November 11th, 2013 (7:34 PM). Edited January 29th, 2014 by Incinermyn.
The question is, as it always has been, what does it take to survive? During the Age of Man, it was easy enough for one to merely feast off the scraps of humanity or, furthermore, take refuge within the confines of a Poké Ball. But in a world after people, will primal savagery take hold once again? …And what about those never born into the wild? Those unholy few for whom God was no Creator…
Doxisite slunk silently through the air ducts, contracting his long snakelike body just slightly with each movement. Years of rust scraped harshly against the leech’s skin but did little to hinder him as he focused below. To his eyes, the thermal signatures of two Pokémon ambling through the lower corridor stuck out plain as day.
Directly beneath him, the first creature he recognized as a hearty dragon. He gauged that the bluish-white reptile stood upright at an approximate height of two meters with his muscular wings spread out to only three, though he knew the hallway was much wider. Unlike the Fire Pokémon he’d consumed long ago, this creature looked unusually bottom-heavy. Even so, the beast would make a more fitting meal than his partner.
Utterly the contrast of the dragon, the meter-and-a-half-tall hominid ahead appeared horribly weak. This entity’s abnormally stout body, including his foreshortened arms and stocky legs, was clearly deprived of proper blood flow because of its unhealthy magenta appearance. How he could even be alive defied all reasoning! Only his oversized star-shaped cranium seemed remotely appetizing due to the vivid yellowish hue it exuded.
Acidic froth seeped through the numerous daggers in the predator’s maw as he hungered. They’d been on the island for days, no doubt to plunder the derelict city of whatever artifacts they found. If only they knew just what relics awaited them here…
Several moments passed before the twosome unexpectedly stopped. Perturbed, the leech retracted his body into its regular conical shape, leaving only his stumpy head out to watch. Momentarily angered, the notched spines in his back ejected and pierced the metal overhead.
The humanoid suddenly gazed upward in his direction, its squinty eye sockets flaring white. Burning waves of energy successively spread throughout Doxisite’s cells. The pain ended quickly enough but he had to fight all instinct not to scream. Agonizingly, the parasite squirmed his way forward while his targets quibbled inaudibly amongst themselves. Once he came upon an open vent, the monster screeched into it at as high of frequency he could muster.
His physiology constituted itself to neutralize psychokinesis, but he couldn’t think of anything else that would hurt him the way that attack just did. Until now, he’d been certain they were nothing more than the same types of Pokémon he consumed in eras past. Natural selection by itself could never produce something to counter his species no matter how long he and his kin had been dormant. But then, how in the hell did this atrocity occur?
Looming over the outlet, Doxisite waited for his prey. Within seconds, they passed underneath him. Froth formed around his maw again, and more rabidly this time once the dragon went past; the venom even dripped onto the floor because it was so thick.
“Yuck! What the…?” a deep voice grumbled as a faint pair of russet eyes suddenly glared at him from the darkness below.
Fearfully the leech retracted his head from the hole. Of all things, this group possessed a third member. Obviously the creature wasn’t organic-based, otherwise Doxisite would have seen him beforehand. As such, this situation just became far more complicated…
“Tyranitar!” the beast’s allies called. The building quaked as the behemoth lumbered after his comrades. Once the tremors stopped, Doxisite exhaled a sigh of relief that the structure didn’t collapse altogether, then stretched his neck through the vent, and continued down the hall after them.
Honing in, the leech noticed something intriguing. His targets had taken up a new formation exactly where he knew the passage diverged. The humanoid stood dominantly at the center of the corridor, while the dragon positioned himself off to the right with the Tyranitar presumably off to the left.
‘Mother…’ Doxisite thought to himself, knowing they were no doubt awestruck by the festering ooze that had long since settled in the fork ahead.
“Gross… What is that stuff?” Tyranitar asked disgustedly.
“A microbial colony,” the hominid commented, his voice mellow, “It should be easily dispatched with Psychic.”
Mixture of dread and pleasure overtook Doxisite as he heard those last words. Lunging boldly, the leech bit hard into what he assumed was Tyranitar’s abdomen. Managing to just break the creature’s skin, he injected his neurotoxins and quickly withdrew his teeth from the Pokémon’s rock-hard hide. But upon doing so, his victim bellowed out in horrific pain.
“What happened?” the others shouted, whipping their bodies around.
The dragon immediately spotted Doxisite, but before he could even react, the leech clamped onto the reptile’s throat and forcefully yanked him back down the corridor. During the haul, Doxisite shot narrow tubes into the beast’s jugular vein and headed straight for his heart. Once inside the organ, he breached its chamber walls and began draining his victim’s blood with tornado-like suction.
“Charizard!” the humanoid yelled.
It took mere seconds for the parasite to bring his meal back to the vent. When they arrived, Doxisite set the beast down and then dropped the rest of his body through the opening. Finally he constricted himself tightly around the creature’s neck, left arm, chest, and abdomen.
“Get…off!” Charizard choked, shaking wildly to get loose. With his free hand, the dragon clawed Doxisite’s head only to have his talons slip right off. Adrenaline released into his bloodstream due to the excitement, causing the leech to finish draining his victim’s body fluids with one powerful suck.
Bloated from his feast, the leech relaxed his bind and laid himself out on the floor around his prey’s corpse. Now he felt sated enough to rest. The last biochemical fusion inebriated him in a way that he hadn’t felt in generations…it was nothing less than his liquor!
Suddenly the burning sensation overwhelmed his cells again, making Doxisite cry out horrifically. However, this time it controlled his form wholly. Then he found himself forced back into a conical shape and flying through the air back towards the hallway’s fork.
“Just who the hell do you think you are?” the Tyranitar managed to bark while gasping for air.
“Conserve your strength, Tyranitar. We don’t know why he attacked yet,” his leader ordered.
“Pretty obvious, I’d say, Alakazam!”
While being pulled towards the remaining twosome, Doxisite sensed something awry about his captor. There couldn’t be any mistaking the genetic frequency this Pokémon possessed; though the enhanced traits had become hybrid with his ancestors’ bloodline, they were still very much detectable. Surely that was the reason why his telekinesis harmed him…
“Alright!” Alakazam finally demanded, “Who are you, and why did you kill Charizard?” In virtual response, a shrill voice angrily wailed all throughout the building.
Something immediately grappled firmly onto Tyranitar’s lagging tail. The entity then towed the craggy beast forcefully away down the left-branching hall before he could even scream.
“Tyranitar!” Alakazam shouted, cocking his head slightly and unwittingly releasing Doxisite.
Flopping on the floor, the leech snapped at his enemy’s neck, just scraping it with two fangs. Instantly paralyzed by his poison, the Psychic Pokémon could do nothing but stare as the monster rose like a cobra to meet him eye to blood-red eye.
“I never thought I’d see the day when your kind would return…” Doxisite clicked as he eyed over each of the Pokémon’s shoulders, “Mother is going to want a long word with you, my friend.” On that note, the parasite turned back down the corridor and slunk away, knowing well what awaited this poor soul.
Author's Note: Parts of this fanfic are taken from the perspective of specific characters, meaning that descriptions are based on what they see, not what a third-person narrator does. Forgive me if things seem disorienting at first. There is a reason why the prologue was described from what Doxisite sees.
November 20th, 2013 (2:20 PM).
Chapter One: Archangel
‘Three years…’ Seraph whispered as she sat alone, high in an oak tree. Silently she watched as the vernal moon rose over the timberlands west of Pokémon Square, its light revitalizing the lush colors that daytime had otherwise denied her.
Despite being seventeen-years-old, the Skunanne fancied more the silhouette of a human child save only for her slight maw and bushy tail. Silken fur flowed back and forth across her sylphic figure with the gentle breeze while her sapphire eyes glistened. Lines of purest white circumscribed the gems and curved up toward her temples before vanishing underneath the tresses atop her crown. Neatly combed, the locks draped down her back and to her side, partially cloaking the twin cascades of small slanted marks as they continued down to her tail. Her stripes merged into one upon reaching the appendage and slowly fanned out as the streak headed for its tip.
The forest here reminded her fully of the homeland she’d left behind on the southern continent. How difficult it was to believe it had already been so long since that tragic day. “Insolent *****! Get out of here and never return!” her father’s voice echoed at the back of her mind. She cringed as the sniping pain returned with her horrific memories. Even after all this time the welts of her brutal sendoff seemed fresh as ever, and she knew things would never be like before ever again.
Catching her opal earring as she scratched the side of her head, Seraph realized she could also take some solace in the fact that she’d survived this long. Other tribeswomen would have perished hadn’t they found civilization outside the Furlong Hollow like she did. But in this day and age, actual boon towns were scarce. Admittedly, though, escaping the hellhole of Treasure Town had been more than a relief for the skunk and her comrades.
“Good Lord, Kit! Walk on your own feet for a change!” a gruff-sounding beast woofed from down below.
“Here we go again…” she sighed with her natural soprano-like voice.
Snatching both the bow and the quiver resting at her side, the skunk dropped from her perch onto a lower branch to see what was the matter this time. Landing with catlike grace, Seraph quietly positioned herself to watch as her teammates readied for another one of their nightly squabbles in the grove they’d set up camp within.
Nearest the tree, the first of her partners was a robust three-and-a-half-foot tall canine with a dark tan pelt. He wore an odd copper mask over most his face but predominantly his eyes, which itself had a single eyeball pattern with an amber-colored iris painted on it. The creature also had a black pawmark-shaped tattoo on the reverse side of his head, along with a matching ring around his collar. There were three even scars down the entirety of his backside, each as crimson as blood because the initial cuts went so deep into his skin.
Slowly the beast circled around their other ally, a scrawny mammal that looked as nothing more than a shambling corpse. The opossum stood as a measly height of one-foot-ten exactly. His malnourished body was covered in dingy brown fur from his egg-shaped head to his bony arms and legs, and even his protruding ribcage and pelvic areas. With his forearms crossed over his skinny belly and his slender tail wrapped around his feet, the critter shied away slightly as the wolf apparently snarled at him, only glancing a second at Seraph with the beady irises in his otherwise large eyes. Twitching both his trapezoidal ears, he then looked at the ground after he saw that she notched a blunt arrow into her bow.
As Seraph took aim at her lupine partner, the beast lunged at the opossum and shouted, “You’re dead this time!” She shot right for the edge of his mask, making the projectile ricochet partway off it and into the bushes.
“Serves you right, Cairo!” Seraph snickered as the mutt yelped, plopping onto his paws a few inches from his target.
“Damn it, girl!” Cairo woofed at her, “You know I’m tired of hauling his ass all over the place!”
“Tough! You’re older, faster, and stronger than the both of us. His weight’s nothing for you, so stop whining.”
It was the same thing almost every night. Cairo and Kit would wake up, start bickering about some random thing, and inevitably lead into an argument over one having to carry the other around all the time. If not for their usefulness during their flight from the southern continent, she’d have abandoned them weeks ago.
“You carry him around on your back night-in and night-out, then tell me how easy it is!” the wolf grumbled. Seraph flipped her hair over her right shoulder as she reached for a sharp arrow this time.
When she readied her weapon again, Kit squealed to himself a moment before whining, “Seraph, wait! He’s only joking!”
“Ha! I’d love to see her try, Kit!” Cairo laughed, rearing his head. Afterwards, the beast focused his eyeball back on her and formed a shadowy sphere with his psychokinesis. Likewise, she took deadly aim at his now contorting iris.
Fearing that neither would call each other’s bluff, Kit inhaled deeply and let out a terrifying wail to momentarily stun his friends. Then the critter began to bawl while Cairo’s attack faded into nothingness and Seraph relaxed the grip on her bowstring.
‘Even with all the crap he gets, Kit still doesn’t want me hurting Cairo… What goes through his mind, I’ll never know…’ she reminded herself for the umpteenth time.
“One day you won’t be so lucky, Cairo. I swear, someday soon this arrow is going through your head. In the meantime, though…” she declared.
Unstringing her bow, Seraph shuffled the weapon into her quiver along with her arrow. The skunk then slung the case around her backside. Finally, she hopped down from her branch to convene with her friends.
Team Feral Fang was hardly a group of ragamuffins. In their day, they were considered one of the top exploration teams to ever graduate from the Wigglytuff Guild back in Treasure Town, having attained Diamond Rank before leaving to do work on their own.
Cairo already had twenty years experience as an adventurer by the time Seraph met him after her exile. He was originally hired to train new recruits under the co-head of the guild, a wily old Chatot. After some rough handlings, he eventually got assigned to mentor Seraph, and then decided to create his own team with her as a partner.
Kit, on the other hand, had only been a member of their group for three months. They only met him as part of a bounty hunt after Cairo inadvertently triggered a trap that the fugitive set for them. In the short time since, he’d proven himself at scouting and foraging on long-lived expeditions aside from being able to scare off enemies with his ghastly appearance.
About a month ago, though, their reputation as a dependable squad became irreparably damaged, after a plot by their former handler led to a scandal that marked them as criminals. The local authorities wasted no time trying to apprehend the threesome. Before they could, however, Team Feral Fang fled town and eventually the southern continent entirely. The last thing Seraph wanted now was to get arrested here for what they were about to do.
“Just don’t horse around tonight! It’s important that we get what we need and get out of town without problems,” she said, shifting her hair around to her back again.
“So what’s the plan then?” Kit asked.
Seraph huffed and commented, “Well, this sure as hell isn’t Treasure Town. It won’t surprise me if we don’t find anything worthwhile here besides food.”
“Ha! What was your first clue?” Cairo scoffed, lying down in front her.
‘Like you’re an expert on a place where you haven’t even been to since you were a pup?’ she thought with a growing sneer.
Admittedly, his insight paid off earlier today when she scouted out the town. Granted his information was pretty dated; a lot of Pokémon that he said he knew growing up were either gone from the village now or just long-since dead. Even so, the general layout and locations of things remained exactly as he described them from memory, give or take a few changes to the townscape in the years he’d been gone. At least she managed to obtain a map while in town, so she could explain what she learned to them.
Pivoting around, Seraph saw a mismatched pair of satchels placed neatly against the tree trunk. Her personal bag, a dainty satchel made from large leaves that had been sown together, sat atop her wooden buckler on the right-hand side. Off to the left was the larger brown duffle bag they’d received upon certification from the Exploration Corps, complete with numerous pockets and the organization’s insignia of a sphere flanked by tiny wings stitched into its main flap.
The skunk grabbed her pouch and opened it posthaste. Inside there were several items including her Luna Fang (a dark-metal knife forged so it had a long crescent-shaped blade), several berries, her mother’s old chain whip, and a parchment folded into thirds. She took the paper out and closed her bag again.
“While you two were sleeping, I staked out a couple sites we should hit this evening. Luckily I swiped this from a shopkeeper when she wasn’t paying attention,” Seraph then commented as she unfolded the sheet and laid it out flat on the ground.
Crudely illustrated, the map depicted the town as having four main thoroughfares that divided it into quadrants. The northeast and southeast districts looked like they were dedicated to mostly housing developments, while the northwest and southwest ones appeared to be marked to show business and marketplace areas. To the easternmost part there was a cliff-side building, along with another establishment near the southern edge of town. At the northernmost point, it seemed as though the mapmaker added a pond that served as a gathering place for the community.
“Did you this take this from a Kangaskhan, per chance?” Cairo asked as she nodded simultaneously, “Thought so, since her handwriting and drawing skills are as bad as ever. I’m surprised the old hag is still alive.” Little did he know that the Kangaskhan in question appeared to be retired now since a younger one ran the local warehouses while her elderly mother evidently supervised, from what Seraph surmised anyhow.
Picking up a nearby stick, Seraph pointed at the upper-left side and commented, “Don’t be surprised if you can’t find much here. Some more of those damn Kecleon run the local bazaar just like back home, and anything they have might not be useful for our means. If nothing else, take whatever cash they have. We can always find another town later, and it all spends the same.”
The other two nodded but Kit immediately asked, “What do we do if we wake them, though?”
“Gouge their throats, of course! Their deaths would be sweet revenge for all the crap their lot put us through in the past,” Cairo cackled.
“What?” the opossum whined.
Tilting her head back, Seraph closed her eyes and thought for a long moment. Cairo did have a point, given their past experiences with the Kecleon Brothers they knew back home. All of the lizards had to be related somewhere down the line, and they always loved to swindle the group any chance they got. If these two were anything like their distant cousins, then killing them would be more than justified. But then, it could also cause a lot of unwanted commotion.
“No!” she shook her head.
“No, my…” Cairo started.
“Enough!” she interrupted, “Go kill someone here, and it will draw in people like moths to an open flame. Stealth is what we need to exercise tonight, Cairo. Get that through your thick head!”
“You’ve never lived here before, so you don’t know what this town’s like. These Pokémon are idiots who love keeping to themselves. They’ll never find out something happened until well after we’re done and gone!”
“This from a mutt who hasn’t been here for two decades or longer? Fact of the matter is that our little excursion has left us with little food or supplies. Foraging isn’t going to cut it anymore either. We need to get actual equipment even if it means having to steal it, and we can’t afford unwanted attention.”
Cairo squinted and grumbled, “So be it… Just know that I have issues with Pokémon around these parts, and I doubt many have forgotten their grudges against me. My clan, in particular, has a tendency to really drag out blood feuds for years on end. I’m sure that you’d understand that, given your own exile…”
“Whatever,” she shrugged, “Just don’t get stupid.”
Turning back to the map and pointing at the spot right below the previous one, Seraph commented, “I’ll be heading to these storage facilities in the southern part of town. Coincidentally, they’re owned and operated by the Kangaskhan you mentioned a moment ago.”
“Yeah, the old lady’s really not as tough as she looks. A little bit of sweet-talking will pretty much get you anything you need from her, so yours isn’t going to be as hard of task as you think.”
She shrugged again and then concluded while pointing at the upper-right side of the map, “There’s a type of bank over here that might give me some trouble. I’d rather us handle it together, since I rather not waste the space in my pack on money when I need it for larder.”
“Yeah, we’ll be quick then, right?” Cairo commented as he suddenly glared at Kit. The Oposease nodded in agreement.
The skunk twisted around again and picked up the group’s bag. Opening its main flap, she took out a small pouch and tossed it to Kit. She then turned back to her compatriots and fit the duffle bag’s strap over Cairo’s shoulder.
“No witnesses, but I want as clean of getaway as possible,” she commented as she finally returned to the tree trunk to retrieve her own bag.
After reopening the satchel, she folded up her map and placed it inside. Seraph then took her dagger out of the sack along with its sheathe. Holding it upward, she slowly slipped the leather cover over the foot-long blade and tucked her weapon underarm so the wooden hilt was within reach. Closing her bag again, she slung it over her backside and picked up her shield. Flipping it over, the skunk put her left arm through two leather straps on the backside and slipped her paw past a small handle she’d otherwise grab to hold it steady.
“Meet you at the bank,” she bid farewell. Afterwards, Seraph dug her claws into the tree and climbed back up to the lowest eastward-facing branch. In the meantime, Cairo laid down so that Kit could climb onto his back. Then, the two took off ahead of Seraph.
Alone now, the skunk pulled herself onto the limb and quickly sprinted towards its end. Upon reaching the tip, she bounced off it to springboard herself into the treetops. As she arced over the branches, she took her machete back out and began cutting off any sticks that got in her way. Once she landed again, she repeated her process of traversing the forest’s canopy and clearing out brush that blocked her path. Cutting a path through the trees slowed her down by a few moments, but it was far quicker for her to do that than to travel with her comrades through the underbrush.
Upon reaching the outskirts of the village, Seraph stopped on a low-hanging branch of a birch tree to catch her breath and put her knife away in its sheath. From her seat, she could see the silhouette of entire townscape on the horizon. In the moonlight, the dome-shaped huts that populated most of the village gave off lingering shadows that she knew were pitch-black to other Pokémon’s eyes. They would be the perfect place to hide from whatever patrols were out at this hour, given how few of the houses actually had torchlight in them.
Seraph readied to jump down from her perch, when suddenly she heard the ruffling of leaves in a tree just a few meters behind her. Evidently the town had its night patrolmen search the woods too to keep an eye out for suspicious individuals. Judging by the faint brainwaves she sensed, the creature was a fellow Dark-type Pokémon…and male at that…
“Well, well, well… Look who we have here!” a shrill voice cackled, “You’re up kind of late, aren’t ya, little girl?” Seraph flipped her hair over her shoulder and cooed warningly.
“Ho-ho! Feisty one, eh? Well…” he continued until he realized she raised her tail and hunched over to aim for him, “W-wait a second!” A horrible cloud of gluey musk exploded from her buttocks, launching her forward simultaneously. Her victim screamed out in agony a moment but then yawned loudly.
Landing on all fours, Seraph pivoted to watch as the short biped fell backwards into the foliage off to the side of the trail. Drawing her knife so she wielded it backhandedly, she dashed towards the shrubbery ready to finish him off with a quick slice across the throat.
Nauseated by the sight of whom she’d sprayed, the skunk fought all instinct not to scream out in pure disgust. Of all things, the creature just had to be the same type of imp she despised having run-ins with back home. The gremlin wasn’t much taller than her, but his skin tone looked at least a few shades lighter than her fur. There was a wide red frill across the top of his crown with two dangling ears and a collar that matched. His arms seemed unusually scrawny in comparison to his relatively large hands with sharp grayish claws. Lastly, sticking out of the Weavile’s butt were two reddish tail-feathers.
Putting her knife away again, Seraph grabbed the cretin’s right hand and then dragged him into the underbrush. Once she thought they’d gone far enough away from the main path, the skunk flung the imp into the bushes as strongly as shed could. After he landed, she quickly dashed back towards the village. Thanks to her attack, he’d be out cold well through tomorrow morning at least. Also, there wasn’t much point in hiding him better since most people usually didn’t trek from forest paths without good reason.
Upon reaching the footbridge that led into town, Seraph stopped dead in her tracks as she heard an ominous voice rasp, “Traitor… Traitor…”
Immediately afterwards, she felt a powerful entity pass through her body as a bone-chilling presence. The sensation ended fairly quickly but Seraph still drew her weapon and raised her shield, ready for a fight. For a moment, she watched in silence as the distorted form of the large being crossed the bridge ahead of her. He even glared back at her with his bloodshot amber eye before continuing onward.
“I will find you, Traitor…” the voice whispered again as his body vanished completely. Unsure of what just happened, the skunk assumed it had nothing to do with her and pushed forward after putting her knife away again.
Overall, the southwestern district seemed completely deserted at this hour. The Pokémon who ran businesses here clearly didn’t live within the immediate area, so that made it a lot easier for her to dart from building to building while still hiding from a few officers out on patrol. Similar to back home, the city had organized members of its local exploration teams to keep tabs on suspicious activity, but if they were anything like that Weavile she encountered, this heist was going to go over more smoothly than Seraph could’ve ever imagined.
When she finally arrived at the largest building in the neighborhood, the skunk girl stopped a moment to examine it better than she did earlier. Easily clearing twenty-five feet in height, the structure bared the vague resemblance to its Kangaskhan proprietor with thick brown shingles forming callused skin along the sides and back of the shed as well as having a pair of raised upper-level windows that looked like the creature’s eyes. Likewise, the front had lighter colored siding and a slight protrusion over the entrance crudely served as the Pokémon’s mouth. No doubt the reason for the outlandish architecture was to give still-illiterate Pokémon a landmark to identify in town, given that they couldn’t read signs like Seraph and most others were able to these days.
Stringing up her bow again, Seraph drew an arrow and quickly checked around each side of the building. It looked like the coast was clear, but her instincts kept telling her that someone might be close by. Perhaps her nerves were getting the better of her, especially after the little spook she got earlier because of that entity. Still, she couldn’t be too careful at this point.
“Captain Retford! Oh, Captain Retford!” Seraph then heard an elderly woman with a drawl call from somewhere on the other side of the building.
Curiosity getting the better of her, Seraph scaled the building with her weapons in tote. Once there, she peeked over the top to see a pair of shadows stretching outward from torchlight a couple houses away. The first she recognized as the storage unit’s owner, while the other appeared to be the silhouette of a large wolf Pokémon.
“Good evening, Katherine! How are you this fine night?” the beast replied in a gruff voice similar to Cairo’s tone.
“I’m doing well, sir. Thank you.”
“Please, stop with the formalities. I’m off-duty now.”
“Forgive me, Saul. I was just wondering about something… Did you find that girl yet?”
“Ah, that Skunanne from this afternoon? Alas, she seems to have vanished into the wind. Her scent trail ends right at the woods.” Seraph chuckled a bit, knowing her acrobatic skills paid off more and more by the day.
“That poor child seemed awfully shy. I hope we didn’t scare her off or anything. I tried to make conversation and even left a gift out of her, which she clearly took.”
“Don’t fret over it. She’ll return eventually. In the meantime, get some rest. Good night!”
“Good night!” Immediately afterwards, their shadows began to move away from the light and vanished into darkness. Seraph ducked her head and started to climb down a little. A moment later, she turned herself around so she could rest her back against the roof. She then closed her eyes for a couple seconds to rest.
“I bet you think you’re so smart, little girl?” a feminine voice purred from directly overhead. Large black paws suddenly pressed down on both of Seraph’s shoulders and sent powerful jolts of electricity through her body. When the attacker finished, the creature shoved her off the side of the building and let her fall limply to the ground along with her weapons.
Paralyzed from head to toe, the skunk did nothing but watch as the silhouette of a four-and-a-half-foot tall lioness leapt onto a patch of dirt nearby, glaring at her with spiteful golden eyes. Moving into the moonlight, Seraph saw that the feline had a thick black mane coursing the length of her head, neck, back, and shoulders with similar fur on her tail and part of her forelegs. Similarly, royal-blue fur covered a good portion of her face and ears, her abdomen, and most of her hind legs. Lastly, she noted how the creature possessed peculiar gold rings around the back of her front legs as well as similar spots inside her ears and a matching spur on the tip of her tail.
“It’s times like these that I’m proud to be a Luxray! You might’ve gotten my partner with that spray of yours, but unlike him, I know not to handle you godforsaken Psychic-types so gently,” her captor laughed as she circled around Seraph.
Noting a little flaw in her logic, Seraph cunningly remarked, “You’re right, you know? I am a Psychic-type, and you almost got me.”
“Almost? What the hell do you mean ‘almost’?” the Luxray sneered, stomped in front of her victim’s face.
“Hmm… Let me put things this way. Skunanne aren’t just Psychic Pokémon but Dark ones too.”
The lioness stuck her maw in a little closer, baring her fangs and making sparks appear throughout her mane, and then growled, “What’s your point?”
“Well… You’re neither of them!” Seraph remarked, making the opal earrings glow with a violet gleam. Suddenly, her attacker felt a terrible pain spread throughout her body as she was overpowered by the skunk’s Psychic attack. Then Seraph threw her into the side of the nearby hut as hard as she could in order to knockout her foe.
Slowly, Seraph caught her breath and forced herself back on her feet. Her muscles were completely numb and her stance was quite wobbly. Even so, she gathered her weapons and ambled her way northward towards the main road. While she’d be unable to finish her part of the job now, Cairo and Kit hopefully managed to rob the Kecleon Brothers’ stand; that way tonight wouldn’t be a total waste.
Reaching the roadside, though, Seraph surveyed up-and-down the paved thoroughfare for signs of life. With nobody else out on the street, she could easily make her way back towards the forest unopposed. But then, it still felt like there was something amiss, despite taking out her last opponent.
“He’s close… But where…?” the whisper from before rasped again.
A chill ran down Seraph’s spine as she sensed the entity approaching again. She panned her head from side-to-side slowly, trying to see where he was coming from now. Suddenly, the being’s distorted form appeared off to her right as he walked back towards the woodlands where he’d come from. She could see him more clearly now, a large quadruped with a wispy mane of hair concealing his translucent body. As he got closer, she noticed that his face looked roughly canine, save for how it had an apparently raised brow area from which his locks grew out.
“Indeed, the Traitor has returned…” he continued as he stopped right in front of Seraph, causing a light breeze to blow when he did. She gazed upon him for a long moment, waiting for him to do something.
“After all these years, I shall finally have…my REVENGE!” he roared, shooting her a hostile stare with his eyeball again. His face also appeared to transform momentarily to look like a wolf’s skull before he suddenly vanished.
Dumbfounded by the spectacle, Seraph stood there for several minutes before so much as flinching. Simply being in that thing’s presence made her feel like she’d relived all of her worst experiences at once. It was so horrific that every fiber of her being just froze into place. When she finally could bring herself to move, the skunk came to the stark realization that the entity might be actually after Cairo.
She began ambling down the road, towards the shop she told her friends to steal from. The cobblestones of the pathway felt particularly hard on her feet, considering she hadn’t walked on anything like it since leave her hometown. Even with some remaining numbness, the surface itself made her gait even more unfavorably staggered and sluggish than anything else right now.
Once she finally approached the bazaar area, Seraph caught sight of a hovering orb of ebony-colored flame. Getting closer, she recognized it as one of the fireballs Cairo created whenever he used an attack called Solemn Blaze. Several seconds later, she watched him backing away from the main stand of the marketplace along with several more spheres that surrounded him. Then, Cairo launched them at two unseen victims who screamed painfully as the exploded on impact.
“Cairo… What have you done…?” Kit quibbled as he came into view stumbling.
“Shut up, and let’s go!” Cairo demanded as he used his psychokinesis to lift the Oposease and put him on his back. Afterwards, the canine dashed off headlong towards the entry bridge and back into the forest.
“Damn it, Cairo!” Seraph cursed as she finally reached the kiosk that they were supposed to rob.
Taking a long look at it, the storefront itself had been completely destroyed. The walls collapsed inward, the tarps originally attached to them overhead to provide the vendors cover were tattered, the stand itself was broken up, and everything had started afire. Amidst the lumber, she saw two different-colored reptiles, one green and his brother purple; both of them were bleeding to death because Cairo aimed to bring the support beams of their shop down upon them specifically where they would get fatally stabbed by the wreckage. His actions may have cost them all three of them their lives.
“Traitor…” the phantom rasped as he suddenly reappeared off to Seraph’s left, “You shall not evade me this time…” He began to head towards the forest after her friends.
Before he vanished this time, he shot her another disgusted look with his bloody-amber eye and stated, “Do not interfere, or their lives are both forfeit…” Seraph nodded mawkishly.
“What the hell is going on here?!” the voice of the Pokémon named Saul bellowed from far away. His voice was so loud, though, that it basically carried throughout the entire village. Moments later, Seraph could hear people starting to wake up in their hovels. Torches soon lit from within the buildings too, and creatures began to come out to see what the commotion was about.
Without a second thought, Seraph headed for the woods, pursuing her comrades and the specter chasing them. The numbness in her body started to go away finally. After she hit the tree line, the skunk climbed the nearest tree and traveled through the treetops once again. It took several minutes, but she inevitably found her two allies about to enter the copse where they started this evening.
“What part of ‘don’t kill anyone’ do you not understand, Cairo?” she shouted, jumping out of the branches ahead of the mutt with her bow and arrow drawn at him.
“Seraph, stop!” Kit cried out as he dismounted the wolf, “You don’t understand. They woke up before we finished the heist. We had no choice but to kill them so they wouldn’t scream.”
“Stop lying for him, Kit! You know what he’s like!” she retorted, ready to shoot.
“Oh, big f-ing deal!” Cairo cackled as he started to grin, “You want to get back at them just as badly as I do, so what’s the problem with knocking off a couple Kecleon in a village we were going to leave anyways?”
“Idiot! Don’t you ever think of the consequences? That little stunt woke up the whole town, not to mention there’s some kind of demon on your ass too.”
“Ah-ha!” he started to laugh until he realized what she just said, “Come again?”
“You heard right. There’s some kind of monster in these woods who’s been searching the village for you since the moment I arrived there.” Cairo’s jaw literally dropped, and his iris began to expand to where it almost took up his entire brow. Then his eyeball seemed to start scanning the surrounding area.
“Th-that was no monster…and to call him a demon is a serious understatement…” he said quivering, “The fact that you saw him is unbelievable. He never shows himself to anybody he doesn’t deem worthy of his presence.”
“What are you talking about? Who is he then?” she demanded.
“The only reason I know about him is because I made a pact with him as a pup, but you… You should know well who he is, especially since your kind considers him the God of Death!”
“Ah-kyi Os Beyi Quofyi?” she instinctively uttered as he nodded briefly in response.
His body suddenly jerked as if he’d just been struck by lightning. In the next instant, Seraph watched as the jaws of the phantasmal beast forcefully pulled an unseen object from within Cairo’s form and began to chew it. Listlessly Cairo seemed to flop onto the ground belly-first, the eyeball on his faceplate clearly devoid of his life force.
“I told you not to interfere…” the beast’s voice rasped at the back of her mind through his telepathy.
“S-Seraph… What’s going on…?” Kit muttered, no doubt feeling the presence hovering over him now. Immediately the monster clamped his immense fangs onto Kit’s body. Then, like he’d just done to Cairo, the demon yanked out the Oposease’s soul and devoured it.
“N-N-NO!” Seraph quibbled and then shot her arrow at the phantom’s forehead. However, the projectile just passed through it without even fazing him.
“My deed is done. Farewell, Archangel…” he commented as he turned away from her and headed back into the forest. Small whirlwinds of smoke formed near his transparent feet and seemingly made him start to vanish into the night.
Before he could actually leave, she took out her knife and shouted, “Hey, jackass! You’re not going anywhere!” Afterwards, she slashed it forward, sending out a shockwave of dark energy because she infused the swing with a Dark Pulse attack.
The slice hit him lightly in the side, but it seemed to be enough to irritate him since he stopped vanishing and glared back at her. Growling, the phantom slowly transformed his figure into the full-bodied form of a gigantic wolf with a charcoal pelt. His mane slowly changed from see-through clear to an ashy-silver color. As he began to turn towards her, she saw that he wore a golden crest on his enlarged brow with an additional set of bloodshot-amber eyes as well as a gold collar that had inlaid silver streaks crisscrossing around its inner section and silver anklets with gold studs over his massive paws.
“Young girl, I have no quarrel with you… I mere slay those who have betrayed me, and those who yet may do so,” he spoke harshly with his real voice, revealing the red dagger-like fangs in his mouth.
“Bullcrap!” she declared, slashing another shockwave at him. The attack hit him alongside his face this time, causing it to momentarily appear as a skull again.
“I see how it is then…” he responded, “If you want your friends back, then defeat me in battle.”
Dropping her bow off to her side, the skunk charged at her opponent with her knife held at him. Once she got close enough to slice at him, the wolf disappeared in a thick cloud of dust and then reappeared several meters behind her. Seraph pivoted around and swung her blade wildly, unleashing a barrage of shockwaves that seemed to hit him. Taking her attacks head-on, the phantom shook his head disapprovingly.
“Your attacks lack focus. Clearly, you have not been trained enough in the art of combat,” he criticized. Insulted, she charged at him again with her blade held high. An ominous gleam shone off it as she approached him, which seemingly transmuted into an aura of pitch-black.
When she was within striking distance, Seraph jumped as high as she could and hacked at the being’s face. He took the slice because he knew it would do such little harm, and then let her pass through his ghostly form by moving it forward. The shockwaves that came from her attack were enough to cleave down some small bushes and trees behind her target, while lightly cutting some of the thicker foliage.
“So tell me… Why would you fight for ones whom you yourself despise?” the demon inquired, “It’s quite senseless, wouldn’t you say?”
“Shut up already!” she remarked as she crouched on her knees.
“I see how it is then… Allow me to end this before you accidentally maim yourself.”
She stood back up, but suddenly found herself paralyzed with fear. During the entire battle, this entity had been suppressing his true power as if he were humoring her. His ability to make others relive their most terrifying experiences was central to why this creature was heralded as an accursed deity for generations. Her tribe’s lore depicted him as both a tyrant and a nobleman who exercised both chivalry and torture at the same time. But in all respects, he could be the single most ruthless Pokémon in existence.
The skunk watched silently as the being walked around her several times. He seemed to be plotting something, perhaps a final blow or maybe even making her an ultimatum.
“I can see it in your soul. The anguish of years past… The self-loathing… The hatred for your father… All these things you’ve clung for so long,” he suddenly commented.
Stopping directly behind her, he continued, “But I also see a future even graver ahead for you and many others. An impending force looms further down the corridors of time. The horrors of the past will resurface because of you. Do not think badly of it, for such things are bound to happen at some point…”
“What?” she uttered, tears starting to drip from her eyes.
“For this reason,” he whispered into her right, “I shall keep you alive.”
He then pushed her to the ground with one of his large paws. Afterwards, she listened to him as he began to howl loudly at the moon. At first, the sound was symphonic. As it drew on, however, she realized that his voice became progressively deeper to the point where the sound hurt her ears and echoed throughout the entirety of her mind. It felt like it resonated from well within her subconscious. Eventually, the attack started to put a serious strain on her muscles and began to make her body ache in ways she could barely describe. The increasing pain was so unbearable, she just wished he’d kill her out of mercy.
By the time he finished, Seraph felt ready to pass out. After he stopped baying, the demon turned towards the timberline. The skunk could hear the voices of random Pokémon approaching as he undoubtedly did. At this point, she was too weak to flee…
Within seconds, she saw her attacker slowly vanish overhead in a virtual cloud of smoke. As his body faded into the night, Seraph closed her eyes, doubly wishing that he’d have finished her off. Knowing these village hicks, they’d probably have her executed by morning anyways.
Opening her eyes one last time, she gazed up at the moon. She knew this was it, the last time she’d watch its vernal glow. With a silent huff, her consciousness began to wane and she fell asleep…
<End Chapter One>
This story has somewhat of a generalized plot, since it's actually supposed to be somewhat of a lengthy saga. Any input I can get on this will be appreciated, given how I haven't really made any serious revisions on its current draft in a while.
December 2nd, 2013 (7:16 PM).
Chapter Two: Deliverance?
Three years ago…
It was early in the evening when I gradually began to awaken. Cool autumnal air flowed throughout our cabin, carrying with it the scents of burning wood and roasting meat from the village proper. Glints of waning sunlight filtered in through a nearby window, a daft reminder of the life we cherished hidden away in the Furlong Hollow within the depths of the Midnight Forest.
I reluctantly opened my eyes, the dreams of a good night’s sleep quickly fleeting like birds at our tribe’s war cries. My side felt strangely numb along with my left arm feeling stiff, no doubt because I’d slept awkwardly in my hammock again for the umpteenth time this month; what I’d give for an actual bed like the traders keep preaching about. Yawningly I flipped myself upward to face the thatched ceiling.
“Chea-yi!” I called tenderly, the term an affectionate word amongst my kin for father.
Hearing no response, I rolled over slowly and then sat upright. After rubbing my eyes, I took a long glance around the room. Like most of the dwellings in town, our house was a one-room cottage made out of logs my father and other villagers cut down years ago while building the town. The walls were sealed with a concrete-like paste to prevent them from dislodging one another. Hanging skins of various Pokémon such as Linoone and Ninetales served as our décor, all of which my father had obtained during hunting trips to far-off reaches of the continent.
Gazing over towards my father’s hammock, the makeshift bed seemed desolate without its owner resting upon it, especially since he normally slept longer than I did. Tears started to drip down my cheeks as I thought about how the one folded up and stored underneath it hadn’t been disturbed in at least six months. Since my mother died, things just hadn’t been the same.
“Chea-yi?” I cried again. He still didn’t respond to me. It may have just been that he went outside for whatever reason.
I scooted out of my bed, and then crouched down so that I could take a look at the items I kept under it. Unlike most girls in the tribe, I’d been lucky enough to be born into the patriarchal family. As such, that meant having to be trained night after night in the arts of combat and hunting due to us lacking proper land for any serious agricultural development. This was all due to how our ancestors forsook the mythical Hidden Land centuries ago and no longer received the blessings of Lord Dialga.
My weaponry consisted of a simple set of tools. I had a specialized short-bow called a Vyi Tof-cu, which was essentially designed for any small biped Pokémon, and accompanying arrows known in my tribe as Vyi Ta-cu; the unstrung bow and arrows were all kept in the quiver for easy storage. Next to the case, I kept my wooden shield that was bound by a leather cover with the design of an upside-down red triangle painted on its front. Underneath my buckler, I could just see the hilt of the Luna Fang my father made for me not long ago as well as the handle for the chain-whip I inherited from my mother after her death. My clan took some pride in the fact that we had learned about some forms of metalworking from humans long before they went extinct because it kept us one step ahead of other species in terms of cultural development.
I pulled my quiver out from under my hammock and shoved it off to my side. Then I reached for my shield and other weapons so that I could equip myself with them right away. After fitting my left arm through the straps on the backside of my buckler, I took out the leafy satchel that it concealed and opened it up so that I could put my two smaller weapons inside. Once I did, I slung its strap over my body so that the sack rested gently under my left arm. Likewise, I also put my quiver’s band over my right shoulder.
When I finished preparations, I stood up and turned around to face the single door at center of the cabin’s front wall. A Ninetales pelt served as a privacy curtain. The hide wavered gently but only due to the breeze, not because someone peeked in.
“Chea-yi!” I called again. With no response, I decided to head outside to see if I could find him.
Going outdoors, I slowly stepped towards the ridge that separated our home from the rest of the village. The town itself was fairly large, considering how only thirty or so families lived here. There were at least forty buildings, ranging from single-room hovels to multifamily dwellings as well as multistory gathering places and storage sheds. Between a few of the houses were fire pits, where some of my fellow tribesmen cooked meals for their households while their wives helped by putting wood onto the flames upon command. Near the center of the settlement, though, I noticed that the communal bonfire was already at a roaring blaze tonight. I even heard children laughing and playing around it as well as other parts of the plaza.
“Meyi-lyi! Stop!” a stern voice called out from behind me as I began to follow the footpath into town.
Slowly, I turned around to acknowledge my father’s presence. At a height of two meters, chieftain Meyi-kotan gave off an imposing humanoid silhouette standing on our rooftop in the faint sunset. Overall, the huntsman skunk looked both lithe and muscular, especially with his large bushy tail shifted off to the side. He carried an eight-foot-long bowstaff in his right hand. His dreadlocks covered up his left eye, while he gave me a serious glare from the emerald gleam of his right one. Jumping down from the roof, he landed right in front of me, snarling and baring his fangs.
“You were supposed to be up an hour ago!” he then scolded me.
“I… I’m sorry, Chea-yi…” I whimpered. Suddenly, he smacked me backhandedly across the face with his free hand. I yelped out of pain as a result.
Afterwards, he grabbed my chin and told me, “Stop crying! You’re entering womanhood. Get used to it.”
“Y-yes, Chea-yi…” I replied.
It wasn’t uncommon for Furlong men to beat their wives and daughters into submission, but my father always seemed like the exception. Until my mother passed, he never raised his paw against either of us. But in recent months, as I approached age fourteen, it had become more and more commonplace for him to swat at me if I did something wrong. Sometimes I deserved it. At other time, though, I felt like he just hit me because he enjoyed it.
“Now,” he continued as he straightened out his back, “Get to the square. We have a ceremony to attend before we go hunting tonight.” I bowed my head in acknowledgement and turned back around again. Then, I started running towards the village proper.
Tonight was an important milestone for many teenagers in our village. Fourteen-years-old officially marked our passage into adulthood in terms of biological maturity. Granted, not all members of our clan were fully evolved yet (in fact some hadn’t even grown into Skunanne), but the ceremony my peers and I need to go through certified us as grownups and equals amongst elder tribe members. I could barely contain my excitement because of that!
Seraph Furlong awoke silently as the morning sunlight shone in through a nearby window, warming her face with a gentle glow. Her sapphire eyes twitched wildly as she fought to stay asleep longer, but she resisted futilely. Eventually, she gave in and opened them as widely as she possibly could. The skunk clutched her Linoone-skin blanket tightly as she rolled over towards the closest wall and snuggled back into a comfortable sleeping position while she listened to the sounds of birds chirping outside.
After a couple moments, she came to the stark realization that she was actually in somebody’s home. Throwing her cover aside, Seraph immediately sat upright to take a long look at her surroundings.
Apparently, she was inside a large dome-shaped hut with walls made from hardened clay and a ceiling that easily cleared a height of fifteen feet. The home consisted of a single room sectioned off into a bedroom area where she sat, a food storage spot at the far right-hand side of the hovel, and a crafting station with various woodworking materials at the far left corner of the room. Near the middle of the cabin, she saw a large table that had a half-eaten plate of berries on the half closest to her as well as numerous crude tools such as wooden hammers, stone knives, hatchets, and chisels scattered about its opposite part.
She presumed that this place belonged to the elderly Kangaskhan whom she intended to rob yesterday. Seraph overheard some Pokémon talking about how much of a craftswoman the lady had become in recent years and accredited her handiwork, so it only made sense that she kept a lot of carpentry equipment on-hand at home. Hopefully, the woman would be merciful enough not to hurt her with them, considering how her associates actually killed people last night.
Tears rolled down the fur on her cheek as started to realize what actually happened the evening before. Her friends were now dead and their souls irretrievably lost thanks to the actions of a Legendary Pokémon known as Ah-Kyi Os Beyi Quofyi. His name literally meant “The Judge-Sovereign of Dark Memories,” but to many cultures around the world, he was simply Otulp. As an entity that existed before even time began, many believed that he embodied the very essence of terror and, by extension, death. For generations, Pokémon had feared him as he stood in opposition to the creation god Arceus. However, her tribe knew that he represented something much more significant…the Dreamtime called Beyi Quofyi. He lorded over the realm of dreams and memories with an iron fist and considered himself the most powerful being in all existence. Actually encountering him was a horror all its own, but attacking him might as well have been suicide. She was still in disbelief by how he merely toyed with her.
“Isn’t that girl awake yet?” the voice of Cairo’s father bellowed from outside. Suddenly spooked, Seraph turned her gaze towards the makeshift door at the front side of the room.
“Good grief! Keep your voice down, Saul!” the elderly woman with a drawl demanded, “The Lamentation attack that beast used on her caused a serious amount of strain on her body and mind. It won’t surprise me if she’s out for days because of the power it had.”
Captain Retford barked harshly at her and then shouted, “Don’t you disrespect me, woman! After the bullcrap her crew pulled last night, I want her head!” Afterwards, Seraph heard the sound of metal getting hit hard followed by a violent crash several yards from the door.
“Yell at me like that again, and I’ll do far worse the next time,” the lady then declared, “When she’s fully recovered, I’ll bring her to you. But you’re not laying so much as a paw on her. Got it?”
Saul growled at the woman for a long moment and finally huffed, “Very well. But if she flees town, I’ll hunt her down and skin her alive!” Seraph then heard the sound of metal links shifting against one another as the creature moved away from the building.
There was a long moment of silence before the door to the dwelling started to creak open. As the owner began to enter, Seraph flopped back onto her side and pretended to still be asleep. Next she listened to the creature’s footsteps as she approached the skunk.
“Still asleep…?” the lady asked as she touched the Skunanne’s hair with her claws. Afterwards, she slowly started to caress the tresses with the entirety of her rough hand.
“You have such beautiful locks. I’m quite jealous since I don’t have any fur of my own.” Seraph snorted at the comment, derogatorily acting like she’d just been insulted.
“Sweetheart, all I’m trying to do is be polite. Couldn’t you show me some respect by telling me your name?”
“Why should I? That Metalupus is just going to execute me anyhow.”
“Now, say… I’m not about to let anything happen to you so long as you’re with me. However, I hardly expected you to be in league with Cairo Retford when I first met you yesterday. In all honesty, everyone here was certain he’d died years ago.”
“Ha, that’s a laugh!” Seraph remarked, “He’d been living on the southern continent all this time.”
“The southern continent… But it’s so far from here. How did he possibly get there, and now all the way back?”
“I’d go on, but I think I’ve already said too much to you.”
“Honey, please,” the lady begged, “I’m not going to let anyone harm you, and it’s not like you’re in any condition to go anywhere to begin with. The least you could do is be thankful I’m showing you this much hospitality. Saul would sooner have you strung up in his stockades.”
“Well, I guess you have a point there,” Seraph replied, rolling over onto her back with her eyes still closed, “My name is Meyi-lyi.”
“Archangel?” the woman responded, clearly understanding at least that word from the skunk’s tribal dialect.
“Seraph. Seraph Furlong,” the teenager continued as she slowly forced herself upright while keeping her face turned, “Like Cairo and my other partner Kit, I’m a wanted fugitive down south. We fled north only because we knew there was no reasoning with the Pokémon back home. It seems like everyone we’ve ever encountered is out to get us.”
“Aw… You poor thing,” her keeper tried to console her as she patted Seraph on the shoulder.
“I don’t need your pity!” the skunk grunted as she shirked the creature’s hand off of her, “Aside from that, I’m exiled from my clan because I didn’t live up to my father’s expectations.”
“Skunter are brutal towards their children, I know that much. But you’ll face nothing like that here. We’re really a peaceful community and greatly abhor violence.”
‘I very much doubt that…’ Seraph told herself loathingly.
Faking a nice grin, the Skunanne turned around and reopened her eyes to the sight of a bulky seven-foot-tall marsupial staring back at her. The Kangaskhan appeared fairly aged, having much craggier grayish-brown skin than Seraph had seen in others of her kind. Likewise her cream-colored underbelly and pouch were very wrinkly, as was her dark brown forehead. Her strong arms, stocky legs, and thick tail looked more callused than usual, perhaps because of the physical labor she did as a trade. All in all, though, her russet-red eyes appeared to have a gentle glint to offset her otherwise rough-and-tumble features.
“There, that’s much better!” the Kangaskhan commented, smiling back, “My name is Katherine Jamina. As you’ve probably guessed, this is my home and I’m the owner of the storage units around here.”
“Listen, Katherine… I’m deeply sorry for what Cairo did last night, but he killed those two Kecleon before I could stop him.”
“It’s fine, child! You can’t blame yourself for something he did on his own. Cairo’s had a vicious attitude since he was a pup. His father’s just irate because he couldn’t kill him himself.”
Seraph immediately laid back down and turned her head away from her caretaker. Clearly this woman didn’t realize just how grave the situation was. Both of her comrades had their souls torn right out of their bodies, never to escape Otulp’s gullet…
“What’s wrong, dear?” Katherine asked.
“Last night, I fought a monster that until now I thought was a myth…”
“This demon is a legendary soul-eater. Once he’s consumed a spirit, his victim’s body perishes immediately and the creature is doomed to spend eternity in his maw. That’s exactly what happened to Kit and Cairo yesterday.”
“I had no idea… Saul always spoke of a phantasmal beast that roamed the timberland in search of wayward spirits, but he never mentioned it could do that.”
“My tribe calls him Ah-Kyi Os Beyi Quofyi, the Judge-Sovereign of Dark Memories… He’s considered a deity of unparalleled might, equivocally the god of memories and the god of death. As such, he exists outside of the physical plane.”
“Saul’s clan has a similar myth. However, Ah-Kyi Os or Otulp, as they call him, is referred to as a fell god who only seeks to destroy Lord Arceus.”
“I’m aware of that. But trust me when I say that such a belief is foolhardy,” Seraph commented, turning her head slightly back towards Katherine, “In my tribe, Otulp is known to be both chivalrous and spiteful. It just depends on the circumstances.”
“Such as the case of Cairo…? He sacrificed two of his brothers in order to summon Otulp and forge a pact with him. In return, he obtained an accursed mask that granted him psychic prowess. Ultimately, that same covenant cost him his life.”
‘That would explain a lot then…’ Seraph thought to herself.
“There have been uncountable mysterious occurrences in the time since Cairo left. Undoubtedly they were related to the spell he used to call forth Otulp. Whether or not the demon was directly involved is for debate, I guess.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me. But I’m left to wonder just why he didn’t kill me off along with my friends,” Seraph murmured. After a couple seconds, the girl’s stomach began to growl loudly. With all the discussion about what happened, she’d completely forgotten about asking for some food.
“Aw, sweetie… You haven’t eaten a thing since last night, have you?” Katherine asked her.
“Since yesterday morning, actually.”
“Don’t you fret none!” the Kangaskhan said, lovingly nuzzling the Skunanne’s forehead, “Old Kathy here will make you some breakfast right away.”
The elder turned her back to Seraph and headed for the front of the hut. Seraph rolled over onto her back and watched the woman as she went over to her food storage container, a wooden bin underneath to a crudely built cupboard hanging on the nearby wall. Seeing the lady take a wooden plate out of the cabinet and some berries out of the crate, the skunk sat up and frowned. Once the Kangaskhan put the dish together, she came back to the table to set the saucer down.
“What’s wrong?” she asked Seraph.
“Not to seem rude, but I’m not an herbivore…” the girl commented, making sure to show her somewhat-pointed fangs, “I’ll eat fruit and berries out of necessity, but I’d honestly prefer meat if possible.”
Her keeper tilted her head back and replied, “Sorry, but this is all I have. Captain Retford is the only serious hunter around here, but any prey he kills is for his clan alone.”
Seraph sighed, “It’s fine. I haven’t really eaten meat in years anyways, not much anyways.”
“Well…” Katherine drew out the word as she brought the plate to Seraph, “I could ask one of his sons if they’d spare some for you, but Saul will be furious with me when he finds out.”
“I don’t mean to trouble you. I’ll eat these, but the protein would help me regain my strength faster,” the captive said as she grabbed the dish and put it on her lap. Then, she slowly started to eat.
Katherine grinned awkwardly at the thought of someone eating another Pokémon as food, but then said, “No, I’ll get you some meat somehow. I understand that carnivores like yourself can’t stand eating fruits for extended periods of time, so this will be my little treat.”
“Thank you, Katherine!” the Skunanne replied cheerfully. Katherine headed over to her table again and finished her own meal from earlier. Afterwards, the Kangaskhan went towards the hut’s entryway and left.
As the door swung shut, Seraph swallowed her food half-disgustedly. Being omnivorous by nature, she had an inborn tolerance for berries; however, that didn’t mean she enjoyed them all the time. But it was no skin off her nose if she got meat or not, so long as she got some alone time to think about her predicament.
With that Saul Retford on-duty, she couldn’t rightly make a head-on escape by waltzing outside. Since he was likely the one who confiscated her weapons last night too, that meant she would be completely unarmed and had no idea where to find them in-town anyways. Her natural attacks weren’t much of an option since she’d become accustom to using them in conjunction with her tools rather than on their own. Seraph sighed, realizing just how hopeless her situation was…
She continued to eat for several moments until the door suddenly swung open again. Looking up from her plate, Seraph didn’t see anyone standing in the entrance, which seemed odd because it whooshed inward so powerfully. Shrugging, the skunk returned to eating the last of her berries.
“Um, excuse me?” a boy’s voice asked from off to the right side of the room.
Glancing up and off in that direction, she noticed that the creature was nothing more than a foot-and-a-half-tall ermine. He had a distinctive pelt that transitioned from dark red around his head to hot pink near his belly and finally to white at his hips and tail; however, the fur down his entire backside appeared to be singed to form a solid stripe from head to tail-tip. The Pokémon’s eyes seemed to have an unusual burgundy color with silvery-white irises. There also looked to be a glistening ruby embedded in his forehead where the streak down his back. Lastly, she noticed that he wore a golden chain around his neck that had a sapphire pendant attached to it as a charm.
“Hey, don’t you know it’s rude to just enter a house unannounced?” Seraph reprimanded him.
The Weasinge made a small frown with his slightly elongated maw and then replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was just wondering if Mrs. Jamina is around today? You see, her daughter isn’t minding her stand right now, and I need help getting supplies out of storage.”
“You just missed her, kid. She stepped out a few minutes ago, but should be back pretty soon.”
He gave a displeased grin hearing that and then said, “Eh, I’m sort of in a rush and need supplies from my mentor’s unit ASAP. Can you help me instead?” She snorted at the comment.
“Do I look like I work for her?” she snapped.
“Oh, accept my apologies then,” he said nervously, “It’s just that a friend of mine is in trouble, and I need whatever assistance I can get to save her.”
“Let me guess. You’re part of an exploration corps or something?” she asked, assuming he was some sort of cadet.
“Huh? Yeah! I’m a trainee in the Pokémon Rescue Corps stationed here in-town. My teacher, Kent Zoltaine, lets me use supplies from his storage unit when he’s too busy to accompany me on missions.”
“I see…” she responded, turning back to her almost-clean plate.
“But this is an emergency, so I have to go right away or my friend’s going to get raped!”
She raised her eye to him and said, “Come again?”
“A local thug is out to make her part of his harem. If I don’t stop him, he’s going to succeed!”
Seraph looked away for a long moment. She’d had some pretty grisly encounters like that herself when she first left her tribal home. Nobody actually managed to forcibly mate with her, but she knew just how cruel some Pokémon could be when it came to this stuff.
“Listen. If you can’t help me, I understand,” the ermine commented, “Just know that her life is at stake. The monster in question sometimes kills his victims after he’s done with them.” Afterwards, the boy turned to leave.
“Wait!” Seraph demanded, as she suddenly jumped to her feet. Her muscles immediately ached due to the motion, though, and she hunched over slightly in pain.
“Are you alright?” he asked, gazing back at her out of concern.
“I’m…FINE!” she yelped as she tried to stretch upwards and shirk the soreness off. Clearly the attack she suffered last night had taken more of a toll on her body than she could have possibly imagined.
“Are you sure? You look like you’re in excruciating pain…”
“That’s because I went up against a Legendary Pokémon last night when I was trying to get away from here,” she told him, rotating her shoulder joints one after another.
“What? A Legendary Pokémon? Here?” he exclaimed, half-confused about what she meant, “Wait, why were you trying to get away from here?”
“Geez, keep your damn voice down!” Seraph scolded him.
Finally realizing what she was talking about, the boy murmured, “You’re…that criminal they captured yesterday…”
‘Great way to state the obvious…’ she thought, giving him a dumb look.
“S-Saul wants to talk to you now that you’ve recovered! C-c-come with me!” he ordered nervously. Seraph noticed how much he trembled as he turned his body around so he faced her directly again.
“Really? Well, I don’t feel much like talking to Saul right now. Besides, didn’t you just explain that you had a friend to rescue?” she remarked, folding her ears back so that he knew she was ready to fight him.
“T-t-that…” he stuttered as if he were about to cry.
“Good grief! You’re supposed to be a trainee, but you can’t keep your cool under pressure? Do you know how easy you’d be to kill in the wild?”
“I…I…” the ermine began to sob before suddenly bawling, “I’m trying my best! I only joined the Rescue Corps a few weeks ago, so I’m still a newbie! Give me a break, why don’t you?” Seraph pawed her face disapprovingly.
“Kid,” she said, “KID! Knock it off. I’m harmless!” He stopped whining momentarily, though he still sniffled a bit as he tried to listen to her.
The Skunanne sighed and continued, “I can help you save your friend, but I need you to do something for me first. I had some gear with me when I tried robbing places in-town. Presumably, it got confiscated when I was captured. I want it back, understand?”
“If your gear was taken away, it’s probably being held in the evidence room at the Pelipper Post Office. But security is tight. Only authorized personnel are allowed in, and guards are always on-duty.”
“So are you allowed entry?”
“Of course, but I can’t lie to my senior officers.”
“If you want help, this is the only way,” she explained, “I don’t care so much about my bag so much as my bow-and-arrows, my chain whip, my buckler, and especially my knife. If I don’t have my Luna Fang, I’m pretty much worthless in a real fight. You should be able to recognize these items when you see them.”
“Oh, I can guess what they look like. I’ve seen similar weapons before.”
“Good,” she said grinningly, “Just know that once we save your friend, I can’t promise I’ll be sticking around.”
“What?” he gawked.
“Hey! My life is at stake just by stepping outside. The first chance that I get I’m gone! If you try to chase me, I’ll hurt you…badly!”
“No deal! If you’re coming to help, that’s fine. But you aren’t leaving my sight.”
She crossed her arms and laughed, “Oh, we’ll see about that!” The Weasinge squinted his eyes and frowned for a long moment.
Afterwards, he shook his head and sighed, “Fine.”
“What’s your name, by the way?” she finally asked him.
“Meyi-lyi is my real name. But since nobody most Pokémon can’t understand the Quofyi dialect, I go by its direct translation, which is Seraph.”
“Seraph… Contradictory, don’t you think?”
“What do you mean?”
“Seraphs are supposed to be kindly. You’re anything but!” he suddenly giggled. She smirked disgusted at him for a second but then turned it into a forced laugh.
Seraph stopped chuckling and asked, “So, are we going or what?” Chip stopped too and nodded. Afterwards, he headed outside with her ambling slightly behind him.
Upon stepping outdoors, Seraph was suddenly blinded by the scorching daylight. Her eyes were maladjusted to the daytime lighting. The sheer intensity of it left her seeing things in offset colors, and it drove her nuts having to squint just to distinguish them correctly.
“What’s wrong?” Chip asked as he walked up to an odd container he’d left several feet from the door. The box appeared to be an orange-and-red box with a leather strap attached to it. He fit his head through the loop, and then positioned it so that the case rested at his side.
After she refocused her sight, Seraph replied, “Nothing. It’s just too bright out for me.” Glancing around, she noticed how most of the buildings were elongated constructions likely made for commercial use. Unlike the dome-shaped hut she just exited, these had been created from a mixture of wood and thatch to make them sturdier than the town’s residential structures.
He turned to her and said, “Oh… I didn’t realize that.” Afterwards, he started down the footpath leading away from Katherine’s dwelling. Seraph continued to stand in the doorway, trying to get her bearings still as he walked away.
“Aren’t you coming?” he asked once he’d gotten onto the main path a short ways from the shack.
“Yeah!” She then hobbled after him because a twinge in her left hip bothered her enough to make her limp.
Concerned about her pain, the ermine opened up his carrying case with his nose and then pulled out a big yellowish berry in his mouth. He walked back over to Seraph, motioning for her to hold out her paw. Once she did, he dropped it into her mitt.
“I know it’s not as important as actual rest, but that Sitrus berry should give you enough strength to keep up with me. Eat it, and let’s go!” he ordered.
The skunk girl plopped it into her mouth and chewed it. Almost immediately, the tangy flavor began to give her a little of her stamina back. After she swallowed, she felt the soreness start to subside. Seraph stretched out her body again, this time actually making her muscles relax.
“Now, can we go?” he asked her.
“Definitely! Thanks!” she replied with abnormal vigor. Chip nodded, acknowledging her sudden recovery. Granted, she’d probably be out of it later on, but at least for now she could carry her own weight.
“Okay, then. Follow me closely!”
The Weasinge immediately headed back towards the main trail and then started westward through town. Seraph tailed him with a joyful skip, but keeping a slight distance as well as an eye out between for any suspecting individuals who might realize that she was a wanted criminal. Once they reached a paved road leading northward through the village, Seraph took notice of how the thoroughfare seemed all but abandoned at this time of day.
Seeing the inquisitive look on her face, Chip replied, “Everyone’s probably up at the community gathering place uphill where old man Whiscash used to live. I know that Captain Retford intended to have a town meeting to discuss what happened last night with everyone who slept through it. I should be there, but this rescue mission is more important.”
“I see…” she muttered, knowing that a certain Kangaskhan was undoubtedly absent from it.
“This way!” the ermine called, starting northbound towards the center of town. Seraph continued to follow him unquestioningly.
As soon as they reached the intersection of the town’s main streets, the Skunanne stopped, puzzled by the mentality of these villagers. It would make sense that they may be concerned about the sudden reappearance of a mutt they’d long-since thought was dead, but to leave the town completely unoccupied seemed ludicrous. Even in the event of a community-wide tragedy, there still should have been some activity going on.
“HEY!” Chip called down the roadway heading west, “The post office is this way.” Seraph turned to see that had already traveled halfway down the eastward street.
She began to run after him when she got a sudden chill down her back. It felt like somebody snuck up behind her and was glaring at her hostilely. A few seconds later, she pivoted back around to see if anyone found her. Seeing nothing, the skunk girl dashed towards her guide.
After she’d gone, the shadow of a three-foot tall fox appeared on the ground in the middle of the street. The silhouette looked as though it had cloudlike legs and wisps of smoke coming off its ears, neck, and tail. Hesitating a moment, the figure began to follow her before slowly disappearing.
Seraph noticed how the buildings alternated between larger and smaller structures as they passed through town. She also realized that some of them were crudely modeled after Pokémon such as Persian and Wigglytuff. It really didn’t seem much different from how the tent proprietors used for shops in Treasure Town had been made in a similar style.
Once they’d gotten through town, Seraph and Chip arrived at a large cliff overlooking a massive bay area. Near the end of the outcropping, there was a humongous building with a generally bowl-like design. The front towards the ledge had yellow-orange siding, while its rear seemed to be painted white; with part of the roof hinged so that it could open up, the structure looked just like a Pelipper. Outside by its rear, a bulletin board stood several feet off the ground, supported by two thick legs and covered with a small wooden canopy.
The two went up to the message board and Chip explained, “This place serves as our local police department. All rescue teams in the area have to report here to get certified by our commanding officers and sent out on missions.”
“Interesting…” she nodded. Seraph then glanced at a small addition on the opposite side of the building.
Chip looked as well and continued, “That’s where we keep evidence for cases such as your own. I’ll be back in a moment.” He turned around, followed the crude footpath to the front door of the post office, and went inside. Seraph glanced up at the bulletin board impatiently while she waited for him.
Inside the building, Chip saw the same old setup he’d become accustom to over the past few weeks. There were two main counters along the east and north walls, where several Pelipper were working to sort incoming and outgoing messages into different cubbyholes for their carriers. Three of the birds on at the far desk had their backs turned to Chip, while a fourth one situated in the side table noticed him immediately.
“Good morning, Chip! What brings you here today?” the bird called out to him.
The ermine turned to the pelican with a smile and nervously lied, “I need to get into the evidence locker. Commander Zoltaine needs me to get something for him.” The postmaster looked at him awkwardly for a moment.
Several seconds later, though, he replied, “Sure thing!” Afterwards, the bird reached his wing under his desk and grabbed something. He then tossed a key to Chip, who in turn caught it in his mouth.
“Thanks!” Chip replied.
The Weasinge then headed across to the rear of the oval-shaped room, where there was a large barred doorway leading into the evidence locker. At the door, he took the key out of his mouth and set between the toes of his right forepaw. Bracing himself against the nearby wall, Chip managed to keep himself upright while he struggled to get the key into the makeshift lock. After a minute of fumbling, he got it inside and twisted it so the door would open on its own. Once it did, he bumped the gate with his head and went inside the adjoined room.
Entering the locker, the weasel glanced around at the various cabinets that had been used to store items confiscated from criminals over the years. From what he could see, nothing in particular stuck out as Seraph’s equipment. But suddenly, he fixed his eyes on several objects on the table positioned in the middle of the room. They consisted of a greenish bag set on top of a concaved shield, a short bow next to a hard-leather quiver with arrows in it, and an arced knife inside a leather sheath. He presumed that the aforementioned whip was inside the sack since he didn’t see it lying out anywhere.
Unable to carry them as is, Chip decided to use his psychokinesis instead. Causing his gem to shimmer, he immediately focused on making the items levitate towards him. They slowly moved in sync with his thought waves, and eventually came to him. Once they were at his side, the ermine started to head back out the way he came.
As he exited the evidence room, the three Pelipper who were busy sorting mail suddenly stopped and gazed at him in wide wonder. The postmaster at the separate desk got a little testy at them for taking an unscheduled break, beginning to squawk at his workers incoherently. Chip ignored them a moment, set the items down momentarily, and locked the door behind him. Afterwards, he used his psychic powers to take the key he’d left out of the latch and threw it back towards the postmaster Pelipper.
Now enraged about his actions, the bird turned to the young Weasinge and asked, “What could Kent possibly want with those, Chip? Aren’t those the same weapons Saul brought in last night? They still need to be catalogued, if I’m not mistaken!”
Somewhat guilt-stricken, Chip thought up a quick lie and responded, “Captain Retford and Commander Zoltaine ordered me to bring these to them at once. I can’t disobey an order from them, sir.”
The Pelipper exhaled an abrupt sigh and said, “I really don’t get what goes through their heads sometimes, Chip. They basically forced us to let them setup operations here after the natural disasters from several years ago almost wiped out life across the continent. Now it’s just one headache after another for us. Just keep us out of your police work while we attend to our daily deliveries, got that?” Chip nodded, and then concentrated his powers again on the items he meant to retrieve. Then, he left the building without another word.
Meanwhile, as she waited for Chip, Seraph spent a couple moments examining the bulletin board outside. It was similar to ones that they had at the Wigglytuff Guild back in Treasure Town. Unlike it, however, jobs were posted in random order without any organization whatsoever. Rescue requests and arrest warrants basically covered one another.
After a few moments of scanning them, though, she found a couple that really grabbed her attention. Three bounties had been pinned separately from each other at the bottom of the sign. From the left, the flyers depicted images of her partners Cairo, Kit, and one for herself along with large rewards for their arrest. She grabbed her wanted poster and read everything on it as followed:
Seraph snarled at the picture they drew of her based on eyewitness accounts. In it, she looked hog-nosed like a Skuntank with beady little eyeballs. Not to mention that her earrings were sketched to look similar to hoops hanging down from a pair of elongated ears, and her hair was all wrong.
She began to tear it up quickly so nobody would be able to actually use it as a reference to figure out who she was. Right then, Chip reemerged from the post office’s entrance with her supplies hovering in front of him. Immediately she shoved as many pieces of the paper as she into a bush growing next to the bulletin board. Seraph returned her attention to the announcements on the sign as he came over by her.
“Are these your items?” he asked to make sure he got the correct things. She nodded happily. Afterwards, Chip set the equipment down next to her.
Seraph started scrounging through her weaponry to confirm that everything was there. Her bow and arrows were intact, which came as somewhat of a surprise given the scuffle she had last night. She pulled her knife out of its cover circumference-wise, checking that the blade didn’t get nicked from mishandling. Next, she opened her bag saw her mother’s chain whip still inside of it; she took the lengthy rope out to loop it around her shoulder for quick access. Lastly, the Skunanne double-checked her shield to make sure it wasn’t ruined in some way.
“So what’s the big deal with this stuff?” Chip asked out of curiosity.
“These are all handmade weapons I’ve had since I was in my tribe,” she explained, showing him each item in order, “My father made this knife for me, this whip belonged to my mother, and I’ve had the rest of these since I was fourteen.”
“Interesting,” he replied, gazing down at his necklace, “I got this pendant from my dad when I left home. It’s supposed to help me learn to control my pyrokinesis. Otherwise my backside would burst into flames since that’s what I practice on usually.” She nodded in acknowledgement. Oddly enough, she actually knew about Weasinge’s weird tendency to burn their own fur to master their pyrokinesis.
Seraph took a moment to get her equipment set so she could carry it on her, and finally said, “If you’re ready, let’s go save your friend! Just remember that I’m not making any promises to stick around once we’re done.” Chip growled at her moment before nodding in agreement. Afterwards, the two headed back down the paved road through town and out into the woods.
Once they’d gone away, an odd breeze blew southward from the bush Seraph threw her wanted poster in. The tattered pieces landed almost perfectly together as the vulpine shadow appeared on top of them. A pair of glowing red eyes appeared on the creature’s head and began to read the flyer from top to bottom.
“Oh, this is just too good!” the phantom’s shrill voice cackled. With a bloodcurdling howl, he suddenly vanished again without a trace.
<End Chapter Two>
January 27th, 2014 (6:56 AM).
Chapter Three: Temptations
‘How long has it been since I last came here…?’ the wraith thought as she soared through the airspace over the remains of Maritide Island.
Far below, the former city appeared absolutely desolated by the ravages of time. In the era of Man, over 65,000 inhabitants lived on the five-mile-long island, not including the countless Pokémon who lived alongside them. Back then, the buildings also ranged from elegant modern structures in the northernmost neighborhoods to rundown urban dwellings in the south and different variations in-between; nowadays, however, the town was in utter disarray. Many of the edifices had either collapsed due to centuries of structural decay or simply rotted out from exposure to elements and lack of maintenance. Very few other markers remained of mankind’s domination on the island, especially with the roadways eroded by rainwater and overgrowing vegetation. The only true reminder that humans had been here at all was a large complex that seemed virtually untouched and isolated on the island’s northernmost peninsula.
‘Four… Five hundred years…’ she continued, as she suddenly nose-dived towards the point with unprecedented velocity. Just before she hit the ground, she pulled her dart-like body upward and stopped to hover a few inches above the cracked pavement.
In the morning mist, her form appeared as nothing more than the silhouette of a vaguely avian being with an elongated neck connected to a stout egg-shaped torso with sharply curved wings spreading outward from it. Her head was basically a widely formed cone shaped so that it had a gentle curve around where her mouth should be. Two long ears curled up and then backwards from her face so that they ended at acute points. Lastly, she had two flat oval disks on her rear that served as her tails.
“Vyi quo tyi-mok neyi!” she declared as she opened her slanted auburn eyes. And I haven’t aged a day!
She gazed upon the decrepit buildings with much disdain. At the center stood an eight-story structure that had an apparently octagonal design. Several outbuildings once connected to it via corridors that led to each of the intermediate directions, though said passageways had long since deteriorated to the point where they were no longer existent. The main building seemed virtually intact in rough comparison, despite all the glass having broken out of all the windows including the three-story ones that once decorated the front lobby’s entryway. In front of the building, though, the two massive statues of Palkia and Dialga that once towered over the path leading into the entrance had long since collapsed and were now rubble on the ground.
The entity remembered this place quite well. During the Age of Man, the former institute served as the focal point of her long-lived conquest over the atrocities committed by humankind, as it was here where she began her crusade to rid the multiverse of the species entirely. Since accomplishing that task in this universe, she had abandoned any further plans she made to eliminate the remnants of human society. Hopefully, that didn’t prove to be a mistake.
Slowly the entity levitated her body upward and straightened it out so that it was virtually parallel with the ground. She then caused her form to gravitate forward as though it were being drawn into the building.
As she entered the laboratory, she noted of the dank environment that had developed within the lobby. Lack of proper lighting made the large commons appear cavernous. The brown carpeting that once decorated much of the floor had mostly rotted away into dust, and the white ceramic tiles forming paths down the sides and into the middle of the room were now cracked with yellowed surfaces. Four marble pillars forming a virtual square around the foyer’s central area served as virtual stalagmites as they protruded from the ground up, their once-polished surfaces now covered by a distinct slime with lime-green and black streaks in it. At the farthest parts of the lobby, old chairs and tables were toppled over or broken up as if they’d been thrown aside in some maleficent struggle.
Halfway into the room, she took a moment to glance at the numerous skeletons and corpses just littering the area. Many were those of vermin, while others belonged miscellaneous Pokémon that had no means of escaping the island long ago. However, a few remains appeared to be of humans who were caught up in the apocalypse that once befell this place.
‘How pathetic…’ she thought as she sensed the faint remnants of their souls nearby. Continuing onward, the being slowly approached a long corridor heading further into the establishment. As she entered it, the creature made her body glow gently so that she could see the path ahead of her.
About halfway through the hallway, she came upon the fresh corpse of a male Charizard. Examining the beast, she noticed that the dragon’s body had been completely dehydrated, given how his skin looked extremely tight to his bones and internal organs. Also, there were numerous gouges in the side of his neck that seemingly formed a virtual ellipse from top to bottom, along with a large puncture wound near design’s center. Sensing that his spirit remained here, she listened for his otherworldly moans.
“I’m sorry… Alakazam… Tyranitar…” she heard him whine, “If only I had been more vigilant…” She immediately turned her attention away from him and continued down the hall.
“Th…thank goodness!” a male voice screamed, “I… I thought no one would come in time!” As she approached an abrupt fork in the corridor, she saw the distinct silhouette of a five-foot-tall humanoid that had a star-shaped cranium. The creature appeared to have stocky legs and forearms, as well as a stout-looking torso. In the faint light coming off her body, the Pokémon’s skin looked mostly tan.
Stopping right in front of him, the entity curled her neck backward and moved her body so that it hovered vertically above the floor. She then put her face directly against his so that they gazed deeply into each other’s eyes.
“Tell me… Are you descended from the Symbiote or the Grenade?” she asked him telepathically.
“I… I don’t understand…” he muttered, just barely moving his mouth.
“Do not play coy with me!” she sniped, “Your lineage is clear.”
“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about…” he wheezed. Clearly some type of venom was circulating through his body, paralyzing most of his form. The fact that he could even speak seemed astounding.
After several moments of staring at him, the avian slowly backed away. As she did, the lengthy form of a snakelike creature began to coil gently around her plated metal neck. Lime-green and black coils coursed the entirety of the serpent’s body as he climbed up her long collar towards her face. He then stopped his ascent right beside her head.
“He appears to be related to Doxibond, but I cannot say for certain,” Doxisite clicked as his blood-red eyes glared at his victim.
“Vyi tok mol te-ar!” she responded authoritatively. You may eat then! She turned her head away as he partially undid his bind on her.
“If I may speak freely,” he responded, “This creature may yet be of use to us…”
“Quay vu-lok?” she asked him. How so?
“His blood would make an excellent vessel for Mother’s pathogens. He could serve as a prime vector.”
“Vek-toma lek neyi vac-quo… Nefyi tu-ak!” Do with him as you will… I do not care!
Suddenly, she forced Doxisite off of her with a powerful psychic force. She had her own agenda to attend to, so there was no point in interfering with the plans of her former antagonists. After all, this world was only living on borrowed time. At this very moment, her minions were preparing to unleash a second catastrophe upon reality, so anything Doxisite wanted to accomplish wouldn’t interfere with that.
As the entity began to leave, Doxisite slithered after her and said, “My Lady…” She cocked her head and glowered at the leech’s ovoid head.
“If you can wait on whatever plans you have, I assure you that we can be successful,” he continued
“Veyi teck-yi olyi quay sha-ruk… Quay tyi-lef!” You have one month before I cast my final judgment… Do not fail me!
Afterwards, she continued to head outside. Doxisite contracted his body into its naturally conical form and ejected the notched red spines concealed in his backside. Then, he slunk back towards Alakazam.
“What… What are you going to do with me?” the humanoid muttered as the fat parasite approached him again.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Doxisite clicked in response.
Raising his head over his victim’s side, the leech watched as the glowing lime-green and black ooze festering in the fork began to churn and boil as though it were forming into something. Slowly, tendril-like formations began to emerge from the slime and surround Alakazam’s feet. Next, each of them jabbed upward into random places on his body. After several long moments, the feelers withdrew and dissolved back into the sludge.
Doxisite backed off to the side of the hall as Alakazam’s body then flopped onto the floor lifelessly. Within minutes, the humanoid’s skin-color changed; it started to exude lime-green and black stripes across his belly, face, and forearms, while his upper arms and legs became covered in a scaly dark-green hide. As the infection spread throughout his form, the helpless victim felt his consciousness slowly waning. Trying his hardest to resist it, Alakazam couldn’t do anything against the contagion that was consuming him. With a painful groan, his spirit seemingly slipped away into nothingness as he became one with the microorganisms festering inside him…
“And with this, the transformation is complete…” Doxisite explained as the leech stretched out his body. Alakazam’s body lied dead on the ground for several more moments before finally standing upright again in a battle-ready pose.
“Your mind is no longer your own… You are part of the colony now… Doxi Riboneria…” he then clicked.
As far as Weasinge went, Chip Erminfyr was considered quite the trailblazer. While most of his kind preferred mostly solitary lifestyles, the young ermine had always been a lot more adventurous. Originally he lived with his family near the foothills of Mount Freeze, but after his sixth birthday a few months ago, he moved to Pokémon Square in order to start a more sociable life amongst other creatures rather than asceticism like his relatives. Though his mother Sheila protested his departure, his father Apollo fully encouraged him to go out into the world. Eventually Chip met up with his dad’s old acquaintances Kent Zoltaine and Saul Retford, and recently underwent their mentorship program in the Rescue Corps.
As he led Seraph into the deep woods, the skunk girl sighed with disbelief. The daughter of Meyi-kotan shouldn’t have been reduced to mere errand girl given her former standing, both in her tribe and at the guild. But then, this was probably her only chance to make any kind of getaway, so she couldn’t do much else but play things by ear until his mission got done.
“So,” she finally asked, staring up at the skyline through the foliage, “What’s your girlfriend like?”
“Huh?” he then asked, glancing back at her briefly, “Oh, Cheyenne isn’t my girlfriend… She’s just a Swablu I know from town.”
Seraph glanced off to the side momentarily and replied, “I see… So I guess it’s safe for me to presume that her attacker is avian too?”
“He’s a Destail named Sirocco Feranshire, who’s been terrorizing these woods for about a year now since he evolved and became chief of his flock,” Chip explained as he halted abruptly.
“A Destail, hmm?” she commented as she stopped behind him. Seraph had heard some pretty nasty tales about the peacocks in the past. Arguably the most intelligent of bird Pokémon, they knew how to fluently speak without clicks, coos, or hesitation. Many Destail often used their suave articulation to seduce victims into doing their will with little force. However, the moment they stopped getting their way, they often turned belligerent and even abusive.
“Listen, Seraph. I don’t know what it’s like where you come from, but Pokémon in these parts have become paranoid lately,” he continued, turning back to her, “It’s become so bad that they’ll attack others just for getting in their way. This is part of why I don’t want you wandering off on your own.”
Seraph burst into a full on laugh just then and commented, “Kid, I’m seventeen! I’ve been away from my tribe for the past three years. I know how to handle myself.”
“Oh, yeah? Prove it!” he suddenly demanded.
The Skunanne smirked at him a moment as she straightened out her back. Glancing upward, she spotted an unpicked apple growing off the branch of a nearby tree. She grabbed her whip’s handle and let its chain slide of her shoulder. Then she cracked it upward towards the fruit’s stem, striking it and making part of the limb break off with it. As it fell, she caught it, broke off twig, and took a bite out of the apple.
“Big deal! I can shoot fireballs out of the ruby in my forehead,” he chuckled as he turned to face an unobstructed trail. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Then a large sphere of flame shot out gem embedded in his cranium like he explained. About fifteen feet out, the orb started to fizzle out into nothingness.
“I’ve seen better. Besides, the main reason I have my tools is because I can’t use long-range attacks like that. Close combat means nothing if you lose your life in the process,” she commented smugly.
“Okay. I’m sorry for criticizing you, then,” Chip apologized.
She glanced away from him momentarily and asked, “So which way are we going?” There were two pathways diverging from the fork they’d stopped at. The leftward one seemed to lead into thicker brush, while the other appeared to head towards an open grove.
“Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
“You don’t know where he’s at?” she nearly shouted, ready to backhand him.
“Keep your voice down!” Chip hushed her as he pivoted back around, “That’s why I’m going to try and pick up his scent.” Afterwards, he started to sniff around on the ground and then the air.
She sighed and then remarked, “If you can’t find it, I’m just going to take off. I’m not just going to linger here after I overheard that Metalupus say he’d hunt me down if I tried to escape.” Chip growled at her a little as he continued to smell around. Suddenly he pointed his nose down the leftward trail and wagged his tail joyfully.
“No, but I’ve got the scent of his younger brother Mints.”
‘He’s got a little brother named Mints?’ she thought to herself with slight grimace.
“He’s is usually pretty nice to me…so long as I have something to give to him, anyways…” Chip continued, “I just hope he’s not suddenly on-guard because Sirocco’s trying to mate.” He immediately darted off down the trail, sniffing the air for the aroma he’d picked up. Seraph put her unfinished apple into her satchel and chased after him at breakneck pace.
Judging by his direction and stride, the ermine knew exactly where he was going now. But Seraph had to admit that she was a little apprehensive, given how her own life was at stake if they wasted too much time on a wild-goose chase and she didn’t make her getaway soon.
About twenty-five yards down the path, Chip came to another abrupt stop at a three-way fork. As he tried to discern where to head next, Seraph examined their options. The right and forward paths headed deeper into thicker tree cover, while the left-hand one seemed to twist back around towards Pokémon Square.
“So?” she asked him after a long moment.
“What does he look like?” she then inquired.
“He’s a Temptail! What do you think he looks like?”
Seraph squinted her eyes at him meanly. She’d never actually encountered a Temptail or Destail before, so she had absolutely no idea what they’d look like. The only thing she could hazard was that they were probably some pretty gaudy-looking birds.
“He’s got green plumage and purple wings. You’ll know him when you see him.”
“Right.” Seraph continued to look around a little, glancing only at the treetops now to see if there were any birds like that nearby. Spotting no one, she returned her gaze towards Chip, who had suddenly started down the right-hand path deeper into the forest.
“Hey, wait!” she called, trying to catch up as he scurried along.
“Hurry up! He’s gotta be right up ahead somewhere!” Chip replied.
As they got further down the trail, the underbrush seemed to consume most of the path and Chip began to disappear. Once she found the thickening weeds to be impassible, Seraph stopped a moment to take out her Luna Fang. Unsheathing it, she swung it from side-to-side to slice down the foliage and clear her way.
“Who you? Croooo!” someone suddenly cooed at her from overhead.
“Hmm?” she asked back, looking around to see who was there.
After a few seconds, she spotted the head of a jade-green bird with a long neck gazing at her from a branch several meters back. Leaves obscured most of the creature’s body but she was able to see that parts of its wings and tail were distinctly purple. She also noted how its eyes appeared to be glowing in the slight darkness of the timberland’s shade, and that it had several golden feathers combed back atop its brow.
“Who you? Croooo!” it cooed again, its tone apparently female. Clearly, this wasn’t the Mints guy Chip was looking for.
“Nobody,” Seraph responded.
“Nobody who? Croooo!” the bird replied, dropping down from her perch and flying somewhat towards Seraph. After the bird landed, she hopped her way right up to the Skunanne and poked her orange-red beak against Seraph’s nose.
“Nobody you? Croooo!” the Temptail clucked again and then Seraph shoved her back with her free paw. Right afterwards, the bird pecked at the opal earring in her right ear and yanked it.
Angered by the sudden pain, Seraph quickly slashed her knife at the peahen’s chest. The bird jumped backwards, feeling the blade lightly cut into her chest feathers and skin. Droplets of blood began to drip from the wound, and the bird cried out in anguish.
Seraph raised her buckler and started to back away from the crazed Temptail as she suddenly began jabbing the skunk wildly with her beak. The bludgeoning became stronger and stronger with each hit as though the irate bird wanted nothing less to kill her attacker absolutely. Several times, Seraph thought she heard the wooden shield breaking under the stress of the attacks.
“Knock it off!” Seraph declared, suddenly shoving her shield into the bird’s face as she struck again. The Temptail’s head suddenly bounced back as a result and the creature appeared to be stunned. Seraph took the opportunity to infuse her knife’s blade with energy from her Dark Pulse attack, and then unleashed a shockwave that forced the bird back-first onto the ground several feet away.
“Seraph, what’s going on?” Chip whispered as he popped his head out of the weeds behind her.
“That stupid bird just attacked me, that’s what!” she sniped at him.
The weasel looked around side her and gasped, “That Temptail’s part of Sirocco’s harem. What have you done?”
“That bird was deranged!”
“Keep your head under the brush and follow me. We can’t let Sirocco see us now that you’ve attacked one of his lovers.”
“Wasn’t that the idea anyways?” she asked as she crouched down on all fours and began to follow him through the underbrush.
They crawled silently along the ground for several minutes through the thickening foliage until they suddenly came upon another clearing in the path. Once they did, Seraph wasted no time getting back into an upright position and then brushed dirt off of her shins.
Looking around, she noticed that the tree cover almost totally blocked out any sunlight from above, save for a couple rays. The breeze seemed to diminish as it blew into this particular area, given how the scent of numerous Pokémon remained stagnantly from several days ago. It was difficult for her to discern just what types of creatures lived in this forest since the smells were all foreign to her.
“Alright, I tracked Mints to this spot before loosing his trail,” Chip explained.
“How can you even tell? There are so many odors here that it’s ridiculous,” she replied as they stepped forward, “Does everyone in these woods pass through here?”
He shook his head and continued, “If you’ll note, the scents here are almost all from the same kind of Pokémon: Temptail. However, focus enough and you’ll catch a whiff of something slightly different.”
Seraph nodded slight and then took a couple deep breaths through her nose. For the most part, the air stunk of bird droppings, a vulgar mixture like rotten eggs and old berries. However, she did notice that there were additional separate odors as well, predominantly sweet scents like lilacs and roses. Judging by their strength, they were emanating from an area just straight ahead and overhead.
“You’re right,” she whispered.
“See? Your nose always knows!” he said cheerfully.
“Who you? Croooo!” a feminine voice chirped again from up in a tree off to the twosome’s left.
“Who you? Croooo!” another clucked from a different one to their right.
“Who you? Croooo!” a third bird called from up ahead.
Chip looked around to see the three Temptail who’d just perched themselves on low-lying branches and said, “Female Temptail aren’t smart by any standard, but they’re vicious. Just being away from Sirocco’s flock makes them crazy.”
Seraph held up her knife towards the one on her right-hand side as the bird dropped down to ground level and replied, “No crap! I’d sooner have killed that one from earlier after what she did to my buckler.”
“NO! We can knock them out, but we can’t seriously hurt them. Sirocco’s extremely vengeful and will drop you to your death if he catches you.”
Seraph then focused a Dark Pulse attack into her blade and sliced it at the air to send a shockwave at the approaching Temptail. The assault immediately knocked the bird out with a single hit.
“The key word is ‘if.’ By the way, aren’t these birds supposed to be Dark-types like me?” she asked as she changed positions with Chip to face the Temptail approaching them from the left.
“No, only males are. Females are part Psychic-type, which is why they fainted as soon as you used that attack.” Seraph infused her blade with a second Dark Pulse and flung another shockwave at the bird. The Temptail jumped over it and flew in the air until she landed right in front of Seraph.
“Who you? Croooo!” she immediately asked her.
“Back off!” Seraph then shouted, loosing a Dark Pulse wave around her body. Chip jumped away from her, while the Temptail took the attack head-on and fainted right in front of the Skunanne.
“Watch what you’re doing!” Chip demand, not watching at the third Temptail came down from her perch and approached him.
“Who you? Croooo!” the bird asked as she got close.
The ermine turned to his oncoming attacker, inhaled deeply, and shot a fireball right into her chest. Before the bird could avoid it, the sphere burst and she became consumed by flames. After a few seconds, the Temptail started to fall backwards onto the ground. It was then that Chip extinguished the blaze with his psychic powers, revealing that the bird’s feathers had been lightly singed by not severely hurt.
“You should’ve let her burn some more. They’re terribly weak!” Seraph sneered.
“What part of ‘can’t seriously hurt them’ do you not understand?” he scolded her.
“Geez! All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t have restrained yourself that much. Fire is all about power, isn’t it?” Chip turned away from her.
“Power isn’t everything. My father and Kent both taught me that it’s best to hold back on your full strength unless absolutely necessary,” he then mumbled, pawing the gem hanging from his necklace, “That’s another reason why I have this amulet.”
“Nothing. Let’s keep looking for Mints.”
Chip resumed his lead down the trail heading deeper into the forest. Seraph began to follow him, when her ear began to twitch wildly to the sound of something flapping above the looming canopy.
“What’s wrong?” he turned to ask her.
“Look out!” she screamed, diving at him to shove him out of the way as a massive avian shadow dove at them from between the branches and pinned her to the ground with its feet.
“I bet you think you’re so smart, eh, chico?” the eight-foot-tall bird then spoke with a sweet, smooth baritone. Seraph tried to look up at him to see who it was, but he had his long orange-red tones spread on her shoulders so she couldn’t turn her head around enough to.
After a long moment, the peacock spread his large wings out wide enough to cast a vile shadow akin to a sinister grin on the ground. Then, he lifted his long neck up to reveal silhouette of his small head. Apparently, he had a plume of down feathers combed around his face like hair and a singular contour one sticking up above his stout beak.
“Oh, ho! You are not that estupid Weasinge?” he continued as he put his beak near the back of Seraph’s head to sniff her hair, “A Skunanne? Interesting…”
“Let her go, Sirocco, along with Cheyenne!” Chip demanded when he got back onto his feet.
“My, aren’t we cocky all of a sudden, chico?” Sirocco taunted as he reached his head forward, “I thought I said that, the next time I saw you, I’d peck your f*cking eyes out!” He suddenly jabbed his beak at Chip to make the weasel cringe.
Folding his wings back, the peacock then commented, “You know, I must admit that I am quite jealous… I have to take a few days to seduce my new mates, and here you find one overnight. Congratulations!”
“What!” both Chip and Seraph yelled.
“Oh, my apologies then. I only presumed you two were a couple.” Chip started to growl, closed his eyes, and snorted embers at Sirocco from his nose.
The bird flapped his right wing twice to snuff them out and remarked, “That is not an attack, chico. Now this is an attack!” Sirocco spread both of his wings widely and then flapped them with enough force to blow Chip into the underbrush with ease.
“Let me go, or…” Seraph shouted.
“Now, hush, darling. I will let you go in due time,” Sirocco told her, repositioning his feet so he could clutch her under each shoulder, “But now, we must fly!”
He began to take off, lifting her as gently as he could. Fearfully, she grasped her knife as tightly as she could and took hold of her whip with her opposite hand so she wouldn’t drop it. As they got airborne, Seraph began to struggle to get free by jerking her body left-to-right, but every time she did, the bird only tightened his clasp on her ribcage.
Once they breached the canopy, Seraph found herself momentarily blinded by sunlight. She glanced up as her captor straightened his body out and saw the bird’s form in full. He was really a lean-bodied avian with jade-green plumage on his chest, neck, and face like the Temptail had. His wingspan easily cleared eighteen feet in length, not wasn’t including tips of the massive feathers that virtually draped downward from his shoulders on out. Upon his chest, the peacock had a triangular pattern bisected into six sections that were colored teal, lavender, light-blue, violet, fuchsia, and dark-green. There also appeared to be large areas of black plumage just below the tops of his wings that seemed to form a malevolent grin. Underneath the ‘smile’ pattern, his feathers became purple save for their ends, which were dark-blue with teal teardrop accents decorating the tips.
Seraph tried to struggle again as Sirocco tried to level out his flight. Again, he tightened his hold on her with his feet, his claws starting to dig into her skin.
“I’m used to carrying objects thrice your weight, chica. You shan’t get out of my grasp that easily,” he told her, showing his face to her. Unlike the Temptail she’d seen earlier, his eyes had sharp-focused irises at their centers instead of half-dazed ones.
She flipped her knife over as he lifted his head back up and said, “We’ll see about that.” Then, she motioned her arm around and jabbed the blade’s tip into the backside of his ankle.
Sirocco let out a painful shriek and dropped Seraph instantly. She fell onto a nearby treetop feet-first and then dove into the undergrowth again. After dropping down several branches, she finally located and jumped down to the path Chip and her were on before Sirocco appeared. Checking the surrounding foliage, she noticed that several bushes had branches broken, meaning that Chip probably got blown in this direction. After a couple moments of searching, she found the ermine flat on his back passed out in some nearby weeds.
“Chip, snap out of it!” Seraph shouted, shaking him wildly to wake him up.
“AH!” he yelped as he came to, “What happened?”
“I jabbed that Sirocco guy in the foot so he’d let me go. Let’s get out of here before he decides to come back!”
Chip got back on his feet and replied, “Mints can’t be too far from here! Let’s track him down and see if he’ll help us save Cheyenne.” Seraph nodded and the two headed further into the forest, following the scent they’d picked up a few minutes ago.
As they continued onward, the path seemed to get progressively narrower until it ultimately stopped in front of a humongous oak tree. Once the two reached its trunk, they stopped and looked around.
“Mints’s trail ends here,” Chip explained.
“I noticed,” Seraph replied, examining the ground for any tracks that may lead them somewhere, “If I had to guess, he took to the sky. I’d climb this tree, but Sirocco would probably attack again.”
“We’ll have to backtrack then,” Chip said, shaking his head.
“Hey, yous!” a guy’s voice called from up in the tree, “Yous lookin’ for somethin’?”
Seraph and Chip turned their attention to an overhanging branch to spot another Temptail looking down at them like earlier. Unlike the previous ones, this one bared a resemblance to Sirocco with a similar tuft of hair-like down atop his head, teal triangle on his breast, and teardrop patterns on the tips of his wing feathers. The bird dropped down to ground level a few feet away from them and then spread out his large tail purple tail feathers in a fanlike fashion. Down their midsection, there was a long silvery oval with a dark-blue triangle near its top; the peacock’s appeared to have a hazel eye flanking each side of the silver area.
“We’re you talking to us?” Seraph asked, readying her knife in case this guy wanted to fight.
“Yeah, I was talkin’ to yous,” he replied, pointing the tip of his right wing at her like a finger.
He started waddling towards them and continued, “That stunt yous just pulled, little missy, probably just cost that Cheyenne kid her life. My half-brother becomes a total jerk when he doesn’t get his way.”
“Mints! We’ve been looking all over for you!” Chip said joyfully.
Mints pointed his feather at Chip and continued, “And yous! I thought I told yous not to come looking for me! I’d find yous if I thinks yous needs help!”
“I… I’m sorry…” Chip mumbled, “But this is an emergency!”
The peacock stopped right in front of Seraph and chuckled, “Yous really think I’m gonna help yous now?”
Seraph held her knife up to his neck and replied, “Oh, yeah. You’re going to help us.”
“Tch! Yous think I’m afraid of this, girly?” Mints said as he hopped back a step and then pecked her hand to make her drop it.
“This beak’s a lethal weapon. I can gouge your eyes out with this thing!” he then told her, putting his beak right up to her nose.
Chip said, “Stop it! We need to get to Cheyenne.”
“Shut up, Chip!” Mints scolded him, “This is between me and her!” Seraph pushed Mints away from her face momentarily and then suddenly backhanded him with her shield.
“YE-OUCH!” the bird shouted as he reeled away from them somewhat.
“Seraph, what did you do that for?”
“He just pecked my hand. That’s the least of what I want to do to him!”
“Geez, girly! That’s one hell of an arm yous got there,” Mints said, shaking his head after regaining his stance, “I tells you what. I’ll shows you where Chip’s friend is…on one condition.”
“And what would that be?” she sneered, picking her knife up off the ground.
“Teach my half-brother a lesson he won’t soon forget!” the peacock then requested.
“Say what?” Chip asked him, hiding somewhat behind Seraph, “Are you crazy?”
“Listen, pal!” Mints said, putting his wing on Seraph’s left shoulder, Yous don’t know just what kind of muscle yous got here, do ya?” She shirked him and the bird walked over to his Weasinge friend instead.
“Yeah,” he continued, “These Skunanne are tougher than they looks, see? The girls just aren’t usually so…brutal.” Seraph smirked at him while cocking her head back slightly.
“What do you mean?” Chip asked.
Mints put his wing on his brow and explained, “The guys are barbarians; the girls are seductresses. They’re the exact opposite of my kind, you numbskull!”
“See, Chip? I can tells ya that this is a special Skunanne. She ain’t no girly-girl.”
“You got that right!” Seraph laughed.
“So yous see where I’m goin’ here? Help me out by puttin’ Sirocco in his place. I can’t get none while he’s around, if you catch my drift.”
‘Oh, boy. Do I?’ Seraph thought to herself.
“Alright, we’ll take care of that horny old peacock, but you need to show us where Cheyenne is first!” she then demanded.
“Fine, then. Just don’t blame me if yous two are already too late,” Mints agreed. He then hopped several feet off the ground and spread his wings out. Once he had air under them, the bird began to fly off into left-hand side of the oak tree and vanished into the forest. Seraph and Chip immediately took off after him.
Mints flew through the misaligned branches with beautiful precision, his feathers not so much as glancing a limb or leaf. The two mammals were actually having difficulty keeping up with his graceful movements as they traveled in the underbrush. After several moments, the bird landed on an old stump where a new path seemed to begin while he waited for the others to catch up.
As Seraph and Chip emerged from the bushes, Mints snickered, “So…what took yous so long?” A little ticked, Seraph grasped her whip and snapped it at him quickly, making the bird jump back out of fear.
“Show use where to go!” Seraph barked.
“Alright! Geez!” Mints clucked, turning around and hopping down the trail. Seraph and Chip continued to follow him.
After a few more moments, the three reached an expansive clearing with a small pond at the opposite end near a low embankment. Nests made from piles of large leaves littered the entirety of the otherwise grassy field. Seraph noticed immediately that the place was completely abandoned, save for a lone bird perched in a bed at the far left-hand side of the area.
From a distance, the creature appeared to be little more than a light-blue ball of feathers with large white cottony wings on her sides. As they started to approach, Seraph noted that the bird actually had a small pair of feet under her body, and that she was trying to keep her face hidden in the leaves. Also, it appeared as though she were intentionally hiding her backside from onlookers.
“Cheyenne!” Chip cried, “We’re here to help!”
“L-L-LEAVE ME ALONE!” the Swablu screamed at the top of her lungs.
Halfway into the field, Seraph yanked Chip’s tail and stop to tell him, “Shut up, you idiot! Do you want to give our position way?”
“Yous are lucky we got here first. But I wouldn’t count your chicks before they’re hatched,” Mints snickered, “No pun intended.” Afterwards, he looked towards the skyline behind him.
“You’re dead! You hear me? Dead, chica!” Sirocco cawed as he approached overhead.
“Well, I’ll be seeing yous!” Mints then said as he began to take off. Before he could get a few feet off the ground, Seraph lashed her chain around his foot and pulled him forcefully to the ground.
“You aren’t going anywhere!” she scolded him as he landed flat on his back.
Chip and Seraph both turned as Sirocco’s silhouette appeared from the northern edge of the tree line, along with four female Temptail who took up positions behind him. The large avian landed gracefully with his wings half-tucked and tail feathers completely hidden behind his otherwise slender form. His minions, however, just plopped their bodies on the ground in lackluster fashion.
“I bet you thought you could get away with stabbing me in the ankle, eh, chica?” Sirocco scoffed as he held his right foot off the ground slightly. The peacock then hobbled towards them with an awkward gait, as though he were trying to sashay from side to side.
“I have been chasing this Swablu for far too long, and I will be damned if let you two children take her away!” he then declared as he caused his tail to suddenly unfurl in a beautiful violet fan. Like Mints, there was a silvery oval extending down the midsection of the bird’s tail, and two large hazel-colored eyes that slanted inward to flank them. The triangle near the top of his oval pattern, however, was bisected into six sections colored royal blue, pink, hunter green, lavender, azure, and violet.
For a moment, the Destail focused his glance at Chip and Mints. Consequently, Chip seemed to become entranced by the peacock’s waltz and the apparent eyeballs staring him down.
“So, I see… You dare to betray your own flock, little brother?” Sirocco then whispered. Once he got close, he spread his wings out and attempted to jab his momentarily stunned brother in the head with his beak. Seraph immediately jumped in his way and blocked the attack with her buckler.
The bird recoiled his head back and shouted, “Insolent girl!”
After he shook it off, Sirocco instantly tried to jab his beak at her again. Seraph slammed her shield into his face as he did, but the moment she did, the wooden backside cracked in half. He hit it again with a stronger blow, puncturing the leather binding it and making the wood break further. The skunk flipped her knife around so the blade was down and slashed at him backhandedly.
Sirocco jumped away in the nick of time and scoffed, “Did you really think I’d fall for that trick, chica?”
“Hoped so!” she replied as she switched hands the hands she held her whip and her knife in. Seraph then cracked the chain weapon at his legs, trying to catch one of his feet with it. He flapped his wings wildly to get further away from her, inadvertently blowing the chain away from him too.
“Chip, Mints! Help me fight him!” she yelled.
“Right!” Chip said, snapping out of his daze. Then he jumped over to Seraph’s side and launched a fireball at Sirocco. Sirocco waved his left wing as he landed again and immediately extinguished the blaze.
“What? That wasn’t the deal!” Mints replied as he got off his back and hopped onto his feet. He then started to waddle away from them over to where Cheyenne was cowering.
“You little traitor!” Sirocco shouted at his half-brother and then aimed a powerful blade of wind at him from his Air Slash. The leading edge only clipped Mints’s right shoulder, but the following gale blew him face-first to the ground.
“Leave him alone!” Chip shouted, closing his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, a blinding light consumed the area, forcing Seraph to squint. Once the flash ended, she looked at Sirocco inquisitively. The bird was just standing there gazing off into space with his beak wide open, as were his followers.
“My eyes! I’m blind!” the peacock suddenly screamed. Seraph then looked at Chip confusedly.
“That was Coronal Gaze,” Chip explained to her with a grin, “My father taught me how to use it. It temporarily blinds anyone who stares into it.”
“Why didn’t you do that in the first place?”
“I don’t want people knowing I can do that!”
“What else can you do?”
Chip slipped out of the strap holding his toolbox in place on his back, and then bowed his head so that his amulet would slip off onto the case. He stepped towards Sirocco, who was still stupefied from Chip’s previous attack. The ermine snorted flames at the peacock’s feet in attempted to get his attention. After he did, a blaze of bluish-white flames ignited down the entire length of Chip’s back, from the ruby of his forehead all the way to the very tip of his tail. A couple seconds later, the fires seemed to turn into a slow ethereal burn.
“You!” Sirocco squawked as he felt the Ember attack hit him, “I…am going to kill you where you stand, chico!” Suddenly the oversized bird tried to peck in the direction he felt the cinders come from, only to be come consumed by the virtual wall of flame unleashed by Chip’s Wildfire along with his four mates. Seraph ducked under the blaze as it passed her by. Within seconds, the inferno reached the outer limits of the nesting grounds, but fizzled out just before it could start a forest fire.
After the flames were extinguished, Seraph looked up to see that Sirocco was lying on the ground unconscious, his wing and tail feathers all singed because of the attack. Likewise, his four girlfriends were knocked out by the amazing power of Chip’s move, and each had their wings and tails burnt as well. If he could unleash that sort of blaze, why did he need her to come with in the first place?
“Seraph, quick, pass me my amulet!” he demanded, turning to her with his eyes glowing white.
She noticed that the flames down his back were turning into an uncontrollable blaze. Seraph went to his toolbox, snatched the necklace, and then threw it to him. The ermine caught it on his nose and lifted his head so that it would slip onto his neck. Instantly, his back flames diminished to a small kindle-burn before they finally went out.
“That’s why I don’t normally take this thing off,” he explained, holding the pendant up with his paw, “I know a lot of pyrokinetic techniques that I haven’t gotten the mastery of yet. My dad gave me this so I would go burning things down when I traveled here.”
“I can see why,” Seraph replied as she examined the battlefield. Some of the nests had been lightly burned, while others were nothing but piles of ash now.
“Cheyenne?” Chip called, glancing over at the nest where they’d spotted his Swablu friend in, “Are you alright?” For the first time since they’d arrived, the bird peeked up out of her perch and realized that it was Chip who’d come to rescue her.
“Chip!” Cheyenne chirped as she hopped out of the leaves towards them. Chip immediately ran towards her too, but stopped halfway right by Mints to see how badly hurt the Temptail was. Seraph stood up and turned to watch the reunion.
“Touching, isn’t it?” a raspy voice whispered from beside her.
“Yeah,” she replied. Her muscles suddenly ceased with fear as she felt the presence of a Ghost-type Pokémon overtake her entire body. She managed to glance off to her side only slightly to catch a glimpse of the phantom that had just taken control of her body.
The ghost appeared to be a three-foot-tall gray fox that hovered just above the ground. He had glowing red eyes and seemed to lack feet of any kind; instead, he just had puffy stumps that seemed to taper off into nothingness. His body was slightly elongated without any consistent form whatsoever. Likewise, his pointed ears and slender tail seemed to exude misty shrouds through which they inevitably disappeared. Lastly, the vulpine entity wore a fluffy boa of cloudlike fur that wrapped around his collar and hovered somewhat over his back.
“Did you honestly think you would get away? You might be able to con a trainee into escorting you through the woods, but you’re no match for a legitimate officer of the Pokémon Rescue Corps.”
“Charon, you found her!” the voice of the Luxray she’d encountered last night called from across the way.
“Yeah, Leona. I’ve caught her relatively unscaved,” the Obseon replied as his ally emerged from the bushes behind them. Charon turned around, causing his captive to as well. The Luxray came forward with a disgusted look on her face. Shortly after, the Weavile from last night appeared from the underbrush too.
“Damn it! Let me at her!” the imp screamed, drawing the attention of Chip and his friends.
“HEY! What’s going on?” Chip shouted as he dashed over to them.
Charon turned back to him with a smirk on his face and remarked, “Cadet! What in the hell were you thinking escorting a wanted criminal out of town?”
“Hey! I had her under control the whole time!” Chip sniped back.
“Oh, ho! An admission of guilt?” Charon chuckled as he suddenly rushed up to Chip’s face with Seraph in tote, “Here I’d thought you weren’t aware of who she was, but if you knew the whole time, then by rights we should arrest you too!” Chip cowardly backed away from him, shaking his head as if in denial.
“That’s what I thought. I don’t care what your reasons were, but Saul is furious after hearing what you’ve done and I, for one, wouldn’t want to be around when her tribunal begins.”
‘A tribunal…’ Seraph thought to herself, unable to speak thanks to Charon’s possession.
Chip sighed a breath of relief and asked, “So, he is holding a tribunal for her?”
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. With two civilians dead and this failed escape attempt, the odds aren’t looking in her favor. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t execute her halfway. I mean that is what he’s notorious for anyways.”
Seraph gulped fearfully as Charon cackled for a bit. Once he was done, the Obseon turned back to his compatriots and ordered them back to town. After they’d gone, Chip put the strap of his toolbox around his body again and went back to over by his friends.
“Chip, what’s going on?” Cheyenne asked him, “Who was that Pokémon Charon just took away?”
“Her name is Seraph. She’s a Skunanne from down south and the one who lead that raid on our village last night,” he explained with a saddened look on his face.
“You mean that girl they captured after Cairo returned?”
“She’s not that bad really. A little smug, but I think she’d make a great partner on my rescue team.”
“Are you sure?”
“HA! Yous better believe him. That girl’s tough, to says the least,” Mints commented.
Cheyenne looked slightly away and said, “I don’t know, Mints. We need to be leery-eyed towards Pokémon we don’t know.”
“Let’s get back to Pokémon Square!” Chip ordered. Cheyenne hopped into the air and started to fly overhead, while he started to scurry back into the woods.
“Yo, I’m comin’ too!” Mints called, hobbling along after Chip due to his injured wing.
<End Chapter Three>
January 29th, 2014 (4:22 PM).
Chapter Four: The Council of Five
“Councilmen!” Captain Retford barked as he made his way uphill to the town meeting place before Whiscash Pond, “I apologize for calling you here on such short notice, but we have much to discuss after the incidents last night.” Slowly, the wolf emerged from the cobblestone staircase leading up to the alcove, his hulking form casting an ominous shadow in the afternoon sun.
Clad in sterling armor, the beast stood as an authoritative figure at a height of six-and-a-half-feet tall. His helmet that was formed to cover most of his skull, upper jaw, and cheeks shone with incomparable luster, and each of the links comprising the chain mail covering his neck glistened. He had a long mane of chocolate brown hair that flowed back onto the body shell encasing most of his torso and part of his backside; on the backside of his chest piece, the armor possessed a pawmark insignia with an eyeball shape on its pad. More chain mail covered the entirety of his forelegs up to his paws and part of his abdomen to near his brown hind legs. The wolf’s forepaws were partially covered by metal bands around his pads, which in turn fit comfortably into them as if they were gauntlets. Atop each encasing ring, there existed three blades that arced forward over the beast’s toes, all of them sharp enough to cut through diamonds.
“You have some nerve calling a meeting this time of day, Saul!” a harsh voice rasped from across the way.
The wolf gazed down the paved pathway leading up to the shoreline of the watering hole. Beyond the veil of small waterfalls filling the pond from the sides, he saw a tiny peninsula formed by large stepping-stones intentionally placed in the water body long ago.
At the end of them, he saw a stout-bodied reptile with a powerful upright stance. Thick black scales glistening in the fashion of armor plates and chain mail covered the six-foot-tall creature along his upper torso. There was additional covering on the backside of his head that seemed to replicate a hood. Contrastingly, his lower body looked to be a little slimmer with distinguished emerald scales decorating his abdomen and leg. The lizard had an abnormally long and slender tail that dropped to the ground, wrapping around his legs several times.
“Lord Draconai… Again, I apologize. If this wasn’t an emergency, I wouldn’t have summoned you,” Saul reticulated as he approached the pond.
“No!” the dragon scolded him, gazing backwards to reveal the cursing glare of his slit in his amber-colored eye.
“You may be head of the local Rescue Corps. But that does not give you authority over the rest of us!” the stocky creature bellowed as he twisted his body around. As he did, his club-like forearms and feet with widespread toes came into view.
“He’s right, Saul! This is the fifth time in a month you’ve called us to order and half of us aren’t even here,” a robust voice called from near the rock wall off to Saul’s right.
Glancing off to his side, he saw a five-and-a-half-foot tall humanoid otter standing with his arms crossed and head down. The creature wore what looked like a light blue jumpsuit that had a dark blue collar, forearm sleeves, and shin leggings. He had a black belt around his waist to show he possessed martial arts talent that otherwise may not have been evident by his toned muscles. His face, hands, feet, and tail were all covered in thick brown fur along with thicker hair around the backside of his head, which was twisted into dreadlocks that dropped down to his shoulders. A slight maw extended away from his face, which had a drooping mustache and small beard. Lastly, Saul noted that the fur on the mammal’s tail was thick and ragged.
“I’m aware of that, Silas. In the absence of Alakazam and Lord Sly, I am allowed to…” Saul started to explain.
Suddenly, Draconai cracked his tail at his foot like a whip and sniped, “You are only allowed to call the Council of Five to order in the event we are all able to attend. Without Alakazam or Sly here, you have no more authority to make decisions than the rest of us! Furthermore…”
“Enough!” a ghastly voice then wailed throughout the immediate area. Draconai retracted his tail and hastily moved away from the spot he’d been standing at for the past few minutes. Saul watched as the reptile dash off far to his left, trying to keep his distance. Silas the Ottemonk opened his azure eyes to see what was happening.
After the dragon had repositioned himself across the way, Saul approached the stepping-stones to look into the water. His reflection became distorted as the image of a large snake’s head started to surface from below. The serpent had a dark V-shaped marking that extended from the tip of his nose on up to the backside of his brow, where it met a rusted-looking bronze collar that he wore. As the entity lifted his face above water, Saul could better see that his scales were a pale-green color as though to reflect his undead presence, and that both of his eyes were grayish and clouded. Immediately, the creature reared his enormous neck backwards as a display of dominance and then shifted his gaze between each of the three other councilmen.
“We are supposed to be men of great public standing. It is not our place to quarrel with each other like children!” he then reprimanded them.
“My apologizes, Lord Sly,” Saul replied with a bow.
“Sir…” Draconai responded, “It is not Saul’s place to make decisions for any of us, much less ordering us around like we’re part of his personal army. The way he conducts himself before the Rescue Corps or his pack is not how he should conduct himself around us.”
“I understand that all too well, but it is not your place to chastise him either!” Draconai bowed his head in acknowledgement.
“Now, before we conduct our business, there is something I must tell you all…” Sly said solemnly. The threesome then gathered before him on the shoreline to listen careful.
“As you may or may not know, the balance of this world was threatened long ago by many different criteria… More specifically, many deities have warred with each other since even before the dawn of time. Kyogre and Groudon, Palkia and Dialga, Arceus and Otulp, Beyi-geyi and Leyi-geyi… These are but a few of the many whom have reeked havoc upon this domain.”
“Yes, we are all familiar with these legends. But that is all they are… Pure myth,” Draconai declared.
“I wouldn’t be so quick to write all of them off as myths,” Silas then told him.
“Indeed. At the very least, I know that Otulp exists.” The reptile chuckled at them both, but they each stared him down with harsh glares and he shut up.
“Of all these deities, Beyi-geyi and Leyi-geyi have been the most destructive…” Sly explained.
“How so?” all three asked him.
“Their blood feud goes back the farthest. Entire realities have been annihilated in their wake, and they’ve caused one of the mightiest species in history to go completely extinct.”
“Mankind…” Saul and Silas muttered.
“This is not to say that humans were undeserving of their fate, but not all of them needed to be killed off either.”
“HA! Because of humans, my kind almost got eradicated. They deserved everything that happened to them,” Draconai cackled.
Sly stared at him awkwardly for a moment and then continued, “Even so, I fear that there is another threat to the balance of our world. As you are all aware, I live within the boundaries of reality and see the many possibilities of what can, will, and may happen. I recently have viewed many realities converging at one source in the very future. And, yet again, it is the result of the Watcher’s feud.”
“What is the catastrophe, Lord Sly?” Silas asked.
“I am uncertain… I merely know that it involves a monster hidden away for centuries in a deep foreboding sleep and the youth who encounters it.”
“A kid?” Saul asked.
“By relative standards, yes…”
“Who is it?” Draconai asked.
“It is…difficult to say…” Sly replied, “The sources of events always become distorted before I can see them. Such is the problem with prophecy… Nothing is ever clear.”
“Can you at least tell us about what happens after this encounter?” Silas inquired.
“Plague, the likes of which has never been seen…”
“What kind of monster could possibly cause that?” the threesome slurred as they looked back and forth at each other.
“It is not the monster itself who does this, but the entity that spawned it. But that is all I know…” Sly replied, “Now, why is it that we are here, Saul?”
Saul returned his attention to the giant snake and stated, “Last night the village was invaded by a small band of marauders. An unidentified force killed two of them; one of the two was my exiled son, Cairo. The third member survived and was arrested.”
“And you presume this ‘force’ to be the same entity whom Cairo made a blood pact with some years ago?” Saul nodded.
“It is likely Otulp will not bother this domain anymore now that he has claimed your son’s soul. However, I have no reason to leave town because of this. I assure you that much.”
“That isn’t what I’m concerned about, but we are still grateful that you’ve remained in the area over these past several years since Elder Whiscash died.”
“Then, what is the problem?”
Saul started to walk away for a moment and stated, “The girl who survived seems to have been their leader. As such, I want to interrogate her for information about where Cairo was living all this time and, more so, about whom she is to begin with.”
“And what recourse would that bring? That information sounds petty now that Cairo himself is dead.”
“My point is this,” the wolf responded, turning back towards Sly, “This girl is a criminal. She needs to be treated as such.”
“Saul,” Silas interjected, “You can’t brand her a criminal without proper evidence. As far as we know, it was only Cairo and his Oposease accomplice who stole things and killed the Kecleon Brothers. Even if she did intend to steal things, the Skunanne didn’t actually get a chance to.”
“Which bring me to another point,” Draconai hissed, “Your squads patrolling the streets at night go out of their way to terrorize anyone who’s out for an evening stroll. Just last night I heard that one Luxray from Team Hellfire attacking someone from over a block away.”
“Did it occur to you that it was the Skunanne in question she attacked?” the Metalupus roared at him. Draconai shook his head disdainfully.
“Enough!” Sly bellowed, causing a pair of waterspouts to erupt on each of his sides. The threesome returned their attention to the serpent, all in awe and fear due to the godlike power of his voice.
“Is this girl of such importance that you actually had to bother us with the matter or not? This is my last question for you, Saul!” Sly sternly demanded.
“Yes, Lord Sly. She actually is.”
“Then where is she?”
“She fled… I have our best Rescue Team pursuing her, though, so we should have her back in custody soon.”
“You’re an idiot sometimes. You know that?” Draconai told him, putting his hand on his forehead.
“Then we shall wait until we have news of her capture. Send word to Commander Zoltaine that once she arrives that he is to bring her directly here,” Sly ordered.
“Yes, milord!” Saul bowed his head and then headed back to the staircase to go downhill.
Once he’d gone, Silas approached the great serpent with a bow and asked, “Pardon my impertinence, but is it wise for us to involve ourselves in Saul’s matters? He’s the sworn protector of our village, and we truly shouldn’t intervene with his affairs even when he obliges us to.”
“At the same time, we can’t just let him get away with doing what he wants, Silas. That old wolf needs to learn a lesson that he isn’t the only one in charge here!” Draconai interjected.
“There is a reason why I want to see this girl… She…may be of some use,” Sly responded.
“What?” they asked, gawking at him now.
“That is all I can say...” Afterwards, the snake slowly withdrew his neck into the water, causing leaving only his head above the surface.
Kent Zoltaine sat quietly on a stump as he waited for Team Hellfire to return with the fugitive. The Zoroark whiled away his time by whittling the bark off of a branch he’d picked up with the two-foot-long blade of his machete.
At a height of five-foot-three, the bipedal fox with a grayish-brown pelt struck quite a dashing figure. Though his frame was overall slim, the creature’s hind legs and forearms were rather muscular. His long but spiky locks flowed backwards from his scalp, their blood-crimson hue offset slightly by occasional pitch-black accents and the jade jewel tightening them into a ponytail. Lastly, the blue-eyed demon had thick patch of pitch-black fur around the area of his collar and shoulders.
“Kent!” he heard Captain Retford bark from behind him. Setting the tip of his weapon in the dirt, he used the sword to balance himself on as he stood up. Afterwards, he pivoted around to see the wolf cross the footbridge leading out of town.
“Captain!” Kent saluted, holding two of his red claws against his forehead.
“At ease,” Saul replied as he stopped before his underling, “Any sign of Team Hellfire yet?”
“No, sir. I’m still keeping watch.”
The wolf growled momentarily before looking into the woods and saying, “This is taking too long. I knew I should’ve gone and hunted that girl down myself.”
“It’s not your fault, sir.”
“Perhaps not, but I shouldn’t have entrusted Katherine with her care,” Saul grumbled, “When they get back with her, bring her straight to Whiscash Pond. The council wants sit in on her tribunal.” Then, he started to walk away.
“Understood, sir. But, what about Chip?”
Saul stopped and asked, “What about him?”
“Well, according to Charon, Chip was the one who helped the Skunanne escape.”
“He’s your charge, not mine. Deal with him yourself!” The wolf continued back into town.
Kent heaved a deep sigh and then said, “Yes, sir.” He honestly found it hard to believe that Chip knowingly led an armed criminal into the woods with intent of letting her escape. However, it was ultimately going to be Charon’s word against his protégé’s.
Once Saul was out of sight, Kent returned to his seat and began whittling his stick again. After several more minutes, the fox had basically cut the branch down into a twig. He threw it into the underbrush off to his side, and then suddenly spotted a group coming out of the woods. As they came closer, he realized that it was the three members of Team Hellfire he’d been waiting for. Noting their formation, he saw that Leona the Luxray and Chet the Weavile were lagging slightly behind, while Charon the Obseon was further ahead and apparently holding someone else alongside him. Within moments, the four creatures came up to him and stopped.
Kent stood up again, pointed at the Skunanne next to Charon with his machete, and said, “This…was the fugitive…?” He didn’t actually see who got captured overnight. The only thing he did was put her confiscated weaponry away in the evidence locker.
“Yes, Commander Zoltaine. That’s her,” Leona snickered.
“Are you serious? I thought Silas and Saul ran out all the Skunanne and their relatives from this area years ago after they just proved to be nothing but thieves. There’s no way this girl could be that much of a threat!”
“Oh, she’s not from around here,” Charon replied, “Her name is Seraph Furlong. She’s a wanted criminal all the way from the southern continent. The fact that we caught her here is just happenchance.”
“Why am I not impressed?” Kent snorted.
“Doesn’t matter. We got our quarry. Give our reward!” Chet demand.
“Shut up!” the Zoroark reprimanded him, “You’ll get your payment when your job is done. Now, why hasn’t she been stripped of her gear?”
“What’s the problem? She can’t move while I’ve got her under my control,” Charon explained.
The Skunanne suddenly cringed and shouted, “Wanna bet?” Momentarily free, Seraph then started to swing her knife at the Obseon’s neck. Kent struck her blade out of her paw with his own weapon and then held the tip of his machete against her neck.
“You’re not the only one who can use a knife, girl. Not to mention that my swordsmanship is probably a lot better than yours,” he told her.
Looking at Leona and Chet, Kent then ordered, “You two, take her weaponry back to the evidence locker.” Afterwards, the Zoroark grabbed the straps of the skunk’s quiver and satchel so he could lift them over her head. Next, he gripped onto her shield and forcefully pulled it off her left arm. He then took the rope end of her chain whip and yanked it out of the frozen grip she had on it due to Charon having possession of her body. Lastly, he set all of the items on the ground for Chet to pick up.
“Alright, Charon. Follow me!” he said, resting the backside of his sword on his right shoulder. He soon headed back into town with Charon following right behind him, toting the fugitive along.
After a few minutes, Kent stopped at the intersection near the middle of town and stated, “The Council of Five is amongst the most distinguished groups that live in this area. You will show them the proper respect when you address them.”
“Yeah, hear that, girly!” Charon cackled at his inert captive. Seraph cringed a little due to the additional strain he was putting on her body when he laughed.
“I was talking to you, Charon!”
“Lord Draconai is especially particular about whom he sees. He does not like to associate himself with Pokémon such as you.”
“Tch, doesn’t like Ghost-types?”
“He doesn’t like your team.”
“Why not? We’re a Gold-rank squad!”
“Doesn’t matter. He considers you to be a group of rogues.”
“Tch, Draconai is an arrogant jerk… We get our jobs done more often than any other rescue team.”
Kent turned to him and shouted, “He doesn’t care! When you meet with him, you shall address him as Lord Draconai, bow, and then leave.”
Authoritatively, Commander Zoltaine turned to the path leading up to the staircase to Whiscash Pond and guided Charon to the town’s meeting place. As soon as they arrived, Charon stopped to glance around at the councilmen. He saw the familiar figures of at least three members of the town council. From left to right, he recognized Draconai, Saul Retford, and Silas Lansing. Each of them stood at attention with their gazes focused on him and his captive. Squinting slightly, Charon thought he could see the head of the fourth councilman everyone knew simply as Sly; unlike the other members, Sly’s identity remained a complete mystery to most of the town, as only a few Pokémon had ever met him face-to-face.
“Bring forth the prisoner, Charon!” Saul demanded. Charon then hovered forward, towing the Skunanne alongside him still. Charon stopped right in front of Captain Retford, whom then gestured for him to release Seraph from his spiritual grasp. The Obseon bowed and did so. Seraph fell to her knees almost immediately.
“Good day, gentlemen!” the fox phantom said as he bowed to each of the council members again, “Especially to you, Lord Draconai!” Afterwards, he left by vanishing into thin air.
“Good riddance…” Draconai grumbled to himself.
Saul stepped towards the skunk girl and stated, “My name is Saul Retford, father of Cairo Retford and captain of the Rescue Corps stationed here in Pokémon Square.” Seraph backed away slightly, trying to stand upright. Her legs were weakened because of how that Obseon drained her energy when he possessed her body.
Angrily, Saul clawed at the ground right in front of her with his talons and declared, “Don’t even think you can escape from me this time, girl!” Fearfully, Seraph plopped backwards onto her butt and stared back at the wolf’s forepaws to see their arced claws up close.
“Saul, knock it off!” Silas demanded, “Can’t you see that she was merely trying to get back on her feet?”
“Typical Metalupus. Attack first, ask questions later!” Draconai commented.
“Enough!” Kent shouted, “Captain Retford knows exactly what he’s doing.”
“You shall answer my questions exactly, or suffer,” Saul continued as he started to pace around the Skunanne, “Now, who are you and how did you meet my son?”
Seraph slowly got back on her feet and responded, “My name is Seraph Furlong. I met your son when I joined the Wigglytuff Guild in Treasure Town on the southern continent, where I’m originally from.”
“Seraph Furlong… You had an impressive track record, from my understanding. You were the former leader of a Diamond-rank exploration squad, correct?”
“Then why did you turn to a life of crime? In a short time, you’ve amassed an extensive criminal record including but not limited larceny, theft, con jobs, and now murder…”
“Tch! You honestly think I told Cairo to kill those Kecleon? The other stuff is true, but we only took what we needed to survive after we got run out of Treasure Town. Anything else you’ve heard is complete and utter bullcrap!”
“Silence!” he demanded, “That doesn’t change the fact that your group still committed these crimes.”
“Saul, if I may…” Silas interrupted by approaching the two, “I believe the she’s speaking the truth. Your son may as well have acted on his own accord in murdering the Kecleon Brothers. We cannot honestly hold her accountable for that.”
Saul calmly replied, “You’re correct. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t punish her for the other things she has done and attempted to do last night.”
“And just how do you intend to punish her, Saul?” Draconai snickered, glancing into the pond where Sly observed the interrogation in silence, “I’m sure you’d want nothing less than to take her life anyways.” Kent glanced between Saul and Draconai with a look of grimace on his face. He knew that that was exactly what Saul intended to do from the very beginning.
“If you make an attempt on her life, I shall end up taking yours instead, Saul!” Sly declared as he slowly extended his massive neck towards the others from the pond. Seraph turned to the snake dumbfounded. She didn’t even realize the gigantic serpent was even present, much less try to stop the wolf from carrying out her potential execution.
“Lord Sly, please stay out of this!” Saul demanded.
“Silence!” the snake bellowed, “It is not your place to decide whether this girl shall live or die. Unless you can provide irrefutable evidence to justify why she should be put to death, I will not allow it!”
“Captain Retford, Commander Zoltaine! Stop!” Chip’s voice suddenly cried from down the hill.
Hearing the boy, Sly immediately with drew his neck into the water and returned to hiding. Kent, Saul, Silas, and Draconai all turned their attention to the ridge behind them as Chip and his friends appeared on the horizon. The Weasinge wasted no time charging right up to his commanding officers in an effort to deter them from attacking Seraph.
“Captain Retford, please listen!” he then shouted.
Seraph put her paw on her face and thought, ‘Kid, you should’ve just stayed out of this.’
“Chip, what is the meaning of this?” Kent scolded him, readying to swat at him if he didn’t explain things quickly.
“Seraph wasn’t trying to escape,” he panted, “In fact, she just helped me save Cheyenne from Sirocco.”
“That is inconsequential for the matters of this tribunal, cadet. I’d suggest you hold your tongue and be gone while we finish,” Saul told him off.
“Wait a second, Saul!” Silas interjected as he went up to the ermine, “Chip, did you and her really take down Sirocco Feranshire?”
Chip turned to the humanoid otter and replied, “Yes, sir, Mr. Lansing.”
“I can attest to my friend’s story here, if yous need me to,” Mints said as he hobbled up to the group of mammals, “Yous see, I’m Sirocco’s half-brother. The guy’s been driving me nuts for a while, so it’s only right that someone punished him and that Skunanne there did a number on him.”
“Not to digress, but Sirocco’s just a thug like any other. He was hardly worth our time worrying about to begin with,” Draconai responded.
“Even so, for a cadet to take him down with the aid of this girl is fairly impressive,” Kent added.
“Indeed,” Saul continued, “But, like I said, it is inconsequential to this hearing. Now, leave!” Saul turned his attention to Seraph again, but Chip scuttled around him to stand by her.
“No, listen! Seraph’s not as bad as you want to think she is,” he declared.
The Metalupus sliced at the ground in front of him and barked, “Enough games, cadet! Leave now or I’ll have you forcibly removed!”
“Chip, don’t try to help me…” Seraph said as she put her paw on his back, “This isn’t your fight.”
“I would rather you listen to what this boy has to say, Saul,” Sly again interrupted as he curled his neck upward, “It may persuade you to think about what you are going to do after this tribunal.”
“Lord Sly?” Chip said, staring back at the serpent, “I didn’t know you were even there. My apologies…”
“There is no need for them. Please, continue.”
Returning his gaze to Saul and the others, the weasel continued, “Seraph’s got a good heart. She may seem self-centered and devious, but I can tell that she’s not really that bad of a Pokémon.”
“That vote of confidence means nothing, given the fact that she already has bad reputation as a thief on the southern continent!” Saul snorted.
“But we aren’t on the southern continent. In fact, we’re about as far away from there as you can physically get on this planet.”
“And your point is what?”
“I’ve seen her already help me out when she originally intended to leave. I’d suggest making her serve a term of community service as a recruit in Rescue Corps. That way she can work off whatever debt to society she needs to, and will have a chance to get her act together as an individual.” Seraph’s jaw dropped. That was the last thing she wanted to do after she’d finally gotten away from that accursed Exploration Corps down south.
Seeing her expression, Saul responded, “That may actually work out better than what I had in mind. Just understand that she will be assigned to your trainee group until you both graduate from basic training. Your rescue missions will be under constant supervision from your overseer until you are ready to start going on them on your own. From then on, I will task you with the responsibility of keeping her under your regular watch, understand?”
“Yes, sir. Agreed.”
“Saul!” Kent remarked, “You cannot be serious?”
The Metalupus turned to him and explained, “How long will it be before Chip graduates basic training?”
“We still need successfully complete another mission together. Then I’ll be able to certify him as a legitimate rescue team leader.”
“There you go. In the meantime, get her a trainee’s badge. She’s your responsibility now.”
“Very well, sir.”
“And with this, the tribunal is over. Let us take our leave.” Saul and most of the other councilmen took off right away. However, Seraph, Chip, Kent, Cheyenne, and Sly remained for several moments afterwards.
“I’ll take care of the paperwork and meet you both at the Pelipper Post Office at sunrise tomorrow,” Kent said before pointing the tip of his machete at Seraph, “If you leave this town unescorted before then, you will be marked a fugitive again and hunted down to be killed.” Then, the Zoroark pulled a glowing blue orb he’d kept hidden in his locks and threw it on the ground. The ball shattered and a burst of light engulfed the area. After the flash ended, they saw that Commander Zoltaine vanished into midair.
“Why did he keep that thing in his hair?” Seraph asked Chip.
“It’s more convenient for him to keep his supplies hidden. That way nobody knows he’s got them,” he replied, “It’s weird, but you’ll get used to it.” Cheyenne flew over by the twosome and landed in front of Seraph.
“You’re the Skunanne who helped save me, right?” the Swablu then asked her.
“Thank you!” Cheyenne chirped joyfully, “If not for you and Chip, Sirocco would’ve had his way with me.”
“No problem, kid.” The Swablu nodded to them both and then took to the skies again, flying away.
“Meyi-lyi…” the two heard Sly murmur behind them.
“You know my tribal name?” Seraph said as she turned towards the massive serpent looming overhead.
“Only by happenchance…” the snake replied as he dropped his face down to her eye level.
“This is Lord Sly, Seraph,” Chip explained, “He’s a widely-revered sage around these parts and a renowned fortune teller too. But he’s extremely reclusive and usually won’t show himself to people unless he has a really good reason. You should consider it an honor to be in his presence.”
Sly turned his head to better look at Seraph with his clouded eyeball and stated, “Do not feel obliged to show formalities before me…”
“Alright…” she replied, backing up a step as the ghostly serpent blinked at her.
“Such horrors…” he rasped, “A Pokémon forgotten to the sands of time… Asleep amongst the stones… The beast awakes his slumber…”
“Oh, this must be one of his famous trances!” Chip told her.
“Beware, beware the creature of the abyss… He lurks and then hides within the depths of the crypt, seeking only retribution…” Sly continued, “This is all I can say.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I apologize,” the snake replied, “I cannot control the power of prophecy… Just know that it is a double-edged sword…”
“Oh-kay…” she said, backing away.
“It was nice seeing you again, Lord Sly,” Chip said, “Seraph, let’s find Katherine and tell her what’s going on.” Afterwards, the twosome left the vicinity of the pond and returned to the village proper. Sly lingered for a little bit before returning to the pool from which he’d come.
<End Chapter Four>
February 1st, 2014 (10:28 AM).
Several days earlier…
The noonday sun scorched the shifting sands of the Meradai Wastes as Canersia made his trek through the vast desert alone. Undaunted by the rising temperatures, the monk had the cowl of his thick cloak fully drawn over his head to show local predators he would not be made an easy meal. Yet also he dreaded that this voyage into a world he’d long abandoned might turn out to be for naught if what he sought no longer existed.
Eyes to the horizon, the humanoid neither saw nor sensed any landmarks he could use to locate ancient ruins of the Meradai Tribe whom once thrived in this region during the Age of Man. Even since their time, additional settlers had gone on to create numerous cities and towns throughout the area that he knew was once part of his homeland Ronac. Sadly, it seemed that geologic shift along with the dimensional cross-hashing caused by Dialga and Palkia in recent centuries razed any surface remnants of mankind’s dominance here. But surely, something remained underfoot…
Stopping at a point amidst some dunes, Canersia sent out a powerful psychokinetic shockwave to blast away most of the nearby sediment. An enormous dust plume quickly expelled into the air and cleared out an equally massive pit in the sand surrounding Canersia’s feet. Staring off to his left, the monk saw a large stone slab lying slantways atop the side of a pyramid-like structure’s outer wall.
“Go…away…” a ghastly voice rasped from beneath the surface.
Canersia raised his right palm, revealing an eye-shaped tattoo with an amber iris at its center. He focused his spiritual energy to create a glowing purple orb several inches away from his curled fingertips. Then, he forced the sphere to launch at the stone covering the tomb’s entrance, causing it to shatter into pieces.
“I said… Go away…” the entity grumbled again.
The monk sensed an immense presence manifesting itself far below the desert, likely the crypt’s guardian readying to come to the surface. When the entity did not emerge, Canersia felt that something was amiss. Honing his extrasensory powers on the entity’s location, he was able to sense the presence of two relatively weak Pokémon that were inside a cavernous chamber with the being. Both intruders seemed to be ghosts in their own right but appeared to be bound to physical objects, a mask and a coffin respectively.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Easy, Mack, easy!” Canersia then heard the Cohagrigus speak through his telekinesis, “We’re just wandering nomads who’d been searching the desert for generations looking for a new home. If we’d known this place was yours, we’d…”
“SILENCE!” the entity bellowed, “How could not know? The slab sealing this place has been in place for millennia! Any two-bit psychic would detect it immediately, even buried as deep as it is. But you had the gall just phase in here like the thieves you are!”
“Dad, Dad! Let’s am-scray!” the younger Yamask whined, “We don’t stand a chance against this guy.” Suddenly Canersia sensed the smaller phantom backing away from his father.
“Listen to your son! This is my final warning!”
“Ramses, you get back here right now and face this guy with me like a man!” the boy’s father scolded the Yamask as he moved further away.
“So be it!” the entity declared. The Cohagrigus gave out a bloodcurdling scream, followed by the sound of sand pouring down upon the victim.
“FATHER!” the Yamask cried.
“Let that be a lesson to you, boy. Now…BE GONE!” the demon howled.
Suddenly the desert began to tremble below Canersia’s feet, and a harsh wind blew out of the ruin’s entryway he’d just opened up. After a few seconds, an ovular object flew out of the chamber at high speed and landed several meters off to the monk’s left. Glancing back, he noticed that it was golden and formed like a human’s face with the grim expression their faces were normally given by morticians after death before they were presented at a funeral.
Unabated by the entity’s show of strength, Canersia slowly made his way to the labyrinth’s interior. Sending out a weak psychic pulse, the monk sensed that the full extent of the crypt lead over two hundred meters underground and had been formed much like a maze to confuse intruders who might plunder this place for whatever riches it might hold. Save for a final cavern-like chamber directly below, the entire complex was made from sandstone bricks hand-laid millennia ago by the ancient Meradai to entomb the being that once terrorized them. There could be no mistaking that these ruins were the ones he’d been searching for.
Noting a large hole in the center of the entry room, Canersia slowly walked forward to examine it closely. Evidently, this tunnel was how the young Yamask got expelled from the tomb so hastily. It would also serve as a quick access chute to the innermost sanctum of the crypt, which he sought.
The humanoid jumped down the portal and found himself descending several stories per second. As he emerged in the cave below, Canersia used his telekinesis to slow his fall drastically before landing in a crouched position. His cloak furled back as the monk immediately stood upright, briefly revealing his furry legs and feet. All around him the monk sensed the presences of many Pokémon, whom appeared to have become literally petrified by some ungodly force.
“You…” the tomb’s guardian rasped from the darkness. Canersia lifted his head to see a pair of glowing red eyes staring back at him several meters away. From what he could tell, they were part of a gigantic skull belonging to the fossil of some reptile, but it was difficult to say for certain.
“I would recognize those curse marks that you hide under your cassock anywhere,” the monster continued, “You serve the God of Death, do you not?” Canersia bowed in confirmation.
“Then I cannot let you leave here alive…”
‘And so, it begins…’ the monk thought as he held up his right arm off to his side. His sleeve slid down the appendage, revealing a knife Canersia had kept hidden in it that was now in his hand. Afterwards, the four eyes on the mask he wore on his face underneath his hood began to glow an eerie amber hue as he slowly approached his opponent.
Seraph approached the elderly Kangaskhan waiting for her at the bottom of the staircase with grimace. After her disappearing act earlier today, she knew that the old woman would probably be a lot less trusting of her now. Glancing up at the lady only slightly as she climbed down the stairs from Whiscash Pond, the Skunanne saw that Katherine had her arms crossed and a slightly disgusted smirk on her face.
“Hi, Mrs. Jamina!” Chip said as he dashed ahead of Seraph to meet up with her keeper.
Katherine shook her head in disapproval and replied, “Chip, what in the world were you thinking? Seraph was supposed to stay in my cottage!” The ermine folded his ears back, lowered his head, and slowed his walk in shame as he approached her.
Stopping at the bottom of the stairwell, Seraph responded, “It wasn’t his fault Katherine. Chip needed to find you to get some supplies together, but since you weren’t around, I offered to help him out instead. That’s the only reason why I left.”
“Do you honestly expect me to believe that after the little trick you pulled, young lady?” the woman retorted, “Skunanne don’t even eat meat that often, according to Saul’s boys.”
“Listen. I’m sorry for sending you on a wild goose chase, but you have to believe me. I never intended to leave town, but I had to once Chip explained to me the situation he was facing,” Seraph explained, trying to make her story as convincing as possible given her limited credibility at this point.
“Chip, tell me exactly what happened!” Kathy demanded, staring him down.
“Well… Originally she did tell me that she meant to escape the first chance she got,” he hesitated as he gazed back up at her, “But that all changed the moment we went up against Sirocco and his harem.”
Katherine shook her head again and said, “Chip, how many times has Kent told you not to try and avoid fighting against Sirocco? You know that Destail is too strong for you to handle on your own.” Seraph looked at the Kangaskhan with her head cocked slightly to the left. Apparently Katherine had never seen that Weasinge with his amulet off.
“Hey, Cheyenne was in trouble. I had to do something…” he barked until the Kangaskhan lifted him up to her face.
“That doesn’t change the fact that you were just being reckless, young man! What would your parents have to say if they were here? They trusted us with your life.” Tears started to roll down the woman’s cheeks as she suddenly hugged him tightly against her chest. Seraph just stood there gawking at them.
“Katherine, stop! You’re crushing me!” Chip whined as she squeezed him harder.
Seraph stepped forward a little bit but stopped as soon as she saw Katherine put Chip back on the ground. Afterwards, the Kangaskhan came over by the girl and then picked her up as well. The Skunanne struggled somewhat to get free since she wasn’t accustomed to being lifted off the ground. However, she stopped once the large marsupial held her to eye level.
“Sweetheart,” the elderly creature said, “You know that I don’t mean you any harm, but there are many Pokémon around here who wouldn’t hesitate to take your life. This is part of why Saul exerts his authority whenever he can. He’s trying to keep the village safe from outsiders who’d want to attack it.”
“I’m aware of that now,” the girl told her.
“That’s also why the Council of Five exists. They’re the most respected Pokémon in these parts, and trusted individuals who strive to maintain the orderliness of our daily life.”
“Speaking of them, just who are they?” Katherine kissed her on the forehead and then set her back down.
“Let’s go back to my home and I’ll explain on the way,” the woman responded as she turned to Chip, “You can come too.” Chip nodded. Then the threesome headed southward down the central road through town.
“As its name implies, the council consists of five different members,” Katherine explained, “Saul is the leader of the local Rescue Corps, and the founder of the council proper. He assumes general command of meetings, while the others are free to inquire and negotiate matters that they think are important.”
“I can understand that,” Seraph said, “He’s reminds me of my father, who was chieftain of my tribe and leader of communal affairs.”
“So you were basically the princess of your clan?” Chip asked her as he scuttled ahead of her and then turned around so he could look at her face-to-face.
“Eh… Not really. The only others who had any seat of power in my tribe were the shamans.”
“Oh, I see.”
Katherine smiled at the two and continued, “Alakazam, who is also part of the Rescue Corps, is heralded for his psychic powers and worldly insight. Likewise, Lord Sly is revered for his spiritual presence and ability to divine events through his ability to travel between the gaps in reality.”
“The gaps in reality?” Seraph asked confusedly.
“I don’t fully grasp what it means either. Very few Pokémon ever see him up close, but it’s said that he’s not really a creature bound to the physical domain at all and instead is tethered to the spirit world or some such thing.”
“He sounds vaguely like something from a tribal legend my clan has about creatures from a Dreamtime world called Beyi Quofyi. But the myth in question only speaks of three deities that got trapped there by Arceus, and how they’ve been trying forever to escape.”
“Yes…” Katherine replied, closing her eyes, “You mentioned that earlier when you told me about what happened last night.”
“Speaking of which, is it true that you went up against a Legendary Pokémon last night, Seraph?” Chip asked excitedly. She stopped momentarily and shook her head.
Then, Seraph answered, “Chip… The entity in question killed two of my best friends without so much as flinching.”
“Otulp is said to be the most ruthless demon in this or any world,” Katherine added, “There are reasons why Pokémon fear him as the god of death. Just being near him makes you relive your darkest memories, and he can tear out your soul with a small nip from his fangs.”
“Oh… I didn’t realize this thing could actually do stuff like that.”
Seraph crossed her arms and told him, “I’ve seen it firsthand. It isn’t something I wish to go through again.” Chip nodded understandingly. The three continued on their way immediately afterwards.
“So, you were saying?” the Skunanne said as she glanced back up at Katherine.
“Yes. The other members of the council are Silas Lansing and Lord Draconai. Both of them are masters of the martial arts, though Silas is skilled primarily in Kung Fu and Karate while Lord Draconai implements combat methods comparable to human knights from the Medieval period during the Age of Man. They each have formidable skills and keen intellect, but Draconai comes from an exceptionally rare breed of which only a few Pokémon remain. As such, he conducts himself with an air of heightened authority, especially in the presence of Saul.”
“So, he’s got quite an ego?”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Katherine giggled. The threesome slowly approached the side road leading towards Katherine’s home in the southeast part of town. Once they reached it, they headed down the street with a sluggish gait.
“If I might ask, what was the council’s decision?” the Kangaskhan finally asked the two. Seraph turned her head downward a little embarrassed about the topic right now.
Wagging his tail, Chip said, “Seraph has to serve community service as part of a rescue team.”
“Oh…” she responded hesitantly, “Doesn’t that mean she has to go through basic training still? I mean, I hope that Saul can find a team who’s willing to show her the ropes considering what happened between today and last night.”
“That’s not a problem. She’ll be joining Commander Zoltaine and me.”
Katherine then huffed and continued, “Are you sure that’s wise? You’re so close to completing your training. Kent shouldn’t be burdened with having to keep tabs on Seraph too.”
“At this point, I’m wishing I’d taken a chance to leave,” Seraph sneered, “I’ve been through this type of crap before. It’s the last thing I wanted to do again…”
Chip looked confusedly at the Skunanne and asked her, “What do you mean?”
“You want to know what Cairo and my other accomplice who got killed last night were?” she retorted, staring him down, “My teammates! Cairo, Kit, and I were all part of an exploration team that worked out of a guild stationed in a town on the southern continent.”
“So, why did you leave then?”
“We didn’t leave. We were exiled! You don’t know how two-bit organizations like the Rescue Corps work, not like I do. The moment they feel like you’ve outlived your usefulness, they’ll kick you aside to make room for the next guys. That was exactly what they did to my group, but only by making us unwittingly commit theft in the process.”
“Unwittingly committed theft?”
“We stole things that we didn’t know we even had on us at the time. And that one instance lead to a series of events that ultimately got us run out of town,” she cried out with tears running down her cheeks.
“Seraph, I’m sorry,” he said in an attempt to calm her down, “I didn’t realize you resented being apart of something like a rescue team this much…”
Walking past him abruptly, she whimpered, “You wouldn’t have…”
Afterwards she ran off down the path, trying to find someplace to hide. Darting from building to building, Seraph eventually came upon a small niche between the backside of Katherine’s home and two of the nearby storage units the elder owned. She didn’t want to get caught leaving town now that things had been set into motion, but at the same time she just wanted to be left alone. Given everything that had happened today, she should’ve been grateful to be alive. However, Chip’s interference left her feeling all the worse because of the crap she knew she’d have to put up with all over again, presuming the Rescue Corps’ procedures were anything like the Wigglytuff Guild’s.
“Seraph!” Chip said, as he came up behind her, “Please, don’t run away. It will only make matters worse.”
“I’m not running away,” she huffed.
“Listen. I just thought I was helping. I didn’t think you’d take it so badly.”
“What in God’s name makes you think I would ever want to serve on a rescue team?” she yelled at him.
“Because I thought we could become friends!” he cried.
“What…?” she muttered.
“I thought that it would help give Captain Retford something to think about before he did something rash.”
“No, you said you thought we could become friends…” she said as she turned to face him. She noticed that he had tears welling up in his eyes.
“And why not?” he whimpered.
Seraph looked away again and replied, “It’s not the issue of becoming friends that bothers me. Do you honestly trust me, even though we only just met today?”
“In fact, I do.”
“Then answer something for me… Had I fled town just now, what would you have done? Report me to that Zoroark or that Metalupus you work under?”
“I’d have tried to follow you first like I did.”
“Because I don’t think you’re all that bad.”
“Seraph… Sweetheart, listen to Chip…” Katherine said as she walked up behind him. Seraph glanced back at them and shook her head.
“I think I’m just worn out from all the stuff that went on today,” she then told them, “If I could actually get a good night’s sleep, I may feel differently about serving on a rescue team tomorrow.” Afterwards, she came out the cubbyhole.
“Yes, it is starting to get a little late,” the elderly Kangaskhan commented, realizing that it was nearly sunset.
“I guess I should get back to my hut then. I’ll be over early in the morning, if that’s alright?” Chip asked Katherine.
“That would be fine, Chip. I’ll be sure to help get Seraph ready for her first big day as part of the Rescue Corps.”
“Sounds good! See you tomorrow, guys.” Chip nodded to Seraph and to Katherine respectively. Then, he headed back towards the heart of town.
“See you then, Chip,” Seraph and Katherine both replied.
Afterwards, the Kangaskhan ushered Seraph to the front side of her house and led her inside to stay for the evening. Later, the two enjoyed a meal of berries together before finally settling in for the night. Just as Seraph got herself situated in the bed of leaves she’d slept in last night, she couldn’t help but wonder about tomorrow. Through the nearby window, she stared at the night sky entrancingly until inevitably fell asleep.
<End Chapter Five>
February 2nd, 2014 (10:56 AM).
Chip awoke slowly as he stretched out his long mustelid body out across the leaves that made up his bed. As he opened his eyes, the ermine looked around the small hut he called home.
It was a simple dwelling for the young Pokémon, consisting of a single room about three-meters wide with domed ceiling about eight-feet high. There were windows in each of the cardinal directions of the cottage’s walls, save the eastern face that had doorway with a drape hanging in front of it for privacy. Towards the south part of the hut, he had a small cupboard that Katherine had made him to store berries along with a short table in front of it, on which he kept his trainee toolbox and miscellaneous items he’d taken out of it the night before.
Standing up and shaking some dust off his pelt, the Weasinge pawed the amulet around his neck to make sure it hadn’t fallen off overnight. When he reassured himself it was still on, he headed over to his food cabinet, scooped up a few berries out of the container’s top bin with his right foreleg, and then set them on the table to eat. He gobbled his breakfast up quickly and decided to take out some more of his larder to take with for the day. After packing them into his case, Chip pulled the strap over his shoulder and headed out the door.
With his hut located in the southeast part of Pokémon Square, he had to travel partway through town to reach the main road. On the way, he zigzagged between random houses as to not catch the attention of his neighbors whom might be out at this hour. The sun was only just starting to raise on the horizon, so the last thing he wanted to do get caught up in a conversation when he wanted get to the Pelipper Post Office before Commander Kent and Seraph arrived.
Upon reaching the main road, he saw the Skunanne approaching from the distance. She had a small brown satchel slung over her right shoulder and a pink bandana around her neck. As soon as she stepped onto the pavement, Seraph turned her head sideways and gave him a small grin. He noticed that her hair was now tied into a ponytail with a pink bow in it to match her Pecha Scarf.
“You’re up early…” she said to him.
“You…you too?” he replied blushingly, “You look beautiful for your first day on a rescue team!”
“Ah, yeah… The ponytail was Kathy’s idea. She thought it’d keep my hair out of the way, and I personally don’t mind it. I used to keep my locks tied back when hunting anyway. The bow’s a nice touch, eh?”
“It looks adorable!” he said cheerfully.
“A little childish, though… I haven’t worn one since I was a Skunette.”
“Nonsense! It goes great with your Pecha Scarf.”
“Yeah, she said I’d want it in case we got caught against Poison-type Pokémon.”
“Well, I’m not sure where the job is going to take us today, but it’s always nice to have one anyways.”
She nodded and then said, “Thanks. Now shouldn’t we go meet up with that Zoroark?”
“Oh!” he replied, “Yeah, we should get going.”
Afterwards, he led her northward to middle of town, where they then turned to head towards the cliff that the Pelipper Post Office was located on. As the building came into view, Seraph caught a glimpse of the Obseon who was responsible for her capture yesterday. The phantasmal fox floated quietly above the ground while reading the bulletin board alongside the path leading to the Rescue Corps headquarters.
Once the two got near him, the gray ghost grinned cockily and said, “Well, look what the cat dragged!” He then stared at Seraph with his head slanted to accentuate the glare of his glowing red eyes. Seraph huffed and turned her nose up at him.
“Oh, you’re here early, Charon…” Chip mumbled as he looked away from the Obseon out of embarrassment.
“What was that, Cadet?” Charon sneered as he suddenly rushed Chip to shock the weasel into locking eyes with him.
“N-nothing… I just didn’t expect to see you here this early,” the Weasinge quivered.
“Hey, jack*ss! Knock it off!” Seraph demanded.
Charon looked at her spitefully and said, “You don’t have much of a place to talk, little girl! This little traitor only caused us all headaches yesterday, so I’m seeing that he gets the treatment he deserves.” Seraph immediately clawed at his throat with her Night Slash. The phantom squealed horribly, backing away out of fear.
“Seraph, what did you do that for?” Chip whined.
“Tch, don’t defend him!” she replied, checking her claws, “He deserves it after that bullcrap.”
“But he’s a Gold-rank officer! You can’t just go and attack him.”
“Damn, that hurt!” Charon said as he shirked off the pain of her attack, “How come your Night Slash is so freaking powerful? I haven’t taken a hit like that in years, even from actual Dark-type Pokémon.” In awe, he got close to her face and looked her curiously in the eye.
“Back off or I’ll do it again,” she threatened him.
“No, you don’t understand. It takes a lot to actually hurt me. If you can pull off attacks that strong, you’ve earned my respect!” Seraph turned her nose up at him again.
He smiled a little and continued, “I see we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot… My name’s Charon, the leader of Team Hellfire. Sorry for the rough handling yesterday, but I’ve got an image to maintain. If you ever need help with something, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Are you sincere about that, or are you just afraid of me now?” she then asked him. Charon backed away from her slightly, and then glanced at Chip for a brief moment. The Weasinge looked back at him inquisitively. Afterwards, the Obseon vanished into thin air in order to flee.
“That’s what I thought…” Seraph snickered a few moments after he was gone.
“Why did you do that?” Chip asked her again.
“Chip, you need to show a little backbone if you’re going to make it as a rescue team leader. I went through a lot of the same things when I worked as part of the Exploration Corps down south.” Chip groaned at her remark for a long moment, but then nodded to acknowledge she’d gotten her point across.
“Well, that was impressive. I can’t say that I commend your actions, though, Seraph,” Kent said as he stepped out from behind the bushes on the far side of the Rescue Corps bulletin board.
Seraph cocked her head sideways and thought, ‘He was right there the whole time?’
“Commander Zoltaine…” Chip whimpered as he nervously approached his mentor.
“I agree that it’s about time Charon got put in his place, but outright attacking him isn’t acceptable amongst rescue team members. We’re all supposed to be on the same side.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever…” she replied, looking her claws over for dirt as she walked up to the Zoroark.
“Chip,” Kent then said as he looked at his protégé, “You need to show more assertiveness around Charon and Team Hellfire, or they’ll never show you any kind of respect.”
“I’ll try to from now on, sir,” the Weasinge sighed.
“Now then,” Kent continued, “It took most of the night, but I finished the proper paperwork and Seraph will be acquitted of all charges so long as she completes her community service for the next several weeks.” He then reached into his crimson dreadlocks and pulled out a small badge-like object. After he handed it to her, the Skunanne looked it over carefully in her paw. The metallic emblem consisted of a bluish-white oval flanked by a pair of three-feather wings.
“That badge certifies you as a trainee member of my rescue squad. Make sure you don’t lose it!” She nodded at him and stowed the item in her new shoulder bag.
“Coincidentally,” he then said, reaching into his hair again, “I’ve also been permitted by Captain Retford to return two of your tools to you, on the condition that you don’t use them to attack anyone in town.” The Zoroark then pulled out her Luna Fang and her fractured buckler. He handed them over to her, a little leery-eyed. She bowed graciously and accepted them back without a word.
Seraph inspected her shield to see just how much damage it took from Sirocco pecking at it yesterday. The split down the center of the wooden backside could comprise its integrity if it took any more hits like that again. On the front side, though, she noticed that the peacock had completely punctured the leather binding her buckler in several spots. With that, she knew that the object was worthless now.
“Did you by any chance make that? I have to say that the craftsmanship is quite good, considering it’s a wooden shield,” Kent said to her. Afterwards, he reached into his locks yet again to pulled out an oval-shaped shield forged from iron. The object had a pair of eyes etched into its center as a type of insignia.
“I prefer iron ones myself because they have better durability. Not a lot of bipedal Pokémon have the physical strength to carry them like me, though.”
“Pardon me if I sound rude, but how much stuff can you hide in your dreadlocks like that?” Seraph interrupted, “Do you have some sort of pouch hidden in there or something?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what he’s got in there, Seraph!” Chip replied laughingly.
“Actually, that IS where I hide my duffle bag for long journeys,” Kent explained, “You see, I rely heavily on the arts of illusion and concealment. If an attacker can’t see that I’ve got tools on-hand, it’s that much easier for me to defend myself.”
“Wait, seriously? When Chip said you hide your supplies in your hair, I thought it was just some kind of stupid joke.” Chip and Kent both shook their heads.
“Okay, then…” she muttered embarrassedly.
After a short moment of silence, Chip finally asked, “What is today’s mission, sir?”
“Right,” Kent said, looking at the bulletin board off to his side. He pointed at the various memos pinned to it until he came across the one he was looking for. Then, the Zoroark ripped it off and read it briefly.
“A few days ago,” he continued, “A Yamask named Ramses was exploring ancient ruins he’d discovered with his father recently. Apparently, they were doing some excavating when an unknown assailant attacked the two in the depths of the temple. Ramses escaped, but his father is being held hostage by the entity. He needs our help to rescue his dad.”
“And you just picked that mission off the board…at random?” Seraph asked.
“Well, Seraph,” Kent replied, “It’s not like these are exactly sent directly to specific rescue teams. Missions are fair game for anyone, not just you guys.”
“Where exactly is this temple? Also, doesn’t it say anything about what creature the kid encountered?”
“The temple is located in a region called Meradai Wastes, a desert a ways to the southeast of here.”
“A DESERT?” she screamed, “How far away is it exactly?”
“About one hundred miles,” Chip told her.
“How the hell do you propose we get there then? Walk?” she then hollered, “That will take us days, if not weeks!”
“Geez! Settle down!” Kent ordered as he reached into his hair again. After fumbling around with objects in his concealed satchel, he finally found the item he was searching for and pulled it out. The object appeared to be a large blue topaz that had been cut into a curved triangular shape. Kent had a rope tied around the gem so he could wear it around his neck as jewelry.
“This is a Teleport Stone. Lord Sly entrusts top-level rescue teams with these after they’ve proven their worth to him. This is how we’ll be getting to the desert, Seraph.”
“Speaking of Sly, what’s up with him?” she responded smugly.
“What do you mean?” Kent asked her.
“Well, he’s a giant snake living in a tiny pond. Doesn’t that seem a little…awkward?”
“I can’t say much, but Lord Sly isn’t exactly a Pokémon of this world…” he tried to explain.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Where does he come from then?”
“He exists in a rift between realities that he calls The Nexus, okay!” Kent blurted out, “He really doesn’t want other Pokémon to know that, though, because he says it can change the structure of his domain entirely.”
“What does that mean?” she demanded, now that she was suddenly getting answers to some questions that had been bugging her since she met Sly.
“Enough!” he retorted, “I really don’t understand this stuff myself, much less know everything about what he described to me when I first met him.”
Shaking his head, Kent held out his Teleport Stone and explained, “This gem is supposedly formed when powerful Psychic and Ghost Pokémon will it into existence. It allows others to instantly warp to wherever they need to go, which is why it’s a particularly crucial object for experienced rescue team leaders to own. It allows us to deploy teams faster when they’re needed far away and urgently.”
“So we’ll be able to get to that temple pretty quickly,” Chip added cheerfully.
“I don’t know… I’ve always been a little suspicious of teleporting…” Seraph said, gripping her knife tightly.
“There’s nothing to it. I just think of the place we need to go, and we’re there!” Kent told her. Immediately afterwards, his gemstone glowed brilliantly. Then, the flash consumed the entire area.
Within seconds, Seraph heard the sound of howling winds all around her. She was blinded by sand blowing into her face. The Skunanne closed her eyes and put her Pecha Scarf over her maw to avoid getting dirt in her nostrils from the dust storm they’d suddenly found themselves in.
“What happened? I thought we were going to teleport into the temple,” she heard Chip cry out.
“It’s not an exact science. In any case, we need to get out of this sandstorm immediately!” Kent ordered.
Unable to see them, Seraph focused her telekinesis to sense out their presences instead. Both Chip and Kent were mere feet from her, but it seemed like they were beginning to move away from one another. Emitting a weak pulse forward, the Skunanne sensed that there was a large pit straight ahead of them with a small opening into a cavern near its farthest point.
“There’s a cavern about ten meters dead ahead. Move forward away from my voice and we should make it!” she then shouted.
“Got it!” the two replied. She then trudged forward through the sand, hoping that they were going the same direction. After several moments of walking downhill, she felt the soil under her feet suddenly turn into solid rock and noticed that the winds died down as soon as she entered the presumed chasm she’d detected.
Seraph lowered her mask and opened her eyes to see that she was now inside the darkened entrance of an ancient ruin. Gazing back, she saw the silhouettes of Chip and Kent as they struggled to head towards the large rectangular entryway, through which sand occasionally blew in from the outside. As soon as they entered, the two dropped to the floor and tried to catch their breath.
“Damn, that was intense…” Kent slurred, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a sandstorm that bad before…”
“No kidding, sir?” Chip replied as he slowly tried to stand up. Shaking the dirt off his pelt, he approached Seraph with a bit of concern.
“How did you know there was a cave here?” he then asked her.
“I didn’t. I just sensed it using ESP.”
“Chip!” Kent coughed, “Mind providing some light?”
“You mean, take off my amulet?” the weasel replied, pawing the trinket around his neck.
“At least until we can find a torch or something.”
“Alright, then…” Chip took off his charm and stowed it in his case, the strap of which he then slid off his neck to avoid burning it. Multicolored flames ignited down his backside and the room was instantly illuminated.
The massive chamber appeared wholly rectangular with sandstone bricks comprising everything from the floor, walls, and ceiling to the ornate columns supporting the roof every ten feet or so. Near the center of the room, there seemed to be an enormous hole built as a chute into the depths of the ruins. On the opposite side of the pit, the three could see the entrance to a large corridor that led further into the ruins.
“Whoa… This is amazing!” Chip shouted with glee. He quickly approached the middle of the entry room to look down into the shaft leading down into the temple. Lying down aside the rim, the Weasinge stuck his head over the end and gazed into the darkness with awe.
“How deep do you think this is?” he then asked, wagging his tail back and forth excitedly, “I can hardly imagine what must be down there!”
Seraph started looking around and noticed that the walls were inscribed with some ancient type of cuneiform. Upon closer examination, she recognized it as the writing style her father had taught her to use as a child.
“How strange…” she finally said, “I had no idea that this type of scribing existed outside my former tribal home. Whomever wrote in this really wanted to scare off intruders, if they knew how to read it at all.”
Kent walked over by her and asked, “If you can translate it, what does it say?”
“It tells about an ancient beast that terrorized nomads living in this desert a very long time ago. They built this temple in order to entrap it, but it doesn’t say specifically what the creature was.”
“Well, that doesn’t explain much. Surely such a creature couldn’t be alive today.”
“I don’t know… This text is quite eroded, but it seems to mention that the monster can sleep for many ‘quo-tya’ at a time. ‘Quo-tya’ is an archaic measurement my tribe formerly used to approximate the lifespan of an entire generation, so it basically rounds out to about sixty-five years.”
“So, you think this thing is still alive then?” Kent asked her.
Seraph glanced over the writings again and then replied, “I’m not even sure if the monster was actually alive to begin with… You said it yourself. Ghost-type Pokémon don’t fully exist in this realm. Who’s to say that this monster didn’t just come into existence on its own?”
“Hey! I resemble that remark!” a shrill voice called from down the corridor leading further into the temple.
Kent, Seraph, and Chip turned their attention to the dark hallway. A pair of large red eyes suddenly peered out of the shadows. Slowly the creature came into the light provided by the flames on Chip’s back, revealing itself as a one-and-a-half foot tall specter with a pitch-black body. The entity’s cowl-like face comprised the majority of its body, and it had three distinct appendages growing out of it like tendrils. Two of its limbs were formed similar to arms with three-fingered hands at their ends, while the third hooked downward from its body as a tail that gripped onto an odd stone mask. His death mask simply depicted a crude facial pattern with a grievous expression.
“Are you Ramses, by chance?” Kent asked as he reached into his locks to grab his machete from his pack.
“Yes, sir. My name is Ramses. Are you the rescue team answering my communiqué?”
Kent relaxed his posture and responded, “Yes. I’m Commander Zoltaine of the Pokémon Square division of the Rescue Corps.”
“Oh, thank goodness!” the Yamask replied, “I thought you were going to send some amateurs or something.”
“Okay…” Kent muttered, motioning at Chip and then Seraph, “These two are my trainees, Chip Erminfyr and Seraph Furlong.”
“Trainees? You really brought trainees to a place like this?” Ramses then yelped.
“Settle down!” Chip told him, “We’ve still got enough experience to help you save your dad.”
“That’s not the problem, though!” the ghost then shouted.
“What do you mean?” Seraph asked as she approached him, “Your letter said that he was being held captive, right?”
Ramses looked at her with his large red eyes and explained, “Yeah, that’s true. But, in the days since I sent it, I’ve discovered more problems that you’ll have to contend with if you’re going to rescue him.”
“More problems? What do you mean?” she retorted.
“When we first discovered this temple, my father and I didn’t do much exploring. We phased into this entry hall and immediately dropped down the pit. Being Ghost-types, falls don’t really bother us like it would you flesh-bags.”
“So, what are you saying? Is the rest of the place booby-trapped?” Chip asked.
“Maybe… But there’s something worse than that straight down the hall I just came from.”
“Like what?” Seraph sneered.
“I can’t say it… You’ll just have to come and see for yourselves.” Afterwards, Ramses turned away from them and slowly floated back down the corridor from which he came. Seraph grabbled Chip’s toolbox and then the threesome followed him into the inky black hallway, which became slightly illuminated by the light of Chip’s flame.
The catacombs began to get progressively larger as the path gradually headed underground. Eventually they came upon another massive chamber like the entrance they’d just left. However, this room was octagonal with a solid limestone floor. There were colossal statues braced against the walls depicting ancient dragon-like Pokémon that were likely worshiped by the builders of the temple.
“This is incredible… What sort of creatures could they have been?” Chip asked unwittingly stepping forward into the chamber while gazing at the sculptures.
“Chip, look out!” Kent yelled, but trying to keep his voice down.
The weasel stopped in his tracks and stared awkwardly at the unusual object standing directly in front of him. Overall, the thing looked like a seven-foot-tall mechanized ungulate with a large boxy body, long metallic legs bolted somewhat into its sides, cast-iron hooves, and a solid but curved neck. It had odd triads of concaved parts serving as joints in the bends of its legs, as well as bulgier ones at the base of its neck and the backside of its head. The horse’s head was somewhat elongated and cylindrical with three horns jutting outward, one sticking straight out of its forehead while the others were where its ears should have been. A hinged bowl-like plate covered the area where its mouth should’ve been, and shutters covered its apparent eyeholes.
“What is this thing?” he whispered backing away.
“If I recall correctly, that’s what humans called a ‘machine,’ Seraph explained, “They built them in order to do various tasks and ease up on their own workload.”
“That’s no machine, you idiots!” Ramses scolded them, “That’s a Zomborg!”
“Ramses, keep your voice down!” Kent ordered and then glanced at Seraph, “These Pokémon are exceptionally rare. This is the first time I’ve seen one in at least twenty years.”
“Well, I’ve got news for you… There’s more of them!” Ramses added.
Looking shocked, Kent turned his attention to Chip and ordered, “Shoot off a couple fireballs at the corners of the room, but be careful not to hit anything other than the walls.”
“Yes, sir!” Chip responded and then launched a couple fire orbs from the ruby in his brow. As the spheres whizzed passed them, the light from them revealed at least twelve more Zomborg hiding in the darkness, each of the Pokémon standing alone and silently away from the others.
“This is going to be a problem…”
“Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly are Zomborg?” Chip asked as he came back over to the group.
“Zomborg are demonic predators that ruthlessly stalk and kill prey to consume their disembodied souls as nourishment. A solitary Zomborg isn’t much of a threat, but when they gather in herds like this, that’s when they become absolute terrors,” Kent explained.
“But, didn’t you just say they were rare?” Seraph questioned him.
“Yes, but there are still a lot of them. It’s said that there may be several thousand scattered throughout the world.”
Chip looked back into the room and said, “You know… It looks like these things have been asleep for a very long time. So long as we don’t wake them up, we should be fine, right?”
“Geez, how stupid are you?” Ramses almost yelled, “They’re only pretending to sleep!”
“Ramses!” Kent reprimanded him, slinging his blade out in front of him, “Be more respectful of my protégés! They didn’t even know these creatures existed until now.” Afterwards, Kent motioned for the Yamask to follow him back down the hall a little, so they could talk just out of earshot. Once they vanished into the darkness, Seraph headed over by Chip.
“To be honest, those things don’t look like they’ve moved in years. I don’t know how they could possibly be a threat,” Chip told her.
Seraph closed her eyes for a moment and tried to focus her psychic power on one of the Zomborg. The creature’s internal mechanisms seemed to be intact, from its combustion engine to the gears and pulleys that operated its legs. She sensed that there was some rust in its joints along with occasional corrosion along its face, but otherwise the machine appeared to be in operating condition with only one possible issue. From what she could tell, there was nothing inside to actually make it work, not even through supernatural means.
Opening her eyes again, she said, “These Zomborg are nothing but shells!”
“Huh?” Chip responded as he looked at her inquisitively, “How can you tell?”
“If there was anything in them, even spirits, I would’ve been able to sense it.” She then headed over to the closest one to examine it better.
“Seraph, wait! Don’t touch it!” he told her. Seraph placed her right forepaw on the Zomborg’s leg anyways.
After waiting a few seconds, she removed her mitt and said, “See. Nothing happened.” The Skunanne then sent out a wider psychic pulse out to check the others. Like the one she first examined, their bodies were in excellent condition, but there was nothing inside any of them to make the robots move.
“It’s perfectly safe. None of these Zomborg have anything possessing them, so they’re harmless,” she said with a smile.
“Seraph! What are you doing?” Kent rasped at her as he returned with Ramses after he’d finished reprimanding the young Yamask.
“Sir, it’s alright. Seraph checked out all of these Zomborg. They’re nothing but husks.”
“Husks?” Kent and Ramses both replied.
“Yep. There’s nothing inside them but some really intricate mechanisms.” Kent glared at her angrily for a long moment, but stopped once he noticed something at the far side of the room behind her.
“Chip, Seraph, come with me. Ramses, stay put.” Seraph and Chip then followed their leader to the other part of the chamber, where they made a horrific discovery. Near the entrance to the next corridor, there were three more Zomborg toppled over and apparently decapitated, due to how their legs were missing and their heads had been smashed.
“What could possibly have done this?” Chip asked.
“Well, I can’t say for sure, but I have heard rumors that some Zomborg will try to cannibalize other ones’ spirits just to make themselves that much stronger,” Kent replied, pointing at the shattered heads with his machete, “It takes a lot of pressure to crush their body parts like that. This Zomborg must have been especially strong.”
“What would happen if said Zomborg consumed the spirits of all the members in this herd?” Seraph asked nervously, “It wouldn’t…evolve, would it?”
“It’s difficult to say. I only know rumors and not much else,” he told her, shaking his head, “I was only a child when I first encountered a Zomborg, and it wasn’t like I actually got to know him that well.”
Ramses suddenly came over and asked him, “You were friends with one of these things?”
“Briefly, yes…” Kent replied, bowing his head, “His name was Ratchet, but I haven’t seen him in twenty years. I have no idea what became of him, or if he was even part of this herd.”
“If these things are so dangerous, why did you used to hangout with one?” Seraph inquired.
“It was a long time ago, and it’s not like he stayed around long. Ratchet was different from typical Zomborg. The majority of these creatures attack without a second thought, but Ratchet wouldn’t harm anyone unless it was in self-defense.”
“Why was that?” Ramses then asked.
“Ratchet was sentient. He was aware of his actions, as opposed to how other Zomborg normally aren’t and mindlessly seek out prey to kill.”
“Do you think that Ratchet would even remember you after all these years, sir?” Chip added, “I mean, the odds of finding him here may not be as bad as you think.”
“What makes you so sure?” Kent replied. Chip looked down at the floor and pointed at some circular footprints embedded in the rocky surface.
“If I’m not mistaken, these were made by the stomping of a Zomborg’s feet. They lead deeper into the ruins. We may find out what happened to the creature that did this to the rest of its herd, if nothing else.”
“WHOA, WHOA! Now you’re just talking crazy!” Ramses shouted.
“You want to save your father, don’t you?” Seraph sniped at him, drawing her knife so that he could see its blade.
“Then we need to continue.” Afterwards, Seraph and Chip started heading down the nearby corridor alone. Kent and Ramses soon followed a few yards behind them.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Chip,” the weasel’s mentor commented.
As they approached the next chamber, Seraph stopped a moment to sense what was ahead. The room seemed like the previous one, large and octagonal. Both massive columns and ornate statues supported the ceiling along the sides of the room, though there were a few extras near its midsection to help brace it further. Oddly enough, she could also detect that the room had three separate exits that led off in the intermediate directions. The thing that surprised her, though, was the overwhelming sense of something evil waiting directly ahead of them. Once Chip and her entered the room proper, the light from his flame spread inward enough for them to see the silhouette of another mechanized horse akin to the Zomborg in the previous chamber.
“Well, I’m guessing that’s the Zomborg that cannibalized its own herd…” she commented, a little unnerved by the aura she detected from it.
“I don’t know, Seraph… That’s a lot bigger than those Zomborg were,” Chip told her, noting that the entity was easily two feet taller than the other Pokémon from its group. As he moved slightly closer, he noticed that the demon had a rounded body, larger horns, and concaved covers atop each of its legs with spikes jutting out of their sides.
“Chip, stay away from it!” Kent ordered as he and Ramses caught up.
“A Z-Z-Z-Zombrong…” Ramses quibbled.
“Let me guess…” Seraph whispered, “This is Zomborg’s evolved form.” The Yamask nodded too afraid to speak.
“Seraph, do you sense anything from it?” Kent asked her.
“The spiritual pressure this Pokémon exudes is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t even begin to describe how oppressive it is…” she replied.
“If you look carefully, though, it looks like this Pokémon has been here for years,” Chip said, pointing at the Zombrong’s appendages, “Those legs look they’re seriously rusted, especially around the joints. I don’t think this thing could move, even if it wanted to.”
Kent took out his machete and slowly approached the sleeping Zombrong. Scraping the area under one of its knees, some rust flaked off and he noticed that Chip was right. This monster’s joints were all rusted up badly to the point where they wouldn’t be able to move anymore. He looked up at the creature’s face to see that the mouth and eyes were rusted closed in almost the same way.
“You’re right. It looks like his body’s rusted into place, probably because he’s been standing at attention for so long.”
“But this area is so dry. How could that happen to him, while the rest of his herd is in near-perfect condition?” Seraph asked. She then listened carefully to hear the faint sound of water dripping from the ceiling.
“Some parts of the desert still contain groundwater,” Ramses answered her, “If any leached through the ceiling and dripped on him as he slept, it’s likely what caused him to rust up.”
Afterwards, he sighed and said, “That’s somewhat of a relief. I can’t imagine what we’d do if we had to fight this thing or his entire herd.”
“I kind of feel sorry for him, in a way,” Chip said as he walked up to his mentor, “It’s not fair that he got frozen into place because of where he fell asleep.”
“What would you have us do, though?” Seraph retorted, “If this thing can move, he would just spring to life and attack us, right?”
Suddenly, the group heard the sound of gears moving inside the mechanical horse. Chip and Kent backed away a little bit, the Zoroark keeping his weapon drawn in case he needed to attack it. Seraph also kept her knife at the ready, but instinctively knew that it would be useless against the thing’s metallic body.
After a couple moments, they heard additional noises coming from within the machine, much like the screams of anguished souls trying to get out. Ramses quivered from the sounds, fearing that the spirits would try to consume him like they probably did countless others. A few minutes later, the howls began to stop.
“Was he waking up or something?” Seraph asked.
“It’s hard to tell…” Kent replied as he slowly approached the machine again.
Once he was alongside the Zombrong’s body, he tapped on the creature’s side with the hilt of his blade. In apparent response, the entity inside banged against the same spot. The Zoroark backed up a few steps and nodded his head.
“He’s awake, but I think he’s also come to the realization that he’s trapped.”
“So, what should we do?” Chip asked.
“First off, I want to ask him a few quick questions. Then we can be on our way.”
Kent got close to the Zombrong again and said, “To answer my questions, pound once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no.’ Did you cannibalize your herd to make yourself evolve?” Immediately afterwards, there came two banging noises from inside the creature’s body.
“Okay, then… Were you the leader of the herd of Zomborg we saw in the room after the entrance?” Again, the entity in the machine hit the side of its body twice.
“Did you intend attack us when you woke up a moment ago?” The Zombrong’s demon tapped the side of its hull once right away and then again seconds later.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” The spirit responded with an annoyed scream.
“I can’t believe this!” Ramses interjected, “You’re supposed to be helping me save my dad, not horsing around with this monster!”
“Final question, then… Are you or have you ever met a Zomborg named Ratchet?” After a few long minutes, the entity finally replied with several successive bangs.
“Alright, now I think we’ve just aggravated him,” Kent told the others, “Let’s go.” Afterwards, the group walked around the Zombrong, Ramses keeping some extra distance from it as a precaution. Then, they headed towards the opposite end of the room where the diverging passages were.
Glancing down each of the corridors, Seraph noticed that they all headed deeper underground at a bizarre angle before each led off down a different tangent. She also sensed that each passage lead to several different chambers and then continued into the depths of the ruins until they joined again in one room. Oddly enough, it didn’t seem like there were any obstacles or traps in the way to stop the group; but then, she’d only used a weak psychic pulse to see what was ahead.
“So the question is ‘Which path do we take?’” Kent said as he scratched the side of his head.
“They all lead to the same place,” Seraph replied, “But I can’t tell whether there are traps in the rooms ahead.”
“I’d say let’s take the center one just to be safe,” Chip suggested, “The side paths may take too long if they twist around and then merge together in the same room.”
“I’m with Chip,” Ramses added.
“Alright then,” Kent said as he then headed forward down the passageway. Chip followed right alongside him, while Seraph and Ramses lagged behind a little.
Once they’d left, the Zombrong went back to struggling to free his body from its rusted-in-place stance. Several moments passed before he finally managed to force the crusted iron off the joints of his front legs and move them freely. Afterwards, he got his hind legs to move again and found a way to force open the shutters that sealed his eyes shut, revealing a terrifying blood-red glare from his eye sockets.
“I… will not… be… DENIED!” he bellowed, his rasping metallic voice loosening the cap-like hatch over his mouth. Slowly the beast stomped around the room, his hooves clanging hard against the floor. Eventually, he reached the right side-path leading deeper into the temple. He instinctively knew this was the fastest route to catch up to his quarry due to there being only one room to pass through rather than the two that the other Pokémon had to. Even with his sluggish foot speed, he was certain he could catch them.
Meanwhile, Chip led the others in his group slowly into the catacombs of the temple. After several minutes of traveling through the wraparound corridor they’d chosen, the four found themselves in one of the building’s grand halls, a massive edifice constructed with a combination of sandstone bricks and solid limestone statues that supported the level above. At the center of the room, they could see the silhouette of a large tablet and several sealed sarcophagi around it. Judging by a faint scent, Seraph presumed that several creatures had been here in recent years, though it was impossible to exactly whom or what.
“Amazing!” Chip gawked, “This must have been where ancient humans who built this place interred their dead.”
“Or they were buried here to guard the temple. Some human cultures believed that their dead would come back to life if curses were put on places like this,” Kent replied as they moved further into the chamber.
“Yeah, right,” Seraph sneered, “I’ll believe that when I see it.”
“Hey!” Ramses snapped at her, “My father and I were humans in our past lives, so can it!” Seraph immediately unsheathed her knife and pointed it at him threateningly.
“And I don’t give a rat’s ass. I can still cut through with my blade and Dark Pulse.” Her weapon started to glow, and Ramses backed away from her.
“Seraph, knock it off!” Chip told her. She put the blade away and walked into the room with the others.
“Do you guys notice those stagnant odors?” Seraph asked, “Other Pokémon have been through here in recent years.”
“It would make sense given how those Zomborg congregated upstairs,” Kent replied. As they approached the center pedestal, Kent motioned for Seraph and Chip to the take the lead so she could read whatever was inscribed on it. Once Seraph reached the slab, she immediately recognized the large insignia engraved into it and backed away.
“What’s wrong?” Chip asked her.
“This tablet tells about the ancient warriors who died trying to keep the monster in this tomb at bay,” she replied, “The sealed coffins are their final resting places.”
“It must have been considered a great honor to be buried in the tomb they helped defend,” Kent commented.
“Or a final torture…” Ramses said.
“What do you mean?” Kent responded.
“Think about it. What worse way to spend your afterlife than trapped in the same tomb as the monster that killed you?”
“Don’t most spirits leave their physical bodies after death?” Chip asked.
“Not necessarily,” Ramses explained, “Some souls remain attached to their corporeal forms for years before they finally leave them. Others won’t abandon their bodies at all, even as they rot away.”
“Wow…” Kent uttered, “I guess it would be torturous to be killed by a monster and then entombed here with it.”
“Speaking of which, shouldn’t we continue onward since there doesn’t appear to be much here?” Seraph asked, peaking around the other side of the pedestal to see that there was nothing else in the room to really investigate.
“She’s right. We’ve got to get to my dad, ASAP!”
Kent nodded his head and then motioned for Chip to take the lead again as they headed around the tablet. Chip kept a few feet ahead of the others as the four reached the far end of the massive room. It slowly seemed to give way to a narrowing corridor that lead several meters into the depths of the ruins. As they continued down the path, Seraph noticed that the lingering stench of marauding Pokémon seemed to get stronger went further down the hallway; it seemed like the creatures who invaded this temple in the past never actually left.
Eventually, they arrived at the next chamber, which seemed fairly small compared the previous ones. Additionally, this room had a crudely octagonal layout with two extra passages that entered it from the sides. However, it otherwise appeared to be a dead end.
“What will we do now?” Chip asked as he ran over to the far wall.
“If we backtrack, we’ll only wind up going back towards that room where the Zombrong was,” Kent replied as he approached it too.
“There’s no way I’m going back to there!” Ramses shouted, rushing up the sandstone blockage as well, “You have to find a way through here to save my dad.”
Seraph started to walk towards them, but stopped dead in her tracks about halfway through the room. Turning her head to the tunnel on her left-hand side, she listened carefully for the sound of something metallic clanging on the floor. Squinting hard, the Skunanne saw a pair of glowing red eyes staring back at her a ways down the corridor. They hovered at least nine feet off the ground, which she knew wasn’t a good sign.
“Um, guys…” Seraph whispered as she approached with her back to her allies.
“What’s wrong, Seraph?” Kent asked her.
“We’ve got company,” she said. The Zoroark unsheathed his blade again and pointed it down the corridor Seraph was looking at.
“Chip, use Pyro Salvo down that hallway!” he then ordered.
“Yes, sir!” Chip replied as he hustled to get in front of Seraph. The weasel took a deep breath and then shot off a barrage of fireballs from the ruby embedded in his forehead. His attack went on for a distance before hitting something large and metallic. After the last fireball hit, the light radiating from the assault revealed cylindrical face of the Pokémon they encountered upstairs.
“ZOMBROOOOOOOOOONG!” the haunted machine hollered in a loud screechy voice.
“Great going! That only pissed him off,” Ramses scold him.
“I don’t get it… Steel Pokémon are supposed to be weak against fire attacks.”
“Some of his body parts are made from cast iron, making them resistant to heat.”
“Not just that…” Kent explained, “Zombrong have endowed their bodies with a curse that prevents magic from harming them. It’s the same thing that keeps spirits trapped inside them as well.”
“What are we going to do then?” Ramses whined.
“Ramses, behind me. Seraph, hand Chip his amulet. We’ll wait to see how he reacts when things suddenly go dark.”
Chip backed up towards Seraph, who in turn reached into the toolbox she was carrying for him and took out his necklace; the weasel put it on and the flames on his back immediately went out. Following Kent’s order, Ramses hid behind the Zoroark, who was now searching his bundle for his iron shield. Once he found it, Kent put the armament on his left arm and readied his machete to attack at a moment’s notice.
The sound of the entity’s metal hooves suddenly stopped a few yards away from the group, apparently right where the three hallways entered the chamber. His glowing eyes scanned the immediate area as if searching for them. Seraph surmised that Kent knew this Zombrong had the exact handicap the rest of them did, wherein it couldn’t see in pitch darkness.
“You cannot hide from me…” the mechanical horse rasped angrily, “I can sense your presences…”
“Attack!” Kent suddenly ordered as he rushed at the Zombrong with his sword held high.
Following orders, Chip cloaked himself in a shroud of blue flames and charged at the enemy as well. The Weasinge tackled the fiend first, hitting only the creature’s right leg to make his knee buckle. Once Kent got within striking distance, Chip jumped out of the way as the Zoroark took a swing at the entity’s side with the back of his weapon, which caused the monster to fall forward somewhat and then onto his side.
“STOP!” the mechanical horse demanded before Kent could take another slice at him.
“Why should we?” the Zoroark retorted.
“Because I am not your enemy!”
“What do you mean?” Chip asked, taking his amulet off so he could provide light again.
“This temple is a trap! Anyone who breaks into it become entrapped,” the Zombrong replied.
“What are you talking about? We’re here on a rescue mission,” Kent told him.
“Ha, that’s a joke! You’re the ones who need rescuing now,” the demon machine scoffed, “I’ve been trapped down here for almost twenty years.”
“How did you get trapped here?” Seraph asked, “The entrance isn’t sealed.”
“That’s the trap. A mechanism in these ruins it set to replace the stone slab any time someone destroys the previous one. Members of my herd did exactly that and we’ve been trapped down here ever since. Some of them even resorted to spiritual cannibalism just to stymie their hunger. I had to destroy those few just to end their madness.”
“That would make sense of the slaughter upstairs, but what trap are you talking about? We haven’t touched anything,” Kent told him.
“You don’t have to. Just entering this level activates the trigger. Now there is no escape.”
“I don’t believe any of this bullcrap,” Ramses replied, “Commander Zoltaine, you and your protégés need to figure out a way through this wall to save my father!” Kent and Chip turned their backs to the Zombrong before starting to walk away from him.
“Zoltaine…” the Zombrong muttered to himself and then bellowed, “HALT!” He then rocked himself onto his belly and found some footing so he could stand back upright.
“Are you by any chance related to a Zorua named Kent Zoltaine?” the demon suddenly asked.
Kent stopped and replied, “And what if I am?”
“Then I may know you… My name is Ratchet.”
The Zoroark sneered and commented, “What makes you think I give a damn? You just up and left one day without a word.”
“You know that isn’t the case at all. That stupid Saul Retford ousted me. He rallied a gang of his strongest friends and forced me to leave town.”
“Doesn’t matter. You still left without a word.”
“Hey, wait!” Chip said, stepping in front of Kent, “This Zombrong is your childhood friend you mentioned earlier? Shouldn’t you treat him with a little more respect, Commander?”
“Don’t mistake my nostalgia for sentimentality. I was just reminiscing about the Zomborg I knew as a kid, not wishing I could meet him again. Not that I know what’s become of him, I couldn’t care less,” the Zoroark cackled with a wink, “If he wants to make himself useful, he can start by helping us break through that wall.”
“Hmm?” Ratchet groaned. Suddenly he stomped towards a spot between Seraph and Ramses. After he stopped, the cover of his mouth flung open and he began to form a Shadow Ball in front of his face. Ramses and Seraph fled as the mechanical launched several spheres at the wall in rapid succession. When he was done, the barrier was completely destroyed, revealing the next corridor hidden behind it.
“Are you satisfied, Kent?” the robot asked.
“Good. Shall we proceed together, then?”
“Yes.” Afterwards, Ratchet, Seraph, and Chip headed into the next hallway. Ramses, however, lingered significantly behind the others. Kent noticed immediately and waited somewhat back as well.
“You three go on ahead. Ramses and I will catch up,” he told the others. Chip looked at him momentarily and nodded. He then returned his gaze forward and lead the other two down the corridor.
After several moments of silence, Seraph turned to Ratchet and asked him, “Why are you being so nice? The way you howled back there, I swore you were going to try and kill us.”
“It is not in my nature to kill, unlike the rest of my kind,” he responded, “I only howled because I was trying to warn you about the trap this temple has.”
“How do you know it’s a trap?”
“I came here with my newfound herd twenty years ago in search wayward souls we could consume. There was a slab against the temple’s entrance, which I destroyed. When we entered these ruins and later came back to the entrance, it was sealed again. I couldn’t destroy the new slab, however.”
“That doesn’t make any sense… When we got here the entrance was open again.”
“You did not break the slab?” She shook her head.
“Ramses’ dad must have or something because the entrance was wide open when we got here. We’re here to rescue his father,” Chip explained.
“I presume that is the Yamask’s name?” Both of them nodded.
“My name’s Chip and she’s Seraph, by the way,” the Weasinge added.
“I shall memorize that.”
As the hallway ended, it gave way to another immense chamber. From limited lighting, the room looked like it had been carved out of solid rock into a circular basin. They couldn’t see the far side, but the floor appeared to slope gradually towards the center of the arena. Overhead, Seraph could see faint light filtering down through the same pit they’d found in the middle of the entry chamber; however, there wasn’t enough light to actually see what lied ahead.
“Do you think this is the final chamber?” Chip asked.
“I would think so,” Seraph replied. Ratchet remained silent as he scanned the areas off in the darkness.
After a few seconds, he stopped and said, “I am detecting the presences of numerous Pokémon lurking in the shadows.”
“What?” Chip squealed, “Are you kidding?” The mechanical horse turned his head to the right and started walking towards one of the Pokémon he’d sensed. Chip and Seraph looked at each other, but then followed after him.
They came upon a statue of a Gallade just a few yards from where they previously were. The scrawny humanoid had his arms in front of his face with the blades on his elbows extended to their full length. Additionally, the creature had a look of utter terror on his face, as though he’d just seen a glimpse of death.
“Congratulations! You’ve found yourself a statue,” Seraph said, pawing her forehead.
“Well, it is pretty lifelike, Seraph. Give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“I beg to differ…” Ratchet explained, “Closer inspection shows that this Pokémon has been petrified.”
“Petrified?” the two questioned.
“Turned to stone. It appears to have been done through a process akin to fossilization too, but somehow it was instantaneous.”
“Turned to stone?” Chip said nervously, “What could’ve possibly done that?”
“To my knowledge…nothing…”
“Oh, please!” Seraph scoffed, “You honestly expect me to believe that this statue was once alive?”
“Sense for its spirit, then!” Ratchet demanded.
“Fine.” Seraph closed her eyes and focused her telepathy on the statue. Instantly she felt that the remaining tatters of the soul that had been forcibly reaped from the Gallade’s body.
“Its soul has been purged from the body,” she gasped, “Only small fragments of the creature’s essence remain.”
“What are you saying, Seraph?” Chip asked her.
“A soul eater consumed it, along with the souls of all other Pokémon whom have ever set foot in here,” Ratchet elaborated.
“You mean, like you?” Chip replied nervously.
“Do not be ridiculous! I’ve never once set foot in here.”
“This makes me wonder about that warning scrawled into the entrance’s walls,” Seraph interrupted
“Warning?” Ratchet asked.
“It was written in the first language I learned, but it wasn’t specific. Also, I’m starting to think that the same monster who did this to these intruders may have done the same to Ramses’ dad.” Seraph looked around for a moment to see if she could make out anything that looked like a Cohagrigus with the limited light Chip’s back-flames provided. Alas, she couldn’t make out anything.
“I am detecting a strong amount of spiritual energy from a focused point near the center of the room,” Ratchet added.
“Let’s investigate!” Chip ordered. Seraph nodded, and then the threesome headed further into the room.
Once they’d reached the bottom of the slope, Chip stopped dead in his tracks, awestruck by what his flame revealed. Before them was perhaps the largest intact fossil that he’d ever see, the twenty-two-foot tall carapace of an ancient terrapin. The monster’s shell had three gigantic rock spires jutting out of its forty-foot long backside, while the rest of it appeared to be fossilized with like cracks in its surface.
“Whoa, this guy must’ve been huge!” Chip screamed excitedly, “Just look at the size of this fossil!”
“Geez, Chip! Shut up,” Seraph told him.
“Seraph, do you have any idea how much a fossil this size is worth? And it’s completely intact!”
“Did you even consider how you’d get this thing out of here?” she retorted, “I don’t think so, so knock it off.”
“Aw, come on, Seraph…” he said, moving around to the front of the giant turtle. On his way towards the head, he noticed that the bones that once made up the creature’s flippers were lying neatly on the ground alongside of it.
“Look. More bones! We can probably take these with us as proof that we found this thing. They probably aren’t worth much, but should still fetch a good price.” He picked one up and threw it towards her. She caught it and clutched it in her paw.
He continued towards the creature’s face to see if the skull was still in one piece as well. As he approached it, he noticed that the reptile’s head lied several feet away from the rest of its body, with no vertebrae connecting it to the rest of its form. The skull itself was proportionally as massive as the rest of its body, about five feet long, three feet high, and a meter-and-a-half wide. Its mouth extended over two feet out from its brow line, and its eye sockets seemed to slant in towards. There were small cracks and fractures all across the fossil, but surprisingly its jagged teeth seemed perfectly preserved.
“Cool! He was a predator!”
“Chip, are you sure we should be so close to this thing?”
“Of course, why not? It’s just a fossil. This thing’s been dead for years.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of…”
Ratchet walked over to them and stated, “This would appear to be the source of spiritual energy I am detection. Or rather, a single point on the fossil’s forehead is exuding a malevolent aura unlike anything I have ever seen.” Seraph and Chip moved to the front of the creature’s face to get a better look. They both saw that there was a straight-bladed dagger with a golden hilt wedged into one of the cracks on the creature’s forehead.
“I wonder how that got there,” Chip said as he suddenly climbed onto the monster’s snout.
“Calm down. I’m not going to touch it.”
“If you say so…” she said. Something then caught her eye off to the side of the beast.
She went over to look at the object and then realized that it was another Pokémon statue. In the limited light, she noticed that the creature appeared to be vaguely like the coffins they’d just seen in the one room. However, it was somewhat narrower than the sarcophagi and had an area near the top where a human’s head would’ve rested. There also appeared to be a mask similar to Ramses’ engraved onto the headrest.
‘Is this Ramses’ father?’ Seraph thought to herself.
Meanwhile, Chip got close enough to examine the dagger wedged into the crack in the giant fossil’s skull. It appeared to exude a faint purple aura that seemingly pulsed into the fracture. Likewise, Chip noticed that a blackish mist appeared to be seeping from the fissure, almost as though it were trying push the blade out.
“Hey, it looks like something’s inside the skull.”
“I advise against touching that weapon,” Ratchet said.
“I’m not going to, but it looks like something’s trying to force it out from inside the skull.”
He blinked momentarily and then noticed that someone was watching him from overhead. Chip glance up from the weapon to see the silhouette of a humanoid Pokémon standing atop the highest spire on the terrapin’s back. The husky figure wore a heavy sheepskin cloak with the hood drawn over his head. Underneath the cowl, the weasel could see that the entity had two pairs of glowing amber eyes that focused directly on him. Slowly, the creature held his right hand to reveal a glowing eyeball shaped tattoo on his palm.
“Uh…guys…? Who…who is that?” he then asked, pointing his paw nervously at the Pokémon. Ratchet and Seraph looked at him, and then in the direction he was staring at. Neither of them could see anything in the darkness beyond the light of his flames.
In the next moment, the entity clenched his hand in a pulling fashion and the dagger suddenly flew into his palm hilt-first. Afterwards, the humanoid leapt from the fossil’s backside to floor. Seraph caught a glimpse of him as he landed, but he vanished into the shadows before she could call out to him.
“Kay…ner…sha…” a heinous voice then rasped from inside the dead terrapin’s skull. Chip’s entire body immediately became paralyzed with pure terror. Ratchet started to back away from the fossil before turning his body around and trying to flee in a full gallop.
“Chip, get out of there!” Seraph screamed before running away herself. The bone Chip handed her suddenly flew out her paw and back to where they originally found it.
“I…I can’t!” he cried.
“I…am going…to damn you… TO HELL!!!” the terrapin bellowed as he reared his head backwards.
Seraph stopped partway up the slope to see the monster materialize large phantasmal flippers at near the front and rear of its carapace. The creature forced his body towards the ceiling and almost threw Chip off of his head. Afterwards, the entity laid back on his belly, but started to levitate just above the floor.
“Seraph, Ratchet!” Kent called as he came running out of the hallway. Ramses followed right alongside him, psychically holding a small purplish-blue fireball between his palms. Its light revealed that Ratchet was just a few feet down the slope away from Seraph.
“My god…” Kent gasped, shocked by the sight of the angered beast, “Where’s Chip?”
“On that thing’s forehead!” Seraph replied.
They watched as the eyeless monster scanned the room back and forth, looking for his target. Meanwhile, Chip tried digging his claws as deep as he could into the fractures along the terrapin’s skull, hanging on for dear life. The monster roared ferociously as he saw that his quarry was no longer nearby.
“CANERSIA!!! Stop hiding, you coward!” he bellowed as he rested momentarily.
“Ramses, is that the monster you were talking about?” Kent asked their client.
“Uh, I… I think s-s-s-so…” the Yamask stuttered, “But I thought he was just a head. I had no idea that’s what he actually looked like.”
“No crap! He’s gigantic!” Seraph yelled.
After a few seconds, the monster’s red irises finally appeared in his eye sockets and began to look around the room. For a time, they seemed to ignore Chip completely, but suddenly focused on the others.
“You again!” the being shouted, recognizing Ramses at a distance. Chip whimpered as soon as the creature began to turn his head again.
Immediately, the phantom focused his irises on the Weasinge and bellowed, “Who are you, and why are you on my maw?”
“I-I-I… PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!!!” Chip screamed. The monster suddenly shook his head and flung the weasel several feet off to his side. Chip miraculously landed on his feet and darted towards the allies.
“What is he?” Chip whimpered as he got close to the group. The monster’s eyes glowed menacingly in the darkness as he turned towards them.
“I believe he is called a Carastone,” Ratchet explained.
“A Carastone?” Kent sneered, “I thought they were supposed to be a myth.”
“What’s a Carastone, Commander?” Chip asked
“In ancient times, they were hostile predators that swam the primordial seas. After death, their spirits remained attached to their corpses, even as they decayed and their bones became fossilized. That’s what allows it to sleep for eons undisturbed.”
“And you knew this without saying anything?” Seraph yelled at him.
“You are all going to die down here!” Carastone declared with a terrifying rasp. Then, a large glowing orb shot at them from his mouth.
“Dodge!” Kent ordered. Seraph and Chip darted to one side, while Kent pushed Ramses to the other. Ratchet just stood still and took the attack head-on. Once the orb dissipated, the others looked up to see that Ratchet just stood there, clearly unfazed by the oversized Shadow Ball.
“Ratchet, are you alright?” Kent asked.
“Yes,” the Zombrong replied. Afterwards, he retaliated with a Shadow Ball of his own. As the attack hit, Carastone’s eyes moved to the left and his carapace took the blow instead.
“Such pitiful attacks are worthless!” he then wailed. Carastone then slammed his body into the ground to unleash an Earthquake attack. The resulting shockwaves spread out from his massive shell and heaved up the floor beneath Ratchet and the others. Ratchet got knocked onto his side while Seraph, Kent, and Chip fell hard on their backs; coincidentally, Ramses had enough sense to float high enough off the ground to avoid being struck down.
“How the hell do we fight this thing?” Seraph yelled angrily as she stood back up, “He didn’t even feel Ratchet’s attack!”
“What did you do to enrage him?” Kent asked, standing up.
“We didn’t do anything,” Chip explained as he got back on his feet, “He had a knife wedged into his forehead, and somebody in the shadows pulled it out with psychokinesis.”
“And how do I know you didn’t pull out the knife?” his teacher inquired.
“I saw him too, but he fled right as Carastone woke up,” Seraph replied. Kent stared at her skeptically.
“I sense that his head is his only weak spot,” Ratchet told them as he managed to stand back upright.
Turning his head to them, he continued, “If I can use Shadow Force against his side, it may provide enough of an impact to topple him on his side. Then, you may have a chance to attack him on your own.”
“Are you sure you’re up for that?” Kent asked, “You’ve already taken a hell of a beating.” Ratchet returned his gaze towards Carastone and started walking towards the monster. After a few seconds, he vanished into thin air.
“Ramses, stay put!” Kent then ordered, “Seraph, Chip, let’s get as close to Carastone as we can to distract him.” The three then ran diagonally downhill towards the enraged fossil.
“Hey, *sshole!” Seraph called out to him as they weaved back and forth between the miscellaneous statues crowding the pit. Carastone turned his head to lock eyes with her and growled. As they got closer to him, the light from Chip’s flame revealed the malevolent expression on the terrapin’s face, his teeth apparently clenched and his eyes glowing brightly now.
“DIE!” the fossil shouted. He opened his maw widely and created a massive gray vortex from it.
“Get down!” Kent shouted as he grabbed his protégés and pushed them face-first onto the floor. A second later, they watched as ethereal mists rose from the statues and get sucked into the virtual tornado.
“Soul Sucker? Damn, he’s serious if he’s breaking out a move that powerful,” he then said as the vortex diminished.
“What? I thought that attack was outlawed in Pokémon Square,” Chip said, getting back up along with his friends.
“This isn’t Pokémon Square. If any of us get caught up in it, we’re dead,” Seraph said as they started running again.
Carastone tried to follow their movements with his eyes. The three were getting closer, but he wanted to wait to attack them at pointblank. However, he had the sinking feeling that something was wrong…as though he’d forgotten about something.
Suddenly he heard the sound of screeching metal, and then felt something hard crash into his left torso. The impact caused his slightly-elevated shell slide somewhat across the floor before finally tipping upward and forcing him onto his side. His head suddenly disconnected from his main body and fell onto the ground.
Seeing the opening to attack, Kent charged the skull with his machete held out to his side. Likewise, Seraph ran towards the fossil with her dagger pointed to the ceiling. Her knife glowed with a purplish gleam as she slashed forward to unleash a shockwave from her Dark Pulse attack. Right as her attack hit the front Carastone’s head, Kent jabbed his weapon into the demon’s right eye, both of which made the fossilized terrapin cry out in horrific pain. After a long moment, Kent withdrew his blade and watched as Carastone’s irises immediately disappeared.
“I think…we won!” the Zoroark then declared.
Ratchet’s body rematerialized several feet behind Kent. The Zombrong slowly approached his old friend, taking care to watch Carastone’s body just in case it fell over on top of them. Seraph and Chip also came over by their team leader, ready to praise him for an awesome job.
“Dad!” Ramses called out as he suddenly hovered over by them, “DAD?” As the Yamask looked around for his father, he inadvertently lingered nearby Carastone’s forehead.
“I am not done with you, boy!” Carastone’s voice bellowed throughout the chamber. Kent readied his weapon again, prepared to go another round with the monster.
“Disarm yourselves!” Carastone then demanded, “I have no quarrel with you four anymore.” The monster’s eyes regenerated and focused strictly on Ramses. The Yamask immediately yelped and hid behind Kent’s hair.
“Why did you attack us?” Chip yelled. Carastone’s body fell back to ground level with a heavy boom.
The fossil raised his head to look at the group and said, “This temple is my home. I have lived here for millennia, long before you were even born! I shall protect it from intruders at all cost.”
“Is that so…?” Seraph commented, looking back at Ramses.
“The Yamask you are escorting… He trespassed here with his father but a few days ago. I consumed his father’s soul and petrified his body as an example that I do not tolerate invasion whatsoever.”
“Isn’t that a bit cruel?” Kent replied.
“Normally, my groans and howls are enough to scare any thieves off. But, once in a great while, they actually make it this far into my sanctum. Rarely I encounter those bold enough to try and fight against a monster like me, even after I tell them firmly to get out. Only then do I resort to petrifying victims.”
“Hey, my dad and I aren’t thieves!” Ramses shouted as he flew right in front of Carastone’s face.
The terrapin snorted him away and retorted, “LIAR! You know damn well that you’re a thief! Now, be gone and never let me see you again!” The Yamask was so terrified that he fled out the hole he’d originally used to enter the chamber with his father.
“Hey, he was our client!” Kent reprimanded him.
“You would do better to avoid working for swindlers like him. His father’s death is indeed justified.”
“What are you talking about?”
“In addition to living in this temple, I am also the assigned guardian of a sacred treasure. The likes of which, no one must obtain.”
“A treasure?” Chip and Seraph asked gleefully.
“Correct. The knowledge of this trinket is limited to only folklore, but I can confirm that it does indeed exist.”
“What is it?” the two replied.
“A Nostalgia Crystal…” he whispered.
“Nostalgia Crystal?” all four of them questioned.
“It is an object of immense power capable of overpowering even the darkest emotions. In the same stride, it can be used to unleash a terrible apocalypse upon the world.”
“Say what?” Chip quivered.
“Fear not. It can only be used in conjunction with two other crystals,” Carastone explained, “But I fear there are forces that wish to use them for just that purpose.”
“What do you mean?” Seraph asked.
“The crystal I guarded was stolen by another intruder shortly after I repelled that Yamask.”
“That’s terrible!” Kent said.
Chip’s eyes widened and he said, “I saw a shadowy figure with four glowing eyes just before you woke up and went on a rampage. Was that the guy who jammed a knife in your forehead?”
“Indeed. He is an accursed beast known as Canersia… He hexed his blade to suppress my soul while he stole the crystal.”
“Isn’t there anyway to get it back?” Chip asked.
“I fear that there is not… Canersia is one Pokémon that you do not want to encounter. He’s one of the most ruthless entities in all existence and nearly impossible to track. His psychic abilities are said to be unparalleled.”
“Oh, I see…” the weasel sighed.
“If there is anything we can do to help, can you let us know?” Kent then asked.
“I am afraid not… Just know that this is part of an even greater cataclysm to follow.” Kent and the others looked at each other concerned.
“If you can find the other gemstones, you may be able to stop this catastrophe. However, there are other forces that will try to stop you. This is all I can say…” Carastone finished. Afterwards, he rested his head upon the ground and prepared to go into a deep slumber.
“Let’s return home,” Kent replied, leading the group away from the fossilized terrapin. When they were far enough away, he took out his Teleport Stone. In a brilliant flash, the four warped out of the temple, back to Pokémon Square.
<End Chapter Six>
February 3rd, 2014 (10:38 AM).
“No, no… Please, NOOO!!!!” a young Rattata cried as she dashed frantically through the underbrush.
Doxisite followed closely as he slithered behind his prey. To his eyes, the one-foot long mammal looked like a bluish-white rodent with stumpy red paws and a curled white tail. She wasn’t going to be a full meal, but she would suffice until he could find more suitable prey.
Futilely, the small creature tried to dart from back and forth in order to distract her pursuer. However, the viper-leech matched her movements with his head. At last he snapped at her body, catching it right between his front fangs. Holding her upward, Doxisite let some of her blood drip down his gullet. As it did, he lapped it up with his narrow tube-like suckers, and then injected them right into his victim’s neck to drain the rest of her fluids before rigor mortis set in. In a split-second, he’d sucked her corpse dry to the point where it almost imploded.
“Delicious…” he clicked, throwing her body into the weeds so it wouldn’t be found.
It had taken several days of travel from the island, but he’d finally found a feeding ground plentiful enough to sate even his veracious appetite. Though, admittedly, the prey in this area was quite meager and he needed to kill several victims just to keep his hunger under wraps. Of course, they were mostly vermin that nobody would likely miss.
Slowly he made his way back to the main road, where his accomplice waited for him to return. The zombified Alakazam stood motionlessly as the leech wrapped himself around his backside and lingered on his shoulder.
“What are your orders, master…?” the humanoid gargled, his throat and veins filled the primordial ooze that gave birth to Doxisite.
“I hear there is a town nearby… Take me to it!” the viper-leech ordered.
“As you wish,” Alakazam responded, his eyes glowing red with a black slit down their middle. The psychic suddenly teleported them away from the forest.
Seraph yawned loudly as she stretched herself out atop of Ratchet’s back as the Zombrong followed Chip and Kent down the forest path. Wanting to keep a low profile, Kent had teleported the group to the outskirts of Pokémon Square hoping to sneak his old friend into the village without Saul noticing. It was nearly dark and any diurnal townsfolk would likely be going to sleep soon, making this a prime opportunity.
“So, Ratchet,” Seraph said as she snuggled up near the ungulate’s head. The machine looked back at her inquisitively.
“What’s it feel like going home after so many years trapped down in those ruins?”
“In all honesty,” he replied, “I never considered Pokémon Square my actual home…” Glancing down the path, he made out the distinct outline of the footbridge leading into the village.
“Why is that?” Chip inquired.
“My kind is nomadic. We do not linger in any place for too long, even though most are driven simply by the desire to feed.”
“Well, besides that, didn’t you mention something about Saul driving you out?” Seraph added.
“Saul Retford is distrusting of anyone he does not know personally. I do not expect him to have changed his ways, even after all this time.”
“How do you know he’s still alive?” Chip then asked.
“Metalupus pride themselves on their longevity. They do not succumb to old age the same way you would. Saul was only thirty-five when I saw him last.”
“Thirty-five back then? I thought he was only forty-five now,” the weasel pondered.
“Saul hides his age pretty well, but he isn’t the titan he once was. When he gets injured, it takes a while for him to recover from it,” Kent explained, “But never underestimate him. His strength is as formidable as ever.”
As the group reached the bridge, Kent stopped them so he could go on to scout ahead. When he saw the coast was clear, he waved them onward and led them to a path between houses where he knew nobody would see them. After they reached Katherine’s storage huts, he motioned for Ratchet to wait while he went to find the elderly Kangaskhan and ask if she could help hide him. Once the Zoroark took off, Seraph jumped down from Ratchet’s back.
“Well, this is going to end badly…” she then sighed.
“What do you mean, Seraph?” Chip asked her.
“How are we going to hide Ratchet from Saul? It’s not like he can just duck down in a corner and lie there inconspicuously.”
“I suppose you’re right, but that’s why we’re getting Katherine to help!” he said, wagging his tail. Ratchet huffed and then glanced down at him angrily.
“What’s wrong, Ratchet?” Chip then asked.
“Katherine and I did not know each other very well. I doubt she’ll even recognize me, let alone help.”
“But that was twenty years ago.”
“And she was a bitter woman back then. I don’t want to know what she’s like now.”
After a few moments, the three heard footsteps. Two shadows appeared from around the corner, distinctly those of Katherine and Commander Zoltaine. As the two creatures appeared in front of them, Ratchet backed away a couple paces.
The Kangaskhan stood there quietly a moment before saying, “My god, it really is you…” Ratchet looked away, reluctant to make eye contact with her.
“Alright then,” she continued, motioning towards one of her nearby warehouses, “I’ve got a place where you can stay the night. But I want you gone by morning.”
“What?” Chip squealed, “Why?”
“She hates my kind, like many Pokémon do… That was the reason I was exiled to begin with,” Ratchet explained.
“I want nothing to do with Zomborg or Zombrong, Chip. If Ratchet were any other kind of Pokémon, he would be welcomed with open arms. But he’s too dangerous to keep around for too long. He’ll only attract others of his species over time. This is why he has to leave by morning,” Katherine added as she led them around to the front of one of her storage huts.
The building was a long rectangular shack made from massive logs, which had been tied together with the gaps sealed with clay. Its roof had a pointed pinnacle with bark shingles covering it from the top downward. There was a crude door made from a single piece of wood that had a crude latch on the side Katherine pushed on to make it release. As she swung the gate open wide, the group saw that the hut contained a treasure trove of miscellaneous larder, weapons, and tools that Katherine’s customers entrusted her to store.
“There’s some room in the far corner. You can settle down there for the night,” she told Ratchet as he started to walk inside, “But I want you gone before dawn. Kent agreed to escort you out of town.” After he was inside, he went into the far left corner and laid himself down for the night. Katherine closed the door slowly while leering at him, and then locked him inside for the evening. Suddenly, she backhanded Commander Zoltaine who was standing right behind her.
“Damn it, woman! What the hell was that for?” he yelped.
“Your incompetence... I just pray that Chip doesn’t follow the examples you’re starting to set for him.” Afterwards, she walked away and headed home.
“Commander, what happened twenty years ago between her and Ratchet?” Chip asked as Kent rubbed the side of his face.
“Nothing… Her hatred for Zomborg goes all the way back to childhood when she had a near-death encounter with a herd of Zomborg. They say she narrowly escaped only because another Pokémon gave his life to save her. That Pokémon was Saul’s grandfather, Leon Retford. It’s the same reason why Saul has a grudge against them too, because he knew that his grandfather got killed by a herd of them.”
“Do you know how many Zomborg there were at the time?”
“Three or four. It wasn’t a large herd like the one we saw in those ruins today.”
“But that’s still no excuse for treating Ratchet so badly.”
“That’s the price he pays for being what he is. I’m sure Ratchet accepts that easily enough,” Kent said.
Standing authoritatively, he continued, “We need to report that we couldn’t complete the mission. Saul is going to want to be briefed on the details of what happened, so I’ll need you two there to describe the encounter with Carastone.”
“Really?” Seraph sighed, “We can’t just call it a night?”
“It’s protocol, Seraph,” Chip explained, “We need to give a report as soon as we return from a mission, whether we completed it or not.”
‘Sounds more like a load of bullcrap to me…’ she sneered.
“At this time of day, he should be around the Pelipper Post Office addressing night patrols about recent occurrences and things to keep an eye out for. It won’t take long…” Kent told her. Afterwards, he motioned for his protégés to follow him as he led them across town to the Rescue Corps adopted command center.
As they traveled through town, Seraph felt an air of foreboding starting to develop amongst the denizens of Pokémon Square. She knew that most of the creatures were terrified to be out after nightfall, but this evening seemed particularly odd. Everybody they passed appeared to eye her nervously, perhaps due to the other night’s altercation or more likely out of simple distrust for naturally nocturnal Pokémon. At one point, though, she took notice of an unidentifiable creature staring at her from an alcove between two houses; she didn’t have time to get a good look at him, but she did see how he had slanted red eyes and an unnaturally large grin.
Once they’d finally arrived at headquarters, the threesome stopped to listen in as Saul addressed the members of Team Hellfire about their patrol for the evening.
“Gentlemen and lady…” Saul greeted them, “I have heard terrible rumors that several Rattata have turned up dead on the outskirts of town within the past twelve hours. Whilst I am not obliged to believe them, as such vermin are no longer permitted in town, I must advice you to be on the lookout for any unknown predators lurking on or within our borders. If you find anyone at all who hasn’t been seen here before, you have orders to use lethal force if necessary. Do you understand?”
“Ah, that’s a joke,” Leona scoffed as she revealed her claws, “The only ‘predator’ anyone needs to worry about is me.”
“I wouldn’t be so cocky, Leona!” Saul reprimanded her, raising his talons, “We have no idea what, if anything, this creature is.”
“Got it, sir!” Chet replied, raising his right claw in salute.
“We’ll keep Leona under control, Captain. Don’t worry about that,” Charon added.
“You are dismissed then.” Team Hellfire then turned to leave, not saying so much as a word as they passed by Seraph, Kent, and Chip.
After they were out of sight, Saul turned to Kent and shouted, “What the hell happened?”
“Yikes, settle down, Saul!” the Zoroark replied, “You’re going to burst a blood vessel.”
“Explain why a Yamask by the name of Ramses showed up just a few minutes before you did and yakked my ear off about how you failed to rescue his father and then almost got his soul consumed by a Zombrong!”
“He said that?” Seraph sighed.
“He also said that you, Seraph, assaulted him several times with that Dark Pulse attack you unleash from your knife!”
“That’s a load of crap!” she retorted, “Did he mention that the tomb was guarded by a Carastone, or even that he and his father were thieves who infiltrated it just to plunder whatever artifacts were inside?”
“How dare you make such accusations of your client?” he roared, “You were supposed to help him and you failed…MISERABLY!!! I should have your head for this!” The wolf approached her and raised his right paw to slash at her with its talons. As he swung, Kent blocked his attack by catching his machete in the hooks of Saul’s weapon.
“Stop, Saul! She’s telling the truth,” Kent yelled, holding the backside of his blade with both hands.
Saul pulled his paw away and said, “If this is true, then why didn’t Ramses come back howling about how you almost got him fed to a Zombrong and say nothing about the Carastone? They’re equally deadly monsters, but Carastone are particularly dangerous because they can petrify their victims’ bodies and consume their souls.”
“Probably because Carastone scared the living crap out of him,” Seraph giggled, “Carastone was still p*ssed off at him after their previous encounter.”
“Sir…” Chip interrupted, “Ramses sent out a communiqué without full details about what was going on. This would dictate a ‘false alarm,’ and therefore our mission wasn’t so much a failure as opposed to a waste of time.”
Saul cleared his throat and replied, “So, you think that this mission should be scratched from the logbooks? You do understand that regardless of whether I do that or not, you’ll still need to complete yet another mission to make up for this before you’ll be allowed to graduate from basic training, Cadet?”
“I understand, sir, but my point is that the mission didn’t count because Ramses withheld information that we needed to know ahead of time.”
“Very well then…” Saul said, backing away, “Consider yourselves dismissed for today. I expect you to be back to work right away tomorrow morning.” The Metalupus turned and headed into the post office to take care of the evening’s paperwork.
“I suppose that’s it for the night,” Kent said, “Make sure you both get a good night’s sleep because we’re probably going to have a full day tomorrow making up for today’s loss.”
“Alright, sir,” Chip replied, “We’ll reconvene here at dawn as usual.”
“Fair enough. Good night, Chip! Good night, Seraph!” the Zoroark replied, nodding at each of them. Then he headed back to the village proper.
A few seconds after Kent was gone, Seraph and Chip walked each other into town too. As they reached the crossroads at the middle of town, Seraph stopped and looked around for a couple moments.
“What’s wrong?” Chip asked her.
“Have you noticed something odd about the town this evening?” she replied.
“No more so than usual.”
She hummed to herself a little bit and then replied, “I saw some Pokémon eyeing me on our way through town earlier.”
“They’re probably still distrustful towards you for what you did the other night.”
Seraph shook her head and mentioned, “I noticed that there was a peculiar Pokémon glaring at me from an alleyway between two houses on our way from Katherine’s storage units. He didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before. In fact, I couldn’t really tell what he was at all.”
“Well, that doesn’t mean anything. We get so many visitors here throughout the day, it’s impossible to keep track of who is who.”
“I hope you’re right…” she replied, looking away and rubbing her arm nervously with her paw, “I just didn’t like the look that thing gave me. It seemed like he was sizing me up for dinner.”
“Now you’re just being ridiculous,” Chip laughed, “You’re probably just tired from the day. Head back to Katherine’s, and see if she’s got supper ready. I’m heading home to myself a meal too. See you in the morning, Seraph.” The Weasinge headed down the southward street from where they were, and eventually took a left down the path leading to his hut. Sighing, Seraph turned around and walk down the same street he did until she reached the footpath that led to Katherine’s home.
As she traipsed down the trail leading to her caretaker’s home, Seraph’s ear twitched wildly as she heard the same creature she’d told Chip about suddenly slithering behind her. The Skunanne remained silent as she staggered into a slight jog, not wanting to completely let on that she knew the thing now pursued her. After several moments of dead silence, Seraph finally pivoted around to unleash a Psycho Cut attack with a swing from her Luna Fang. With viper-like speed, her pursuer literally slingshot his body between two houses and slithered away as quickly as he could. Seraph tried to glance between the crevasse he’d escaped through to see what the thing was, but he moved to fast for her to spot him; she only noticed how he had strange lime-green and black rings coursing the entirety of his body.
“Seraph, dinner!” Katherine called from a few houses down. Seraph put her knife into its sheath and headed towards the Kangaskhan’s home. Once inside, she took extra care to watch outside as she closed the door, just in case the Pokémon followed her again.
Katherine set two plates of berries on the table in the middle of the hut and then glanced at Seraph. She grinned at the girl for a moment, seeing that Seraph kept the bow on the she gave her to wear this morning. After an awkward moment of silence, however, the Kangaskhan began to frown somewhat.
“What’s the matter, Sweetheart?” Kathy asked as the girl finally set down her backpack, knife, and buckler.
“I was being stalked by somebody,” the Skunanne replied.
“Really? Who?” the marsupial asked, putting her hand to her mouth.
“That’s the thing. I don’t know.” Seraph plopped herself on the floor in front of the plate Katherine had set on the right side of the table.
Kathy sat across from her and said, “That’s not much of a surprise. Many Pokémon come through town on a daily basis, so it’s likely someone who’s just taken a sudden interest in you. I’m sure all they wanted to do was talk.”
“I don’t think so… This guy looked hungry to me.”
“Oh, now that’s just preposterous!” the elderly Pokémon laughed.
“That’s what Chip said, but I’m not so sure…” Seraph sighed, “Is it true that some Rattata were found dead on the outskirts of town today?”
“Oh, well, I guess… Saul mentioned something to that effect when I spoke with him this afternoon, but I didn’t think anything of it. Even if it is true, they’re just Rattata. They get eaten all the time.”
“Well, I overheard him before we gave tonight’s ‘report’ on our mission. It sounded like there may be a connection.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Sweetie. If there’s anything this mystery Pokémon is involved with, it’s up to Saul to handle it, not you,” Kathy continued, “Now, eat your fruit.”
“Alright,” Seraph replied. She then started eating her meal.
After about ten minutes, the two of them had finished their food and Katherine had put their plates away. For a time later, they exchanged stories about what happened during their day. Seraph went into extra lengthy detail explaining about how her team had come up on the Zomborg herd, found Ratchet, and then stopped Carastone from rampaging in the depths of the temple. Katherine offered up only a short rundown of her daily clients and some gossip about the embarrassing things they do when they don’t think anyone’s around, including a stint about how Silas constantly plucks gray hairs from his beard and moustache to make himself look younger than he really is.
Once their giggling and storytelling was done, the two decided it was time to go to bed. Seraph lied in a modest pile of leaves right against the far wall across from the entrance, while Kathy slept in a larger one nearby. Getting settled under her Linoone-skin blanket, Seraph said her final ‘good night’ to Katherine, closed her eyes, and quickly fell asleep.
In the midst of her slumber, Seraph sensed that something strange about to happen. As she dreamt, she thought she could hear the faint sounds of someone panting as they tried to run down an empty street. Minutes later, the Skunanne awoke to a terrifying scream from somewhere in the village. Glancing at around disoriented, she saw that Katherine hadn’t been waken by the ghastly noise. Not wanting to disturb her caretaker, Seraph stood up and tiptoed around the elderly Kangaskhan quietly. Seraph went over to grab her knife and buckler before heading outdoors to investigate.
She had been asleep for at least a few hours, given how she was able to see perfectly in the moonlight. At this time of night, only Team Hellfire and possibly a few other patrols were likely out. Her first instinct, though, was to avoid them at all costs and hunt down her stalker from earlier.
Sniffing the air, she could tell that something had just been killed. The scent of blood was fresh on the wind, and her gut told her that the killed occurred towards the north side of town. Immediately she headed around the backside of Katherine’s home and hastily made her way between houses until she reached the main street leading through town.
Upon reaching the paved road, she came upon a rather disturbing sight. Leona from Team Hellfire lied dead in the middle of the street facing her as a dried up husk of a corpse. The Luxray’s skin was tight to her bones, and she had a gaping elliptical bite mark on the back of her neck with a puncture wound at its center.
“LEONA!” Chet the Weavile called as he and Charon the Obseon raced over to her dead body.
“My god… Seraph, what the hell happened?” Charon asked as he hovered over and examined Leona’s wound.
“I just got here,” she explained, “I heard her scream from Katherine’s house.”
“We heard her all the way on the other side of town,” Chet explained.
“This is terrible! What could’ve possibly done this?”
“A parasite…”a raspy voice spoke from the shadows behind Seraph. The Skunanne stepped forward and then pivoted to see the muscular silhouette of a bipedal reptile leering at her. As he walked towards her, she recognized him as the Draconai she’d seen yesterday at her tribunal.
“Lord Draconai…” Charon hissed, “What are you doing out at this hour?” Draconai lashed at Charon with the razor-sharp claws on his fingertips, forcing the ghost fox to recoil somewhat.
“I did not give you permission to speak to me, troglodyte.”
“Troglodyte?” Chet asked confusedly.
“It’s an insult!” Draconai then barked.
“Oh…” the Weavile cowered.
“Excuse me, but what do you mean by ‘a parasite?’” Seraph asked Draconai sternly, “What kind of a parasite can feed like that?”
“This isn’t a normal parasite. I just happened to get a glimpse of him before he disappeared. He’s easily over eight feet long, and his body seems like it can contract or expand as needed.”
“Which direction did he head off in?”
“That’s the problem… He didn’t leave on his own. Somebody is helping him hide,” Draconai said disappointedly.
“The leader of Team ACT and my best friend…Alakazam…”
“What?” Chet and Charon barked.
“Who?” Seraph questioned.
“Seraph, Alakazam is a veteran in the Rescue Corps,” Charon explained, “His team is only a few weeks from retirement.”
“I thought he was off on an expedition to some recently discovered island,” Chet added.
“He was,” Draconai replied, “But the fact that he’s returned early without his friends raises dire concerns.”
“What do you think happened to Charizard and Tyranitar?”
“If I’d have to guess, the same thing that happened to Leona.”
“So what are we going to do then?” Seraph asked.
“Hunt the b*stard down and kill him before he can do any more damage,” Draconai ordered, “Team Hellfire search the eastern half of town, but do not let Saul know about this right yet. I want to keep the air of surprise while everyone’s asleep.”
“Alright, I guess…” Charon grumbled, and then left with his partner.
Once they were gone, Draconai crossed his arms and told Seraph, “I saw you sneak that Zombrong into town earlier tonight.”
“What?” she said, backing away.
“I want you to get him and bring him out into the open. I only a machine Pokémon will stand a chance against this monster.”
“But…Saul will find out he’s here…”
“Leave Saul to me. Just bring that Zombrong to the crossroads in the next few minutes. I’ll need you there with him as bait.” Afterwards, Draconai dashed off towards the middle of town.
“Bait?” she thought to herself nervously. A second later, she swallowed her pride and headed back towards Katherine’s storage huts.
Upon finding the shed Ratchet was hiding in, Seraph headed around to its front, where she jumped furiously so she could grab the latch that would open the door. As soon as she gripped the mechanism, the entryway began to open. Dropping back to the ground, she yanked hard on the inside of the door with her paw to make it fling outward the rest of the way. She stepped inside to see Ratchet kneeling on the ground with his eyes closed in the far corner of the room.
“Ratchet, wake up!” she called with a harsh whisper. The mechanized horse forced the shutters over his eyes to open immediately and then glanced in her direction.
“Is it morning already?” he asked confusedly.
“No, but there’s huge trouble. I need you to go with me to the middle of town…NOW!”
“Do not yell at me… I am very tired and need as much rest as I can get. Furthermore, this is the only cover I have until morning. Saul must not be allowed to see me.”
“If you don’t come, Saul and everyone in town will be dead by morning!”
“What could possibly be the matter?”
“A parasite is on the loose and he’s already killed someone.”
“And you presume that I would be immune to its assault?” he sighed, “Very well, then.” He then stood up as quickly as he could and made his way out of the storage unit. After he stepped outside, Seraph took a moment to close the door and then climbed onto Ratchet’s back.
Ratchet slowly headed north towards the main road as per Seraph’s instruction. Once they reached it, the Zombrong stopped to look at Leona’s dehydrated corpse, sensing that the Luxray’s spirit was still attached to the body. After a moment, he started to walk towards the crossroads in the middle of town. When he stopped the intersection, Ratchet gazed around to assure himself that Saul wasn’t anywhere within sight.
“Now, what?” he asked Seraph as she jumped off his back.
“That’s a good question…” she muttered as she looked around. She didn’t see any sign of Draconai. If the parasite appeared before he showed up, both her and Ratchet would be in trouble.
Ratchet turned his body sideways and scanned the area. Based on his spiritual scans, he could tell that nothing was amiss in town. There were certainly no signs of any parasitic organisms from what he could tell. He thought that perhaps Seraph had been mistaken.
Seraph’s ear twitched wildly as she heard something slithering towards her at an ungodly speed. As she pivoted to turn, she watched as the viper suddenly bit hard into Ratchet’s hind right leg with his numerous dagger-like fangs. The Skunanne jumped off to the side, while the Zombrong gave out an anguished wail.
From her vantage, Seraph saw that the leech had a wide elliptical maw that gripped the bottom half of Ratchet’s leg; his serrated ivory-white teeth seemed to leek a clear-colored poison as he tried tightening his clamp on his victim. She moved off to her left to see that the monster’s body was stretched out and snakelike. The creature’s slanted oval eyes were the crimson shade of blood with tiny black slits near their centers. In addition to the lime-green and black rings coursing this body, she saw that he also had reddish sores running down his backside.
“Ratchet, stomp with your back hooves!” she told the Zombrong.
“Gladly!” he responded, lifting each of his hind legs in succession and pound his feet hard against the ground. The leech squirmed wildly trying to keep his grip, but suddenly found his tail getting squashed by the machine’s cast iron appendages. Releasing his bite out of pain, the monster tried to dart away. However, the tip of his tail was pinned under the ungulate’s rear left hoof.
“Damn you!” the parasite clicked as he then snapped his maw at her. Seraph jumped back quickly, and the monster missed her by merely an inch.
“What the hell are you?” she whispered. She continued to back away as he continued lunge at her. Unsure whether to be shocked or disgusted, Seraph watched as the creature stretched closer and closer to her each time he attacked.
“Seraph!” Ratchet bellowed, “I cannot hold him forever. He will eventually wriggle free.”
“Right, but what can we do?”
“Do you know how to use Psychic?”
“Then use it to grip him. Let me know when you have a strong enough hold. Then I shall release him.”
Seraph nodded and then focused her fully attention on the parasite. Next she tried to channel her psychic power into the creature’s body and take control of its mind. After a couple seconds, she realized that this fiend wasn’t like other Pokémon. Wherein she’d normally have to breach her foe’s willpower, she found herself trying to take control an infinite cluster of microorganisms that had consciousnesses all on their own. It seemed like the more she strained to focus on one, millions of others got in the way. There was no way to take over this monster’s body without overtaxing herself.
“What’s wrong?” Ratchet asked as she suddenly backed away huffing.
“I can’t concentrate on his body… There are too many thought patterns to focus on.”
“What does that mean?”
“He’s immune to psychic power because he has more than one mind.”
“That makes no sense.”
“Actually, it makes perfect sense… Considering how I was spawned from a colony of microbes!” the leech cackled as he still struggled to get free.
“Seraph, what’s going on!” Chip called from somewhere behind the Skunanne, “Why is Ratchet out here?” As the Weasinge got closer, he peeked around Seraph’s side and caught a glance of the monster they’d caught.
“D-D-D-D-D-D-D-DOXISITE!!!” he suddenly screamed at the top of his lungs, “DOXISITE IS ALIVE?!”
“Chip, shut up!” Seraph scolded him, “You’re going to wake up the whole damn town.”
“That’s the point!” he shouted in her face.
“It seems my reputation precedes me, even after all these centuries,” the leech clicked happily.
“What is he then?” Doxisite relaxed his body to reveal the jagged row of red spines hiding in his back.
He grinned for a long moment and finally explained, “I am what you would call a ‘legendary’ Pokémon, though I scoff the term myself.”
“Legendary, my ass! You’re a monster!” Chip retorted, “You killed countless Pokémon during the Age of Man and for some time afterwards.”
“Then prey thinned out, and I returned home to hibernate.”
“You should never have reawaken!”
“Hard not to when prey ambles so willingly into my domicile.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Alakazam…” Seraph whispered, recalling what Draconai mentioned a few moments ago. The Skunanne’s ears twitched wildly as she heard the plopping steps of someone stopping directly behind Chip and her.
Both of them turned to see the shadowy form of a five-foot-tall humanoid Pokémon standing several feet down the road. The entity had an abnormally large cranium with large conical ears that seemed to curl off to the side like horns; his face appeared deformed as well due to its pointed cheekbones and slightly extended maw, from which several fangs jutted outward. He had a relatively stout torso, scrawny arms, and fairly weak legs. Trait for trait, the only things that looked remotely muscular on him were his shoulders, his forearms, and his hoof-like feet.
“Seraph, hold!” Draconai called from somewhere nearby. Then, the reptilian warrior jumped down from a nearby rooftop and landed right beside Chip.
“No… This is not what I had planned. You should’ve waited for me,” he explained, looking back and forth between Doxisite and Alakazam.
“It couldn’t be helped. That monster attacked the moment Ratchet and I showed up.”
“Alakazam…” Draconai gasped, staring into the psychic’s eyes and seeing that they matched Doxisite’s, “What the hell has happened to him?”
“That’s just the first stage of his assimilation,” Doxisite cackled.
“Assimilation? You mean he’s turning into another version of you?” Chip barked.
“Not specifically…” he then replied, “He’s been infected my mother’s pathogens. They’re far more virulent than my own.”
“Mother? You mean there are more of his kind?” Seraph asked Chip.
“According to legend, there were at least four known members of his family. Aside from Doxisite, there are Doxibond, Doxifice, and Doxinox, but nobody actually knows who they are or what they look like.”
“Seraph, we need to kill Alakazam now before he changes any further. Chip, keep an eye on Doxisite while we attack his victim,” Draconai then ordered as he saw Alakazam’s neck suddenly start to elongate.
“How do you propose we do that?”
“Use a series of ranged attacks to get his attention, then I’ll sneak over to his side to sever his neck with my tail. It should be a clean and swift enough cut to kill him instantly, but I need time to get close.”
No sooner did Draconai finish his explanation did Alakazam’s head suddenly flop onto the ground listlessly. The infected Pokémon’s body was immediately kicked aside to reveal the silhouettes of Captain Retford and Commander Zoltaine with his machete held out in an apparent back swing. Kent shook his blade towards the ground to dispel any contaminated blood from it and then stood authoritatively alongside Saul.
“What the hell do you think you’re trying to pull, Draconai?” the Metalupus woofed as he approached.
“The nerve!” Draconai retorted, “Do you realize your underling just killed another member of the Council of Five?”
“At least he had the sense to use a weapon. You would’ve used your own appendage.”
“Captain, Commander! We’re all in terrible danger!” Chip yelped, trying to stop them from quarreling.
“We’re well aware. Team Hellfire informed us about what exactly was going on,” Kent interjected.
“This louse would’ve sooner let our Rescue Corps members get killed before stopping the leech. The fact that Alakazam happened to be working with it is only a sad consequence.”
“You don’t understand a thing, Saul!’ Draconai reprimanded as he stood off to the side to let the Metalupus get a better look at what they were dealing with. As Saul and Kent got closer, they both stared wide-eyed at the sight of Doxisite trapped under Ratchet’s back hoof.
“Where did this Zombrong come from, and what the hell is that thing behind it?” Saul then bellowed.
“Saul, the Zombrong’s harmless… I think the leech he’s trapped is Doxisite!” Kent said.
“Doxisite? You honestly think a predator like that is still alive after all these centuries,” Captain Retford scoffed.
Doxisite tucked his spines inside his body and rasped, “Come and say that…to my face!”
“Fight me!” Saul declared as he stepped forward. The leech immediately lunged for his head.
“SAUL!” everyone screamed. With a swift hack, the Metalupus lacerated Doxisite’s face to ribbons with his insanely sharp talons. The leech’s body fell lifelessly on the ground in front of him.
“Now that is the mark of a true predator,” Saul again scoffed.
“He killed Doxisite that easily?” Chip and Seraph gasped.
“I underestimated him as usual…” Draconai grumbled as he turned away.
“Is the parasite…dead?” Ratchet asked Kent.
“Yes, you can release your grip now, old friend,” the Zoroark replied. The Zombrong then stepped off the leech and began to walk away.
“Not so fast, Zombrong!” Saul declared as he glared harshly as Ratchet, “I don’t know who the hell you think you are. I want you gone by morning. We had enough of your kind twenty years ago, and I’m not about to put up with that bullsh*t again.”
“Understood,” Ratchet responded.
Saul then turned to Draconai and ordered, “Help me dispose of Alakazam’s body. We cannot allow the villagers to see him in this condition.”
“What do you intend to do?” the dragon snarled.
“A burial at sea is befitting of his demise. If we throw him from the cliff, his body will be swallowed by the tides.”
“But that’s inhumane!”
“It’s more humane than leaving his corpse here to rot. Now throw his body onto my back, then grab his head, and follow me!” Draconai wasn’t in the mood to argue, so he grabbed his friend’s decapitated body and threw it onto Saul’s backside as ordered. He then grappled the ears of Alakazam’s head and followed the enraged Metalupus all the way to the outcropping near the Pelipper Post Office.
Once they were gone, Kent took a disgusted look at Doxisite’s tattered face. The claw marks from Saul’s talons had literally hacked the leech’s face into four separate pieces, leaving his jaw torn to hell and teeth misaligned. Doxisite’s eyelids apparently squeezed shut in the last split-second, cringing from the undoubtedly painful sensation he felt right before an instant death.
“What are we going to do about Doxisite, sir?” Chip asked after a moment.
“I have no idea,” Kent replied, scratching the side of his head, “My greater concern is figuring out what to do with Ratchet.”
“Saul will not listen to reason, especially now that he’s seen me,” Ratchet said.
“That’s the thing, Ratchet…” Kent sighed, “I almost had him talked into letting you stay.”
“Really?” Seraph asked.
“Yeah, if I’d only had a few more minutes to get my point across about how big of a help Ratchet was on our mission, he would’ve been made a member of our team officially. Team Hellfire interrupted us mid-discussion. That’s when we found out this thing was terrorizing town.”
“I don’t get it…” Seraph said, “Draconai told Team Hellfire not to tell Saul what was going on right away.”
“Draconai can just be total *sshole some days…” Kent sighed, “It’s a good thing that they didn’t listen him.”
“So, if Charon and Chet had listened to him, then Draconai, Chip, and I would’ve been killed.”
“Infected? By what?”
“Whatever pathogen Alakazam was carrying… Saul told me that Lord Sly had a vision of this exact event lately. Your encounter with Doxisite is the precursor of something even more heinous: a plague the likes of which has never been seen.”
“That’s awful…” Chip whimpered.
“But I think this much pretty stops that from coming true,” Kent added, “With Doxisite and Alakazam dead, there’s nothing left to cause the infection on the mainland.”
“Commander… Perhaps I’m over-thinking this, but isn’t the source of the infection still out there somewhere?”
“If it is, it’s likely isolated with no vectors left to bring it here. So I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Afterwards, Kent turned to Ratchet and said, “Let’s go and see if we can talk some sense into Saul.” Ratchet huffed, and then followed the Zoroark towards the cliff where Saul and Draconai were.
Once they were gone, Seraph went over to examine Doxisite’s carcass. She poked the leech with her knife a couple times and picked through each of his serrated teeth. Assured he was absolutely dead, she put her knife away and began to walk down the southward road to go home.
“Seraph, wait! Let me escort you,” Chip offered as he caught up to her.
“Sure,” she responded with a yawn.
The two traveled down the street to the off branching path that led towards Katherine’s hut. As they staggered down it tiredly, Chip kept glancing into at Seraph’s face longingly. Admitted, the Weasinge had become quite attached to his new friend in the past few days and he was beginning to wonder if their relationship would escalate beyond just being friends. But then, he thought it was still too early to tell if they’d get involved in anything serious. And, if they did, he definitely wanted to propose like his father did to his mother.
With Katherine’s house looming, Chip heard something odd slithering up behind them at an alarming rate. He turned to get the shock of his life.
“Seraph, look out!” he screamed, jumping on top of her. As he did, the familiar silhouette of a serpent-like Pokémon lunged at them out of the darkness and nipped the backside of the ermine’s neck.
“DAMN IT!” Doxisite shrieked as he whipped his body around and landed facing them coiled up.
“You’re alive?” Seraph yelled.
“My body is comprised of simple organs and undeveloped tissues. I can regenerate anything at will, including my head.”
“You…YOU’RE A MONSTER!”
“I know…” he cackled as he began to slither away.
“Chip, get up! We have to follow him.
“S…Seraph…” Chip muttered, “My body feels numb… And my vision... It’s becoming blurry…”
“Ah, yes. That piddly amount of neurotoxin should wear off in a day or two… I guess it’s a small concession, considering how I really wanted to take your life, girl.”
“What do you mean? Why would you want to kill me?”
“Oh, did I not mention that I’m a predator? I thought we cleared that up.” Afterwards, Doxisite turned away from her and began to slither away as fast as he could.
“Sorry, Chip!” Seraph said, pushing the limp ermine aside.
She got on her feet and gave chase. The Skunanne followed the leech through town for several minutes until he reached the bridge leading to the forest. As he crossed the viaduct, Seraph took out her knife and prepared to strike him with her Dark Pulse. Right as the leech passed to the forest’s edge, she unleashed a shockwave from her blade and stunned the monster momentarily. Before she could get to him, though, Doxisite shook off the attack and slithered towards the underbrush where she couldn’t pursue him. Once he vanished into the foliage, the skunk girl dropped to her knees and started to cry. She desperately wanted to take him down after those comments he made, but now any chance of doing so went up faded away.
Angst overtook her as she headed back into the village. With that monster at large, the whole region would be in trouble. She wanted to write it off as no longer her problem, but he derogatorily came after her tonight and she knew this wouldn’t be the last she’d see of him.
<End Chapter Seven>
February 6th, 2014 (4:59 AM).
The night had worn long on Seraph as she waited patiently outside Katherine’s hut. Nearly daybreak, she was growing tired and felt like she’d nod off at any moment. However, with the memory of Doxisite’s attack fresh in her head, an innate paranoia kept her on full alert all evening while the Kangaskhan tried to treat Chip’s bite and purge his body of poison with herbal remedies before it go any worse.
With the parasite at large, the Skunanne couldn’t help but worry just how much damage the monster would cause in a world that didn’t know about his previous reign of terror. Though she wasn’t aware of the full details, the havoc Doxisite created overnight showed that he was capable of massacres on his own. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how horrible his mother and siblings would be if they were to help him.
“Seraph…” Katherine called from behind the hut’s door. Suddenly, the Kangaskhan opened it and looked around for the girl. Spotting her just a few feet away, she motioned for the Skunanne to come to her; Seraph wordlessly followed suit.
“How’s Chip doing?” the skunk girl asked.
“Poorly…” her keeper responded somberly, “There doesn’t seem to be any immediate threat to his life, but the venom isn’t showing signs of weakening either, even after the herbal concoction I made Chip drink. This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. His body will just have to expunge the poison on its own.”
“Doxisite said it was a neurotoxin!” Seraph barked, hoping for the umpteenth time that the elderly Pokémon would listen to her.
“You’ve said that already, but I have no idea what a ‘neurotoxin’ is, much less how to treat it.”
“Neuro means brain… Toxin…poison…” Chip muttered from inside the shack. Seraph glared at Katherine after hearing the comment and started to growl.
“He’s been mumbling that since the first time you mentioned the term. I have no remedies for poisons that affect the brain. The ingredients simply don’t exist in nature to nullify them.”
“This is why I hate dealing with Poison-type Pokémon. They’re always finding ways to create more lethal types of venom.”
“That’s what I was afraid you’d say…” Seraph said, turning to walk away, “Do you think Sly would know anything about treating this?”
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up, dear. Sly is an intelligent Pokémon, but even his insight only goes so far.”
“We’ll see about that.” The Skunanne then raced off towards downtown.
It took Seraph several minutes to reach the main roadway. As soon as she did, she was stopped in her tracks by the faint whimper or giggle of someone nearby. Glancing around momentarily, she couldn’t see anyone else around. She thought she’d probably imagined it or the voice might have only been just within earshot. Somewhat annoyed, she continued her way northward towards Whiscash Pond.
When she hit the crossroads in the middle of town, the Skunanne halted again and looked around anxiously. She heard the sound again, but it was louder this time. Comparable to a solemn whisper, the voice seemed to be a young female’s croon calling to her from an alleyway several paces to Seraph’s left. The skunk girl unsheathed her knife out so that whomever beckoned her knew she wouldn’t be taken down so easily, lest they were trying to lure into some kind of trap.
Following the noise, Seraph kept her head and shoulders low, ready to crouch down on all fours in necessary. As she approached the side street where she heard the voice coming from, she crept up closely to the back of a nearby hut. Peeking around the corner, the Skunanne caught a glimpse of a short figure with an apparently canine form. The creature wore bright pink bonnet and flowery robe to keep most of her figure hidden, with only her brownish-red paws revealed. Stepping out from her hiding spot, Seraph began to call out to the Pokémon, when the creature suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs and instantly fled.
‘Well, that was a waste of my time…’ Seraph sighed. On her better judgment, the Skunanne decided to vamoose as well before someone showed up to make a scene. She headed back to the crossroads, where she saw the same figure running northward up the road she’d just come from.
Seraph demanded, “Hey, you! I want to talk!” The Pokémon stopped and turned to face her. Under the cowl, Seraph noticed that the creature had a distinctly vulpine face with silky rust-red fur and curled orange-red locks atop her brow.
With her amber-red eyes transfixed on the skunk, the fox howled, “Get away from me, Seraph! We’re not supposed to meet yet!” Afterwards, she unleashed a violent stream of flame from her mouth to create a temporary blockage in the road. As soon as the plume burned out, the fox had already fled again.
“Damn it!” Seraph slurred. Deciding it better to just go about her own business, Seraph continued to make her way towards Sly’s refuge.
Climbing the staircase leading to Whiscash Pond, Seraph noticed an odd scent in the air. The smell of ash and decay permeated her nostrils like never before. If she didn’t know any better, someone was burning a half-rotted carcass nearby. She had no interest in finding the source, but as she reached the top of the cobblestone steps, the skunk girl saw the distinct figure of a robed canine standing directly in front of the pond Sly inhabited and apparently tended to some kind of fire.
“Neyi-kef mo-ta shanook!” the cloak-wearing creature yelled into the blaze, a massive flare rising from it with every word. Seraph recognized the language immediately as her native tongue, though she couldn’t make out the exact meaning of the words.
“Nay-tyi vekto-ma nefyi-cu leyi-vek cu!” he continued to chant in a harsh, slightly rasping voice. ‘You know the consequences of encountering others before it’s time!’ The Skunanne took a few steps forward after hearing that, wondering exactly who he was talking to. A suddenly flame ignited a few feet from where Seraph walked and she stopped in her tracks.
“Veyi sha-la cu…” the entity ordered her. ‘Stay where you are…’
“Nef cu-yi…” Seraph automatically replied, scared out of her wits. ‘No problem…’ Whatever this creature was, he had an oppressive aura the likes of which she’d never felt; only Otulp’s seemed stronger.
“Vek-towo neyi-ma!” he finished as he turned away from whomever he was scolding. <I>‘We shall finish this later!’</I>
As the Pokémon approached her, Seraph noticed that he had his dark cowl pulled completely over his face. In fact, the only thing that stuck out from his grayish-black shroud was his golden-furred maw with a pitch-black nose at its tip.
Snarling, he pointed his snout in her face and asked, “What business have you here, girl?”
“N…nothing important… I just came to talk to Sly for a moment…” Seraph stuttered.
“Lord Sly is away at the moment,” the canine declared as he backed off somewhat, “I am his messenger. Anything you have to say to him, you can say to me. I assure you that he will hear it.”
“Well… I need to talk to him in person.”
“If you will not speak it to me, you have no right to speak it to him.”
“Hey! It’s private and doesn’t concern you, jack…” she started to retort until the Pokémon suddenly breathed flames past her.
“The Golbanian siblings have more important matters to attend to. None of them need fiddle around with your foolishness,” he said, taking a sideways stance. Seraph shook her head in frustration and then tried to rush him. She darted to one side and then the other, but he matched her movements to block her.
“I am eight-hundred years old and more nimble than you’ll ever be. Now, cease this idiocy and be gone before I decide to hurt you just to make a point.” Seraph grunted and backed away.
Unsheathing her Luna Fang, the entity lowered his head and declared, “Raise that blade at me and I’ll take your life.” Afterwards, the fox caused his nine golden tails to undulate wildly from beneath the rear of his cloak.
“You’re a Ninetales?” Seraph gasped as she dropped her blade.
“Indeed, I am.”
“I didn’t know… Please forgive me,” she cowered.
“I have no ire towards you, but I ask you heed my request and leave,” the fox continued as he paced awkwardly before her, “It is important that Lord Sly isn’t disturbed for the time being. That is why I am here, to serve the town in his stead.”
“Oh… Is that why?” Seraph muttered.
“It is my duty to attend to the mediocre matters of this village while he is away, albeit demeaning to my station.”
The Skunanne grinned mawkishly and asked, “Why’s that?”
“I take it that you are not from here then…” he sighed, “If you were, you would know that I am…”
“Seraph!” Kent called from behind her. She heard Ratchet’s metal hooves clanging as the robot climbed the stairs and stopped off to her side. Afterwards Commander Zoltaine’s feet plopped on the ground, and she pivoted to see the angry Zoroark glaring down at her.
“What the hell’s going on? What’s with all the screaming?” he yelled.
“That…would be my daughter’s fault…” the Ninetales explained, glancing briefly behind him and then back at the newcomers, “Pay her no mind. She has already been reprimanded for it.”
Kent looked up at him and said, “Oh, pardon me. I didn’t know anyone else was visiting Lord Sly today and…” The robed Ninetales raised his paw to empathy. As he did, Ratchet began to make an enraged grinding noise in his body.
The fire fox lowered his head towards the machine and asked, “May I ask what I have done to insult you, Zombrong?”
“A number of things… Osiris…” Ratchet huffed, releasing ghastly smoke through his mouth-cap.
“I do not believe I have made your acquaintance before, though I have encountered several Zomborg and Zombrong in my life.”
“Met, cursed, attacked…even betrayed on several occasions. Just like all Ninetales.”
“I do not recall such treachery, save only for that which saved the remainder of my clan from the likes of your species some decades ago. I lost my wife and my parents because of you soul eaters, so forgive me if I do not remember any specifics.”
“Then do not blame me for THIS!” Ratchet shouted as he shot a Shadow Ball from his mouth at the Ninetales. Osiris’s hood rose slightly to reveal his amber-red eyes, which started to glow momentarily. Before the dark sphere could make contact, it seemed to be redirected by an invisible force and flew towards some nearby trees instead.
“Ratchet, what the hell was that for?” Kent scolded him.
“This Ninetales is a murderous wretch.”
“In your eyes, perhaps… But to everyone else, I am the Oracle of Memories, though I guess my title is subjective.”
“You’re an ‘oracle?’” Seraph sighed. To her, the term only meant that he was a petty crook who preyed on other Pokémon’s hopes and dreams with false prophecies. He promised them the future and then took their money, goods, etc. as payment.
She pivoted to leave, but Kent grabbed her and said, “Show some respect, Seraph.”
“Great… I take it he’s famous around here?” she remarked sarcastically.
“I’m leaving. Find me when you’re done,” Ratchet said as he turned around. He then stomped away, imprinting hoof-marks into the pavement as he walked.
“Don’t mind him, Osiris. He only got into town yesterday,” Kent said.
“I am…unfazed by his presence. Zombrong do not scare me like they would others. In fact, there is truth to what he said. But that transpired decades ago. It is of little consequence now that my daughter and I have moved on with our lives.”
“Speaking of whom, where is Pyra?” Kent asked, “It’s been ages since I’ve seen her.”
“She is,” Osiris started, glancing back momentarily, “indisposed at the moment. Anything you have to say to her, you can say to me.”
“Oh, I just wanted to talk to her, but never mind.”
“She is being punished for disobeying me. I told her not to wander, and she did anyways.”
“Tch…” Seraph sneered, “That’s a little anal of you, isn’t it?”
“Hardly. She’s thirty-seven years old and tries to pass herself off as a child.”
“What? How is that even possible?”
“My kind is not short-lived like your species. Even Vulpix have a longer life expectancy than anyone would realize. Some live for several centuries without needing to evolve.”
“I wouldn’t have guessed that.” The Skunanne looked at the area behind the cloaked Ninetales to see the fox kit with the pink shawl hiding behind him.
“Hey, Pyra!” she then called out, making somewhat of a forward motion. Kent grabbed her by the shoulder and forced her back.
“I should also mention that she’s easy to scare,” Osiris sighed.
“Well, I have questions for her.”
“What did she mean when she told me we weren’t supposed to meet yet?”
“And that brings us to the issue of why I say my title of ‘Oracle’ is subjective.”
“Osiris, don’t demean yourself,” Kent interjected, “Only the eldest member of your clan can be heralded as Golbania’s messenger.”
“The title itself means that I must predict the outcomes of future events. Said power has always been prominent in the females of my clan, and not so much men such as I. Ergo, my daughter is more apt for the position than I am.”
“So, she’s a soothsayer?” Seraph scoffed as she sheathed her blade once again, “That’s a load of bullcrap. Even real Psychic-types are only right with their predictions part of the time.”
“My clan’s ability has nothing to do with psychic powers. Rather it is our heredity that grants us the power of divination.”
“Your bloodline? What does that have to do with anything?”
“Our clan has always been deeply in tune with a dreamtime world known as the World of Nostalgia. It is in that realm where all dreams and memories are shared. The past, the present, and the future essentially merge into one. We possess the rare aptitude to freely traverse the dreamscape and see events yet to happen in our own lives.”
“That sounds exactly like the shaman of my tribe. They talked of a similar plane called Beyi Quofyi, in which all dreams congregate.”
“It is a very old belief system, though. Something very few know about anymore, save for those who study antiquity. Additionally, our mythology is tied into the legend of three demons and an entity known as The Lost Goddess…”
“Three demons? Would one of them be called Ah-Kyi Os Beyi Quofyi?” Seraph barked.
“You know his original name?” Osiris sighed, “I thought it mere happenchance that you understood Quofyi. But, if you know about the incarnations of Fear, Lust, and Rage, then surely I needn’t explain the legend of The Lost Goddess.”
“Wait a minute! This is the first I’ve heard of any of this!” Kent interrupted.
Osiris turned to the Zoroark and explained, “The three demons in question are known simply as Otulp, Vaspudem, and Corros. This triad was birthed by a supreme but fell goddess known as Beyi-geyi. Beyi-geyi or Watcher Chastity is one of two legendary Pokémon, her twin being Leyi-geyi also known as Watcher Humility. According to a single myth, the Watchers have feuded since the beginning of time over whom was the true creator of existence. Beyi-geyi believes that she is the sole entity who should be worshiped as the deity of creation, but her brother believes that no one Pokémon deserved credit for a spectacular event he thinks was merely an accident.”
“Okay, now I’m confused… I was always brought up believing that it was Arceus who created the existence. Who the hell are these guys you’re talking about?”
“Let me finish!” Osiris retorted, “Ahem… Out of spite, Beyi-geyi separated reality into two domains, the physical realm where we live and the dreamtime plane through which all consciousness connects. In addition, she went further to split her soul into fractions, the emotions that gave rise to her children and the logical components that she chose to retain. Because of this, it is said that all creatures are spiritually linked to the World of Nostalgia.”
“So what did her brother do then?”
“In lament for his sister’s grief, Leyi-geyi shed part of his physical shell and imbued it with a portion of his consciousness to form the zygote that would later hatch into Arceus. However, his sister and her children only saw this as yet another insult, thus they have been fighting to prove their godhood ever since.”
“What do you mean ‘ever since?’”
“The myth states that they’ve existed since before the beginning of time or physical reality for that matter. Of course, this cannot be substantiated. Anyone who has encountered Beyi-geyi or her children has generally met an untimely demise, and those who didn’t perish on the spot have long since passed.”
Seraph sighed. Turning away slightly, she shook her head in disapproval. While Osiris clearly knew his mythology, part of his rhetoric was clearly broken. He completely left out the part about how the three demons and Arceus clashed several times throughout history, only for the triad to become imprisoned within the World of Nostalgia.
“What is it, Seraph?” Kent scolded her.
“Oh, it’s nothing…” she muttered. The Zoroark eyed her leeringly before returning his gaze to Osiris.
“There is more I could say, but it shall have to wait for another time,” Osiris said as he turned his back to them, “If you are done, I ask you take your leave.”
“Yes, sir,” Kent said, bowing respectfully.
“Hey, wait a second!” Seraph hollered. Kent growled at her disdainfully, while Osiris merely tilted his head towards her.
“I want to know about a Pokémon named Canersia!”
“SERAPH! KNOCK IT OFF!” the Zoroark shouted at her.
“Few dare to speak that name, even in closed company. But to you, I shall say this…” the kitsune sighed, unveiling his face. He revealed a large red scar down the left side of his face, which reached from the top of his cheek to the bottom of his maw.
“He is a ruthless predator. I only encountered him once and barely escaped with my life. Canersia chastised me from head-to-tail with his psychically created whips because he thought I was a nuisance that needed to be dealt with before I became a threat. It wasn’t enough to hurt me; he had to hunt me down and torture me just to make his point.”
“What kind of monster is he…?”
“A devout monk dedicated to serving his god no matter what… He has no family, no friends, and no longer cares about physical being.”
“That would explain why Carastone struggled to fight him…” Kent cringed.
“Carastone is one of the three guardians protecting the Nostalgia Crystals. Canersia isn’t the type to just pick a fight with such a powerful foe unless there’s a reason.”
“He stole Carastone’s Nostalgia Crystal,” Seraph explained.
“Father?!” Pyra cried from behind her dad.
“Calm yourself, child,” he told his daughter.
“Oh, did we strike a nerve?”
Osiris drew his cowl over his face again and replied, “You must understand the severity of his crime. If the three Nostalgia Crystals are brought together, Canersia can hex them to invert their powers. This would allow Otulp and his sisters to enter this realm again in full physical flesh. As they are now, they can only exist as phantoms.”
“Carastone mentioned something worst than that, though,” Kent added.
“The Severing of Bonds…?” Osiris whispered, “Could Beyi-geyi really be so irate as to do that?”
“Excuse me?” both Kent and Seraph asked.
“It is a horrible ritual, and not something that can be performed easily,” the Ninetales huffed, “The Nostalgia Crystals were Leyi-geyi’s creation, and something that neither his sister or her children could take for themselves. Canersia, however, is immune to their effects.”
“You mean he’s nothing more than their puppet.”
“No, he has a will of his own, yet he chooses to serve Otulp in exchange for unlimited power over life and death. So long as he wears the Odium Mask, Canersia shall not perish. Not by natural means at least.”
“What’s the supposed to mean?” Kent interjected.
“There is a Pokémon that he cannot fight. However, it is the same Pokémon that spawned the parasite that once ravaged these lands long ago.”
“Doxisite?” both he and Seraph asked.
“Correct,” Osiris said with a momentary pause, “His mother was known as Doxinox. A human scientist created her in hopes that it would usher in a new age of advancement for her kind; however, it only led to their inevitable extinction.”
“Was Doxinox the one who killed off humanity, then?” Kent muttered confusedly.
“No! Doxinox was never a hostile Pokémon. She merely shows ire towards those who would dare attack her or her progeny, two of which died off centuries ago.”
“Then how do we know for certain that Doxinox is still alive?”
“Need you ask such a blatantly obvious question?” Osiris sighed, “Was it not just last night that Doxisite himself reappeared?”
“How would you know that?” Seraph retorted.
“Lord Sly told me himself.”
“Oh, that’s right.”
“In any case, Doxinox is not a Pokémon who would be so willing to fight to save this world, if she can be located at all.”
“Why would that be? Just because her son turned out to be a monster shouldn’t mean that she can’t be reasoned with, right?” Kent asked.
“That is where the legend I spoke of comes into play… While it is said that all beings are spiritually linked to the World of Nostalgia, Doxinox and her progeny are the exception. Their mere creation essentially proves the notion false. But it is not without reprehension… Beyi-geyi saw to that herself.”
“She destroyed their creator and annihilated humanity altogether just to wipe out all traces of Doxinox’s existence. However, she could not destroy Doxinox or her children. As a result, two of them propagated. Though the bloodlines have thinned, there are still traits unique to their descendants.”
“There are still Pokémon descended from Doxisite’s siblings? What sort of monstrosities are they?” Seraph asked.
“One of them was the Alakazam who lived in this village. His lineage allowed him to overpower Doxisite’s inherent ability to negate psychokinetic attacks.”
“What?” Kent blurted surprised, “He was able to fight Doxisite?”
“Fight, but not defeat as you so plainly saw last night. Doxinox infected him with her cells and assimilated his entire body, a dire consequence to those unwary of her presence.”
“So you’re saying that he didn’t know she was nearby when she attacked him?” the Zoroark added.
“More than likely. Psychic-type Pokémon cannot distinguish her presence from mere pathogens.”
“Would it be possible to trap Canersia with her then?” Seraph asked with a hint of joy.
“Doubtful. He relies too much on the Nostalgia Gaze to view memories like Pyra can. The only difference is that he can see through the eyes of others rather than his own.”
“So, he’d know far ahead of time,” she sighed.
“All the more reason why he’s so dangerous…”
“Perhaps we could get Doxinox to hunt down Canersia on her own?”
“That is if you can find her to begin with. She hasn’t been in over five hundred years. Furthermore, she has no reason to assist anyone.”
“Then what else can we do?”
“Before I forget, I should mention that Canersia’s quest shall soon reach a dead-end. The Nostalgia Crystals he seeks no longer exist in this era.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Suffice it to say, the remaining two were taken from their hiding places centuries ago by a human who tried to stop his kind from behind annihilated. He too faced Canersia and Otulp, only to meet his death at the Judge-Sovereign’s fangs. After he perished, the gemstones were supposedly returned to their original hiding spots, but I know that at least one was lost to time.”
“What about the other?” Kent inquired.
“Canersia will not find it. I have been making certain of that myself.”
“You have it then?” Seraph sneered.
“Not presently, but I know it is safe.”
Osiris returned his gaze towards his daughter and said, “If that is finally all, I again ask you take your leave.”
“Yes, sir. This time, for certain!” Kent said, glaring briefly at Seraph before bowing again.
“Well, there is…” Seraph started to say until Kent grabbed her by the shoulder and ushered her away. She tried breaking loose from his grip, but the Zoroark picked her up and threw her over his right shoulder.
“Hey, I just wanted to know if there’s a natural antidote to Doxisite’s poison!” she yelped as he carried her downhill from the coppice. Osiris glimpsed back at her slightly, but turned away once Kent and Seraph ducked below the horizon.
“Go to them, but do not remove your cowl…” Osiris said as he walked past his daughter. The cloaked Vulpix nodded, and then chased after them.
As soon as they reached the crossroads, Kent set Seraph down and shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you? Don’t you know any manners at all?”
“Hey!” she retorted, “He was volunteering information and you expect me not question him?”
“That’s not the point!” he declared, “Osiris is respected as a philosopher. You don’t need to patronize the man by bombarding him with incessant bullcrap.”
“Bullcrap? You call my questions bullcrap, but that last one may have helped Chip recover faster! ‘Oracles’ are worthless unless they’re giving you helpful information.”
“Chip will get better on his own. The kid’s heartier than he looks. His father is Apollo Erminfyr for god’s sake.” Seraph huffed and then turned her back to him.
“Like I’m supposed to know who the hell you’re talking about?”
“Apollo was a former explorer who worked on Saul’s team back in the day. He’s an intelligent strategist and a powerful psychic. Saul owes his life to him for more than one occasion and, to an extent, so do I. But, that’s beside the point… Incinermyn have amazing vitality, and pure-bred Weasinge maintain that same vigor throughout their lives as well.”
“That’s a terrible way of downplaying the fact that your protégé was just attacked by one of the ‘supposedly’ deadliest predators on the planet.”
“His lineage isn’t anything to sneer at. But, I agree that something has to be done about Doxisite.”
“I want to hunt the bloodsucker down and kill him. My Luna Fang will see to that!” she declared, patting her knife’s sheath.
“This is not the time to get stupid, Seraph…” Ratchet cautioned as he came up behind Kent.
“You saw what happened after Saul lacerated his head. The monster just came back to life and went on like it was nothing,” Kent added. Seraph moaned.
“Um… Sirs…?” a quiet voice cooed from off to the group’s side. The three Pokémon looked to see the Vulpix in the flowery cloak standing on the stairway to Whiscash Pond.
“You again!” Seraph scoffed.
“Pyra…” Kent murmured. Ratchet just grumbled to himself as he averted his gaze.
“It’s about Chip…” Pyra whispered as she approached.
“What’s wrong?” Kent then asked.
“If he doesn’t get medicine derived from the Siabunta root soon, he’ll suffer nerve damage.”
“What does that mean?”
“He’ll become partially paralyzed.”
“So what? He’ll deal with it,” Seraph replied.
The Vulpix backed away nervously and retort, “If left untreated, this paralysis will lead to an event in which Canersia will get the next Nostalgia Crystal and his untimely death…”
“That’s ridiculous!” the skunk laughed.
“Seraph, shut up!” Kent scolded her and then returned his gaze to Pyra, “Where can I find this Siabunta root? I’ll head out there immediately to retrieve it.”
“The…the plant only grows in the twilit hollows of a place called The Nettlewood…”
“The Nettlewood?!” he then shouted. Pyra backed away fearfully, knowing that she’d overstepped her mark.
“I…I’m sorry…” she began to sniffle, “I just thought I that would help.” Afterwards, she ran away crying.
“Great going, Kent. You just scared the living crap out of her,” Seraph sighed, “Where’s this ‘Nettlewood’ she mentioned?”
“If memory serves, it is a timberland some ways to the northeast,” Ratchet replied, “As I recall, it was a labyrinthine forest with a cruel overgrowth of thorn-laden plants, which made it an impregnable fortress. No surprise as a tyrannical beast called Nettlepine claimed it as his territory.”
“Yeah, but things have changed drastically twenty years, Ratchet,” Kent explained, “Nettlepine and his entire clan were ousted a few years back by some invasive Pokémon that wanted to liberate his territory. Since then, the forest has become overrun by Fairy-type Pokémon.”
“I see why you would be concerned then.”
“You’re afraid of Fairies? Seriously?” Seraph scoffed, patting her knife again, “I’ve lost track of how many of them I’ve killed when traveling between the continents with Cairo. They don’t scare me.”
“Your knife won’t be much good against their powers. Most of them have extremely powerful magic that would kill you before you even had a chance to get within striking range.”
“That’s why I also had a bow and arrows as well as my mother’s chain whip, before you confiscated them.”
“Speaking of which, Saul ordered me to return them to you.” Kent reached into the sack hidden in his dreadlock and pulled out her tribal weapons. Seraph took her quiver, which contained her unstrung bow, and slid it over her right shoulder. She then gripped her whip and roped it around her backside.
“Well, thank you.”
“Before I forget, Saul has also agreed to let Ratchet stay in town, so long as he doesn’t provoke anyone. I was going to tell you when we found you, but I didn’t realize that Osiris was in town.”
“That’s a surprise, given his temper last night.”
“In any case, now that we know we need the Siabunta root, I’ll have to form a proper search party to go into The Nettlewood and find it.”
“I’m going too!” Seraph said.
“Oh, no, you aren’t!” Kent retorted, “Perhaps you’ve just forgotten everything I just finished saying?” Seraph shook her head.
“That’s what I thought. You and Ratchet are going to stay here in the village. Saul and I will handle this mission alone, is that clear?”
“Tch, yeah…” she mumbled.
“I can’t hear you!” he shouted with drill sergeant-like report.
“Yes! Geez, you don’t have to yell all the damn time.”
“I do when I want to get my point across to a bratty little teen like you, so can it!”
‘Coming from a guy who’s not even twice my age…’ she sneered.
“Don’t give me that look! I’m still your commanding officer.”
“We’ll see how long that lasts once Chip recovers.” Kent growled momentarily and then started to walk away in the direction of the town’s post office.
Ratchet stepped towards her and said, “You should not disregard him. Kent had a rather difficult childhood from what I recall him telling me years ago.”
“His father, Salazar Zoltaine, was a brutish figure. He was reviled by most of the Pokémon across the continent, and he was extremely abusive to his wife and children. He beat Kent to near death at one point even. Kent once said that the only reason he reveres Saul so much is because the man stopped his father before he could deal a fatal blow.”
“That was years ago, right?”
“Yes. I never met Sal myself, but I have no reason to doubt Kent either.”
“Well, that doesn’t account for the fact that Chip needs medicine as soon as possible,” Seraph snorted, “How far away is The Nettlewood?”
“Not far. If we left now, we could be there by midday. It’d be even faster if we had a teleportation stone.”
“Well, there’s no getting Kent’s stone for this, so we should just set out.”
Seraph turned to the path she knew led out of town. Ratchet let out an exhausted sigh, but started walking ahead of her. She followed alongside as they left town. A short ways behind them, Pyra pursued the two with her cloak flapping wildly as she hopped curiously after them.
<End Chapter Eight>