing?
It's true, Shango felt sick, and the spirits of the lives he had taken yesterday haunted him in his sleep. The remembrance of a random, wild dream he had last night made him stand up; but upon realizing none of the details were clear, he fell back to the leaves. His back was fully healed now, and the herb Crystal used on it had been taken off of his back, but he wouldn't look for it. Right now, all he wanted was to sleep again, hopefully in peace.
Shaaango!, a voice echoed in his mind; he had just shut his eyes, but he opened them again slowly. Warmth descended from his chest to his entire torso.
Tristy!, he replied with a weak smile. Laid down as he was, he reached for the fire spirit and patted her on her head gently. The Victini appeared, sitting on his chest; Shango thought she looked like a cute plush toy, the way she was smiling.
What is bothering you, Shango?, she asked and grabbed his hand, rubbing it with her own tiny hands. Her eyes sparkled blue in the darkness. Shango could tell she was ready to vanish again in case any of his comrades woke up.
I had an interesting dream, but I can't remember any of it...
Aww... want me to retrieve it for you?
No... it hurts to think right now.
Tristana walked up, stepping on his neck and leaned forward. They faced each other, Shango slightly raising his head from the leaves underneath him. She had this great smile on her face.
"Is everything alright, my hero?" she whispered, only for him to hear, staring inside his eyes. Tristana then proceeded to kiss him near his lips; he felt tremendous heat expulsing from her, or so he thought. He was instantly energized, feeling able to stand up to an entire army, but he stood perfectly still.
"I'm.. I'm alright," he whispered in a troubled expression. "Why did you do that?"
She giggled, quietly this time, her eyes becoming two curves of happiness. "Why not?"
Shango raised his eyebrows and looked at her for a moment in silence. Tristana flapped her wings, flying off of his neck and sat on his chest again. She tilted her head and stared at him.
"Since when am I your hero?" he asked her teasingly, with a small grin forming on his face.
"You've always been my hero," she whispered in a sincere manner that made his playful mood vanish. Shango knew this, of course, but he could not say a thing to her. Her tone completly disarmed him.
"I'm glad you got to know who your real parents were," she spoke in the same tone.
"Thanks, Tristy... it's good to know my parents were heroes back in their day."
"They are still heroes, Shango! Everybody remembers Alexander..."
She patted his chest, making Shango remember when Crystal did it last night. It was a strange thought at that moment, distracting him from their conversation.
"I am wondering what this Master of yours is thinking," Tristana continued. A sound was heard in the room; Shango jerked his head to see Crystal changing sleeping position.
"I guess he's after the darkstar, and I'm key in finding it."
"But you will still work for him? Why don't you just drop this whole amnesia thing?"
"I am convinced regarding the brotherhood's ideals, and that will not change. However, I can't just tell them I was lying to them all along. I don't want my relationship with them to crumble down like that..."
"I understand..." she muttered, looking down. A loud snore was heard from the direction where Enzo was sleeping. Tristana vanished instantly; the next moment, Crystal sounded.
"Stupid ape!" she landed her fist on the Ambipom's head, who wake up with a grunt. Shango almost chuckled as Crystal got up to her feet as if she was not sleeping. She seemed furious.
"sup, Crystey?" Enzo got up as well, rubbing his head.
"You sound like an Exploud farting when you're snoring!" she said, clearly irritated.
Shango and Vincenzo got up to their feet as well; the Bisharp, who was closer to the window, opened it and let the light fill the room. Its black rock walls looked miserable. Shango couldn't wait to get outside, but the thought of taking more lives made him want to stay inside. I'll have to get used to it, he said to himself.
Good luck... replied Tristana, who hid inside his cloak as he picked it up from the floor and wore it. The others were getting ready as well; today would surely be bloody. Shango wore his vambraces, the feeling of superiority and brute force returning to his arms. He was now convinced these vambraces the Spirit of the Hashashin had left behind were not normal.
"We must get going," said Vincenzo in a plain tone as if he was stating a fact. "Carlos will be waiting for us again..."
"Let him wait," replied Crystal abruptly. "It's not like this guy'll ever break a sweat!" she said and unlocked the door, rushing outside and slamming it behind her. Enzo and Vincenzo looked at each other's hoods and shrugged.
The four walked in the narrow streets of southwestern Yanakard for about an eternity, or so it seemed to Shango. They were all silent, sliding like ghosts through the city; any Pokemon who came across them turned and walked away, pacing quickly. The symbols of the Hashashin were stuck on their black belts, the white cloaks revealing absolutly no information about their species. This time, Crystal was also wearing a cloak that looked more like a light dress - it was blue and didn't seem to give her problems while running. Her hoodie was subtly covering her face like a curtain. Shango noticed even Enzo's tails were hidden inside his cloak; as for the Bisharp, the sleeves of his cloak had openings for the blades on his arms. The blades were made of steel, so it was hard to distinguish them from the white of the cloak. Simple, yet an ingenius weapon for stealth assassination. He examined his own cloak - flexible, made from sturdy leather
Shango realized the blood that stained the cloaks yesterday was all gone. He looked at Crystal, who was walking in the front, but she didn't seem to be in a talking mood. She was upset from the moment she woke up; Enzo and Vincenzo gave up communicating with her in fear of receiving more punches. Vincenzo seemed up for some talking, merely explanations.
"Where did all the blood go?" Shango asked him with curiosity obvious in his voice.
"Oh, Ramos cleaned it up last night," he said as if it was a usual thing. Shango was about to ask how and why did the Ursaring have cleaning duties, but Enzo interrupted him.
"Ya, Shango you fell sleepin' like a brick, man!"
"Isn't Ramos coming with us?" asked Vincenzo, directing his question mainly towards Crystal, who didn't answer. Shango wondered what was bothering her.
"Not," shouted Enzo, "he's gonna help some losers over the ramparts. Cult's been out of control lately."
"Who is Carlos, exactly?" Shango let out this question that was bothering him ever since he laid eyes on the Krookodile.
"Veteran Hashashin, revered teacher and known Shadow Hunter," said Enzo. Shango now knew why Bart and Enzo showed Carlos respect - the veterans seemed to be important members and leaders of smaller communities within the brotherhood.
They reached the street where Carlos's shop was. They quickly walked towards it, looking around for any signs of life. It was early in the morning, and this part of the town didn't exactly burst with activity, so they easily slipped in unnoticed. The Krookodile and the Krokorok were sitting on their chairs, observing the Hashashin. Once the hoodied Pokemon reached them, Carlos got up without saying a word and went to the back of the shop, nodding for the others to follow him; Shango noticed the Krokorok was watching them with glee as they passed by him.
They found themselves in a room that was decorated with every kind of rare and beautiful item; a golden carpet that had a red dragon design in the middle, flame patterns on its ends. A table made from white wood, probably originating from the Tocan Swamplands. Paintings on the walls carved on petrified sand represented various landscapes; Shango recognized as the art of the dragons, precisely the Daconir tribe.
"Let's get to the point, people," he started speaking in his stern tone. "My spies have located Amir the Death Dealer; however, we are not aware of who he is and how much power he has. What we know is that his forces terrorize the cities, especially the merchants of the trade square. But in truth, he is working underground; this city's built on a rock full of iron, and we suspect Amir is hiding in the mines."
"Which means," said Crystal, "we'll head there and kill him."
"Not all of you," replied Carlos quickly, raising his arm, looking at Shango. "You, Shango. What you did back in the square was impressive, but it was risky. You will stay here with me."
Shango was about to protest, but the Krookodile motioned him to shush, then pointed at the others and motioned outside the door. "Time is money, Hashashin. Get moving already."
All of his friends bolted outside the majestic room, leaving Carlos and Shango all alone. What now?, he thought, as he was examining the Krookodile carefully. Carlos bypassed him with quick steps and closed the door of the room, then turned to him. Something mind-blowing happened the next moment - Carlos vanished, and a male Zoroark took his place.
"Shh, my boy," said the Zoroark and blocked his mouth, looking outside the door as if somebody was right outside. Their eyes met; Shango had seen them before.
"Yes, I'm Pasqual," he whispered in a strange expression that greatly resembled the Krookodile's.
"But my uncle Pasqual is an Infernape..."
"Wrong. I am a Zoroark, I was all along. Haven't you ever wondered why you passed through the Infernape back in the trade square of Ionia?"
Shango's heart lost a beat. He backed off, slightly. "How did you know..." The defense of his amnesia crumbled down right in front of him. Pasqual looked at him in this manner Shango couldn't comprehend with - he didn't seem angry, nor he wanted to hurt him.
"You have been told that some voidborns have the ability to peek into the souls of their targets. That's what I did."
Shango remained silent, feeling Tristana flaring up like a firework next to him, her heartbeats as fast as his; Pasqual jerked his head towards the invisible fairy, somehow knowing it's there.
"You can tell your friend to stop hiding now," he said plainly. Tristana appeared on Shango's shoulder. She was staring at the Zoroark with a grimace.
"Listen, Shango," said Pasqual and glanced behind his back, towards the door. He then grabbed Shango's hands. "Your father and I were great friends. I could never give him in, or his son."
Shango started calming down a bit, as Tristana did. She stopped flying and dropped onto his shoulder; Pasqual let go of his hands, and Shango raised one to pat the Victini's head. He looked inside Pasqual's eyes, wondering if he was able to perform this soul-peeking ability he mentioned, but the Zoroark spoke again.
"I was the one to throw you in the river once you were born," he said, with his eyes glowing, "I was the one who named you, Shango. I was the one to protect your memories from the invasions of the other Hashashins."
Shango's eyes opened wide to these revelations. Pasqual was telling the truth, he was sure of it - or was this another of his perfectly believable illusions?
"Listen to me, my boy," the Zoroark said in a quite worried tone. "Your father... your father was not killed because of what you think. Your father was involved into something far more grander than you can imagine."
"What...?" Shango was lost, he had so many questions and he didn't know where to begin. Pasqual let out a weak chuckle.
"You think they sentenced him and your mother to death because of a mere, stupid law of the families of the Hashashin? They were two of the greatest Hashashin that came to be!" he shouted, his eyes opened wide in an unspeakable anger. "The brotherhood would never waste their skills on just that! No, something else happened... I wish I had the time to tell you right now, but this city needs us."
Pasqual grabbed Shango's hands again, looking at his vambraces. "These were your father's. They are the technology of our Precursors, combined with the powers of the voidborns, the Nether Plane."
Shango let him pull the vambraces out; he figured that was the reason he felt a source of power within them. The Zoroark held them in his hands for some moments, staring at them.
"You have used them enough for them to bound onto your soul - they can do much more than you think. Actually, they do just what you think."
Shango smirked his eyebrows and looked at Pasqual with a troubled expression. Thoughts about the Spirit of the Hashashin who gave him this piece of armour circled around his mind. He was starting to get confused now; the Spirit gave him the cloak and the vambraces that belonged to Alexander. Why? How? Tristana could sense his questions and looked at him, but he didn't turn his head to look at her back. His uncle gave him the vambraces back and made him wear them.
"It'll take some time to understand how they work, but let me explain first. These vambraces are a powerful nether weapon that are able to manipulate the fabric of space itself, alter it to your own will. But the manipulation is not enough to cause temporal conundrums - it is extremely limited."
"But... how do I use them? What do they even do...?"
Pasqual looked at him inside his eyes once again. "Think of two blades extending out of them, picture them as long and sharp as you like. With some practice, you will be able to make that picture a reality."
Shango wasn't believing in his ears. What Pasqual had said so far, his transformation and revelations were too much to take in. He was lost to all the information that caused only new questions to rise from his mind. However, he managed to keep his cool. He tried thinking of two blades appearing from the vambraces, above his claws, but nothing happened.
"It's not working," he said, quite disappointed. He felt ridiculous for a moment.
"Ah... it's alright," said his uncle, patting his shoulder. "Shango, I know you have many questions, but now is not the time. I promised I will teach you how to fight like us, and that I will do. For now, I need you to go around the city."
"And do what?"
"Keep an eye out for Templars. One of my spies told me that Amir will be there."
"Well, why did you send the others in the mines?"
"Because the chances of Amir acting in the open are slim. Plus, it's one spy's word againist seven."
"... you can count on us, then," Shango said with a small grin; the thought of getting all of his questions answered once the madness in Yanakard had ended motivated him. He patted Tristana on her head again and she let out a cute laugh. Pasqual fixed his eyes on the Victini, her slightly glowing body reflected on them.
"What's her name?" he asked, directing the question more towards Shango rather than Tristana.
"Tristana," she spoke first. "But you can call me Tristy!" Uncle Pasqual raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"She can talk?"
Shango chuckled. "Obviously. But didn't you already know that?"
"I can't know everything, boy," said the Zoroark and winked with a grin on his face; it greatly reminded Shango of Crystal. The epiphany kicked in like a thunder: Pasqual was her father.
"Now, I have to take care of this damned shop... as Carlos, of course."
"I have a question for you, mister," said Tristana in the sassy tone Shango was used to hearing all these years. "Do the others even know you are Pasqual?"
The Zoroark chuckled. "No. Confidential information; Carlos is a fictional character the Shadow Hunters have created to keep this shop in Yanakard as a retired Hashashin that went undercover to guard this town."
"But how can you be at both Pasqual and Carlos at the same time?" inquired Tristana, tilting her head in an adorable manner. Her question made Pasqual's grin grow bigger. He motioned his head towards the door.
"My son Dimitri takes care of Carlos when I am out of Town."
The image of the Krokorok sitting on a chair next to his father in the shop bursted into Shango's mind. So that Krokorok was another Zoroark, then. The Hashashin were full of surprises, he admitted.
"We'll be going now, then," said Shango and walked towards the exit.
"Good luck, Shango."
The Zangoose glanced behind him. Carlos was standing right there, having that scary, unreal grin.
"Shango, think I should hide now?" Tristana asked him while they were walking through the narrow streets of Yanakard. The Pokemon that were passing through these streets seemed poor and worn out from hunger; they were silent and paced quickly, getting away from the hoodied Hashashin and his fire spirit as fast as they could.
Shango didn't answer to Tristana. He simply gave her a slight nod and she disappeared; he had his eyes fixed on a certain Pokemon across the street. It was a female Togetic with grey, torn wings, sitting down on the ground. She was staring at him intently with her hand extended, a desperate expression on.
Shango approached her, taking careful steps towards the Togetic that made him look even more threatening. However, she did not even move.
"What happened to your wings?"
He spoke in the altered voice he was imagining Alexander to use. The inspiration of pretending to be him again came through his mind - Yanakard would be liberated by his father, dead or alive. The Togetic's expression did not change. She only glanced at her wings, then back at him.
"T-they hacked them..." she muttered, then jerked her head towards the left; three Skuntanks appeared from the corner and paced towards the Togetic. When she turned to look at the hoodied Pokemon, he had vanished.
"Hey! You!" shouted the Skuntank that was walking in the middle of them. "Didn't we tell you to scram? We don't want anyone bothering others about money!"
As they reached her, the templar that talked prepared to hit her; she was refusing to move. The Hashashin lept from above, sticking his claws on the Pokemon's back and neck as he landed. He quickly kicked the body away and looked at the others, adopting his battle stance with his claws extended. He instantly thought of his vambraces - could they possibly produce nether blades? Nothing happened when he pictured them. But battling without them was not a problem.
The Skuntanks carelessly charged forward. Shango figured they were not real templars; they'd just gotten that title to aid the Dark Cult in the dominance over Yanakard in exchange for gold. That meant they were probably inexperienced mercenaries, all of them. The Zangoose dealt with their assault accordingly, moving twice as fast as both of them; he countered their attacks and dodged their sprays. He proceeded into a flurry of attacks on one of the Skuntanks, eventually slashing its face and kicking it on the gut. As it rolled over, Shango pounced and stuck his claws on the area of the heart, hot blood emerging from the wound.
The other Skuntank seemed momentarily stunned by the atrocity, but he managed to release a flamethrower. Shango let out his own flamethrower, which proved to be stronger. The intensity of the blazing, fiery maze they created made the temperature of the street rise. Shango suddenly let go of his own stream of fire and vanished behind the flames. Confused, the Skuntank stopped his flamethrower, only to see the Hashashin charging forward.
The last of the Skuntanks laid on the street with a big wound on the back of its neck. Shango was towering above him; his nostrils twitched. What a stench. His opponent was still alive, though heavily bleeding.
"Why are you doing this, Hashashin?" he managed to say.
"In this society you templars have created, there is nothing to gain, and everything to fear. If I stand inactive, what will become of it?"
He kneeled, careful not to wet his fur or his cloak with the blood on the ground. "But that is none of your concern right now. Rest in peace."
Shango stood up again as the templar died. The Togetic had hid in the shadows, spots where the sun could not reach. The blood on the street created an extremely ironical image, as it contradicted with the sunny day. It was one of those rare Stygian days, where there were no clouds on the sky.
"Why did you do this? Oh, no..." she whimpered, upset and about to cry.
"Nobody will ever know what happened here," he said and took out the pouch full of gold coins Crystal had given him; he opened it and picked up five. The Togetic's eyes flashed as she took the coins and looked at Shango with a weak smile on her face.
"I knew you were kindhearted, right from the start."
As Shango had nothing to answer to her, he simply walked away. No Pokemon who took three lives so willingly was kindhearted.
The Hashashin continued his way to the trade square, but it was extremely difficult to navigate, as the town has no big streets. He was forced to stop and ask passerby Pokemon about directions, but once they saw the emblem of the Hashashin on his belt, they ran away.
"What's up with these people?" said Shango out loud, quite irritated. "As if I'd ask them for directions if I was gonna kill them..."
Tristana found it funny and started laughing. Shango grinned under the hood, thinking she was too cute to tell her to stop. She then poked his ear teasingly.
"Hey hotshot, maybe I can fly high enough to get us out of this mess!"
The Victini flapped her wings gently, even though she floated in the air without their help. She flew high, looking around. There were no tall buildings Shango could climb and navigate, but Tristana would surely be able to find their way out. After a moment of looking around, she let her gravitation aside and fell directly onto Shango's shoulder, landing surprisingly softly.
"That way!" she shouted and pointed at an alley. Shango gave her a pat on the head, but she grabbed his hand and pushed it away.
"Nuh-uh! That won't do!" she said and giggled. She then entered his hood and stood right in front of his face. Everytime Shango remembered this moment in the future, he bursted into laughter because of its hilarity.
"What are you--"
"Kiss me," Tristana said and bit her lips, revealing her teeth. Shango's felt extreme heat expulsing from her once again. Before he could react, she shut her eyes and leaned forward, kissing him again. This has to stop, Shango thought and plucked her out of his hood. She looked at him as if he had just taken her cake away.
"Tristy," Shango said, smiling while holding her on the same height as his hood. "You and I are friends. Friends don't kiss each other."
"B-but..." she muttered and looked down; Shango could tell she was about to cry.
"You can hug me if you want."
"I want to kiss you!" her voice was mildly trembling. Shango promised himself he would remember to get her one of those lollipops Enzo was gobbling down.
"I want to fly like you, but I can't."
Tristana looked at him with her big blue, watered eyes reflecting his image. A scream from the other street torn the moment apart; Shango jerked his head towards the source of the sound, perking his ears up. He let go of Tristana, who hid under his cape. He begun walking, entering the alley Tristana had directed him to.
Ahead of him was the most poor district of Yanakard; the houses were made of worn-out wood, there were alot of trees and grass around and the rocky path turned into a sand one as he progressed further. He noticed abandoned treehouses that seemed to be ravaged. The wooden fence was broken and covered by the tall grass.
Shango picked up the smell of desertion. The street was rotting away into nothingness, and it was a sad view. In the far end of the district, there was a hill and a tunnel... just outside it, a Bidoof was rooted to the ground with his feet trembling uncontrollably. He was staring into the dark tunnel. As Shango walked towards the tunnel, he realized there was light on the others side; when the Bidoof noticed him, he turned his whole body around and let out another small scream.
"Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt you," said Shango in a peaceful tone, with the same altered voice. This was working out quite well. The Bidoof calmed down; he sat on his rear feet and rubbed his eyes, crying. Shango realized he was no older than five.
"They are coming!" he cried. Shango kneeled and stroked the rodent's head carefully.
"Th-they, they say they will kill us! I want my mommy..." the Bidoof glanced inside the tunnel, Shango did as well. Somebody was approaching with heavy steps; a dark figure at the end of the tunnel. The Cult's everywhere in this town. There is no use killing one or two of their members to wither down their power. I will have to cut its core down.
Shango smiled under the hood and looked at the child again. "Close your eyes and count to twenty. I will make them disappear. But no cheating, alright?"
The small rodent tried touched his hood. Shango assumed he was trying to see his face through the darkness, but the only thing visible was his generous smile. People have no need to see anything else, he thought and got up, ensuring the child had closed his eyes.
He entered the darkness of the tunnel, his eyes instantly locking onto the dark figure. They were closing in on each other, but the tunnel was longer than he expected. He smirked his eyes as he heard a small cry coming from under his cape. Tristana was crying. He decided it was not the right time and kept walking towards the Pokemon; he could now see it clearly, even though the darkness was still dense. It was a Granbull bearing the emblem of the Dark Cult on his chestguard. Shango's eyes ignored the crossed heart and focused on the Pokemon's neck. He had already found ten different ways of killing him silently, but the realization that he had already become a skilled murderer made him deny almost all of them. Another member of the Dark Cult would go down soon, but he was not feeling the same respect for lives as he was at his time in the Ionian Verdict. But that was only natural, he figured.
As the templar caught a glimpse of his strange, friendly smile, Shango shot his arms, impaling the Granbull's neck with all of his claws and raising him in the air. Choked in his own blood, he was thrown back to the ground of the tunnel, the sound echoing all around.
The Zangoose sat on his ankles next to his victim, reaching for his belt. A golden compass. Nice, he thought, picking it up and walking away. His smile had not disappeared, even though blood was dripping from his claws.
As he exited the tunnel from the side he came in, he saw the Bidoof turned towards him, opening his eyes. Shango pointed at the tunnel with his bloodied claw extending from the sleeve of his cloak.
"As I promised!"
The Bidoof peeked inside the tunnel and a smile was painted onto his face. He had not noticed the crimson substance on his claws.
"What is going on here?" a voice came from somewhere in the deserted neighborhood. Shango raised his hood to see a Bibarel which was probably the Bidoof's mother.
"Mommy!" screamed the rodent and rushed to his mother. Then he looked over at Shango. "This mister made the mean guy disappear!"
The mother looked at him momentarily, then glanced at the emblem of his belt. "Ah... I see," she said. "Are you perhaps Alexander?"
Shango saw her face brighten up. "It's good you came back at such times... the Cult will bother us again," she whispered.
"I will make sure they don't."
"Oh, goodness... how can we ever repay you?"
"Stay alive," said Shango and turned away, headed inside the tunnel. Seeing the pain and anguish the Dark Cult had brought upon Yanakard had turned his heart into stone. In the end, he was not even sorry.
The Prophet and the Phantom Dancer
Shango finally reached the trade square of Yanakard, after Tristana's attempts at navigation. She seemed sad, but he wouldn't do anything about it. He didn't know what to do. Tristana was not fully aware of how the world or relationships worked.
The square was filled with Pokemon, crowds forming a row at the merchants' shops; now that the Dark Cult was gone from the square, stands with all kinds of products were laid all around. Shango stared at a Miltank who had a kart parked next to a carpet merchant. His nostrils picked up a wonderful smell that drew him towards it. He quickly saw what the Miltank was selling: fried cheese-covered bread. The sign read 'Punchos'. Shango looked under his left arm, where Tristana was hiding, clutching his cape.
"Are you up for some of these, Tristy?"
After Shango got through the row, he bought three of these bread chunks that were hot and went over to sit on a nearby bench. He didn't mind that the blood on his claws slightly stained his food. Tristana got out of her cloak and started eating the bread without picking it up, as it was almost as big as her. She was no longer invisible, but neither of them seemed to care about the risk.
"This is good!" she said and took a big bite. Shango smiled, seeing her recover her jolly mood.
"Why did you buy three?" she asked him, staring at the bread that was left. Shango chuckled, thinking she'd want to eat that as well, as if the first one wasn't enough.
"It's not for you!" he said and turned to look at the moving crowd as he ate it. Then he glanced back at the Victini. "Fine, I'll share."
He cut it in half and put her half in front of her. She picked it up and flapped her wings, landing on his shoulder. Shango turned his attention back to the merchants and the crowd; he raised his hand to rub the tip of her ear, almost involuntarily. Tristana shut her eyes and purred.
Shango perked up his ears, picking up the conversation of two merchants who were selling vegetables and fruits; the name of his father drew his attention.
"... Alexander should've taken over the city."
"Do you have any idea why he left?"
The hooded Zangoose fixed his eyes on them. Two Kecleon brothers, typical merchants.
"No... do you think maybe it is another trick of the Hashashin?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean..." he started whispering then, but Shango could still hear him despite the fuss of the crowd. "His appearance is quite sudden, don't you think? Maybe the Hashashin want us to believe he has returned..."
"Get a grip, how would they ever do that?"
"Do not underestimate them! After what's happened with the Cult..."
"Still, why would they fake Alexander's return?"
"I wouldn't ever know... nobody knows."
Shango decided it was about time to have some fun and confirm the rumors. He walked towards to the merchants who noticed his hoody immediately. Tristana had vanished out of sight. The Kecleon brothers started packing up their stuff in a hurry, seeing his emblem.
"Hold it, brothers," said Shango calmly, raising his hand. They noticed the blood.
"What do you want?" asked one of the Kecleons who appeared to be the brave one.
"I heard you talking about some Alexander..."
They observed him closer, realizing the hooded Pokemon before them was exactly the same as the statue near the square.
"Alex? It can't be you..." said the other Kecleon with distrust.
"I've done so much for this city already, and you don't even recognize me," Shango said in complaint, his altered voice sounding threatening. The Kecleons seemed intimidated, though they tried to hide it.
"Take off your hood, then. We should see a seventy year old Zangoose, if you are who you're claiming to be."
"My actions alone prove me. If you don't believe in me, I might as well disappear."
The Kecleons glanced at each other. They had nothing to say to him. Shango was about to continue talking, he caught a familiar figure behind the Kecleons. A Rhyperior. Amir the Death Dealer was in the square. He quickly turned to the Kecleons.
"Being your leader or not, that would not free the city from the Cult's grasp. Be patient on your liberation. Oh and," he added with a sly smile, pointing at their stands, "seems you have costumers." The Kecleons turned around and he bounced off as quickly and quietly as he could.
He ran up to the wall of black stone behind him and kicked it to launch himself on top of the tents the merchants had installed to their stands to protect their merchandise. He fixed his eyes on Amir who was walking below; his ears suddenly picked up his voice - the Death Dealer was talking with somebody. Shango peeked at the street below, careful not to be seen by the crowds.
"The plan is progressing quite well," said Amir in a heavy voice. "All of the Hashashin are in the mines."
"I see... so you have paid their spies, as we agreed." Shango could not see Amir's conversation partner from where he was, but he sounded sinister, his voice strange and vibrant. He could clearly hear him through all the other voices. "It is evident you understand the importance of Yanakard and its resources, Amir," continued the voice. Shango saw them walking through the crowd and jumped to the other tent to follow them.
"But of course I understand it. Do not forget I am the one to build the weapons with the same resources!"
Shango sat on his ankles on top of the tent and tilted his head. He could now see the other Pokemon, but he could not distinguish his species. It was about five feet tall and it was wearing a black cloak that was in no way similar to the ones the Hashashin were wearing. It had runes on it, blue runes that glowed hypnotically.
"So you are guaranteeing your success in the mines. You do know that what we are looking for is of utmost importance?"
"My lord, do you feel the need to remind me of my duties?"
Shango thought the Pokemon in the black cloak had said that in the same manner as he usually did. Coincidence? As the two of them approached the tent Shango was onto, he picked up the sense of power, and much to his dread, the hooded Pokemon jerked his head upwards to face him. Two blue eyes glowed in the darkness of his hood, meeting Shango's. All of a sudden, he had a feeling that Pokemon could tell exactly who he was.
The moment passed and the somebody in the black hood turned elsewhere, seemingly ignoring the Hashashin that was spying on them.
"Amir," the voice said again in a quiet, slow manner. "I have a strong feeling you will never succeed. The darkstar underneath the city will be forever lost to us."
Shango opened his eyes wide. So that's what was of utmost importance. A darkstar, here, underground.
"You are offending me, my lord."
"If you took offense by my words, quite unfortunately, it is none of my concern. I merely state facts. Do you forget who I am?"
Now he sounded deadlier, somehow. The Rhyperior was clearly intimidated; Shango wondered who the Pokemon in the black cloak was once again. How can someone have so much influence over a Death Dealer? Hmm... the Death Dealer should not be alone in here.
Shango half shut his eyes and scanned through the crowd of the trade square. Indeed, he spotted several Pokemon with the emblem of the templars spread amongst the other Pokemon. He then jumped to a roof of a house that was next to him, following the two from above.
"It is time, my lord. It is now when we take over Yanakard!"
Amir raised his hand and motioned in the air. Shango caught movement amongst the crowds, then screams and chaos ensued. His eyes were locked onto the templars who started tearing the stands of the merchants down. The tents went up in fire. The Rhyperior headed in the middle of the square, in front of that small hill.
"Citizens!" Amir yelled, his thunderous voice being heard all around despite the screams, "The Dark Cult does not wish for this square to be used by your every day needs! From now on, this area is sacred. A temple will be built upon this land in honor of the Dark Cult!"
Shango quickly took his eyes from the Rhyperior, disgusted by the words alone. He searched for the Pokemon in the black hood amongst the crowd, but he was nowhere to be seen.
"Shango!" Tristana appeared floating next to his shoulder. "They're hurting people..."
Shango jerked his head towards where she was pointing. He leaped, landing amongst the fleeing Pokemon. Slipping right through them with speed, he reached the Granbull that was attacking an Umbreon; this Umbreon was apparently selling pendants. Shango reached for the templar's hands and pulled him towards him, stabbing him in the stomach and letting him fall to his side.
The Hashashin didn't stay to hear the Umbreon thanking him; he stepped on the merchant's stand and launched himself to the nearest stand that was set in fire by a Skuntank. The fleeing Pokemon prevented him from seeing Shango, who landed on his back, stabbing him. This time, Pokemon saw what had taken place and they quickly backed off, screaming.
The citizens are evacuating the square. You'll soon be left alone, against all those templars, spoke Tristana in his mind, trying to keep her calm, but her voice was still slightly trembling. Shango raised his head from the ground where the Skuntank was laying and looked around the square. Indeed, the people were leaving and he would soon be left alone.
He charged towards Amir who was watching the chaos. The Death Dealer spotted the Hashashin and a smirk was formed onto his face.
"You, again," he yelled in anger, "why are you here, Hashashin?" he yelled in anger, pacing towards him with his fists raised.
"Am I needed elsewhere?" Shango responded to his question with a question, having a slightly mocking grin on his face. As they talked, he evaluated his opponent; the Rhyperior was about fifty years old and seemed powerful and experienced. He raised his own hands in a battling stance that allowed him to use his speed to its full extent. His foe was twice as big, but twice as slow.
The Rhyperior charged forward, his massive arm coming smashing down towards the spot where Shango was a second ago; Amir proceeded into another attack towards the Hashashin, but he quickly disappeared. Shango slashed his back and slid beneath his feet as his opponent turned around. His claws scratched the red plate of armor, barely doing any damage. A great roar erupted from the Pokemon and swung his arm, Shango ducking to avoid it; he dove, tumbling to the right, his claws tearing the sturdy skin of the Pokemon's leg.
Amir, however, swung his heavy tail, which hit Shango right on the chest and sent him flying. Having lost his breath for a second, he struggled to get up. The Rhyperior was charging again, with his horn extended. Shango lept onto the Pokemon's arm, causing an unexpected surprise to the attacker - Shango started shooting a flurry of powerful, piercing punches, changing his position every second with such speed that he was almost unseen. This technique was called 'close combat' by the teachers of the Ionian Academy. Shango combined both strength and speed, and he was arguably the best student there was when it came to that technique.
His claws were leaving marks on Amir's armour - the whole procedure took three seconds, before the Pokemon flinched and Shango's claws found their way directly onto his eyes, plucking them out. The Hashashin lept away from his opponent, who fell on the ground heavily with a loud sound. Shango's chest was going up down as he panted; it was feeling extremely weird, as if his organs were dislocated by the Rhyperior's powerful swing.
Surrounding templars had taken notice of the fight due to the screams of their leader and charged at Shango. There was no way of escape, but that wouldn't be necessary; Tristana, seeing the danger, flared up. She was shot like a bullet at the incoming templars, a fiery explosion cracking in the middle of them, sending blazing sparks everywhere around the square. An ultraheated wave of energy hit Shango directly on his face, making him look elsewhere. The templars who had not been caught inside the flames were staring astounded at the after show; nothing but debris was left of their allies. Shango spotted Tristana on the ground, seemingly not breathing.
His anger flared up like the explosion that had just taken place; he launched himself onto the remaining templars, surprising them. By using the technique of 'close combat', he torn through them towards Tristana until they ran in fear for their lives, away from the square. Shango kneeled over the Victini, feeling his chest burn as he was trying to grasp her image on the ground. He picked her up and noticed her weak breath.
"Every war has casualties, son," said a voice from behind. Shango jerked his head to see the black hoody that was conversing with Amir a while ago. They were alone on the square, just him, Shango and Tristana. Shango looked back at the Victini and stroked her head, trying to think of ways of healing her. He felt the powerful Pokemon approach him, and he came to the realization that he had felt this kind of power before, when he met the Spirit of the Hashashin.
"Let me have a look," the Pokemon said and extended his arms, waiting for Shango to give him the Victini.
"Who are you?" Shango blurted, noticing again how the blue runes of his cloak were glowing. At times they seemed pure white, at other times a vibrant, unearthly blue. The Pokemon was examining Tristana.
"Do you know who you are?" was the response. It was said in a manner that got Shango thinking.
"I guess so..."
"That is not a valid answer. Who are you, to ask me who I am?"
Silence fell between the two. Shango could not see a thing behind the darkness of the Pokemon's hood; it looked alike the hood of the Master of the Hashashin. But the Master was alot taller and his body's shape was certainly different. This one appeared more feline, closer to Shango's.
"She is going to live," he diagnosed simply, without performing any obvious procedure. He handed Tristana to Shango and then fixed his eyes on the burnt body of Amir.
"Since you don't really know who you are," he started, "I am going to tell you. You are the Phantom Dancer."
Phantom Dancer. Shango was at a loss. He had not heard of such a name ever before. He looked at the other Pokemon as if he was crazy, but then he realized his power was... touchable. He could infiltrate his thoughts, somehow. They both were voidborn, he was sure of that. Let's try this... it was like he was sucked in by a massive whirlpool of emotions, thoughts and facts, the next moment he felt himself jumping into the river of a gigantic amount of flowing knowledge. Knowledge dangerous and mystic.
"And you are the Prophet of the Dark Cult," he stated, retrieving himself back to reality. He was still holding Tristana, much to his surprise. Even though he had seen things by invading the Prophet's mind, it felt like it was only a dream and that hours had passed since the fight of Yanakard's square. But here he was, still standing in front of the hooded Prophet. Not even a second had passed by. He remembered this Prophet was supposedly four and a half centuries old. But how can that be? He sounded like a thirty year old with a certainly odd touch in his voice.
"Yes, that is correct! Excuse the hood, but it gets quite disturbing when they recognize you in public... don't you think, Hashashin?"
Shango was feeling strange right now, conversing with the greatest enemy of the Hashashin. He was not forgetting the Hashashin once worked for this Pokemon before him. But now, all he wanted to think about was the knowledge, the idea of the Phantom Dancer. It was like he received a box of information with the name Phantom Dancer and all he had to do was open it. Tristana sighed on his hands, and he immediately fixed his eyes on her, stroking her head again.
"You care about her. Typical," commented the Prophet. He then perked his body up. "It's time for me to go. Amir's failure to kill you and your allies - yes, they are still alive - is not something that will not be mourned by the Dark Cult."
A familiar voice cracked from across the square. "Prophet," Crystal snarled and charged against the Prophet that was standing before Shango. She was not wearing any dress, and her mane was bloodied.
"Ah... Unfortunately, I have no time for this lady," said the Prophet in a strange manner. Two red claws were revealed from the black sleeves of his cloak. Darkness, massive darkness covered the area. Time itself stopped working, a dark haze bound Shango's will; he felt terrible, as if this power was not supposed to belong to this world. No normal Pokemon could perform such things.
Now, he could only see the Prophet approaching his immobilized cousin and examining her. He was staring at her.
"You look like my archnemesis, dear. Oh yes, Chantalai looked exactly like you! I miss the times when he was alive. Now he's even worse than dead, I'll have you know. Cursed to suffer for an eternity."
Shango wondered what he was talking about; all he knew is that pure evil erupted from his words. But if this Prophet was truly evil, why did he help Shango and Tristana? Why did he spoke of the darkstar, knowing Shango was hearing? The Prophet turned towards Shango.
"I will leave this city unscathed... for now. I am curious as to how you will progress with your new identity."
The haze faded and the Prophet vanished as if he was never there. Shango ensured he was still holding Tristana. He raised his head to face Crystal, who approached him furiously; she clearly had not understood what the Prophet meant exactly with 'new identity'.
"Why didn't you kill him?!" she yelled at him, grabbing his shoulders and shaking them. Tristana opened her eyes slightly. Shango shook his body off the Zoroark's grasp and walked away, slowly stroking Tristana.
"Where are you going?"
Shango turned around and looked at her in the eye. "I have nothing to say to people who treat me like that."
Crystal stopped for a second. Shango noticed she was reconsidering her behavior. She stared at the Victini on Shango's hands.
"I heard you talking with this spirit the morning," she said, having slightly calmed down. Shango raised his eyebrows, even though that gesture was not visible under the hood.
"I managed to... infiltrate her mind," she continued slowly. Shango immediately knew what this meant: uncle Pasqual said he had only protected his mind from the Hashashin... not Tristana's. That would mean, Crystal knew everything.
"You liked what you saw?" asked Shango mockingly, his inside burning. "What choice did I have, really? Do nothing and get tortured?"
"... it matters little. You are one of us now."
"Indeed, and I'm gonna die as one of you," said Shango coldly, reminding her it was not his choice to join the brotherhood. The Zoroark before him looked around. Debris was slowly being carried away by the wind, the same wind bringing the smell of burnt flesh to their nostrils. The ground was painted black from the blast, only ashes remaining of the grass in the middle of the square. Apart from that, the silence of the dead was almost unbearable.
"What the heck happened here?" whispered Crystal, avoiding the emerald eyes that were glowing under Shango's hood. He raised Tristana, making his cousin look at her.
"She saved me," he stated. Tristana gifted him a weak smile, unable to speak for herself. She seemed exhausted. "And what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be down in the mines, trying to kill Amir?"
"We went there," she said plainly, "we got some trouble, Enzo almost got himself killed, but we're alright..."
"And did you find Amir?" Shango asked her with a devious grin on his face that was extremely close to malicious. Crystal did indeed notice the change - his whole appearance seemed much more menacing, and his presence alone was overwhelming. Perhaps what he had seen inside the Prophet's mind had changed him.
"No... coz, are you alright?" Crystal asked him, examining him carefully. Shango knew what she was thinking - had the Prophet done something to me? Oh, no, nothing else but reveal the truth. A truth he hoped to fully realize, one day. Holding Tristana onto one hand, he pointed at the Rhyperior's body across the square with his free hand. The body had somehow managed to stay away from the explosion.
"You killed him?!"
"That's what I was told to do. Either I compromised, failed or succeeded. I never compromise, and I rarely fail, as you would know from my past experience," he said, meaning the time he spent in the Ionian Verdict. Crystal had nothing to answer to him.
"The spies were paid by the Cult, only one of them was loyal," Shango continued speaking.
"One of them said Amir was going to be in the square..." spoke Crystal quietly, looking down.
"We'll deal with the traitors later," Shango said in a tone that suggested that he was taking it personally, "now let us just report back to Carlos."
As Shango begun walking away, still holding Tristana onto his hands, Crystal spoke.
"Uhh... Shango? You didn't answer my question... are you alright?"
"I couldn't be better," he said.
Shango and Crystal indeed report back to 'Carlos' that very same day. After discussing the darkstar's probable location underneath Yanakard, the Prophet's presence and motives, and Amir's death, they agreed that they would speak to nobody about Shango's fake amnesia. They deemed this was the right choice for the greater good - Shango's skills were needed in the Hashashin. The whole amnesia business would only harm his image and probably get him killed, and that would be 'such a waste', as stated by Pasqual.
In the coming weeks, Shango found multiple opportunities to prove his skills by finding and killing each and every one of the traitors that had given false information to Pasqual, even when they had escaped out of Yanakard's walls.
Years passed, two years, and no sign of the darkstar was found by the miners the Hashashin had hired. That period, the Brotherhood loosened the Dark Cult's grasp over Yanakard and in the end eliminated it completely by killing every single templar that resided in the city. Shango himself had contributed the most to this and he was congratulated by the Master of the Hashashin himself for his progress. Meanwhile, his uncle Pasqual mysteriously disappeared - the day he was going to let Shango know more about his family. He looked for his uncle around the city, and outside, even, but he could not find a single track of him. Without the knowledge of his family, his heart hardened, feeling like he was not destined to find out what had happened after all. He ended up focusing on the Hashashin's cause, instead of escaping, because he knew no better.
The rest of the Hashashin found it difficult to believe that the usually quiet and kindhearted Shango had slowly transformed into a dedicated, deadly assassin. Tristana was scolding him every time he took a life, even though righteousness always guided his claws. In the later years, she had gotten used to it.
Shango had now become the youngest most revered Hashashin of their ranks. The ties of his past were not binding him the way they did back then. Now, he was truly known as Shango Maverick by the rest of the Hashashin, Alexander by the people of Yanakard. As for himself... he knew himself as the Phantom Dancer.
Chapter 17: the Tale of Myriapolis
The image of the Spirit of the Hashashin bothered him in his sleep the day before he left Yanakard. In the dream, Shango was facing that hoodied Pokemon who was singing psalms in a foreign language. Yet, it seemed as if he could understand the words more than when he first had the dream five years ago. Its meaning was almost impossible to decode, and when he confessed having such a dream to Pasqual, he could not think of anything either. Shango was convinced the dream was somehow related to the Phantom Dancer. After he infiltrated the Prophet's mind, something was planted on his mind, an idea of world liberation. He named this idea of his the 'Death Lotus'. His view of the world helped him to understand that few Pokemon had power over the Kingdom, and those people would be better off dead, hence the name. For now, he would work with the Hashashin until his incoming promotion to a Shadow Hunter, but he was not planning on staying with them forever. Having worked with it, he had understood how the brotherhood worked and its laws.
Yanakard had been freed from the Dark Cult and 'Alexander' had become their leader. But now, Alexander was merely one of Pasqual's illusions. In reality, the city was now ruled by the Hashashin, therefore their forces were not needed there. One day, Oneiro Nightingale spawned in their hideout from nowhere; the Hydreigon seemed twice as vicious as the last time Shango had seen him. He was not forgetting that Nightingale was the one to kill his parents, and that he would take revenge one day. But that was not his priority right now - he could contain his vengeful feelings as easily as he could contain pain and anger.
Nightingale informed all of the Hashashin in Yanakard that the circus of Ravenscare requested their assistance in Hesperia, specifically Myriapolis city. Everyone except Pasqual and his son departed for the southwest the next day; the journey to Myriapolis proved to be much faster than Shango had thought. A week passed to cross half of Stygia and cross the borders of Hesperia from Ishtero Mountains. To the south of the mountain ranges, the city of Myriapolis was waiting for their arrival.
The forest seemed friendly; Shango was glad to be in Hesperian grounds again, but he would miss Stygia for some weird reason. He walking next to Enzo, barely talking to him as they were both tired. Vincenzo, Bart and Crystal were walking in the front, blabbing about all kinds of things. Shango strongly disliked such chatter, so he had stayed behind with Enzo, who was angry at Vincenzo for scolding him (stealing lollipops is not right) and didn't want to talk to anybody.
Tristana was sitting on Enzo's head, patting it every once in a while. The two seemed to get along - the Ambipom's behaviour was protective againist the spirit of fire. Shango had revealed Tristana to them recently as a 'gift from a stranger he saved'. Crystal had come up with this excuse to permit Tristana to become friends with the rest of the Hashashin - hiding for almost two years was tiring, she figured.
"I'm sad, man, this ain't right," said Enzo, looking straight forward, having an unusual frown. Shango was frowning as well, thinking he would start talking about how all lollipops of Stygia belonged to him rightfully.
"What's up?" he asked, adjusting his cloak's sleeves to hide his claws. Either he had gotten taller, or the cloak smaller.
"I miss Ramos and our stand!" yelled Enzo in despair. Tristana stroked his head with a smile.
"I told you dear Enzo, that we couldn't take the stand with us...!" she said in her cutest voice, bringing a grin to Shango's face.
"And Ramos is already in Myriapolis," Shango reminded him, calming his friend down.
Crystal jerked her head towards them and stopped. All of them stopped and looked at her.
"You two, do you know where we're going?"
"If you mean the forest, no," answered Shango with the same grin, "if you're talking about the city, no as well."
"No, not the forest," said Vincenzo, seemingly impatient to further the conversation. Shango raised his eyebrows; this particular Bisharp was never impatient.
"Let's get to the point," spoke Bart in a quiet voice. "I assume Shango hasn't heard the tale of Myriapolis?"
Shango had indeed heard of the tale, it was one of Ascendio's favourites. The tale was formed fourty years ago, when the Dark Cult launched a sudden assault againist Hesperia... Myriapolis, being only a fortress back then, was the first target of the crusaders. The Ionian Verdict had gathered only a few Pokemon to the defenses, and by the looks of it, they weren't going to last long. But, surprisingly, the fortress of Myriapolis lasted much longer than the Dark Cult had expected - giving the time for Hesperians to gather their forces and ready their armies, managing to ward the Cult off the Empire. The heroes of the Verdict that died that day are still burried inside the city, and they are honoured up until today.
The downpour that had started early this night, right after Karnos's light, was still raging. The falling water pinched their bodies and made clinging noises as the raindrops were hitting on their armours.
The soldiers were exhausted, cold and wet. The mages were looking at the sky with fear in their eyes; this downpour would greatly reduce their fire tricks, and they could only depend on the screens of light they would form to shield them from the enemy attacks.
"Speedster!" shouted Frostheart, a Beartic. They were on top of the fortress's tower, observing the forest beyond the bridge that connected it with the hill the fort had been built.
"Awaiting orders, sir," replied the commander of the melee force, a Lucario, turning to face his superior.
"Take your men and hack that bridge down."
"Understood," said the soldier without blinking.
"We'll prepare something special for that filth, the Cult. They'll be forced to climb the hill to our fortress."
The Lucario nodded, grinning, and left to go gather his men. The sky was lit for a second by a lightning in the horizon; the emblems of the Ionian Verdict on the shoulders of the soldiers shone brightly, along with their armours. Frostheart sighed.
It was terrible, seeing his men like that. He was old, probably around sixty years old, and he was not afraid to die. But the soldiers in the fortress were... young. The members of the Ionian Verdict were too young to die like rats, trapped in a fortress.
The Dark Cult had attacked without a warning, and the first to go down were the northern fortresses of the Hesperian Empire. The Ionian Verdict had spread their members wide in an attempt to protect the Empire's lands, under the King's command. This particular fortress - Myriapolis - was separating Stygia, where the Cult was descending from, from northwestern Hesperia. There was only one hope of stopping the vast Stygian armies; to hold Myriapolis as long as they could, so Hesperia could prepare its forces. Two, three days, Frostheart did not know. All he knew was that they were all dead. Behind them, the powerful Empire was caught off guard to the Cult's assault, and in front of them, somewhere in the dark fog of the forest, was lurking their deadly enemies.
The Dark Cult was dwelling in Stygia for about four and a half centuries, spoiling it with their cruel ways and spreading their religion with force. They were simply preparing for the war againist Hesperia, their original target, having set only one purpose in their minds: to conquer the Holy Lands once again and bring back the Archaics to save the world from the Cataclysm. Of course that ultimately included the destruction of the Hesperian Empire. Their religion was claiming that the Cataclysm was approaching, and that they would save the world, but they were doing it the wrong way. Thousands of lives in Stygia were already lost tried to defending the native grounds, but the Frontier had failed on keeping the Dark Cult back and now it was on Hesperia's doorstep.
The downpour calmed down. The wind started blowing. It was morning and the fog was veiling the hill and the forest as if it were a curtain. They could only guess where the enemy dwelled exactly beyond the destroyed bridge. The scouts of Myriapolis had reported that the Cult was one day away from the fortress. But that was yesterday...
The hill was abrupt, and the bottom certainly not shallow. It wasn't visible, but somewhere down there rested the remains of the wooden bridge. Their enemies would have to climb the cliff of the forest down, cross the little valley to the hill's foot and climb it from there in order to reach the fortress. They had no other way of attacking them.
It wasn't even a day that the Ionian Verdict had arrived in the fortress, when the armies of the Dark Cult had begun marching beyond their grounds. With no other forces nearby, they had hid inside the fortress, preparing their defense. Nobody had hopes of surviving this battle. Everybody knew that this would be the end for them, they would fight with all of their might and they would be deemed as heroes by the King.
The worst torture for a soldier is the wait before the battle; nothing is worse than standing behind the miserable rock walls of a fortress and staring at the forest for even the slightest sign of the enemy. Hours passed, the night arrived and the moonlight passed through the clouds to reach the fortress.
"Come on," muttered the leader of the Ionian Verdict. "The Dark Cult should've been here by now."
Speedster leaned againist a wall, crossing his arms. The Lucario seemed the most patient of them all, despite known for the quick pace he did things - that's what had gotten him into a commanding position, anyway. "We didn't think of the possibility of the Stygians bypassing us. Maybe they headed straight into the inner Kingdom."
"But there's no other way," stated Harry the 'Cannonballer', a Magneton. "They'd have to go around the Ishtero Range... I doubt they'd be that stupid."
The Beartic nodded his head in agreement. "Cannonballer's right. We will just wait for them," said Frostheart with the tone of stone-hard determination that deemed him the leader.
The forest started rambling with voices that were singing some kind of hymn. The alarm was sound in the fortress; the commanders on top of the tower observed their soldiers. Frostheart half shut his eyes and raised his arm in the soldier's salute. "Everyone, in position!" He shouted and watched the mages position themselves between the openings of the fortress; those Pokemon of the Ionian Verdict were especially trained in ranged combat, and fate had chosen only Pokemon that fought with fire to join the battle of Myriapolis. Simon the 'Pyro Dancer', a massive Volcarona, was floating above the twenty fire-types, coordinating them.
"All set, Frostheart," she shouted without looking at her commander. "Good," he muttered and looked towards the forest. If the Dark Cult would decided to attack from the valley, the fire types would disable alot of them. Thankfully, the rain had ended long ago. The fire types had taken deep breaths and were in perfect stance to continuously shoot fire; timing was crucial, now, but Frostheart had faith in the Volcarona's skills.
The melee force of the Ionian Verdicthad divided into two groups; the first group had positioned themselves right behind the heavy wooden gate of the fortress. They were just twelve soldiers, twenty soldiers remaining in the back. Every Pokemon was wearing a golden armour, except the two Aggrons in the front who were destined to take all attacks from the first forces of the Cult.
Some shadowy forms appeared behind the trees of the cliff. The Dark Cult had reached the fortress. Now their songs had slowly stopped.
"Raise our flag!" ordered Frostheart with his voice travelling into everybody's ears. The golden flag of the Hesperian Empire, bearing both the symbol of the Empire and the Ionian Verdict's under it, rose above the fortress. The soldiers watched the enemy gather on the cliff's edge, looking for the bridge that was supposed to be there.
Two figures approached the spot where the bridge dwelled yesterday. Every soldier in the fortress shuddered in sight of the two of them. The one ahead, about five feet, was wearing a black cloak and hood. He was, without doubt, Ali Kemal, the Prophet of the Dark Cult. The being next to him was engulfed in a mist of pure, dense darkness, and only two red eyes were visible inside it.
"Surrender to me. Join me," said the Prophet in a strange, hypnotizing tone. It seemed like his voice was loud enough to be heard by the whole nature.
"Save it, jarhead! We ain't goin' anywhere!" shouted Speedster, raising his tightened fist. The soldiers admired him; not many had the courage to talk like that to a four hundred years old... Pokemon? Whatever this Prophet was. There were many rumours, rumours of the most powerful being in the omniverse, but the Hesperians didn't really pay attention.
"Such bravery!" exclaimed the Prophet in a sincere manner. "But you are foolish, to stand up to me."
"I bet I can fry your head from where I'm standing!" Yelled somebody from the fire types.
"Take your armies and go back to where you came from!"
"Let's see you trying to get in here!"
The figure of Ali Kemal stood firm in front of the fortress. The red eyes in the cloud of darkness turned to look at him, and the Prophet whispered something that echoed in the valley, but was understood from nobody. Frostheart had a sudden realization. He looked at Speedster next to him. "This is Oneiro 'Nightingale'," he said with his eyes wide open. Nightingale was known to be the most vicious warrior of Stygia. A demon, hiding in the darkness, he was the terror of the native Stygians that fought the Dark Cult. He was not just a warrior of legendary power, he was an assassin. And particularly, a member of the Hashashin.
The Lucario stared at the Pokemon, obviously amazed. "Nightingale has terrorized the free Stygians for over thirty years, and we don't even know what species he is. How are we ever going to counter him?" He muttered, frowning. Frostheart was frowning as well. "Our brothers and sisters can hold him off, I'm sure of that."
"The gallant army of the Dark Cult and the Stygian Empire is offering you a chance of redemption," stated the Prophet. "All your efforts of defending Myriapolis will be in vain, and will ultimately lead to your death. We will crush you to death. I am a fair leader - accept our offer, and we will let you live."
Frostheart spoke with his thunderous voice echoing in the valley. "I thought you already got our answer. Or shall we repeat it?" He shouted with a small grin and looked at his soldiers.
"Our answer is NO!" yelled the Pokemon of the Ionian Verdict inside the fortress.
"Come over here, if you've got the guts!" shouted Speedster amongst the others who yelled, "we've got plenty of fire to burn your arses!"
The hoodied figure did not react to the their mouthful comments. The silence of the other side had frozen with the fog of the forest. After a brief moment, the Prophet raised his hand, the sleeves of his cloak revealing two red claws, signaling the horde behind him to attack; some started climbing down the cliff, some went the other way around to climb down the hill.
"Soldiers!" shouted Frostheart, "we will fight with the filth that opposes Hesperia and our King! It is our duty, as the Ionian Verdict, to protect it by all means! Kill the traitorous scum, show no mercy to the wicked ones! FOR THE VERDICT! FOR THE KING!"
The soldiers shouted the last phrases over and over again in response to their leader's speech. They were up againist the bloodthirsty Pokemon of the north, but Frostheart had no doubts of his soldier's capabilities. Death was but a way to honour the brave Gold Tribe members who died serving the King.
The first group of Pokemon in dark steel armours had almost reached the bottom of the abrupt hill, hoping that if they charged using speed they would be able to avoid the fire. "What kind of idiot is leading them?" muttered the Beartic, covering his forehead with his hand.
Running like that in range of the flames of their troops was idiotic, but there was no other way of reaching the fortress. They had no other choice.
"Aim, set! FIRE!" ordered the Pyro Dancer, shouting so she could be heard.
Unexpectedly, fire bursted from the fortress's walls, turning the area of the valley into a hellish maze of flames. The explosion of heat hit the soldiers inside the fortress on their faces. The flames licked their enemies continuously for five seconds, and then they subsided. Some of them had fallen to the ground, burned by the intense heat, but some were still standing, barely though and with burns all over their body.
"Deep breath! Aim, set! FIRE!" the Volcarona repeated, floating above the mages.
The second wave of enemies flinched as the massive blast of fire hit them. The armours of the fallen ones had begun melting, forming pools of steel on the ground. But as the first members of the Dark Cult fell, more climbed the hill down and replaced them. This time, they approached closer to the fortress before the area turned into a blazing hell once again.
"Frostheart! Where is Nightingale?!" Speedster turned to him and shouted so he could be heard through the ramble of the flames. Frostheart glanced at the spot where the cloud of darkness was when the Prophet spoke - now it was covered by charging warriors...
Frostheart glanced back, catching a glimpse of pure darkness being launched againist him from the shadows behind the tower's peak. The Beartic sidestepped, ice forming in his tightened fist. A Hydreigon was standing in front of him, but not for long. The being bashed its body againist the leader's golden armour, making him lose his balance. The assassin fell onto him and was about to grip his neck with one of his head-hands, but the blue sphere of materialized aura shot from the Lucario forced him to back off with a swift move and launch a dragon pulse at Speedster that hit the walls of the tower, destroying a large part of them. He then sank into the ground, dispersing into a cloud of shadows and darkness.
Nightingale appeared in the sky above them and opened all of his mouths wide; Frostheart and Speedster dove to two different directions to avoid the dark pulse that was launched againist the tower. It was on the verge of falling right onto the fortress, burrying the soldiers below.
"Featherlight!" shouted the Beartic, looking at the sky.
The Staraptor with the title Featherlight charged at the dragon with a group of flying Pokemon behind him. The aerial force of the Ionian Verdict was infamous not only for its scouting capabilities, but for its swift actions, too. A mere second before impact, Nightingale vanished once again; the last thing that vanished from him was his devious grin.
Frostheart quickly forgot that the assassin was after him and focused on the battle. His gaze travelled through the valley. He could feel the heat from where he was standing, the ground seemed to be blazing. But the enemy forces had progressed and the fire types were getting tired. The Dark Cult had also brought ranged attackers, it seemed; they had positioned themselves on top of the cliff's edge and they were now staring at the fortress. Meanwhile, the warriors had almost reached the fortress from the valley. Frostheart glanced at Featherlight.
"Stay put, Featherlight!" shouted the Beartic and the Staraptor nodded, landing on a roof next to his brothers and sisters.
Their ranged forces had stopped shooting fire, and the Dark Cult's Pokemon were channeling their powers, right from the Nether Plane. If the Ionian Verdict didn't watch out for this type of assault, they would be blasted to bits in seconds.
"Psyonax," Frostheart shouted to a Gardevoir below him. He was the sole psychic type Pokemon in the fortress. That particular member of the Ionian Verdict was skilled into shielding - the light clay that hanged down his neck in a necklace greatly boosted his power. The Gardevoir eyed his leader for a second, then raised his arms the moment a scream teared the shouts of the charging warriors apart. Frostheart looked up to see a massive shadow ball floating above the heads of the ghost and dark type Pokemon the Cult had. That void was sucking their own nearby soldiers in it, causing them to scream in the face of their horrible death.
A giant golden shield covered the fortress as the sphere of darkness was launched againist it. The moment of impact, a strange, deep sound was heard; the darkness ripped through the shield, but was shattered into hundreds of shadow balls that fell onto the fortress. One of them hit Psyonax on the shoulder, making him flinch, and a second one hit him on the chest. The golden shield vanished as the Gardevoir fell onto the ground unconcious. Frostheart saw the two medics grabbing him and taking him inside a house.
"Speedster, take your men and go!"
The Lucario jumped down from the tower right onto the middle of the Pokemon that were standing in battling positions behind the gates.
"First group, twelve, with me!" Speedster shouted and the soldiers prepared themselves.
"Open the gates!" ordered Frostheart, "Featherlight, take care of those casters!"
"I'm on it," the Staraptor shouted back and launched himself from the roof along with the rest of the flying Pokemon. Now the Ionian Verdict would play all of its cards.
The melee forces, lead by Speedster, bursted out of the fortress and fell directly onto the Dark Cult's soldiers.
"FOR THE VERDICT! FOR THE KING!"
A maze of golden and black steel, battle cries and screams covered the area. The twelve Gold Tribe members of the first group, along with Speedster, were up againist the dozens of soldiers, but they still managed to push them back, forcing them to fight on the blazing grounds. Meanwhile, Featherlight and the aerial forces fell onto the Dark Cult's casters like bullets from the sky, breaking their chain and killing a load of them without harming themselves.
Frostheart crossed his arms, staring at the battlefield. We will die, but we will take alot of them with us. They will pay dearly for our lives, he thought. But just as the battle was taking a good turn, Nightingale appeared in the middle of the aerial force; he hacked through the flying members of the Ionian Verdict with brutal physical hits. They were caught off guard by the powerful assassin and started losing formation. Some of them were hit by blasts of shadows launched by the Hydreigon and others were shot down by the shadow balls the small amount of alive casters channeled. A little portion of the aerial force survived and was chased down by the crazed dragon high up in the sky.
Now the forces of the Cult in the battlefield vastly outnumbered the Ionian Verdict's, and Frostheart was forced to send the rest of the melee forces into battle; the rest twenty soldiers backed up the ones that were defending the gates. The Beartic turned to Simon below him, shouting, "Fireballs, back!"
"Fireballs! Aim at the back! FIRE!" The fire types spat shimmering balls of fire that crossed the battlefield, hitting the forces of the Cult that had just descended from the cliff. Their attacks caused massive damage to the enemy; they were forced to divide their attackers in groups to avoid having any more bombs explode right in the middle of them.
The golden ones in the battlefield fought with honour againist the endless hordes of the Dark Cult. The ground was painted red with blood as they fell one by one, taking many of their opponents with them. No one was afraid of death, and they knew it would eventually come, but they would rest knowing their enemies paid a decent price for their lives.
Frostheart eyed the massive dark figure in the sky, who was finishing off the last of the Ionian Verdict's aerial force; Featherlight was struck by a blast of darkness between his wings and started falling. The dragon now looked straight into the Beartic's eyes with that same grin that would make the innocent shake with fear. Nightingale's figure became a blur as he flew towards the tower with blinding speed. It was time for the leader of the Ionian Verdict to throw his own trump card.
It was like the clouds appeared from nowhere, veiling the whole battlefield and the fortress, joining together with the forest's fog. Two seconds later, it was snowing heavily. A powerful blizzard covered the whole area; the Ionian Verdict retreated behind the walls of the fortress, afraid of freezing to death from their own leader's attack. They had been informed by Frostheart for the blizzard, of course, and they could see it coming themselves.
The once blazing ground was now covered in one feet snow and the Cult's forces had fallen down from the wind that suddenly blew up and were now burried under the snow. The cliff opposing to the fortress was completly hidden by the clouds. The blizzard subsided as fast as it was brought up, Frostheart clutching his head in pain of the intensity of his own powers. He had not used them like that in a while and he was afraid of collapsing right there. His troops had only just closed the gate when the figures of the fallen warriors appeared behind the clouds that were vanishing. Silence, for mere seconds... then suddenly, a massive shadow ball like the one before teared the clouds and crashed againist the wall the fire types were standing, devouring them all and destroying half of the fortress with a terrifying sound and a quake that shook everyone.
The clouds had cleared off, Frostheart could see a set of casters forming a new chain on the edge of the cliff. A new, enormous wave of soldiers in black steel was now charging againist the fortress, ignoring the snow under their feet. The Beartic blinked a few times. They wouldn't survive this attack. Not without the help of ranged casters.
"Soldiers!" he shouted, looking down on the remaining twenty soldiers. "Today is a good day to die!"
"We will show them how a true warrior dies!" yelled the Lucario. Frostheart was about to follow them in the battlefield, but a single thought stopped him...
He turned around, but he was way too late - Nightingale gripped the Beartic's neck with both of his head-hands, raising him two feet high despite his massive weight. Hot blood dripped down the dragon's heads as Frostheart was struggling to breathe. He was unable to cast anything that would save him, the dragon would stop at nothing. Half of the Hydreigon's face was burned from the blizzard Frostheart had launched, along with his body, and now his grin had disappeared.
"You," he said, gritting his teeth with pure hatred reflected on his red eyes, "will die like a rat, not like a warrior!"
Nightingale flung Frostheart onto the rocky floor with might and vanished in the shadows. The last thing the leader of the Ionian Verdict heard as the life slipped away from him was the heroic shouts of Speedster, who fought valiantly defending the gates.
"Yes, Shango's heard of the tale," Crystal said abruptly, interrupting the Zangoose.
"What the heck are we doing in Hesperia, anyway?" asked Shango. they started moving again, following the path of the forest.
"Dunno," replied Vincenzo, "Master wants us in Myriapolis for some reason. The whole circus will be there, Shango! You'll get to meet more of us!"
All of them seemed excited, but Shango had gotten used only to their company. He was afraid of changes, but he wouldn't admit it. In the end, he was always alone, because his way of thinking was much different than the others. Crystal was the only one who could understood him fully, and she had certainly noticed the change of his personality.
As Shango walked through the dark forest, the sun unable to penetrate through the leaves, he spotted something glowing in the bushes nearby. A pair of emerald eyes, identical to his. Right next to them, a pair of amber ones. All of the Hashashin had understood what was going on; Crystal walked forward, and the mysterious Pokemon revealed themselves, exiting the bushes. The owner of the emerald eyes was a Zangoose, identical to Shango from head to toe; relatively thin waist and pointy ears. His facial fur was so huge and wild, it seemed as if his face had caught on white fire; the slight breeze made it look so. A red scar ran down his right eye, and on his left eye, he had that thunder of red fur that was exactly the same as Shango's. This Pokemon gave a really wild feeling, the feeling of the master predator, the one who had hunted everything that walked on the land. His belt revealed that - multiple bonetooths were hunging down from it; he was also wearing a bone necklace. Shango wondered if they were related in any way.
Next to the Zangoose was standing a Reuniclus. Shango immediately recalled seeing this Pokemon standing behind Suffenas in Yanakard's trade square; Crystal had said that he was a headhunter that worked for them. A crooked, malicious grin characterized his face, accompanied with creepy, huge amber-coloured eyes; Shango could feel the intensity of that Pokemon's psychic powers from where he was. An Hashashin wouldn't stand a chance againist that Pokemon.
"So, Crystey, we meet again," spoke the Zangoose in a deep voice that reeked of the viciousness of the feral spirit; his stance and grin towards the Zoroark hinted flirtation.
"Wow, look who it is!" shouted Enzo, excited as always. He ran up to the two Pokemon, shaking their hands with his tails. 'Hands' would be a rough description of the Reuniclus's hand-shaped green gel. Tristana was still sitting on top of his head.
Vincenzo, as the most mature one of them, was first to understand that Shango had no clue who these Pokemon were, and he turned to him, whispering. "The Zangoose is Hector Imperatore, one of the most feared hunters of Stygia!" Shango figured Hector was a hunter. After evaluating his agility, he turned to look at the Reuniclus. "And that's Zorthan, one of the most skilled headhunters and powerful ally of ours," continued Vincenzo.
"Where do you think you're going," Zorthan's enhanced psychic voice had a terrifying, unnatural metallic touch in it as if he was a robot with a soul. Crystal started laughing, taking what he said as a joke.
"Myriapolis, we have some business over there," she said in a relaxed tone. Hector proceeded into snatching Tristana from Enzo's head, holding her againist his face to examine her.
"Hey!" Tristana shouted, but she giggled right after. Hector was tickling her; then he let her fly above their heads. Shango walked forward and extended his hand towards the Zangoose.
"Shango Maverick, newest member of the Hashashin," he said calmly. Hector turned to face him slowly with a baffled expression mixed with interest. The characteristics of his face were brutal and fierce, he did not look like a normal Zangoose. He reached for his hand, gripping it tightly without saying a word. Their eyes met, despite Shango wearing a hood.
Shango turned to the Reuniclus, nodding to him. Hector was still staring at Shango intently, evaluating his power. Shango felt somebody infiltrating his mind, as if somebody could read his mind, but then he realized that was coming from Zorthan.
"This one's strong, Hector," Zorthan informed the hunter without looking at him. The others fell silent, not knowing what those two were talking about. "But I doubt they'll actually let you carve off a souvenir!"
The pair started laughing in a threatening manner. Shango glanced at Crystal behind him, who shrugged. "They're only kidding," she whispered. "Listen, mates. We're gonna have to go, night's coming..."
"Slow down!" shouted Hector louder than needed. "We're coming with you."
As he said that, Zorthan bypassed Crystal and the other Hashashin, leading the way through the forest. Hector followed the Reuniclus with Crystal clinging by his side. The rest followed behind them silently; the new company was beyond disturbing to all of them except Crystal. Enzo seemed to know and like the hunters that had joined them, but he was still silent. As for Shango, the presence of Hector upset him, somehow. It was not about killing, Zorthan probably had killed many Pokemon before. It was something else that he could not define.
Hours passed with Crystal, Hector and Zorthan walking on the front.
"So what business have you in Myriapolis?" Crystal asked, facing mainly towards Hector.
"Riches," said the Zangoose with a grin that showed all of his teeth, just like Zorthan's.
"Somebody wants some people dead," explained Zorthan.
"Since when are you people assassins? No fair!" Crystal said jokingly. Zorthan chuckled, his laugh sounding unnatural.
"You're missin' the point, missy: we like hunting, somebody's paying us for it."
"So why not, eh?" said Crystal.
Hector's laugh made him seem even more savage to Shango; he wondered what that Pokemon had been through.
"Part of me wants to let them live long enough, so the thrill of the hunt doesn't end too quickly. The other part, really wants to kill them."
"Our methods are different," said Crystal with a faint smile. "We are not allowed to stay from our goal: to kill the subject."
"Come on, what fun is in it being an Hashashin?"
It's not only about fun, Shango thought, who was overhearing their whole conversation. It's about building a better society through the deaths of some.
"Who are these people you're gonna kill, anyway?" inquired Crystal, full of curiosity.
"Ionian scum, Crystal," spoke the Reuniclus. "Verdict's been messing in the Count's business lately, and well... he asked us to kindly make them stop it."
Shango's heart started pounding faster upon hearing them mention the Verdict. He hadn't think of the possibility of encountering the Ionian Verdict in Myriapolis. What if some of them recognized him around the city? What if some old friends of his were actually killed by the headhunters?
"The Verdict doesn't allow Hashashin entrance to Hesperia, according to an old law; they think we're still working for the Dark Cult," said Crystal, "so if you ever need some help, we're here, yeah?"
"Heh, I dunno if we've ever asked for help... have we, Hector?"
"No, but it'd be a pleasure to work with this beauty," said Hector, making Crystal giggle.
Shango was petting Tristana on his shoulder, still thinking of their new company's goals and ideals. The forest ended somewhen, though, and his thoughts were cut off abruptly; in front of him was a cliff. A city was built all around a hill on the distance that housed the ruins of a fortress - houses made from wood and stone could be seen all around that hill; beyond it, there was more of the forest.
"At last!" said Shango, descending the cliff.
Last edited by Shango; June 1st, 2013 at 06:21 AM.
Chapter 18: Femme Fatale
The group bypassed the members of the Verdict that were guarding the entrance to the city. They claimed themselves to be performers and proved it by holding on a show; Shango was laying low, hidden in the shadows, in case any Ionian recognized him. But his identity was well protected under his hood, and they safely made it inside Myriapolis. Hector and Zorthan parted with them, saying they had some business to take care off; Bart the Shadow went somewhere as well, leaving the four Hashashin to find the way on their own. As Crystal led the group through the main street, Shango examined the buildings. The city was huge and no place was out of his reach, as always. Pasqual had not only taught him how to fight like an Hashashin, but acrobatic tricks as well.
"Tonight, we party," said Crystal to the others in a cheerful tone without looking at them. "Well, actually, it'll seem like partying. In truth, we'll be meeting with Nightingale."
"Where are we going?" asked Shango, seeing that the Zoroark was leading them in the darkest of streets. The passerby's seemed suspicious in this corner of the city; Shango wondered if they were outlaws.
"To the Show Dome!"
"What's that?" this time, Vincenzo raised the question.
"How should I know? Probably some entertainment center or whatever," she said as they entered a mass of trees. They walked further into the forest-like area to see red lights in the distance; they had this vibrant glow. They turned out to be Volbeats and Illumise's flying around. Wooden tables were placed on the grass, a stage with red curtains in front of them. Between the Pokemon that were sitting on the tables, Nightingale had laid down next to an empty one. Once the Hydreigon saw them approaching, he raised his head subtly.
"Here so soon?" he said with a terrible grin.
"Yeah, we kicked up the pace after we found out we were being followed in Holon forest," said Vincenzo in a calm manner, however Nightingale perked up all of his heads. He was taller than all of them, even though laying on the ground.
"Were you followed here?"
"No, silly," spoke Crystal fearlessly, "they're all dead."
The Hydreigon gritted his teeth. "Nobody calls me 'silly'. You're risking your head, miss."
Crystal didn't respond as she knew she was truly pushing it. Nightingale had killed more of his own than any other Hashashin had, as he was bringing the justice amongst the brotherhood. Those unfaithful to it would have to face him or run; no Pokemon had survived the Hydreigon, and that is exactly why he was a revered Shadow Hunter. The only reason he was not going to inherit the Master's rank from Ignacio was that he was extremely vicious.
The dragon had now calmed down, though. "Sit wherever you want and enjoy the show - then, we talk about business. Understood?"
Crystal and Vincenzo sat on the table next to Nightingale, but Shango didn't like this spot. If he was forced to watch the show, he would pick a good spot in the middle of the area. Enzo followed him to another empty table and sat down on the wooden chairs.
"How is the entrance free?" Shango wondered out loud, looking around for any personel that would take care of that. He clutched his belt, where he kept his gold and his emblem, and stared at the red curtains.
"Dunno," said Enzo, and soon, the area fell silent and the fireflies had disappeared. A spotlight appeared on the middle of the curtains; Shango glanced behind him, seeing an Ampharos generating light towards the stage. Two shadows appeared next to the stage and pulled the curtains open, but Shango couldn't care less. He had his eyes fixed on the Pokemon standing on stage, which was definitely the most beautiful female he had laid eyes upon. It was a Ninetails with red eyes that were glimmering hypnotizingly, her fur was shiny and luscious and her nine tails were constantly moving in a captivating manner. Her movement was also charming and delicate.
She started singing. No music for the background, there were no lyrics, her voice was enough; it was that of a siren's. Shango laid back on his chair and watched her every movement carefully with his ears perked up, but he soon realized that the hood was not allowing him to get a full load of what was in front of him. Enzo next to him seemed hypnotized as well; he didn't even notice Shango removing his hood, which was a great crime for an Hashashin to pull off in public. But he could care less right now, as all it mattered was to stare at the Ninetails, who scanned the crowd with her passionate eyes. Tristana was pulling Enzo's hand, trying to get him snapped out of it.
Their eyes met for a fatal moment. In his later years, Shango admitted that he had never removed his hood that day, but at that moment it didn't matter at all. He thought he was seeing the world through her eyes. The moment passed and she looked away, having a subtle smile on her face. Still singing the song that had captivated his heart, she walked amongst the tables, with her long tails dancing around like flames. As she circled, Shango was staring at her, waiting for her to arrive at his table. She apparently chose Shango's table for the last one, as she stopped singing once she was close to him.
Shango had not realized it, but he was still clutching his belt tightly. She quickly took noticed of it.
"What brings you here, Hashashin?" she asked in the softest of whispers that seemed to be imbued with magical power. Shango thought she had seen his emblem. Not good. However, she had not even noticed Enzo, who was drooling. That was good.
"What do you think?" he replied to her question with a question, having a subtle grin that didn't seem normal. Their eyes were locked onto each other. She paced next to his chair and lifted her front leg to put her paw on his chest; her smile was beyond beautiful.
"I think you came here for me... isn't that right?" she said in a seducing voice that made her seem even more gorgeous, "what do your friends call you?"
Shango would take a leap forward now - there was no going back after the name giving to a citizen. Was this Ninetails a citizen, though?
"My name's Shango," he stated, trying to calm his heartbeats down. She was so close to him, but in a second she was gone.
"I'll keep that in mind," she said, giggling and turning away. Her soft tails stroked his face; he had a feeling she did that on purpose. Suddenly, he felt extremely happy and sad at the same time - happy because of what he had felt, and sad because she was gone. The red curtains were pulled, closing and hiding the Ninetails from sight.
It was Shango's turn to get pulled by Tristana. He only realized she was talking to him after half a minute.
"Huh? What'd you want?"
Before she could answer, Enzo grabbed her with his tail and shut her mouth, hiding her under his cape. Shango quickly put on his hood again before the Ambipom could see him without it.
"Dude, do you know who that was?" Enzo asked him as if he knew who she was.
"My next conquest?" Shango said, smiling and laying back on his chair with his hands as pillows for his head as he looked at the night sky.
"It was the countess Claire La Fayette," Enzo stated, Shango detecting worryness in his voice for some reason. Shango jerked his head towards his friends.
"Countess?" he asked, with a scandalized expression. "She's married?"
"Yeah, and guess to whom..." muttered Enzo; just then, Crystal whistled them to come over. The fiery lights on the sky had reappeared. "Count Desmondius. You'll see now."
Enzo said and they went over to Nightingale and the others. Shango spotted Crystal's suspicious look and meaningful smile; he only managed to smile back.
"Alright," said Nightingale when they reached the table, "now that we're all here, let's get over with the details."
The Hydreigon looked at all of them one by one, ensuring he had gotten their full attention.
"We didn't travel halfway across Stygia to waste our time with shows and parties," he said in a tone that made it clear he was dead serious. "We have been hired by the Count of Myriapolis, namely Desmondius, to clean the town up from any member of the Ionian Verdict we come across."
Shango's heart jumped upon hearing those words. He figured it was inevitable, but that was not the worse part; Nightingale continued talking. "And our main target is Jericho Santaros, who's visiting the city."
Crystal glanced at Shango, worried about the outcome of this mission would be. Now that she knew about his past connections to the Verdict, she would think of the possibility of Shango betraying the Hashashin, given the chance, but he had no intentions of doing that. He had found the home he never had in the Hashashin, despite Ascendio who took great care of him. He was missing the Scizor alot, but he did not want to do anything to see him again. It would be too risky. But, kill the Chancellor of Ionia, Jericho Santaros himself? That would officially mark the end of his ties with the Verdict, and if they ever got to know he was alive and responsible for the Chancellor's death, they would surely hunt him down. Not that he was afraid for his own life - rather, he was afraid of the other's lives.
Nightingale's fierce voice brought him back to reality from the rift of his thoughts.
"Tomorrow night, we're holding a show on the square of this city; the whole circus of Ravenscare will be there, so better get ready for the show."
"What's happening tomorrow?" asked Vincenzo, crossing his arms. Shango knew what he was thinking. He was thinking whether he would stay up all night, 'taming' Ramos or he would be part of the action. That's how the Hashashin worked back in Yanakard; big part of them held the show to keep the people occupied, and the rest did the killing, nice and quietly. Templars who wanted to investigate the Ravenscare stand were always caught in that trap and were never seen alive again.
"Tomorrow," started the Hydreigon, inhaling, "our target will accompany the Count and the Countess to our big show. We'll make sure it's his last show. Is that understood?" he asked in a quiet, menacing tone that was suggesting he would not tolerate failure.
The Hashashin nodded and were about to go, but Nightingale stopped them. "One or two more thing, Hashashin. The public must not know that the Count is behind this. And, if you encounter any trouble with the Ionians, our friends Hector and Zorthan will help you."
Shango decided to go in for his question; he never asked questions before the deed, but this was completly different. "Why does the Count want to assassinate the Chancellor?"
The Hydreigon slowly turned all of his heads towards him and stared at him intently. "We are not aware of this information, and it should matter none to us. Master has approved of this mission and his word should be enough to guarantee our profit from this death."
Shango said nothing more, because it would seem as if he was trying to defend the Chancellor - and then, suspicion about amnesia would rise. As the Hashashin left the area one by one, Tristana flew from Enzo's head where she resided this whole time invisible and appeared onto Shango's shoulder. After Nightingale was gone, Crystal grabbed his arm and pulled him close to her.
"Shango," she whispered, but Shango raised his hand.
"I will not cross you. The past stays where it is."
The Zoroark looked at him for a bit and fell silent.
"I'll have my eyes on you, just in case."
"Once an Hashashin, always an Hashashin," was his response, and he winked at her. Crystal immediately got cheery again and poked his chest with her elbow. She had one of these naughty expressions.
"Lucky you," she said. At first, Shango didn't get what she was talking about, but then... the image of the Ninetails suddenly stormed his mind. Claire. That was her name. Claire La Fayette.
"Are you talking about Claire?" Shango inquired. There was a little something in his tone that convinced Crystal that something was going on. "Enzo wasn't so sure about 'lucky'. Says she's married."
"Oh come on, you know those rich people. Marriages are simply an eccentric custom of theirs."
"I like the way you think," he said with a charming smile. This smile under the hood had made him famous in Yanakard.
"I don't like this Claire," said Tristana blatantly, with an expression that revealed disapproval. Shango raised his eyebrows.
"I dunno..." the Victini whispered. Crystal grabbed Shango's arm again and pulled him towards the exit.
"C'mon, we need to catch up with the others."
They spent the night on a luxurious home designed especially for them; Bart informed them the next morning that it was provided by the Count himself, at least the gold that was used to build and decorate it. Shango commented that this Count was awfully rich, and when Bart showed him a painting of him on the wall (he was a Gengar), he also commented how ugly he was.
They woke up relatively early to have their meal cooked by a surprisingly friendly Banette that passed through the walls of their house. In the dining room, there was a long table and a fireplace on its side; they had their breakfast next to the fire that had been set by the Banette magically. The Hashashin were sitting on extremely expensive chairs that were made of a kind of wood Shango had never seen before; the other furniture were made of the same material, and Shango had taken great liking in it.
Nightingale didn't need a chair, he was simply laid down on the floor on his belly; Enzo reported to Shango that the Hydreigon had trouble getting through the door, and when the two bursted into laughter, Nightingale shot a deadly glance at them, surely aware of what the subject of their laughter was. Bart the Shadow was sitting next to the dragon; the Accelgor had trouble eating the food that was served (vines that looked like noodles and blue sauce made from oran berries), resulting in more laughters from Shango and Enzo. When they finished their breakfast, Nightingale spoke in a thunderous voice that helped wake everyone up.
"Now, everyone. We should be gathering more information regarding the Ionian Verdict throughout the day. Where do they reside? Is the building heavily guarded, and how? Are they able to counter us when we strike?"
He then proceeded in assigning everybody into certain parts of the city, where they would gather the necessary information. Part of the main street, where all the travellers gathered at various shops and inns, was given to Shango. He took it without complain, figuring that would probably be the most quiet side of the city. They were soon dismissed.
Shango begun his search right from the entrance of Myriapolis and worked his way up towards the square. In two hours, he was done scanning the whole area; him and Tristana had seen more than two patrols of the Ionian Verdict. Shango made sure to disappear every time they noticed him - cloaks were not welcome in Hesperia. The Prophet was said to wear a cloak and a hood during his lectures four hundred years ago, and the Empire grew weary of them. He had put away the shiny emblem of the Hashashin, but the guards still approached him. He was merely hiding in a dark corner, avoiding them.
The people in Hesperia were much more cheerful than Stygia; he could almost smell the foolish kindness of the travellers and citizens in the air. He leaned againist a wall, observing the flow of the Pokemon that passed by, until his eye caught something; fiery tails next to a gallant fountain that represented a Charizard and an Aerodactyl spitting water.
He quickly recognized the beauty of last night amongst the crowd. Countess Claire was sitting in front of the fountain, next to some bushes; she had not seen him.
He jerked his head to see the person he expected less at the moment: Hector. His wild fur was shaken by the wind.
"What's this?" he asked when he reached him, glancing towards Claire. His rough voice suddenly got calmer and an exact copy of Shango's charming smile appeared on his face.
"Are we related?" Shango couldn't help but let this off his chest. Hector looked at him again, from head to toe.
"No, I don't think so..." he said, mockingly. Yet, Hector was almost the same as him. Before Shango could argue, the other Zangoose departed to the direction of Claire.
Tristana, who was invisible as always, whispered into his ear. "I'd swear he is as charming as you!"
As she started giggling, Shango approached Hector and Claire under the coverage of the moving crowd. He perked up his ears, eavesdropping.
"Countess Claire," said Hector in a completely different voice. It was like the feral spirit that sounded like it'd tear you apart was now covered by multiple layers of maturity. Hector kneeled in front of her and grabbed hold of her paw. "I'm enchanted."
"Oh, my," the Ninetails said and laughed. "And who would you be?"
"Hector Imperatore, at your service," he said in the same smile. Shango was staring at Claire and Claire only, her charms having completly ensnared him.
"Ah, the Imperatores... I have heard quite alot about you," she said in a rather uninterested tone that made Shango chuckle quietly. He was too busy observing Claire to wonder who the Imperatores were exactly. Despite Claire's response, Hector would not give up; Shango did not hear to the rest of the conversation, as he went ahead. He gently pushed Hector away from Claire.
"Please," he said to Hector, still side looking at the Ninetails. Hector seemed furious, but Claire giggled.
"You are that Hashashin... what's your name again?"
Shango didn't lose his smile, however, his mind was stormed by emotions. Right after, they were erased by logic: she was doing this on purpose, simply to tease him. He stared at her trying to grasp all of her beauty, but it seemed impossible - he would have to stare at her for days, weeks, months.
"Shango's my name," he insisted. Hector crossed his arms with a subtle, slightly mocking grin on his face. Shango realized that Claire knew Hector, at least visually, as she had let him know that the hoodied Pokemon in front of them was an Hashashin.
"You two look quite alike," she said in her captivating tone, her voice sounding like music their ears. "Why don't you remove your hood? So I may be able to compare you."
Shango didn't like the idea, but there was no other choice. He felt unconfortable without his hood on - he was used to its protection and darkness. Now he was feeling vulnerable, somehow, not by Claire, but by Hector and the crowds. The eyes of the Ninetails looked like precious jewels as she examined both of them.
"I don't suppose your second name is Imperatore, dear Shango?"
"No, it is not."
Shango was almost sure she was going to ask for his second name, but he was not sure if he would give her that - that would compromise the brotherhood by giving away the family's name, putting all of its members in danger, if he had any left...
Zorthan interrupted them quite abruptly; the Reuniclus gravitated two feet above the ground, moving as fast as he could.
"Hector, we have complications," he said, looking quite serious. Then he turned to Claire. "Greetings, Countess."
"Hello, Zorthan," she said as the Reuniclus pulled Hector towards him. The Zangoose seemed furious as he threw a look at Shango, implying this was not over. The distractions left. Perfect. Claire let out a small sigh, looking at the ground. For a second, Shango enjoyed the moment. The sound of the falling water behind them, the intriguing scent that was coming from the Countess and the slight breeze.
"Ah, he finally left us alone!" Claire spoke, more to herself rather than Shango. He was still smiling, as everything was going fine. She looked at him and paced forward, closer to him. Shango could feel the intensity of her flames, his own face burning up.
"Now, Shango, about your second name..." Claire spoke in her seducive voice, looking up at him with her red eyes glowing. She was relatively shorter than him, and that gave him a strange feeling of ironical superiority. He had certainly gotten carried by her powerful rift of beauty and irresistible charm; so much, that he could not say no.
"Maverick, lady Claire," he muttered, almost hypnotized.
The Ninetails raised her head to look above his shoulder. She let out a giggle and Shango jerked his head towards the direction she was looking at. A Gengar, Count Desmondius no doubt, followed by two Dusknoirs, was headed their way through the crowd. Shango quickly put his hood on.
"Listen, Hashashin, and listen carefully," Claire spoke again and Shango jerked his head back to face her.
"I need you to do me a favour... would you be kind enough to help me, Shango?" she whispered, Shango realizing there was absolutly no way of saying no, even if she asked him to gather all the treasures of the world and give them to her. The way she pronounced his name made his ears twitch.
"Anything..." he managed to say, out of infatuation.
"That Gengar you're seeing there, he is my husband. I don't like him, at all."
Shango raised his eyebrows, looking straight into her eyes. She continued speaking quickly but effectively.
"I want you to... take care of him."
He knew this was coming somehow, and the fact that an innocent-looking lady like the Countess mentioning death so blatantly didn't hinder him at all. Meanwhile, Count Desmondius had stopped to argue with the Ionian Verdict's guards; the Dusknoirs had raised their fists in a threatening manner.
"I'll need to think of this," he said, regaining his self control and adopting a flirtatious tone that always worked. "Why don't we discuss this somewhere more privately?"
"That's such a good idea, dear Shango!" she said, gifting him a beautiful smile that shone brightly. Shango pretended to be blinded, raising his hand in front of his hood and turning away.
"Don't do that, it's blinding."
As the Ninetails laughed, Shango chuckled as well, unable to hold himself back. When Claire stopped, she looked at him, her eyes glowing again.
"How about you come by my house, tomorrow night?" she asked seductively yet innocently at the same time, looking at the ground and stroking the grass in front of her with her paw playfully.
Shango simply nodded, as he was afraid he would say anything wrong out of his infatuation. This had never happened to him before - usually, he had the upper hand. Not that he didn't like this situation.
He could now sense the ghost-type Pokemon behind him.
"It's time for me to go," he said as he gently touched her chin with his claw, having a smile that would look malicious under different circumstances. Claire closed her eyes momentarily, seemingly overcome by feelings, and when she opened them again, Shango was gone, as expected.
Count Desmondius was staring at the dark alley the hoodied 'assailant' of his wife had disappeared into. The Hashashin was sitting on his ankles on top of a roof, observing the scene; the Gengar started shouting some nonsense, and as he did so, Claire raised her head, spotting him. She had a subtle, meaningful smile on her face despite her husband's blabbing.
Chapter 19 I seem to have lost. Don't worry, it wasn't significant to the storyline. Moving onto the 20th chapter!
Chapter 20: The Endarkened Ones
As Jericho Santaros and Count Desmondius went through the guards to disappear into the Cathedral, Shango examined the building. He was sitting on his ankles on the tip of a nearby roof, with the silent Tristana flying about above his head. The Cathedral seemed unclimbable from this angle, even for Shango.
"What now, Tristy?"
He was asking for her advice quite often, as she always had answers. Though small and unable to aid him in combat, Tristana was useful in many other ways. She flew higher, staring at the Cathedral; then she dove towards him, landing on his shoulder.
"There is a tower where the bells are in the back of the building," she said. Shango turned to look where she was pointing; behind the Cathedral, a tower was built almost into the mountain.
"Let's see if we can climb this," he said, more to himself, launching himself from roof to roof, circling around the Cathedral until he reached the mountain. The rocks were perfectly climbable, at least by his standarts; his claws easily found their way in the openings. He worked his way towards the Cathedral on his left, picking up the pace. At times, his feet had nowhere to step on, but he had no other problems. His cape was waving with the wind, a thunder sounded in the distance. Soon, it had started raining.
"I don't like rain," Tristana cried as she flew above him. Shango did not answer as he had focused his attention on hanging from the rocks.
Shango reached a point where he could jump to the tower with the bells on its top. So he did, kicking his body away from the rocks. He landed on the bell, hugging it. It barely moved under his weigh, but he had trouble holding onto it.
"Woops," he muttered, looking straight down at the floor of the open tower; no stairs, just a rope that was used to ring the bell. He slipped away and started falling inevitably, the floor coming straight at him. Out of instict, he found and gripped the rope, stopping his flight. His paw was burnt off from the friction, and the bell sounded.
Shango would bet the entire city had heard that, but he didn't care at the moment: the Cathedral would be alerted that something was wrong. He got up and hid in the shadows next to the exit of the tower, where light was coming from. Someone was approaching quickly, and Shango figured that someone would soon die for their curiosity. In a spurr of the moment, he imagined two blades extending from his vambraces - he had given up doing that a long time ago - and surprisingly, it happened. Two lines of purple essence glowed out of each vambrace, being materialized into blades that were twice as long as his claws.
"Woah," Tristana had just landed on his shoulder.
A Kirlia dressed in black entered the tower, staring at the moving rope. She then jerked her head to face Shango behind her. She could only see the lower half of his face and the reflection of the moon on his blades. Before she could scream, two of the blades went right through her belly.
"I am sorry," Shango said; the blades vanished from his vambraces, leaving a great wound on the Kirlia's body. He grabbed the back of her head and her back, preventing her from falling, placing her gently on the ground and kneeling above her. Shango had been in this situation more times than he'd like to admit - he knew very well what the feeling of the impending death was bringing. The noun tried to say something, but Shango stopped her.
"Die in silence, if you believe in the after life."
The life did slip away from the Kirlia in a matter of seconds, and Shango left her right where she was. He did not agree with the views of the Dark Cult about the life and the after life, but he still respected their beliefs. He wouldn't show any mercy, however...
Tristana flapped her wings nervously above him as he walked through the corridor that connected the Cathedral with the tower. There was light coming from the door ahead.
"Shango, please don't kill any more innocents..." she whispered in a desperate tone. "It's not their fault if they were at the wrong place the wrong time..."
"The cause is blessing my ways."
Tristana was unable to counter his wisdom, mainly because she agreed with it, but also because she failed every time she tried.
Shango tested his blades again; indeed, the purple essence appeared again and the blades materialized on his vambraces. Later, he would study more ways of activating and manipulating this power.
Shango peeked through the door; corridors to the right and left, and another door right in front of him. Torches on the walls were lighting the place up; his ears were picking up multiple footsteps nearby.
"Tristy, do your thing," he whispered, glancing at the fairy above him. She instantly vanished, and a second later, the fire from the torches was absorbed. Darkness filled the corridors, allowing Shango to walk forward. Opening the door in front of him, he saw it was the storage room, so he chose to walk to the left. Tristana absorbed any flames she encountered ahead of him. Shango was walking silently next to the wall, observing the darkness with extreme focus. He wondered where Jericho and Desmondius had gone and what they were planning; or where they were, for that matter. Would he have to search the entire Cathedral? Just when he was circling these thoughts around his mind, a door opened in the far end of the corridor, allowing some beams of light to pass through and light the darkness. A female Mawile, dressed in black like the Kirlia, exited the door and fixed her eyes on the dark corridor.
Tristana flared up, still invisible. Shango stood right next to the wall, silent as ever. The noun was stopped from investigating, as a second Mawile exited the room.
"Come on, the Prophet has ordered the blessing!"
The Prophet? So he is here... the nouns turned towards the corridor where the lights were on. As Tristana landed quietly on his shoulder, Shango walked right behind the nouns. If they turned around, they would see him; but he was betting he could be as silent as death himself.
The nouns stopped and faced to the left, a big wooden door with strange symbols on it. Shango bypassed them and stood behind them; there were no torches around, thankfully, and a fine line of shadows offered him temporary hideout. The nouns opened the door, and Shango picked up several voices from inside. He slipped into the chamber right after the Mawiles and stood againist the wall, the shadows veiling him.
It was a circular, dark chamber with a round table on the middle, a red carpet under it. The source of light was coming from a massive window that was forming a painting with smaller, differently coloured windows; the moonlight passed through those windows, coming off as different colours that fell on the table in the middle of the chamber. The vibrant light created a ghostly, heart gripping atmosphere. Shango noticed with awe that the painting of the window was two Zoroarks: one black and one white Zoroark that were standing againist each other. In the middle of them, eight gems on a flower-like formation were floating mid-air.
"The darkstars..." Shango whispered, out of breath.
Above the Zoroarks, two subtle figures could be seen: the God of White and the God of Black, Reshiram and Zekrom. They seemed to be flying above the two. Underneath the painting, more windows formed multiple figures of various Pokemon Shango could not define. He had a feeling that this drawing was hiding the meaning of the universe, and he would study it if he ever had the time. This seemed to be a secret chamber of the Cathedral, which meant entrance to the public was not allowed. He would have to come back another time.
Shango's eyes fell on the table. Seven chairs were placed all around it, each of them having strange wooden designs. He could not see them clearly due to the darkness that covered them, but it was little of importance right now; the nouns walked up to the table and seeing it empty, they turned around and exited the chamber. Shango awaited in the shadows for about ten minutes, stroking Tristana's head to relieve his tension. His little fairy was giving him more courage than he'd ever admitted, but Tristana knew it and she was always gifting him smiles at times like this.
The nouns returned to the chamber carrying a plate that held seven cups and a bottle. Shango's nostrils caught a strange smell - alcohol. He heard the sound of liquid being poured into cups. The whole procedure seemed like an eternity to Shango, who was dwelling on the thought of the Prophet being in Myriapolis without the Hashashin notice.
As they placed the cups on the table in front of the chairs accordingly, the nouns quickly exited the chamber silently. Just then, a door in the other end of the chamber that Shango had not noticed bursted open; the familiar, black hood of the Prophet appeared through the doorstep and walked with grace towards the table. He took the sit that was facing straight to the window and joined his hands together. The light that came through the white Zoroark hit him, making him seem like a ghost; Shango saw red claws exiting the sleeves of the Prophet.
Not long after that, voices were heard from the door the Prophet had not closed - Jericho and Desmondius walked into the chamber, and they stopped talking once they saw the Prophet. The Chancellor, being an Armaldo, had trouble sitting on the chair. The Count simply slipped right onto it, levitating. A red glow fell onto the Gengar, making him seem extremely evil and vicious. That was not the image he was projecting earlier.
More voices were heard, and Shango jerked his head towards the door. Two Pokemon entered, and when light fell onto them, Shango opened his eyes wide from the shock: the Hesperian King Eoleo Nagrand was walking towards the chamber. The Empoleon seemed different from the last time Shango had seen him; but his conversation partner shocked him even more. It was a Beartic, an enormous and powerful Pokemon that was wearing a tristanite plate armor - Shango recognized him from the paintings he had seen as the monarch of the Illinkar, Ingvar. He had heard various stories of his viciousness; this Pokemon had killed the two generals with whom he ruled the Illinkar tribe, gaining full control of the nation. He was the one to commence the war againist South Altica, descending further into that part of Stygia. Of course, that costed thousands of lives to be lost.
King Eoleo and Ingvar sat next to each other on the left side of the table, againist Jericho and Desmondius and next to the Prophet. Two spots were now left: the one againist the Prophet, right under the window, and the one to the right of that spot.
The silence that fell on the room was almost unbearable, but after a minute, somebody else entered the chamber: a massive Haxorus with a pirate hat and a black sash tied around his belt walked with heavy steps towards the table, to sit next to King Eoleo. Shango was unable to tell for sure, but he was suspecting that this Haxorus was Heil of the Axe, Angstrom being his real name, the leader of the pirates of Novaya Islands. These pirates roamed the south sea, causing trouble for Hesperians; the Verdict had little interest in dealing with them, however. Shango had the sudden realization: in this very chamber, the most powerful Pokemon of both Empires, of the whole middle world, were gathered.
After another minute of silence, the Prophet spoke with that vibrant, hypnotizing voice that echoed in the chamber.
"Gentlemen," he started, "first of all, I welcome you to my Cathedral. It is a pleasure to have you all here."
"Not everyone's here, Ali," said the pirate Haxorus; a green beam of light was falling on Angstrom.
"... yes, it would seem so."
Everyone was staring at the empty seat next to Jericho and Angstrom.
"It is such a pity, don't you think? I would expect that particular Pokemon to show up every time," said the Prophet in a slightly mocking tone that was understood by everyone in the room. Shango's heart was beating faster than any other time. Just what the hell is going on in here?
"Ah, but enough of that," the Prophet made a gesture with his hand to show his irritation. He turned his hood towards King Eoleo and the Illinkar monarch, Ingvar.
"I hear you have replaced yourselves with makeshifts. Impressive!" he said and clapped his red claws together, creating slight metallic noises. His tone gave away the grin under the hood.
"It seemed like the best solution," said Eoleo; Shango was getting a different vibe from the new Eoleo. Could it be possible that he was fooled by a makeshift for three whole years? But no, that would mean that another Empoleon on this world knew about the darkstar. Ingvar nodded quietly; the Beartic seemed serious, deadly and silent.
"Let us not waste any more time," said the Prophet and grabbed hold of the cup in front of him, raising it in the air. "It is time for our prayer."
Shango did not know what to make of this. Were they all members of the Dark Cult? It was just too much to grasp; King Eoleo, member of the Dark Cult? But he was soon proven wrong.
"Before we start this thing," spoke the Illinkar monarch, "I'd like to place this complaint. I don't like having our meeting in the Cult's grounds."
The Prophet stared at him down; Shango could feel the intensity of his look, even though it could not be seen. But his words neglected Shango's thoughts: they were not members of the Cult, if they spoke about it as if it was a hostile faction.
"What do you suggest we do, then?" he whispered calmly.
"There are many neutral places where we could gather. I cannot leave my troops unattended for a long time, either - the trip from northern Stygia to here took me three weeks."
"We will arrange something accordingly by the end of this session," said the Prophet coldly, his words signaling the end of the matter. They all raised their cups in the air and started an hymn.
"We, the Endarkened Ones, swear full devotion to our creed and promise our entire cooperation to it. We work as many, to serve the single cause."
As Shango heard their voices echo in the chamber, he sat on the floor quietly. These Pokemon were controlling the whole world. It did not matter that they were from completly opposite factions, like the Illinkar tribe and the Cult or the King and the pirates, there they were, united in a single table. How could this be? These people must have had something in common. The Endarkened Ones. Who was their missing member? Shango remembered that the Hashashin worked for Count Desmondius in Myriapolis - who had assigned them with the death of Jericho Santaros. So, the Count was planning on betraying one of their own.
They drank from their cups and then the Prophet started talking again.
"Now, let us proceed to our discussing our important matters. As you may very well be aware of, the greatest enemy of our creed has emerged into our world once again. Yes, that is correct, gentlemen - Alexander has liberated Yanakard from the Dark Cult's rule."
Many things surprised Shango at that point: Alexander, his father, being an enemy of the Endarkened Ones? So, that is what uncle Pasqual had meant by him getting involved into far greater things. He had found out about this creed, the Endarkened Ones. But he also wondered why the Prophet was talking about the Dark Cult, his own Cult, as if it was another faction. Could this creed be a faction by itself, that merely controlled all of the others?
"From what we have gathered," the Prophet continued, "we have serious reasons to believe that the death of our old member, the Stygian General Karnos, was caused by this Hashashin. The General's death could not be substantial - the assassin behind this knew his connection to us. Rumours have it that it was Alexander who infiltrated the Black Citadel's palace and killed him on cold blood."
Silence fell amongst the Endarkened Ones, giving Shango some time to think of that - he had indeed heard of the death of the Stygian General two years ago, as it created a massive fuss over the Empire. But he had never heard Alexander was rumoured to be behind it; how could that be? Two years ago, he was the one pretending to be Alexander in Yanakard. And his father was dead for fifteen years.
"But we suspect that such information is incorrect - he was dealt with ages ago, and we have proof for his death. Our missing member was the one to bring it to us."
Ionian Chancellor Jericho spoke then. "Do not forget that Alexander was also aware of the darkstars."
"Ah, of course..." said Count Desmondius in an unearthly voice. "That fiasco in Ishtero Monasteries costed us a darkstar, bringing us back to square one."
Ingvar spoke next. "I say that Oneiro 'Nightingale' should have been punished for this failure! It was wrong of us to decide againist it."
"Calm down, gentlemen," said the Prophet in a tone that seemed able to calm down the most ferocious of beasts. "The punishment of Oneiro 'Nightingale' would have been such a waste for his skills and abilities. Confering upon him death would bring trouble, too."
Shango had a feeling he knew what the Prophet was talking about: Nightingale wouldn't go down easily. He had not earned the title and legend of the deadliest Pokemon in Stygia by following orders.
"Our search for any signs of the darkstar has proved vain," said the Prophet in a sincere tone that gave away sadness. "But we have a certain possible location in mind; the problem is, it is unreachable."
Silence again, until Jericho spoke. "We are talking about Alamagna, correct?"
Shango recalled hearing tales of the old capital of Stygia, which now laid in ruins; the whole southwestern world of Stygia had gotten a wrong turn after its destruction. The citadel of Alamagna was now covered in a circular, black barrier that contained the terror inside it; nobody knew exactly what had happened in there. Some say an event took place that drew the void towards the citadel, fully consuming it. No Pokemon to enter the dark barrier ever returned, and those that had studied the void from the outside perspective had reported massive shadows that appeared from time to time, indicating the presence of living beings. Corpses could also be seen from the outside; they had not been decomposed for the whole time Alamagna was at that state.
The consuming of Alamagna took place four hundred years ago, a few years before Chantalai Ancelotti's death. And now, the Endarkened Ones were suspecting a darkstar to be found in Alamagna?
"But how could we ever retrieve it?" asked Count Desmondius.
"I do not know... I haven't had the time to study the void myself," muttered the Prophet, obviously lost in thought as he held his forehead.
"Damned void, it ruins all of our plans!" said Angstrom. His pirate hat had been slightly tilted. The Prophet turned slowly to face him, and they stared at each other.
"The darkstars, much like the void itself, is a gift, Angstrom."
"That's what the Cult believes, and not what we, the rest, believe, and you should be aware of that," Ingvar replied to the Prophet.
"Acceptable," commented the Prophet, holding himself back. "On the matter of Alamagna, we should proceed into spreading some more propaganda about the void - it keeps people off, and attention will soon be drawn out."
The others nodded, agreeing with the Prophet. Shango thought it was natural they could spread propaganda. Speech was one of their greatest weapons of manipulating the world, surely.
"About our next subject, gentlemen. Our proposed alliance with the Fire Clan has passed through - Firelord Sigmund Blados will be attending to our next meeting," said the Prophet and waited for their responses.
"This alliance is pointless," said strictly King Eoleo.
"I agree with Eoleo - we cannot profit from it in any way," added the pirate leader Angstrom. So Sigmund Blados was still alive, even after he was thrown into the depths of the chamber underneath the Fire Clan's camp in the Scortching Steppes. That Typhlosion was holding the darkstar Shango had touched, which was now under Eoleo's control. The Hesperian King did not wish for the alliance of the Endarkened Ones and the Fire Clan because he was afraid of Sigmund mentioning the darkstar! As for Angstrom, it was obvious that the Fire Clan bothered the pirates.
"The matter is out of question, for now," said the Prophet in a menacing tone. "Sigmund Blados has offered us information regarding a darkstar. Besides, those who do know about the darkstars best be our allies than our enemies."
The Prophet stood up, leaving his cup in front of his seat as if he was never there. "And with that, this conference is dismissed. Be patient, gentlemen, our time is nigh."
They all stood up and one by one walked out of the room, closing the door behind them; Shango stood sat down for hours and hours, circling all the information he had gotten around his mind, until he decided to get out of the Cathedral.
Chapter 21: Visiting a Diva
The morning sun rose from the mountains of the east, sheding light all around the houses with the red roofs. Myriapolis slowly started bursting with activity, but Shango made sure to avoid the busy roads of the city. He was walking quickly and with his head down; the events he had taken part into were mind snaring, and he needed to share all of his thoughts with Tristana immediately. The little fairy was sitting on his left shoulder, like always, listening to him talk. She was invisible, and Pokemon who heard him were thinking he was crazy, but he didn't care at the moment.
"So, Tristy, there is this organization," he was saying in a strange tone as if he was hypnotized, "which runs both the Empires, it knows about the darkstars..."
Shango turned to look at her for a moment; her cute face seemed petrified. "... and it consists of the most powerful individuals of the world as we know it..."
He paused a second, stopping himself from pacing. He took some breaths. "Doesn't that grant them infinite power? They can do whatever they want... war and peace is entirely up to them."
The realizations came with a shock. "Thousands of lives are being lost when war occurs, and that happens with their approval..."
"They're disgusting...!" muttered Tristana. "And the Hashashin... do they even know about them?"
Shango swallowed. "I don't know, I don't think so... I've never ever heard of them."
"Shango, I don't believe that something as grand as a world-controlling organization would go unnoticed and unpunished from the Hashashin."
He scratched his chin, gritting his teeth and staring at a rock on the ground. "Now that you mentioned it, my father was murdered by the Hashashin, but from what uncle Pasqual told me, they knew he was involved into 'something else'. That means the Hashashin do know about the Endarkened Ones, at least the head of our brotherhood... and then why did they murder Alexander?"
A few moments passed as both were thinking of the question he had raised. The Pokemon passed through the relatively quiet road, looking suspiciously at the hoodied stranger who was staring intently at the ground as if he was searching for treasure. Tristana slid down his arm, forcing him to grab her onto his arms. She put her head under his hand, but Shango didn't start stroking her head as he was usually doing.
"And of course, I'm in trouble for not killing Jericho," he muttered to himself. His eyes were fixed on the Victini on his hands now, but he had focused his attention elsewhere. "Nightingale won't be pleased."
He started stroking Tristana slowly, without realizing. In truth, something had clicked in his mind. The Prophet had helped him find his true identity: the Phantom Dancer. Even though it was not yet clear to him what that term meant, he knew what the Prophet desired, from the knowledge he had transmitted onto Shango; the death of the Endarkened Ones, and that is why the idea of the Death Lotus was created. The initial translation Shango made from the Death Lotus was that he would kill the powerful war-makers of the land. Now he fully understood its meaning: those war-makers were the Endarkened Ones. And if the head of the Hashashin was corrupt, his place and usefulness amongst them was questionable.
Slowly, almost sadistically, a plan formed into Shango's head. What he would do would not be crossing any law of the Hashashin, and it would permit him to deal with this world controlling organization as a freelance assassin, a renegade, called the Phantom Dancer. That's what the Prophet wanted, and although he was not agreeing with the idea to help him, he found himself having no other choice; he felt obliged to continue his father's work. Realizing it or not, Shango had this inbuilt sense of right and wrong which guided him towards the path of relentless slaughter of the wicked.
"Shango! Stop!" Tristana shouted in strong laughter, bringing Shango back to reality. His claw was tickling her belly all this time. He stroked her head without paying any attention to her laughter and placed her on his shoulder.
"Tristy," he begun saying as he walked through the now empty road.
"Yes, Shango?" she asked him playfully, peeking inside his hood.
"You'll stay with me, whatever happens, yeah?" his voice was serious, but that didn't influence her mood.
"Of course, dear," she said and kissed him on his cheek, giggling as she pulled herself out of his hood.
Shango entered the house where the Hashashin resided; Crystal ran up to him in a hurry, grabbing his shoulders.
"Shango, where had you been?!"
"It doesn't matter where I'd been, only that I'm here now."
Crystal held him in her arms. "I was worried..." Then she looked at him. "Nightingale is furious with you."
"I don't care."
Just then, Nightingale's voice sounded from the dining room.
Shango walked in the room. The Hashashin of his team were also there, sitting around the table. The Hydreigon stared down at Shango.
"After the hard work all of us put into the show, the Chancellor is still alive," he stated. Tristana gripped onto his shoulder tightly. Shango faced the dragon with a plain expression; in truth, the thought of meeting Claire at that night was the only thing he was thinking of.
"And let's just say you lost him," Nightingale continued, "why did you not return to us to report your failure?"
"As if you'd do anything about it," Shango replied slowly in his coldest tone. Suddenly, a shadow emerged from the ground; Shango had forgotten that the Count, as a Gengar, had the ability to pass through walls. Desmondius was right in front of them, staring at Nightingale.
"It's none of his fault, Oneiro. He lost us in the narrow streets."
Shango was not expecting Desmondius to defend him; he looked at the Gengar with the same plain expression that hid so many things behind it. That Count was so rich, his influence reached over the Contested Lands - Shango could easily see why he was a member of the Endarkened Ones. The Hashashin, want it or not, would have to face his death, even if he so kindly defended Shango.
The Hydreigon stared at the Count intently.
"What of Jericho?"
"I had no opportunity of killing him," lied Desmondius. Shango knew he was not planning on killing the Chancellor, at least not before the conference.
"And what do we do now?" Nightingale asked in a low voice.
"The Chancellor is leaving the city the coming week," informed them the Count. "For now, we lay low, until we find the perfect opportunity to strike. I will contact you if and once anything new comes up."
He sank to the ground afterwards, leaving the Hashashin in a silence filled with tension.
"You heard him," said Nightingale in that low voice. Shango was the first one to leave the house.
"So, according to everyone, the Count's house is that mansion up the hill," Shango muttered to himself. Being night, it was difficult to extract information about the location from stranger as he seemed too threatening.
"Shango, I don't think you should be doing this," Tristana said in a vain attempt to warn him. "If the Count finds out..."
"If the Count finds out, I'll kill him on the spot," Shango finished her sentence in a blatant and cruel manner that characterized him lately. Tristana simply shrugged and vanished.
He jumped above the walls that surrounded the hill, which appeared to be the mansion's garden. Trees offered him hideout while he moved towards the big house; only the rustling sound of the leaves being carried around by the wind was heard. Just as he was looking at the shining stars on the sky, Shango thought about getting Claire a gift, but it was now too late and the desire to see her was much too great.
A strange, purple light was coming off from a window on the top floor. Shango climbed up the mansion almost as fast as he was walking. He peeked inside the window to see a Chandelure standing on top of a table. This seemed to be some kind of living room, though there was no other furniture around. He stuck his claw inside the lock, cracking it open and climbing inside the house. The Chandelure instantly faced him; his figure alone was not far from threatening the ghost-type with death.
"Lady Claire!" the ghost shouted in a high-pitched voice.
The Ninetails appeared from the door almost immediately; Shango locked his eyes onto her. She seemed to be even more beautiful than the last time; in each of her tails was tied a blue coloured bow. Her fur was shining, even if the light of the Chandelure was dim and depressing, and her movements were just as gracious.
"Ah, Shango!" she said, tackling him gently; Shango was caught off guard and sat on the ground, Claire placing her head on his chest. He simply run his hand through her fur, something which he wanted to do ever since he saw her. Her gorgeous figure overwhelmed him massively, ensnaring his heart.
She shot a glance at the Chandelure, who vanished from the room, leaving the two in darkness. One of Claire's tails reached for a candle on the table, which ignited in flames at once, lighting up the whole room. It was no ordinary candle, Shango would be able to say if his attention wasn't completly absorbed by her red, hypnotizing eyes.
"Are we alone?" he asked in a low voice, not because he was afraid of somebody hearing him, but because the moment was too fragile to be shattered.
"Indeed, we are," she said and let go of him to stand on her feet. Their eyes were now about the same height.
"I hear our friend Jericho is still alive," she said strictly but giggled right after in a cute manner. Her words struck Shango like lightning - she knew about the plans of the Hashashins? But he thought of it more carefully. Why wouldn't she know about their plans, the Count would have told her surely.
"Oh yeah... I had some complications."
"No matter, dear Shango..." she whispered and turned her back to him, her tails swishing right on his face. She paced forward.
"Do you know how hard it is," Claire started saying as she walked around the room, "for a diva like me, to be married to a miserable ghost type?"
Here we go, Shango thought. "No, but I can see," he replied with a half-smile. "He doesn't seem like the right kind of person for you..."
The laugh of the Ninetails captivated Shango's heart. She approached him slowly, pushing the tip of his hood back. Shango was burning from desire.
"How right you are. I want somebody strong who can protect me from this cruel world," her voice was slightly dramatic but seductive at the same time. Shango's emerald eyes were reflecting hers, she was that close. He was feeling his heartbeats getting faster, the heat radiating from her melting the resistance of his sanity.
"Let me guess, that somebody, is me," he managed to say, his voice having lost the impact it once had. A feeling similar to sleepyness overwhelmed him. She laughed melodically, taking her eyes away from his.
"Yes, you do seem capable!" she said, having a subtle smile and looking at his claws. She giggled as she touched them, seemingly to examine them, something which Shango found extremely cute. "Those claws of yours... they look dangerous."
Claire raised her head to look at him, biting her lips slightly in a charming expression. Shango was overcome by her beauty once again; he didn't know if he could stand staring at her for so long, but the thought of losing her from sight wasn't welcome in his mind. Her compliment had at least doubled his ego. Now he was ready to face an army to get her... but how good was that?
"They are dangerous to anyone who'll try to harm you."
Claire giggled again, still looking at his sharp claws. "How charming," she whispered, gifting Shango a victory that had nothing to do with the satisfaction he was getting by killing his target. The thought that he had charmed her made him feel superior than the Count, Hector, or anyone who approached her for that matter. It was strange, how she had admitted it, he thought, but he didn't care at all at this moment. He would have to tease her a bit.
"Charming, like Hector," he said in a subtle, playful smile, as he placed his claw on her chin to make her look at him.
"Hector... you look alike, but he is rather impolite, indeed too much for me," she spoke in a sincere tone Shango was hearing for the first time.
"How do you know? I thought he was being nice to you."
She seemed mildly serious now. "Insight is one of my aspects, dear Shango."
Shango chuckled, his smile growing. "I see you have a lot of aspects," he said in a low, flirtatious voice that would sound sarcastic if it was slightly different. However, Shango knew the meaning passed through, although she did not show any signs. He noticed the way her tails were waving had changed.
"How did you get involved in show business?" Shango suddenly asked her with curiosity.
"Everyone has a hobby, no?"
Claire glanced at his claws. "You know... I've always wondered what you Hashashin do in your free time," she caressed his chest gently back and forth. Best way of distracting me, Shango quickly thought, enjoying her paw's movement on him.
"We never really have free time..." Shango said quietly, looking at her eyes.
"Speaking of the Hashashin... Hector tells me you have never been a close friend to the Imperatores," Claire said and observed his expression change. "But from what my sources tell me, yours and his family had established a close friendship."
"I would not know... I've never heard of that name before," muttered Shango, taking his eyes away from her for the first time. He was not sure if letting her know about his past was a good idea, despite the fact that he was enticed by her behaviour.
"The Imperatores are one of the most important families of Hesperia," explained Claire, still stroking his chest, "they were the ones who built the infamous 'Well of Shadows'."
"Well of Shadows?"
Another beautiful smile was formed on Claire's face, as she was obviously enjoying Shango's curiosity. Shango himself was feeling warm and fuzzy.
"The Well of Shadows is a botomless hole on the ground, here in Hesperia, that is said to hide unspeakable powers. But that is but a myth to lure the fools into oblivion..."
Her dark tone made Shango want to explore that well right away; it was as if she was making it a challenge.
"I see... are you ever going to take me to this well?" he asked her, gently scratching her neck and looking straight into her eyes.
"Why would you want to go there?" Claire asked abruptly, with her suspicion rising. Shango shrugged with a unique smile that was captivating in its own way.
"I've always wanted to go strolling with a gorgeous diva like yourself."
The said diva laughed with a feminine grace that was rooting Shango's heart. She raised her eyebrows.
"That's dangerous. They might see us." She was smiling beautifully, despite her words.
"So?" Shango asked, with his sharp teeth revealed. She laughed again; a dim, purple light filled the room again as the Chandelure appeared on the table.
"Lady Claire, the Count has arrived," the ghost announced. Shango was already on the tip of the window. Claire was looking at him, still laying down where he had left her.
"I'll be seeing you," Shango said and she responded only with a grander smile. He put on his hood and let himself fall on the ground; the distance was thirty feet, but he was barely hurt. As he got up, he perked up his ears, overhearing the two talking.
"Claire, are you still awake?" the voice of the Gengar sounded strange.
"Of course, I was waiting for you."
"... you'd never done that before."
Shango chuckled. He grabbed each of his wrists, adjusting his vambraces that had slightly fallen off from the tension he had just gone through.
"There's always a first time."
On top of everything else, Claire seemed to be clever as well. Shango took a mental note to himself to show his appreciation for just that, and not just her beauty. Just as he was thinking that, Tristana popped on his shoulder.
"Hey, where'd you been?" Shango asked without looking at the fairy. He started walking towards the forest of the mansion's garden.
"I couldn't stand her," she said in a disgusted expression, "so I flew off. Besides, I thought things would get ugly."
"Hmm, not yet, Tristy," he replied, smiling as he let the shadows of the trees veil him.
Chapter 22: Well of Shadows
Three days had passed since Shango had visited Claire La Fayette, in which the Hashashin devoted themselves to their investigation about Jericho Santaros. Their target had locked himself away in a palace, and nobody currently knew the reason to why he had stayed so long in Myriapolis. Nightingale seemed nervous at this time, being threatening towards the other Hashashin and abusive of his title and power; Shango was so busy with the research for Jericho the Shadow Hunter had ordered that he was unable to see Claire again. Myriapolis had quickly gotten boring, as nothing was happening that would keep Shango in action. This city was as peaceful as Yanakard never was.
Shango was staring at a Spinda, who was trying to walk straight on the side of the road. He was in a relatively quiet, foresty area of the city, waiting for somebody that was supposed to be member of the Ionian Verdict. But no one except a drunken Spinda and two Golems fighting down the street had showed up. Shango was getting bored, as he was sitting on a bench for almost two hours, with only a lamppost and some colorful flowers to keep him company. He had left Tristana with Crystal as the Victini didn't seem up for seeing blood today. But he didn't mind she wasn't with him - at the moment, he wanted to dwell on the image of Claire and the memory of the time he had spent next to her. The Countess had become some kind of obsession for Shango, which wasn't sitting well with Tristana.
As he was thinking about her, now staring at the ground, somebody approached him. Shango raised his head to see the enormous Reuniclus towering above him; he was levitating calmly two feet above the ground, having that menacing grin stuck on his face.
"What's this, you failed your mission?" Zorthan asked, his metallic voice squeezing through Shango's sensitive ears. He examined the Reuniclus, looking straight at its amber eyes; he caught a terrible vibe coming from the Pokemon, as if he was not perfectly sane.
"Yeah," he muttered and looked back on the ground, only to raise his head again to face Hector. They both stood next to him, Zorthan landing on the bench softly.
"What do you guys want?" Shango asked abruptly in a tone that revealed his irritation.
"Your full cooperation," Zorthan informed him quite blatantly. Shango glanced at his immovable grin.
"Have you ever been touched... by a darkstar?" Hector asked him quietly. Shango raised his eyebrows. So, they know. It turned out they weren't just headhunters.
"I have," he said curtly, not knowing where this was going.
"Thing is, we really want to get our hands on these," spoke Zorthan in the same, quiet manner as Hector.
"And how can I help you?" Shango asked them coldly; their intentions seemed to lean towards evil, and not good. Or was it his imagination?
"We're not asking for your help, we demand it," stated Hector in a serious manner, but then chuckled. "Unless you want us to tell our friend Nightingale about your past... besides, Crystey will get in trouble too."
Shango remained silent for a moment, thinking of the situation. "How did you know?" he inquired, still staring at the ground.
"Crystey got drunk last night and let'sss say..." Shango looked at Hector grabbing his chin and looking upwards in a fake expression of being lost in thought. "We... procured such information."
"And I'd bet that Nightingale wouldn't be pleased to hear about Crystal hiding information from him," added Zorthan.
"Alright, alright, fine," said Shango quickly, as if he was suddenly bored of all this. "What do you want?"
Hector and Zorthan glanced at each other. "Woah, didn't think it was gonna be so easy," Hector said and roared his raspy laughter.
"What part of your body touched the darkstar?" Zorthan asked almost immediately, with hunger obvious in his voice. Shango raised his right arm, recalling the moment the darkstar had indulged its powers onto it; it was as if he could still feel its vast, overwhelming power, but it was quite distant. The Reuniclus gripped his gel around Shango's hand, examining it, then letting it go. Hector stared at his mate. Shango assumed Zorthan had performed some kind of procedure using his psychic powers, but he couldn't be sure.
"Yeah, it's there," Zorthan said in a serious tone, losing his pompous grin at last.
"What's there?" Shango inquired in a demanding voice.
"The vibe," Zorthan explained, then looked over at Hector. "C'mon."
They walked away, but Hector turned to Shango who got up from the bench as well. "Not so fast, Shango. You stay where you are."
Shango slowly sat down, staring at both of them as they stood at the end of the road. They walked away and talked to each other quickly, but he couldn't hear them. The pair then approached him again.
"Man, our luck sucks today," said Hector, rolling his eyes.
"The darkstar is located in the King's bedroom, yeah?" Zorthan said while staring at Shango.
"How did you--"
"It doesn't matter," Zorthan interrupted him. "Let's just hope it's still there."
"What...? Why?" Shango glanced at both of them, examining their expressions. They seemed to have calmed down, strangely.
"It's safer that way," the Reuniclus informed him.
"Now, Shango, we'll be seeing ya later," said Hector with a grin and instantly turned around to leave.
"Take care, bud," Zorthan patted him on his shoulder, but his whole attitude reeked of pretension as the threatening grin was still stuck on his face. They both got out of Shango's sight, who remained sitting on the bench, wondering what was their strange behavior all about - two random Pokemon, knowing about the darkstars? Shango thought about it for some time, staring at the flowers on the other side of the road. Who truly knew about the darkstars? The Hashashin, the Endarkened Ones and Princess Rosa. With the thought of Rosa, Shango wondered if she was part of the Endarkened Ones; she had been sent in Erca by the King, Stygian territory in other words. For what? Too many questions that Shango couldn't answer, but other things were a priority right now. He stood up and walked away from the empty road, as the member of the Verdict he was looking for wouldn't show up any time soon.
Night arrived, darkness covering Myriapolis like a veil. It was the perfect time for blending with the shadows, but Shango was currently enjoying a good sleep in one of the cotton beds their hideout had. Though, 'enjoying' would be a little rough - he was having a dream. The same dream that tortured him for years, that wasn't necessarily brought up every night. Sometimes, even months separated the times he was having it.
The otherworldly figure of the hooded Pokemon was standing in front of him. Hands raised in the air, a melodic voice formed psalms that invaded Shango's subconscious. By now, he had understood that the message was repeating itself in every dream of his; it was exactly the same, though undefinable. He had also realized that the Spirit of the Hashashin was extremely similar to the Prophet of the Dark Cult: they had the same body structure, the same voice but differently coloured cloak. His research about the language had led him to believe that it was the same used in the Cult's hymns that were sung in the churches and cathedrals. The ancient language of the Archaic Precursors was still alive thanks to the Dark Prophecy, the bible of the Cult that was written by the Prophet himself. Shango had figured that the darkstars were connected to all this, somehow. It was time for some more drastic research on the matter: he would study the runes of this language so he could finally understand what the Spirit was saying.
Shango woke up abruptly from his ethereal dream as Crystal nudged his shoulder. He opened his eyes wide, staring at the Zoroark in a look of irritation.
"What's wrong with you?"
"Wake up, sleepyhead!" she shouted, shaking his shoulders. Crystal didn't seem to remember anything about speaking about his past to Hector and Zorthan, but he wouldn't bother reminding her.
"I'm awake!" Shango shouted back, raising his claw to open his eyes wider and show her. "See?!"
She started laughing, but soon stopped and dragged him out of the room with force. They entered the dining room, where Nightingale and the rest of the Hashashin were sitting on the table as usual.
"Yo, 'sup?" Enzo launched himself from his chair, landing in front of Shango to shake his hand.
"What's going on...?" Shango muttered, looking at all of them separately. They looked strange, curious at the same time.
"Shango Maverick," started Nightingale with a seemingly bored look. "You are promoted to a Shadow Hunter."
Before Shango could say anything, Vincenzo, Enzo and Crystal fell onto him trying to hug him all at once. The following scene would be a golden piece to Shango's hall of memories. When things calmed down a bit, he could finally ask why.
"Because that's what Master wanted," Nightingale simply stated, half closing his eyes in a threatening manner. His two head-hands seemed aggressive and violent at the time, implying he wasn't in the best of moods. So now Shango was a Shadow Hunter, the same degree as Nightingale and Bart; speaking of Bart, the Accelgor was standing right next to the Hydreigon, half covered in the shadows. A grin of approval was visible.
"And with that," spoke Bart, "you're breaking the record age of the promotion to a Shadow Hunter."
Enzo shook Shango's hand again vigorously. "Yeah! Bart was promoted at the age of thirty, but you're only twenty four!"
Almost, Shango thought; he had forgotten when his birthday was. Bart the Shadow didn't look mad that he had lost the title of the youngest Shadow Hunter, he only winked at Shango when he shot him a glance full of concern. The truth was that, personally, Shango didn't think he was equal to Nightingale or Bart for that matter. Being a Shadow Hunter would make him equal to his uncle Pasqual as well, but he was doubting that. He felt his promotion was biased, for some reason. The idea of the Master looking for the darkstar crept above him; perhaps his promotion had something to do with the amnesia. Now, the Master would certainly have much more control over him, despite him having excessive freedom granted by his title.
Congratulations, Tristana spoke to his mind. She had hid herself inside his cloak, as she didn't want to reveal herself to Nightingale. Explaining her presence to the dragon seemed harder than climbing King Eoleo's palace.
Shango reached her head with his claws and silently thanked her by scratching her ear. At that moment, he had that feeling of unstable happiness that seemed it would crumble down any second.
Nightingale made a horrible sound that seemed as if he was clearing his throats. Everyone took their places on the table, staring at him. The dragon was staring only at Shango.
"You are the nineteenth Shadow Hunter alive, Shango, and the third in skill and dedication in this room. Don't take your rank on your head, or I'll cut it off myself," he said evily, everyone laughed but Shango had a feeling he was being serious. He shrugged it off and stroked Tristana.
"Aside of Shango's promotion," spoke Bart calmly, "...we have news over the Chancellor case."
Silence fell on the room now. Shango made himself comfortable on the wooden chair, suddenly noticing the symbols it had resembled Archaic runes; that led him to think that Count Desmondius, who had picked those chairs, fancied the Precursors. Such a random and irrelevant thought at the time.
"The plan is not simple," Bart continued. "Patrolling members of the Verdict enter a blind spot behind Jericho's palace."
The Accelgor turned towards Crystal. "You'll study them and their patrolling habits. When you kill them, you'll represent them in illusions, allowing entrance to the rest of us under them."
Crystal nodded, Nightingale speaking right after Bart was done. His heads were pointing at Enzo.
"You will take out the mages, silently, so they don't notice what's going on."
Then he turned to Shango and Vincenzo. "You two and Bart will head in the palace through the guarden," now he looked at Shango only, "you'll focus on Jericho while the other two take out anyone who tries to stop you. The whole thing doesn't need to be silent, the Chancellor will be trapped inside the palace," said the Hydreigon in a menacing grin.
Shango nodded to show he understood, as did the others.
"Our mission begins this afternoon - that's when the patrol enters the blind spot. Is that understood?" Bart inquired quietly. Everyone nodded again. "See you outside the main square, afternoon," he added and headed out of the room.
Nightingale dispersed into darkness, merging with the shadows behind his chair. Tristana popped out of Shango's cloak and dove right into his hood for the biggest kiss he had ever received from her, thankfully to his cheek. He gripped her small body and pulled her out of his hood, although having a grand smile on his face.
Enzo chuckled and snatched the Victini from his hands to pet her.
"Aight, this'll be the mission of our life!" he shouted and set Tristana free to fly over to Crystal to sit on her enormous mane.
"Let's do our best," said the Bisharp in a content tone, as if they were going on an expendition. Shango thought the scene was tragically ironic, as they were going to kill alot of Pokemon, but he didn't mind as much as he would five years ago. The truth he had not admitted was that his heart had become as hard as stone with the time he had spent with the Hashashin, even if he seemed cheerful and kindhearted on the outside.
Shango was walking through the main street of Myriapolis, feeling like a completely different Pokemon now that he was promoted to a Shadow Hunter. His cloak and movements were the same, though - the only thing that had changed was his title. And he felt strange for that, as he still reminded himself he was no match for Pokemon like Nightingale.
The scent of flowers found its way in his nostrils, despite the mixed scents the crowd around him was giving out. He saw he had reached the main square of the city, where the circus of Ravenscare had been set. Now the space was filled with bushes and lampposts. His eyes caught something that seemed like flames waving furiously, but then he realized it was the tails of a certain Ninetails. She was sitting down, observing people like when he had found her in front of that fountain.
Her fur was shining under the bright sun, and like always, she was 'beautifully gorgeous', as he had characterized one time he was thinking about her. The tails waved above her head, as they were massive in size, and some blue bows were tied onto it this time. Shango exited the crowd and approached her rather quickly with his head down, still keeping her in sight.
"What's on your mind?" he asked her, smiling.
"Lots of things," she replied, then looked down. "Beautiful flowers, aren't they?"
Claire was looking at the colorful flowers on the ground, next to a bush close to them. Shango kneeled and picked two of each colour (red, yellow, blue and purple) and a pink one extra. He then turned to the Ninetails with the same, charming smile visible on the bottom half of his hood.
"Allow me," he said quietly, proceeding into tying the flowers onto her tails, along with her bows. She was silent for the whole duration for reasons Shango couldn't tell at that time, but as he touched her tails, she felt her spiritual power connect to his own. It was only for a moment, though.
Shango looked at her when he was done, her innocent smile shining along with her fur.
"How kind of you," she commented.
"I aim to please. Flowers fit you. Has the Count ever gifted you any?"
"No..." Claire muttered, losing her smile. She looked alot different now, innocent rather than seductive. Shango relished the moment, her beauty shining like a beacon in front of him, the flowers around them; nothing else mattered at the moment, not even the fact that he was promoted. He wouldn't even tell her - such irrelevant information to ruin the moment.
"Can I draw you?" he asked her quietly, observing the proportions of her body. She looked at him slightly surprised at first, then her smile reappeared.
"Nobody has ever asked me before. Go on, by all means."
Shango took some distance from her and kneeled to the ground; he observed her stance once again, then he started sketching her on the dirt. But he was doing it backwards so she would be able to see his progress - and as difficult as that sounds, he succeeded in bringing the sketch into life. She giggled when he was almost finished.
"Hold on, lady," Shango muttered as he was putting the finishing touches. "There, done."
Claire remained looking at her own sketch on the ground for a moment.
"She is beautifully gorgeous." The Ninetails had a tricky smile spread across her face that caught Shango off guard.
"... I couldn't agree more."
"It's a pity we will leave it here."
"I'll draw you a million times if needed."
Her laugh filled his ears, slightly perking them up and relieving the tension. He was definitely vastly overwhelmed by her beauty and charms, so much that his heartbeats quickened to the point where he started breathing faster; though he tried to hide it. He momentarily wondered if she was feeling the same, but he rejected that thought of his - she didn't seem like it. Claire was perfectly calm, her smile peaceful enough to convince Shango.
"How about we go on a stroll?" Claire asked him, getting passed him with her tails touching his entire hood. Now he was also convinced she was doing that on purpose. Shango followed her, maintaining his smile.
"Are you going to introduce me to the Well of Shadows?"
Shango noticed the weird looks they were getting from the Pokemon as they walked on the street. Every Pokemon stood out of their way, but he wouldn't expect any less from the Countess. Some greeted Claire, shooting the hoodied Pokemon next to her weird glances, but she ignored all of them. Shango proceeded into pushing away somebody that was rather persistant on the matter of his identity. They walked through the city like that for a while, until they reached a quiet side of it that had alot of tall trees. The sand path led to a massive, perfectly round hole in the ground; around it, grey stone replaced the sand and the grass.
The area was quiet and almost empty. Only a few scholars were praying on the other side of the Well. Claire stopped on its edge and shut her eyes.
"I can still hear them screaming..." she whispered in a strange tone.
"Who?" Shango asked, full of curiosity.
"The Pokemon who have fallen in the Well."
Shango tried to listen, but he picked no sound other than the constant murmur of the scholars and the leaves that waved with the wind.
"I can't hear anything..."
Claire stared at him intently, and he returned the stare. "Your honesty is baffling me, dear Shango."
"Has being sincere become a rare aspect of ours to this day?"
Shango was still staring at her, and despite the conversation, he was deeply admiring her beauty once again. He felt that telling her wouldn't be necessary, though, as she already knew. She turned her gorgeous head towards the hole in front of them.
No bottom could be seen, of course, only pitch black, consuming darkness.
"Nobody knows what really lies beyond this darkness," Claire spoke in a low voice so as to not disturb the scholars. "Some say that the personification of evil waits to consume anyone sent from above..."
Her tone seemed as if she was talking while daydreaming, but still charming. "And some others say it is the God of Black testing the unlucky ones."
Shango remained silent for a second. "I find it hard to believe this nonsense," he stated nonchalantly. Claire laughed.
"Nobody knows, like I said..."
"Do you believe in any of it?"
"We have no proof or evidence; nobody actually came back from this black maze. Not even birds."
"... and you said it was built by Hector's family, the Imperatores, correct?"
"That's what they say. Hector's family ruled over this land before the Cult ravaged it."
"I see... I'll ask Hector about it sometime."
"Hmm... I have been trying to get some information from Hector," admitted Claire. "About the reason this Well was built and why it was named like that. But I had no luck so far..."
Shango found it natural that she would seduce Hector to get what she wanted, for some reason. The thought of her doing the same to him crept above his head, but he shook it away quite easily as her charms overwhelmed him again.
Chapter 23: Scythes and Wings
"Are we all here?"
The Hashashin were standing in a shadowy corner of the main square, staring at the Ionian palace that was built on top of the hill where the fortress once was.
"Yeah, everyone's here," said Crystal to Bart in a plain tone. She was trying to hide her nervousness, Shango figured. He was nervous as well, but within the Hashashin, he was taught to be confident. The Accelgor turned to them.
"Listen up. The Chancellor's leaving in three days, so if we fail this, the chances of getting another shot at him are minimal."
"We're not used to failing, mister," informed him Crystal as if she was offended. Bart started laughing, but soon turned to stare at the palace again. Shango did as well - it was unclimbable from each side, so he wouldn't be much useful. Its gates were too high as well. But that wasn't the plan, anyway.
When Bart motioned at Crystal, the Zoroark walked through the square, invisible to the untrained eye. The other Hashashin followed her, each taking different roads around the square so as not to attract attention. The afternoon sun had started falling to the other side of the sky; Shango thought this was a good time to take Claire out. He was sad that their little stroll was over.
They met again in front of the gates, where two Bastiodons were standing guard. The Hashashin, under the cover of Crystal's illusion, passed through completly unnoticed. Shango was grinning, admiring the powerful organization that truly served peace through death in such ways.
Following the road up the hill, they saw the patrolling guards: four of them, species did not matter. The invisible hoodies approached them and stood by the wall of the palace as they patrolled by. Crystal quietly left them, the illusion fading and revealing them; they were sitting on their ankles, not visible from the mages on top of the ramparts of the palace or the guards on the gates.
The patrolling guards turned to the left, now covered by the shadow of the palace. Crystal followed them from behind, entirely visible but silent. Only a scream was heard right after, which was burried under the constant buzzing sound of materialized darkness that was choking the victim; the others turned to look, the first one had the same fate. The others fell by her claws.
The four 'guards' of the patrol returned to the Hashashin. Two Luxios and Granbulls - typical species that served the Ionian Verdict; their emblems, though fake, shone under the sun. Crystal's illusion seemed completly real, even to the Hashashin. Shango recognized the fraud by the immense Nether power gathered in one spot; Pasqual was telling him every voidborn could do that.
They stood up and passed through the illusion, now invisible. Shango glanced at Bart, who was staring at the palace's entrance.
"How to enter?" he whispered, looking around. There were more guards guarding the entrance.
"Why don't we just march in?" asked Enzo, as they walked towards the entrance.
"Do not attract attention before you strike," said the Accelgor in a teaching manner.
"Alright, alright, then what do you suggest we do?" Vincenzo inquired in a low tone. Shango looked at him. He seemed nervous as well. This wasn't just any mission. He should've been extremely nervous as well, as he would kill the Chancellor, once friend to him. But he was strangely calm, as if he didn't care about the past, only about the future.
"Uhh," Vincenzo was staring at the guards, who were staring back at them as they approached. "Something's wrong."
Shango had fixed his eyes somewhere behind the guards; a giant Rampardos was standing there, holding a cane... his right foot seemed to be broken. But the vibe Shango caught from him was what impressed him. The eyes of the Rampardos were completly black, and his whole figure seemed... non existant. As if he wasn't there.
"Hey, Crystey... are you seeing this?" Shango muttered, pointing at the Rampardos behind the guards.
"This isn't time for games, Shango," she replied.
But the guards turned to face the Rampardos behind them, and it spoke, in a voice that wasn't understandable by Shango.
"What are they doing?" Bart wondered out loud. Shango had the same question, but another one as well: could he be the only one to see the Rampardos?
As the patrolling guards, they passed through the entrance into the garden. Meanwhile, the Rampardos was gone out of sight.
"Hold on," said a voice from behind them; the Granbull that had just let them through was walking towards them. As he tried to grab a shoulder of the illusion, he fell forwards and Vincenzo fell onto him, the blade that was extending from the sleeve of his cloak ripping through flesh.
"Uh-oh," muttered Bart. "You shouldn't have done that."
"What choice did I have? He was going to be dead in a while anyway."
Thankfully, the Granbull was inside the illusion the whole time. They did notice the mages above were looking suspiciously at the spot, and the guards on the entrance would come looking for their missing member.
"Enzo, your turn," whispered Bart. They headed over at a tree, dragging the Granbull with them and hiding under its thick shadow. Enzo left the group and climbed the palace's walls from the inside, where shadows were veiling him from sight; Shango slightly waved at Tristana, who had followed his friend, always invisible. The other Hashashin sat down again, waiting for their mate to finish the job.
However, it was "slightly impossible" not to be seen. Multiple screams were heard, and the rumbling sound of a continuous stream of fire reached their ears. The area was quickly filled with guards. They heard Enzo scream, and Crystal dropped the illusion quickly. Bart grabbed Shango's arm, who was about to bolt outside the shadow to climb the walls.
"Stay on the mission," he ordered in a steel tone. He gestured his head at Vincenzo, who exited the tree's shadow to face the guards that were coming from the entrance. Shango saw their frightened looks: the cloak and hood of the Hashashin was a symbol of fear to the Ionian Verdict.
What of Tristana?, Shango thought, worried about his friend's safety. He knew she was going to be alright, though.
Although the members of the Verdict outnumbered Vincenzo, he was wearing them all out by defending himself and striking when the time seemed right. But from the screams, the whole palace was shook and more members of the Verdict bursted out of the wooden door that was on the far end of the garden.
"Crystey," whispered Bart, motioning upwards with his head. Crystal dashed to the walls and started climbing; they soon lost her out of sight.
The Accelgor turned to Shango and grabbed his shoulders. "Your first and only target is the Chancellor. Let me and Vincenzo deal with the guards."
Shango nodded, full knowing that the two Hashashin were able to pull it off. As Bart the Shadow charged into combat, the remaining Hashashin under the tree's shadow bolted through the garden, towards the massive door.
He found the palace quiet, thankfully, but he knew it wasn't going to be so easy. He walked through the dark hall, trying to hear any sound that was not relevant to the fight outside. His eyes pierced through the darkness to see many figures hidden in the shadows, just like the Hashashin. In the far end of the hall, there were stairs, and on top of them, Chancellor Jericho Santaros. The Armaldo he had seen the other night hadn't changed one bit - he was definitely the nice, kindhearted Chancellor of Ionia Shango knew so well and had worked with and for in the past, but now he had a mocking grin on his face that revealed much about his personality.
"Come here to kill me, eh, Hashashin?"
His voice echoed in every corner of the hall; he seemed calm and confident, though Shango detected a hint of fear in his expression. One of the rulers of this world was standing in front of him, the Endarkened One that was lying to Ionia and Hesperia the whole time.
"Took you alot of time, I'd say," the Armaldo spoke again. Shango did not respond to any of his taunts. His senses were overextended as he was observing each movement in the shadows all around the hall. They were so many he had lost count; just when he needed her the most, Tristana landed hot on his shoulder. I need a diversion, sweetie.
Easy, she commented. Shango knew she was flattered when he called her that. The Victini flew above him, invisible, yet she released a vibrant light that revealed every corner of the hall. By the time the hidden guards had lowered their eyes to the ground, Shango was rushing up the stairs. He pounced againist the Chancellor, but he surprised him by moving quickly to the right.
Old guy's fast. Shango quickly got up and released a flamethrower which was blocked by the Armaldo's powerful scythes. The tips of Shango's hood were slightly burned off - that's why he was rarely using that type of move. Meanwhile, Tristana had released her own hell of flames at the soldiers below. She was getting better and better every fight, but her stamina didn't allow her to stay in combat for long.
The members of the Verdict were surprised by the invisible beacon of light and flames and took cover as Shango was trying to outspeed Jericho, who proved to be a much more skilled fighter than he'd ever believe.
"Ha! I was twice as good when I was your age!" he shouted as he brought down his scythe with massive force onto Shango's arms. The blow hurt his hands, but he blocked it succesfully. Both of them backstepped to take a breath. The characteristical sound was heard: blades appearing out of nowhere onto his vambraces. He had developed their shape in the last three days: they were now long, straight blades with pointy edges.
"Impressive, Hashashin!" said the Chancellor in a plain tone. Shango did not answer again. He was saving an ace up his sleeve.
The two Pokemon clashed again, Shango launching a flurry of bladed attacks that was sure to be recognized by Jericho as the 'close combat'. The Chancellor himself was paying the teachers in the Ionian Academy to keep teaching that technique to students. He was now left breathless by the countless scratches and the effort to defend himself from the Hashashin.
Shango chose this moment to remove his hood and enjoy the confused look on Jericho's face, which was followed by wide realization.
"You...? Shango? You're..."
".. an Hashashin."
Shango had found the opportunity he was looking for: the deadly momentum when his opponent was exhausted and confused, permitting him a deadly blow in a vital spot of his body. Precisely, the Armaldo's ribs that would bleed non-stop.
But then, Tristana's flame faded, darkness covering the hall once again - Shango glanced down the stairs for a mere, seemingly harmless moment to see a dark figure standing in front of the door: a terrifying beast, with four black draconic wings on its back and a cane... the Rampardos from before.
He was startled so much by the sight of the monstrous beast that the Chancellor went ahead and impaled him on his torso with his scythe. Shango couldn't even grunt - blood stained his cloak and his chin as it dripped out of it. His eyes were staring behind the Armaldo's shoulder, lost in the oblivion death was bringing.
"You traitorous filth!" Jericho whispered in disgust as he threw him away. Shango rolled on the floor, which was painted red from his blood. His sense faded with his consciousness, with his last thought being that he failed the Hashashin.
Chapter 24: Rise of the Phantom Dancer
The Spirit of the Hashashin was standing in front of him. The song was vigorous, synchronizing with his heartbeats. He still couldn't understand a single word, even though he had heard it multiple times, but he didn't care. Another, irritating voice was echoing into his mind that drew him back to reality, which sucked him like a wormhole. He took a biased, deep breath, instantly opening his eyes in terror as he realized he was probably dying. His vision was blurry at first, but then he made out a Zoroark out of it - Crystal.
"Shango, can you hear me?"
He tried talking, but instead he started coughing up blood. He glanced at the wound on his belly, the biggest one. From the anatomy he had studied in the Academy, he realized the wound was so large, he should've been dead by now.
"What.." he started saying, but he started coughing again. Strangely, he wasn't feeling any pain - his whole torso was numb. He looked at Crystal again; she had her eyes closed, concentrating.
"You don't die so easily," she whispered in tears. Shango glanced around the dark room.
"Where the heck are we?" he asked abruptly, slowly regaining full conciousness and manners. The situation was comically tragic - him, laying on a bed of leaves with a massive wound on his belly and talking like that. He grabbed Crystal's neck and brought her close to him, with his eyes widened in fear.
"Is Jericho still alive?" he whispered; Crystal was still crying. He noticed she was also wounded.
"Yes, he is," she replied in an upset, sad whisper, without looking him straight in the eye. Shango slowly let go of her neck and laid his head back, staring at the ceiling.
"I failed," he whispered, his chest burning. Crystal put her arms on it to comfort him. She stayed silent, knowing there were no words that could be told.
"I have never failed..." he was still staring at the ceiling. His emerald eyes were driven completly out of focus, as he was sunk into unconciousness.
Shango opened his eyes. The room wasn't dark anymore; light was coming from the window. He had no idea how much time had passed since the palace invasion, but he preferred not to think about it. He glanced at his belly to see it bandaged with his own red sash that had the emblem of the Hashashin stuck onto it. A vision struck him, the monstrosity of a winged Rampardos standing on the doorstep. Such Pokemon did not even exist... was he seeing things? Crystal had never confirmed she had seen the beast behind the guards, informing them of their presence. And Jericho... he had revealed his identity to him, thinking he would not live long. Now Ionia would explode with the news: Shango Maverick, the renowned and uprising hero of the Verdict that vanished five years ago, returns as an Hashashin and attempts to assassinate the Chancellor. Ascendio would kill himself out of shame for his step son.
These thoughts were enough of a motivation for Shango to launch himself from the leafy bed, only to see Crystal was laying on the floor next to him. The wound on his belly didn't hurt a bit, not even when he bent over to shake her head. She slowly opened her eyes.
"Shango?" she muttered. She looked at him as if he was some kind of God. The Zoroark quickly got up and hugged him tightly. She kissed him softly on his cheek, but she still looked rather sad.
Shango looked around the room, realizing the Ambipom was sitting againist the wall of the darkest corner, staring into nothing. He had a plain expression that gripped Shango's heart; he had not seen him like that before. There was a vertical scratch across his face, which still bled and only one of his tails was hanging above his head.
"What happened?" Shango muttered, more towards Crystal as he had some hunch that Enzo wouldn't be able to hear him in this state.
"You see..." Crystal started speaking in a shaky voice. Shango could tell she was on the verge of crying. "When you went inside... his brother..."
"Is Vincenzo dead?" Shango asked directly in a steel tone that didn't represent his feelings at all. Crystal started crying and hugged him again.
All this had been for nothing: the Chancellor was still alive, he knew who his assailant was, and Vincenzo had paid the invasion with his life.
"We couldn't even retrieve his body..." Crystal whispered, terrified for some reason. She glanced over at the Ambipom. "He's saying he's going to kill them all..."
The door to the room opened and Bart the Shadow came in, staring at Shango and Crystal; the Accelgor seemed completly fine.
"Shango," he called his name in a serious expression, "I'm glad you're still alive. I didn't expect you to recover so quickly. It hasn't even been one day."
He looked him straight in the eye. "Your failure costed us greatly."
Shango didn't break eye contact, although his expression was revealing his pain. Without any more words, the Accelgor walked out of the room.
"How am I still alive?" Shango asked Crystal, without looking at her.
"I don't know... we found you on the hall of the palace with that wound bleeding..."
Shango remained silent for a moment, looking at the floor. "Where is Tristana?" he suddenly asked, jerking his head to Crystal.
The Zoroark swallowed, avoiding his stare. "She's in shock, Shango... she thinks of you dead."
"Where is she?" Shango repeated.
"The Countess took her... after we dragged your body out of the palace."
"The Countess...?" Shango was stunned by surprise. Why would Claire take Tristana?
"Yes, she took the spirit with her," Crystal explained.
"I'm going to take her back, then," Shango said and walked towards the door.
"Shango..." Crystal whispered. "Nightingale has ordered a meeting in the Well of Shadows."
Shango nodded without looking at her. He would think of the angry dragon later. Given the results of their invasions, he was probably going to be charged with the offense of compromising the brotherhood, but he didn't care at the moment.
The sun was hiding behind the clouds that had covered the sky, but Shango could tell it was about to set in the horizon. He could also tell it was going to rain, and that's why he was walking quickly through the square, blending with the darkness. Nobody noticed him or the sash with the emblem of the Hashashin, he was but a mere shadow without a cloak. Still pondering on how his wound was not aching him at all, he passed through a dark alley with his eyes always fixed on the palace on top of the hill that the Hashashin invaded hours ago; his ears suddenly picked up a familiar voice from the alley. Nightingale.
He peeked in the darkness, recognizing the heavy figure of the beast; he realized that once, he had evaded this particular Hashashin's notice by hiding in the shadows of Ionia, where he witnessed a quarduple murder. That alone reminded him of how powerful Nightingale was. But at the moment, the Pokemon he focused more onto was the one standing before him, talking: Jericho Santaros. He perked up his ears and smirked his eyes, standing againist the wall.
"So that is how it's going to be, Nightingale?" Jericho asked in a threatening manner. Shango could now see through the kindhearted looks of the personality he displayed in public. "Sending the Hashashin against me, huh?"
"I'll have to remind you that we are two different factions," the dragon's voice sounded even more menacing, making Jericho cower a bit.
"Shango belongs to US!" Jericho shouted, smashing his foot against the ground. "And you sent him to kill me!"
Nightingale stared at the Armaldo intently. "How did you know it was him?"
"He revealed himself."
Shango tightened his fists, still holding onto the wall. So, Nightingale and Jericho were allies - otherwise, why would he not kill the Chancellor on the spot, completing Shango's mission? He gritted his teeth, driven by anger. Nightingale was a traitor to the Hashashin, he was now proven to be corrupted.
A sound was heard from inside the alley; the dragon had disappeared into a portal, and Jericho was standing alone in the darkness.
"You can come out now," he heard him saying. Multiple footsteps were heard, Shango figuring it was members of the Verdict. How typical. He walked by the shadows, away from the scene, thinking it was impossible to deal with all of them at this state; he could barely walk, even if it didn't hurt.
An unexpected sight greeted him in front of the Well of Shadows. Crystal, who was holding Tristana, that cute Weavile girl Tiffany that sold candies to the circus and Claire were standing by the great hole in the ground. Shango could not help himself but smile greatly; it was a real, charming smile that spread onto their faces as he approached them.
"So many girls in one place," he said with his eyebrows raised, "is it my birthday?"
That made most of them laugh, but he had his eyes fixed on Claire alone, who just smiled at him back. She walked close to him with her usual grace, her feet slightly leaving the ground as if she was flying. Tristana had charged forward in tears, hugging his neck.
"Shango, you're still alive..."
Shango pulled her off and looked at her; her large, blue eyes were blurry from all the tears. He patted her head gently.
"I heard of what happened," Claire sounded melodic, Shango looking at her now. "It's alright, Shango."
"No, it's not..." he muttered.
Tiffany and Crystal reached them; the Weavile punched Shango's arm.
"Get over it," she said in a playful smile that enticed Shango.
She doesn't know, Tristana spoke quietly to his mind, about Vincenzo...
Shango smirked, losing his smile. Strangely, he could now not bear to look at any of the girls in front of him, except Claire - he wanted to spend some more time with her, but he was not able now. He prevented himself from looking at the Ninetails, because he was aware of the passion that would flare up. His failure clouded his mind, and Vincenzo's spirit haunted him mercilessly.
"Excuse me," he muttered and gently pushed Tiffany aside, walking towards the Well of Shadows. The darkness on the ground was so thick, it was the absolute black. It had started raining now, the drips splashing on the sand and grey stone of the well, forming small streams as the rain got more serious. He could hear the girls behind him mumble things, but he was lost in thought. Jericho would now leave Myriapolis and spoil his name to Ionia.
A terrible sound cracked behind them, Shango jerked his body around to see a massive shadow a mere nanosecond before impact. His eyes caught the Hydreigon's grin as he fell into the Well of Shadows backwards. Absolute darkness covered his eyesight.
"Shango Maverick," spoke Nightingale, staring at the Well with the grin spread across his face in a vicious expression; he was levitating above the ground, ignoring the Pokemon behind him that was staring at the scene in shock.
"You are sentenced to death for compromising the brotherhood, precisely for the death of our beloved member Vincenzo Dawson."
Shango wasn't feeling as if he was falling; only levitating through the impenetrable darkness of the Well. It had overwhelmed his senses and drove him into a lethargic slumber that felt like it lasted for an eternity, but just a second at the same time. He woke up, sitting on the darkness, without feeling cold or hot, hungry or full. He simply sat there for hours and hours, staring at nothingness like Enzo was in the room of the Hashashin.
Lots of thoughts crossed his mind, many more than he had ever thought in his entire life. His mind was able to examine thoughts, memories and their details, but it was truly numb - he did not realize where he was or how he had reached that point. Days passed, even. The memory of Claire circled around his mind, ensnaring and captivating as if she was in front of him. Her shiny fur, her girly voice, her beautiful legs and her charming personality stormed his logic, him raising his hands forward to touch her, but what he grabbed was the dense darkness around him.
For a moment, he could swear Tristana's flare was nearby, but it was only his imagination, as the warm body of the fairy sat on his shoulder, invisible to him and could see Shango. He felt worried about her feelings for a single moment; what would Tristana think now that he fell into the Well? Claire would surely think of him as a loser, as he had never proven himself to be worthy. These thoughts quickly faded, his mind now focusing on one thing: his failure at the palace. He dwelled and dwelled on his failure, over analyzing it to figure out what went wrong and what he did not do right. He did not care about Nightingale and what he had done. Strangely, in the back of his mind, he always believed some day, the dragon would pay for all of his crimes, especially for the ones he committed agaiist the Maverick family.
Was it the Rampardos who distracted him? Pasqual had taught him never to be distracted by what was happening around him; only understand it and adapt accordingly. Was it that he had not been subtle? He could try entrance to the palace from a window and assassinate the Chancellor without a fight. Was it his arrogance of choosing the front door that almost got him killed? Or was it that he asked Tristana to deal with the members of the Verdict?
Maybe he was just not good enough.
There was nothing else to think about his failure. His mind had reached the point where it was unable to decode this memory any more. Right after, it was as if his mind locked away his memories into a box and opened another one, which was entitled as 'the Phantom Dancer'.
Just as he thought about it, the hooded figure of the Spirit of the Hashashin appeared in front of him, towering above him. Shango got up from... wherever he was sitting and faced the mysterious Pokemon that appeared in his dreams every so often. But that didn't seem like a dream at all; it was real, Shango would swear. The spirit grabbed his shoulders and the two proceeded into hugging each other again, Shango having absolutly no idea why. A thought jumped into his mind: the Spirit was connected to the Phantom Dancer. It certainly was not coincidental that it appeared once he began thinking of this entity the Prophet talked about.
The hours passed, without him realizing what was going on. He was simply sitting there, quietly, staring forward. There was a missing piece on the puzzle of the Phantom Dancer, but just as he was thinking of that, a faint source of light appeared far ahead. He stared at it with no emotion.
As it got closer, he got up and ran towards it. A black, round stone chamber with six Rhydon bulwarks forming a pentagon was in front of him; blue light was falling on the immovable beasts, Shango looking around to find its source. Runes were glowing on the walls, shedding their light; Precursor text, no doubt.
An unearthly, black gaze was piercing the darkness in front of him. In the middle of the chamber and Rhydon pentagon, a terrifying figure was standing immovable; Shango took a closer look, identifying it as a Scyther with two extra scythes on its back. The eyes were completely black, like the Rampardos's, and all of its scythes glowed purple. Its legs were longer as well, its body black and its head greatly misshapen.
Immense power struck Shango; he felt more presences in the chamber. Two figures were standing behind the mutated Scyther; a Zangoose and a Reuniclus. Hector and Zorthan. They paced forward, the blue light of the runes falling onto them. Their eyes were entirely black, like the Scyther's.
"The Phantom Dancer," the Scyther spoke in a heart gripping voice that seemed out of this world.
"Finally," said Hector, his feral spirit overcoming his voice.
"We've been waiting a looong time for this," Zorthan's metallic, psychic voice echoed in the chamber. Shango could now clearly see what was wrong with him: he was alot bulkier, his right hand was completly black and had three sharp claws on its tip. All of his limbs were connected with red veins of flowing blood and his body inside the gel was changed greatly as well. The amber eyes had turned black.
As for Hector, his claws were much bigger and the fur of the Zangoose that was usually red was now black, like his eyes. His cape was covering his right arm, falling on the ground. He seemed as ferocious as ever.
"What's going on?" Shango muttered.
"Come to us. There is no reason to be afraid," said the Scyther, extending one of his scythes towards him. His voice sounded transformed and had a tad of Hector's in it: it was just as vicious.
"Why not?" Shango asked, suspiciously. He had a hunch they could catch him anytime.
"We are your brothers. We never hurt our brothers," the Scyther spoke again.
Shango thought he had nothing to lose or win and walked to them, crossing the chamber and entering the pentagon. It seemed as if the Rhydons were staring at him.
When he reached close to them, the Scyther hugged him... for a second, Shango thought he was going to slice through him with his sharp scythes, but that was not the case. He was getting a dark vibe from all of them.
"You are voidborns..." he whispered.
"Wrong," said the Reuniclus with a huge grin, "we are voidborns."
Shango stared at him confused; then he figured Zorthan implied that he was a voidborn as well.
"But I don't look like you..." the Hashashin were claiming themselves to be voidborn. So why did they not have those features these Pokemon in front of him had?
"Indeed, you don't..." muttered the Scyther quietly. "Because your blood is mixed."
"I don't understand."
"You are the Phantom Dancer," said Zorthan. "But I bet you don't even know who that is."
"Listen to our tale, then. The tale of the voidborn."
As the Scyther started speaking, Shango examined all of them with curiosity, while carefully listening to him. He was at a loss, at a shock, but he also felt numb.
"Arceus created Pokemon, during the Making, and gifted them with the elements to protect themselves. On the era afterwards, the Age of Heroes, the gift of the elements led to the strong being able to feed on the weak - the equality was broken, and hierarchy was formed, Kingdoms raised and thousands died for the Kings. Of course, death was againist Arceus's will; he called the Paragon of the Dark, Darkrai, and gave him the Dark Plate. From it, Darkrai fused his spirit with that of a thousand Pokemon, and the Stranger was born."
Shango cringed by the information, smirking his eyes. "The Stranger?"
"That's what the Precursor runes from the Age of Heroes tell us," Zorthan said, "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 followed the Making. And to keep in check these powerful crystals, the darkstars, to guard their secret and defend the knowledge of them," the Scyther continued.
"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."
Shango stood silent. Multiple images of Zoroarks passed through his mind, including the drawing the window of the Cathedral formed: a black Zoroark against a white one. What was all this about? The Scyther said he was the Phantom Dancer. But that couldn't be true. The Phantom Dancer - or the Stranger - was born in the Age of Heroes. Too many questions.
"You said the Stranger was called the Phantom Dancer... how can it be? I am the Phantom Dancer," he declared, making Hector chuckle.
"True enough," he said, "you're the Stranger's reincarnation. You're one and the same, a soul with the same purpose."
"Why me?" Shango asked; it seemed as if he didn't like this fate, which chose him instead of the contrary.
"Because you are perfectly suitable... I assume our friend the Prophet let you know?" Zorthan spoke again, bringing his right hand to scratch the gel of his ribs with his black claws.
"Yes, of course," Zorthan said. "He, too, is a descendant of the Phantom Dancer. He is helping us keep track of the Endarkened Ones. Now, who the Endarkened Ones are, you might ask..."
"No. I know all about them," stated Shango. The others glanced at each other, surprised. "And I intend to kill them all."
"Hah! You're on the right track," said Hector, chuckling.
"Indeed," muttered the Scyther. "The Endarkened Ones seek to use the power of the darkstars. As the Phantom Dancer, it is your duty to eliminate them from this world. We are also looking for the darkstars, as my brothers here made it clear to you before. Not for using them, but for protecting them."
Shango looked at each of them; even though their terrifying looks and rather vicious manners, they seemed to have good intentions, which put Shango into thought. Could they mean well?
"When did you learn I was the Phantom Dancer?"
"The spirit you are carrying around let us know."
"Yeah, her," said Hector with a faint smile that looked malicious; it was actually identical to Shango's. "We invaded her mind easily when you were wounded."
"And about that wound," said the Scyther, "we took care of you."
Shango noticed the monstrous being in front of him was smiling, revealing his sharp, saw-like fangs.
"Your fate is not to die by the hand of some Chancellor."
"Can you control fate, then?"
"Is it not what the Phantom Dancer does?" the Scyther countered his question. Shango thought about it. What was the Phantom Dancer destined to do? End lives. So, in a way, he was controlling fate. He threw a look at the Scyther to show him he understood.
"Who are you, anyway?"
"My name is Zaunix Jato, Zaun for short."
The Scyther flashed a terrible smile, though he didn't mean ill.
"How did you all end up like this...?"
"We are born this way," Zorthan informed him; Shango glanced at him. "The blood of the Phantom Dancer runs pure in our veins - while yours is mixed."
"Speakin' of how we look," said Hector and pointed behind him, "here is the mask of the Phantom Dancer."
Shango's eyes travelled behind the Pokemon, he fixed them on an altar where a mask was facing him; he had not noticed before. It was what we would call a 'hockey mask' in our world, only it had eight holes: one for each eye, two under each of them, and another two for a mouth It had multiple scratches and seemed to be made out of tristanite, flexible and light. It gave off an unearthly feeling of terror, even if it was empty.
The others stood aside, allowing him to approach the altar with the mask. He lifted it in his arms, feeling its power. In fact, it was a plain, aged mask. But the meaning, the idea, this mask had, struck him like lightning: it was serving the safety of his identity. This mask would be sacred for him, for the Phantom Dancer.
He noticed a black cloak behind the altar. Zaunix approached him and lifted it with the edge of his scythe. It was made of a wonderful material that caught Shango's attention immediately.
Shango nodded, examining the cloak without believing what he was doing. It was a smooth, plain black robe.
Maybe all this was a dream and he would wake up on his bed, dying. He slowly wore the black cloak and the mask. The others looked at him.
"That's how the Phantom Dancer looks," said Zaunix in a look of satisfaction.
"By the way, I saw a Rampardos..." Shango's spontaneous thought surprised him. The voidborn glanced at each other.
"Traitor of our kind," Zorthan said with anger obvious in his metallic voice.
"Van Alsum is his name," Zaunix informed Shango. "He's serving Myriapolis as an executioner," he continued in a cold tone that clearly stated he despised Alsum.
"He commits atrocities, and he's in league of Jericho and the Endarkened Ones," Zorthan said.
Shango stared at them through the eyes of the mask. He was grabbing the wrist of his left shoulder, his stance revealing his muscled body; this cloak was toning his figure, making it seem even more threatening, he was sure of that.
"Then why don't we take them all out?" Shango asked, his voice giving away his grin inside the Phantom Dancer's mask.
"Good idea..." said Hector, grinning as well. Shango adjusted his vambraces to his cloak, thinking he would definitely try forging new kinds of blades. His thoughts flew away from his vambraces as he looked around the chamber.
"Where the heck are we?" he asked, already knowing they were at the bottom of the Well of Shadows. Zorthan raised his right arm, as if he was introducing the area.
"This chamber is designed to keep the secrets of the voidborns; the Well and its darkness are but a test to anyone who happens to fall in. Only our kind is able to survive this procedure. Tell us, what happened when Nightingale threw you in?"
"I thought of my life, what I have accomplished and where I have failed, I thought of my friends and people I have met."
"Interesting..." muttered Zorthan in a low voice that sounded like a clinging noise. "Usually, the survivors lose their logics and mutter something about the void and darkness."
"How deep is this well?" Shango asked, thinking that nobody could survive a three-day fall inside a hole in the ground; in fact, he didn't believe a hole could be that big...
"No less than fifteen feet," Hector answered.
"But it's the void that creates a gap, making the fall seem long," explained Zorthan. "You see, the void negates the feeling of time and space."
Shango nodded, noticing Zorthan knew the most about the void. The Reuniclus levitated forward, reaching him. The blue glow of the runes on the walls transformed the colour of his gel into turquoise; it was slightly glimmering, everywhere except his face where it was completly transparent, allowing him clear sight.
"Now," he started saying, Shango cringing from the intensity of his psychic voice, "time's wasting, and time's money. Not that we need any of it, heh."
Hector chuckled with him, but Zorthan quickly got serious. "But you get the point. About Alsum, we know what he is and where he is coming from - Jericho himself awarded him the title of the executioner a few days ago, and they both permitted entrance to templars in Myriapolis."
"Templars, here?" Shango asked in a serious tone.
"Templars," Zaunix repeated, "they've formed an alliance with Alsum and his mate, Judge Kayle, who is a voidborn Sigilyph. Together, they frame and execute any one who opposes their rule, along with many of the citizens."
Shango was staring at them, stunned by what Zaunix was saying. That's new, he thought, smirking his eyebrows.
"How could the Hashashin have missed that? How long has this been happening?" he inquired, truly wondering why he had never heard of the Judge and the Executioner.
"Your brotherhood is corrupted to the core," said the Scyther coldly, the buzz of his wings sounding, "Nightingale doesn't want those two out of the way, because they spread the Stygian influence over Ionia, benefiting the Hashashin. It's been like this for a week or so."
Shango wasn't believing in his ears; he could accept that Nightingale was a traitor, but one of the rules that were binding all of the Hashashin was never to hurt innocents, citizens or children. He was commiting a crime only by letting them live.
They looked at each other, Shango observing them. "And why do you care if some lives are lost? You're only searching for the darkstars."
"They know about the darkstars," Zaunix said abruptly. "Whoever knows about them must die, for the sake of our secret."
"So, they will die," said Shango. "What's the plan?"
"The executioner does his work under the Cult's cathedral every evening, but we couldn't reach him so far," Zorthan smirked, "templars form a thick line protecting Alsum."
Shango brought his claw to his chin, then he remembered he was wearing the Phantom Dancer's mask. Its steel feel was projecting a meaningful power.
"I know a way of reaching him," he said, slightly grinning.
"Perfect," said the Scyther and clapped his scythes together. "Now that that's outta the way, how about Jericho Santaros?"
"Oh, I have prepared something special for him..."
***Shango and his newfound allies had stayed down the well for the next two days, in a special chamber located underneath the altar. They were planning their next move, considering all of their enemies in Myriapolis; the Chancellor, the Count, the Executioner and the Judge. Shango had found out the voidborns were much more dedicated and organized than he had thought. The events of these days had overloaded his mind, leading him to a state of confusion. He had not yet realized he was not an Hashashin anymore and that he was free to do what he wanted. But what did he truly want? Right now, he cared little of his life as Shango. The same events he had experienced and let him free put him into thinking; the dark organization that crept above Hesperia and Stygia could not be left to do as it pleased. Now officially known as the Phantom Dancer, his ancestor with the responsibility of maintaining the peace over the Empires, he was going to vanquish every one of those who threatened it. Starting with the Chancellor Jericho Santaros.
The voidborn had informed him that the Chancellor was leaving from Myriapolis that day, having completed his 'mystery business' that Shango assumed was the meeting with the rest of the Endarkened Ones. Accompanying his departure would be several members of the Ionian Verdict; assaulting him then seemed foolish, at least to the Hashashin, but Shango realized Nightingale never really wanted to kill the Chancellor in the first place - Jericho seemed to be informed of their arrival. Meaning that Nightingale had plotted his death; but things didn't go as he had planned, as the voidborn claim to have saved him from death, somehow. Therefore, he charged him of failure and threw him to the Well of Shadows. Shango was driven by madness and anger when he figured this all out.
But his first priority was to avenge the Chancellor, beating him in a rematch, right in front of the whole city as he was leaving. Having forged blades, new weapons with his mind, and with three new allies by his side, he would now wipe Jericho from the face of the world. As for the others, they would have to wait. A day or two...
Chapter 25: Mercy
After quite some time...
The snow was falling heavily, small snowstorms whirling around Myriapolis' walls, clouds blocking any sunlight. A carriage exited the gates of the city, along with an army of Pokemon bearing the emblem of the Ionian Verdict. No citizen was following, as they had no reason to stay in the cold to see the Ionian Chancellor Jericho Santaros be off, who was unwelcomed in the first place. But there were some who were interested in his departure, two shadows standing on top of the walls, right above the carriage. The first one, a mutant of a Pokemon that was nothing but a shadow in the mere eyes of the mortals, known as Zaunix Jato amongst his fellow brothers. The second one was the hoodied assassin we know as the Phantom Dancer, best known as Shango Maverick. A state of tension filled silence was established between the voidborns by the time the Chancellor's private carriage had begun moving from the square inside the city.
Zaunix' scythes were forming in an 'x' in front of him as he leaned forward to get a closer look on the marching army that surrounded the carriage. Well trained Ionians would instantly overwhelm them if they attacked.
"Do not give me orders," Shango snapped, but his mask remained rather impassive, although still menacing. The effect the mask had on his voice was not a muffled one - it instead gave it an otherwordly feeling that its owner was now getting used to.
The Scyther turned to look at him in disbelief; he had known Shango as a nice Pokemon so far. "You can't do anything," he reminded him, genuine concern hidden behind the buzz-like sound that came out of his mouth.
The Phantom Dancer's gaze scanned through the army that had now fully exited Myriapolis; his green eyes flashed under the mask, although there was no sunlight to begin with. After some moments, he spoke without looking at his ally next to him.
"Another time. Another time."
His stare fell onto the carriage, sharp eyes immediately detecting the Armaldo resting inside. Shango's chest did not fill with hatred againist the Pokemon, just like every time he thought of the Chancellor - instead, a cold determination overwhelmed him, colder than the snow whirling around and roosting on his shoulders, head and ears. He had now learned of his true origins. As the Phantom Dancer, he was to purge the land of the injustice, and for that quest, there was no room for feelings, just the unshakable will and the reassuring thought of his sacred purpose. The Chancellor's assassination had now gone beyond personal.
Shango shot himself up and turned to look at the city of Myriapolis unfolding under him. They were on the highest spot of the walls, which offered them a neat view. With his back turned to the carriage headed away, he fiddled with his claws, snapping and rubbing them together to create nearly metallic noises. He had lately started doing that when he was bored.
"I miss my girls."
Zaunix looked at the assassins as he stood before him - none of us could of known, but most of us could figure - the expression his monstrous face had was veiled with confusion. It was only natural, after all.
"Claire and Tristana."
"Phantom," Zaunix started, his voice having absolutly no emotion as usual, "you're not Shango anymore. You need to leave your past behind."
The wind blew through the Phantom Dancer's cape as he stood still, gazing at the city.
"There's no need for that," he said, the sweet image of the Ninetails swirling in his mind just like the snow in front of him. He was slightly smiling as the image faded, to be replaced by Tristana's; his smile turned into a smirk at the thought of Tristana being brokenhearted from his 'death'. Something would have to be done about that, and soon. And what of the Hashashin? Enzo and Crystal would be devasted by what had happened.
His gaze travelled from the city of Myriapolis down the red sash that was tied around his waist, inside the black cloak with the runes. The insignia (H) of the Hashashin was still there, shining faintly, reflecting his black claws as he touched it. No matter what his newfound allies called him, he was still an Hashashin, like his father. And if the Hashashin were corrupted, he was going to purify the brotherhood himself. But all of that would have to wait, as Myriapolis and its people were quietly asking for a saviour to free them of the presence of Judge Kayle and Executioner Van Alsum who continued to terrorize the city under Templar command.
"We must get going..." Zaunix said in a lower voice, flapping his abnormally large wings; Shango was beginning to think the Scyther did that whenever he was nervous, but then again, such being seemed impossible to be nervous.
"Yes, of course. I hear our friend Van is giving a show today..." Shango snapped his claws again, making a louder noise this time.
"Make sure... you attend to that."
Shango gazed at the city below him, speaking no words. It was time. He rushed forward and lept off the walls towards the city, the snowy hill awaiting under him.
Shango's ears were perked up from the cold, but also from the constant, monotonous voice that ripped through the air like paper. It was a strange voice he'd never heard before, but he could instantly relate it to the voidborns; as he got closer to the square, where Pokemon had gathered in crowds, he realized there were two voices: a soft and a rough one. The soft one had a slight touch of power, a psychic power, and the other one sounded merciless, when it spoke. Occasionally, screams would be heard from inside the crowd, but the rest of the Pokemon would stay silent. Shango subtly pushed his way through the crowd, reaching a point where he could take a good look on the atrocities that took place on the square.
A Rampardos, without black wings, was standing on the left of a stone template, his claws bloodied; besides him, multiple Pokemon were laying lifeless on the mud. Van Alsum, the Executioner, normal form, Shango announced to himself, narrowing his eyes just before he took them to the left, introducing them to a Sigilyph that was talking right now. Judge Kayle. In front of the two Pokemon, there were multiple Skuntanks, templars no doubt, that had formed a protective circle. Shango's eyes travelled to the rooftops of the house around the square, but no building was close to the point where the two Pokemon did their job - bypassing the templars seemed impossible. Look at all the protection, Shango thought to himself, as if the crowd would attack them... truly, the crowd stood and watched as the Judge pronounced names and two templars brought a Pokemon onto the template, where Alsum ripped it apart in front of everyone's eyes.
A blood pool had mixed with the snow under the dead Pokemon; Shango caught a movement in there and realized some of them were still alive. He smirked his furry eyebrows under the mask, thinking that such sight would cause him to have nightmares five years ago. Not now, he was used to all the suffering, and he quietly promised himself to end it when he got the chance. Shango deemed the Judge and the Executioner were unapproachable today, so he relaxed his muscles and scanned through the crowd, ignoring the desperate cries and the constant voice of the Judge placing charges.
Behind the crowd, next to a patch of snowy flowers and a Kecleon shop that was deserted, a Ninetails was standing; Shango's pupils dilated, recognizing Claire. A familiar flare was brimming right above her tails. Tristana. He remembered Crystal saying the Countess had taken her for some reason.
He pushed his way out of the crowd, walked throughout the square, staring at the beautiful Ninetails sideways. She was staring back at him with a look of suspicion, but only for a moment; once Shango was out of her sight, she turned her head to the square. Sliding in the shadows of the nearby buildings, he approached her from behind, his eyes fixed on the flare above her tails. A moment of silence and concentration passed with him staring above the furry tails; none of them had noticed him sneaking up behind them. He suddenly shot his arms, grasping the flare tightly, engulfing it into his hands. She was sleeping, he could tell from her temperature.
He stepped away carefully, making sure not the snow under him didn't give him away. He felt Tristana starting to wake up as he turned around the corner and started running to the unknown. The spirit took her physical form and Shango grasped both of her wings so she wouldn't fly away. He quickly sat down on the snow, heartbeats rising along with his friend's temperature. Her large blue eyes slowly opened, then they widened in terror of the masked hoodie. Shango remembered he was wearing the Phantom Dancer's mask and he quickly removed it, throwing it besides on the snow.
"It's me, my goddess," he whispered, caressing her head with his claw, letting go of her wings. She looked at him stunned with her mouth gaping open. Tears started forming on her large blue eyes, falling hot on Shango's belly.
"S-shango... i-is this a d-dream?"
She flew from his hands, reaching the fur of his face with her tiny hands, having a lost expression. Shango felt sorry for her, seeing her like this, but now it'd be over.
Tristana hugged as much of his face as she could grasp, his cheeks wet with her tears. It felt like having a fever - the heat the spirit was expulsing was extreme. He had to pull her out of his hood before she fried his head. When he looked at her, she was still crying, speechless.
"I won't disappear again," he said in a reassuring tone, having a faint smile. Tristana spent a few moments looking at him in astonishment, then she slowly descended to his chest, burrying her face in his fur. Her heat was much more welcome on his chest than his head; Shango felt the fuzzy, cozy feeling when next to her. The cold was pierced around them, the snow melting around him as he leaned againist the now warm stone wall.
He petted her head and rubbed her ears playfully, his smile growing. She looked up at him, the last signs of sadness in her eyes fading away, to be replaced by happiness. As he placed one hand on her back, she seemed to cringe with his touch. The comfortable silence that ensued between them gave Shango time to relish Tristana being close to him. He realized he was feeling empty without her in his cloak or sitting on his shoulder.
She seemed so fragile and innocent, he couldn't help but continue petting her as she always liked it. He returned her intense stare, feeling she was about to say something.
"What happened, Shango?"
Her voice seemed more stable now, but there was a hint of worry in it; she glanced at the mask resting on the snow. Its steel surface was facing upwards, the dark, empty holes of the eyes giving off a creepy feeling, as if the mask was full. When Tristana looked back at him, he started explaining what had happened after he fell into the Well of Shadows. His words were swift, but it seemed like a long time.
Tristana stared at him with concern, after he was finished. Her eyes narrowed and she glanced at the mask again.
"So that's what the Phantom Dancer is about..." she muttered. "Isn't there any other way of granting people freedom than taking lives?"
Shango was afraid of that question; he always knew Tristana did not generally approve him killing non-wild Pokemon. But he had the answer ready.
He shook his head, smirking his eyebrows. "I have no way of ensuring that the bad people of this world won't come back to their evil ways. Taking their life is my only option, Tristey."
His sincere tone didn't seem to convince Tristana, but she remained silent, staring down at his chest as if lost in her thoughts. He patted her head and grabbed hold of her tiny body, along with his mask. He got up from the pool of warm water Tristana's heat had formed around him, his cloak dripping wet, and wore his mask. He realized it acted as if attracted to his face, as if it latched onto it... he would investigate that later.
"Is hiding your face that necessary?" Tristana asked him with a hint of smile that reminded him of her lively, playful one. That smile was reflected on his face, under the mask.
"Yes, enemies can't stop looking at my gorgeous face," he said, chuckling as he started walking through the snow covered road. Tristana's laugh filled his ears, sounding like a melody that was alot different than Claire's laugh. He held the spirit close to his chest, the heat she was radiating pushing the cold of the snow away from them.
"What of Claire?" Shango asked, hoping Tristana would tell him how she had reacted when he fell into the Well. Tristana took a moment to reply, but he could tell she was smirking in irritation.
"She seems like an OK person..."
"Was she sad?"
"Maybe... she didn't show much of it."
"Ah..." Shango suddenly realized the constant voice of Judge Kayle had disappeared. He turned to the left, to an alley. Releasing Tristana from his hands, he rushed up the wooden wall of a house and kicked it, grabbing the tip of the roof and pulling himself up with ease. The fire spirit landed on his shoulder, touching his black cloak and feeling it.
"I like your new cloak," she said as he lept to another roof, headed towards the square.
"I'd get you one if I could," he joked. But his hearty smile disappeared when his eyes fell on the pile of Pokemon thrown on the snow, in the middle of the square, next to the stone template. The Judge had just dismissed the crowd, stating that whoever approached the dead would be charged with murder for some insane reason. Shango's eyes travelled underneath the roof to see Claire pacing away; he would have to talk to her later.
The Pokemon of the crowd were crying as they wanted to stay next to their relatives who had been executed, but the templars were pushing them away frantically. Shango sat on his ankles, watching the Judge and the Executioner being teleported away by two Kirlias. Now that the opportunity to kill them was gone entirely and the square slowly started to empty, he waited.
Deadly silence quickly fell on the square, the snow slowly falling on the bodies of the poor. Tristana was staring at them in awe, saying nothing, until she noticed some of them were still struggling.
"Shango! They're still alive..." she said, desperate.
"Some of them."
"We have to save them!"
Shango launched himself from the roof and tumbled to the snow underneath. Tristana flew ahead, hovering over the Pokemon, examining them; Shango came running after her with his eyes fixed on the Pokemon. One of them cried loudly, a small Buneary, it was a child. He retrieved it and put it on the snow, slightly lifting its head. It had wounds from the Rampardos' claws on its chest, bleeding nonstop. Eyes widened in fear, causing Shango to cringe; but the mask remained impassive.
As the Pokemon cried a second time, Tristana landed next to them and touched it.
"There's nothing we can do," Shango said, turning his head to look at the rest of the Pokemon. "Their wounds are all fatal."
Tristana remained silent as she stared at the dying Buneary. "But... he's but a child, why would they do this to him?"
Shango took his decision. He landed his claws on the child's neck, precisely on a vital spot, killing it instantly. Tristana let out a screech.
"What are you doing?" she asked, getting in front of his face as he stood up.
"Showing some mercy," he said, walking past her. His claws were sunk on the Pokemon that were still alive, until they were all laying dead. Every time, he was evaluating their wounds in case there was somebody who could be saved, but he found none. Tristana's face had transformed from disgust, but she said nothing as she knew well of Shango's good intentions.
After he was done, panting, he walked away from the empty square, without throwing anothe look at the blood that was staining the snow. Tristana had burried herself in his mane, hiding inside his cloak, silently mourning the deaths of so many Pokemon.
As they walked in the street that led to the north part of the town, Shango heard multiple feet sinking into the thick snow and being plucked out of it; he slightly turned his hoodied head towards the other road, darkness engulfing all of his mask. Six Skuntanks were pacing so that they would meet him where the roads merged into one. He took a mere second to investigate their expressions and define their intentions, and when he figured they were not intending harm, he stopped in front of them, allowing them to pass by.
"Evening," he said calmly, forcing the squad to look at him suspiciously. Tristana's heart jumped in her chest, her temperature rising. The moments the templars spent in looking under the hood, they only saw Shango's brimming green eyes.
They moved passed him, and Shango took the other way, turning his back to them but having his ears on guard for the slightest sound. Indeed, four legs came running from the road where Shango had come from, to join with the group of the others - another Skuntank, no doubt. As Shango walked away from them, he heard the panting Skuntank inform the others that something had happened in the square. Right after, they turned around and walked quickly towards him.
"You, with the hoody," someone called. Shango felt Tristana's weight on his shoulder, but saw none of her.
"Don't kill them," she pleaded him in a low voice. Shango completly ignored the invisible spirit and turned around to the Skuntank who had walked in front.
"I have some questions for you," he said in a cocky voice. Typical of a templar who had a whole squad following them. Shango spread his arms in a welcoming motion. The tips of his black claws were barely visible from the sleeves of his claws; an experienced fighter would be able to tell he was about to attack.
"Were you the one who killed the Pokemon at the square?"
Shango merely nodded. The Skuntank glanced back at the others behind him with a wicked grin, then back at Shango.
"Who are you working for?" asked the templar, Shango subtly covering his sash with the insignia under the cloak before he replied.
"The Phantom Dancer."
"Who is that?"
The Skuntank looked at him in confusion, slightly tilting his head. Then he realized Shango was just fiddling with him.
"Did you know, 'Phantom Dancer', that killing Pokemon is bad?"
Shango remained silent. He wasn't going to argue with the irony, the templar was probably being sarcastic too. He could only listen to the silent pleadings of Tristana, who was nudging his hood slightly.
"Then you're in for some beating," the templar continued and the others laughed.
"Don't you think it unwise?" Shango said abruptly, bringing his arms close to his waist; metallic sounds were heard inside his sleeves, but the templars seemed to ignore them. Out of foolishness, out of ignorance, it was all the same to Shango.
"Unwise?! You think we're afraid of you?"
"No. But you should be," Shango said, shooting both of his arms at the templar's head in front of him, grasping it; he stepped on his front leg and slid all of his claws and nether blades on the back of the Pokemon's neck. Past a second later, two fans of multiple blades were thrown againist the other templars, scattering them around. Shango had charged againist a Skuntank who had been hit on the ribs, sliding under him and ripping the other side of his ribs with his claws; tumbling to the left, he avoided the incoming claws and stabbed through the dirty mane of the Pokemon, quickly drawing away to face the four templars standing; two of them had been hit by the blades Shango had launched, which had now vanished. It seemed as if the powers of his vambraces did not last long; but the nether blades, two in each vambrace, reappeared, this time way longer, extending out of his sleeves againist the templars.
"Time for some poisonous warfare," said one of them to the others. Shango knew what was coming; he raised his head to make sure Tristana was in a safe distance away.
The Skuntanks blew air from their nostrils, a strong stream of air made Shango flinch, but it was mostly the terrible smell that overwhelmed his sensitive nose. A purple gas had started leaking from the templars, filling the air; suddenly, Shango could feel the Phantom Dancer's mask stick onto his face as if it was trying to protect him from the poison. He quickly rushed backwards, running away from the cloud - jumping onto a window, he climbed up to the roof of a house nearby. The whole street had been covered by a purple cloud, the templars still inside it.
Tristana flew to his shoulder worried. "Are you alright, Shango?"
Shango didn't reply. Instead, he quickly removed his hood and his mask. He felt the fire burn in his belly, now coming out of his mouth as a deadly stream that ignited the whole street; Pokemon did not know why this happened, but in our world, we'd know it as methane ignition. The sky was lit for about two seconds as the whole street burned with hellish flames. The snow melted and the walls and fence of nearby houses were painted black. When the purple smoke was consumed, Shango could see the fried manes of the templars.
He felt the breeze blow through the fur of his face, a rare feeling ever since he started wearing a cloak. But he soon put his hood and mask back on, making sure nobody saw him. He sat on his ankles on top of the roof, scanning through the ground that had become black from the flare.
Tristana nudged him again; he noticed her grim expression as he glanced. He simply patted her on the head and gently forced her on his shoulder. She knew full well that her protests about him killing Pokemon would be brought down immediately, thus she remained silent.
"Come, Tristy, dear. Let me introduce you to our new friend Zaunix."
Chapter 26: Pestilence
Shango was sitting on a bench in the lonesome woods inside Myriapolis, Tristana holding onto his chest as he laid back, looking at the cloudy sky where the stars supposedly were. He had removed his mask, which was now resting next to him upside down. The cool air didn't bother them one bit; having found each other again, they were not bothered
"Look at all the beautiful stars, Tristy," he said, having a sly smile hanging from his face. Tristana raised her head in excitement - he knew she was always amazed by the night sky - and looked around.
"Stars?! Whe--" Then she realized she was looking at the clouds, which blocked the stars; she turned to Shango and looked him astonished, gasping, with her mouth slightly opened as if saying 'how could you do this to me'. She then bit her lips playfully and punched his cheek with her tiny fist.
"Stop that, it hurts," Shango said sarcastically, laughing as he rubbed his cheek.
"Aww, let me kiss it," Tristana said, pushing his claws away from his cheek and kissing it softly. Shango looked into her blue eyes, which were reflecting the clouds above them.
"I thought you wanted to hurt me!"
"I do, when you tease me like that!"
Shango suddenly turned his head to the right, perking up his ears and staring into the night. The snowy street seemed empty, but Shango knew better. Tristana looked as well the moment snow was heard to be crushed under strong feet; they both watched the sword-like footsteps on the snow being made on themselves, Shango feeling Tristana's heart beat faster with terror.
The greatly mutated Scyther popped in front of them out of nowhere, Tristana letting out a small scream, instantly hiding under Shango's cloak. The purple glow of Zaunix's scythes was reflected on the glittering snow, his black body blending with the dark of the night.
"I see you have found your companion," said the voidborn, his unnatural buzz piercing the night.
"Zaunix," Shango exlaimed and got up, Tristana letting a cry as she almost fell out of his cloak. Shango stared at Zaunix, clearly irritated. "You scared her."
He then looked down at Tristana, who was tightly hugging his belly, peeking at the monster in front of them under his cloak. Shango placed his hand on her head reassuringly, drawing her out gently. "He's our friend," he whispered, making her look at the Scyther. She seemed to be calming down, to the point where she flapped her wings and approached the mutant shyly.
Zaunix completly ignored her, still looking at Shango; it was impossible to tell what expression he was wearing, not only because of the dark, but because of the structure of his face. When Shango took his charmed eyes from the flying spirit, he stared back at him intently, wanting to make clear he was not parting with Tristana. Zaunix let out a buzz, something that sounded between a cry and a sigh.
"Have it your way, then," as he spoke, Tristana drew herself away from the scary buzz.
"What happened to you...?" Tristana asked him in a low voice, innocence mixed with sadness and horror. She slightly tilted her head, examining the Scyther's dark body, his two extra scythes that were sheding their ominous, purple glow around, and his massive green bug wings that seemed to literally reflect anything, as if they were made from polished glass.
Shango thought Zaunix' face stiffened, but it could be just him. He ignored Tristana's question, still looking at the hoodied Pokemon in front of him.
"What news, Phantom?"
Shango took two steps next to the bench, feeling the snow under his boots. He took a deep breath, his eyes travelling from the shadows of the woods to the snow that had covered the ground. He spoke only after some moments.
"There is no way of approaching Van and Kayle undetected or without triggering open conflict. Plus, they can always teleport out of the scene if something goes wrong."
He looked at Zaunix, smirking his furry eyebrows; though only the voidborn was able to see through the dark of his hood. "They've planned these executions well - they teleport in and out, and we don't know where they reside at any other time. We'll need to procure... another strategy."
The Scyther glanced to the left, at the path which led to the main square of Myriapolis. Then he looked back at Shango with something that looked like a small grin.
"Tell me... have you got anything in mind?"
"Pestilence, my friend. Pestilence."
Zaunix remained immovable; Tristana dove to Shango, getting in front of his face and wearing a troubled expression.
"Pestilence?" she asked naively, tilting her head. Shango had a grin, knowing that most would suggest he was insane or evil for suggesting it. But he was sure Zaunix and the rest of the voidborns would understand. Tristana was another matter, sadly.
"Pestilence," Shango repeated. "We will get to know where Kayle's court will take place next. We will infect the ground with a plague and spread the word. Nobody will set foot in there."
Zaunix remained staring at him, Tristana's face was transformed with disgust for the second time that day.
"Shango, you can't be serious," she said in a worried tone.
"It's risky," Zaunix commented. "And complicated. You think we can just create a plague?"
Shango was still grinning, secretly admiring himself for the neat idea he had come up with. "I am sure Zorthan will be able to help us."
The Scyther was for a few moments, looking at the ground, thinking about it. "What's the plan?"
Shango started walking around the snow with his hands behind his back, crushing the flowers that had not been covered yet under his boots. "We lay the plague, burn the area so it seems dangerous and put warning signs around. The Judge and the Executor will be forced to transfer to another location, possibly in a location favouring us. From there, we improvise."
He could feel Tristana's stare on him, but he ignored her, focusing his attention on Zaunix' reaction, who looked up at him once he was finished. "The next execution will take place tomorrow, but time isn't enough - we'll have to wait for the next one, when we'll strike."
"Magnificent. I'll pay a visit to the execution tomorrow, learn where the next one will be taking place."
Tristana got in front of Shango's face again, flapping her wings furiously. "You can't do this! What if somebody walks in there by mistake?"
Shango looked down momentarily and drew a breath. "Then I will take full responsibility, and they will die in the name of liberty," he said quite bluntly, with his eyebrows raised and a look of undefinable innocence in his green eyes. His response shocked her, but she didn't continue it. They simply stared at each other intently.
"Wear your mask, Phantom," Zaunix interrupted them, "and let's go down... see if we can create a plague."
The Scyther turned to leave towards the woods, and Shango bypassed Tristana, following after him. The Victini caught up with Shango, lifting his hood sideways so she could see him.
"Down?" she asked, curiously, having almost forgotten the despicable scheme they were planning. Shango's white fur raced with the wind that blew inside the hood once the spirit had lifted his hood. He looked at her sideways, having a meaningful smile all across his face.
"Down the Well of Shadows."
Tristana let out another small cry and sat on his shoulder, clutching her head in awe. Shango couldn't help but laugh at her reaction; he raised his arm and scratched her chin with his claw.
"Don't worry, dear... Zaunix here will make sure nothing bad happens to us."
Apart from the snow being stepped upon, a sigh coming from Zaunix reached their ears.
The day after, before the next execution, Shango was walking through the streets of the city, cape racing with the wind and boots sinking deep into the ever thickening snow. Tristana was sitting visible on his shoulder, keeping him company as he rallied his thoughts about today's coming events. A group of Pokemon looked at them suspiciously, but they ignored them, continuing their way to the same square where the last execution was held. But as they bypassed the group, Shango's ears caught bits of their conversation.
"... grandmother Ela says she saw a hoodied Pokemon in the square yesterday."
"Grandmother Ela must be crazy."
"That's interesting... what did they do?"
"She says he seemed as if looking for something... and he killed the survivors."
Shango could feel their eyes on his back the whole time, but his ears were soon out of range and his interest was diminished. Maybe he would go off as a bad figure for the city, but he didn't care at all. What he was doing didn't need to be praised by the public.
He glanced at Tristana, who swiftly grabbed his cheek's fur and pulled it playfully. "You know, Shango, Claire doesn't think very highly of you."
"Really?" he glared at the spirit, searching for any signs of jealousy; but he could tell she was telling the truth. Her smile was sincere and slightly apologetic, making him forget about the execution. Thoughts started torturing him - didn't the Countess consider him... enough?
"How do you know?"
"Well..." she started, unsure of how to word her thoughts. "She said something like, 'just another Hashashin gone'."
Shango kept this in mind, but said nothing regarding it. "What else did you two talk about?"
"Oh, you know..." she giggled. "Girl stuff."
Just then, Shango got past another group of Pokemon, which were apparently a waiting line at a Kecleon shop. All of their heads turned to him; eventually, someone's voice reached his ear.
"Look, somebody with a cloak..."
"Don't they say a hoody just wiped a squad of templars?"
"Dangerous people... I bet he's Stygian."
Shango mocked them for being as naive as thinking he couldn't hear them. Tristana interrupted his focused eavesdropping by pulling his cheek's hair again.
"See what you've done?" she asked teasingly, having a huge grin. Shango snatched her from his shoulder and started tickling her. She immediately started laughing uncontrollably and tried to shake off his strong hands, but to no avail. His breath became heavy from the effort of keeping her still, becoming steam as it came out.
The main road was finally seen, people walking slowly to the direction of the square; Shango thought that their sad faces were probably hiding a dead or soon to be dead (what was the difference, anyway?) relative of theirs, and that now they were walking a miserable, straight cobblestone path to bid them farewell. Shango silently promised them true justice as he subtly blended in the moving crowd.
"Welcome, welcome," the Sigilyph's psychic voice echoed in the minds of all the Pokemon gathered around the stone template where the vicious Rampardos was standing firm, the Sigilyph flying besides him. The falling snow was building up on everyone's shoulder, as they should immovable, only shaking with anticipation. Occasionally, a strong gust of wind would bent the crowd forcefully.
Shango observed the scene; it was just the same as last time, templars surrounding and protecting the Judge and the Executor, the prisoners held by more templars in the back of the template, except now there was a massive hole gaping in the ground right where the bodies from last night were thrown. Shango's green eyes narrowed as he fixed them on Judge Kayle in a deadly glare.
"More scoundrels were caught," the Judge said evily as if he was scolding a child. "The Judgement shall continue, by command of Chancellor Jericho Santaros, until this city is purged of all mischief! I am doing this for the greater good, for a better tomorrow..."
Shango's lips became a mocking curve, doubting he believed those words. Executioner Van Alsum slammed his foot on the stone template, drawing every one's attention. Small cries could already be heard from the crowd; the grins of the templars hinted what was to come, inspiring fear to the citizens.
"Let the Judgement begin," said Van stiffly, voice as hard as rock.
Indeed, the templars started bringing the prisoners one by one, each passing the template knowing there was no other way. Flying prisoners had their right wing snapped so they were unable to fly away; Tristana started shaking with the atrocities she was seeing and she quickly hid under Shango's cloak, pulling it tightly together so all view was sealed.
As the first desperate cries torn the air, both from the template and the crowd, Shango's eyes caught two shadows between the Pokemon. He turned his head slowly to see two Pokemon, a tall and a relatively short one in white hoodies. Their faces concealed in the dark, but their belts had the insignia of the Hashashin fastened onto them. Shango recognized the silhouettes of Crystal and Enzo, standing firm, staring at the template like ghost. He subconsciously put his insignia away from his red sash and patted his ears inside the hood so they weren't showing. He started moving towards the Hashashin steadily, gently pushing away anybody who stood in his way but always laying low in case anybody recognized him. The Phantom Dancer's mask protected his face from their piercing eyes, yet he stood in a safe distance so they would not feel his aura.
Shango! Tristana's voice popped into his mind; she had felt him moving, and she was peeking under his cloak. What are you doing?
Shango noticed their hoods had slightly turned to his direction, but that did not hinder him. He kept a safe distance before speaking low so the people around wouldn't hear.
"I suggest you stay where you are," Shango's voice sounded alot different, which was what he was trying to accomplish. The mask was helping alot.
"And who would you be?" Crystal's feminine voice struck him, and he quickly reminded himself why he was hiding to prevent anything stupid from happening. Nightingale would instantly know it if he suddenly appeared even in the subconcious of their minds. However, he allowed himself a small grin as he enjoyed hearing his cousin's cocky voice again.
"That is of no importance," he finally said. "If you're planning on attacking, this isn't the right place."
"Do we share the same goal, then?" Shango was shocked when the shorter Hashashin spoke; the voice he had heard was not Enzo's, or at least that's what he thought at first... after a moment of analyzing his tone, he figured that the loss of his brother had massively changed the Ambipom. Now he sounded extremely serious and mature, almost scary. He felt sad for his friend; being sensitive as he was after Vincenzo's death, he woud be more easily manipulated by Nightingale and his ill ways.
"If you are here to kill the Judge and the Executioner, then yes," said Shango, noticing Crystal's red eyes glowing in the dark. As they both nodded, Shango could sense their doubts and insecurity - he guessed they were acting on their own consent. Nightingale was working for the Endarkened Ones, who put the Judge and the Executioner to work in the first place. He would never order the Hashashin to murder them, yet here they were.
"I have a plan," Shango informed them as quietly as he could. Momentarily, he feared that Tristana's heat would reach them. He subtly put his hand inside his cloak, pushing her to the side. "Only tell me when and where the next execution will take place."
The Hashashin glanced at each other, obviously in astonishment of the stranger's demanding tone. Nobody was talking to the Hashashin like that. Who would? Another Hashashin, maybe... but that didn't cross their minds at the time.
"Tomorrow, same place as here, same time," Enzo said slowly.
"We are the reason they changed locations," Crystal informed him, "they're afraid of us planning an assassination."
Shango put the gears of his mind to work, he knew his plan could be developed so it profitted from the Hashashin's influence. He lowered his head while he was thinking, but he did notice the Hashashin's hoods turning as if they were briefly glancing at each other.
"Listen how it's gonna be, then," Shango started, "I will make sure they change their location to the other square or the Cathedral. I will meet you there for further instructions."
"Wait just one minute," Enzo said abruptly, kind of reminding Shango the years of the rush and impulsive Enzo, "how are you gonna do that?"
A large grin formed on Shango's face, which was well concealed under the mask. "You'll see."
He turned around with grace, but Crystal spoke before he could leave.
"Wait... aren't you the one who--"
"Yes... I put them out of their misery an hour earlier," Shango interrupted her without facing her. With that, he walked away, to blend in with the thick crowd of the first lines.
Following their usual plan, Judge Kayle and Executioner Van Alsum were teleported away from the site as soon as they were done with their job; the templars pushed the people away, but Shango had the opportunity to hide in the shadows of an alley. Shango's prying eyes skimmed through the crowd, but when the square had finally been emptied, no trace of the Hashashin could be seen. He did notice some of the templars hiding in other alleys, probably preparing an ambush for the mystery Pokemon who put the condemned ones to eternal rest. Sending Tristana out for a scout, she counted thirteen Skuntanks hiding in the shadows, having their eyes locked in the square; two of them passed right in front of Shango, investigating the area, but he had latched onto the wall, almost becoming one with it and the dense darkness that floated around.
"Seriously, what's with all the Skuntanks? They stink!" Tristana asked, blocking her nose and burrying her face on his chest's fur. Shango glanced at the square to make sure everyone was gone before he answered.
"These Skuntanks are coming from the Tocan swamplands, where they really love the templars and dedicate every warrior of their to them," he explained and immediately took a deep breath. Raising one of his hands, he reached for his ears inside his hood and pulled them out through the holes on the garment. Whoever was the original Phantom Dancer, they had ears like his and these holes allowed them to stray out.
He didn't know how deep that hole where they threw the remains of the Pokemon who went through the Judgement was, but he did have something in mind to relieve them of their pain. "Tristy," he called her, pulling her out of his cloak gently enough and holding him in front of him, so their eyes were at the same height. Two pairs of glowing eyes, green and blue, could be seen in the alley if anybody looked. But the patrols over the square had ended now, only the sound of the gust ensuing.
"I need you to do me a favour..."
"Another one?" she asked mercilessly, raising her eyebrow in a playful manner.
"If not for me, for them," he said impatiently, looking towards the hole next to the template in the middle of the square.
"Will it hurt?" she asked, biting her bottom lip. Shango caressed her cheek with his claw.
"Yes... yes it will hurt you."
Tristana slowly nodded, and Shango's smile grew. He held her on his hand, even let her climb on the tip of his sleeve and rubbed her ears a few times, relieving her tension. She suddenly looked up at him, her large eyes reflecting the Phantom Dancer's mask for a scary momentum. It was barely visible through the darkness, but her glowing blue eyes seemed to illuminate the alley slightly.
"Anything for you."
Shango smiled, knowing she could see through his mask, but said nothing. He raised his head, fixing his eyes on the hole; his boots crushed on the snow heavily as he walked through the square calmly. The gaping hole, about ten feet wide, kept getting closer and closer to him, and when he was on the edge, he took a peek at the bottom. The view wasn't pleasant, and he drew Tristana away from it before she could see; the hole was about thirty feet deep, darkness and snow starting to cover it as the sun had drawn out from the sky and the last remaining rays of light were covered by the racing clouds.
Shango heard sly footsteps from all around the square, multiple ones. He turned in time to see the Skuntank glaring at him evily; one of them walked forward. A boss, as usual.
"You can't save them this time," he said with a terrible grin on his ugly face. Some of them had noticed the spirit of fire the hoody was holding.
"That's what you think," Shango said in a steel tone that raised doubts amongst their ranks.
"Give us what you're holding, and we might let you live..."
Shango started laughing loudly, a charming, yet menacing laugh that echoed all around the square with an intensity completly different to the one of the raging snow's. The templars looked at each other, mildly confused, silently and foolishly wondering why he was laughing. The Phantom Dancer pointed at the hole besides him, his black claw extending from his sleeve.
"These Pokemon died for less important matters," he stated, a hint of a massive, brewing storm of anger in his voice. With no warning, he threw the fire spirit into the pit, who ignited into a flaming comet as it descended; moments after, an enormous pillar of flames was shot up the sky, having the size of the hole. The view seemed like a volcano erupting, only in a more constant flow. The elusive flames purged anything that was down there, literally, as the temperature was so high it could even melt bones. The ground underneath the square warmed up, melting all the snow in mere moments, the water becoming steam afterwards, forming a thick fog that veiled the Phantom's first movements. When the fog was carried away by the fog, six of the thirteen Skuntanks were already laying on the ground.
Shango sliced through their leader, slashing the face and the side before pouncing with blinding speed onto his next target, sinking his nether blades deep into the Pokemon's throat, twisting them and smashing his leg to force him to the ground. Abruptly pulling out his nether blades, he turned to the five remaining Skuntanks, immediately detecting the vibe of doubt in their faces. Blood was dripping out of his sleeves, his breath coming out as steam and his heart racing wildly.
"Don't bring the poisons, boys," one of the Skuntanks reminded his fellows, trying to keep his calm. He was probably informed of what had happened with last time's 'poisonous warfare'.
Shango raised both of his arms in front of him in the battle stance of the Needlers; now that the circumstances didn't allow stealth during combat, he would proceed otherwise. The templars took this as a taunting motion and charged at him altogether. Bracing himself, focusing and putting Tristana out of his mind, he blocked the first hit and tumbled to the warm ground besides the Skuntank, slashing his side. The others didn't expect him to be so close in that little time, giving him the chance to bash his body againist one of them and launch himself at another one, stabbing him twice on his back. Right after, he launched an assault on all of the three templars, a storm of furious and swift but precise hits that they managed to block with difficulty. He had already received blows from his opponents, but in his haste, he had forgot to mind them.
The resistance provided was starting to diminish, as Shango's speed and strength outmatched theirs by far. Shango found the opportunity to stick his fingers into one of the Skuntank's mane and pull it towards him, step on his leg and shot an uppercut, slicing through the Pokemon's jaws. The other two templars stayed put for a moment, then started running towards different directions; Shango pounced on one's tail and slid under the templar, all of his blades and claws penetrating his opponent's torso.
Throwing the dead Pokemon away, he quickly got up, his eyes fixed on the fleeing templar. He was out of reach, and breath, unable to give chase; he briefly thought of removing his mask and hood and shooting a flamethrower, but he wasn't risking being seen. His nether blades disappeared from his vambraces with a subtle purple glow and a metallic sound. He thought it wouldn't hurt him if he let the templar leave, but next time he crossed his blades with the templars, things would be severly more serious.
Despite getting up, he kneeled again and grabbed hold of his back, feeling a deep scratch. His heavy breaths and gasps were coming out as steam in front of him, even though he was wearing a mask. His head spun from the adrenaline, but it quelled down over time. When he finally caught up to his senses, he looked around at the slaughter he had caused, the scent of blood filling his lungs fully. Something caught his attention; his eyes were fixed on a shining figure standing in front of one of the square's dark alleys. It was a beautiful Ninetail and Shango wasn't mistaking her for anyone else...
"Claire," he gasped, getting up quickly. Shango's heart continued to beat fast, not because of the fight he had just been through. She walked towards him, as if she was an illusion of grace and beauty, her gorgeous scent reaching him first. Steam emerged from the ground in her wake, her body's temperature was so high, Shango could feel the heat from afar. When Claire reached him, her fuming tails wrapped around him, subtly, engulfing him in a state of comfortable heat that kept the cold out. Shango was standing rooted to the ground, watching her irresistible smile that dilated his pupils so much, his eyes were entirely black.
"How would you know my name?" she asked in genuine suspicion, raising her brow. She had heard of him gasping her name... Shango scolded himself for his foolish mistake, but he had already thought of the answer.
"How could I not know the strikingly beautiful Countess of our city?"
Shango could feel his blood boiling in his head, as the heat ensnared him even more; her red eyes flashed, and for a moment, Shango doubted her existance. He shook his head, as if he was snapping out of a dream. The Ninetails was still in front of him, but he had almost forgotten about Tristana. She was probably in the bottom of the pit, still unconcious from the explosion she herself had caused; he shot a glance towards the hole, as if he could see the spirit from where he was.
"Is something troubling you?" her feminine voice filled his ears, forcing him to look back at her stunned for a second.
"Oh, I'm frightfully sorry for the mess, lady Claire," he said, looking around at the templars laying dead on the ground, slowly being topped with the falling snow.
Thankfully, his condition got better, though he was still hurting all over his body and his cloak was stained with blood. Now he was able to focus better and think more logically. Adapt with the new situation; he reminded himself he was not Shango to Claire right now. She was truly eyeing him differently now, he noticed of that.
"Why would you do something like that?" her voice was strangely full of admiration, instead of disgust.
"They wanted to play rough," Shango said simply. Claire only smiled in understanding.
"Hmm... what do they call you?"
"Phantom Dancer," he said quite seriously; he noticed the look she gave him, a look of recognition and appreciation, almost affection... the warmth of her tails around him had nothing to do with Tristana's. Her presence was enough to charm Shango, but he didn't feel like telling her; that would give her the edge.
"Well... I don't know who you are, or where you're coming from," she purred, looking at the ground, "but you sure know how to impress a girl..."
Shango momentarily wondered what the standards of this girl were, but his thoughts didn't develop further - he didn't care. He would kill an entire army if needed, to impress her... did he have this kind of thought before, or was it just him?
"I'm sure I can do alot of other things to a girl," he responded calmly; for a moment, he was afraid that he sounded much like his old self, but she didn't seem to notice. She only giggled charmingly.
"Why don't you remove that mask of yours, then?"
This was going at a dead end - he knew he couldn't take his mask off. But just at the right time, a buzz-like sound torn the air to signal the coming of the void. Zaunix appeared out of nowhere next to Shango, and Hector jumped to the square from a roof, running towards them; Claire's tails released Shango at the sight of the two. They quietly looked around for a moment, evaluating the scene.
"Woah," said Hector after a while. "What happened here?"
The Zangoose with the furious facial hair suddenly approached Claire, who was watching him carefully. "Evening, Countess, what're you doing here, if I may ask?"
"Nothing..." she said in a low voice, looking at Shango sideways, a seductive smile painted on her face. "Just having a little fun."
Hector seemed to ignore her, which surprised Shango greatly - he was flirting with the Countess a while ago, he would surely be disturbed with her words. But he only looked at him plainly.
"Don't tell me you went through all this trouble just to save some dead people?" he asked blatantly, but Shango ignored him; he simply nodded at Claire's questioning look and let out a sigh to tell her that he was really sorry for knowing Hector. Her response was a giggle, assuring him of their mutual agreement that Hector had interrupted something.
"Phantom," Zaunix called out to him, "we need to get going."
Shango jerked his head towards the black Scyther with his eyes narrowed, wondering how the Countess was not impressed by a fully mutated voidborn. Perhaps she knew him... questions needed to be answered later. The Ninetails let out a sigh, still smiling and looking intently at Shango. "I'll be going as well... I don't wish to be involved in the holocaust."
Shango watched her walk away, but she turned around for just a moment, to whisper that they would meet again; he was sure only he had heard her. Her scent remained in the air even after she was gone, Shango taking in as much as possible before returning to business. His worryness about Tristana rose again; he rushed to where the voidborns were standing, at the edge of the pit, looking down.
"Look at what you've done!" Hector said, smirking his eyebrows in a too similar way to Shango.
"This will attract attention," Zaunix buzzed; his voice had a stern touch, surprisingly.
"Tristy is down there!" Shango said a little louder than usual, staring at the Scyther. "Get her out?"
Zaunix shot him a strange look before flapping his glowing green wings, creating a buzz similar to his speech, and jumping into the hole. He was out in seconds, holding the spirit. Tristana looked lifeless, but Shango knew she had just passed out; he felt her body warm as he snatched her from Zaunix's dangerous scythes. As he shook some snow off her head and ears, she slightly opened her blue eyes, a peaceful smile forming on her face.
Hector crossed his arms, staring with a bored look at the spirit, and Zaunix sat on his ankles, his long feet making an extremely strange angle that was unknown to most Pokemon. Shango caressed Tristana, holding her on his hands to secure the heat that was radiating from her body.
"Put her in your pocket," Zaunix advised him, half joking. Shango looked at him to see if he was serious, then he realized his cloak had an inside pocket that was big enough for Tristana. She had now went back to sleep again, and he thought it was best to leave her that way; he placed her carefully in his pocket, making sure she was comfortable. He would thank her later.
"How about we get outta here, before we're forced to rub some faces to the ground?" said Hector, his feral voice loud and clear throughout the sound of the snow. "Not that I'd have any probs with that," he added, chuckling.
"We're not going anywhere yet," said Zaunix; Shango raised his eyes from the pocket to look at them both.
"Zorthan was able to create a blight, Phantom," the black Scyther informed him.
"Out of 'waste'," Hector added, shifting his nose in disgust.
"Wonderful," said Shango, turning his back to them and putting his hands behind his back as he walked away from the hole. "Be advised, I spoke with the Hashashin," he instantly felt their intense stare and he proceeded to explaining his intentions to avoid conflict, "without revealing my identity. They agreed to aid us."
"You fool!" shouted Hector angrily. "They're in league with Nightingale!"
Shango stopped walking and turned to face them, the steel of his impassive mask illuminated with a weak beam of moonlight passing through the clouds. The snow had become rain now, falling onto the dead bodies around them and dissipating the snow that had covered them; the result was small streams of bloodied water creating a pool of blood when they met. Shango enjoyed the moment of the rain falling on his shoulders, feeling sympathy for Hector's ignorance at the same time. But before he could speak, Zaunix interrupted him.
"If Nightingale doesn't want the Judge and the Executioner out of the way, nor the Hashashin do."
Shango raised his right arm, his sharp claw showing. "I have known those Hashashin for five years now. Don't you think I'd know it if they were Nightingale's boot lickers?"
He took two steps towards them, lowering his claws. "Besides, what reason could they possibly have to be in the executions?"
Oversee them in account of Nightingale, was the answer countering his question, but Shango had faith in his friends. He suddenly felt a vibration from afar and jerked his body to see the bulky, dark figure of the Reuniclus.
"Ah, Zorthan," he said, walking towards him, his boots splashing in the pool of watered blood. He noticed the gel that Pokemon had as a body remained unnaffected by the rain; the raindrops simply ran down his body as if the surface of the gel was perfectly shaped. His monstrous veins had a purple substance flowing through them instead of a red one like last time, and his amber eyes were glowing black. Six barrels were floating in the air, following him.
"The blight's ready," Zorthan informed them with his metallic voice tearing through the rain, his laugh filling the square. "Made it from some medieval toxic waste I found down our Well, and some Raticate parts... I swear, that thing's real dangerous. Wait," he noticed the dead bodies around. "What's with them?"
"Shango decided to waste some more of his time on dead people," Hector said blatandly, crossing his arms. He didn't seem to mind the rain.
"And now we're wasting even more time," Shango said louder than needed, without looking at Hector. His green eyes flashed as they met Zorthan's. "Let's get this over with. Time is precious, doubly so on this occasion."
He walked away, leaving them in silence, only the sound of the splashing raindrops breaking it. Shango's eyes travelled from one road to another for any signs of templars. The job was soon done.