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Old June 18th, 2013 (6:43 AM). Edited November 3rd, 2013 by Knightfall.
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Knightfall Knightfall is offline
Unforeseen Consequences
     
    Join Date: Apr 2013
    Location: Sawgrass Town
    Gender: Male
    Nature: Modest
    Posts: 31
    Knightfall's note: To anyone who reads this, the prologue in the very first post of the story has been heavily edited. It is pretty important to reread it if you haven't already.


    Chapter Nine: Perspective
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Executive Order 47: “In the event any officer of the law becomes malcompliant with established royal doctrines, it is imperative that they be disposed of with extreme prejudice. They are to be imprisoned without the possibility of fair trial. Lethal force is granted for severe cases of insubordination. Regional governors have the responsibility of filling in the position within forty-eight hours from initial disposal.”

    Opening paragraph of Royal Decree: 47

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Sunlight softly streamed through the large glass window of the study, lighting up the room with the new morning light. The room was paneled with a rich, dark wood and lined with several handsomely built bookcases. There was a desk in the center of the room made out of the same dark wood on which were stacked several important-looking documents.

    A single Pokemon paced slowly behind the desk. Its paws made little noise on the polished marble flooring. He clutched a letter in his paw, careful not to accidently impale it on his paw's boney spike.

    His red eyes read down the page, shifting as the Pokemon poured over each word several times before moving to the next one. As soon as he was finished reading it, he immediately read it again, hoping that what he read was a mistake.

    Your Majesty, be it far from me as a loyal subject of the crown to impose foreboding news upon you, but I am afraid I must. Unfortunately, costs of production of many of the items you import from our facilities have risen, and such the cost of exporting these products to your nation must rise to meet these cost demands.

    I realize how crucial it is for your campaign against the Colonies that supplies reach your army in a timely fashion and how strained your treasury is for gold. Therefore, I will offer you a deal:
    grant Trinity Isle exclusive trade with your ports and allow us to collect tolls on our competitor’s ships and we will be able to keep prices from rising on our products.

    I severely hope that you see the benefit from accepting these terms. The Kingdom can only prosper from them and we will be able to meet our financial obligations. Otherwise, I will have no other choice but to terminate our existing trade agreement. I do not wish for that to happen, nor do I wish the Colonies to overpower your nation.

    Please respond in a timely manner; I have a schedule to keep.

    Head Administrator, Constantine Sceptile of T.I.R.A.
    .

    A low growl of frustration came from the Pokemon. His black-furred paw placed the letter down on the desk. He slowly lifted his head, revealing two blue pointed ears and a blue and black furred snout.

    “Curse the Legends …” the Lucario sighed as he rubbed his paws against the sides of his head. They’ve got us. The treasury can’t take another price increase …

    As the monarch contemplated his extremely limited options, a soft knocking on the doors of the room interrupted him. Pushing aside the troubling news, he regained his regal composure.

    “Enter.”

    The two wooden doors parted to reveal a small red and white bird carrying several pieces of freshly printed parchment. The Delibird bowed politely, his beak almost touching the marble floor.

    “Your Majesty, Lord Darney wishes to speak with you concerning the Inner Council. He is waiting in the reception hall,” he reported quickly. The king’s face darkened slightly at the mention of the name.

    “Send him up; I will speak with him,” he said, unable to conceal his disapproving undertone.

    “Will you be needing anything else, my lord?” the festively decorated bird asked.

    A drink from Spinda’s would be nice. Something very strong … “No thank you, Wevan. That will be all,” he answered with a dismissing wave of his paw.

    Wevan simply nodded. “Very well. I will fetch him right away, sir.” With that, he waddled out the door, making sure to close it gently behind him.

    The Lucario closed his eyes and tried to focus his mind. He would need every ounce of mental strength not to snap and rip the Lord’s spiny head off his shoulders. The relationship between him and the Lord of the Council had been strained ever since they had come at odds with each other with how to best rule the Kingdom.

    He had just finished taking another deep breath when he felt a strong aura of pure contempt waiting outside the door.

    “Come in, Darney.” The door slowly opened to reveal a Pokemon slightly shorter than the king. His grass green carapace glinted in the morning sun’s rays as he walked into the study of the palace. The Pokemon, Darney, bowed in respect, his scythe-like appendages extended behind him as he continued the sign of respect.

    Once he rose again, the Scyther coughed as he prepared to speak. “Nickolas,” he acknowledged, “I know you dislike being visited by me, so I’ll keep this meeting brief.”

    The sovereign was not moved. “Why are you here?” Nickolas asked curtly, looking down at the oversized mantis.

    Darney continued, ignoring the king’s question. “As you know, the war effort has gone stagnate. The Colonial lines cannot be broken and our army is just barely holding them back.”

    “I know this. I do not need to hear it again from—” the king began, but was cut off almost immediately by the Scyther.

    “Meanwhile, the Kingdom is crumbling around us; a dying patient in a hospital. We cannot hope to save it without greater cooperation within the government,” he said, slowly rubbing his right scythe on his left. Nickolas narrowed his eyes Just where is he going with this? he wondered.

    “Ever since the creation of the Council after the chaos of the Time Gear business and your tragic … loss, we have had varying degrees of disagreement on how the government should be run. What actions need to be taken to preserve this fine nation,” Darney said, beginning to slowly circle Nickolas like a vulture closing in on a carcass.

    “Nearly every suggestion we’ve put forth has been more or less rejected by you, getting us nowhere, while our enemies continue to wear us down. If it wasn’t for your family, the war would have been over a year ago! Now, we nearly bankrupt and close to the tipping point into anarchy!” He stopped circling directly in front of Nickolas, his eyes burning with anger.

    “That is why the Council has decided to temporarily decrease your influence in the government until the current crisis has passed. Effective immediately.”

    The noble backed away from the king, expecting a response. To the Scyther’s surprise, the Lucario just stood where he was, mouth slightly agape in apparent disbelief.

    Darney cracked a slight smile. “You need some time alone with your thoughts, I see. Good day … your Highness,” he said with a mock bow. He then swiftly turned and walked out of the room through the doorway.

    “W-what?” Nickolas stuttered as he tried to process what had just happened. He couldn’t believe that the absolute power built up by his family over the course of three centuries was decimated within ninety seconds.

    Everything his ancestors, his grandfather, his father, and he had worked for gone in a flash. Governance over his land had vanished just as the light of the sun passed behind a thick cloud. They took it away! My crown! My Kingdom!

    The disbelief gave way to absolute rage in one violent scream as Nickolas curled his right paw into a fist and slammed it into the nearest bookshelf. The shelf built from wood of the forests of the Far Reach splintered under the heavy blow. Books on the shelf flew to the ground in a flutter as pages of knowledge were torn by the sovereign’s wrath.

    “No! No!! NO!!” he screamed as he repeatedly slammed his fist into the fractured remains of the wooden furniture. Suddenly, as the sun again broke through the clouds, his anger dissipated.

    Nickolas fell to his knees and let his head drop down towards the hard, marble floor. His entire body shuddered as he attempted to gulp down as much air as he could. He couldn’t take it; not anymore. His citizens were being crushed by injustice, his armies were being crushed by their enemies, his government was being crushed by his own advisors, and right now, Nickolas was being crushed with repressed emotion.

    One low sob escaped his throat and it was instantly followed by another, and yet another. Small rivulets of tears made their way down his face from the corners of his closed eyes.
    Memories of the happier times before the war, before the Crisis of Time, before the Falling Star, all flashed in front of his eyes.

    His father, still in the prime of his health laughed as he waved to the crowds of adoring Pokemon. Celebrating the thirtieth year of his reign.

    His mother scolding him as he ran without care through the gold lined halls of the palace. His wife, the love of his life, celebrating their son’s first year of life. The celebration that lasted three days in the streets of Silver.

    Then, the memories changed for the worse as his sobs increased. His father, coughing violently as the assassin’s poison ate through his veins. His father, lying on the cold marble floor as his advisors raced for help. His father, whispering his final blessing and bestowing his son the crown with his last labored breath.

    His mother, consumed by sorrow, ended her life with an emulation of the poison that had taken her soul mate only a week prior.

    Himself, ten years ago when his world collapsed once more. When those ungrateful Colonists took his love away from him forever, stealing away her life.

    And most recently, himself once again, refusing to look as he signed the order. The order that made him run away from everything he once knew. That made him a fugitive.

    The memories did not subside until he felt the forceful shake of two small wings and the concerned voice of Wevan that broke him from the horrible slideshow.

    “Sir? Sir?! Are you okay, sir?! Oh, do please get up, sir! Oh, Articuno, what should I do?!” the Delibird cried as Nickolas attempted to breathe once again. His body slowly recovered with the influx of air and he sat upright.

    “I-I’m f-fine. Thanks, Wevan,” the Lucario said in between his panting breaths.

    Wevan carefully removed his wings from his king’s back. “Thank the Legends, you’re alright …” the butler sighed in relief that his lord had not yet kicked the proverbial bucket.

    “Umm, I’ll go make some Oran tea for you sir. I know you like that. I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” he stated quickly, before hurriedly running out of the study down to the kitchens.

    “Yes, thank you,” Nickolas mumbled as he closed his eyes again allowing his thoughts to wander for one brief moment. Oh, Alexandria … What do I do now?”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I am dead. Dead to the gods. Dead to those who once knew me. Dead to the false knowledge. Dead to the world above.
    “Dive right! There are patrols on the left up ahead! Keep running!”

    “No! It’s over! It’s all over! There’s nothing left! They’ve all left me!”
    I’ve become little more than a shadow of my former self.

    Yet I live. Deep within the darkest recesses of the truth, away from the lies above. I don’t know exactly how I became how I am. Yet somehow I did.
    “Get a hold of yourself! You must focus! It’s not over! There! A ladder! Climb!”

    My mind slips into the insanity that plagues me. Reminding me of my failures.
    “No! No! No! There’s nothing! I’m nothing! You’re just a figment of my imagination! Leave me alone!” Screaming delusions of my tortured mind.

    I once obeyed this hypothetical truth. A promise made up by those who wish to repress true knowledge all for the sake of greed and corruption. They controlled me and those who once knew me. And we did not question them.
    Days and months passed by, yet I did not waver from the viewpoint they forced upon us.
    “Listen to me! Please! You’re hallucinating again. Just take a deep breath and try to block out the visions! You have to focus.”

    I beg you, do not judge me. I was lost in the night of ignorance, without a lantern or torch to guide me.
    “I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy! I’mnotcrazy! I’mnotcrazyI’mnotcrazy!”
    I’m afraid I am.

    I do not know when, but I woke up. Woke up from the moral sleep our overseers had subjected us to. Woken up from a dream only to face the living nightmare that had ensnared itself into our lives so deeply that there was no escape from it.
    “Snap out of it! Whether you like it or not, you are insane, at least until we get out of here.”

    I dug deeper into the heart of the false truth, while putting on the façade of continued compliance to their immoral orders. Their countless violations of justice; they did not go unnoticed by my furtive eyes. Until I found it. The source of the lies.
    “It saw me! The crystal eyes! They’re always watching! Stop watching me!
    In my previous position, I would have been most intrigued about the illusions and acute paranoia of a Pokemon’s mind. Now, I have become my own test subject.

    Their greatest triumph.
    A heart and mind made of the pure concentrations of their unceasing disregard for justice, truth, and ideology. Contempt for their own founding creed. They created a mind of science.
    “You have to focus! Get a hold of yourself! We’re going to be captured if you don’t move!

    He aided them. He used the overseers to unseat the kings of the past and future. In order to preserve the world. To safeguard it for eternity. What a joke. He was the cartographer of the map to upset the reign of justice.
    “Y-you’re right. I- we must keep—There! I saw them! Get away! Get away!”
    It’s truly disgusting seeing how far I’ve fallen.

    I could not remain where I was. I fled. I evaded the false knowledge. Taking refuge in the last remaining strongholds of truth that remained in this hell.
    “Don’t believe what you see! Listen to me! None of that is real! Just listen to me!”

    The variables had not yet been in place. Gone. Unfinished. Destroyed. Hidden from the light of the righteous. Trapped under the lies of our generation.
    “How can I trust you! You’re one of them! You always were! Get away!”
    If I can’t trust my own conscious, how can I trust someone else’s?

    Heaven shone a light down upon me. It cast me into favor. How could something has pure and innocent as ideology exist in this wasteland of hatred and progress?
    “We’ve been over this before! I am not one of them! You made sure of that.”

    I dared not question. Not again. Together, we worked. Justice and ideals. To overthrow the false truth and free others from its tyrannical grip.
    “That’s just what they would say! Get away from me! I hate you! I hate all you! You-- You’re trying to kill me!” Trusting a conscious that’s not even my own.

    We failed. Together we fled as far as we could, yet the mind of science aided by the spawns of coding barricaded us. Trapped us on the bridge connecting the span of dimensions.
    “Just listen to yourself right now! You’re confused. What would she think right now?

    The cold winds of prejudice battered us. Making our wills slip ever so slightly. In our hour of need, a spawn of coding saw through the wool of lies. The wired heart’s eyes were opened to see the evil that surrounded it.
    “D-don’t you dare mention her! Not again! Not ever again!”
    What have I become? All in my quest for the truth...

    The heart of wire was not enough to keep the mind of science and the founder of lies attack with the cold winds of prejudice. We fell. Off the bridge spanning the two worlds: knowledge and freedom.
    “No! I will mention her! What would she think of you right now?! Accusing me of treachery! What would she say to you?! Tell me!”

    Our spirits fell. The abyss of ultimate ignorance awaited us. Its jaws open like a predator. An ocean of darkness accepted the fall of our light. Drowning it swiftly.
    “ No! No! Stop it! I can hear her! I hear her! She’s saying I’m a bad Pokemon! No I’m not! You’re lying! You’re lying! Stop lying to me! Stop it!”
    In the clear instances when my mind is fully mine, I stop to wonder about my predicament.

    I swam, rescuing the heart of wire and the wounded soul of ideals from the ocean of darkness.
    Prejudice had left its mark on the ideals and such a way that there was no recovery.
    “She’s telling you to snap out of it. None of those visions are real. She’s telling you to listen to me. It’s not real.”

    I wandered with the heart of wire and the dying ideals through the lost halls underneath the fortress of lies and inequity.
    “N-no! No! They’re real! R-real! R-r-real? N-not real? Not real ... Y-you’re right. I can hear her …They’re … They’re going away. The visions …”
    I used to be respected! I used to be free! I used to be sane!

    It was there, among the halls, where ideals were truly lost. Truth was not enough to save it. The wired heart lead me onwards toward half-hearted salvation.
    “Good. Just take some deep breaths. In. Out. That’s it. There’s some Luminous Orbs in the supply room ahead. Those will help you. Come on. We have to climb.”

    I found salvation. Salvation in the forgotten knowledge that still existed unmolested under the crushing bastion of false truths.
    “I-I’m sorry. For yelling at you. You’re the last friend I have in this hell. I shouldn’t have let those voices get the better of me. I-it’s me. I need the sun, it’s getting to my head.”
    There’s nothing for me, but a hope that’s been shattered and taped back together more times than I can count.

    He found me. The One who has strived to find the balance between truth and ideals. He comforted me in my darkest hour. When my mind could not react according to reason.
    “It’s alright. I forgive you. You can’t help it … That’s why we have to climb. So you can get to the surface again. So we can escape.”

    He promised that freedom would be at hand. Freedom from the clutches of those who restrain the truth. From those who wish to ensnare the world.
    “I know we have to escape, but we can’t leave. Not yet. Otherwise there will be no one to guide the heroes when they get here. They won’t survive without us. They must have a guide. And I must find her.”
    He visits me every so often. He speaks all proper, like it’s a business meeting. He says the same thing every time “patience”. If only to remind me:

    I ascended into the passages of the false knowledge with the wired heart. To prepare for the coming of the heroes of injustice.
    “You’re trying to be a hero, just because of what that thing told you. Listen to me! You’re not a hero! Heroes die!”
    That I will see the sun again. One day. My mind will become clear once again. The heroes will allow me to.
    “You don’t understand… I have to stay. To guide them. To find her. Otherwise the world will burn.”

    I will be free.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Aleck groaned. His body stirred on the floor of the damp dungeon. As his nose picked up the smell of decaying straw, he slowly opened his crystal eyes.

    He instantly knew something was wrong as soon as he realized that one side of his vision was completely dark. He carefully raised a claw to the darkened eye and to his horror, felt the deep cracks in it. Then he remembered: the mysterious Scyther, the kill list, the money, everything from the night before.

    Swallowing his panic, he looked around the room that confined him. It was small, the ceilings barely high enough to keep from smashing his head on it. The walls appeared to be built completely of stone. Though whatever kind it was, he instantly knew it would be too hard for him to dig his way out.

    He turned his head to the only source of light, a flickering torch in the hallway. He was separated from the warmth of the fire by a gate of iron bars with a firm lock attached to it.
    He gripped the bars with his claws and shook them as hard as he could, hoping to attract some attention.

    “Hey! Let me out of here! Someone answer me!” he angrily yelled. Suddenly, heavy footsteps made him cease his calling.

    A large Pokemon with a thick hide of purple complete with several pointed spikes stopped in front of his cell. He took his fist and slammed it against the bars.
    Aleck leaped backwards in fright, while the Nidoking let out a gruff laugh.

    “Better keep quiet, little Kingdom rat, otherwise you’ll lose another eye,” he chuckled as he continued his patrol down the hallway, leaving Aleck alone once more.

    “Oh, Giratina, what have I done to deserve this?” Aleck croaked, holding his injured eye with his claws.

    “You allowed your greed to get the better of your judgment. This is not the first time that has happened, from my observations.”

    “Giratina?! Is that you?!” Aleck gasped, excitedly looking around the dungeon with his functioning eye.

    “Not quite, regrettably. Though I am an emissary for those in high places. Regardless, knowledge of my identity is not required for my purpose here.”

    “W-who are you?” Aleck said in a stuttering whisper as the dungeon seemed to grow colder. The slight warmth the torch provided dissipating gradually as the voice’s presence grew closer..

    “You must not have heard me, merchant, when I said my identity is not necessary for this conversation."

    “W-what do you want?! Show yourself, phantom!” Aleck demanded, trying to summon his courage as he faced the unseen threat.

    “I’m afraid I work best from the shadows, Aleck, so I cannot hope to oblige to your demands. I can however, shed some light on the issue at hand. Such as, why you are in a nice, cozy prison cell and not --purely for example-- face down, throat slit in a ravine.

    Aleck gulped in fright. “Please, don’t hurt me. I’m only ...” he pleaded, his voice breaking off mid-sentence. He huddled in a corner of the dungeon, whimpering slightly

    “Only what, Aleck? A murderer? A backstabbing thief? A traitor? Neither Derek nor Team Salient got a chance to argue the fate you forced upon them; why should I hear your plea? The temperature in the cell continued to drop until Aleck could see his own terrified breath turn into mist.

    “I was wrong! I was greedy! I nearly killed them, but it was that Scyther that—!”

    “Enough! I care not for whom you place the blame for your own mistakes. Tell me, why I should give you the chance that Salient never had?”

    “I am sorry! I wish I had thrown the money on the ground! I should have walked away from his deal! What more can I say to make you believe that?!” Aleck cried. A deep mist enveloped the prison cell, making the area around Aleck a wall of pure darkness.

    “I cannot believe anything you say as your lies are hard to distinguish from the truth. I’m certain Derek would be disappointed to see the cesspool of greed and deceit your life has become. Was your ‘friendship’ with him, however brief, nothing? Just a way to advance yourself? A way to temporarily satiate your greed?

    “D-don’t mention his name. Not even after all this time. Not after what happened to him.” He whimpered as memories from his distant past resurfaced in vivid detail.

    “Why not? You used him. He was only a tool to pass the blame onto for your mistakes. He took the fall in your place. He got what you and you alone deserved.”

    “He was my friend! I tried to save him, but I couldn’t!” Aleck roared, stamping his clawed foot on the stone floor.

    “Yet you never felt even the slightest amount of grief or regret afterwards. You never felt--”

    “You don’t know what I felt!” Aleck interrupted, “I lost a friend! You have no idea how much the guilt ate at me! You’re the one who doesn’t know anything! You’re nothing! You’re-- Gaaakkk!” he clutched at his throat as an unseen force crushed it. His vision began to darken as his body suffered from the withdrawal of precious oxygen.

    “Do. Not. Insult. Me. Nod your head once if you understand. Otherwise you can permanently say goodbye to your motor functions.” Despite on the verge of passing out, Aleck managed to nod as per the voice’s instructions.

    “Excellent.” As suddenly as it appeared, the crushing pressure on his windpipe immediately released. Aleck collapsed to the floor gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

    The voice ignored the Sableye’s weak curses and continued from where he left off.
    “So, if given the chance, you would make up for the deed? What would you be willing to do to repay a favor of a lost friend? To repay the debt owed for your life? Hmm?”

    “Of course I would! I would do anything! He didn’t deserve what I made him go through … ” he said with a hoarse whisper.

    “Would you help Salient? Would you help them in their hour of need if presented the opportunity?

    “Yes! Anything!” Tears began to form in his functioning eye.

    “Anything? Do you actually know what ‘anything’ entails?

    “Yes! I do! Please, I swear I will do anything to ensure their safety! To make it up to them!” the merchant cried, praying to the Dragon of the Dimensions to save him.

    “Even at the cost of your life?

    Aleck’s heart was about to explode from sheer terror. “Yes! Yes! Anything!”

    “You are a pathetic excuse of a Pokemon, do you know that? You traded not only
    Salient’s, but also several other’s lives for what? A sack of metal.”


    That was when he saw them; two golden eyes glaring at him with a mixture pure loathing and twisted bemusement.

    “Prove to me you deserve a second chance, Aleck. Prove that your life was not squandered on self-gratification and worldly possessions. Can you do that?”

    The Sableye fell prostrate on the stone floor as he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Yes! I will! I will! Just let me go!”

    As if a fire was ignited, the dark mist vanished in a blink of an eye. It left no trace that it had invaded the small prison cell besides a very shook up Aleck who was still huddled in a corner.

    “Well then, we will see just how … repentant you are of your actions, won’t we?”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “Alright, so as of now, we’re in the middle of a mystery dungeon. Right about here,” Jay stated, pressing his paw against a clump of green on his torn map that represented the mystery dungeon.

    After the ordeal of the previous night, they had decided to sleep in shifts until dawn. A plan that would have worked if Leo hadn’t dozed off five minutes into his shift. Fortunately, no interlopers appeared during the night to mess things up even more than they already were.

    The morning sun was still creeping its way above the eastern horizon, but its rays provided enough light to see. The dungeon forest surrounding the team was calm, as if they only moved during the night hours.

    “We’re still too close to Loyalty to consider ourselves out of the woods yet,” Jay stated again, Leo groaning at his pun. They had all gotten up only a few minutes before and Leo had yet to rub the sleep out of his eyes.

    His entire body felt as stiff as a board and sore. This was to be expected from sleeping on a patch of particularly uncomfortable dirt. He had woke up with a layer of dew on his scales and had trouble getting the irritating droplets off his skin. They acted like itching powder on him, causing him to fidget around in discomfort trying to get the stinging water off.

    “We have few options once we get out of these woods. Depending on how fast word gets out that we’re wanted, we might have very little time. We can’t go east back to Loyalty, so that leaves us with the Ember Mountains to the south, and Silver City to the west,” Jay said, counting off the limited ways they could leave the forest.

    “I vote we go north; my hometown is near the Borderlands,” Kelly suggested, her voice still sounding exhausted from the previous night’s ordeal. Her scream Leo had heard was due to a delayed Orb going off in the main room. Apparently sandstorms and electric types do not go well together. She had her paw placed near a jagged red line on the northern area of the map.

    Jay shook his head in obvious disagreement. “That’s also where the war is. We might as well walk into a military base, because that’s what the Borderlands has become,” Jay responded.

    “Where do you suggest we go then, Jay?” Kelly snapped, placing her paw down on the map over the jagged red line that indicated the Borderlands.

    “Simple, we go to Silver. We can hopefully lie low for a bit and fade from their wanted list,” Jay said confidently, placing his paw down on the large dot near the coast that represented Silver City.

    “You say we’re going into a military base with my plan, when you’re suggesting we go the capital! Do you know how many guards are there on a daily basis? Hundreds, at least! No, we’re not going there,” Kelly declared, shooting down Jay’s suggestion.

    Jay crossed his arms in frustration. “Well, we’re not going to Solaceon Town, or whatever it’s called. That’s for sure.”

    “It’s called Solace Town. And we’re going there and not Silver,” Kelly growled, the spiked fur on her back bristling with electricity.

    “How about this town here? It’s far away from the border as well as Silver,” Leo recommended, tapping his claw against a small dot deep within the frontier lands of the Far Reach. Both Kelly and Jay stopped their bickering as they looked at him as if he had grown a third arm.

    “A-are you joking?! If you’re not, then you’re insane!” Jay shouted, as Leo jerked his claw off the map.

    “Leo, I’m sorry. Though I have to agree with Jay this time. We can’t go to … that town. No one goes there, not anymore,” Kelly said gravely.

    “What’s so bad about it?” Leo asked, wondering just what sort of place he had suggested they go.

    “Amnesia or not, you don’t forget the stories of Sawgrass Town. Nothing can erase those,” Jay said with a tone of finality. He quickly shifted the conversation.
    “That aside, we still have the question of which way to go. I still vote we go west to the coast...”

    “And I still say we go north. Leo, would you please back me here?” Kelly pleaded to the Charmeleon.

    “Leo, you gotta agree with me here. Or at the very least suggest something helpful,” Jay asked, trying to restore some of the camaraderie they’d lost only a few hours ago.

    Leo took a minute to study the weathered map lain across the ancient tree stump. Its rough depictions of mountains, rivers, cities, and territory boundaries all seemed to swirl into a mess of jagged black lines.

    After observing the areas where each of his teammates wanted to go, the solution he saw was so simple he wondered how it hadn’t even dawned on Jay or Kelly.

    “How about we head northwest? We’ll still be close to both areas and far from Loyalty. And when the time comes, we’ll decide which way looks better. We’re still in the middle of a forest that’s trying to kill us, so I’d like to leave it as soon as possible.”

    Leo wasn’t sure how Jay and Kelly ended up accepting his suggestion of going northwest, but they had, and that was all that mattered. Against Jay’s wishes, they split the last of their food—a single bruised apple—in what tried to pass itself off as a breakfast.

    Leo was sure that tempting his stomach with that morsel of food only made his hunger worse for the wear. Despite still being deprived of food and a decent night’s sleep, they had set off from the glade just after dawn.

    Under the dense treetops, the warmth of the sun was prevented from reaching the actual forest floor. The dew of the night before had accumulated on the trail, mixing with the layers of dead leaves and other refuse on the ground until it obtained the consistency of sludge and made a disgusting sloping noise with every footstep.

    If the mire that was the dungeon trail wasn’t bad enough, the temperature stubbornly refused to warm the forest below the treetops. This wouldn’t have affected Leo as much if it hadn’t chilled the mud, doubling the feeling of gloom that had settled over the group. Kelly had it worst of all, having to walk on all fours through the cold sludge.

    And so it remained for the next hour or so: walking, shivering, and occasionally complaining about the mud. When they finally saw the end of the trail and the clear field beyond, they simultaneously started to race towards it.

    Mud sprayed into the air as the team scrambled as fast as they could down the forest corridor. Despite tripping and sliding face first into the mud several times, Leo continued to run, ignoring the stinging sensation in his tail brought on by the mud.

    Once they had passed through the freezing spatial boundary of the of the dungeon, the team found themselves standing in a giant field of low grass. The sun, despite partially shielded by passing clouds, had never felt so good. Leo rested on his back in the grass, holding his tail off the ground to prevent a fire, and allowed the sun to warm his entire body. Leo could see Jay and Kelly both copying him, as they warmed themselves and brushed the drying mud off their bodies.

    Taking a deep breath, Leo sat up and surveyed the field. Fortunately, this field appeared to be nothing like the one he had first woke up in. Small birds chirped as they flew over the pasture, the wind blew normally, and, as far as he could tell, there were no Pokemon, either from the Kingdom or wild, trying the kill them.
    Unfortunately, this calm was shattered as a cheerful voice greeted them from the sky.

    “Hey! There you all are!” At once, they all looked up in bewilderment. A small moving spec in the sky suddenly started to circle downwards towards them. As it got closer to the ground, they could identify the bird’s brown feathers and red crest. Within a few seconds, the bird had landed in the middle of the team.

    “Thank Zapdos, I was able to find you all! Lucky you all came out of the forest when you did,” the bird chirped excitedly as Jay took a closer look at the Pidgeotto.

    “Wait a second … Icarus, is that you?” the Riolu asked, realization hitting him like a punch.

    “In the flesh,” he responded, unfurling his right wing and directed the group to a scar along it where the bone was giving proof of his identity. “Healed quite nicely after our little mishap in Spore Meadows, don’t ya think?”

    “What on earth are you doing here, Icarus? I thought you were busy with the military or otherwise engaged,” Kelly asked, trying to elicit some answers from their former client.

    “You were supposed to pay us back for rescuing you,” Jay added, making Icarus cringe with the memory.

    “Jay, shut up. Forget about that Icarus. Tell us, why were you looking for us?” Leo asked receiving a sharp glare from his team leader.

    “R-right. Anyways, after I left you all, I waited a few days for the healers to fix up my wing. Today was my second day back to work, actually. Yesterday I delivered a message to the army camped in the Bronze Valley---” Icarus rambled.

    “Today, Icarus. We kinda have to keep moving,” Jay snapped at the Bird Pokemon.

    Icarus flapped his wings once. “Alright, alright. I’m going. Right. Today I had to deliver a message to Gear. Something about potential recruits, I think,” he said, as Kelly immediately pressed him with questions.

    “Did you talk to him?! Why did he order us arrested?!” Icarus put up his wings, indicating to withhold her interrogation.

    “Please, wait a minute. I’m getting to that. Well, when I arrived his office to deliver the message, I found a Skarmory instead of him. Apparently this guy is the governor of the province,” Icarus explained.

    “Wait … we have a governor?” Jay asked, tilting his head in confusion.

    “ I know; it surprised me too. Anyways, that’s not the worst part. I looked at the walls and I saw scorch marks. A lot of them. And I couldn’t get the governor--- Richellie, Richylou, Ricardo--- whatever his name was, I couldn’t get him to tell me what happened to Gear. It was the deputy, Axis, I think, that told me what happened,” Icarus further elaborated, pausing for breath.

    “So, what happened?” Leo asked, even though he could already guess what happened to the kind Magnezone.

    Icarus bowed his head, as if dreading the news he was about to reveal.
    “He killed him. The governor killed him for not obeying orders. Apparently, there was a list of traitors, your team name was on it along with some others, and he refused to follow it. It was the governor who ordered the arrest, not Gear,” Icarus somberly informed the team.

    “He’s gone. He’s really gone,” Jay whispered in disbelief. Leo couldn’t believe it either. Gear had been the first Pokemon he met that somewhat supported him. He had helped him when he was lost and confused. Gear…

    “Well, I got outta there as fast as I could. I knew you lot weren’t evil Pokemon, much less traitors, so I went to find you. Your base was completely destroyed, burned to a crisp. But, I saw a squad of Magnemite still sweeping the area, so I knew you all had escaped,” the Pidgeotto explained.

    “I spent the last few hours circling above the forest before I saw you all in the field,” he said before continuing.
    “You know? You guys were really lucky you came out of the forest where you did. They’ve got patrols along the north and west of here.”

    At this both Jay and Kelly’s faces fell. Richelieu had wasted no time in making up for his squad’s failure the previous night. Wanted posters were already beginning to dot bulletin boards across the Between countryside.

    “Well, that throws a Blast Seed at our plans,” Jay grumbled, putting his paws behind his head in exasperation.

    “No kidding …” Kelly sighed in reluctant agreement.

    “Thanks, Icarus. You kept us from walking straight into two traps,” Leo said gratefully as he gave the bird a pat on the back.

    “You’re welcome. Anyways, it sounds like you all have no place to go, right?” Icarus asked, quickly hopping away from the Charmeleon.

    “That’s right,” Leo answered, “or unless they have any other ideas.” He jabbed a claw towards his teammates, who simply shook their heads.

    “That’s great! Actually, that’s really horrible, but it’s still great!” Icarus exclaimed, flapping his wings several times in excitement.

    “What the hell are you talking about?!” Jay demanded, as Icarus slowly gathered himself.

    “What I mean is that there’s a military encampment a few hours in this direction. The general there often turns a blind eye towards recruits if they have a record, so you all can go there,” Icarus explained, extending his wing down the dirt trail that cut across the field.

    More than slightly suspicious, Jay wasn’t about to believe a Pokemon that had conned them into rescuing him for free.
    “You’re serious, right? No tricks?”

    “None at all. I still owe you guys a favor, don’t I?” Icarus stated. His expression screamed of a longing to be absolved of his debt to the team.

    “Jay, I think we can trust him,” Leo said, turning towards Icarus before Jay could refuse.
    “We’d be grateful for a place to stay and be safe.” Despite his beak limiting his expressions somewhat, the tell-tale signs of a smile made its way across the Pidgeotto’s feathered face.

    “Excellent! I’ll fly ahead and let Torrent know you all are coming. Remember, it’s just straight ahead on this path. You should arrive there around sundown if you’re lucky,” Icarus reminded the group before flapping his wide wings several times and made his way into the air.

    After watching his flying form grow smaller and smaller until it disappeared altogether, the team gathered up their meager belongings and started, once again, down the path through the field.

    The lush field offered little cover from any direction save for the tall grasses still growing strong from the torrential summer rains that fed them. The almost noxious aroma of the thousands of grass buds and wild flowers clouded Leo’s head. His footsteps along the dry dirt made a hypnotic thudding noise that only made the trek feel longer.

    The late summer heat took its toll on the team as they trudged through the field. Leo wished that a well of water would appear alongside the path, or anything that could potentially quench his thirst. He thought it was a cruel working of fate that he was stuck in this body. Wanting nothing more to take a plunge into a lake, but also loathing the thought of having water splash onto him.

    His torpid trance was broken only occasionally when he, in his senseless state, stepped off a raised ledge and fell forward, usually giving the ground a nice impression of his face while doing so. Kelly and Jay seemed to have also been taken captive by the same mind-numbing trance as they continued plodding on, Kelly only weakly looking back at him and urging him to get up.

    The cycle continued: walk, heat, thirst, smell, trip, repeat. It was if some sick deity had cut out the same mile of field and made them walk the same stretch again and again for his own personal amusement. Leo shivered, even as the sun scorched his back, thinking of all his experiences in this world so far.

    While the Fields hadn’t actively tried to kill him, they had proved to be both emotionally as well as physically draining. It had truly acted like a dungeon. His luck had continued to go downhill from there when he was arrested and his subsequent first mission with them into Spore Fields.
    He’d very nearly been blasted into nothing if the badges had not reactivated when they had.

    It was then, in the infirmary … I first heard him, he realized as his feet momentarily stopped.
    He told me then to wake up and see past the corruption. The corruption … was he talking about this ‘governor’ person? Killing Gear? What that what he meant? Leo mused as his thoughts evolved, rapidly putting together the limited pieces he had to this complex puzzle.

    He told me that this would happen! He warned me about the Magnemite arresting that Golduck and the ambush by Nexus. He knew! The revelation hit him like a sack of particularly hard rocks. His feet continued to remain rooted to the spot as Kelly and Jay marched further ahead of him. His mind continued to race toward a conclusion that was nowhere in sight.

    And in the forest! He... the fire and ice … the voice … his voice. He told me not to leave again. Did he know something else, too? That thing was planning something and Leo knew it.

    Back at the base. That wasn’t me dodging or running. It was something else. It wasn’t me. It was him.

    “I was wondering when you would figure that bit out. I’m glad you have more functioning neurons than Nexus claimed you did.” The voice had come out of nowhere, and as Leo looked around the grassy field, it remained as invisible as the wind.

    Why? No other thought was so prevalent on his mind. The wind seemed to whip the reeds as the voice responded.

    “The how and why of my actions cannot be disclosed at this time due to … well … I’m really not at liberty to say. I have agreed to abide by certain … restrictions, barring my influence over you and some select others.”

    Who? Who else is going through this?! Leo’s thoughts screamed as the voice simply sighed in exasperation.

    “Once again, I am not at liberty to say. Now listen closely, Leo, I am asking --quite politely, I might add-- for one thing. Only one. I am currently … entangled in some rather pressing … matters concerning the ‘legality’ of this operation. All I ask is that you stay the course without needing an … intervention on my part. Can you do this, Leo?”

    “What’s in it for me if I accept?” he whispered, finally finding his voice again.

    “It seems that you’re looking to much into the illusion of free choice I have given you. But, if you must, I will limit my intrusions into your addled head if you comply. The longer you follow my directions, the less I will have to …. correct your actions. Do we have a deal?” the voice chuckled.

    “…Yes,” Leo croaked.

    “Wise choice, my friend. I will meet you up ahead...” With that haunting remark, the presence left, only the torrid sun and tall waves of grass remaining to remind Leo of what was still real. He looked ahead through the rippling grass at the two blue and yellow specks in the distance. He sighed as he found his feet again and began catching up to his teammates.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The sun had finally begun its fiery descent into the western horizon, painting the sky in vivid colors of fading blue, blazing orange, and an amalgamation of similar colors that would need an expert on the color spectrum to accurately name them all.

    Jay had called for a break from walking sometime around noon, when the sun was at its hottest. Said “break” that included all three of them foraging among the brush for some edible berries and roots, a loud argument over which round blue berry was poisonous or not, and finally eating the berries that were decided to be non-lethal, and fortunately were.

    They were all tired and still caked with dirt from their escape from the forest. The military camp was nowhere in sight; even on top of a ridge nothing remotely resembling a camp could be seen for miles around. As the sun’s rays no longer provided enough light to see, they used Leo’s tail as a torch to guide them.
    The waning moon provided only a fraction of the light it did the night before, making determining their path difficult. The wind barely rustled the grass on both sides of them, causing an eerily haunting sound like the rattling cries of some primal beast.

    At first, Leo dismissed the sounds of the grass as the movement of the unblowing summer wind, but as it continued to follow them as they moved along, he increasingly grew paranoid that something was out there.

    The dry stalks of wild grass rattled against each other. Leo could have sworn that he detected the faintest hint of a shadow darting behind a clump of the plants. He strained his eyes, holding his tail in front of him as a flashlight of sorts to aid in his search.

    Jay and Kelly both halted behind him, sensing the same feeling of being watched. The grass seemed to suddenly cease all movement, causing the three fugitives to form a tight circle in the middle of the path. With only the small area that Leo’s tail lit up to effectively see, they remained silent, hoping to either confirm or deny the validity of being stalked.

    “Who’s out there?! We know you’re there!” Jay shouted at the mass of weeds surrounding them. No voice came forth to answer his demand, only a whisper of wind, and ---what sounded like--- the scurrying of feet over the dew-ridden soil.

    “I-I know you’re there! Show yourself!” Jay screamed again, his apparent confidence betrayed by a slight stutter.

    Against the unspoken arguments of his teammates, Jay stepped forward out of the small circle of flickering light that gave the illusion of safety. Leo held his breath as he waited for something horrible to happen, but nothing happened. Jay glanced around, scanning the grass for any hostile life. He turned around to signal that it was all clear. He never got that far.

    Almost as soon as his back was turned, a green tendril shot out from the thicket and snared the Riolu. It coiled around his legs, tripping him as he tried to walk back to his team. Jay’s cry of pain and confusion was cut off as the vine snapped back and dragged him into the thicket.

    Just as Leo braced himself to jump into the brush to rescue his leader, something hard and blunt slammed into the side of his head. He stumbled on the spot, his vision going white for a split second.

    He tried to turn around to face his attacker, but instead of an identity, he was greeted by another blow to the opposite side of his head. Before he could dizzily stagger a single step forward, a small black foot collided with his stomach. Leo doubled over wheezing, but not before the same black foot slammed into his ankles, knocking them out from under him.

    Leo couldn’t find the energy to tell his lungs to inhale. His entire body hurt from the swift beating it endured. His vision blurred and his lungs burned. He could see a blueish figure standing directly above him. The Pokemon snapped something in it’s paws and pressed it to Leo’s mouth and nose.

    His body was begging for air, but he knew he couldn’t breathe in whatever toxin his assailant had. Despite feeling weaker and weaker with every second without air, Leo tried to force the Pokemon off of him by swinging his claws vaguely in the attacker’s direction.

    The Pokemon over him grunted some curse and pressed harder with the toxic seed, but Leo couldn’t comprehend it. His body couldn’t take it anymore. Any notion of free will left him and basic survival instincts took over. Leo’s mouth opened and he gulped in a mouthful of air, dust from the seed intermixed within it.

    Instead of getting clearer, Leo’s vision grew even blurrier as the toxins dulled his senses and relaxed his muscles. Leo felt his eyelids droop lower and lower as weight was added to them. He couldn’t fight it any longer, the fatigue from the night before and earlier that day caught up with him in a single, finishing blow. Leo closed his eyes and allowed his body to drift off into drug induced slumber.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “They are safe, for the time being. There is no need to worry about them at the moment. I’m afraid we have bigger … tribulations to take care of first, my liege. Seeing as you are rather … occupied at the moment. I see it in my duty to take on the role of arbiter in this conflict.”

    …...
    “I will do what I can when I must. For lasting peace.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Author’s Notes:

    As usual, I’d like to thank everyone who gave me advice on this while I wrote it, and my beta reader. My story would look very different if it wasn’t for you guys.

    This chapter truly marks the break with the first arc in my opinion. We’ll be seeing a new setting for the next set of chapters.
    We’ll also be seeing some new characters, as well as a reappearance of a few from chapters past.
    Now, I know that the section in the middle with the incoherent rambling doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of grammar, but it had to be like that.

    Knightfall signing off...
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