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MATURE: Coltar - The Prophecy [On-Going]

Prologue - Two Years Prior


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Jul 23, 2022
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Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.


When my great-great-grandfather was a boy, the world was a dangerous place. The great Coltese Union didn't exist back then. In fact, it was a broken land filled with hate and fear. The North, South and Kilgor were the only places in Coltar back then. Each had its own ruler and its own rules and laws.

On the eve of the 24th of April 1988, the world was about to change for the worst. The date of the Marsten ball had come around quicker than the Lords of the North and South wanted as tensions were higher than they had been for decades. The half-moon was a darker shade of yellow than it usually would be. Its light glowed over the fields behind Marsten Hall, overwhelming the town surrounding it.

Back then, the people of Coltar weren't aware of the far-off lands from which their ancestors came. The half-moon represented half hopes, half jobs and most cynically, the half-truths they were told.

Some people had tried to escape the island, explore, or break free of their crimes and lives. However, escape had proven impossible. Those attempting to flee were often caught up in storms caused by powerful Pokémon and drowned. Those who didn't drown and tried to fly were caught up in whirlwinds, which ripped feathers from flying Pokémon's skin, leaving them flightless. That was assuming they weren't shot down by members of the Elite Guard or the armies which inhabited the land. Even attempting to leave was a capital offence.

Most importantly, though, the outside world was unknown to these people – they were told of great monsters and the abyss which would swallow them whole. Most were too afraid to leave.

My great-great-grandfather James watched as the crowds joined the celebrations from afar, as the Northern Lords shook hands with Southern Lords. The Northern Elite Guard green clashed with the Southern blue. While their handshakes seemed friendly, James could see discontent in their eyes.

"Hey, James. Where is Kitiku?" a boy in uniform, with long black hair and grey eyes, said, nudging James's shoulder.

"I don't know, Pierre," James responded, half-heartedly, staring back at the crowd.

"Well, you two better hurry – Lord Madison is giving a speech soon. But… things aren't looking too good. Lord Piscar isn't negotiating from what I understand, and Lord Madison plans on not giving way the status of Akrat and the other things," Pierre said, muttering. "James, I'll talk to Hanson when we get home. I promise."

"He won't stop …" James whispered, shuffling his feet.

"No, he will. I will make sure of it." Pierre raised his arm up, closing his fist.

James moved his arm up to meet it in the middle. "If you promise… I trust you."

"Now I have to go. Be good," Pierre said, walking away.

A little sick to his stomach, James turned back to watching the Guardsmen and women talking uneasily. Although, he did feel a little relieved at the peacefulness of the situation. He knew no one would dare fight in Marsten, the town of negotiations and peace treaties alike. After all, Marsten was the first town founded in Coltar, followed by Quigk, the Northern Capital. This year, the sheer increase in people attending the Marsten ball coincided with the ongoing negotiations.

While it was clear the negotiations were between Lord Madison of the North and Lord Piscar of the South, the presence of the Master Guard didn't escape his notice. Master Elite Lord Gere Filktas (the ruler of the whole island) had little interest in the politics between Lord Piscar and Lord Madison. Their constant bickering was something that allowed him to sit upon his throne unchallenged by either of them. However, James strongly believed that Lord Madison could easily defeat Master Filktas.

James spotted a tall figure with blond hair and glasses march through the crowd out of the corner of his eye. His poise was enough for James to recognise him immediately as Head of the Master Guard, Felix Mainstenhill – a prodigy trainer, born in the Capital of Quigk. He checked people for their invites to the event. Those without invite and the poor were thrown out of the ballroom and onto the streets. Something that made James turn his nose up a little.

A little jealousy burned inside of him as he wondered at what age Master Guardsman Mainstenhill was taken away from his family to be trained. Was it three years old, maybe four? Many young children were taken away from their parents to be prepared to serve their ruler. James wished it had happened to him, but now he couldn't change that. All he wanted to do was see Lord Madison now.

He waited for a break in the crowds before scuttling past the old columns and ruins. All inscribed with Kilgorese, a language spoken by none but a few. The columns were made of sandy bricks, which were starting to fall apart in some places. Instinctively, James believed the two Lords would discuss matters in Marsten Hall's courtroom. He couldn't go through the main entrance, as he lacked an invite. If caught, he would hang from blood-stained chains. The chains were from the metal of an Aggron, a strong steel type Pokémon. The carpet underneath matched the national Coltese colour of purple. However, it was just as vile to look at as the chains which hung on the wall.

He crept around the outside of the ballroom until he reached the back of the building. The courtroom was on the upper floor of the hall. He looked at the sandy, crumbling bricks and took a deep breath before taking his Poké ball out of his pocket.

"Come out, Okta, let's see Lord Madison," James whispered to the Poké ball. He pressed the button in the middle and released the Pokémon within. A red beam streamed out of the ball, and a smaller than average Onix appeared. Her rocky body wasn't the pure grey of a regular Onix but rather a dirty golden colour. "Hey, Okta. Give me a lift, will you?"

James watched her growl happily before bending down to pick him up. He felt himself being raised up onto the window sill, looking in on the courtroom. He looked through his reflection. Touching his red hair and moving it out of his face, revealing his red eyes and Caucasian complexion in the window, before looking at the highly decorated room.

Behind the judge's seat was the grand portrait of Igor Rett, the first man to unite Coltar. His pale white face was war-torn. His Pokémon was one that no one had claimed to have seen in many years – an older form of Lucario, with sharp horns atop its head. Like Igor, its face was stern and paternal, but its colours made it seem surreal as if it was a myth.

James took a step back off the window sill, a little disappointed, and tumbled. Okta grabbed him in her mouth, so he could see through the ballroom window where the orchestra inside was playing the anthem of the island of Coltar.

Many of the band members were playing the Ukuru. An Ukuru was an instrument only affordable to the middle class or higher. It was crafted from the bones of a Lairon, cut and curved into a hypnotic spiral. The mouthpiece was created from the melted coat of an Aron. The band members who played the Ukuru had to blow into the spiralled metal mouthpiece and bend the bone of the mainframe to change the notes being played. Other instruments played in the band were mainly variants of the banjo, a poor man's musical instrument in Coltar. The music that filled the room was so beautiful it made the tensions between the North and South seem so far away.

James could see the back of the composer of the band and his Gastrodon. His hair was snow-white, short and braided. He was blocking the view of nearly everything inside. The rest of the ballroom was obstructed by his yellow Gastrodon, who was happily squelching along to the music.

However, in the ballroom, he could see the Chandelure floating by. Amongst the purple ghosts, an orange one floated around. Its smile was wider than any of the other Pokémon and people in the room. For an orange Chandelure to even be allowed to light the hall was a miracle in itself. James didn't understand the prejudice against the orange Chandelure that are found. All he knew was they were relatively uncommon.

Just like Okta, they were special.

"Halt!" a voice behind him bellowed.

James jumped out of his skin and turned around.

"Bow down to me and explain why you are here? Why are you here?" a tall Southern man asked, making James feel uncomfortable. The man pressed the button on his Poké ball. The Machamp that had resided inside was now behind him. Its large hands gripped James's shoulders. He couldn't escape. The member of the Elite Guard on the right was still a giant to James. He peered down. His hat was in his left hand. He drew his long sword with his right as James tremored with fear.

James raised his left hand before turning his right hand up, so the palm faced upwards, the universal signal for Northern.

"Orag!" the man called out, placing his hand on his sword.

James watched as a second man came over, his skin was a darker complexion than the first, and he was shorter, with dark brown hair and soft brown eyes.

"Hello," the man said as the two of them locked eyes. "What are you doing back here? You know you shouldn't be back here. Are you lost?"
James looked away, a little unsure.

"What is your name?" he asked softly.


"Well, James, I am Aaron Orag. It is nice to meet you. Who is this?" Lord Orag asked, pointing to the Onix.

"She isn't the right colour. She should be either cleaned or destroyed. She isn't normal," the other guard said in Colrat, looking at James with a smirk.

"Now, James, you know being back here is illegal, right?" Lord Orag asked.

James, clenching his fists, shouted at the Lord, "Why do you Southerners ruin everything! I just wanted to see Lord Madison." Attempting to squirm free from the Machamp's grip, making the four-armed Pokémon squeeze tighter, he started to kick.

"Machamp. Get out of here, kid, return your Onix. If I see you again, I will take your Onix away, do you understand?" the other Guardsman asked.

James scrunched his face up as he struggled to understand the man through his thick accent.

"Yes, my Lord", James mumbled as the Machamp released him from his grip. He turned to run back down the hill and was gently prodded by the shorter man's sword. There was a grass strip there, and a tree was at the end of it. To James's surprise, his friends were sitting there waiting for him. Andrew Takui, the youngest of the group, was sitting furthest away. He fed his Deino, Nutkio, a nice round and plump Oran berry. He noticed James approaching and stood up with a spring in his step. He pulled his long cyan-grey shaded hair back enough so he could see. As he stepped forward to greet James, he looked down into the boy's red eyes with his green ones.

Lioa, sitting to Andrew's left, smirked at James's somewhat speedy arrival. His Timburr, Ruskuo, was tossing a small log in the air for amusement. Lioa had only just turned thirteen, and he was proud of that fact. He firmly believed soon, he could join his father and fight the South. His light beige skin was ever so slightly darker than that of his brother and clashed with the moonlight, making his smirk look darker than he had intended. His shorter cyan hair was no use at hiding his green eyes, which were filled with mischief. He shunted James over onto his back playfully.

Kitiku Bryson jumped out of his skin at the sound of his best friend colliding with the ground. His Klink called Rusto whizzed around him while he thought. His skin was the fairest and burnt easily in the Northern tropical heat. His hair was almost jet black. It was long enough to cover his eyes but not quite as long as James's shoulder-length hair. His eyes were an ash-grey. When looking into his eyes, James always saw his hopelessness. Kitiku didn't trust the world around him. His father was constantly disappointed in him for being "defective" due to his massive height and dislike of fighting. In the North, his size made many consider him a freak.

James felt belittled due to his run-in with the Lords. However, he was glad his friends were pleased to see him back from his excursion.

"What was it like up there? Did you see Lord Elite Madison?" Lioa looked quizzical. His mouth turned into a slight smile. "What was he like? I bet he was amazing to watch. I bet he put the fear of Darkrai into those Southern Lords."

Slumping next to Kitiku as Lioa copied, James said, "Before I could investigate, a few Guards caught me and tried to intimidate me. Those stupid members of the Southern Elite Guard. I showed them."

"Did not. I bet you came back out of fear!" Lioa accused, making him gulp.

"They aren't all bad. You can't class all Southern Elite Guards as bad people just because they protect a Lord you don't like," Kitiku whispered.

"They are merciless. What I did was technically illegal," James interrupted, smiling. "Don't worry, Lioa, we will see Lord Madison defeat the South. He would never sign such a weak negotiation. Okta and I are counting on it. Besides, she and I will be the greatest team to grace this world one day. We will win every tournament we compete in!"

To James, Okta was special. Her horn on the top of her head was cut so perfectly. She was his Onix, and he wanted the whole world to know it.

"Besides," James went to finish his speech, "Cresselia will bless my household so that--"

"Please, Cresselia isn't real," Lioa snapped back at him. "Besides, Darkrai will bless my household. I will be better than you. Darkrai, after all, is real."

"No, it isn't. Cresselia is real," James shouted.

"Darkrai!" Lioa shunted James forcefully. James was nearly knocked over but caught himself.

"Cresselia!" James shouted back, making Lioa spit at him.

Lioa angrily pushed James over onto his back and then shouted even louder, "Darkrai!"

Suddenly James noticed, Kitiku shuffling and looking stressed by the fighting. His household was under the grouping that believed in Cresselia. He didn't want to be cursed to nothingness forever after his time was over.

"The last one on the roof has to ask a Southern Elite Guard for a bedtime kiss!" Lioa laughed, breaking the silence.

James knew the drainpipes couldn't support more than one person at a time, so it really was everyone for themselves. He ran towards the pipes. However, Lioa had already started to scramble up the drainpipe first. Kitiku's height was going to work in his favour, pulling himself up towards the roof much faster than Lioa. That left the last drainpipe. Andrew and James ran towards the same drainpipe. As James reached for it, Ruskuo threw a small rock at him from the roof, which pelted him in the stomach. He was knocked over into the mud.

Lioa laughed louder, "James guess what? You lose!"

"Yeah, yeah…" James muttered, getting up off the ground.

"Where is that little runt?" a voice called out into the street.

James scrambled into the narrow pathway between two of the houses. A shiver crept down his spine. Every rough click of that voice caused a memory to rearise from the deepest darkest depths of his mind. The aggressive sound was out to get him.

"James was lurking around the entrance earlier. He is probably already inside," James's mother replied.

"Then let's enjoy the party," James's stepfather responded.

James could see them from where he was standing. His mother had combed her golden hair into a cute bun. Her fair skin was smooth. She would always give James a hug when he cried or felt lonely, or at least he had convinced himself that.
Hanson, on the other hand, was a different story. He failed to adopt James into the family once he married Carla, nor did he throw James out of the household-which was common in Coltese culture. James wished Hanson would throw him out onto the streets. Still, he knew the sadistic man would instead make him suffer for being the son of some noble dead Guardsman that his mother had often talked about.

"James, you lost. You have to do the loser's thing. Once you have done it, we will let you on the roof to watch the show, too," Lioa teased.

"Yeah, James!" Andrew echoed irritatingly.

James clenched his fist angrily. "Fine. Just fine." Taking Okta out of his pocket and cuddling her Poké Ball, he blurted out, "That's the last time we ever lose to anyone, Okta! We will be the greatest, I promise! Then no one will make fun of you for your golden colour. You are perfect. Hey, maybe one day we could go explore beyond Coltar! The Elite Lords always say we can't leave the island… why would they do that if we are the only people in this world?"

However, before he could carry out the dare, a loud roar came from inside the hall. The once-grand Marsten Hall was on fire. He saw a Charizard with hot red wings fly up through the ceiling. James shook his head, believing that Lord Piscar had started this fire with Charizard to kill Elite Lord Madison. He spun around, looking for Pierre amidst the chaos.

He saw the Elite Guards were desperate to rescue those individuals inside, primarily because Lord Madison wasn't inside. James knew this to be true. Lord Madison stood five metres in front of him in a face-off with Lord Piscar. He couldn't see them very well through the smoke, only making out their silhouettes and hearing their voices.

"This is a new low, even for you," the first said without an accent, and his voice was smooth and rather deep. To James, this was almost proof this was Lord Madison speaking. "You are nothing more than a mass-murdering psychopath."

"You think I am responsible for this? You are a disgrace to your people and to mine," the second voice responded. It was coarse and higher than the previous one.

James paused. This voice had no accent either. Perhaps this was his Captain of the Elite Guard. No, it was impossible, James thought. One of these had to be Madison. The other had to be the sworn enemy of the North and mass murderer Lord Piscar. The wind was starting to pick up. The tensions were high, James could tell.

"Negotiations are over. You brought this upon yourself." A silhouette of a Pokémon James had never seen before appeared amongst the smoke. A second Pokémon, Aggron, emerged as another silhouette. The rain started to fall and became a storm faster than James had ever seen before.

A sudden dizzying flash followed!

James was blinded by the light and then consumed by darkness. He felt as if death was creeping up on him and was ready to take his soul… but if he was dead, how come he could still feel the squelchy mud with his hands? How could he feel the vibrations of the earth from the battle raging between the two Elite Lords not five metres away?

A hand seized his arm and pulled him up.

"James!" the voice said. "James, get up and run. Find my brother and the others, and I want you to find my father and go home. Do you understand me?"

"Pierre?" James muttered.

"I have to go… I have to help save these people…."

James froze as Pierre sprinted towards the hall, drawing his dagger, but James couldn't move. His body felt like it was being sat on by a thousand Snorlax.

The Charizard was now flying away into the distance. He was unsure what he just had witnessed, but he knew one thing for sure: Hanson Rei and Carla Spitz were almost certainly inside when that fire was started. The worst-case scenario was his stepfather had survived, but his mother had not.
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Chapter 1 - The Scars of Marsten Hall
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 1 - The Scars of Marsten Hall

Date: 15th June 1989

Fehahra was beautiful in the summer. It was so peaceful before the incident at Marsten Hall. The wind was constantly blowing through the greenery. It waved to the trees as it blew past. The berries on the trees were starting to ripen.

There were very few street Lampent hovering above the ground two metres up. Their black body was smooth. Their oval face was bright with beady yellow eyes and no pupils inside. A purple flame that danced ran through their oval face.

The cobble paving in Fehahra was old and dusty. It was a grey sandy colour, and it looked cold. The houses they hovered by were tiny for the most part, like most of the homes in Fehahra. They were stone bricked and somewhat claustrophobic. The town was pretty flat.

There were a few ways into Fehahra, most notably the wooden bridge over the waterfall connected to the river that flowed through the town. The wooden bridge was tied together using rope over a sheer and sickly drop. The running water was murky and green.

Crouched by the door of one of the shops, more central to the town, in the dark, James, now fourteen, shook up a bottle of Octillery ink in a pressurised can. He pressed the cap down, and a small trail of black ink came out. James marked the door with a large "X" before dropping the can down, letting it make a gentle clank as it rolled along the ground.

"D-don't scare me like that. James... why did I let you talk me into this?" the boy beside him whispered nervously. Breaking the rules, to him, was obviously never going to end well. "If we get caught, we will be hauled up in front of Charleston. That would be so... so bad... I mean, I don't want to be arrested or thrown in jail or given a warning and have a mark against my name in my file... or executed or thrown in jail. It is okay for you to sneak around undetected. You are of normal height."

"Can you just shut up? Seriously, you can't stop complaining about jail or getting arrested or being executed. You can't even shut up for a few minutes while I am thinking!" James whisper-shouted, tugging down on his brown blazer. He looked at the boy's ice-white shirt. "You know what, Kitiku? Why don't we just hand ourselves in? I have Sutton's number... we just have to shout, 'Hey moron,' and he will come running. Handing ourselves is the right thing to do, right? These people are monsters who have invaded our region. They set a wild Charizard loose at Marsten Hall that killed my mother and ate your brother and then caused this entire conflict in which Mr Takui died fighting for us!" James hissed.

"Okay, so here is the plan... Kitiku, you and Rusto will open the electronic door that those Southern soldiers supplied. Lioa and Ruskuo, you will break open the ration crates. We will need all the strength of that Gurdurr of yours tonight! Andrew and Nutkio will be keeping watch. Any sign of anyone we beat them in battle and then run away as soon as possible. Okta and I will be ready to deal with any trouble." James smirked at the thought of being victorious.

"James? Aren't you scared?" Kitiku asked.

"I am not scared. We are on our last warning, though. Charleston, she cannot execute us. She doesn't have the power to... but the Elite Guards can," James added. "Besides, we won't get caught, and after the festival, I'll break into the offices and replace our records of so-called bad behaviour with blank sheets."

"I never get in these situations because I don't break the rules... I don't even know why I am here. My father will kill me if he ever finds out. He will do worse to you, James. I am going home. I am not getting arrested because of you," Kitiku's voice was squeaking in places as he spoke.

"After you get home, you better cover for me." James sighed, remembering that after losing his mother and step-father at Marsten Hall, Tak Bryson had offered sanctuary to him despite the Bryson's being dirt poor.

The Bryson's being poor was always a mystery to James, as Tak Bryson, once a glorified and well-decorated member of the Northern Elite Guard, was now a simple labourer. His ocean blue eyes seemed tired and full of sorrow, while his hair was jet black hair was smooth and combed flat. Despite his glorious past, he claimed to only have one Pokémon, Oosho the Octillery. James figured that Tak feared his old profession would risk his family's safety if the South should come. After Fehahra fell, James noted that Tak turned to the bottle with his old injuries not helping his mood. As it was, his wounds had forced his retirement. He had obtained them thirteen years before in a bloody battle with a Southern Guard. Tak did win the fight but at a cost. The Elite Guard he had fought drove a short-hand sword into his left shoulder, and then his Houndoom had bitten him. The burn was agonising.

"Kitiku, do you trust me?" James asked.

"Let's just get in, get out, get home and hope my father doesn't notice. Rusto, can you shoot an electrical signal along the cables using charge? That was we can release the locking mechanism." Kitiku's hands were shaking as he released his Klink, who whizzed around and made a sound similar to chirping. It had never been so excited at the prospect of being a rogue in the night. It wound up its small stubby body and started sparking low electric charges into the ends of the copper wires that were powering the door.

The door clicked open. James shunted into it, making it budge just a little, enough to fit through.

"I'm going home now. Let's just pray to Cresselia my father doesn't find out. I don't want to be caught. I certainly don't want to die." Kitiku slipped out of the queue and started to dart around. He was very conspicuous, a clear novice at being out after hours. Rusto was pretending to be some sort of super-spy as he followed Kitiku. He whizzed around spectacularly.

James squeezed his skinny body through the tiny gap he had created. He was followed by Lioa, who had a slightly bigger build and had to give an additional shove to the door before squeezing through, making him turn back around. James puffed a sigh of relief, realising it was just his friend. James looked around the store, laced with all sorts of food goodies. James knew the boxes were full of fresh berries, perfectly ripe. His mouth watered, just imagining their bitter taste. He turned towards Lioa and gave a slight nod.

Lioa nodded back at him, releasing his Gurdurr from its poké ball. It bubbled out its battle cry as it thudded onto the floor. The shelves shook, and the door wire cracked as the window shattered. Broken glass burst into all directions making James cover his face with his hands. He then looked around. He wasn't bleeding.

The glass shimmered in its shards on the floor.

"Did you have to do that?" James hissed. "Hurry up and break those crates!"

An oak lid was ripped off by the Gurdurr, but to James's horror, the container had nothing inside. He looked at Lioa. He had figured out what had just happened.

He looked concerned. "This was a trap. That's not good. Sutton is probably on his way here right now."

"If we are lucky, it will be Sutton. If we aren't, it will be Charleston. Did you wipe our records?" Lioa asked in a hurry.

"I told you I would do it after the festival..." James hissed.

"So, no matter what happens... if we are caught, that is... the Southern Guard will have us..." Lioa gulped.

James took a deep breath, creeping upstairs. The wooden stairs creaked and cracked with every step he took. He was nearly at the top of the stairs. The crooked bannister on his left was starting to shake. He took the penultimate step, but it broke, and he slipped.

The step wasn't a step at all. It was a safe wooden box. It had been concealed in plain sight.

"Lioa...." James heard, turning around and went to leave. Something stopped him. Perhaps it was curiosity. He couldn't leave without looking inside the safe box. What harm could it do? He pondered before crawling back towards it. He peered inside. The tatty wooden safe box had a few photos in, a couple of Colkara, which he pocketed and something else. Something else that glowed. Glowed beyond the natural lights of the Lampent. He reached in and pulled it out of the box; it was wrapped up in some sort of tatty old cloth. It was a grey colour. It looked worthless, like an old stone. He couldn't put it down, and he couldn't put it back. He shoved it into his pocket and scrambled away from the broken step.

James held his breath, and his hair flopped over his eyes for a moment, noticing Sutton was there, outside the broken window. He pushed his back against the wall and edged towards the door, unable to see Lioa or Andrew.

As Sutton turned to look the other way, James sprinted as fast as he could along the cobbles. He checked back to see if he had been noticed. He had been spotted. He had a little time to find somewhere safe to hide. His heart pumped quicker and quicker. He wasn't afraid to battle if he had to. He turned into one of the side paths. As he was running along the narrow path, he was grabbed and pulled into a small side alley.

"What do we do now?" Andrew quivered. "We are in so much trouble..." His hair looked as if it had been torn up by the wind.

"We keep running. We get back home. If Sutton spots us, we run faster. If he catches up, Lioa will battle him. If Lioa somehow loses to that moron, we play the kid-card. Just sit and cry. Sutton is a sucker for it. He will feel guilty." James smirked.

"The guilt trip always works." Lioa smiled back at James.

The boys followed James running northbound. As one of the crossroads came up, James began to pull out a lead over Lioa. He turned back to mock Lioa but was knocked over with a thud.

"Watch where you are going, arsehole!" James shouted before realising a nervous Kitiku was looking back at him. "I thought you went home." James turned around as he got up and dusted off the dirt on his hands. He shivered suddenly. It was as if someone had just walked behind him and placed their stone-cold hand on his shoulder. The fog faded, and a chilling breeze whispered through the narrow street where they had been running.

The street Lampent's flames, dancing a soft purple, started flickering.

"Okay... M-mister Sutton? M-mister Sutton, you have caught us now... please j-just come out a-and arrest us... please?" Kitiku squeaked, shaking.

James knew Kitiku very well, and something was bothering him - and it wasn't the fact they would be in a lot of trouble if they were caught. James felt cold. This was not Sutton trying to scare them. This was something else. There were no doorways, narrow passageways, drains, and places for Sutton to hide. He saw the flames of the street Lampent started to flicker faster, darting around as if they were avoiding some sinister attacker.

Without warning, all the flames on every single Lampent insight went out. They all fainted simultaneously.

"James? What is going on?" Kitiku squeaked.

"It's Sutton playing a trick. Don't worry." James smiled at Kitiku. He could do nothing else. Then the smallest of horrors dawned on him. Andrew was nowhere to be seen.

The subtle sound of his friends' breathing stopped, and he was surrounded by silence. He opened his eyes and was enclosed by darkness. It wasn't pitch black. He could tell because of the shady figure standing two metres in front of him. He didn't recognise them at first. His stomach felt twisted, and he wanted to vomit.

"Who are you?" James asked, taking a single step back, but the figure didn't move. Its hat was tilted, and its hand held onto the long thin edge. The character was looking down, and its legs were in a squared stance. "Where am I?" Again, the figure remained still. James looked around. He could feel his heartbeat slowing down. "I am not afraid. I am not afraid of anything. This world, it isn't real, is it?" The nothingness around him seemed to be moving. James wasn't afraid. He was curious. The figure remained statuary as James slowly reached into his pocket. Okta was ready. If she was ready, he was ready. "Tell me who you are!" The figure suddenly looked up. The eyes James recognised immediately. Hanson Rei. James stepped back a few more steps, but something wasn't right. Rei was dead. Simple as that. He watched the fire rage at Marsten Hall. Rei was inside when the fire took hold.

Blinking, he re-opened his eyes to a sharp bloodcurdling scream. He was at Marsten Hall, and the fire was raging. He felt his blood reach boiling point, and his head was pounding. "Sutton, just arrest me, please. My head feels like it's going to burst." James clutched his head desperately, "Please, it is hurting. Please arrest me. I think I need a doctor." The ground he stood on felt like nothingness before. He could feel something touching his shoulder, though. He was being tapped. He spun around, but nothing was there. "Show yourself!" He cried out in anger. He was in pain. His hands, his head and his elbow. They all felt sore. His face felt tingly. He suddenly jolted forward.

"Are they broken?" he asked Kitiku but was met with a shrug. His right hand was coated in blood, and his face was bruised slightly just above his right cheek. He pressed the bruise with his finger and instantly regretted it. "What happened?" James looked dizzily at his friends. "I cannot remember falling over."

"James... you just seemed to be in a trance. Then you just collapsed asleep. Only little babies fall asleep in the middle of a chase. Maybe we should call that moron, Sutton, to come and take the little baby home," Lioa mocked, making James scowl.

James heard footsteps behind him. He swivelled sharply to see the unimpressed face of Incaresta Sutton, straightening his uniform with his right hand. In his left hand, he was holding Andrew Takui by the scruff of his neck.

"Go!" Lioa called out squeezed himself down the narrowest passage in the town in front of James. James followed without hesitation, watching behind him as Kitiku panicked. The sandy brick walls felt like they were stabbing him in the chest. The passage wasn't very long. They escaped into a wider street.

Lioa and James sprinted as fast as they could towards the western quarter of the town. Kitiku was exhausted. He wasn't cut out for running away from the law.

"James, you remember something from what happened, don't you?" Lioa panted.

"If we live, I will tell you. Turn right! We can lose them in the alleyway!" James shouted, turning back to see Sutton catching up.

James was suddenly shunted by Lioa, who shouted back, "No. Turn left! We can lose him in the park!" Narrowly ducking to avoid Sutton's Fearow, swooping in from the sky. Its stick-like legs and sharp claws came close to James's already bruised face. Its brown wings were so densely feathered it looked as if it was made of silk.

"Electabuzz..." Sutton called out. The amber yellow body of Electabuzz made it seem like a beacon in the dark. It wasn't a beacon the boys wished to head towards, though. Its pitch black zig-zags looked as if they had been scorched on by an overheating torch. Its large eyes and small pupils were unsettling. The noise it made was horrifying. It was as if someone was scraping fingernails along a blackboard combined with a low melodic beat.

James turned back once more to see Kitiku peer behind him. Sutton was not much taller than Kitiku. He wasn't muscular, nor was he skinny. His snow-blonde hair was short and appeared to be neatly combed. His face was rounded and clean-shaven. His nose made his face look perfect in perspective to his ashen skin. His big dark green eyes seemed to stand out like stars in the sky among his pale skin. His midnight blue jacket was slightly too long for him, and his Southern accent was powerful.

"Come on now, boys, don't you think I deserve a break?" Sutton said, sounding very awkward. "We do this every other night, I am sure. Kitiku Bryson, I am surprised you are involved in this... dangerous game of theirs. I am even so shocked to say I am disappointed. How about we make a deal, boys? We can make a deal, I am sure. If you give up now, I might not electrocute you. I know you are scared. That is okay. It sounds like a fair deal. Doesn't it?" Sutton puffed.

"No," James called back and sharply turned right at the junction. He saw Lioa fade into the distance as he ran in the opposite direction. James squeezed down yet another passage away. His arms brushed against the bricks. He could hear a voice behind him. It was slowly getting quieter and quieter. He peered over his shoulder, waiting by the wall.

"I did warn you. I offered you a chance to give up, but you kept running," Sutton said to Kitiku. "You are slower than the others by some margin. Don't worry. They will both be joining you soon."

James could see Kitiku was wincing in pain as Sutton reached out and carefully pulled him back onto his feet. His hands were bloody from when he had skidded along the cobbles after being shocked. He was so afraid. It was as if he had been left alone in a room of starved dragons, and they were circling him.

Much to James's annoyance, Kitiku's legs were shaking. He seemed panicked as he slumped, allowing his head to touch Sutton's chest, apologising, as Sutton waved his arms in the direction of the park. Several of his patrols set off in the dark after the troublesome Lioa.

"Kitiku? I need to handcuff you. I know you don't like to be tugged around, but rules are rules," Sutton whispered to the boy. However, Kitiku's eyes were looking at the floor, raising his hands slightly. He slowly ran his right index finger from the top of his left index finger down to his wrist. Then pressed his right-hand knuckles into his left palm.

Sutton looked curiously at him. "Please..."

Kitiku then tapped his left palm on the top of his right knuckles twice.


James observed as Kitiku made a small circle with his index fingers, tapped his two knuckles together and then raised his left thumb.

"Female trap. Please against the female trap." Sutton's blank facial expression said it all. "Kitiku, I don't understand what you are trying to say. As soon as I arrest you, we can go to the office and then you can go home."

James saw Sutton sigh, looking to the side a little. The guilt of being unable to communicate with Kitiku effectively was obviously getting to him. "He wants to see his mother, you idiot," James muttered.

As Sutton stopped paying attention to his symbols and grabbed his handcuffs from his belt, and he brushed Kitiku's floppy hair out of his face, he said, "Stay still. Don't move. Don't even think about escaping. If you do, the punishment will be much worse. Grab these two bars for me..." He tugged the bar and snapped everything into place. He released his Graveller. The body of his Graveller was a light grey and was bumpy looking.

Clenching his fists, angry at how Sutton had been unable to help Kitiku out or just take him home. For a moment, James noticed the Southern man open his palm and look to the sky as raindrops started to fall. It was as if the Gods had decided to chuck a bucket of water over them in disgust, as the rain was coming down very heavily. He decided to press on. If he could make it back to the Bryson household, he could lie to Tak's face about what happened. At least he hoped they wouldn't get in trouble that way.

He ran for a few minutes before reaching the outskirts of town, drenched through. James could hear whispers. It felt like the sounds were crawling into his ears.

"James..." a figure spoke.

James turned, but its lips didn't move.

"You don't want to fight me, James. You want to be my chew toy forever. You aren't worth his name, are you? Son of a Guardsman whose name isn't even worth muttering. That's why she never would tell it to you." Its voice sounded like a hiss, but its shape resembled Hanson Rei once more.

James reached into his pocket without hesitation. He took a step back with his left foot before hurling Okta's capsule towards the figure of Rei. She landed with a thud, shaking the ground and letting out an almighty rugged roar. She could barely fit in the narrow street she had been thrown into. Her golden body, glistening in the moonlight, scrapped against the walls of the houses.

James hated storms; they frightened him, but he couldn't afford to be afraid right now. He had to focus on the target. The one thing that scared him more than storms, the one thing that put all other fears into perspective, stood in front of him like a shadow.

Hanson Rei. The figure's tone changed. "You don't want to be in my household. You are a traitor. You are born of filth, and I shall take over your soul." It screeched, doubling into an echo of itself. As the figure lunged forward, it transformed into a Gengar. Using shadow sneak, it quickly darted in and out of view. James calmly watched every shadow he could see. He was waiting silently. A lightning strike near him created a blinding light. A thunderclap louder than a thousand drums sounded, leaving James distracted for a moment. Gengar lurched out of the shadows. It wanted to take his soul, he thought.

"Okta, hit it with an iron tail!" Okta cried out in anger. She swung her temporarily metal tail, aggressively smashing the walls of several houses. Debris spewed everywhere. James carefully moved out of the way of each slice that rained down. His hair was dusty now.

Gengar seized the opportunity to lash out at Okta. Gengar chose to use shadow ball. The centre of the shadow ball was a void black, and its outside was a curdled purple. James could feel it pulsing as it got closer and closer. Okta couldn't dodge it, and she was already off-balance, nor could she block it. She was hit, crying out in pain.

"Okta, use dig!" Okta's eyes turned a burning red as she started to charge towards the Gengar before diving underground in a brown mist of sand. A second passed, and she reappeared, shooting up underneath Gengar. She aimed to throw Gengar into the air and smash him back down. Gengar floated higher and higher until he was out of Okta's reach. Okta came crashing back down, destroying several houses.

"If dig didn't work, I doubt sand tomb will..." A second shadow ball headed straight for James. "Send it right back at it!" he shouted louder than before.

Okta swung around again, denting the destroyed houses even more. They were near enough flat. She was making the ground shake more and more with every turn and twist and every roar she bellowed into the narrow passageway. She struck the shadow ball with tremendous force. The smoke was so thick, and it smelt like a fire... and it felt cold at the same time. Before James could react, he was knocked over.

Gengar had disappeared into the shadows during the shadow ball attack and had attacked James from behind.

He felt dizzy.

"Okta, get it off of me!" She roared angrily at the Gengar what had James in its grasp. Gengar bit James's leg. "Okta help!"
Chapter 2 - The News
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 2 - The News

“Luskt!” a voice called out, making James look up.

A Mightyena jumped from the dark fog onto the Gengar, chomping down on its back. As it did, its silver and jet-black lined fur on its back danced into wavy lines.

James kicked Gengar, but it refused to let go.

As the Mightyena crunched down on the Gengar once more, a shadow peered over James. He could barely see anymore. His vision was blurred, and his ears were ringing. Gengar noticed the spectator and broke free from Mightyena with a glorious cry. It charged towards the shadows and disappeared into the moonlight.

James was grabbed by his shirt and pulled up. Charleston stared at him shoved him against the wall aggressively before slapping him across his face.

“Runt, you dare to challenge my rules? Did the Gengar hurt you?” she barked aggressively.

James squirmed, attempting to kick her. The bite ached to the extent that moving his leg felt exhausting. “No. Now let me go! I didn’t need your help! Okta and I had it completely under control!”

“You are bleeding,” she replied, wiping the blood off her fingers onto his cheek.

“A nosebleed? I never have nosebleeds. What is wrong with me tonight? First, I started hallucinating and woke up on the floor, and then the Gengar attacked me and then I had a nose bleed! Let go of me!” He squirmed a little more but was slapped once more.

Charleston raised her hand up once more to strike him. She glared at him like an Arbok that had cornered its prey.

“Wait...” James sighed, realising his protests weren’t going to help him escape. “Please don’t hit me again. I am sorry.”

He heard footsteps from behind Charleston. Sutton had just arrived – panting. She turned to speak to him. James seized the moment and kicked Charleston as hard as possible, making her drop him. James dove under her arm and sprinted towards Sutton. He knew he could outsmart the somewhat slow Sutton, but that wasn’t his plan. His plan was to rescue his friends via the guilt trip.

“Don’t let her feed me to Mightyena,” James said in an intentionally pathetic tone. “I didn’t mean it. Gengar started it. I was scared. I don’t like the storm.” However, he saw Sutton raising his hands up to his chest to let James know he had just about had enough of excuses that night.

“Luckily for you, I am the one making the decisions tonight,” Incaresta Sutton sighed. “Including doing the paperwork... Happily married, two kids sent here to keep an eye on things until Madison is defeated, and what do I end up doing?” he sighed again.

“Wow, you are that old?” James laughed.

“I am only twenty-seven. So only thirteen years older than you,” Sutton replied in a little bit of a daydream. “You are coming with me. I should arrest you, but honestly, it would be a waste of my time. Oh, and I know that you passed out even before you mention it,” Sutton said while still looking up at the stars. “Kitiku told me everything. Let’s move.” His accent made his words a blur to James’s ears, shunting him forward gently.

“How bad did he squeal?” James asked, knowing the answer.

“Like a Rattata with its tail on fire.”

James rolled his eyes and started to fidget as much as he could. Before he could break free, the grip on his scruff tightened once more. “No. Can you not squirm? I really don’t want to cuff you or electrocute you, as it would be a waste of my time. Also, you will fix the massive amount of damage you did. It will be fixed by the end of the month.”

James’s jaw dropped. He had obliterated a couple of houses and had damaged the cobbles.

“All of it,” Charleston smirked. “If one thing is out of place, we will ensure the Elite Guard have fun with you. They will probably make you polish the entire castle.”

“I could have been killed, and you want me to fix the damage I made defending myself? You give me mixed messages. How am I meant to be a ‘good prisoner of the disgusting Southern Army who stole the town in which I live’ if you keep telling me different things‽” James spat.

James was shoved forward by Sutton in a more nervous manner than usual. After all, tonight was the night before the festival Hakahra Liopfar Ha, which was banned by the Southern occupiers. In fact, using Pokémon at all without permission was illegal in most of the Northern locations.

“Mister Sutton? Can I go home now?” James asked, seeing Sutton in thought for a moment. It was clear he didn’t want to let the boys off the hook tonight without some proper form of punishment for all the commotion. Still, he also already had promised Kitiku that he wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.

“Hmm?” he sounded irritated, “What is it?” Sutton said quietly as they approached the cell where the other three were being held. “Ah, okay, so now I have all four of you...” He pushed James down onto his knees next to his friends. “Firstly, seeing as three of you are on your final warning, I shall allow you one final chance... after all, a new Captain is coming here in the next few days. I will inform him of your actions. I am sure he will punish you appropriately.”

Andrew hung his head in shame before getting up and walking over to Incaresta for a hug.

“I am sorry, but rules are rules.” Sutton nudged Andrew back down onto his knees, looking sad. “I suggest you clean up the mess you all created, and if you do that well enough, I might forget to mention it... I should also inform the Elite Guard tonight of the actions of all four of you. You could have killed somebody. I am sure they will find some sort of punishment. They will probably set Kitiku on his final warning immediately. As for you three... I don’t know what they will do.”

Kitiku was shaking. James shuffled over to comfort his friend, who had started to panic. He had gone ghost white and flopped to the floor.

“Do I need to separate you four while I get a member of the Elite Guard? I think I should. It is probably for the best,” Incaresta muttered.

Before Sutton could make his move to separate them, a tall, fair-skinned man brushed past. He was in a white lab jacket and midnight blue trousers. His glasses appeared to be sliding off his nose. James would have made a smart remark to insult the man in usual circumstances. This man was no man to insult. However, this man wasn’t just a doctor either. He was a doctor in the Elite Guard. He towered over Sutton and stared blankly at the boys. He held a book in his right hand, which he clearly had been enjoying as the spine had been broken and the pages were musty.

“My Lord.” Sutton kneeled down on his right knee and placed his right arm across his left thigh. His left hand was touching the floor with his left boot. His head was bowed down. “These children had broken the laws established here when we arrived. Some of which are on their final warnings. However, there has been an incident involving a Gengar. I believe it is in everyone’s interests if you...”

The Elite Guard thumped Sutton on the head with his book.

“I didn’t say you could speak yet.” His voice was strict and foreboding. As much as James hated Sutton, he felt sorry for him. The Elite Guard was much worse, in his opinion, than goofy Sutton.

Andrew had also started to go pale. He was squeezing Lioa’s arm so tightly that he winced in pain.

The Elite Guard approached. He was maybe four or five steps away. “Do you, children, know no respect?” He straightened himself up in an attempt to make himself seem more fearsome. “Why aren’t you bowing to me? It is disrespectful to not bow down to your betters.”

Kitiku’s panic rapidly worsened. His breathing became uncontrollable and unpredictable.

“What is wrong with him?” the Elite Guard hissed.

“Leave him alone. He didn’t have anything to do with this. Neither did the others. The Gengar chased me. I woke them up because I thought it would get us all. How did I know it just wanted me?” James snarled.

The Lord ignored James’s protests and knelt down next to Kitiku.

“I said, leave him alone. Give me Okta, Sutton. I want to fight this disgusting bully,” James continued.

The man placed his hand on Kitiku’s cheek as James tried to get closer to protect his friend. “Are you okay?” Kitiku looked for James to answer for him. “I am not asking him. I am asking you. He doesn’t know how you are,” the Lord spoke abruptly, turning to Sutton. “Get up, you pathetic soldier. I suppose I have to do everything?”

“Do what, my Lord?” he replied, confused.

“Seeing as we have a mute or an idiot, I am not sure which, proceed with punishing them. I cannot be bothered with paperwork, and I doubt you know how to spell your own name...”

James coughed a laugh.

The Lord stood up and whacked James on the head with his book. The thud echoed a little in the otherwise dull and life-less looking cell. “Give them a beating or something.”

“This boy isn’t very well. Are you incapable of determining the basic signs of illness and stress?” Sutton argued. His voice rose in pitch as if his throat tightened. “Perhaps I should inform Elite Lord Piscar via complaint of your inadequacy.” He stood as tall as possible and tried his utmost to appear brave.

The Lord, who clearly hadn’t been fooled by his act, simply scowled for a few moments. He then sighed and took his glasses off. “Perhaps I misjudged your stupidity. However, considering the circumstances, no, I shall investigate the probability that the child is suffering from some form of extreme stress. I shall hold you personally responsible if my time is wasted. If my time has been wasted, I shall ensure you are sent to the hot spot. I hear Madison has a decent defence there. Only one in ten of our regular soldiers like yourself are surviving.” He removed the cigarette from his mouth, “Punish the other two. These two will remain with me. Get out!” the Lord barked.

“There is something wrong here, with you, I mean,” he whispered to Kitiku, who squeezed James’s arm ever tighter.

“Leave him alone!” James shouted aggressively, “I will fight you. Just leave him alone.”

“As a doctor, that would be very irresponsible. I am a member of the Elite Guard; however, I am also a doctor. Therefore, healing comes before killing – usually.” He grabbed James’s shoulder, “However, if you don’t stop talking, I will make an exception. What are your names? First and last names. Don’t think about lying. If you lie, I will punish you. I have all today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow... I have until the day I die. I doubt you can hold on that long. Either way, I suspect this boy needs a drink of water and a lot of rest.” The Lord pushed Kitiku’s hair so it no longer covered his face.

“Give me Okta first, then we talk about names.” James puffed some air up to move his hair from his eyes.

“You are not in any position to make demands to me. Do you not want to help your friend? He could be dying, and you deny him the medical help he requires for your own selfish need?” The Lord raised his eyebrows.

“Wanting to feel safe is not selfish. I would keep both of us safe from you,” James glared. “Your manipulation will not work on me. I have heard it all before. Lies, broken promises, deliberate attempts to trick us into doing what you want.”

“That is what a trick is. You are clearly ill-educated,” the Lord snubbed James. “You have courage...” He handed Okta over to mock James. “If you think you can defeat me do it. You lose, you get executed. Courage is stupidity unless it is controlled. Do you understand?”

“I understand you are the enemy, but….” James turned to Kitiku, who was motionless “… if Kitiku needs your help, I will allow that. I am James; this is Kitiku. We live in the Bryson household. I am fourteen, Kitiku is thirteen. The head of our household is Tak Bryson, his wife is Nashe Bryson. Please don’t tell Ta- I mean our father. He will be angry. We are just disappointments to him.”

“You two are brothers? I am concerned about your brother’s wellbeing. He is showing signs of... damage. You do not mind if I examine you both? I will do so with or without your consent; however, I would much rather you both consent to save me time and to save you both a lot of stress.”

James and Kitiku were dragged up the dark grey stairs and into a small room. The walls were painted a ghostly white. An examination table made from rusty metal rested against the wall on the far side. A table with a leather briefcase rested on the left wall.

“I shall be running a few basic tests if required – mainly testing your cognition and your abilities to resolve minor medical issues. The average times for which I have here. Do not feel obligated to meet these times; however, these times will be important in discovering an actual issue or whether you are just pretending to be ill. If this is the case, I shall ensure some extremely memorable and rather influential punishments are issued. If you are truly ill, I shall ensure that the right treatment is given. I suspect that you are both slightly damaged by your fear – most probably fear of being placed in jail for a short amount of time,” the Lord said, finally turning around to face them. “Who is going first?”

James protectively stepped in front of Kitiku. His bite was burning, but he had to pretend to be okay. “What do I have to do?” James asked suspiciously and was scared as he pulled himself up with relative ease onto the table.

The Lord then released a Pachirisu from his capsule. The Pachirisu’s blue stripe coat added a vast spread of colour to the room. The Lord then called out a command, and a bright burning light filled the room for a few moments.

“I can’t see. Why did you do that?” James shouted, irritated and fearful.

“Tell me where the red dot is on this sheet,” the Lord Said.

James’s eyes stung. All he could see was an ocean of burning light, and central to it all was a red dot.

“Point to it for me. Don’t think about the time it has taken you,” the Lord Said.

James reached forward and touched the sheet.

“Eighteen seconds. Much faster than average. Good boy,” he said, patting James on the head.

James begrudgingly accepted the praise.

“Now get off,” the Lord snarled.

James slipped off the table. He was slightly dizzy from the light.

The Lord tugged him and sat him in the bottom right corner of the room before dragging Kitiku onto the table and repeating the experiment. When James opened his eyes from the second flash, he could make out that Kitiku was sitting on the table and the Lord was holding the sheet out in front of him. Kitiku seemed flustered and confused by what was going on.

“Where is the dot? Point to it,” the Lord whispered.

A lifetime appeared to have passed before Kitiku reached forward and touched the dot. “Six minutes, forty-seven seconds.” Pachirisu was then petted gently before being returned. “The average time is thirty-nine seconds.” The Lord pulled James up gently before sitting him on the table. “Your time suggests there is nothing wrong with you – as a matter of fact, it means you have highly developed reactions according to our research.

On the other hand, your time was worrying. It suggests that there is something incredibly... odd.” He reached out and stroked Kitiku’s head. “Do you panic a lot or become easily upset?”

Kitiku nodded.

“Once you start to panic, you can’t think of anything else but death or your worst fears coming for you?” he continued.

Once more, Kitiku nodded.

His voice softened a little, “You dislike people, noise, bright lights? Do you dislike people or things interrupting what you are doing to the point it makes you stressed?”

Kitiku nodded again.

“I suspect I know what is wrong, but I cannot be sure without some of your blood. Are you afraid of me? You don’t like to speak to people, do you? Well, I am not like other people. I am going to help. I will need to transfer your medical records onto my personal patient list; however, I need you to verbally agree,” the Lord reacted.

Kitiku looked at James, who was looking at the Guard suspiciously. “I agree...” he squeaked.

“Fantastic. I will take some blood now, and I will undoubtedly speak to you about the results the day the new Captain arrives. Now I believe the buffoon is back, so I will send you on your way. Do not break the rules again. I will let this go tonight because there is something wrong with you. If it happens again, however, I will provide double punishment. Is that clear?” the Lord said coldly.

The boys both nodded as Sutton appeared to take them home.


As the boys walked alongside Incaresta Sutton along the dark cobbled streets, James concocted a plan to gather whatever information he could from Sutton about the ‘new Captain’. He needed to know how to get rid of them. If he was successful, the South would look stupid.

“So... there is a new Captain?” James asked Sutton cheerfully.

“Classified,” the Sergeant provided a dreary response as he tugged his cap harder on his head.

“So, yes?” James pressed.

“Drop it, Hamés. It is classified information,” Sutton responded, tired. “If you keep asking questions, he will be the next person you see as you will be placed in a jail cell, and I will happily throw away the pin number.”

“So... he? If he likes to get stuff done straight away, he will be busy. Does he have lots of strong Pokémon to help? I mean, like Machamp? Or Houndoom? What about Hypno? Those things are creepy...” James quizzed.

“Hamés be quiet,” Sutton whispered.

“Why won’t you talk about it? You are usually one of the only people who actually interact with us. I hate you, but I prefer you to most of them. What is wrong with you?” James tugged his arm.

“Hamés, I could have been sent away, and I would have probably been killed because of what you and Kitiku and Lioa and Andrew did. Just relax a little, okay?” He walked them back towards the Bryson household. “You have a few days before the Captain punishes you... if he decides to.”

James was suddenly hit by a feeling beyond exhaustion but felt Sutton grabbing him his right hand by the scruff of his neck.

The door of the Bryson household was a dark wooden colour. The bricks were cleaned on the outside. Tak did his best to make the house presentable to the world regularly. The house was tiny; It had an upstairs, there were four windows only. The roof was slate and crumbling. It was dark inside, perfect for arriving undetected.

“Now what? You knock on the door, I get kicked out of the household... and Kitiku gets grounded until he is ninety?” James panted.

“Are you okay? I suppose it would be a little harsh. Well, I expect you to remain at home now and not break the curfew again...” He released both the boys, “I wish you goodnight.”

The boys scrambled up the drainpipe into the bedroom window into their small shared room. At best, it was two metres by one-metre three-quarters. James’s bed was on the right when you entered the room by the door, and Kitiku’s bed was left. James’s bed had a musty white pillow at the window end. His duvet was a faded red. It was woven Mareep wool. He pulled his shirt over his head and tugged his shoes off and his socks. He dragged himself into bed and pulled the duvet over his chest. Kitiku’s pillow was a fading grey also at the window end. His duvet was a light soft blue, also woven from Mareep wool. The wool was quite scratchy, but it was cheap. He put his pyjamas on and tucked himself in quickly without a sound.

“Kitiku?” James whispered.

“Hmm?” the timid boy responded.

“Tomorrow is going to be a big day, isn’t it?” James asked.

“I am not going. Nothing you can say will convince me to go,” Kitiku said, narrowing his eyes.

“I can’t find it without you... we can’t find it without you. You are the only person I know who can read the old language,” James pleaded.

“I can’t read it...” Kitiku sighed, “I can understand fragments and only fragments.”

“So you will help us find the entrance? It is hidden for a good reason. I really want to find the festival grounds. I want to be considered more than what I am now...” James suggested.

“Fine. Just let me sleep, okay? I am tired, and I am scared, and I really don’t want to die when the Captain punishes us for your grand schemes,” Kitiku hissed.

“Are you okay?” James asked. It was really out of character for Kitiku to speak, let alone hiss. Kitiku just rolled over. “I suppose we are lucky...”

Kitiku was upset. He didn’t respond for a moment or two. “James, I really don’t want to die. At the rate you are going, we will all be dead before I turn fourteen.” He rolled onto his back and looked at James. “You will win the tournament. I am counting on it.” He smiled a fake smile and closed his eyes. James puffed a sigh before closing his eyes.
Chapter 3 - Hero of Akrat
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 3 - Hero of Akrat

Date: 16th June 1989

The morning rolled around quickly as James tossed and turned in his bed. Friday was by far the worst day of the week. It was the day of fasting for those who believed in Cresselia as the more powerful deity. It wasn't the empty stomach that bothered James, but the lack of energy and his body was aching from the night before. He could feel the thunderous drums of pain, and he felt incredibly groggy.

He didn't get much time to slip back into a deep sleep to avoid facing the pains of the day ahead. A few moments later, Oosho puckered his way into the room with his long orange tentacles. Oosho was Tak's Octillery and a hero as such. Oosho didn't like anyone in the household very much. He even appeared to have a grudge against Tak, probably being summoned during a nap. Perhaps Tak selected one of his other team members instead of him. Tak's team was a secret, even to Kitiku. Tak was very reclusive about his former Guard life.

Oosho looked into the room. His eyes were fixated. His gleaming yellow eyes with their small pupils were enough to scare anyone. Slowly Oosho puckered his way up to James's bedside wall. The puckering sounded like the pops on an air tight container. James and Kitiku were so focused on their dreams they didn't hear him as he squelched his way along the wall. Oosho waited for them to move. When he was sure they were unaware of his presence, he slowly continued his trek along the wall.




He then slid down the wall onto James's bed slowly. He waited a moment and then pushed his face into James's, resting his big eyes against him. Before snorting.

James could feel the warm air against his face. He opened his eyes and saw a hideous dot in a sea of yellow. He yelled in panic and squirmed out of bed. He hit the floor with a thud. Kitiku, hearing the scream and the thud, jumped up in complete fright. Oosho sniggered and squelched and puckered his way out of the room once more.

"I hate that Octillery," James hissed.


Kitiku picked up his watch, resting on the end of his bed. He was alarmed. "It is 9:35! If we want to make it, we need to go now. Before my mother gets back or worse, my father."

Kitiku pulled on a plain white t-shirt over his head. He buttoned up the top button and brushed himself down. James put his arms through the unbuttoned white shirt. He carefully buttoned up all but the top button. Kitiku hurriedly pulled up his black trousers. He wobbled for a moment but survived his minor dressing ordeal without falling over. James sat down rather than try and make a fool of himself, putting on his black trousers standing up. He then slowly and carefully brushed his shoulder-length hair. Much to the disgruntled look of Kitiku. He had already brushed his hair perfectly.'

Both boys grabbed their single Pokémon and ran down the rickety wooden stair case, leading to a small corridor towards the front door. The house walls were not heavily decorated, but a few items were of interest. There were three pictures of Pierre, Tak and Nashe together, but none of Kitiku. Pierre's sword and knife hung alongside his shield by the front door. The main blade was a shiny silver colour. The helm was golden, and the handle itself was bone. One thing Tak was proud of was his deceased son. James and Kitiku both knew if Tak could, he would trade Kitiku for Pierre. The boys flung open the door as they charged to escape the house. As the boys attempted to squeeze through the door simultaneously, they became somewhat wedged as Sutton walked past.

"James..." Kitiku whispered nervously. Sutton stared at the boys who were wedged. It took him a moment to realise they were stuck. He burst into a roar of laughter. James rolled his eyes in an irritated manner.

"Would you like some help?" Sutton laughed so hard his speech appeared to be a sludge of accent and laughter. "Or would that be a knife to your ego?"

"Shut up, Sutton. It isn't funny," James replied. "Just help us and go back to being the local pain in the...."

"Maybe if you give me this attitude, I should just leave you there, but I am too nice to do that." He approached them, still laughing. He shunted James's body back and pulled Kitiku forward. "Why did you even get stuck? Going somewhere other than the centre of town to fix the mess you made?" His stare deepened. "You are already late..." James and Kitiku looked at each other confused and then back at Sutton. "Didn't I tell you to be there at 6:30 a.m.?" Both boys shook their heads. "Why are you lying? Kitiku, you should know better..."

"You never said any time..." James blurted out angrily. "You know today is an important day of the week for us. Why would you do something that could make us collapse or faint or be ill or faint?" Sutton raised a single eyebrow.

"You said faint twice. That means you are up to something because when people lie and list things, they repeat something for emphasis. So... what are you up to?"

"That is the stupidest thing you have said," James answered. "You say a lot of stupid things. Nearly everything you say is stupid."

"I am too nice, I think. I should be angry and put you in jail for that, but I won't because you are still little and young and need a lot more guidance in life." He smiled his goofy smile, making James feel angrier. "You are trouble. Maybe you should be more like Kitiku, who does as he told. That would make the transition easier for us all."

"Sorry", James said, "Everything you say is stupid." James attempted to side-step Sutton but was unsuccessful.

"Why would you do something that could make yourself collapse or faint or be ill?" Sutton smirked. "I must be off to do my special assignment. If you haven't started to fix the mess you made before I get back..."

"Okay, sure, let us play." James quickly interrupted from frustration. They had one day to find the entrance to the hidden festival, register and prepare for the match-ups.

"Say please."

"I'll let Okta eat you if you don't let me through." James blurted out. Kitiku quickly elbowed James. It was a feeble elbowing. If James didn't know Kitiku was there, he wouldn't have noticed it at all. "Fine. Please let us go play now, you idiot."

"That should do, I suppose". Sutton stepped back and sighed. "One day, you will treat us with respect." He smiled.

"Let's get Lioa and Andrew," Kitiku whispered. James gently nodded in agreement.

"What did he say?" Sutton asked in a puzzled tone.

"He said we should do as you say." James sighed before walking past Sutton, who gently brushed his hand against James's head as he walked past. "Lioa should be already waiting for us by Kilok-Fo. We also must be extra careful with this new Captain around. He could be tough; I mean, I could take him on... probably."

James's leg started to twinge a little. The wound inflicted by the Gengar seemed to be worsening the more they walked. The walk upon the bumpy streets was, at best irritating. The heat from the sun glared down onto the faces of the boys. In the distance, James could see Lioa.


"James. Kitiku." Lioa answered calmly. "Sutton actually let a Guard punish us last night. Dirty move. We are trying to forget about it, but we will make him pay. Anyway, where are we going?"

"The only clue is "Deseto es-k kibro. E mirra nos thero". Deserted the kind. The mirror of the truth. No. "E" means the, so... possibly "a desert of its kind. The mirror of the truth." I am not sure what it means." Kitiku said softly. "My translation is probably wrong... Father always said I wasn't as intelligent as Pierre..."

"Kitiku, you are never wrong. Honestly, Tak is an idiot for thinking that." James said reassuringly, thumping his friend's shoulder. "Desert? There is one big desert in Coltar. Just south-west of Akrat. If we are lucky, we will get to the desert by nightfall. If we are wrong, though..." James started to cross the bridge heading west out of Fehahra. "Once we get there, we need to hope there are still spaces for competitors." James knew his strategy. Okta was his strategy. He felt her heart beat whenever his beat. They could win. James could feel it.

"James? Did you hear what I just said?" Kitiku nudged his shoulder.

"No? Was it important?" James grunted in a moody fashion. "I was thinking about how Okta and I will beat everyone else, so it better be important!"

"Akrat is a place where lots of slave trading happens. We need to be careful."

Slave trading was a big issue in Coltar back then. It still is an issue in Akrat today, but most other areas are in decline or abolished altogether. My brother, Prince Yakobi, went to Akrat to deal with them. He hasn't come home yet. The slaves of Akrat were the primarily people who had planned to visit for a day or so. The slavers were clever in their traps. Even the Lords were highly wary of Akrat.

"So... I suppose we should start to walk? We still have to walk through Kithuk." Kitiku said. The thought of Kithuk's beauty echoed in his mind.

"Who needs to walk?" James smirked. He turned out his pockets to reveal a Poké Ball with a rather angry looking Claydol inside. "I stole it off of Sutton a few days ago. You guys remember the key switch we did, right? Well, I broke into the Pokémon storage room that they have. I was looking for snacks for Okta, but I found this guy. I thought he would be super useful if we needed to get somewhere urgently. I am an all-powerful trainer. Watch!" He turned the ball, so Claydol could see him, "Claydol teleport us to the festival!"

Claydol didn't budge from its ball. It looked even more agitated at James.

"You are doing it wrong." Lioa snatched the Claydol from James's hand. "Claydol use Teleport".

Once again, nothing happened. Claydol's dark brown body rested against the inside of the ball. Its big red eyes stared at Lioa. Although Claydol doesn't tend to have any means of showing expression, Lioa looked convinced it was laughing at him.

"I said use teleport." Lioa started to shake the ball in a rather violent manner. "Fine! Don't use teleport. I will throw you into the river! You stupid, wasteful piece of Tauros ...!" As Lioa went to hurl the ball into the river, the enraged Claydol seized the moment to break free of the ball. Claydol used to teleport.

James's headache worsened as they steadied themselves, momentarily staring blindly into the dark world around them. The world felt like nothing. They quickly began to panic. They feared they were trapped there forever. There was no air for them to breathe. They desperately gasped. Each breath was more challenging than their last. Slowly the world around them darkened into a blur of light. Were they dying? They fainted before being thrust back into the normal realm. They hit the ground with a thud.

"James..." Kitiku squeaked. "Are you awake? This isn't the festival. This is Akrat."

James scanned the area quickly with his eyes. They were in a narrow alley. The ways of the houses were wooden and crooked. Each side was coated with sand. They had clearly faced numerous sandstorms. The ground was clearly concrete at a touch, but it was also covered in sand. The small sand pieces were sharp and dug deep into James's fingers.

"Wow, we have an intelligent one. I suppose he is worth a coin or two." A dark figure chuckled. James was startled. This man wasn't there before.

"Look at that one. He looks like a real warrior. I suppose with some training, he and his Pokémon could fight in the pit for amusement." A second figure leapt from the shadows. A tall skinny man wearing an open-top and incredibly shorts stood before the boys. His face was scarred across his lip in three places. His hair was blacker than coal, and his eyes were soulless.

"I am surprised you haven't been burnt to ciders." James gritted his teeth as he spoke. "Albino slaver, rare, burns easily not worth very much". He bulked himself up in an attempt to seem fearless and too much hassle.

"Now, now, you shouldn't speak to your new owner like that." The albino man hissed. "Teach them a lesson Kirno." An Aggron appeared behind the boys.

Kitiku started to panic. He grabbed James's arm and squeezed it as hard as he could.

The Aggron cried out its battle cry.

James saw Andrew seize the moment and try to leap up and desperately escape. The first slaver grabbed him. His dark skin was littered with white specks.

"I want my mother!" Andrew screamed as loudly as he could before being slapped.

Lioa saw his brother in distress. He nudged James to tell him to think of something. James reached into his pocket and left his hand there, but something was bothering him. He could hear something.

"James...Go on, James. Make him hurt for what he has done. Make him bleed. Make him feel pain. What are you waiting for, James? Are you too afraid? Kill him, James. Use her power. Crush him with the pure power of the rocks of her body. What are you waiting for? Do it!"

His head filled with rage. He felt a burning feeling and wanted to hurt these men. He wanted them to feel afraid. James went to summon Okta to complete the circle of rage within his soul. The first slaver dumped Andrew back down next to Lioa. Another pushed James to the ground as Lioa threw his Gurdurr forwards. With a thud, it shrieked to protect him. It went to charge the Aggron but was quickly tossed to the ground with a thud. It had fainted. Lioa reached for his second team member but was slapped rapidly across the face and slammed into the wall by the albino man.

"Kill him, James." the voice said.

James nodded to the sound. He reached into his pocket once more to summon Okta. As he threw her into the air, his hand slipped on the catch. He hadn't released her. This noise had been messing with his mind to the point of affecting his concentration. The slaver reached forward and snatched Okta from the air smoothly.

"Let's see, oh, an Onix? That's very rare. What about this? A Klink? That's not so much in value," the man scoffed as he grabbed Kitiku and held him tightly by the scruff of his neck. "Deino? Shame, Zweilous neck is a delicacy. I don't know if I can wait that long. Look, Miroko, this little warrior has two. A Staravia and a Gurdurr."

James's head screamed. All he could hear was the voice telling him to do dreadful things to these men.


James felt a vast wave of energy blast past him as the two slavers grabbed their heads. They could hear something loud. Something fearsome. It was hurting them. He panicked and turned to face whatever had caused them pain. The psychic wave hadn't finished. James quickly found himself pushed over by the sheer physical presence in the air caused by the psychic move. How could he feel a psychic move physically?

"Have mercy!" the men screamed. They pulled themselves to their feet and scurried away as fast as they could, dropping Okta. A tall man stood at the end of the ally way. Behind him stood a Pokémon which James had never seen before. Its ears were pointed on its large head. It hovered cross-legged above the ground. The man said something to the creature, and it nodded before returning to its ball. The man then stepped out of the dark and towards James. His blue hair was tied back into a short ponytail, and his blue eyes were wide. His skin was fair and not freckled, and seemingly without scars.

"Are you four okay? I hope they didn't harm you." He smiled and offered a hand to James, who looked back at him somewhat puzzled. The man wore a grey-white shirt and a rose-red tie. His trousers were soot black. He wore a beige jumper which appeared to have a knitted pattern over his shirt and tucked was into his trousers. "What are your names?" He asked, smiling only to receive blank looks. It took Lioa a moment or two to pick up the courage to speak.

"My name is Clarence. I used Psychic because my Pokémon is a psychic type, and there is no better way to make a statement to these types of people than by defeating them. I am not a Lord, so I will do something about them, especially when they target children. It disgusts me. I am from the border between the North and South. You shouldn't judge people by where they are from."

"Where on the border?" Lioa scowled.

"Between Kiro and Llirok."

"Which Lord is better? Madison or Piscar?" James's eyes narrowed.

"Each Lord has merits and failings. Piscar is younger. He has had to fight hard to survive throughout his whole life, and as a result, he is quick to make judgements. Be it good or bad ones. Madison is older. He has more experience. He knows when to back away from certain situations. However, he is arrogant. He won't back away if he is convinced. He is correct. Hence the war," he spoke softly, but he seemed confident in what he was saying. "Now, who am I speaking to? Also, where are you going? I do not think it would be wise of me to let you wander off alone." James cautiously answered.

"I am James. The short one is Lioa."

Lioa rolled his eyes and crossed his arms at his description.

"The mute is Kitiku, and the other one is Andrew. We are going somewhere near Akrat."

"Vague..." Clarence turned his head slightly and squinted for a moment. His expression was of clear suspicion. "I suspect that means you are going to do something you shouldn't. Perhaps going to a certain banned festival? Which also happens to be where I am going." He smiled.

Kitiku tugged James's arm before pointing to his knuckle on his right little finger and then running his left index finger along the top of the same little finger.

"You can hear but do not speak. How... interesting. You are right. Perhaps that was too open of me." He looked with kind eyes towards James. "However, judging by your attitudes towards meeting me, I doubt you would reveal to any Southern solider or Elite Guard my intentions."

James, shocked, gritted his teeth. He had been outsmarted by a stranger.

He saw Clarence step forward, making Kitiku seem short, standing next to him. His moustache was short, somewhat thin, and matched his hair colour. He didn't appear overly muscular.

"It would be definitely safer for you to travel with me," Clarence said.

"I could have handled it. Okta and I will win the festival because we are stronger than everyone. Including you." James blurted out angrily.

"No, I am stronger than you, and I am going to win!" Lioa quickly added to James' volcanic temper.

"Lioa is going to win, James." Andrew butted in.

"No, I am going to win," James shouted. Lioa shunted back even harder.

"No. Me."

"No. Me."

Clarence started laughing. "Competition is good. How about focusing on getting there first, however? Time is running out." Kitiku yawned in the background. "Someone is tired already. That won't help you battle. Will it Kitiku?" He reached out a hand to Kitiku, who appeared puzzled by the gesture.

"Kitiku doesn't battle. He just sits there and looks pretty." Lioa smirked. "He isn't good at anything. He just tags along with us because he has to. If Pierre was still alive then..."

"If it wasn't for Kitiku, we wouldn't even know where we are going," James snapped back.

"Calm down. Save your fire." Clarence smiled. "You will have plenty of time to use it in battle."

James and Lioa both reluctantly nodded.

"Follow me." The man led the boys from the alley back into a central street. "The time is 11:32 a.m. There is some time." He smiled at Lioa, who seemed to be the tensest.

"Hey, mister?" James said softly. His eyes shined with curiosity. "What was that? I mean, I know it was something like mind-blast, but what was that creature? I have never seen one before. I know a lot of things, and that wasn't one of them". The man paused for a moment allowing James to catch up and stand beside him".

"That was Hishrak. My closest, but not oldest, friend. My oldest friend is called Barook. He is a Braviary. What about you? Have any close non-human friends?"

"Okta. She is an Onix, and she is the strongest ever. We will prove that to this small world. Then people will treat me better and her too. She is yellow-orange. I've never met another Onix like her."

"Rusto is my Klink," Kitiku said singularly and incredibly quietly.

"You speak too?" Clarence asked curiously.

James's eyes narrowed on Kitiku, who shied away.

"Knowing a non-verbal communication form is useful for keeping secrets. Anyway, I have never seen a Klink before. Seen a Klang once. Seen a lot of Klingklangs," Clarence replied. His voice seemed to increase in pitch as he became curious. "Do you and Klink play together?"

Kitiku stopped walking. He raised his hand and touched his top lip with his right thumb. He then lowered it, shook his head and began walking again.

"That's okay. I am sure you and Klink do whatever you want to do together, together."

Kitiku nodded.

"What about you, Andrew?"

"Well, mister. I have a Deino. Deino is blind, so they need help finding food and things." Andrew answered cautiously. "What else do you have other than Braviary?"

"Now that would be telling." He smiled. "Hishrak and I have been through a lot together. We have seen a lot of conflicts. Conflict passes with time. Wounds heal, not just physical ones but emotional ones too." Clarence paused.

James shrugged quickly as an answer to his statement.

"You don't trust me? It is completely understandable. I had seen a Deino before, in case you were curious. They were a pretty popular dragon type when I was growing up, as was Bagon. My friend had a Bagon actually...he named it... Irkak. He later found out Irkak was more of an Irkaknok. Aaron was always clumsy with names when he was growing up. Have you boys ever seen a Salamence?"

All four nodded with certainty.

"Impressive. What about a Samurott?" He asked as the group walked through a somewhat crowded area. Several members of the Southern Guard were talking in a huddle amongst the rushing people.

"Stupid Guards use those." James blurted out and then quickly looked down to the ground in an attempt to prevent the inevitable. A Guard had clearly overheard James. He carefully approached. His left hand stretched across his middle to his sword. His right hand lay on his leading Pokémon. Kitiku quickly bowed to avoid being dragged into the dispute. Andrew followed nervously, but Clarence was much calmer. He took a deep breath and lowered his head slightly. "What?" James hissed violently. Lioa could have sworn the air rippled around him. The Guard shunted James backwards.

"Okay... let's all calm down." Clarence stepped forward. His eyes fixed firmly on the Guard's dark grey eyes. "We mean no disrespect. This is my nephew. He has Starly's disease... he is acting out at the moment because his doctor was arrested. Something to do with Houndoom horns."

"That runt needs to learn respect, as do you. You didn't bow to me either, scum. That boy challenged me. He shall face the penalties!" the Guard barked, attempting to grab Clarence by the throat.

Clarence stepped back to avoid the angry swing.

A few nearby Guards had their attention now fixed on the coming dispute.

"Unless you want to take his place?" The Southern Guard finished, irritated his grab had just been dodged. He gripped his sword once more.

"Why do we not just have a calm discussion about this instead? It is better for everyone that way. We don't die, your Pokémon won't use up energy, and your sword won't need cleaning afterwards..." Clarence said softly. His eyes were flicking between the boys and the Guard. He wasn't worried or nervous. James knew those eyes. This man had a plan. The Guard loosened his grip on his sword. "I have many gratitude hearts." Their conversation became quiet. Too quiet for James to hear.

"James, that made no sense". James looked at Kitiku, who was clearly thinking. "Gratitude hearts?" James looked puzzled. His face almost looked as if it was in a stupor. "no one says gratitude hearts. No one. It's weird. I like him, but I don't trust him. If we could just..."

"He seems okay. I am sticking with him. Besides, he actually knows where we are going!" James growled angrily.

"We are all ready to continue. I just had to do a little explaining." Clarence smiled calmly. His aura was so strong even I could feel it. With every sandy step, they came closer to leaving Akrat. Kitiku couldn't wait to be out of there. Every passing minute he became more and more stressed. James sighed as he looked at Okta. Before he could prevent himself, he gasped in agony as the bite on his leg issued a sharp burn. "Are you okay?"

James nodded. He wished he could scream, but he had no choice but to proceed through the gates of Akrat into the wilderness once more with the group.
Chapter 4 - The Festival
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 4 - The Festival

After a walk, the five stood together, looking into what would seem to be the abyssal desert. Clarence raised his hand up and placed it against something. Something that mirrored the desert behind them. James and Lioa looked at him impatiently.

"It is an illusion made by a type of trick-room," Clarence said. "Trick-room is usually used to reverse the speeds of Pokémon. This, on the other hand, is used to reflect speed, time and space. The mirror in the desert. It's so clever. The festival is about being courageous. Therefore, we need to do something courageous to get inside. Who wants to go first?" Clarence gestured at the illusion.

James stumbled forward. "I understand. I'm being brave because I am stepping into the unknown by stepping forward. Therefore, I can enter." He was transported to a vague dimension. The air seemed thick, and he felt dizzy.

A shadowy figure approached him. James gulped and readied Okta for combat. "Welcome to the tournament. We apologise for the field, but did you know a new Captain is going to Fehahra? Apparently, Lord Piscar sent him himself." The woman shivered, thinking about it.

Andrew spoke up. "We are here to win. Well, I am going to win."

"That's a joke, right?" A medium height man with a green streak through his short brown hair perked up.

"Grektox, be nice," the woman hissed.

"If you think you will win runt, you also believe Cresselia and Darkrai are real." Grektox jumped off the barrel he had been sitting on.

"People like him make me sick to my stomach. He would happily throw anyone to the slavers or the Elite Guard to please his masters," Clarence sighed, making James look into his narrowed blue eyes.

"Do you think he is the new Captain of Fehahra?" Lioa asked.

"No, he isn't exactly inconspicuous," Clarence replied, signing his name on the challenger's sheet before handing the pen to James.

James quickly signed in and handed the pen down the line.

Kitiku gently tugged down on James's shirt. "Lioa and Andrew are off to get food, right? Why don't we go give gifts to Cresselia?"

James nodded and walked with his friend along the dusty, sandy path past all the shops and stalls. All the food stalls gave off an enticing smell. They stopped at a booth that had a massive crowd building up. James started to scowl at a man standing in front of them. His back was turned as he chomped down on a Qwilfish snack. His blue shirt had wet patches in places due to his sweat. It didn't help that his shirt was tucked into his beige shorts.

"Excuse me, mister. Can you please move out of our way? We are trying to get through to the idols." James shunted the man forward. The blond-haired man turned around. "You? How did you get here? What are you doing here? Haven't you got something better to do than follow us?" James blurted.

"I could easily return all of those questions," Sutton said, flustered about having his disguise blown. "You are in so much trouble when I take you back to Fehahra once I report the entire activities here to the new Captain."

"Why does he care? Akrat isn't his responsibility!" James shouted.

"Lord Piscar wants this shut down. As his personal favourite soldier, he was sent here to resolve all resistance activities. A person or persons from Fehahra may be participating. Regardless of the location of the crime. Now please be quiet," Sutton whispered in a panic. Slurring his sentences into a slurry of Colrat and Elkrat. "Why aren't you in Fehahra?"

"I am competing, and I am going to win. Then I will crush the South myself. You are murderers." James spat, enraged.

"How about when we get back to Fehahra, I hand you straight over to the new Captain? He will have gathered evidence of you being here already. As he is here, somewhere. He will have all of these people thrown in prison. I will get a promotion."

"Keep talking, and I'll out you," Lioa said calmly from behind Sutton. "Andrew and I want payback for yesterday. You let that Guard hit us."

"Lioa, one day, you will understand. I was doing my job." Sutton turned around and gently ushered Lioa and Andrew to the same side as James and Kitiku. "Let's sit down over there. We can talk there in peace and quiet." He pointed to a piece of ground by the back of the stalls

The boys followed him. Lioa crossed his arms impatiently as they walked. Although it took them no more than a minute or two, Sutton had noticed Lioa's growing agitation.

Lioa scoffed, "I want you to pay!"

"Lioa," Sutton's face turned stern, and his eyes narrowed. "We make these rules for a reason. We don't want any more innocent people getting hurt. This festival is dangerous. People and Pokémon die at this festival."

"That's why we gift the idols," James said. "They protect us from that."

"When you have been injured by a Pokémon, I don't want to sit by your hospital bedside and watch the Guard decide your life isn't worth maintaining. I won't let you compete" Sutton looked genuinely concerned. "Kitiku, I thought you would have known better. Besides, you won't make it past the first round."

"Okay. Let's make a bet," James lit up at the opportunity to try and beat Sutton at his own argument.

"Betting is illegal," the Sutton sighed.

"Being here is illegal," James answered back. "So here is what I propose. If one of us makes it through the first round, you let us compete until we get eliminated, and then you forget we were here. If we all lose in the first round, you can throw us all in jail and throw away the key. Deal?" James said.

"No. If you lose the first round, you fix the mess you made in Fehahra, and you will behave," Sutton scowled.

Lioa said, "We won't lose."

"I worry about you kids more than you know," Sutton paused as Kitiku gently rested his head on Sutton's arm.

"In a few hours, I think entry will be closed to applicants. I guess until then, I should keep an eye on you boys," Sutton sighed, turning to Kitiku. "I never asked. Are you feeling better?" Sutton asked.

Kitiku nodded.

"Silent as ever," the man remarked. "I guess one day you will pick up the courage to speak to me. That is what your name means, right? Courage," Sutton whispered.

Kitiku nodded again.

"Another border dweller? I don't trust him unless you know him," Clarence was holding the Northern snack of Kikirotiki. The ice cubes were starting to melt, making the sticky sugar drip the berry seeds down the spiral.

"His accent sounds too Southern," His eyes narrowed in on Sutton.

"We know this idiot," Lioa said.

"I see. Well, in that case, allow me to introduce myself. I am Clarence." "I guess you aren't hungry. What is your name again?" Clarence asked.

"Incarero Sultan," Sutton stuttered, grasping at straws for a fake name.

"Incarero Sultan, ruler of the lamppost," Clarence said.

"Well, I guess we should be off to the battler's dressing tables. I wish you luck Incarero," Clarence said, smiling.

Incaresta, blushing, stood up. He thought back to his first days in the North as a soldier. He had gotten lost on the way to Fehahra after accidentally getting on the wrong Sawsbuck coach. He ended up in Akrat, and the slavers took advantage of his nervousness and lack of experience. Tak Bryson saved his life that day. He didn't know how, nor why, only that this labourer had done whatever it had taken to free him.

Sutton's arm was gently tugged by Kitiku. "All tired out, Kitiku?"

The boy yawned a giant yawn and nodded.

"Missing your mother too, I suspect. Okay. Let's set up a camp. Where shall we sleep?" he whispered.

The boy quickly buried his head into Incaresta's shirt. Making him place his left hand on Kitiku's shoulder and gently push him away from his chest only to have his hand taken straight away.

"Kitiku, you can't be so clingy. You are thirteen years old. You don't need to hold my hand, do you?" Sutton sighed as he accepted that Kitiku wasn't going to let go. 'This nervous child,' Sutton thought, 'he won't last five minutes in the world on his own.' "You can speak to me whenever you want. You know that."

"Y-Yes," Kitiku whispered. His grey eyes appeared more void than before. "Mister Sutton?"

"Hmm?" Incaresta stopped walking.

"Y-Y-You won't r-really let the n-n-n-new Captain p-punish us, w-will you?" Kitiku sniffled, "P-please? I-I-I-I am sc-sc-scared."

He heard tears in the young boy's voice. "You broke the rules. You are fortunate that that doctor yesterday didn't have you punished," he said.

"S-So y-you w-w-would let the n-n-new Captain k-k-kill us?" the boy said, stuttering.

Sutton saw tears starting to run down Kitiku's face as he spoke. He had to think of something quickly. The guilt was starting to eat him from the inside out. "Kitiku, why don't you pick somewhere to sleep? I will keep watch all night. No one will kill you. Okay?" He would have crouched down to make Kitiku feel taller, but Kitiku already felt like a freak. Making him think taller would have had the opposite effect on feeling safe and comfortable. Much to his relief Kitiku drew a circle in the air with his fingers.

"P-Promise?" Kitiku said while signing.

"I give you my word." Both of them let out an enormous sigh of relief. 'It was hard to communicate with Kitiku,' Sutton thought. 'The boy rarely talks'. In fact, this was the longest conversation he had had with him. "You are a good boy Kitiku. Go to sleep now. Soon the morning will bring new adventures. Also, the tournament starts tomorrow. I hope that Lioa, James and Andrew do okay," Sutton whispered.

"We will," James responded.

Clarence stood behind the boys. His hand was resting against his chin. "We were thinking we should spend the night out here with you and Kitiku instead, Incarero."

Sutton scowled for a brief moment as Lioa sniggered, then he raised his right hand a little to let the group know they had to be quieter. "Kitiku is exhausted. All the excitement from yesterday has really messed his energy up. Even his Klink is tired." He listened carefully as the boy breathed lightly. His eyes then snapped up to Clarence, looking suspiciously at him.

"I still think your accent sounds too Southern. Incarero. Why don't you tell the truth? You were raised in Mesk. Your accent says it all," Clarence said.

"What's Mesk?" Andrew asked.

"Mesk is a mining town near Kishnar. The Elite Zone," Clarence calmly answered, it is too far inside the Southern border to be classed as a border town," Clarence calmly answered. "Judging by your thick accent, I will also hazard a guess that Incarero isn't your real name. It is possibly Mylious, or Kirkit or maybe even Incaresta. I think the last one sounds pretty obvious. You boys covered for this Southern imposter."

"You know an awful lot about the South. All your accusations are false," Sutton said in a panic. He was sweating more so than in the heat.

"I am thirty-nine years old. I have fought in so many battles between our Elite Lords. You learn a thing or two. You are a young soldier trying to be a hero. I tell you, as someone who has witnessed some atrocities, that being a hero gets you killed," Clarence smirked. "It would be cruel to let you die to a mob."

Kitiku stirred a little at the noise.

"Kitiku, go back to sleep, okay?" Sutton held Kitiku tightly with his left arm. He watched as the boy pressed his head harder into his shoulder.

Clarence sat down quietly and carefully. Andrew wandered over to Incaresta Sutton and sat down next to him. "I suppose you want this arm?" he said, offering his right shoulder as a pillow. Andrew pressed his wrist into his eye to rub them as he nodded. He leaned against Incaresta. "What are you going to do?"

"Nothing. I want to know about you. I am surprised you didn't compete." Clarence smiled.

"Oh. My Pokémon and I don't battle unless we have to. Battling isn't something I am particularly skilled in," he laughed a fake laugh quietly.

"The kids seem to like you. Do you have a family of your own?" Clarence remarked.

"A wife and two kids. My little girl is four, and my little boy is two. I can't believe how quickly they grow up," Sutton sighed.

"My eldest would have been twenty-two this year," Clarence replied.

"You have a family too?" Sutton asked, with a curious peak in his accent.

"Indeed. When it boils down to it, the flag we stand in front of, be it blue or green, doesn't matter. We are all one people united in front of a purple flag. Stand two young children, one from the North and one from the South, and they know no difference. Stand two grown men next to each other, one from the North and one from the South and expect some caution to be had." Clarence allowed Lioa and James to rest their heads on his shoulders. "These kids are exhausted. They have come a long way. They almost got enslaved. Slavers are such a big problem. The Lords need to do something about it."

"It's none of my business," Incaresta said hesitantly. "They need to stop the slavery of children for sure. Adults maybe not yet." Clarence, intrigued, listened harder. "I guess if they suddenly removed slavery altogether, there would be a complete and utter breakdown of society. It is part of how the world works. It cannot continue, but it is something that has been around our entire lives."

"Over-freeing society too quickly would cause a complete collapse, I agree." Clarence's blue eyes met Incaresta's green eyes. "We should get some sleep. You will take first watch."

"You do not fear me running away?" Sutton said warily.

"With those kids pinning you down asleep, and your emotions tied to making them stay asleep? No. Nor do I fear you trying to kill me. Again, you wouldn't let these children be traumatised. It is clear to me that as a father, you wouldn't want these kids to go through anything your kids could." Clarence rested his head against a rock and closed his eyes.

'He wasn't asleep yet, ' Sutton thought. He was right, though. Three of the children who lay asleep tonight under his watch were on their final warnings. He looked up to see the stars and the moon.

"You are so clean tonight. No clouds or darkness, no secrets hidden anymore. Just the clear blue sky and its shining lights in all its glory," Sutton whispered in his native tongue. "Mehal, I hope our kids are okay. I hope you are okay. I love you." He closed his eyes and softly whispered, "Giratina, ruler of our fate, please forgive me for I have sinned. It has been four years since my last confession. I have betrayed my Lord tonight and the night before. My body is possessed with the need to complete orders. My mind is confused. It hides lies, guilt and treachery. I am a bad man Giratina. I shall offer you the most sacred of gifts as an apology for my betrayal."

Sutton reached into his pocket, carefully avoiding Andrew, who snored a silent snore. He pulled out a photo of his wife and kids and tore it in half. Then tore it again, so it became a quarter of what it once was. "I offer you to share in my heart. I hope that is enough."

Clarence listened to the man speaking in Elkrat. He liked Sutton's attitude to sacrificial offerings.
Chapter 5 - The Battles Commence
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 5 - The Battles Commence

James stretched his arms and legs as he stirred from his deep sleep since Clarence had let the boy sleep on his shoulder all night. James got up from the ground and nudged Andrew awake. Both had been selected to compete in one of the opening battles of the tournament.

"I hope you both slept well. Would you both like to get some breakfast?" Clarence asked, smiling as if he had been awake for hours.

"With what money?" Andrew snapped. Feeling his stomach rumble, Andrew sighed, "Sorry, mister. Yes, please."

They wandered in the direction of the food stalls. The smell of food crackling in the morning enlightened the senses. Clarence stopped to look at some of the food on sale on the stand. The purple and white zigzag banner danced in the wind. It read 'Fresh Meat Cuts – 1 Colkara each, Brito-Resko 1 Colkara for 2.' He bought six Brito-Reski and handed one to Andrew and James. Both quickly started to chew on end, trying to break the top of the wheat away to get the sticky juice to pour out faster.

"I think you boys should start preparing for your match," Clarence said, waving at the two boys who ran towards the battlefields as he headed into the sand cloak. Its brown colour and lack of see-through material made it dark inside.

Kitiku and Lioa were sitting down in the corner of the cloak. He could hear Kitiku whisper to Lioa, and Lioa would reply.

"Would you like a drink?" Clarence asked, but the others shook their heads. Clarence then sat down in the corner before releasing Hishrak. Hishrak crossed his yellow legs and floated above the ground. "My dear friend, are you ready for all of this?" he asked.

His question was met with a simple rolling of the eyes. He was, peering into the future of Incaresta Sutton.

Lioa's hair flopped over his face as he shunted Kitiku to the ground. It was clear to anyone watching that this play-fight was only being enacted by one of the participants. Hishrak lifted one hand and pulsed a small psychic wave that pushed Lioa off Kitiku.

Kitiku, now freed, scrambled towards Incaresta Sutton, who hadn't managed to drift off to sleep.

"Kitiku, please. My arm has only just gotten blood back into it," he whispered, as his left arm was seized, "What to do with you? Want to have a battle? I will help you win." Sutton said. He smiled his goofy smile and was met with a shrug. "So, Clarence, what are the rules of this death trap?"

"It is my first time here, but two people go through from each heat. They then fight in a 1v1. The fastest participants get to bypass the next round. Still, they do not get to claim a Pokémon from it, and eventually, you end up in a final. Northern battle rules, of course," Clarence replied, taking Kitiku off of Sutton's arm and moving him onto his own.

"Stepping over the line is a disqualification, and ties are an instant rematch if caused by the same attack?" Sutton asked.

"That's it. You understand it." Clarence smiled at him.

Meanwhile, James sat in the locker room. The white walls had faded into a murky grey. The pain in his leg was clouding his thoughts, but he thought how lucky he was to be picked for one of the opening matches. The clean sandy battlefield would have clear white lines. The sand would be soft to stand on.

James saw Andrew was talking to his Deino. The best-case scenario was for him and Andrew to work together to make it through the first round. A voice called out into the locker room. It was time.

James stood calmly in his trainer's box marked out by a white sticky substance, most probably Galvantula's sticky web. The flag was dropped. James threw Okta onto the field, and she landed with a thud, almost crushing her capsule. Andrew's Deino snarled, and Aggron roared. The mysterious man sent out a Grovyle. Immediately James knew Grovyle was his most significant threat. Grovyle had to go down before the 1v1 stage. He couldn't do it with Okta, but he could use Aggron as a shield.

A lady called out a command to Aggron, who immediately went after Grovyle. It lashed out with a metal claw but was easily sidestepped and hit with a leaf blade. The dust on the field spewed into the air violently.

Grovyle's attention snapped to the dragon raging Deino and used X-Scissor.

Nutkio was pushed back by the attack. She struggled to stay standing from the sheer amount of damage. She was dizzy. Her blood was starting to drip from the wound.

"Okta, use screech!" James shouted.

Okta took a big breath in and bellowed out an ear-piercing screech. Several crowd members held their hands over their ears and then cheered upon her stopping. "Okta, Attack Aggron! Use Dig!" Okta burrowed her way deep underground. The lady clearly didn't hear him as she fixated her bright eyes on Grovyle.

Andrew's Deino was out for sure. It had little health left. He could easily knock it out when he attacked Aggron, but this wasn't in his interest. He took a deep breath and pushed his hair from his face. Aggron swiped at Grovyle with another Metal Claw and missed again. It was clear the lady was starting to get frustrated. The arena burst into a cheer for Grovyle.

"Come on, Okta... where are you?" James whispered.

She was still under the field somewhere. She was waiting for the perfect moment to spring up and gain the element of surprise.

James saw Aggron was powering itself up for something in the corner of his eye. It was thudding its feet on the ground. Its white body and grey underbelly were covered in sand. James took a moment to realise what was about to happen.

"Okta get...!" before he could finish his command, Okta burst out of the ground below the Aggron.

Aggron's instincts kicked in. It used the move iron head. In doing so, its horn caught her as she followed through with the dig attack.

She had sustained some minor damage from Aggron. Aggron, on the other hand, was one minor attack from being out of the game.

Grovyle charged towards Aggron to finish the giant beast off.

Andrew's Deino, weakened, shot a dragon rage shot at the Grovyle. It singed the Grovyle's foot, causing it to crash into the ground with a thud, making it a sandy brown.

Before Grovyle could get back up, Aggron issued an earthquake attack. James held his breath as the battlefield shook.

Andrew's Deino fainted instantly.

Grovyle had taken a lot of damage from the attack due to the screech beforehand. It was severely bruised along one side of its body.

The crowd roared because of the first knockout.

Okta also had taken a lot of damage from the attack. She panted tiredly.

"Are you okay, Okta?" James asked, worried, but she turned around and roared at him. "Let's finish this. Use iron tail on Grovyle!"

The mysterious man cursed under his breath. Slowly he called out a command to Grovyle. Its eyes narrowed in on James. Without warning, it charged towards him.

Okta stood between Grovyle and James. She was going to take a hit. If she took the hit, she would be out of the match due to Grovyle's grass type moves being super effective on her.

Saddened, James turned towards the crowd.

Sutton was there with Kitiku and Lioa. He had to do this. He shouted out, "Okta, use dig once more!"

She dived underground.

'This is it, he thought. 'Either Aggron uses earthquake again and gets a double knock out, which would force a rematch, or Grovyle goes for Aggron.'

James was wrong.

Grovyle continued to charge him, as its trainer had demanded. The mysterious trainer tried to force James to step over the line and forfeit the battle.

Okta waited patiently. She listened for the sounds of the Grovyle to be right above her. Aggron and its trainer watched intently. Clearly, the trainer had decided it wasn't worth letting her Aggron take more damage.

Grovyle went to scratch James across the face to get payback for the damage caused by Aggron due to the screech.

Okta shot up from the ground and threw Grovyle into the air. The impact wasn't enough.

James took one last deep breath before demanding Okta finish the green menace. Okta swung an iron tail attack at the Grovyle and hit it squarely in the chest. Grovyle rolled across the arena into the wall next to Andrew's. Andrew jumped out of his skin from the thud from the Grovyle slamming into the arena wall. It was over. Grovyle had fainted. James had made it through the first round by the skin of his teeth. Quickly, he took a bow before leaving the arena waving.

The group watched on throughout the day as Lioa triumphantly crushed his opponents, focusing on one at a time. A few incidents made Sutton shudder, a man lost a few fingers, and a Geodude had exploded.

As night fell on the first day of the tournament. Clarence walked towards his battle box. He was calm, as always. His opponents were a young boy, a girl, and an old man who had clearly witnessed many battles in his time. Clarence had but a moment to choose who he would instead have left standing. He decided on the girl. She looked the most nervous out of his opponents.

She would be his round two opponents.

Clarence listened to the referee but turned to face the stands. Sutton and Kitiku were still there. James, Lioa and Andrew had left. He assumed they were up to mischief. His focus then switched back into the moment.

The moment Hishrak hit the floor, the battle would be over. He could only do this stunt once, and now was the time. He raised the capsule in his right hand and rested it against his left shoulder. Unlike most battlers who threw an over-arm release, he threw at an obscure angle.

The battle had begun.

The angle he threw it at forced the ball to bounce back into his hand after Hishrak had been released.

It was now or never.

He clenched both of his fists.

Hishrak didn't need to look back to see what his trainer was doing. His psychic mind was in sync with Clarence. Clarence pulled his left arm back sharply.

Suddenly, the old man was jolted forward onto the battlefield. His Tropius was as shocked as his trainer. They were eliminated without a second thought.

Clarence couldn't revel in his immediate victory over his first opponent for too long.

The brother and sister had joined forces against him. Her Heatmor spewed flames, and his Durant screeched a loud drilling noise.

"Psycho-screech, but not too strong. I want the referee to still be conscious... try and not hit the Heatmor," he ordered.

Hishrak rolled his eyes as he let out an almighty psycho-screech. The psychic waves travelled in an echoing fashion with Hishrak the Alakazam as the epicentre.

Clarence quickly covered his ears and closed his mind. He imagined himself switching his brain to mute.

Hishrak quickly moved to stand in front of Heatmor.

The entire match depended on this move.

Durant was resisting the attack, but it simply wasn't strong enough. The boy was screaming.

Heatmor went to use will-o-wisp against Hishrak, but it had no effect.

The crowd could hear nothing.

Hishrak had been manipulating a protective field around the crowd. In a few moments, the protective area would fade. Durant would be down due to the painful screech, though.

The girl had fainted.

Durant was down. The match belonged entirely to Clarence. No one outside of that arena had been harmed by his attack. Something he deemed a success.
Chapter 6 - The Finals
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 6 - The Finals

James eyed Grektox as the flag dropped. He threw Okta onto the battlefield with a tremendous throw. Okta landed with a thud and let out a screech straight away.

It didn't take James a moment to notice Grektox's smug look. Raticate was already poisoned. The large vermin like creature scampered across the damaged battlefield towards Okta.

"Okta, use dig!" James called out.

She obeyed.

Grektox called out something to his Raticate that stopped dead in its tracks.

Okta sprung up from underneath Raticate. As she came up from under the ground, she caught Raticate's toes.

Raticate struggled to stand after the attack. However, the poison barb was now in her rocky skin. She had received the poison. Raticate started fumbling around, trying to stand up.

James seized the opportunity to land Okta's iron tail attack, but the vermin dodged it.

Raticate charged towards Okta using the move façade once more.

"Okta, use iron tail again," James calmly said.

She screeched at James, letting him know she understood, and Okta raised her tail. She lifted the Raticate off the ground with a single swipe and sent him into a wall. To the crowd's delight, the Raticate was out for the count. Its tail curled up.

"Now come back to me," Grektox said as he threw out his Shedinja, making James quickly send out Aggron in a bid to counter him.

Aggron roared and instantly attacked Shedinja but met the almighty wonder guard. Shedinja then lashed out and landed a will-o-wisp attack on Aggron. Aggron was now burnt, so all its attacks would be much weaker. James started to panic since he had no way of dealing with Shedinja. His battle would be over if he couldn't find a solution. The sand was beginning to rise from the Aggron's irritated stomping.

James had to think of something fast, his Onix was poisoned, and Aggron was burnt. He thought for a moment and figured out that he could use Aggron's dust to his advantage. He could conceal a rock in that. Nothing against the rules saying a trainer couldn't battle a Pokémon indirectly. James reached down to the ground and picked up as big of a rock as he could find.

Shedinja was using shadow sneak on Aggron. Although not doing very much damage in a single attack cumulatively, it had done a lot.

James hurled the rock at Aggron, who quickly grabbed it in its mouth. It started to violently shake the rock. It was cracking under the pressure of Aggron's jaw. All it would take is one hit on Shedinja. The stone broke and was flung at Shedinja that was too busy preparing its next shadow sneak. The rock landed a direct blow on its stomach. Shedinja fell. Aggron was too badly hurt from its burn to continue and joined the bug on the floor.

James knew Okta would have to finish this, even though she was poisoned, but to his horror, James saw a Sawsbuck being sent out by Grektox. He turned to the crowd with a frown.

Clarence sat watching from the stands, seeing James's frown. He knew what was about to happen, as Hishrak had shown him, and it wasn't going to be good. Sawsbuck would charge the young boy. James would call Okta to attack the grass type. Sawsbuck would then go for a high jump kick and break the boy's neck. James would be considered an adult since he was over twelve. Therefore the stunners wouldn't do anything to stop him from being killed by the Sawsbuck's attack. Clarence knew he had to intervene.

Hishrak stood in stands by Clarence. He was reading his trainer's mind. He coated the stands in an invisible protective field since Clarence never gave the order directly. No one would ever know who did it (if it was discovered to have occurred at all). James had a 50% chance of winning this way as the attack would probably force both trainers to have a reaction simultaneously and a 0% chance of dying.

Hishrak let out an almighty psycho-screech. The crowd could hear nothing, but inside the battlefield, both trainers desperately clutched their ears. The noise was unbearable. It felt as if their ears were being ripped from their heads. Sawsbuck started kicking around in panic.

Okta screeched in agony. James quickly shouted for her to go underground, but she couldn't hear him. The screaming inside her head was too loud. Grektox cursed as he fainted. Sawsbuck quickly followed.

Immediately, James recalled Okta to avoid her fainting. He felt dizzy and sick. It didn't take him a moment to spit up a little blood. Had the dreadful noise done something to him? Or was it the bite on his leg?

What seemed like minutes passed when James awoke inside the cloak with Sutton. Clarence and Lioa were battling, and he was missing it.

"Are you okay? I saw you spit up blood earlier," Sutton said as he handed over a flask of water to the boy.

"The noise made me sick. It was so piercing, and it wouldn't leave my head," James answered.

"You find crowd cheers piercing? We need to get you seen to by a doctor when we get back then," the soldier quickly replied.

"Didn't you hear it? There was a noise. It was high pitched. It made the Sawsbuck go crazy," James hissed

"No, the Sawsbuck went crazy because its trainer was incapable of controlling it. I have decided. Doctor, once we get back. Then you fix the mess you made and explain to the Captain everything," Sutton replied. "You rest. You will need it. The rest of your battles should be a walkthrough. Except if you draw Clarence. You have a type advantage against everyone else for the majority of the time." James was in a deep sleep before Incaresta could finish talking.

Although, he was right. The rest of the battles were straightforward enough. James had slogged his way through to the finals against Clarence. Okta was exhausted. His team now consisted of Onix, Sawsbuck, Aggron, Tyrunt, Fearow and Phantump. Whereas Clarence's team now consisted of Alakazam, Tropius, Gurdurr and Tyranitar.

The two stood opposite each other in the arena. Time for battling was upon them. With this battle, the festival would be over, and one of them would be dubbed a courageous member of Northern society.

The flag came down. Clarence smiled at James before sending Tyranitar onto the field. James threw Fearow onto the field. Fearow immediately shot up into the air. Tyranitar observed it as it swooped around.

"Use drill run!" James called out.

Fearow's beak started to fill with power. It swooped down and started to furiously peck at the ground. Its brown feathers began to become sandy. The land in which Tyranitar stood started to become unstable. Its foot slipped, and it crashed to create ripples in the ground. Fearow shot up once more into the air. Clarence stepped forward within his battle box as it came in for a second attack.

"Stone edge," he said calmly.

Tyranitar pulled itself upright and then spiked up its back and punched the ground with tremendous force. Spiky rocks were torn up from the ground and shot up.

Fearow was too close, and it became trapped in the avalanche of rocks. Its left wing had been broken as the rocks crashed together, and it let out a scream before fainting.

James recalled Fearow.

"Good job, Fearow. I can work with that," James said to Fearow's ball. "Sawsbuck, it is on you!" James sent out the Sawsbuck, whose summer-like pattern was now full bloom.

Upon seeing the Sawsbuck appear on the battlefield, Clarence withdrew Tyranitar and sent out Tropius. Sawsbuck readied itself for an attack.

James was ready to deliver. "Sawsbuck, use high jump kick".

Sawsbuck charged towards the Tropius that still sat on the ground.

Tropius, like Clarence, was patient. It waited for Sawsbuck to buck with its back legs. At the exact moment, the Sawsbuck went to land its high jump kick, Tropius flew up into the air into a hover, much to the crowd's amusement. Sawsbuck's fully extended legs failed to hit the target. It landed on its front two legs before crashing back to the ground. It was hurt.

"Don't give up, Sawsbuck. Use double edge!" James called, and Sawsbuck angrily got up and charged towards Tropius once more.

Tropius was unprepared for this attack.

Sawsbuck's horns landed a solid hit on its unready opponent. However, in delivering such a devastating blow to the bulky grass type, its neck made a crack, as its spine became chipped in places. Sawsbuck had taken recoil damage and a lot of it. Sawsbuck, now struggling to stand, was unable to dodge Tropius.

"Air slash!" Clarence called out. Tropius mustered enough air fast enough to create a small but powerful air slash. It swept the Sawsbuck off its feet, so it thudded into the ground.

Sawsbuck fainted.

Clarence smiled as James withdrew the Sawsbuck.

"Never mind, Sawsbuck. Aggron, it's on you!" James shouted.

Aggron hit the ground with a thud and a scream. Its white metallic coating was dirty and sandy from its earlier battles.

"Tropius, use earthquake," Clarence said before James prepared Aggron. The circular, torn up battlefield cracked. The field was now vastly unstable. The dust from the attack flew up into the air. As Aggron desperately tried to run from the earthquake attack, it backed itself into a corner. It fell into a newly founded hole in the field caused by Tropius's attack. "Tropius, use air slash!"

"Wait, Aggron, use stone edge when it gets close enough!" James ordered.

"That won't work! Tropius, use fly instead!" Clarence responded, and Tropius quickly climbed up in the air. "Try figuring out where I am coming from."

James paused.

Clarence was right. Tropius, who now sat in the low clouds, was invisible. However, he didn't have to look at the clouds. The wind was blowing strongest from the east. Therefore, to gain as much momentum as possible, Tropius would come from the east. "Now, Tropius!"

Sure enough, Tropius came swooping down from the clouds towards the Aggron.

James was prepared, though and as soon as Tropius appeared. Without hesitation, he shouted at Aggron, "Aggron, from the east, use stone edge."

Aggron immediately picked up a piece of the cracked ground and hurled it at Tropius. It was a direct hit.

Tropius was hit in the head by the flying chunk of earth. It plummeted into the ground, unconscious.

"Or use rock throw... I am happy either way," James chimed in.

Aggron started to climb out of the hole, roaring with glee. Its happy stomping created a dust cloud.

"Gurdurr, you are up. Thank you, Tropius, for your assistance today." Clarence released Lioa's Gurdurr from its ball onto the field.

"Aggron, use metal claw!" James called, making it, so the Aggron charged towards Ruskuo. With great power in its fists, it swung and dealt a powerful metal claw attack on the Gurdurr. This was too easy.

"Gurdurr, now use hammer arm!" Clarence had sacrificed some of the Gurdurr's stamina to bring the powerful Aggron closer to make it an easier target. It was a critical hit, the Aggron's jaw had been broken, and the Aggron fell down into a pit on the battlefield unconscious. Ruskuo's speed decreased as he had left himself open. Ruskuo, Tyranitar and Hishrak were still available for Clarence, whereas James had Phantump, Tyrunt and Okta.

"Thank you, Aggron. Phantump, let's do this." James sent Phantump out. However, he threw the ghost tree a little too far out onto the battlefield, which played directly into Clarence's hands.

"Poison Jab!" Gurdurr punched Phantump extremely hard in the gut. Phantump looked sick as it flew backwards from the attack. "Phantump is poisoned badly, James," Clarence warned, making James grit his teeth.

"I know, I know. Phantump, use a wood hammer!" James responded.

Ruskuo, smug about its successful poisoning, was too busy jeering up the crowd to notice the little ghost sneak up behind it. It thumped the fighting type with its wood hammer attack. Ruskuo fainted from the hit. Phantump took considerable damage back in recoil and was then violently sick from the poison. The ghost type started to phase in and out of reality to please the crowd, cheering more than before.

"Crunch," Clarence said.

James was confused, 'Clarence didn't have a Pokémon on the field. Did he?'

Much to James's surprise, the Tyranitar was on the field. It had snuck underground and was hiding. It had probably been hidden for some time. There is nothing in the rules of the festival against it. It was a perfectly legal move as long as it didn't attack anyone. However, it was rarely done, as it could quickly be frowned upon. Phantump screeched out in pain as the giant beast crunched down on it. Its wooden body cracked in places under the rock-dark type's jaw pressure. Phantump fainted.

"Phantump, you did great. Tyrunt, it is on you! Tyrunt, use brick break!" James shouted as soon as the little dragon came onto the field to replace the Phantump. It started to scamper towards the waiting Tyranitar, who was prepared for the attack without needing an order from Clarence. It thumped the ground causing an earthquake around Tyranitar as an epicentre.

Tyrunt was quick on its tiny feet. It started to run and jump away from the earthquake and the dust that followed. James decided to abuse the situation and concoct a backup plan. Meanwhile, the Tyrunt had almost escaped from the earthquake loop when it ran directly into the Tyranitar.

Tyranitar thumped the ground once more. There was no way it could miss this time.

The little dragon barely hung on through the attack. It swung its tail using brick break to damage the giant in a desperate attempt. The attack landed, and the Tyrantiar, who took the attack, chomped down on the Tyrunt's tail. The attack by the Tyrunt had made the giant Pokémon bleed. The monster clearly had wished to return the favour. The little dragon's tail had been broken. The teeth marks were pouring out blood. The Tyrunt fainted from the pain. James now appeared to be in trouble. However, it was time for his backup plan. He withdrew Tyrunt.

"Okta, it's all on you!" James shouted, "Use iron tail!" The yellow Onix came up from underground like Tyranitar had done not ten minutes ago. "Thanks for the idea!" James called out to Clarence. Who smiled at how the boy had used his own tactic against him.

"Crunch! Try and take it out!" Tyranitar desperately tried to crunch down on the Onix's body but was slammed with an iron tail across the jaw before it was unable to land the hit. The super-effective attack sent the Tyranitar backwards hard, so it hit the wall with a thud. The crowd jumped up, scared as Tyranitar let out an angry roar before fainting. Clarence returned Tyranitar to its ball. "Thank you, my friend. You did well. Rest up now. Hishrak, finish this."

"Use iron tail once more!" James shouted.

"Psychic," Clarence said.

James watched as Okta received the powerful psychic attack and crumbled to the ground in pain,

James felt the psychic energy push him backwards too. The thought crossed the boy's mind, 'if this Pokémon was strong enough to one-shot Okta, why didn't he lead with it?'

The flag was dropped to signify the end of the match.

James felt sick inside. His dreams were crushed by someone really powerful.

Clarence returned Hishrak to its ball and walked over to James. He extended his arm up. "You will go far one day. Don't give up."

"I won't." James returned the raised arm, disappointed. "Will she be okay?"

"Of course. Hishrak's power is ancient, but he can control it. He didn't harm her severely," Clarence said to James as he stood tall as he received his trophy on the destroyed battlefield. He waved to the crowd. "This is where we part ways. I wish you luck, James, in your future endeavours. Incaresta and I have unfinished business. I suggest you head home alone. I am sure you will be fine. Stick to main streets from now on."

James puffed a sigh of relief before nodding. James walked away from the centre of the arena, where Clarence was standing.

James wandered down to the healer, where he handed Okta over for a few moments before taking her back. The other owners of the Pokémon he had borrowed come to collect them.

As night fell, James struggled to accept that he had lost the final. Thanks to several of the people at the festival, they had been given a lift to Akrat, but they would have to sneak through the shady town due to the curfew.

Judging by some of the conversations on the Sawsbuck coach, the train service from Akrat to Fehahra was still running. Although, it wasn't a viable option. The boys had no money. Also, James had noted that General Greiss from the South was supposedly heading to Fehahra to assist the new Captain in his work. If he happened to be on the train, the punishment of being caught after curfew would be severe.

James mused that a General would be working for a Captain. However, when Lord Piscar chooses someone himself, that person is clearly not messed with.

The boys ran in between the shadows once they were off the Sawsbuck coach. They shifted along a nearby wall, and James reached for the drainpipe of one of the houses in Akrat. He scrambled up and sat on the roof. Lioa followed him up, pushing the others out of the way. James could hear voices in the distance, seeing a Litwick light glowing. It was getting closer. Andrew, Lioa and James tucked down behind the roof to watch as Kitiku struggled to pull himself up.

A tall man with a broad face stood directly below the roof. He was muscular, and his Machoke stood close by. His arms were crossed. James couldn't see the tie knot he had. In Coltar, my dear off islanders, the knot on their tie observes a person's rank.

"James. We cannot get caught. You didn't replace our files. Remember!" Lioa hissed.

"Yeah, yeah, I am working on it," James snapped back.

"No need to work on it! I have an idea to get us out of this." Lioa crawled over Andrew. Kitiku was panting nervously at the end of the line.

"James, what are we going to do?" Kitiku asked. His hands were shaking.

"Lioa says he has a plan. I hope it is worth the wait...." James said impatiently.

"It is. See that roof over there?" Lioa pointed into the distance. The sandy roof was hard to see, but the other boys nodded. "We need to get there. Once we get there, we can get home. We need to distract this guy, though."

"How?" James asked curiously. "I can battle him if needed."

"No need. I have a better idea," Lioa said as he looked at Kitiku.

"What? I really miss my mother. I just want to get home now. I will do whatever you need. Just get me home. I am worried the South will find out what I've done, lock me up, and throw away the key. I don't think I can handle that," Kitiku said nervously.

"Whatever I need?" Lioa asked.

"Within reason," Kitiku answered.

"Sure," Lioa said. "Can you see that tower in the distance?" Lioa pointed forwards. The tall boy shook his head. "You might need to stretch up a little more. It is tough to see."

As Kitiku strained to see the tower Lioa was talking about, Lioa took his chance. He shunted Kitiku forward. Kitiku plummeted off the roof and onto the Machoke. "Now is our chance. Kitiku can take a hit. We can't get caught again. Let's go."

The Machoke didn't take kindly to being landed on and used vital throw against the boy. Kitiku was thrown across the ground, breaking his skin into a deep cut. His left Tibia and Fibula were shattered. The man angrily started shouting at the boy, screaming in pain.

"Lioa, what have you done?" James punched Lioa in the face.

"Saving our lives. You couldn't have done better," Lioa snapped as his nose started to bleed.

"Hey, mister!" James called down.

"What are you doing?" Lioa hissed.

"Saving my friend. What are you doing?" James answered. "Hey, mister, up here."

The man scowled at James and beckoned him down angrily. James noted the man's tie. It had to be General Greiss.

"Sure thing, mister." James slid down the drainpipe with Andrew and Lioa.

"Pick him up, Northern scum!" Greiss barked. James didn't really fancy trying to outrun him at the current time. Mainly as Kitiku needed him. James pulled his friend to his feet. He realised Kitiku couldn't stand, let alone walk. "We are going to take a walk there. Greiss pointed to Akrat's cemetery, which had fallen into disrepair. "Move!"

James aided Kitiku step by step to where Greiss wanted them to go. Lioa and Andrew followed. Once they reached the gate, Greiss kicked Lioa in the shin and barked at the boys. "Start digging. I will make use of you before you die for attacking me."

"What? No. It was an accident. We didn't attack you!" James shouted.

"Be silent. You will die and make this as easy as possible for me. Now start digging!" Kitiku started shaking more than he was already. Both Andrew and he began to sob. "I said be silent." The man's Machoke went to punch Kitiku and Andrew in the stomach.

Quickly James stepped in the way. "Okay, I will dig. Just don't hurt them."

James and Lioa had dug nearly three feet down. Greiss had pushed the two younger boys into the pits. James was desperate for some slavers to turn up and try to fight the General just so he and his friends could escape. Or at least try. Okta was too tired still to fight. The situation looked hopeless.

Suddenly the man's attention was caught by something. James couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, but he could listen to what Greiss said. "Why do you talk in this filthy language? Either way, these criminals... no... assassins need to die. What was that? Was that a threat?" Machoke suddenly started charging in the direction of the second voice.

Before James's eyes, Machoke had been flung backwards into the pit where he and Kitiku were. Kitiku had jumped out of his skin and was crying even louder. The General started to stutter. "Wh-what is this trickery? Who are you? I-I... I will crush you! Miltank shows him who is...." Before he could finish, he had been flung against a gravestone. He hit it hard enough to become unconscious.

A man in midnight blue stood above them, extending a hand down to Andrew and pulled him up before offering Lioa the same. Lioa took the hand with a grudge and was pulled out. The man then came over to James and jumped into the three-foot deep hole. His hat covered most of his face, but James noticed his tie. It was a trinity knot. Three overlaps at the top. This man was an officer in the Southern army. He picked Kitiku up and started trying to carry him. He realised the boy was in pain and wouldn't calm down.

The officer shouted for his colleague as he placed Kitiku on the ground outside the pit. He went to pick James up and lift him onto the edge. James shook his head and pulled himself up.

"Are you boys okay? That looks nasty. A doctor will see you as soon as we get to Fehahra. Was anyone else hurt?" the man said, removing his hat and wiping the sweat from his forehead.

"Traitor! Liar! You are the enemy! You are going to kill us. You won't take Kitiku to a doctor. You won't take us home. It was all an act. You are the enemy!" James burst out shouting in a panic.

Clarence stood in front of him. He was the Southern Captain who had been chosen by Lord Piscar.

"Breathe, James. It is okay. Let's get all of you back to Fehahra in as good a condition as possible. It has been a long day for us all. Let's co-operate with each other," Clarence said calmly.

"You are going to kill us, just like that, General. You are all the same inside, even Sutton!" James snapped. Something he instantly regretted as Kitiku's crying got worse. "What do you want me to do? Just leave him alone! Just take him to a doctor and don't hurt him...."

"James, I want you to calm down. Let's just get back to Fehahra. Kitiku, breathe. You are safe." Clarence said as the boy squeezed Sutton harder. He was inconsolable. The thoughts of almost being killed and being in extreme pain danced in his mind. Clarence gently eased Kitiku from Sutton and let the boy rest against him.

"Would you like them handcuffed, sir?" Incaresta asked more rigidly than before. "Train station, sir?" Incaresta asked.

"No and yes, to the train station, my friend," the Captain replied.
Chapter 7 - The Captain
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 7 - The Captain

Clarence held Kitiku tightly as he took his seat on the train. The wooden compartment was small, but it was big enough for all six to sit in. A Litwick floated quietly, giving just enough purple light to see.

"James, sit by the window, please. Lioa, I want you next to me. Andrew, please sit next to Incaresta," Clarence spoke softly, in a desperate attempt to try and relax Kitiku. Still, he hadn't stopped crying, and his shattered lower left leg had turned a swollen purple.

"Sir, may I suggest we find out what happened to Kitiku?" Sutton stuttered.

"Of course. Also, please don't call me, sir. Relax, Incaresta," Clarence replied. "Incaresta, can you fetch me some water, please?"

"I still have some in my flask, Captain," Sutton replied, in a still somewhat rigid manner, handing over his flask.

"Kitiku, I want you to drink something." The officer offered the boy the flask but was met panic.

"He won't calm down. He is scared, you jerk," Lioa blurted out.

"Lioa, as I have already said, I want to get you all back to Fehahra safely and to a doctor."

"This one has been spitting out blood and should go too," Sutton added while gesturing to James.

"James, is this true? It isn't usual for people to withstand a psycho-screech without training. That is why you are spitting up blood. Your body is reacting to the noise still. It should have stopped by now," Clarence said, concerned.

"I am fine," James snapped, but it wasn't true. He had thrown up not that long ago.

Out of the corner of his eye, Clarence saw Andrew swallow. The boy was thirsty. This was his chance. "Andrew, would you like a drink?"

Andrew nodded as he rubbed his eyes. He reached over and took the flask from Clarence. He took a swig and yawned before handing it back.

"Mister Sutton, can I rest on your shoulder, please?" Andrew whispered. His question was met by his arm being wrapped around him.

"See, Kitiku. The water is safe," Clarence said.

The crying child took the flask and took a few swigs of water before burying his head into the man's chest. "Once we get back to Fehahra, I will ensure you get home safely. I have read your files. I have read every one in Fehahra's files. Your introduction a few days ago was unnecessary. I am surprised you didn't discover my identity when I failed to report Grektox. I believe it was my only mistake."

"Kitiku noticed something else. Something you said which sounded wrong. Something about hearts. I can't remember what exactly," James said, "I feel like a fool. You lied to us."

"Did I? I don't remember lying. I was born in Kiro. I just moved further into Southern territory as I got older." Clarence looked to Andrew and Kitiku, who he had drugged with an Ivysaur's sleep powder that he had slipped into the water.

"Keys!" Sutton blurted out, "Lioa, give me my keys."

"No. I don't have your keys. Why should I give them back if I did have them? You and the South are bad people. Lord Madison will beat you, and then we will be free!" Lioa shouted but was met with a cold hard stare from Clarence. "Sorry. Don't be mad, please?"

"Lioa, the differences between our Lords do not make half the population 'bad people'," Clarence said calmly.

"I'm just exhausted and scared... please don't hurt us," Lioa faked in a squeaky voice.

"Fake tears do not work on me. I have been a father long enough to detect when someone tries it. I suggest if you are 'exhausted', you get some rest."

"I don't want to die. There is just so much I want to do still." James whispered.

"James, there is plenty of time for you to still do those things. You won't die. What is this obsession with me killing you? Do I look like the kind of person who would murder four children?"

"We aren't children. We are adults. Northern law says so," James snapped.

"Southern law says you need to be twenty-five to be classed as an adult. As you are currently in expanded Southern territory, you obey Southern law. You need rest. You don't have to take these, but If you do, they will help you sleep." Clarence reached into his pocket and pulled out two tablets. "Or maybe you tell me what happened to Kitiku?" Clarence asked as he handed over the tablets. James looked at them intently.

"Kitiku fell off a roof. He landed on a Machoke," James said.

"I see. Fell or was pushed? Kitiku didn't try to stop himself from falling. If he really did fall, I would have expected him to swivel around and try and stop himself," Clarence pressed for the proper answer.

James looked down and crossed his arms. "I am not telling you anything."

"Well, I can assume from that he was pushed."

"What do I do with these?" James asked.

"Swallow them. It is only Ivysaur's sleep powder. You don't have to take them if you don't want to. I trust you to make your own choice. Incaresta, what can you tell me about these boys from personal experience?"

"Sir?" Incaresta replied.

"What do you make of them? Any quirks worth noting?"

"I don't understand, sir. Why are we talking in Colrat?" Sutton queried.

"We are guests in their region. We may now own these areas of the North, but we are still guests. By speaking their language, we can connect with them more. Also, it is a good way to practice speaking their language, by talking to each other." Clarence answered.

"Yes, sir. Andrew is the youngest and follows his brother like a Mareep on fire. Kitiku is very shy, as you have detected. He and Hamés are brothers. They don't look it, though. To anyone who didn't read the files, it would be impossible to note."

"I have a point of curiosity about those two, which I need to investigate further. Do the boys have the same mother or?" Clarence asked.

"Tak Bryson would never have an affair."

"I see. What about Lioa?"

"Ah, Lioa and Andrew lost their father in the early days of the war from memory. Lioa hates us for it. I just don't understand, sir. Lioa blames us for something that was just a case of Giratina's balance in this world."

"You forget, these people do not believe the same religious texts as us. They believe in several different ones. Lioa is angry because we, for a better word, destroyed part of who he is. What about James?" Clarence stopped and slowly started to move his hand up and down on James's arm gently to aid the boy in falling asleep.

"He causes trouble regularly with Lioa." Sutton looked back up at Clarence.

"We are going to help them grow. I don't believe in hitting or brutal punishments. They should only be used when there is no alternative. There is almost always an alternative."

Upon arriving in Fehahra, James found himself lying on a doctor's table. A Luxray and Hypno entered the room. The doctor pulled out a white, soft stool upon which the Luxray then jumped. The seat stood out in the grey room. Before James could even complain about being scanned by the snarling electric beast and the creepy psychic creature, the doctor had noted something down.

"The boy is fine. His brain is a little shocked still, but nothing more," the doctor said. "He should be perfectly fine by midday. I suggest he sleeps in as he needs rest. He should have already stopped, but some people take longer to stop."

"Very well. I shall inform his parents of that fact," Clarence said.

Meanwhile, in the next room, Kitiku was trembling, holding onto his arm. As the doctor came in.

"Kitiku Bryson, you remember me? Lord Ikur? I have some news on your leg and your condition. You see, Kitiku, your brain it's different." The Lord lit his cigarette. "Or at least according to our research in the Southern Castle. We aren't miracle workers. Our scientists are the best in Coltar, but there is much about these sicknesses we don't fully understand."

"I am broken?" Kitiku whispered in pain.


"Ca-can you fix me?"

"No. I can suppress some of the effects, but that is all." The Lord then took out some small tubs from his pocket. "This is made from Lapras shells. Don't worry. We only take from the long-dead Lapras. The bones will help slow down the side effects."

"My fa-father cannot...." Kitiku started.

"Quiet. We believe medicine for such illnesses should be free. The ingredients are not so hard to come by. Your leg, on the other hand, is another matter." The Lord prodded it, making Kitiku wince in pain. "Your leg is shattered from the knee down. Your ankle and foot seem to have escaped without damage. Which does leave an interesting case for sure. I could just cut it from the knee down. Since I doubt you can afford a metal rod inserted to replace the bone."

Kitiku nervously jumped up into a sitting position.

"Or I could just remove the shattered bones. It won't heal correctly. Some of your bone is missing. If it was my choice, I would cut your leg. However, it is not. In theory, it is your parents' choice. However, they are not here, so the choice then falls to your current guardian. That happens to be Captain Bourbabel, and he believes you should choose. Do you want me to cut off your leg or remove the bones?"

Kitiku's face of horror at the mention of losing his leg was enough for the Lord to know the boy's decision immediately. "I shall arrange for you to have some crutch sticks. Also, for your condition, you shall be supplied with a carer Pokémon. I recommend a Herdier. Herdier's job will be to help you with stressful tasks and fetch a doctor in the event of something bad happening to you. Herdier is not a toy. Understand?"

"Y-yes, my Lord," the boy stuttered.

"With that, I shall inform Captain Bourbabel of what is going on. I shall then remove the bone shards in your leg. I believe you have taken Ivysaur's sleep powder in the last five hours?"

Kitiku looked blankly at him. "I cannot give you that again. I will have to give you some stun spore instead. I apologise in advance, it will stop all pain, but it will be very uncomfortable. You will just be bored stiff, quite literally, unable to move any muscles from your neck down during the operation."

The Lord then pushed his glasses back towards his eyes. He then wandered into the next room to fetch Captain Bourbabel.

James got up from the table. This was his chance with the Captain gone. He had to get to the third floor from the basement, replace the files with blank paper and get back. Unfortunately, the blank file paper was on the second floor on the opposite side of the building to the stairs. James waited for the Lords who were talking to walk past the door before he crept out.

He darted along the narrow corridor and up the stairs. As he reached the top, he saw a soldier in the room nearest the stairs. That soldier was blocking his way up. The nearest room to him on his right was full of confiscated Pokémon. James side-stepped in a shuffle into the room. Pokémon in balls lined the draws stacked up from every angle. He could take two at most as his pockets couldn't handle any more. He reached into the first draw. 'Two will have to do', he thought. He picked up the Cofagrigus and the Dunsparce. He released the Cofagrigus from its Poké ball. It floated down the corridor towards the soldier and turned into a floating sarcophagus. The man quickly went inside the room and slammed the door in a panic. James heard voices on the stairs, so he returned the ghost type and darted across the narrow corridor into an empty room. He opened the window and climbed out along the window ledges into an open window. He just had to cross the hall now, but the Lords were still at the end of the

"Dunsparce, I need you." James aimed his roll carefully. He needed the ball to bounce off the wall in the right place, and it needed to release Dunsparce. He laid on the carpet and created a groove with Dunsparce's ball.

He slid the ball, and it bounced off the first wall, then the second and then once more, but the ball didn't open. The Lord was curious how the Pokémon had gotten there. James hid behind the desk in the room as he heard the footsteps get closer and closer. The Lord then said something to someone, as if he was reacting, and then he walked out the room, leaving the corridor clear. James quickly raided the storage room for the paper required and then ran up the stairs to the third floor.

The office was the second door on the left. James had made it. The corridor was empty, but the office door looked locked. This was where Sutton's keys would come in handy once more, mainly as he knew which key it was. James wandered casually over to the door and went to unlock it. Upon leaning against the handle, he discovered it was open already.

"James," a voice in the dark said. The light was then switched on.

The new Captain sat at his desk. "Before you ask, I took the stairs, not the window. You came to switch the papers in your file?" the Captain asked.

"No. I..."

"Empty your inside pockets, please. Also, put Cofagrigus on my desk, inside its ball, please."

James removed the blank paper from his pockets and placed the ghost on the desk with a thud.

"Are you hungry? I asked Sutton to bring up some extra food ready. I knew you were coming, you see, a soldier was scared by a ghost, and a Lord swore to have seen a Dunsparce fly across the corridor ground. Naturally, I checked on you as soon as I heard."

Clarence passed over some berries frozen in ice. "Anyway, all the records I wiped clean in terms of warnings. I don't think it is fair to hold a judgement against someone for their past. However, I do have a question for you."

"What kind of question?" James scoffed as he shoved a frozen berry in his mouth while standing.

"James A. Spitz, aged fourteen, born 15th February 1975 and Kitiku Tak Bryson, aged thirteen, born 27th August 1975. Correct?"

James nodded.

"Now, can you spot the problem with your brother and you? I doubt you were born six months apart. That means one of you is not the child of Tak and Nashe Bryson. That child is you. You see, your middle name is stated as an "A" Clarence continued as James started to back away. "Incaresta, door, please." James turned to see Incaresta Sutton blocking his exit. "I simply want to know the truth. Bryson isn't your last name. I just want to know the truth. Do you want me to ask Tak? I am sure he will oblige."

"Wait..." James said in a panic. "My last name is Spitz."

"Thank you. That is all I wanted to know. Your blood type can be resolved with a simple doctor's trip. I suggest we do so as soon as...." Clarence started, but James shook his head. "I understand why you are nervous. Lord Piscar ordered the execution of any surviving Spitz or Rei after the incident at Marsten Hall. That is why I will only add details to the hard copy of your file for my own personal reference. So, let's get that checked. I can ask one of the doctors to come up now if you would like to get it out of the way." James shook his head.

"What were you doing at the festival?"

"Simply put, I wanted to take part in your culture. There is no greater way to watch over your people than understanding how and why things work. Come, let's get you back to the basement. I think you and Kitiku should be heading home soon." He smiled.

Back in the basement, Kitiku's leg ached from being cut open and having the pieces of bone removed.

"Boy, you look pale," Lord Ikur stated abruptly. "Have you been eating? Your blood type is O+ correct?"

"Y-yes, my L-" Kitiku went to answer.

"I didn't ask for you to speak. I want you to donate some blood regularly. O+ is very rare on Coltar. It can only be healed by itself. O+ people who have accidents are less likely to live because of these two factors. Defe... different, but decent blood. I will take it even though your blood is... damaged. I wish I could make it better. I really do. How did you come by your injury again?" Kitiku went to use sign language but was quickly stopped. "Words, not signs."

"I was pushed off a roof, then thrown by a Machoke," Kitiku whispered.

"Rough day then. Maybe I can cheer you up with this." The Lord reached into his pocket and took out a red bag with berry coated jelly treats inside. He then placed three in Kitiku's hands before placing a hand on his head. Kitiku signed the words 'many thanks' before chewing on them.

"My Lord," Clarence spoke softly as he entered the room. He was holding James by the scruff of his neck to stop him from running. "Shall I take these boys home?" He lowered his head as a symbol of respect as he could not bow entirely.

"Take them home. Here are the notes on the boy. Ensure his parents receive it." The Lord pulled Kitiku to his feet and shunted him forward. Kitiku caught himself on his wooden crutches, which he had tucked under both of his arms. "I shall see you next Friday, boy. Do not be late."

James ambled around to irritate the new Captain into making a mistake. Clarence was no fool, and he could see what James was planning. His grip tightened. Kitiku slowly pulled himself along. He was exhausted already, and he had only just reached the stairs.

"James, stay here," Clarence said as he picked up Kitiku and carried him up the stairs.

James waited for the officer to take the first step. He then made a mad dash down the corridor. Before he could get very far, however, he found himself frozen.

"I told you not to move. I will be back in a moment." Hishrak smirked at the boy who was frozen inside a psychic field.

"This isn't funny. Put me down! I didn't do anything. Put me down!" James shouted. "I'll let Okta flatten you!"

Clarence came back downstairs and spoke calmly, "Do you want to stay in a psychic field? Or are you going to co-operate with me? I will happily let Hishrak carry you home like that.

"Fine. I don't care. I hate the South, and I hate you," James shouted louder. Something he regretted quickly upon seeing Kitiku's doctor appear from a room further down the corridor. "Just let me go! I didn't do anything."

Lord Ikur slapped James hard around the back of the head. "Be quiet, boy."

"James, let's get you home." Captain Bourbabel motioned for Hishrak to drop James before continuing walking.

"Are you keeping up okay, Kitiku? Would you like Hishrak to carry you? You have done well to make it as far as you have so far. Practising with those now will help you later," Clarence asked.

Kitiku nodded. His arms were aching all over.

"Good. Hishrak, psychic." Clarence smiled.

"When we get home, what are you going to tell Tak?" James asked.

"I will tell him you have been assisting me all night. Kitiku, you have been really quiet since you woke up. Are you okay?"

"He is fine. He just doesn't want to talk right now," James snapped before remembering how much trouble he was in. "Well, this has been a nice walk and all... but I think I should be going." James went running but found himself dangling upside down before being dropped on the floor.

As the group reached the Bryson household, Hishrak put Kitiku down. Clarence went forward and knocked on the door, and Tak had wandered down the stairs to answer. Clarence could tell from the man's immediate dress he had been drinking.

"Kitiku. You are in so much trouble, boy. You." Tak went to grab James, who hid behind the Captain. "I want you out of my household. You harmed my defective son."

"Mister Bryson, please. These boys have been with me. My name is Captain Clarence Bourbabel. I am now in charge in this town." Clarence offered his forearm, to which Tak accepted. "Kitiku has a shattered left lower let. He needs to rest it. Also, his doctor has prescribed three different medicines he needs to take every day, three times. There is no charge for his medication." Tak sighed out of relief.

"What about the runt?" Tak pointed at James.

"He hasn't been well either. His doctor suggested he rest. That means no trouble. Also, I would like to hold a town meeting. How would I do such a thing?" Clarence asked.

"Well, you just need to put up a notice. Although, the South banned our town meetings, so I guess...."

"From this moment on, they are no longer banned. I shall put up a notice for a town meeting." Clarence said.

"Oosho. Back." Tak commanded the Octillery, who had been spying on their conversation. "Oosho is not friendly. He is moody. Sorry to ask Captain, but can you carry Kitiku upstairs to his bed? I, unfortunately, cannot. Old war wound...."

"I understand." He carried Kitiku upstairs and placed Kitiku on his bed. "James..."

"I know, I know. Bed," James grumbled.

"James, be respectful, please," Tak said.

"Yes, mister Bryson. Yes, Captain." James pulled off his shirt, shoes and trousers and lay under his blanket.

Date: 20th June 1989

James climbed onto the rafters of the town hall. The entire town was present for this meeting. He laid down along the wood to get the best view of the stage as he could.

"Good evening, all. I am glad you could make it. I wish to firstly introduce myself. I am Clarence Bourbabel, Captain of the Southern army. I am in charge of the occupation of Fehahra. I want to improve your lives. I also want to stop any resistance activity. Resistance activity shall be met with force," said Clarence as he stepped up onto it. He was wearing the same clothing he had worn the first time they had met.

"First topic I wish to discuss is the topic of the Pokémon ban. I wish to revoke it. With training and support, I believe that using Pokémon in day-to-day life would be constructive. Therefore, I wish to remove the need for a permit inside Fehahra. In its place, however, I would like every Pokémon to be registered once owned. All in favour?" All but three of the crowd raised a hand, and Clarence took a deep breath.

"The next topic of importance. Currently, the age of an adult in the South is twenty-five. In the North, it is twelve. I wish to amend that. I know it is against Northern tradition. However, by extending the age of childhood, the young people of Fehahra have a much larger chance to grow as people. In addition to this, I believe all young people, between the ages of six and twenty-five, should undergo education."

"That's a lie!" James heard one of the women in the crowd shout out.

"They want to brainwash the children!" an older gentleman screamed.

"Now, that is not what I have in mind at all. Young people in the North have a much harder life than in the South, despite our huge weather disadvantage. Northern children and adults have no means of operating advanced machinery. Furthermore, Northern doctors are few. Diseases in the North are much more deadly than those in the South. Not because the strains are different, although it does happen occasionally, but because the doctors in the North are ill-educated and rely on... prayer orientated medicines." Clarence expected the backlash this time.

"Who do you think you are?"

"They want to inject our children with their poisons!"

"Please, hear me out. Educating your children will help them later in life. It is their right to...." Clarence tried to reason with the angry crowd.

Tak stood up. "He knows more than what most people here do. I may be just a labourer, but when I was injured in the last war, I was treated by a Southern doctor. Not a Northern one. The Northern doctor would allow the Shellos to drain the blood from my shoulder. The Southern doctor, who happened to be my prisoner, advised against it. Education is important. However, you will not brainwash the young into believing your religion is correct. Our children's primary language shall remain Colrat!"

"All in favour of education for children between six and twenty-five?" Tak raised his arm. To which much of the crowd copied. Once the votes were counted, Clarence felt relieved his idea had passed most of the town's opinion. "I shall, once again, see what I can do."

"The topic of child slaves. I want to ban child slavery within Fehahra completely." Clarence knew immediately he had stepped too far out.

"No. That is part of Master Filktas's rule," the old gentleman shouted out. "He is a traitor to Master Filktas!"

Tak stood up once more.

"He is entitled to an opinion! Shut up. As much as your intentions may be... noble... we are not interested in opposing Master Filktas," Tak stated as bluntly as he could.

"All in favour?" Just under half the room raised a hand. "All against?" It was clear he had lost this point of debate... for now.

"Final topic I wish to discuss tonight. I am aware you believe in fasting one day a week in accordance with your idols. To make working much more... effective... I recommend those who fast also have that day off of work and the standard Wednesday holy day practice. All in favour?" To his surprise, the entire room raised a hand.

"In summary, children shall attend school every day, except Wednesday from 8 am until 4:30 pm. We shall stagger this in, starting with one day a week up to six. Educators will be found. If a child fails to attend without a valid reason, you will be fined. Also, adults may have their day of fast and Wednesday off. Finally, the Pokémon ban will be replaced by a registration initiative." Clarence just needed to obtain the supplies and tools he required from Lord Piscar.
Chapter 8 - What has come to be
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 8 - What has come to be

"Kitiku and James, get down here now. We need to have a talk," Tak called up the stairs.

James, who was relaxing on his bed, sat up. He had been thinking about how he would now be legally able to challenge and defeat Clarence and save the town from the evil of Lord Piscar.

Kitiku, on the other hand, struggled. His hands and arms were sore from carrying his body weight on the wooden crutches. He reached the top of the stairs. As he crutched down the first step, he lost his balance and tumbled down, bruising his wrists and knees.

"Kitiku, are you okay?" James asked, helping his friend up.

"Stupid defective boy. You can't even walk downstairs anymore," Tak grumbled, his words slurred a little as a bottle dropped from his hand. "If you were Pierre, things would be different. You wouldn't have even had such an injury in the first place. Nor a condition that affects this!" Tak pointed to his head. "Why do the idols punish me by taking my best son?"

James placed his hand on Kitiku's shoulder as Tak went to sit down at the table. "Don't worry about what he says. You are an amazing friend. Never forget that" James whispered as the boys each took a seat at the table opposite Tak and Nashe.

"Now, you may be wondering why I am not at work today. It is now illegal to work on a Wednesday unless you are an active serving soldier, policeman, fire stopper, doctor, Lord, or have a permit. However, the new Captain has also made education compulsory until one turns twenty-five. Tomorrow you will attend 'school'. It starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. It will be exhausting, but I am sure you boys can handle not being in trouble for once, and the Captain has cleared up the destruction caused by you and that monstrosity, James."

"She isn't a monster. She is important to me," James answered back.

Tak glared at him. "You were missing for two days because of her. If it wasn't for Oosho, I would have thought you were both dead," Tak shouted as he slammed on the wooden table. James hung his head. "I assume tomorrow the Captain will just want to explain things to you all at the town hall tomorrow."

"I don't want to do what he wants. He is the enemy," James spat.

"He is here to make our lives better. Don't you understand? The North lost this town. The South now own us. Lord Piscar owns you."

"He doesn't own me. He never will. I won't let the South win," James shouted back. He was irritated at what he believed to be Tak's submission. "I'll battle you. I can beat you. I don't care what you used to be. You are just an old man who is a traitor now."

"I am a traitor? Is that it? You have a lot to learn." Tak got up from the table and walked out.

"James, that was rude," Nashe said softly. "Go and apologise."

The red-haired boy got up from the table and walked out onto the street. Tak stood leaning against a wall opposite the house smoking a cigarette.

"Mister Bryson?" James started. Tak looked at him once and then focused back on his cigarette. "I..."

"You want to fight the inevitable. You think people who don't immediately side with you are traitors. That is very rude and unfair. Do you not remember the mercy I showed you when your mother and step-father died at Marsten Hall?"

Tak's mind wandered back to the weeks that followed the fire.

Date 26th April 1988

Tak sat the shaking and bloody thirteen-year-old down on a chair next to a shaking Kitiku. The Lords of the North and Northern Army were in a complete panic. Tak was treating some of the wounded as best he could. However, he was not a doctor.

"James, why did you go out there?" Tak asked, handing him some food.

"I wanted to fight the South. The South did all that?" James asked, looking at the wounded.

"Lord Jackson did most of that. His Houndoom mega evolved, and some of these soldiers were too close when it happened. They weren't prepared for it and then hit by a dark pulse and a heatwave. Those who got hit by the heatwave will be in pain permanently. A Houndoom flame burns for eternity on the skin of the victim." Tak looked at the wounded. "Some of them are young. Some younger than you. I don't understand why Lord Madison sent his youngest trainee Guards into battle first. Especially as Lord Jackson is leading this attack. He has been leading the attack since the South attacked Quigk, the capital," Tak explained.

"Who is Lord Jackson?" James said. His mouth filled with berries. He almost spat some out as he spoke.

"Lord Jackson is the Captain of the Southern Guard. He is the leading authority if Lord Piscar is engaged."

"Thank you for the food, mister Bryson," James said as he got up from the chair and started to rush back towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Tak called out, grabbing James by the scruff of his neck.

"To fight Lord Jackson. We must stop the South!"

"James, you are thirteen years old. This war ground is no place for you."

"I am an adult! I can fight how I want!" James squirmed.

"How about this instead? You want to fight the South? You can help me here. I need you to get me some string. Can you do that for me?" Tak asked, his voice had softened.

"Sure, where is it?" James asked.

"Upstairs, in the bathroom. I have to go outside. I need to do something quickly." Tak brushed his hand against James's head.

The town was on fire in the West. Tak could see the flames burning brightly. Several of the Guards from the North had called out to him to 'get inside'. Tak didn't listen. The wounded needed to be moved off the battlefield as soon as possible.

"Oosho, are you ready? I might need you to clear the path."

The Octillery slugged its way out of its capsule.

"Good," Tak said as he bent down beside a Lord's body and picked up his shield. 'This shield is badly damaged. It means it weighs less, but it won't hold for as long.' he thought. "I am relying on you."

Oosho scowled as Tak looked at him. "Heatwave incoming. Oosho, use protect!" Tak ducked down behind the shield. He made his body as small as possible as the wave slammed into the shield. Sure enough, parts of the protection buckled under the attack.

"Tak? Tak Bryson?" A voice called out from the smoke. "Hey, you are still alive? I figured you would be dead by now." A friendly laugh followed.

"Miro. Miro, what is going on up there?" Tak called back.

"The Southern army has taken control of the town's key water supply. Lord Madison has ordered us to retreat to Shmitty. The large forest can be of assistance to us. Are you coming?"

"I can't, Miro". Tak stepped forward in the direction of the smoke. "I have a wife and two children. I can't abandon them here."

"Take them with you?" Miro Struti, the Northern Lord, shouted as Tak's voice faded into the distance. "Tak?"

In the smog, Tak could hear Elkrat being spoken. He took a deep breath before calling out a command. "Oosho, hydro pump!"

The Octillery suffered a mood swing. His evasiveness dropped as he started to have a tantrum. He was cold, too smoky, and he didn't like Tak telling him what to do... Oosho was listing all the reasons why his life was unfair. His attacking power increased, as did his tantrum, and his hydro pump gushed forward. He scored a direct hit on something.

As the smoke cleared 20 feet in front of him, Lord Jackson's Houndoom stood snarling.

"This town is only for the wounded now," Tak said as loudly as he could. Lord Jackson wasn't there. 'Maybe he got held up?' Tak thought. "This town is now only for the wounded," Tak said again, this time in Elkrat.

Tak took out a scrap of paper from his pocket. "Take this to your master," he ordered. He scribbled onto the paper. 'Fehahra is littered with wounded. Allow us to move them to a safe place before the fighting continues.' The black, bone coated creature took the sealed note into the smoke behind it.

A few minutes passed.

"You have an hour to move the wounded off of the streets. However, you see fit. After that, I will decide what to do with you all," a smug voice said. It was slightly distorted due to the Metagross voice box he spoke into. The man's voice was deep, fear inducing and unmistakable. It was clearly Lord Jackson, known for slaughtering most of the Northern army in the first days of the war. The man had a notoriety for interrogating prisoners in such ways, which would make them break down and change.

In the Southern Civil War, this man had supposedly wiped out the former ruler of the Southern Captain's top twenty Guards with a single blade and his Houndoom. Rumour continued that he then let the Houndoom maul on the corpses. However, Tak had concluded that the latter was just falsified to make the man scarier, or at least that is what he hoped.

However, upon seeing the beastly Houndoom up close, the old Guard started to fear it was all true. Although, he prayed that the man would be reasonable. Tak feared seeing the man at close range because he appeared to be the last thing many of the fallen had seen.

Several citizens heard the voice. They rushed out of their houses and started to pull the wounded indoors. Some started praying.

"I suggest you hurry. My patience is thin." The voice remained smug but icy. The man was nowhere in sight. Tak felt a shiver down his spine as if he was being watched, but he couldn't act like a coward.

"Give me your word you won't harm anyone under this ceasefire. Give me your word," Tak called out into the smoke. He hoped for an answer.

"You are brave to challenge me on my conscience. You have my word. I am fair, after all."

"Mister Bryson?" James said, Kitiku standing next to him.

"I told you to go to the house!" Tak shouted.

"We want to help," James whispered.

"Oosho, go supply clean water to those who need it," Tak ordered as the Octillery rolled its eyes as it squelched back along the streets.

"James, Kitiku, go home. Now."

Kitiku ran back toward the house.

James started to walk back, sulking.

"I never thought I would get so bored. I have changed my mind. I give you fifteen minutes to clear your wounded and formerly surrender," the voice called out after five minutes. "Then, my Houndoom and I will destroy anyone who wishes to fight some more. If the town doesn't surrender... I will be forced to kill everyone in it. See you in fifteen minutes at the town hall for your surrender, brave soldier."

Tak swallowed hard.

Lord Jackson was not merciful. This man may just murder him to make an example of him. He said it in Colrat, not Elkrat, despite it being clear that the one who sent the message (himself) could read and speak Elkrat. It was done to inspire fear.

After fifteen minutes, Tak stood nervously at the town hall. A tall man approached him. "You must be the soldier. You aren't a soldier, though, are you?" The man watched as Tak bowed down to him. He held a sword steadily in his hands.

Tak lifted his stolen sword up to show the town had surrendered.

"Oh no, it's too late for that. You see, this runt sent out his Onix during the ceasefire. Whether he was assisting the wounded or not is not relevant. It was too close to us." The man held James up by his jacket. "He is awfully light. Maybe you Northerners don't feed your children. Either way, the ceasefire is over. Enjoy being destroyed."

"You are not the man from the speech," Tak said. His eyes narrowed.

"Lord Jackson is... busy. I am Lord Clavouro. I am head of interrogation, and I see no reason why I should keep Lord Jackson's word."

The purple-haired Lord then noticed his injector had a message. "Very well. Lord Jackson demands I keep his conditions true. This boy, though, came too close. Peasant, give me one good reason why I shouldn't destroy him."

Tak fell silent. He couldn't think of something that would be considered reasonable. This man was clearly only interested in violence.

"At least you are honest." The Lord dropped James to the floor before kicking him once in the ribs. "Let that be a lesson to you, boy. Take him home. Lord Jackson will finish tidying up this mess. Tell me, is there a living Spitz or Rei here?"

Tak shook his head. This interrogator would detect a lie if he wasn't careful. He looked the Lord directly in the eyes and straightened as he bowed down.

"No, my Lord. There is not."

"Very well. If there is, and you have lied to me, you will die alongside them. That filth. Both families must be destroyed. They are nothing more than murderers." The Lord snatched the sword from Tak and walked away. James walked alongside Tak back to the house where he had been fed.

"It is just a nasty bruise," Tak said, holding James's shoulder. "It will heal in about a week if you are lucky."

The next few days were incredibly difficult for Tak. Through a letter addressed to him from Lord Piscar, he found out that Pierre had been killed at Marsten Hall. His son was mauled by the Charizard to put a finer point on it. Tak felt incomplete despite Lord Piscar's orders to destroy every last Charmander, Charmeleon and Charizard to avenge all those killed in the attack.

James was reluctantly given Pierre's bed to sleep in.

Whenever Pierre was home, he shared a room with Kitiku. The bed was small, but it was enough.

The morning of the 29th, the South had begun to carefully document the inhabitants of Fehahra. They were combing through the houses carefully. The occupation laws had been set in motion quickly.

Tak had overheard several times that the Southern forces had become bogged down by the forest and tricky terrain near Shmitty town. The Northern troops had been strapping exploding Qwilfish and self-destructing Pokémon to trees and the rocks in the woods. The kill rate was horrendous; these Pokémon had been trained to die and not just faint from the energy expulsion. They were to give up all energy to serve their Elite Lord. By doing so, they were killing two or three Southern soldiers as a minimum. The highest single kill was thirty Southern and eighty Northern soldiers.

"Tak?" James said, "Mister Bryson, sir? Thank you for letting me stay."

"When the South reach this household, they will question us all. They are creating records. Lord Piscar likes to keep records of who is alive and dead, who lives where, what blood type, criminal records and other things. He wants us to oblige. Charleston, whatever rank she is, is in charge of this town now. Most of the Lords have either gone home or are at the front line. When her forces come round, you cannot let them take your blood."

"Why, Mister Bryson?" James asked curiously.

"If you do, they will kill you. Also, call me father from now on when other people are around. Your name is James Bryson. You live at the Bryson household. You have no criminal record, and you will behave. Okay?" Tak spoke sternly. "I am keeping you safe. I won't let an innocent man or woman kill an innocent boy for his bloodline."

Date: 21st June 1989

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean what I said. I just felt so angry," James whispered.

Tak rubbed the top of James's head gently. "I know you are upset. This new Captain doesn't seem too bad, though. Does he?" Tak raised James's chin, so their eyes met.

"I would have won... he beat me in the finals. I could have done it. I just wanted to mean something as a person. I wanted people to understand Okta, and I are not just runts."

"You cannot change what you are. You are either born broken, a runt, or preferred. You aren't even mine. You don't need to prove anything to me. Just stop getting in trouble and do as this new Captain says. Our fight is over for now. Go for a walk with Kitiku or something." Tak puffed.

Meanwhile, Captain Clarence Bourbabel stood by the river. He was looking into the blue current that danced through the town. He heard footsteps further down the path and turned to see what was happening.

James and Lioa ran alongside each other. Andrew followed closely as Kitiku struggled to keep up. Suddenly the boys stopped running and huddled together.

"They are up to mischief, Incaresta," Clarence said.

"No doubt, sir." Incaresta Sutton walked up to him.

"Let's see what they are up to." The two men approached the group quietly before Clarence decided to scare the group. "Stealing more keys?" James jumped and reached for Okta in his defence. Lioa did the same for Ruskuo. It didn't take the boys a moment to send out their Pokémon.

"Sir, they are attacking us!" Sutton shouted in Elkrat.

"No, I think they want to battle us," Clarence corrected. "Hishrak, end this as quickly as you can." His ball landed, released and bounced back into his hand. He noticed James's ball roll in front of him. Lioa had chased after his ball and was now in the middle of the battlefield.

"Okta, use iron ta-".

The Captain had picked up the Poké ball and returned Okta.

"Give her back; she is mine!"

"I shall return her if Lioa returns his Gurdurr," he said calmly.

"Never. Ruskuo, use..." Lioa started.

"No, she is mine. Give her back." James rushed forward to try and snatch Okta from the man's hand. "I'll fight you." James started to swing his fists but was met with an electric shock from Sutton's Electabuzz.

"Sutton, that was unneeded," Clarence said, his voice had turned stern. "Lioa, return Ruskuo, please. This is your last chance." Hishrak readied a psychic ball.

"Ruskuo, use hammer arm! Hit the Southern Captain." Just as Lioa commanded, the Gurdurr started to charge towards the man.

"Hishrak, psychic," Clarence said, and the Alakazam emitted a strong pulse that pushed the Gurdurr back. He stumbled before collapsing.

Clarence sat James up. The boy had only just started to appear to be able to move after the attack.

"Are you okay, James?" Clarence asked. "Here is your Onix. I don't mind battling you boys if that is what you want. However, let's not do it here on this pathway." He smiled.

James reached up and took the keys from Clarence's pocket and threw them to Kitiku. As he hugged Clarence. He then ran back to Lioa, Andrew and Kitiku. "

James, my keys, please." Clarence didn't even turn around.

"Scramble!" James shouted. The boys split up and started to run away as fast as possible.

"May Vesx electrocute them now?" Sutton asked as he started a jog.

"I would rather you reason with them first. Go for Lioa and Andrew. Kitiku and James are mine." He walked over to Kitiku, who was struggling to crutch away. "I don't think you are escaping anywhere, Kitiku."

Kitiku realised quickly this was the case. "Can I have my keys back, please?" Kitiku reached into his pocket and handed them over. "Good boy. Let's go to my office. We can talk there."

Incaresta saw Lioa in front of him. The smallest of the boys was undoubtedly fast. However, not quite fast enough for Sutton. The cobbles were easy to run on in the day. Lioa sharply turned into an alleyway. He slipped and skidded for a moment before pulling himself up.

"Nir, stop, Andrew!" Incaresta called out in Elkrat as he released his Fearow. He then shot down the Alley after Lioa. "Lioa, give up. I will catch you regardless. Whether you have sparks on you or not is up to you." Lioa suddenly slowed down and stopped. He turned and went to send out Ruskuo. As the ball hit the ground, the fainted Gurdurr popped out. Incaresta put his hand on Lioa's shoulder.

"Don't touch me!" Lioa shouted. "You are the enemy. You let those Lords hurt Andrew and me. Then you let Greiss hurt us. Then you... you killed my father. It is all your fault." Lioa was starting to get himself worked up.

"Lioa, that is enough. I expect the Captain wants to see you in his office. Nir will have Andrew in a minute. That just leaves one."

James ran towards the park. It was an open green space. However, the advantage was two-fold. Although he was exposed from all angles, plenty of people was in the park. He could merge into the crowd. Also, he could escape in any direction. He spotted a small bush in the corner. It was somewhere small enough for him to hide to catch his breath. He stopped his run and walked towards it but got blasted back. He hit the ground with a thud. He heard a noise. A Pokémon cry that he had never heard before. It let out a high pitch clunking noise. "Hey..." James whispered. He stepped forward and pressed his hand against an invisible field. "I am not going to hurt you." He heard the clunk again, but Captain Bourbabel and Sergeant Sutton were coming towards him. "I will be back, okay? Hey, Southern idiots! I'm here! Come and get me!"

Sutton reacted. First, he sent out his Volcarona. Flames shot up around him.

James was trapped. "Okta, it's on you! Use screech!"

The Onix landed just beyond the wall of fire. She roared as loudly as she could.

Incaresta quickly covered his ears. "Bug buzz!"

James watched as the crowd jumped and rested their heads against the ground to avoid being affected.

"Okta, use dig," James commanded. He watched as the white nested bug, which was cradled in its red wings, kept pumping a high pitched buzzing noise out of its mouth. He then heard the clunking noise again. The Pokémon was screaming.

Okta came up from underneath Sutton's bug, who withstood the attack. It continued to pump out a buzzing noise. Making the clunking Pokémon shriek.

"Wait... Sutton, please... stop... I give up! Okta, come back to me! I hate you," James said with anger.

"Hate is such a strong word. Hold still." The officer lifted James's chin and had a look at the second bruise he had received that day. "That will heal in a few days. My office, now."

After being hauled there, James sat down in the office. Sutton was standing on the other side of the door with his back to it. The door was a no-go for anyone trying to escape. Kitiku sat to his left. He was nervously praying to Cresselia for safe passage from the office.

"Lioa, don't slouch, please. It is impolite." The boy shuffled up in his seat quietly upon being told off by the Captain. "Why did you want to steal my keys?"

"We were just playing," James whispered.

"He doesn't find it funny at all. Now... what to do with you boys? That is a difficult one. You have clearly broken the rules and should face some sort of punishment."

Kitiku grabbed James's hand.

"Kitiku had nothing to do with it, neither did Andrew or Lioa. It was my idea. Leave them alone!" James snapped.

"Kitiku had the keys. Lioa tried to attack Sutton, as did you. The only one in this case which may be innocent is Andrew. However, since you were all seen plotting beforehand..." he sighed. "I could give you an official warning for this. I won't. I have a much better idea. I'll let you go."

"W-why?" James asked curiously.

"You are young. You need space to run around and play. I understand that you need to use up some energy. Children can be a handful. Something you boys certainly are. I don't mind, though. If you want to battle me to burn off extra energy, just ask."

James paused and clenched his fists. "Southern jerk." He then scooted back and reached for Okta. "Okta, it's on you!" Before her ball could hit the ground, it was caught by Clarence.

"Not inside the building. You drop a 300 Kilo, 11 ½ metres long Onix inside a building, on the third floor, you will kill a lot of people," his voice was stern.

James bolted forward to try and snatch Okta back. Clarence simply raised his arm and lifted the ball out of the way. "Say please. Manners are priceless."

"Give her back!" James jumped to try and reach her but was simply dodged.


Please give her back," James said, clenching his teeth.

Clarence lowered his arm and handed the Onix back to the boy.

Clarence's attention then turned to Lioa, "No more dangerous battling. Is that clear?"

Lioa nodded as James nudged Kitiku, who was fixated on his prayers. He was carefully signing every word.

"You are praying? It's okay. Sometimes I pray too. What are you praying for?" Clarence observed as the boy repeated his actions. He placed a hand on Kitiku's shoulder. "Kitiku, nothing bad will happen to you. You are safe."

"I will never work with the South. Lord Madison says you are the enemy of us all. You are evil people who pray to false idols. You want to kill us all. You have stayed in Fehahra a year and just tortured us with your stupid rules and unfair laws and made our lives miserable!"

"James, calm down, please. Where is the proof I am evil? False idols are a matter of religious opinion. So far, I have had no desire to kill anyone. I have only, personally, been in Fehahra for under a week. I haven't tortured anyone," Clarence answered calmly as he crouched down next to Kitiku, who seemed to still by cycling through his prayer. "Kitiku? Would you like to go home?"

The boy nodded.

"James, would you like to go home too? It is starting to get late, and you have school tomorrow. Early bedtime for children helps them grow." James scowled and went to argue, but he realised this man would come up with a counter-argument to everything he said. "Let's walk you home, and as for you, James, I have an idea."

James scowled even more. Clarence helped Kitiku steady himself on his crutches before opening the door for them. "Hey, Southern jerk?" James asked.

"That's not my name. Please refer to me as Captain Bourbabel or mister Bourbabel."

"Can I go now, Southern jerk?" James asked.

Hishrak scowled. His long moustache curled with irritation of the repeated insistence that his trainer was a 'jerk'.

"Manners." Clarence started as Tak came into sight from the opposite direction. He seemed annoyed to see them together. "Hello, mister Bryson. How has your day been?"

"What have these runts done now?" he spat.

"Nothing, we were just talking." Clarence rubbed his chin curiously. "Tell me, mister Bryson, where is the nearest green?"

"Two streets down from here, on the left. It isn't big, but the children often play games on it, so it should be big enough for whatever you need, sir."

Clarence thanked him before walking with James towards the green.
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Chapter 9 - A Steep Curve
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 9 - A Steep Curve

Date: 22nd June 1989

James dragged himself out of bed. Tak wanted him to try the Captain's new rules, and he was willing to make a misery of it. Kitiku, who had been sleeping on the bed next to his, had been awake for over an hour. He had combed his hair tidily, and his white shirt was immaculate, as were his grey trousers, which had been pressed to look smart. James threw on his white shirt, covered in dust and mud from the day before. The black had faded in places. He pulled on his shoes lifelessly before combing his hair quickly and carefree.

Kitiku sat down and slid down the steps slowly but surely. Nashe watched as the boys sat down at the table for breakfast.

"Are you two excited? You get to have a brand new adventure today." She smiled, placing a bowl of mashed wheat and berries on the table in front of each of them. James went to stab it with his fork. "No, James." He looked up at her. "We say thanks for the food we have, don't we?"

"Yes, Mrs Bryson. Thank you, Cresselia, for the bountiful food we have received. Without your grace, we would be in a world which is cursed by the idol of Giratina. Giratina is without mercy. You give us the light, and we follow your light with hope. Your mercy to us is welcomed. We thank you for our meal."

"Now, boys, be good when you get there. Say please, and thank you. Be kind and respectful as this is a new start." She opened the door as James and Kitiku finished their meal.

"Thank you, mother," Kitiku whispered as he hugged her tightly. "James, You will try what my father approves of, right?" Kitiku whispered as the boys started to travel towards the town hall along the cobbled streets, "

"I just don't understand why we need to be brainwashed. Lord Madison said that w-" he snapped back.

"Lord Madison abandoned us!" Kitiku interrupted.

"Lies," James quickly answered.

"Facts," Kitiku replied. "Besides, if it wasn't for Lioa and you dreaming of this happy fantasy of what could be, I wouldn't be like this. The doctor wanted to cut my leg off, and it is your fault! It is always about you. What about what I want? Or how the new Captain wants?"

"Hey! I didn't know Lioa was going to push you, alright!" James turned and threw a rock before taking a deep breath. "Hey, I promise, from now on, no one hurts you. Okta and I will keep you safe."

"I will hold you to that promise," Kitiku whispered once more as they reached the town hall and started to queue to gain entry.

The town hall was packed, and the queue waiting outside twisted and turned. Luckily, Kitiku and he had arrived early enough to be some of the first people inside, allowing them to see the stage clearly. It wasn't long after everyone had been filed inside before Captain Bourbabel appeared on the stage.

"Wow, there are so many of you. I am pleased to see so many people here. For those of you who don't know, my name is Clarence Bourbabel, and I am the Southern Captain who now runs this town." He snapped his boots together, creating an echo that silenced the crowd's mumbles. "Now, here is my proposal. From Saturday morning you will all turn up at the new building at 8 a.m. on the dot. You may be early, you may not be late. I understand education is something Lord Madison selfishly deprived you of. Today, Lord Piscar sent up some supplies for this venture. This is the first town in which any such thing has been put into practice."

"Hey, hey, Kitiku...." Lioa whispered as he slipped into the seat next to James. Kitiku looked at him curiously. "Watch this..." Lioa then picked up a Poké ball and hurled it at the stage. It opened in front of the Captain, making him step back. Kitiku's Klink was happily looking at the Captain before realising it was on stage in front of many people. Kitiku's face was that of horror. He wanted his Klink back.

"Lioa!" James hissed. "Go get Rusto back."

"Why should I?" Lioa thumped James. "If it wasn't for you two, we wouldn't have been arrested."

"Hello, Klink. How did you get up here, I wonder? Either way. I am sure you will be of no harm." The Captain reached into his pocket and got out a plump Sitrus berry, which Rusto dived into straight away. "Where was I? Oh. Everyone will be allowed to choose a bag, some Starly feather, Staravia feather, Qwilfish spike or Samurott horn quills, with three pots of Octillery ink. Due to the experimental nature here, simple green and blue sashes will be provided regarding uniforms. More good news is at lunch, you shall receive a free, hot meal."

Rusto was following Clarence as he paced and continued to talk about topics James didn't care for. Until the subject of sickness came up, which caught James's attention.

"You will also be given injections against certain diseases, which will help your body prepare to fight them. Your health is vital, particularly as you are already... behind. I have kept you sitting still for far too long... it has already been two hours. Come up and collect your bags. There are three types of bags, cross-shoulder, single shoulder or backpack. There are around two hundred and twenty-five of each. Come on down. I am here if you have any questions. Elsewise, once you have your bag, you may collect a quill set and go outside and have fun. Be back here by midday and not a moment later," Clarence said, as he pointed to each selection which had been collectively placed neatly by some of the soldiers

James and Lioa barged through the crowd to try and get the first pick, not because they wanted to attend school, but because they wanted to show everyone how tough they were. Lioa found that being short did have its advantages, as he squeezed through the legs of some of the people taller than him. On the other hand, James got stuck behind some of the elder students, who had also charged forwards. Lioa picked up one of the single shoulder bags for himself and then one of the backpacks for Andrew, which he threw to his little brother before he jumped off the stage. The two siblings then headed for the door. Lioa claimed the Qwilfish spike quills, whereas Andrew decided Starly feathers looked nicer.

James eventually made it through to the front. Most of the single shoulder bags had gone, as had the backpacks. The cross shoulder bags seemed the least popular by far. He climbed onto the stage and dashed towards the four single shoulder bags. He snatched one of the last few brown ones up. Kitiku had just gotten there. He was choosing carefully between brown and black. However, as he finally decided on choosing the final brown bag, three of the older students grabbed him and pushed him to the floor.

"Hand it over or else," they laughed, catching Clarence's attention.

The boy immediately relinquished the bag he held and picked up the other two single shoulder bags.

"Kitiku, are you okay?" James wandered over to his friend, who had suffered a nose bleed from the incident. "You have to start standing up for yourself. Here, take mine." Before picking up one of the sandy-coloured cross shoulder bags, James handed over his own bag. "Hey, I am unique. I don't need them to tell me what to use."

"Thank you, James," Kitiku said quietly.

"You two coming?" Sutton shouted after coming back into the room. "Kitiku, what happened?" he asked as he pushed his blonde hair back.

"Some older boys," James replied, pulling Kitiku up and walking with him towards Sutton.

"Oh." He patted James on the head as he walked past. "James?"

"What?" James started to scowl as he took the Staravia feather quills from Sutton. Kitiku reached up and took the same.

"You did a good thing. Also, Kitiku, I believe this... thing... belongs to you." The scruffy soldier handed over the Klink in its ball.

Kitiku hugged it tightly upon receiving it.

The two boys left the hall and were guided to the green. Clarence ensured there would be space for all of them to run around for a good two hours before going back to talking about how things would work. Lots of the younger children were running around playing 'death by rock'. The older boys were trying, in most cases unsuccessfully, to talk to the older girls. Some of the other students were playing a game where they had to get the Voltorb into the double ring they had marked on the wall. If the one blocker caught the Voltorb, the thrower became a blocker with Clarence.

James walked beside Kitiku towards the edge of the green. He had shoved the quills into his bag, which rested across his left shoulder. Lioa and Andrew joined them.

"Lioa, shove off," James spat. However, Lioa shoved James back into a psychic field. It was clearly Hishrak's doing. "Ow." James rubbed his head where it had thumped into the ground, hard.

"James, what did we say about being careful?" Clarence jogged over to him upon hearing the noise. "You aren't allowed to leave. Rules are rules. You have plenty of space to run around and play. Now, let me have a look at that cut."

"No, I don't need your help. I can handle myself fine." James pushed him away and got up. "Back off, jerk!"

"James, that's enough. No more warrior talk. Please take James inside, as I want to look at the cut," Clarence said quietly to prevent attracting too much attention from the other students.

James was assisted against his will to the town hall. "Fine, I am now in your stupid hall. Happy?" James said, irritated.

"That is enough." Clarence quickly said, "Let me have a look at your head."

"Yes, sir," James replied, sincerely. He had developed a little bit of a headache. "My head hurts inside."

"I am not surprised. You did hit your head pretty hard. Do you feel sick or dizzy?"

James shook his head to Clarence's question.

"That's good. It may be a concussion at worst. However, I think you just gave yourself a bad bash. I think we would know already if it was a concussion. Perhaps I should just Hishrak to wrap I protective field around you?" He smiled.

"Lioa pushed me. Look, my head hurts. Can I go home, please?"

"I think not. Education is critical. I don't want you to miss out on important things. You are already lacking in knowledge due to Lord Madison's preferences." Clarence was careful with how he worded his concerns. "What's going on with you and Lioa?"

"Nothing. I'm fine, Southern jerk," James whispered, giving a false salute.

"We will finish this conversation later," Clarence said as he got up to assist the soldiers in rounding up everyone still outside.

However, James didn't manage to get much peace and quiet before he heard the sounds of the other students returning from break. Lioa sat next to him, Andrew next to him and Kitiku at the end.

Clarence quickly got back on the stage and took a deep breath. "I trust you all feel a little more comfortable with the idea of school now. The time is 12:03. All things considered, I think today is already going well." He smiled at them. "On to the rules. I know rules are boring, but they are important to keeping everyone safe, healthy and productive. After explaining the rules, the doctors will start performing health checks. No need to be afraid or nervous. It is all routine."

"Did you get hurt, little baby?" Lioa mocked, thumping James's arm.

"Stop it, or I'll break your nose," James hissed back.

"Lioa. I know things are a little strange, but please calm down and listen," Clarence said calmly.

"No. I hate the South, and I hate you. Can't you lot see? He is trying to brainwash us into thinking Lord Piscar is a good person and that he will care about us, but he is lying. But we can beat him! Ruskuo, use poison jab!" Lioa threw his Gurdurr at the stage, and Ruskuo came out of its ball.

The ball rolled in the direction of Clarence.

As the Gurdurr charged him to deliver a poison jab attack, Clarence picked up the ball and simply sidestepped. Angrily, Ruskuo turned to face Clarence, who was now behind him, and charged him again with a second poison jab attack. Once again, Clarence simply sidestepped him before returning him to his ball.

"Hey, that's unfair!"

"Lioa, I asked you to calm down. You can get your Gurdurr back later." Clarence placed the Gurdurr into Sutton's hands before turning his attention back to listing the rules. "Where was I...? The rules: Firstly, be punctual. Secondly, be respectful of others and don't interrupt lessons. You are here to learn and develop. Thirdly, do not fight with any of the others here. There is a war on already, and fighting amongst ourselves is a way to tear our souls apart. Fourthly, all assignments will be completed. Fifthly please dress tidily and appropriately. Sixth, and lastly, keep your Pokémon inside their balls unless specified otherwise. Breaking rules will lead to punishments. Remember to have fun, though, too. In a month, you will be free to choose extended subjects, but for now, let's stick to the basics: Colrat, mathematics, and Pokémon care."

Clarence jumped off the stage elegantly. "Now, if I am correct, the Lords and doctors are ready. You can make your way to the medical bay in the offices to get your medical exams. Nothing to worry about at all." He raised his hand and started to assist in the group's movement.

"Kitiku, I can't...." Clarence turned to see James looking whiter than a sheet of clean paper.

"Can't what?" he asked.

"I don't feel too well. My head still hurts." James put on a pathetic voice. "Can I go home?"

"No. This is important, James. It will stop you from getting really ill."

The boy frantically shook his head in response. He gripped the seat and refused to move.

"Lioa... Don't throw it at someone again, and definitely don't attack them. Okay?" Clarence took the ball from Sutton and placed the Gurdurr back into Lioa's hand. "Attacking people is dangerous. You don't want to be arrested for murder, right?"

"No," Lioa said quietly.

"Good. Go on, I think you three need to shuffle down to get your injections." Lioa and Andrew followed Clarence's suggestion.

"James, it's going to be fine, I promise. I know it's different, and needles aren't fun, but it will make you feel safer later." Clarence smiled at James's defiance. "I know. Let's walk together. Maybe the air will help your head. I know when I have a headache or feel incredibly stressed, a walk helps." Clarence asked and was quickly met by a nod. He straightened his red tie and pulled his yellow over-coat vest over his head.

James slid off the seat walked out of the aisle and in front of Clarence. The two stepped outside the door together. Clarence kept a close eye on James, as he didn't trust him to stay in one place too long. The boy had a tendency to want to bolt. Considering he had short legs compared to the tall man, he certainly could run fast. James kept an eye on Clarence, as he felt safe, despite the man being his supposed 'enemy'. He knew the Captain wouldn't let anyone harm him...

"Can I ask you something?" James asked while looking up. "You can't get mad, okay?"

"I don't tend to get angry. Everyone makes mistakes, as it is part of who we are. Mistakes help us grow as people. I assume that wasn't your question, though." Clarence looked towards the boy.

"What is out there? I mean, we can't be the only things in the world, right?"

"We are," Clarence interrupted. "Actually, I lie. We are not."

"Really‽, I knew it!" James said excitedly.

"There is a monster out there. It has eaten every other living creature that it has come across. Anything or anyone out there is just waiting to be eaten now." Clarence's face showed true terror. "All those people it has killed already...." Clarence seemed cold and upset by what he had already said.

James looked up to see the offices. "Do I really have to have an injection? I don't want one. Stupid Southern rules." He then spat, "I should just get Okta to destroy the building and then I...."

"Would be arrested for murder," Clarence finished. "Go on inside. I have to help with the overseeing of the building process. I will be out later if you want to talk."

James waited until Clarence had disappeared from sight before taking advantage of the man's mistake. Leaving James outside to go in on his own was never going to happen.

James ran left from the offices in the direction of the park where he had heard the clunking noise the day before. He didn't get very far before seeing Incaresta Sutton trying to carry his groceries. He was juggling the berries, loosely, on top of the wheat, sugar and glass milk canister. It was obviously going to end in a disaster. His tower of groceries toppled, and he dropped everything, but his milk, giving James an idea.

"Hey, Mister Sutton, let me help you with that," James called out. He rushed over and started to pick up the items that the soldier had dropped.

"Thank you, Jamés... what do you want?" Sutton eyed him suspiciously.

"I just wanted to help... please don't be mad. Captain Bourbabel is right about a lot of stuff...." He sighed, trying to cover his feelings. James picked up the wheat and berries and placed them in his bag. Quickly James stuffed two berries in his pocket. He thought feeding the clunky creature would be friendly towards him... whatever it was.

"I am glad you have someone to look up to, and it is someone you want to look up to." Sutton smiled his goofy smile, which almost set James off on a rant. "I must say, I am amazed at you. A pretty flower blooms a bright and new colour."

"Sure. It would be good to follow in someone's footsteps." James walked alongside Incaresta. "Where are we going anyway?"

"Oh, not very far. Two streets down. How were the injections?"

"They were okay," James lied.

"I am happy for you. Captain Bourbabel is an inspiration. Lord Piscar clearly values his input and unorthodox methods. Although I do disagree with a few of his policies, as long as it does the people good, that is what matters," Sutton said with so much glee, James could swear the man let out sparkles.

James happily followed the Soldier, who had taken him in the direction of the park. They wandered past two or three of the old houses before stopping. Sutton opened the door for them both.

"There you go, Mister Sutton." James placed the wheat on the table before emptying his bag. "Can I help with anything else?" he asked but prayed the answer would be no.

"No, that will be fine. Thank you," Sutton replied. James turned to leave but couldn't quite get out the door fast enough. "Come here, trouble."

The boy gulped at the thought of being caught stealing. He turned around and walked towards Incaresta, who was still smiling. James sighed out of relief, just judging by the man's expression.

"You still look hungry, there aren't many left, but you can have them all. Now be good for the rest of the day," Sutton said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a bag. "Just don't steal, okay? You can have the berries, but ask next time."

"Yes, Mister Sutton. Thank you..." Before darting to the door, James tucked the bag of sticky, spikey berry juice chewy treats into his bag.

James scooted along the path towards the park as quickly as he could. He continued to sprint as fast as he could to the Pokémon. He passed the houses that looked like they were going to crumble. His laces came undone, and he ploughed into the ground. Quickly doing them up, he set off once more with a cut on his knee, chin and right hand. He ran along the cobbles and reached the end of the first street. He shot left at the end of the road and collided with a Lord. James fell backwards.

"Watch where you are going," the Lord shouted.

"Why don't you? Southern jerk," James snapped before realising who he had insulted.

"Original. Would you like to spend the rest of your life in jail?" The Lord removed his hat to reveal his black hair, which matched his dark grey eyes. "Or... you can get up and apologise. It is really up to you. My Absol is itching for a fight." He rubbed the back of his head. For some reason, this Lord reminded James of Sutton a lot. Goofy.

"Fine. I'll fight you... but not here. Too many people. I am not a murderer, unlike you!" James shouted. The Lord looked confused at the boy.

"You really want to go to jail for attacking a Lord? I won't murder a child, although I am tempted to make an exception for you. Absol, time to serve Lord Piscar." The Lord hurled the ball onto the green and released his Absol. Its black head curved smoothly and stabbed upwards like a knife.

"Okta, it is on you!" James pressed the button on his ball to avoid it rolling in the direction of the Lord. As soon as she landed on the grass, she used screech.

The Lord held his hands over his ears before issuing a command.

"Use night slash!" The Absol walked slowly towards Okta, gracefully.

"Okta, dig! Don't let it touch you."

The moment Okta disappeared, the Lord drew his knife and stepped towards James. He wasn't afraid of being killed by the Onix, whose location was unknown to him. As Okta shot up from the ground, the Absol darted from side to side, slashing her with a night slash attack.

The Lord then charged towards James, who was focusing on Okta.

"I will break your spirit and hers," he shouted as he slashed with the knife at James, who fell. James caught the Lord's hands as the blade hovered above his cheek. "Absol, use night slash again."

"Okta, use dig one last time. If you do it, there is a berry for you."

The Onix roared loudly before diving underground once more and, near enough, immediately returned to the surface from underneath the Absol. However, it used night slash and hit her once more.

The knife touched his cheek and cut him lightly. "Night slash again." The Lord's Absol waited for Okta to come up. The dark creature wouldn't fall for the same trick twice.

On the other hand, Okta was waiting underground for James's orders. She understood his secret message. Wait under his bag. The knife slipped to the slide a little. The stone James had around his neck started to glow lightly, and his thoughts turned to one thing – destroy. He felt a sharp pain in his wrist but didn't care, he called out at the top of his voice,

"Now, Okta!" She shot up from the ground.

The Lord jumped up out of shock and shuffled out of the way. James stood on top of Okta's head. "Use rock throw!" Before swinging her tail at the rocks created by her return to the surface, she let out a war cry.

The Absol didn't appear ready and took a direct hit. It puffed, tiredly.

It was standing much closer than James could remember. Okta was bleeding, but the Absol's headpiece had been broken by the attack, and it fell over.

"That is enough!" Clarence shouted. "I believe you just lost to a fourteen-year-old boy, my Lord," Clarence said, trying to keep a straight face.

"What?" He checked his Metagross technology, and sure enough, his Absol had fainted. "It's not over. I have five more. That boy must be taught a lesson!"

"Oh James..." Incaresta said, who was watching.

"Touch him once more, and I will teach you a lesson," Clarence puffed himself up. "He is a boy!"

"That isn't an excuse." the Lord spat.

"It isn't. However, what did you hope to achieve? Break his spirit? Learn the people before you accuse them and fight. That helps ensure the occupation is successful." The Lord spat on the floor once more. James, you can come down now!"

"Sure... Once I figure out how!"

"Ask Okta to put you down? Okta, down." The Onix used to screech at Clarence before gently lowering James down. She was puffing and bleeding still. "We need to get her wounds seen immediately." James returned her to her ball. His bag had been roughed up and scuffed by the battle. James picked it up and put it over his shoulder. His face was straight, but he felt empty. "My office, okay?"

"...yes, sir..." James looked at Sutton, who struggled to look at him. "...I..." The shock started to slowly sink in. What had just happened? It was real, that wasn't like the festival. That was a real battle with real stakes. "I... I didn't...." James started, but every word made his throat tighten.

The walk that took them to the office seemed long and cold. Clarence sat James down on the seat opposite his desk as he took Okta and gave her to Sutton. James leaned forward in the chair, nervously tugging on his jacket every few seconds. Clarence had found a couple of small medical strips and coated them in cold water and some sort of wound cleaning material.

"Where have you been cut?" he asked as gently as he could. James looked at him for a moment before going back to tugging his jacket. "James, I need to clean the cuts. Where did you get cut?" James then pointed to his chin, cheek, hand and knee. "What's wrong?" He pressed the strip against James's cheek so it would stick.

"I could have killed her." James started to become teary. "It is all my fault. She is dying, and it's my fault. I am a bad trainer. I don't want to be without her."

Clarence was slightly surprised to see the boy crying at first. James didn't seem to come across as someone who would cry. "It's done. You cannot change what has happened now. I promise you can have her back once she is in a better state. That means you are going to have to look after her very well, though," Clarence said quietly as he finished patching James up. "Can you do that?"

"... I wanted to go see Zanha... So I finished school like you told me to... then I ran into Sergeant Sutton. I helped him with his groceries, and then I went to see Zanha in the park...."

"Who is Zanha?" Clarence asked.

"She is a Pokémon in the park. I just wanted her to come out. She was there the other day when Sutton used bug buzz. It was hurting her."

"I see. It is nearly 7 p.m., though. You need to rest. Okta will be fighting fit again by Sunday."

James shook his head at Clarence. The boy then curled up as much as he could. "I am a bad trainer. I screwed up this time, and now you won't let me have her back," he sobbed into his jacket.

"James, it's okay. Admitting to making a mistake is the first step to fixing it," Clarence spoke softly as he stood the boy up next to him. "Would you like to sit next to her until 8 p.m.? I can let you do that. Afterwards, though, you have to go home."

"Can I stay with her all night? I'll go to sleep when you want. I just don't want to leave her. Please, sir?" James was sincere.

Clarence sighed, realising James felt scared without his protector. He extended his arm and pulled James into his shoulder.

'Maybe you aren't such a jerk all the time. Maybe you are only a jerk some of the time.' James thought before his mind turned to Okta. 'I am sorry, Okta, it is all my fault. I will make it up to you. We will become stronger than anyone else in this world. That is a promise.'
Chapter 10 - Lioa
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 10 - Lioa

The office's wall paint was peeling away as the stale air ran past them. The windows glued tightly shut with no way in or out other than the door itself. The clock ticked still on the wall, but the time never changed. The abandoned building was perfect, out of sight and out of mind.

A tall man tugged down on his cap, leaned in on the desk, scowling. "They don't suspect a thing, do they?"

"Of course not," another man replied, grunting a little. "I am not incompetent. So far, your plans seem to have been." He tossed bloodied keys in his hands and smirked.

"Oh, shut up," the taller man said, clenching his fists tightly. "The festival incident had nothing to do with my incompetence. If only that stupid Seargent hadn't have blown his cover, he would have been the perfect scape Gogoat."

"Watch what you say, Grektox. Remember who you are speaking to. Lord Piscar... he makes me sick inside. However, the Master Guard turning up in town will be more than appropriate."

Grektox looked at the man dressed in a Guard's uniform. "You think something as simple as that man's arrest would bring Piscar here? To this sham little town?" he scoffed a little, turning towards the door.

The Guard smiled a deepened grin as Grektox reached the door, yanking it open and stepping outside. He picked a letter he had been writing, with the ink still setting, and folded it gently before shoving it in an envelope. "Stealing the keys was genius. Come on now... Captain... make your move."

Meanwhile, Incaresta passed James a soup in a flask as they sat in the waiting room. Admittedly it was his own dinner, but he felt James needed it more. He had been through a lot already, and he hadn't even been told the full extent of Okta's injuries. Incaresta watched as James showed disinterest in looking after himself and tapped his foot impatiently, out of deep concern.

"There are 4098 blue spots in the room," James said, saddened.

Incaresta simply pulled James's head against his shoulder.

Clarence watched as it became clear that James honestly didn't dislike Incaresta at all once the nationalistic hate had been washed away.

"She will be fine," Clarence said, stroking his chin. "You need to work on your dodges, though. You let her take those hits. It is something that comes with experience. The more you are with a Pokémon, the more used to each other you become. Why do you think in the festival I didn't use Hishrak again until the final?"

"...because you wanted to save his strength?" James whispered back.

"I wanted to create a short bond with all the other Pokémon I had claimed along the way. By doing so, I drastically increased my chances of winning. For example, I used Bruskia, the Tyranitar, several times before the final. She and I found a connecting point. That is why we were so quick and could crush lots of attempts to beat her. Only to be defeated by Okta, which makes sense. You have a close bond with her. Like I do with Hishrak and Barook."

"Okta and I grew up together. She used to be so small you could hold her in your hands. When I was eight, she started to get really big. I had to put her in a Poké Ball." James, who was starting to feel a little better, tried to open Sutton's flask with incredible difficulty.

Incaresta laughed a little, offering out a hand for James to put the metal flask into. He undid the cap with a flick of his wrist and handed it back to James.

"I would hazard a guess at her being from a strong gene pool. Since she was able to withstand a war-trained Absol." Clarence closed his eyes as he continued. "You said she hatched? That suggests she came from a professional breeder. I think it's time you tried to get some sleep."

James shrugged as he finished drinking the soup in the flask. "Not tired," James started but was quickly interrupted.

"Then you can stay with me for the night... I suppose. I don't live far from here. It would be warmer, and you could sleep on a bed. That would help," Incaresta said. He seemed to be staring into the distance, though.

"Incaresta, you don't have to do that." Clarence placed his hand on the Sergeant's shoulder. "That gives me time to contact Tak and let him know James is staying with you and to investigate something of great importance." Clarence left the room quietly.

"If it had happened to my child, I would hope someone would stay with them all night, or at least nearby. I know we wouldn't leave him alone, but I don't think staying here would do any good either." The man stood next to James.

"Mister Sutton?" James shuffled his feet. "Sorry I stole from you earlier. I just wanted to feed Zanha. I feel strange. Why?"

"Guilt. You have had a massive dose of it today." Incaresta watched as James wrapped his arms around him, which surprised him a little. "Let's get you to bed. Things will feel better in the morning. I am sure Tak won't mind if you stay with me," Sutton said.

Clarence walked through the park where the battle took place; he pondered where Zanha could be and what, more importantly. He walked carefully around the holes that had been created by Okta. He would have to close the park until he could have the holes filled. He got out a berry from his pocket as he walked carefully.

"Zanha, come out. I have a treat for you," he called out softly. He stopped to redo his ponytail before releasing Hishrak from his ball. "You think you can help me find the Pokémon James went to search for?" Hishrak rolled his eyes. "I worry about him too. He is energetic, determined, intelligent – in his own right, but also inexperienced and clumsy," he paused. "One thing concerns me. How did James, an untrained, inexperienced trainer defeat a battle-hardened Lord? Okay, I will admit, my friend James is somewhat naturally talented, and Okta's genes appear to be from a decent pool, but... James just shouldn't have been able to win. It's just not feasible, and yet it happened..."

The man wiped his brow with his left hand before looking at the Alakazam, who appeared deep in thought. "Well... let me know if you think of something." His attention then turned back to finding James's hiding Pokémon. "Zanha, where are you?"

Meanwhile, James sat down at the dining table in Incaresta's accommodation. The table was small and solid wood. The chair he sat on had no comforts either, but it didn't seem to bother the boy. He looked around the room further and saw the Carvanha floating in its tank. Its deathly red was almost hypnotic, and its orange fins created a star. James turned back to see if the soldier was watching. Once he had established he wasn't, he wandered over to the tank where the strange Pokémon was swimming in circles. He placed his hand against the glass.

Incaresta turned around and watched as James pressed his nose against the glass and pulled faces at the incumbent. He couldn't help but smile.

"You know... if you keep doing that, she will scare you, and then your face will be stuck like that," he joked, making James turn around and face him. "I suggest you go to bed when you are ready. Are you tired yet?" Incaresta asked.

"Yes, Mister Sutton."

"One day, you will call me by my correct title," he sighed. "You like my Carvanha?"

"Can I have her?" James joked before feeling saddened as he remembered why he was there in the first place.

"Maybe one day you should go fishing in Mesk. She was my five-hundredth catch. I had to keep her." Sutton smiled as he looked at James. "Don't worry, it will be fine."

"Can I go to bed now, please?" His head was lowered, and his voice was quiet. Incaresta Sutton picked up the bowls, put them in the sink before touching the boy on the head, and took him to the room where he usually slept. "Mister Sutton? Maybe you are only a small part jerk... a part annoying and stupid... so the rest of you is nice...." James muttered.

"Get changed, and sort yourself out. I'll be back to check on you in ten minutes." Incaresta left the room, and James decided to do as he was told.

He pulled his jacket off and folded it up, and hung it over the end of the bed before unbuttoning his shirt. As he did, he knocked himself and felt a pain where he had slipped over earlier. Or that was what he hoped. He took off his shoes and socks before tucking his socks into his shoes and sliding them under the bed. He then pulled back the blanket and lay down on the mattress. He shuffled himself around until his head rested in the middle of the pillow. James tugged the blanket up until it covered most of him.

"Warm enough?" Sutton said, opening the door.

James looked at him without responding to his question. He noticed the boy's blanket wasn't straight, so he wandered over and straightened it up.

"If you need me, I'll be downstairs, asleep on the chair." The boy closed his eyes and tried to shut out the world.

Date: 23rd June 1989

The Fearow chirped away as the sun glared onto Sutton's residence at 7 a.m.

James remained in a deep sleep despite the Pokémon's best attempts to be as noisy as possible.

Incaresta had been awake for a few hours out of habit. He fed the Fearow mashed up Wurmple before plugging his Electabuzz into the wall socket and turning the generator to produce electricity for it to feed on. Incaresta then turned his attention to his Sableye, who had been teasing his Carvanha for the last hour. He took out some glass gems from his pocket and placed them in its long twisty fingers. Glass gems didn't taste the nicest, he assumed, but at least they were cheap. His Carvanha started to huff as it was yet to be fed. Incaresta removed a dead Qwilfish from his food cooler and dangled it above the tank. The Carvanha began to snap its jaw, ready for the drop. Almost immediately as the Qwilfish hit the water, Carvanha had started to munch it down to its core. Incaresta jumped back as his Carvanha almost caught his fingers.

"Better luck next time, girl," he laughed afterwards. Despite her snappy appearance, she was actually very gentle. She would never bite down hard on Incaresta, although it would be a different story if it was a stranger. Volcarona was rocking on its back on the table, waiting for food too. Incaresta brought over some of the berries he had bought the day before and allowed the bug to choose which one it wanted as its meal. Upon choosing, it wrapped around the berry and softly sucked the insides out, leaving just the berry's skin, which he then took over to his last Pokémon. Hitmonlee had waited patiently for his berry skin breakfast. He then headed upstairs to check on James. However, before getting upstairs, he heard Clarence knocking on the door.

"How is he? I can't help but worry, as he was not himself last night. Also, Zanha doesn't exist. I spent four hours looking for her," Clarence said softly. He was exhausted.

Incaresta shrugged as he went upstairs with the Captain and opened the bedroom door.

James was curled up as small as he could be, with the blanket wrapped tightly around his body. His head rested lightly on the pillow as he breathed in and out softly.

"Deep sleep still?"

"Seems to be. He got himself really worked up and upset also. His irregular sleeping has left him exhausted, no doubt," Sutton whispered. "Shall I wake him?"

"No, he needs to sleep. He can't get himself worked up if he is asleep, his feeling of guilt has flown away amongst the stuff of nightmares, and he is in the world of dreams." Clarence looked Incaresta in the eyes. "Thank you for looking after him. As I said before, he does look up to you in a strange way. Lord Madison has done some terrible things lately on the front line. Lord Jackson got hit badly by an exploding Qwilfish spike. He survived the hit and continued to fight, but he lost a lot of blood."

"Is that man immortal?"

"He certainly seems to think he is. He wasn't the only wounded one, though. Lots of soldiers died. These exploding Pokémon aren't just hitting our own. They are hitting his soldiers too. The casualties on both sides are horrendous."

James stirred at the sound of the voices. He rubbed his eyes and sat up before flopping back down under the blanket.

"Leave me alone. It's too early to get up," James groaned.

Incaresta tried his hardest not to laugh at the boy's complaint. "Okay, go back to sleep then," he whispered.

"Can't sleep now," James grumbled, annoyed.

"James, I have someone for you." Clarence gently placed Okta on the bedside table, which the boy stretched over for and snatched, before burying himself back under the blanket and grumbling again. "We need to talk about Zanha."

"You found her?" James peered out from the top of the blanket.

"No. She isn't real, is she?" Clarence asked. "James, please don't lie to me. I don't appreciate being lied to at the best of times, but lying to get yourself out of trouble when something serious... like what happened, happens, is really wrong."

"I didn't lie," James snapped while cuddling the blanket.

Clarence sighed. "Promise that is the truth? I know Northern promises are sacred. You are bound to be thrown to the Distortion World if you break one, as it is a sin. Right?" Clarence asked.

"It is a sin to break a promise. I promise that is the truth!" James's voice went up in pitch as his irritation grew.

"James, it's okay, I believe you," Clarence said but was quickly shouted over by James.

"It's all your fault I don't have a mother anymore or a father. He was killed by you monsters too. You killed Lioa's father, and Archapelo has to live with his aunt because you killed his mother and father too," he ranted. "Then there is the whole war in the first place. Lord Piscar did it to ruin our lives because he is evil and selfish. I hate him too. The stupid Southern Guard almost killed Okta. The South are nothing but evil," James struggled to squeeze every word out.

Clarence sat down next to the boy, holding onto the stone hanging around his neck. "I know it is difficult to understand. When I was a boy, about your age, maybe slightly older, the South went through the first of its back to back civil wars. I know it feels for things to be not how you want them. May I?" He pointed to the stone around the boy's neck. James looked confused for a second, then took it off and handed it over. "You know of the story of Igor Rett. Your replica stone, eh?" James nodded, hiding the fact he had stolen it. "The rock stone? No... the ground stone." He handed it back to James. "The ground stone is rumoured to have been lost around 100 years ago."

"Today is Friday. You can't eat, but you can drink, and you will. You don't have to stop liquid intake during the fast until you are seventeen," Sutton said, placing milk beside James. James had reached over and had already gulped down the entire glass without coming up for air.

"Thank you, Mister Sutton. Friday can be difficult," James said quietly.

"I still believe your religious nonsense is blasphemy. We know the North won't change," Incaresta responded as he placed his hand on the boy's head. "Get changed, then you can help me with chores to make up for stealing, then you can go and have fun outside."

"No battling, though," Clarence warned James. "She is in no state to battle. I strongly suggest that you...."

"I won't let her get hurt. What if Lioa tries to start a fight on me again? He's been doing that a lot since the festival."

"Then I will deal with it," Clarence replied before getting up off the bed and leaving the room with Incaresta.

James quickly got changed and scurried down the stairs, ploughing into the wall as he hit the bottom step, before picking himself up and rushing to the door before being grabbed.

"After chores. James, you need to learn that you can't steal from me. Not my groceries, not my keys, and certainly not my money." Incaresta reeled him in and dragged the boy to the kitchen, who decided to go limp as a protest. "Okay, first chore...."

"There is more than one? Stupid South," James grumbled. "Should get Okta to destroy the house...."

"They aren't as bad as you think."

Meanwhile, outside the town hall, Lioa leaned against the wall. His black over jacket covered his dirty white shirt, and his trousers were scruffier than ever. He was mad at Kitiku. To make matters worse, yesterday, he had come home to an almighty shock.

Date: 22nd June 1989

The Lord who had done his injections had tried to reason with him and make the experience less stressful. However, Lioa wasn't having any of his so-called 'Southern lies'. He had attempted to bite and kick the Lord who was administering the treatment, to which end he had been pinned down. The man had used his right knee down to press the boy's legs firmly against the ground. He had pushed Lioa's left cheek against the cold floor with his right hand.

The boy tried to desperately pull the man off with his hands but was not strong enough. However, he continued to fidget to the point of a second Lord pulling him upright into a sitting position before forcing him onto his knees.

"What arm do you throw with?" the Lord had calmly asked.

"Rot in the Distortion World, Southern Venipede!" Lioa shouted and spat. To which end, he was slapped hard. He continued to fight the Lords immediately afterwards, clearly not taking the slap as a warning to stop. "Let me go. I don't want any of your Southern poison, you scum."

His insults didn't bode well amongst the Lords. They then decided to hang him from his jacket on a metal peg and allow their Houndoom and Mightyena to snarl and hover underneath him. They returned after five minutes, but Lioa didn't want to give up fighting. He continued to kick, bite and squirm until he was tied down while jabbed.

After lunch, Lioa and Andrew ran home, only a few doors down from where Sutton lived. Lioa barged in front of Andrew to get inside the door, only to see his mother holding hands with a Southern soldier. His hair was chocolate brown, and his eyes were a deep green. His mother was infatuated by this monster. Her golden-brown eyes looked like they were under hypnosis as he ran his other hand through her short blonde hair.

"Mother?" Lioa asked.

"Lioa, take a seat, please, Andrew, you too, sweetie."

Lioa cautiously sat at the dining room table on the far right seat. Andrew followed him and sat next to him.

"This is Vesit." She introduced the man, "We have been seeing each other for seven months. We decided now was a good time to introduce you to each other." The soldier removed his hat and sat down opposite Andrew. The boys' mother then sat next to him. "Vesit is going to move in." Lioa's face went pale.

"What about father?" Lioa barked.

"Lioa, I didn't love him anymore," his mother said, reaching over to touch his face.

"No, you traitor! I hate you! Lioa stood up. As he did, Vesit's Hippopotas started to sniff him. "Keep away from me, you... you... you piece of Tauros...." Lioa kicked it in the nose.

"Andrew, that is enough. Apologise to your mother," Vesit said sternly.

"My name is Lioa! If you are going to tell me what to do, at least get my name right!"

"Upstairs, to your room, now!" his mother shouted, to which Lioa slammed his bag as hard as he could on the table before storming upstairs and slamming his door. He slumped on his bed and then pulled the pillow over the back of his head as he rested his face on the mattress. He could hear Vesit talking to Andrew downstairs.

"Well, I have a present for you and your Deino." Vesit then pulled out something wrapped in brown paper and string. "There you go." Andrew looked up at his mother, who nodded at him. He ripped open the paper to reveal two neck scarves. "One for you and one for your Deino." Carefully, Vesit did the scarf up for Andrew.

Andrew was pleased it was red. Red was his favourite colour.

"What do you say, Andrew?" Laylai prompted, but as she did, Andrew got up and hugged Vesit.

"Thank you, sir," Andrew said as he pressed his head into the man's shoulder.

"You are very welcome, little soldier. I'm going to see Lioa. Maybe he has calmed down a little...." Vesit said, walking up the stairs.

"Go away. You can't replace my father. You never will. You are from the South, and you are a soldier. You could have killed him," Lioa said, his voice muffled by the pillow.

"Lioa, sweetheart, it is time to move on. Your father died at the battle of Quigk. I know you miss him, but it has been a year," Lioa's mother said as she came into his room and hugged him.

"I am not becoming a puppet of the South. Father died fighting their evil."

"Lioa, stop, you are a baby. It is always about you, your father and I were in love when you and Andrew were born, but now that love is dead, as is he." She stormed out. Vesit placed a hand on Lioa's left shoulder and pulled him closer.

"Lioa, no matter what has happened, I want you to understand I don't want to replace your father. Okay? I have a present for you." Vesit took out the second brown paper gift and tried to give it to the boy.

"You can't buy me gifts!" Lioa scoffed.

"I know, I'm not trying to buy you a gift. I just want you to know that you are appreciated. You have been the man of this house for a long time, and that's an awful lot of pressure to put on a young man. Your mother and I are considering marriage soon."

"So you can throw us out? I get it. Southern scum," Lioa snapped.

"No... if we did marry, I would adopt Andrew and you without question. I know the law says I can throw you out, but I wouldn't. I want to be a part of your lives."

"Just leave."

"Okay, I see you need space still." Vesit put the gift on the bedside table before getting up and picking up the small Pokémon and going back downstairs. "Lioa needs space. He is still very hurt. He cannot forgive me because he isn't ready."

"Lioa will not be having supper tonight, that is certain," Laylai spoke coldly, "If he wants to act like a spoilt runt, he can, but he will be treated like one."

Date: 23rd June 1989

James left Sutton's house. His chores were to wash the dishes and clean out the Carvanha tank. He enjoyed the second task more than the first, mainly because he could pull faces at the snapping fish once more. Sutton even let him pet her. Due to how well he cleaned the tank, the soldier had given him two Colkara. So much for punishment. James saw Lioa in the distance and wandered over to him.

"Hey, Lioa," James said.

"Let me guess, Sutton has you wrapped around his little finger..." the short boy snapped.

"Huh? Oh, no... last night Okta and I went looking for Zanha...."

"Who is Zanha?" Lioa asked.

"Yeah, James, who is Zanha?" Andrew chipped in.

"She is a Pokémon in the park, she is all metallic, but I've never seen her. I want to get her out of hiding and catch her!" James shouted, but as he did, Andrew grabbed his mouth.

"James... the Master Guard, are around," he whispered.


"Something called a Bronzor was stolen from their training base in Quigk... they are tearing everywhere apart trying to find it. Maybe Zanha is this Bronzor?" Andrew said, "Either way, you won't get anywhere near the park while they are there. They are stopping everyone. Captain Bourbabel tried to stop them from arresting a young girl, whose Pokémon ran into one of them but got arrested himself. They will let him go later... right?"

"We need to help him, he saved us, so it's only fair if we...." Kitiku whispered as he crutched towards his friends.

"What is with the 'help the South' at the moment?" Lioa crossed his arms.

"Okta can't battle at the moment, she is still really hurt, but Kitiku is right. We need to help him. He did save us," James sighed. "Besides... whoever replaces him could be much worse. For now... I say we keep him."

"Fine," Lioa grumbled.

"No offence Kitiku, but you can't exactly... get anywhere fast." James started. "Lioa, you and I will do the running. Andrew, you be the thief, and Kitiku... you need to find Zanha in the park. She might be what they are looking for."

"James, didn't you hear me? The park isn't accessible at the moment. There is a Master Guardsman at the only way in since the rest is cordoned off," Andrew hissed.

"That's the point. Andrew, can you steal from Sutton and lead him past the park? The Master Guardsman will surely get involved, and that's your chance Kitiku," James directed. "Andrew, if you get caught, you know he will tie you from the nearest post until he finds a suitable punishment, so don't get caught. Lioa, you are Andrew's fallback. Pass Sutton's keys between yourselves. I shall then steal the keys from a Master Guard who try to intervene at the cage. Since you two are already being chased for key theft, they will assume one of you did it."

"Problem!" Lioa said sharply. "That won't work. One of us would need to deliberately collide with the Master Guardsman watching the cage and steal his key and pass it to you before getting hauled up and punished."

"If you get caught, they will probably do something nasty to you," James said, concerned. "Okay, so let's recap, steal and pass Sutton's keys between yourselves. Take the chase around to where the cage is. Lioa shall then steal the keys from one of the Master Guard, thereby colliding with him. By this time, Kitiku would have coaxed Zanha out. Then he will make his way back here slowly. Once he is back here, I will meet him. Lioa, you will kick and scream and make it as difficult as possible for them." Lioa nodded to James's revised plan. "Then I will unlock the door and save everyone. Using Zanha's power, we then save Lioa and run away!" James looked super smug. "This plan is fool-proof."
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Chapter 11 - The Plan
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 11 - The Plan

James shuffled himself into position by the wooden cage. He could see Captain Bourbabel inside.

Lioa and Andrew had found Incaresta Sutton. He was eating a snack he had bought at the food stand by the park.

Kitiku stood behind Lioa. He was ready to crutch into the park.

"Let's do this, Andrew," Lioa whispered as the two boys started to run on the spot before shooting around the corner. "Hey, Mister Sutton! I was told you have a super rare Pokémon. Can I see it?"

Incaresta looked at the boy suspiciously as Andrew walked past, quickly swiping his keys from his pocket.

"Hey!" Incaresta shouted as he started to chase after the boys but was met with a hand from the Master Guardsman, who had seen everything. Sutton quickly bowed down without question, as he didn't want to be arrested for treason.

The man then said something in Kilgorese as he sent out an Ampharos, which immediately used thunder twice. The first one missed Andrew completely. However, the second hit Lioa as a side flash. He plummeted to the ground, unconscious and twitching. The Master Guardsman left his post and ran over to the unconscious boy.

Lioa's hair was a mess, and his shirt, jacket and trousers were utterly destroyed in places. The boy suddenly opened his eyes, dazed, face down against the ground.

"Don't move, thief," the Master Guardsman said calmly. "Rollover and face me, boy. Do you understand how lucky you are? It is good that thunder misses direct hits more often than not. You were hit by a side strike, meaning a bolt missed you directly but rebounded off the ground and latched on to you. Before you are punished, I suppose I should make sure you will live." Master Guardsman pulled him into a squat against the wall and hung the boy's head lower than his shoulders.

Lioa slowly rolled over in a daze, his body was in shock, and he struggled to breathe.

Andrew looked back at his brother once before he skidded along the path into the hot spot.

James was stunned to not see Lioa with him as Andrew decided to collide with the Master Guard, knocking her keys onto the floor. She immediately slapped him hard. James took the opportunity to run in and snatch the key. However, she grabbed him and pulled him to the ground with her other hand. Before the boy could scramble to his feet, he was met with the eyes of the Claydol he had previously stolen. He and Andrew were hauled along the street towards the offices and then shoved them in separate, small, cold, dark cells.

Unbeknownst to them, Kitiku was crutching over towards the back of the park. He was desperately trying to dart between the trees but wasn't very good at it. He slowly but surely had made progress, though. The clunking noise started to get louder and louder. He quickly turned back to see if anyone had been watching.

Incaresta Sutton had been watching him for some time. Still, much to his surprise, Incaresta didn't seem too bothered, more curious. That didn't stop Kitiku from nervously backing away on his crutches until he hit a stone that wasn't there before. He stumbled back and hit the ground.

A loud clunk came from behind the boy. He turned slowly to see a flat blue disk hovering above the ground.

"Zanha?" he asked. "Oh, I... I have food...." Kitiku rummaged through his bag and pulled out a berry, which he then offered to the creature. It cautiously started to munch on the berry the boy had shown. The flat Pokémon didn't waste a moment and lapped up the sweet berry. "You... are hungry? I have another berry for you." Kitiku pulled out a second berry.

"You are funny, Zanha. The Master Guard... they want to take you back to Quigk, but you don't want to go back, do you? I wouldn't want to go back either. You are gentle, aren't you? You are like me... people playing soldier, expecting us to follow suit, but we don't want to be a part of that. I hate fighting people, do you?"

Zanha clunked in response before opening Kitiku's bag to find more berries.

"Hey Zanha," Kitiku said. "You are a Bronzor, right? So... what is a Bronzor? Are you like a psychic or something? You look like a steel type for sure."

Zanha spun around, making itself slightly dizzy. As an indication that he had guessed correctly, he could swear Zanha was smiling at him.

"Kitiku?" Sutton said as Zanha instantly repelled him using psychic.

"Oh, that is Sergeant Sutton... I suppose he is okay...." Kitiku's voice quietened as he started to feel shy once more.

"So... this is where you went. How ingenious, hiding in plain sight. Unfortunately, Bronzor, you have to be returned the Master Guard," Incaresta said. As he did, though, he noticed Kitiku shaking his head and hugging the Bronzor. "Kitiku, the Bronzor doesn't belong here. It is a powerful Pokémon that is being trained to do powerful things...."

"Zanha wants to stay here..." the boy whispered.

"Their trainer must be worried, though. How would you feel if your Klink suddenly went missing, and then some random person claimed it to be theirs?"

"It isn't mine...." Kitiku started quietly. "It shouldn't be theirs either. Zanha should choose who to belong to."

"Kitiku, it doesn't work like that, you know that. I have to get you to return the Bronzor and then rescue Captain Bourbabel, James, Andrew and Lioa... please make this easy for me...." Incaresta reached over to coax him away from the Pokémon. Still, Kitiku remained adamant he wasn't letting go of the Bronzor.

"Zanha should choose," the boy repeated, quieter than last time. Before he shut down, the man had to think of something to make Kitiku open up.

"Hey, Kitiku, how about this." He reached into his pocket and withdrew an empty blue-side latched Poké ball, "if you can get 'Zanha' into this ball, I will accept it is yours." Incaresta felt rather smug, 'that thing belongs to someone in the Master Guard, and once Kitiku throws the ball at it, the safety will break the capsule as a default mechanism against stealing. Then he will have to give it up.'

The boy reached over and took the ball from his hand. "Sergeant Sutton? How do you catch something?" The boy's question threw Sutton off. Kitiku had two Pokémon, but neither were caught by him at all.

"Well, when you throw it, you have to make sure that the latch hits the Pokémon, so it opens up. That way, there is no escape for it," Incaresta explained, as quietly as Kitiku had asked.

The boy then shuffled forward. He placed the ball in his right hand and threw it overarm. The throw was poor, and the ball hit the ground moments after release. It pinged up before rolling in the wrong direction. "Well... it isn't yours."

"Can I have another go, please, sir?" Kitiku looked disappointed at himself, which would have really made Sutton feel guilty if he had said no.

"One more throw. That is it." He said sternly, reaching over and placing the ball back into Kitiku's hands. This time the boy decided to throw underarm. It wouldn't be as fast, so there was a greater chance of the latch not opening, but he felt comfortable that he could hit the target this way. He took a deep breath in before gently lobbing the ball at the Bronzor. His second throw was too weak and flopped before getting anywhere near the target. "That's it."

"...I can't even throw right, I'm just a defective... sorry Zanha," Kitiku got up, annoyed at himself and disappointed.

"If you want to learn how to throw, I can teach you... you just have to ask," Sutton said, trying to make Kitiku feel less awkward. Kitiku seized the moment to do something he had never done before, try and trick Sutton.

"What about this? Tomorrow, after school is done, you and I can go to the route to Finar and practice on some Starly. Does that sound okay?" he asked, but the boy didn't answer at first. It took him a minute to sign the word 'okay'. "Well, let's inform the Master Guard about their missing Bronzor."

Sutton picked up Zanha. The 72 Kilograms made his arms ache. "Kitiku, how are we going to rescue Captain Bourbabel and the gang of miscreants? Once we hand Zanha over, I doubt they will just let them go...." Incaresta's thought process was to try and let Kitiku develop a plan, bolster his self-confidence, and maybe get him talking once more. "Do you think you could come up with a brilliant, foolproof plan? We just need to get a message to a Southern Guard, to get a message to Lord Jackson or Lord Piscar. Since they are of equal rank or higher to the Master Guard, they demand everyone's release. It is worth a try, is it not?"

Kitiku paused his crutching. He then nodded, reached into his bag, took out a Poké Ball, and released the Herdier from the ball. "Herdier goes to find my doctor if something bad happens to me...." Kitiku whispered. "I think this is bad."

"I can't exactly let go of Zanha, or she will float away. You can't write in Colrat, let alone Elkrat," Incaresta said, irritated.

Kitiku gently shook his head, reached into his bag and took out a small notebook. He had scribbled his medication times in there the day before, so he had to flick through several pages to find a blank one before tearing it out.

"My father taught both Pierre and me to write when we were younger. He said it was important to learn such a skill so that we could get good jobs when we were older...." In Elkrat 'Send help, he scribbled down, Captain Bourbabel is in trouble, and the Master Guard arrested lots of innocent people. He missed a few accents and umlauts as he wrote. He then folded the paper up and gave it to the Herdier. "Gently..." he whispered as the Herdier took the paper. "Find Lord Ikur, girl." She ran in the direction of the fence and slipped through.

"How did your father know how to write? It seems an odd skill for a Labourer to have, and even stranger for a soldier of the North," Sutton said suspiciously.

"Grandfather knew, so taught him...." Kitiku lied. He would rather his family's secret be kept safe.

As Lord Ikur sat down in the break room in the offices, he was drinking melted Sitrus berry juice and grass dew, with a bit of alcohol mixed in. His lit cigarette hung in his right hand. He had had a quiet day, with the Master Guard around. His skills as a doctor hadn't been required. Although, he was still expecting Kitiku to turn up to give blood. Something that he was patiently waiting for. He understood that the boy might have been caught up in the antics of the Master Guard's stop and search. His peace got interrupted as the Herdier scrambled through a window on the ground. He reached down and took the note that had been slobbered all over. He quietly read it out loud.

"Send help, butcher Bourbabel is in trouble, and the drummer Guard have arrested lots of clown people." He was puzzled. The writing wasn't the most legible, which didn't help. However, the message seemed to be complete and utter nonsense at first glance. He reached into his pocket and took out a pencil. He altered the statement and added the missing accents and umlauts. He then understood what he had to do. He pulled up his right sleeve and tuned the pad on the Metagross technology. He got out of his seat and walked up the stairs passing Vesit, who gave him a brief bow.

Vesit had turned up at the cellblock unimpressed, listening to one of the Master Guard explain what had happened to Lioa. At first, Vesit felt enraged that Lioa would put himself in danger, but then realised that the Lioa was feeling awful enough as it was.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Andrew ran towards him and just wanted to be hugged. As Andrew tried to hug him, Vesit stepped back and refused. His eyes looked red from where he had been crying. Lioa remained cold and unresponsive. He held the blanket tightly around himself. He didn't want to let go.

"You two are in so much trouble when we get home," he said sternly.

"Sorry, sir. We just..."

"You just what, Andrew? Do you have any idea what you have done? You could have been killed. You behaved selfishly and stupidly. You are grounded until further notice," Vesit snapped.

"Yes, sir," Andrew whispered.

"Lioa is in shock still. Something that wouldn't have been the case if you both hadn't have been so stupid!" He grabbed Andrew by the arm and started to drag him before turning back and realising Lioa was frozen still. "Lioa? Let's get you home. That is away from here and where the accident happened. Does that sound like a good idea?"

"He is blind, idiot. Flash-blindness doesn't usually last this long. His eyes will heal within the next 24 hours. He did hit the ground pretty hard too," one of the Master Guard chipped in before running Lioa's hair through her hands, making him flinch.

"Oh, Lioa... what have you done to yourself?" Vesit said as Lioa reached forward, hugging his blanket tightly. "Hey, it will be okay. Flash blindness is crappy, but you won't die from it."

"Vesit?" Lioa whispered. "I can't see. I want to go home, don't tell anyone, but I am a little scared..." he whispered.

"I won't...." He reached forward, took Lioa's hand, and pressed the boy's head against his chest.
Chapter 12 - Threat
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 12 - Threat

James's throat hurt from all the shouting he had been doing as he laid on the creaky bed in his cell with broken springs. He stared up at the ceiling. It was musty and dusty and looked as if it had seen better days, and the walls were just as filthy.

The door opened, and the Captain of the Guard of the island's ruler came in. The man's glasses were thin, golden rimmed and oval-shaped. His eyes hid behind them was a light shade of blue and almost electric. He was somewhat skinny and tall, so his purple uniform looked baggy in places. It did not. His cap was lowered, and the ring on his left hand was twisted, like a Seviper going to catch its prey. He reached for James, which made him flinch.

All James could really think of was Okta saving him. To his surprise, the man had rested his hand on his shoulder.

"So... you think it is funny to steal from my Guards?" the man started.

"No, sir, I was just...." James quickly said before receiving a cold glare.

Felix snapped, "You also think it is funny to attack my Guards and try and murder them?"

"I didn't attack anyone!" James shouted before getting grabbed and slapped.

"Truth, now!" Felix barked, crouching beside him.

"I didn't attack anyone. Okta and I can't fight at the moment. She got badly hurt in a battle last night," James said, which just made Felix look sharper.

"So, your Onix was hurt in a battle last night?" he asked, and the boy nodded. "How interesting. My Guard was almost killed yesterday by a red-head and a large Pokémon."

"I didn't do it!" James shouted desperately.

"Felix! The boy didn't do it," Captain Bourbabel exclaimed as he barged into the cell.

"Who let you out of your cage? Let me guess, Mylious Jackson sent a message to all my Guards, demanding your release."

"As well as everyone you has had arrested," Clarence added. "Lord Piscar is on his way. He isn't pleased with how you have treated these innocent people because one of your Guards lost a Bronzor," lied Clarence. "James did battle last night, yes, but it was a Southern Guard he got into a squabble with."

"Which means he lost, meaning he should face the penalties."

"He didn't lose, though. I interrupted the fight and called it to a halt. At which point James had taken out the Guard's Absol. After that, James was either with myself or Sergeant Sutton all night."

"Either way, that doesn't account for pre-evening events... does it now?" Felix pressed for answers as he glared at James intimidatingly.

"I didn't do it," James repeated. "You are a piece of Tauros's crap, treating me like I'm a criminal, and that's not fair!"

"James, you are digging yourself into a hole. Let me deal with this," Clarence warned.

Felix turned to face Clarence. "If you think this boy and this town is so innocent, why don't you put your faith in a little challenge? I don't want to be in this Giratina forsaken town." He grabbed James and dragged him out of the door before throwing James against the wall.

Felix watched James and Clarence as they started to take the stairs and left the building. Outside Felix saw something which angered him even more. He saw the missing Bronzor being, what could only be described as 'harassed through hugs' from the tall skinny boy, whose crutches were sprawled on the floor, as he leaned against the metal disc.

"That one," Felix pointed, as he scoffed in Elkrat through his Kilgorese accent. "You will have to put your faith in that boy." He then stormed in the direction of Kitiku before whacking Kitiku on the head with a leaflet. The fright made the boy fall over onto his rear. Felix then grabbed the Bronzor and dragged it 10 feet away from Kitiku. "Gather the town. Let's raise the stakes."

"Leave Kitiku alone!" James shouted as loudly as he could, which left him on the receiving end of a cold stare from the angered Captain of the Master Guard.

The town had been quickly forced into a crowd surrounding Kitiku and the Bronzor. Felix happily was tapping his cane against his right hand.

"Well, now you are all here, let my game begin. This boy here is being judged for the murder of one of my Guards. Our Bronzor was stolen by one of you scum. The last thing I want to deal with is a murderer! If this defective child can catch the Bronzor, it will prove it is not owned and, therefore, this town's innocence. If he cannot catch it, these three belong to me," Felix said, gesturing to James, Clarence and Kitiku.

"This is unfair!" Sutton blurted out. "You can't expect Kitiku to hit that, from there, in a single throw! It is his first time."

"The loyal Sergeant sticking to his guts. If I were to up the stakes here, let's say, give the boy an extra two chances, and he fails. I'll burn down this rotten town! How is that for fair?" Felix said.

"Well done, Sutton...." James hissed.

"I believe in him," Incaresta smiled nervously.

"One more thing, the boy can't move forward from where he is. The Bronzor can't get closer either." Felix added, with his back turned, as he was fumbling around in his pockets. He withdrew three deep purple Poké balls and hurled them at Kitiku, who was pleased to catch the first one, before falling over trying to catch the remaining two. "That... the people of Fehahra is what you have put your faith in."

Kitiku struggled to his feet. As he did, he felt the crutches hurt his bruised hands. He was tired from carrying himself around, and all he wanted to do was hide in a corner somewhere away from all of these people. He shoved two of the balls into his pocket and took a deep breath before dropping his right crutch on the floor. He then looked around for support, but all the faces, except two, looked at him as if he was about to let them down.

Incaresta wandered forward to stand next to the boy whispering, "Don't worry about even hitting it first throw. You can do it, just take your time...."

The boy lobbed the ball in the general direction of the Bronzor, falling over from the lack of balance. As the ball twisted through the air, it started to pick up speed. The ball had gained some height and was no longer going to hit the centre of the Bronzor.

Tak walked away. His son was an embarrassment.


The ball had actually hit the target. Unfortunately, the latch on the top hadn't cracked open as it slammed into the target.

"That's it. You know the distance now, same strength, less spin, more speed," Incaresta said.

Kitiku nodded, creating a groove with his throwing arm in the air. Kitiku skied the ball in a nearly straight line up. As it tumbled back down towards him, he readied himself to catch it. He snatched the ball as it came into line with his throwing direction and tossed it with the excess momentum. It curved just as much as before but was much quicker and became more central. The ball curved up towards the top left corner of the Bronzor's body.

Clunk. The ball had clipped the metal creature, sucking it into the ball.

"That's it, now we hope...." Incaresta whispered.

The ball started to roll and bobble on the floor before clicking. Zanha had gone in, and Felix watched as the town cheered.

"I am a man of my word," Felix said as he stood in front of Kitiku. "What can I say? I am impressed." He messed up Kitiku's hair. He swapped back to Kilgorese from the Elkrat and Colrat he had been talking, respectively, "Let's move out. It is clear the real murderer isn't here anymore." He placed the ball into Kitiku's hand and walked off.

Kitiku turned to Sutton. "C-can you still teach me?"

Incaresta handed Kitiku his other crutch to stop him from falling over. The boy then hugged him, which he wasn't ready for.

An hour passed since the incident in town. General Greiss scowled, staring out of the hospital window seeing the crowds outside. "Lord Clavouro, you are finally here. That arsehole of a Captain attacked me. I want him dead."

"I doubt you will be able to get that kind of justice today," Lord Clavouro replied. "The Master Guard have pardoned him and are leaving. A missing Bronzor, nasty business. Heard anything, General?"

General Greiss glanced around the room, looking at the nurse petting her Miltank. "Nothing."

"L-Lord Clavouro," Nashe Bryson stuttered, a little unsure what to say. "I have brought the General his food, forgive me." She stepped away, going to leave.

"Stop," the Lord demanded, reaching over towards her, touching her shoulder and taking the plate from her stable hands. "I think you forget the food. Is something wrong, Mrs Bryson? Have something to hide?" He smirked at her menacingly. "Maybe you and I should talk about your son's condition. A boy like that should be deemed defective of all-purpose and use in his state. Should send him to the mines," he hissed.

Nashe gritted her teeth, grinding them a little under her closed lips, taking a deep breath.

"Get well soon. I need your help with some investigations," Lord Clavouro said to the General.

Clarence watched as James tried to sneak out of the crowd, so before trouble maker could get too far, he cut James off. "Let's walk," Clarence said calmly. 'Patience is key, especially with boys like James. He is angry and understandably. We need to guide him, rather than shutting him down and fuelling that anger and hatred.' He thought as he planned what to say. "James?"

"What?" James spat.

"You almost got yourself killed with your stunts. Lioa is blind now, and Andrew could have been killed too. If a thunder attack had hit either of them directly, they could have both had their hearts stopped."

"We just wanted to help," James replied, hanging his head.

"I appreciate that, but regardless, you almost got yourself and your friends killed."

"Don't hurt me. You won't hurt me for fun, right?"

"Of course not. That is sadistic. James, is there something you wish to tell me?" Clarence asked as James looked at him. This man was definitely kind and forgiving.

"Rei..." James muttered before changing the topic. "Can we battle, please?"

"Of course, however, I don't want you using Okta. I'll lend you one of my Pokémon instead." As he walked with James to the green, Clarence said, "There are two I would like to keep rested. However, you have a choice: Hishrak (the Alakazam), Barook (the Braviary), Miskiak (The Houndoom) or Falaberot (the Gyarados). You may borrow two of those."

"Hmm... Can I borrow Barook and Mishirak?" James said in a desperate attempt to remember their names.

"Barook and Miskiak? Let's see." Clarence reached into his pocket and handed the two Pokémon over to James. "We will play Northern rules, okay?"

James nodded as the man walked away before turning around.

"Hishrak, let's go!" Clarence tossed the Alakazam onto the battlefield gracefully, and the ball bounced perfectly back into his hand. As Hishrak landed, he stared at James eagerly.

"Miskiak, it is on you!" James called out, throwing the ball hard. It rolled as it hit the ground and released the Houndoom.

The dark type made an annoyed cry as it had clearly been napping beforehand.

"Use... er... bite?"

The Houndoom scowled at being told what to do by what appeared to be a strange smelling boy. Instead of doing as he was told, he simply curled up on the spot and attempted to take another nap.

"Oh, come on, get up, lazy!" James started to try and push the Houndoom out of his battle box, only to be snapped at. James's inexperience was clearly being sensed by the much more experienced Houndoom.

Clarence started to laugh, "Hishrak, return to me, Falaberot. I think it's your turn already." Clarence returned his Alakazam before releasing his Gyarados onto the field. "Waterfall!"

"Get up, come on!" James was pushing on the Houndoom's backside, trying to get him to move. Although, secretly, Miskiak was watching the Gyarados's attack. As the water came plummeting towards him, he got quickly and rolled out the way. James, who fell over from the force he was pushing the creature with, got drenched. Watching the water soak the boy like a sponge made the Houndoom snigger before rolling over and letting out a battle cry.

"James, you aren't meant to get yourself drenched!" Clarence laughed, "Okay, Miskiak, be nice. You have had your fun. Falaberot use waterfall!"

"Use bite!" James returned a move. However, Miskiak didn't. He ran towards the giant serpent and emitted a dark pulse instead.

As Miskiak turned back to face James, he was coated in the water from the waterfall attack. The hot steam coming out of his nostrils suddenly became cold as he fainted from the attack.

"Go and retrieve Miskiak's ball, please, before sending out another Pokémon," Clarence ordered.

James grunted in return as he dragged himself past the fainted Houndoom and picked up the ball before returning to his battle box."Miskiak, come back. You weren't powerful at all. You didn't even listen to me." James puffed at the ball as he reached into his pocket and took out the second. "Barook, please listen to me...." James said, releasing the Braviary from its ball. Barook was very big for a Braviary and was even taller than him.

"Use ice fang!" Clarence called out as the serpent slithered through the air towards the Braviary.

"Use steel wing!" James shouted. As he did, Barook's wings turned solid. He started to fake-peck James and chase one of the soldiers who just happened to be walking by the park on the street.

"Southern jerk, why won't they do what I tell them to?" Clarence stepped outside the assigned box and wandered over to James, who was annoyed and dripping with water.

"See how frustrating it can be when people don't do as they are told? It can put someone else in danger. Barook, here!" The Braviary immediately stopped fake-harassing the soldier and dropped the stick before flying over to Clarence and rubbing his head on the man's shoulder.

"This was a stupid lesson, right?" James scorned.

"Not stupid at all. It is an important one. Maybe it was unfair of me to lend you two Pokémon, which I knew wouldn't listen to you as they sense you are inexperienced. If you want to get better, I don't mind spending time showing you things."

"Why? Don't you have a town to make miserable? There are a lot more people in this town than just my group of friends."

"I know. I spend as much time as I can with all of them. However, sometimes, some people need more attention than others. I feel like you need more attention than most, but because you have so much potential, and I don't want you to destroy yourself with it." Clarence said calmly and softly. "It is getting late, and you have school tomorrow."

"Stupid school," James grumbled again.

"You want to be flown home?" Clarence asked as he petted Barook on the head. "Barook can carry up to the weight of a Metagross, which is very heavy."

"Wait... really?" James said as he came closer.

"Yes, of course. Braviary is a strong Pokémon. He could lift up Okta if he wanted. Not sure for how long, but at least five to ten seconds. Let me just get my goggles from my... oh, it appears I have left them in my office. I suppose the fresh air won't hurt, as long as we don't go too fast." Before leaning over the top, Clarence helped James onto Barook's back to stop the boy from falling off. "I forgot my harness too. I trust Barook to be careful."

"What do you mean?" James asked as Clarence pressed James close to Barook's back, so the boy could only see the back of the bird's head.

Barook suddenly shot up into the air as Clarence held on tightly to his core feathers.

James's face represented sheer horror at first, but then he quickly came to enjoy the thrill of rising up and up towards the clouds. James promptly moved his legs to either side of the Braviary before raising his head a little to see where they were flying. "How high can he go?" James yelled as Barook climbed higher and higher.

Clarence kept his body as close to the Braviary's back as possible without completely crushing James. Instead, he used his body weight to stop the boy from sliding off completely. "As high as I need him to, except if we go too high, his wings will freeze, and we will plummet to our deaths. One of the reasons why I hate flying!" Clarence shouted over the sound of the air rushing past them.

"Why? This is fun, and I'm not even steering yet!"

"I don't think I would trust you to steer yet!" Clarence almost laughed as the Braviary levelled out carefully. "Nearly there, Barook, down slowly."

"Already?" James shouted, saddened. "Can we go again?" He asked as the bird swooped down as quickly as it could. "I don't think he is going slowly! Faster Barook, I bet you can't fly faster than a Hydreigon!"

"No, definitely not faster. Barook, slow down!" The Braviary gently started to slow his decline as he heard the fear in Clarence's voice.

"Aww..." James huffed as Barook came to a careful stop outside the Bryson household. "Again?"

"That is why I hate flying, reason number two... the speed of the decline." Clarence whispered, "I think you need rest first. If you don't cause trouble, I will take you for another flight on Wednesday."

"Hey..." James nudged the man. "Thank you for letting me fly, you Southern jerk." James's expression was neutral.

"Captain Bourbabel, please. I don't like to be referred to, and I quote, as 'Southern jerk', it makes me feel as if I am offending you and everyone else here."

"Mister Southern jerk?" James asked, hoping his attempt at a compromising insult of his name would be accepted.

"We will get there in the end...." Clarence sighed as he knocked on the door.

"Thank you, Barook," James said as he started to pet the Braviary that seemed pleased with itself. "Next time, can you go as fast as a Hydreigon? I want to fly so fast the world becomes a painting of smudged colours!" Barook, seeing James lighten up a lot, gently and playfully pecked the boy on the head.

"Please... don't encourage him," Clarence said sternly.

"Who?" James asked curiously.

"Both of you. You are both trouble makers." Clarence smiled at the Braviary and the boy. 'I suppose at least he has found a personality match with Barook. Definitely. Maybe something like this is a good way to help iron his troublemaking behaviour out, or at least make it very manageable.' Clarence straightened up his trinity knot tie as he heard Nashe come to open the door.

As Nashe opened the door to see the man's face, she didn't know what to say. She was stunned, if not horrified, to see the Captain sent by Lord Piscar, mainly as Tak wasn't there to fight if things got nasty. Her grey dress became as stiff as she did as she struggled to find the words.

"I've brought James home," Clarence said as he went to nudge James forwards. However, when his hand didn't reach James, he quickly turned around. He saw the boy playing with Barook. He was jumping around, trying to avoid the playful pecks of the large Pokémon. "James. Time to sleep." James looked up upon hearing his name a second time before walking towards Nashe.

"I suppose he has been causing trouble. Tak will be incredibly unhappy. You are heading towards being thrown out, James." Nashe scolded immediately.

"A little trouble, nothing that I can't iron out, though," Clarence said as he watched James go inside.

"Would you like to come in?" Nashe asked cautiously.

"If it isn't too much trouble, I would love to spend some time with your household. I hope to help everyone in the town as much as I can. Since occupation will last longer than the end of the war, I can imagine." Clarence said calmly as he returned Barook to his ball. Clarence then stepped inside, carefully minding his head on the door and entering the dining room.

"Would you like a drink at all?"

"No, thank you." The Captain said quietly. "Hopefully, the boys will be asleep soon. They both have big days tomorrow. Lots to learn, and so much little time than I had when I started to learn."

Kitiku had made his way halfway down the stairs. He was tired, but he had just been woken by the noise. Nashe rushed over to see him.

"Go back to bed, Kitiku. It's late, you must be tired. Please, you need rest." She whispered to him as he reached forward to be held in her arms.

"Sorry, Kitiku, I didn't mean to wake you," Clarence said as he slumped against the wall. The boy almost jumped out of his skin, as he didn't notice Clarence appear. "I'll take you back up to bed."

"Thank you, it would be appreciated," Nashe said, as she hugged Kitiku before Clarence lifted upstairs him.

"Has he always been like that?"

"Like what?"

"He signs more than he talks," Clarence stated, hoping to discover why the boy was so shy.

"He has done that since he was five years old. I don't know what triggered it, but he has always been a shy child," Nashe said tentatively.

"James's plans are innovative, even if he likes causing trouble," Clarence said.

"Tak has threatened to throw him out if he doesn't stop." Upon her mentioning Tak, Oosho slipped into the room. He was quietly puckering along the floor. He wasn't happy.

"I see. I hope to stop that from ever happening." Clarence replied. As he did, the angry Octillery squelched his way along the floor towards the Captain. He was as silent as he could be. "By the way, I can see you, Oosho. I am not blind, nor stupid. In fact, I have eyes in the back of my head... so don't even think about using a hydro pump on me."

Nashe commanded. The Octillery huffed, annoyed, in response.

"Moody, eh... not a bad ability to have... can get really, really stressful though, I imagine. Where is Tak anyway? Curfew has dropped...." Clarence quickly asked. "He can't work today since it is Friday, as it is illegal for him to... so where is he? Tak is working, isn't he?" Clarence prompted.

"We need the money. We can barely pay the rent and food," Nashe started. She knew if she asked him to leave, she would also answer his question.

"I know, but I can't let this offence slide." Clarence stopped and pressed his hand into his chin as he thought about what to do. "Imprisonment, or a massive fine, whichever hurts the household more. In this case, imprisonment would do that, since Tak earns almost everything for the household." Clarence sighed, "The current fine would be over a five hundred Colkara, which I find ridiculous. That would be over a whole month's money gone, and you wouldn't have paid rent yet. I can charge you three hundred and twenty-eight Colkara instead. That is probably the least I can get away with."

"That's still too much. Please, don't do this. What about our children? They will starve. You can't expect them to live off of so little!"

"I don't," Clarence paused. "A few Lords had gone to arrest him already. I have an idea, Tak earns 15 Colkara a day. I can set it up so you can pay it over a long period if that would help."

"Yes, sir." Nashe sobbed.

"If it was to be 12 Colkara a month, as payment, that would be reasonable, I think. You would still keep 48. I believe your rent is 30 a month, which leaves 18 Colkara for food. It's tight, but it will clear the debt quickly without hurting your family. I will have Tak released in the morning, presuming he has been arrested." Clarence said.

"Yes, sir. What about James and Kitiku? I don't want us to be thrown out of the house and them to live on the streets." Nashe worried,

"I won't let that happen."

James hugged Kitiku upstairs, wrapping his jacket around Kitiku's shoulders. The boy's black hair had flopped over his face, and his eyes dimmed more.

"Kitiku, it's not going to be that bad. There is no way I'll let him throw us out. I'll fight him again. I won't lose this time." James whispered.

"It will be. I want my father home." Kitiku whispered as he started to get himself worked up. James heard a noise by the door, and he quickly picked up Okta's ball to defend himself. He was relieved when Nashe came in the door first. She sat down next to Kitiku, clearly upset, and sighed.

"James, Kitiku, you two should be asleep," she said softly.

"We know everything," James said as he tried to thump Clarence but missed and almost fell over. "You want to kick us out because you want to arrest Tak."

"James, no. That is not what I want at all. I want to make sure you don't get kicked out, Tak doesn't get imprisoned, and you don't starve." Clarence sat down next to James on the bed. "Tomorrow morning, I will release Tak from Jail, and he and I will have a long discussion about how the fine the household will receive shall be paid off. I recommend it is done in chunks, which are large, but go away quickly while leaving you money for food and rent."

James scowled for a moment before letting out a sigh. He leaned against the window and looked up at the darkening sky. He felt Clarence place a hand on his shoulder as he looked out the window too.

In the middle of town, four men sat at a creaky table in the corner. Grektox looked over to his three companions, slushing the fermented berry and ale in his metal mug, which was painted with dents from overuse. "So, is it true?"

"The plan was spoiled by those runts and the Captain," the older man spat, tilting his dark brown cap as he lowered his tone. "What now? The boy caught the Bronzor, and the Captain of the Master Guard Mainstenhill walked away without quashing this destitute town. Meanwhile, Captain Bourbabel remains a threat."

The man on the edge of the table chuckled an uneasy laugh, rocking himself a little on the wooden bench seat, making it creak incessantly. "Oh, woe is you. Did someone's ego get hurt by them being outwitted by a defective child?" His cackle turned to a sneer as he said, "Why be disguised? No one cares. What do you have to be afraid of? If I am caught, the world has me hanged. If you are caught, no one would even notice what you are up to."

"Silence. If it wasn't for your incompetence and petty, sadistic chasing of a mere fourteen-year-old boy, you could have been here, in town helping end the Captain's life. You are lucky. One word from me about your hiding spot, and I am sure the Lord Captain, Lord Jackson, would happily come down here and tear you apart." The coldest figure rose up, tossing a tip down on the table. "Captain Bourbabel is the chosen one from the other side of the prophecy, that much I can guess. I have seen it in my nightmares, and as long as Piscar remains in control, there is no hope for a better world."

Grektox choked on his ale, looking up at him. "You take heed to nightmares?"

"I do. Particularly ones caused by the stones."

"Which stone would that be?" Rei sniggered, showing the Poison stone in his hand, glowing. The air surrounding them because stale and disgusting, like eating from the same plate as a Muk.

"That doesn't concern you, but Piscar must fall." The man clasped his fist tightly, slamming his fist on the table hard. "And now we have the additional problem of the Bronzor being in the hands of a child. Do you have any idea what those things are trained to do? How powerful they can become?"

The elder gentleman pulled his long green hair a little before perking up. "Just kill the kids if they get in the way."

"I have a better idea. If these children were to be put in danger, the Captain would come running. If we kill Captain Bourbabel, the prophecy re-rolls, preventing Armageddon and bringing Lord Piscar and Lord Jackson down here. A minor accident should befall them both."
Chapter 13 - Frozen Night
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 13 - Frozen Night

The route to Finar was quiet. It was a perfect place for the Captain, James and Kitiku to go. The lack of distractions allowed them time to think. There was a fantastic view of Finar and the ocean from the mountainside between the two towns.

Kitiku had found it tiring to carry himself there on his crutches and felt relieved once Clarence had stopped walking beside him. The man walked towards the cliff's edge and leaned carefully against the cemented down railing. Kitiku shuffled over to get closer. He felt the wind brush against his hair and against his thin shirt.

James followed cautiously. He looked around at the sky, at the moon repeating its cycle once more. He could see all the stars in all their glory as the clouds faded around them. He heard the wind rush through the canyon, which wasn't too far along the route.

"Getting you out here was probably for the best. What do you see?" Clarence asked them both. "The sea and sky. The ground and stars. The moon and sun. They are all in balance. Our religion teaches us that Giratina holds the balance of the world, and these things are just examples of that balance," Clarence said.

"Liar!" James shouted angrily. "Cresselia keeps the 'balance'!"

Kitiku remained quiet as he felt the wind rush past him. He wished he could hurry away with the wind.

"Your religion is a lie, and you are evil. You want to destroy our...." James felt a sharp pain in his side from where the Gengar had bitten him.

"Are you okay?" Clarence asked, concerned. "Let me see."

James shook his head.

"It's nothing. It's where I got hit by that Master Guardswoman earlier. It's just sensitive."

"Okay," Clarence said, unconvinced. "James, I have no intention of ruining anything or destroying anything."

"The world isn't balanced...." Kitiku whispered. "Zanha told me... I heard her earlier."

"Bronzor, unlike most psychic types, struggle to communicate using our language. Are you sure it was her?" Clarence asked, curious. The boy nodded. "That is worrying. What did she say was causing it?"

"She didn't. I just want father home. I miss him," he whispered.

"Yeah, give Tak back. Jerk," James said, scowling.

"Your father will be home soon, Kitiku," Clarence said calmly.


"Of course."

"Okay," Kitiku whispered.

"Can we fly from here?" James interrupted.

"I can. I'm not sure if you could since you haven't flown from the ground yet," Clarence answered, as he looked up, "Hey, snow. It rarely appears up here in the North. I suppose the fragments of the fire and ice stones are out of balance with each other again." The temperature quickly dropped, and the boys started to feel the cold. "Deep below the surface, in Kishnar, the ice and fire stones constantly battle for control. In this case, the ice stone had gained control and swept icy winds northbound, making it snow. Do you know the story of the fire and ice brothers? In Quigk a very long time ago, two boys, a little older than you, obtained the fire and ice stones. The younger brother ventured South during a famine to bring back food, while the older one stayed in the North. After many years the older brother went South to find his brother. He reached Kishnar with his army. A city had grown and at the centre of it was his brother. They fought, and the ice and fire stones clashed with their Pokémon. The entire city was destroyed, and the fire and ice stones became embedded in the ground. It is said whoever takes them becomes cursed."

Clarence took off his jumper and handed it over to shivering Kitiku. "Let's get you two home before the snow gets worse."

"It's cold...." James shivered. "Do you think it will reach Fehahra?"

"It is possible," Clarence said as the boys struggled to keep up with his jog.

"Aren't you cold, Mister Southern jerk?" James asked.

"Not yet. You have to remember, in the South, it gets frigid, so this temperature is about normal." Clarence stopped to let the two catch up. "Today is the 23rd of June," he said, as his watch ticked over midnight. "Tired?" he asked, as James rubbed one of his eyes and yawned.

"No..." James hissed.

"Busy day tomorrow. You should both sleep well." Clarence said as he looked up at the stars.

In Fehahra, Lioa was curled up on his bed. His sight had started to return but was still very blurry. He was terrified and shivering due to the rapid decrease in temperature. Andrew was cold too, in the bed next to him. He had covered all but his nose up under his blanket. Vesit and Laylai watched as the two boys struggled with the cold. Vesit sat down next to Lioa. Laylai lifted Andrew up into a sitting position before holding him in her arms.

"Cold?" Vesit asked as he carefully sat Lioa up.

"Yes, sir," Andrew mumbled. Their tiny room felt a little warmer due to all four of them being within close proximity to each other.

"Would you boys like us to get you another blanket or two?" Vesit asked as Lioa took his hand.

"Yes, sir," Andrew whispered as he watched Lioa start to get irritated.

"I want to see things properly..." the boy spat. "It is so scary not being able to see. I don't like it." Lioa started to panic as he struggled to make out who was who.

"Lioa, it will be okay. Would you like me and your mother to stay with you both?" Vesit whispered as he nudged the boy. "If you shuffle over to your left a little, I can stay with you until you fall asleep,"

Lioa did as Vesit asked. The soldier and his mother lay on top of the blanket beside him.

Vesit wrapped one arm around Lioa and let him rest his head on his shoulder. He looked over to see his fiancée's stomach was being used as a pillow by Andrew, who had curled up as small as he could. He watched as both boys started to close their eyes and drift off before talking to Laylai again. "They are so sweet when they are cold. They want all the fuss in the world," he whispered.

"It is a shame the weather turned like that...." Laylai answered just as quietly. "We could have spent the evening and early morning planning our future together."

"Maybe. I'm happy enough that these two terrors are asleep. Lioa must be cold without a shirt on, though. He isn't helping himself, neither is Andrew."

"It is usually too hot for them both to wear one at night under the blanket," Laylai quickly answered.

"I suppose. To be honest, both boys screwed up today. All a part of growing up, though. I wouldn't want to throw either of your boys out. Not even Lioa on a bad day. He is certainly angry and easy to frustrate, but inside he is scared of feeling the pain of losing someone again, I think. If we ever have a child of our own, I don't know how he would react. He may be completely okay with it. On the other hand, he may become incredibly aggressive. Lioa is unpredictable."

"He really misses his father. We were going to divorce anyway; we just hadn't gotten the chance to tell the boys." She sighed, "We hadn't loved each other for a few years and were just sticking together for the sake of it. Lioa wants to be a soldier like him. Andrew, I don't know. He loves sports."

"Rest assured, I love these boys already, and I haven't known them very long." He stopped and looked at how peaceful Lioa was, "I just wish our child, when we have one, will be successful and happy. I think we are a while off of that happening, though. That's plenty of time for the boys to get used to me being around. Hopefully, by then, they will see me as a father figure." They both looked at each other as the boys dreamt on. "I wonder how things are on the front line, though. Shmitty town is a stronghold," Vesit pondered.

The path under Shmitty town was dark and dingy as Spinarak webs hung down. White and threaded, they held bones and torn clothes amongst their abandoned dust. The nests of the Spinarak and Ariados were long-deserted, though. Holding his flaming torch ahead, Lord Captain Kapora Smith waded through the dimly lit corridors, with his black Raticate in front as a shield. He looked back at the traps he had already sprung. An axe wielded by the mechanism was wedged into Sceptile's neck as blood dripped down onto the floor. He had heard rumours of such tunnels existing in myths but never in reality. The snowy night sky above made him venture further into the underground network. However, he feared what other monstrosities he would find.

News had travelled fast from the old town about a Captain and his defiance against the Master Guard Captain Felix Mainstenhill, making his stomach churn a little in annoyance. The thought of a puny Southern man standing tall amongst the greatest of men, like himself, made his blood boil like the stomach of a Houndour. A shimmer came from the tunnel up ahead; he squinted, and with his right hand, he drew his sword, ready to pounce upon whoever was coming from the opposite direction.

"Well, what an interesting scenario," the man laughed a little as the Haxorus growled loudly at the Raticate. "The Northern Captain of the Guard underground hiding amongst the dust. You and I have a common purpose," the man said.

Lord Captain Kapora glared back at the man draped in a Southern Guard's uniform. "I think not," he replied instinctively in Colrat. 'Wait, he spoke to me in Colrat, he knows who I am... but how?'

"The stone has shown me... so much. The prophecy connects me to the greatest victory of all, for good, not bad. Yet to claim such a victory, I came here to see you. I knew you would investigate these tunnels on this particular day." The man stopped walking, looking up at the Northern Lord Captain. "We both despise Piscar, and we both want power for ourselves."

"I won't listen to your lies!" Lord Captain Kapora shouted back at him, swinging his sword. However, as his swing came crashing down, he felt tugged at by a cold chilling spirit. His sword fell from his wrist as if he had no hope left in his muscles to grip onto the hilt.

"Then Spiritomb will devour you, and no one will ever find you...."
Chapter 14 - School
Warning: This story rates as M. There are scenes of gore, violence, addiction to smoking, cursing some potential slurs or self hate, discussions about mental illness and abuse in multiple chapters.

Chapter 14 - School

Date: 24th June 1989

James, Kitiku, Lioa and Andrew arrived early at the school building. The building was made of clean-cut grey-white stone bricks, and the door was an arch.

James tugged his sash, so it was hidden under his bag strap. His white shirt was cleaner than the snow that had settled on the ground overnight, and his trousers had been pressed by Mrs Bryson, who had insisted the boys make a good impression.

Lioa's eyes hurt, he could see everything once more, but after a while, they stung due to the strain of the incident the day before. His hair puffed up, and his shirt hung out. He had even done the sash up in a super short manner as an attempt to irritate whoever was teaching them.

Kitiku had explained how he was expecting the teachers to be members of the Southern Guard until more suitable teachers could be found. He was nervous.

Sutton leaning against the wall. "Birthdays?" Sutton asked.

"Hey, Mister Sutton," James chirped up. "What are you doing?"

"Assigning people to rooms. Birthdays?"

"15th February 1975," James said.

"23rd April 1975," Lioa shouted.

"Lioa, tidy yourself up immediately. Andrew... birthday?" Sutton pressed. He was clearly not having fun and the boys starting to kick-off was the last thing he wanted to be dealing with.

"27th May 1977, sir..." Andrew said quietly.

"27th August... 1975," Kitiku whispered.

"Come with me." Sutton walked until he reached the room marked for those born in 1977. "Andrew, this is your stop."

"No, I want to stay with Lioa," Andrew scowled and slumped against the new shiny wooden panels.

"Now, Andrew! I am not playing games, go in the room," Sutton scowled back. His demeanour seemed off.

"Y-yes, sir," Andrew said, taken back.

"Let's go," Sutton said. James stopped walking and looked back towards the entrance hall. "I said, let's go, James."

"Why?" James snapped.

"I said so. Now hurry up." James crossed his arms at Sutton's explanation. The Sergeant rolled up his sleeves before grabbing James by the scruff of his neck and dragging him around the corner down the second corridor.

"Hey, let go! What's wrong? You aren't like this usually," James asked, desperate to be let go.

"Classified," Sutton stated coldly as he let James go. He knocked on the door

"Recalcitrant children will be punished. Get inside," the Lord answering the door said, pushing his red hair back under his hat. "You three are obviously friends. You are not sitting near each other."

"Actually, Kitiku has to sit next to me," James snapped, as he quickly had to think of a lie before he was going to get slapped. His nervous friend would be forced to sit next to people he didn't want to talk to or even be nearby.

The man smiled for a moment before grabbing James aggressively and shunting him into the wall with his hand. James was pinned with no way out. "I can tell when you are lying, boy. I have interrogated prisoners at breaking point, whose lies are more believable, as they beg to be let go. I can't believe Lord Piscar is wasting his time and mine. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't use my cane? Just one." The man raised his finger to James, who was angrily huffing.

James remembered what Clarence had said about mistakes. "It was a mistake, my Lord. It won't happen again, my Lord," James said.

"Good. Now sit." He released James from the wall, and the boys quickly scarpered to their seats.

The Lord had written his name on the board in simple capitals, although it didn't do much good since most of those in the room had no idea what it said. He tapped his cane against his right hand impatiently as he waited for the final few students to sit down. James slumped against his desk. The desk was wooden and was slanted, with plenty of space for ink pots.

"I believe I am wasting my time here, but Lord Piscar believes this ridiculous trial should go ahead. I will look forward to condemning it in my report. You are here to learn, no talking. My name is Lord Clavouro, and I am chief interrogator within the Southern Guard. I am only outranked by Lord Piscar and Lord Jackson. Why am I here? That is none of your concern, ask me that, and I will feed you to my Houndoom," the Lord said, with a cold tone.

Some of the students started to sit up straighter and looked nervous.

"I assume none of you morons can read, write or even count. Captain Bourbabel stated that the first thing you shall learn is your own language," the man almost spat. "Take out the black books from your desk, then put your inkpot in the hole, and then your pick up your quills."

"The Colrat alphabet consists of thirty-seven letters," he snarled as he wrote them on the board. "Copy them down in the correct order, please. If you make a mistake in your books or smudge your handwriting, you will be hauled up and receive punishment."

"Yeah, yeah, we get it," Lioa snapped. "Don't get your Tauros tail in a twist, arrogant Southern bastard."

"First volunteer, get up."

Lioa shook his head at the Lord's order.

Lord Clavouro walked around to Lioa's desk, dragged him to the front, and made him kneel. "You shall recite, from memory. If you get it wrong, I will make the month I am here miserable for you."

Lioa looked for help and saw Kitiku carefully mouthing the first few letters to him.

"It goes a, á, b, c, d, e, é, f, ff, g," Lioa paused, hoping he had done enough of it to be sent back to his desk.

"I didn't say stop unless you don't know the rest," Lord Clavouro rested his cane under Lioa's chin.

"g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, qu, qw, s." Lioa gulped as he realised he had made a mistake. "I mean r, s, t, u, v, w, ix, yu, zhe, and z." He was relieved he had got to the end.

"You are missing four letters, boy," Lord Clavouro scolded.

"I am?"

"Do you know why you are missing four letters? It is because you are an idiot." Lord Clavouro whacked Lioa on the top of the head with his blank book. "You were missing the following letters: ss, ph, yenba, and ö. All of you will speak the alphabet, and then you will repeat it, boy."

Lioa listened carefully to the class stand up and speak the alphabet in complete sync. He carefully remembered every letter, as it was clear the others were trying to say it in a rhythmic pattern to help him. Lioa took a deep breath once more before repeating the alphabet, exactly.

"Good. We are finally getting somewhere, and we have only been here half an hour...." Lord Clavouro groaned.

"Now, here is the alphabet in the lower case. You use this case when writing most letters in a word. Do you know what a word is?" the man said in the most demeaning way he could. "Good, so I am not dealing with complete and utter savages." he then grumbled in Elkrat under his breath, "I can't wait to get out of this dump."

"Lord Clavouro? What is a yenba?" James asked, making the man grunt and turn around, seeing the boy slumped against his chair.

"Sit up straight. A yenba is a letter used to indicate a silent letter. It must be written, or the word doesn't make sense," Lord Clavouro explained, calmer than earlier.

"Thank you, Lord Clavouro, for explaining it," James nodded as he pretended to understand what the man had said.

"Now, let's move on to basic words. The Northern language is bizarre, and it has too many genders."

The time was only 09:10, and James was bored out of his mind. He started to think about how Okta could eat this man, and then everyone would be free from his classes. He relaxed and started to go back into a daydream. His book was completely blank.

Eventually, James heard a bell being rung, interrupting his thought process.

"Assignments, which will be done by tomorrow and put on my desk when you come in. You will revise basic spellings of the one hundred and fifty words today. You will write your names in your books, and my name, and the name of the town we are unfortunate to be in, as well as a short paragraph on why learning is important. You will be tested on all one hundred and fifty of the words. If you get less than one hundred and forty right, you will stand up in front of everyone while I punish you. Is that clear?" The Lord scowled at them all. "The time is 10:30. You have thirty minutes of break. Then you will come back here and sit down in silence. Your next topic will be Pokémon care, which, thankfully, I don't have to teach you."

The students all got up and left without a word.

"Hey, James, why didn't you stand up for me?" Lioa said.

"You are a jerk, and I am leaving." James went to make a sharp turn but bumped into Sutton. "Watch it, Southern jerk. I take back what I said."

Sutton grabbed James and started to walk off with him. Once he had gotten towards the corner of the grounds, he let go of James, "James, what is with you?" Sutton scowled at him,

"You, earlier. Why did you make us sit through that?" James asked in a huff. "Why were you angry earlier?"

"I made a mistake. I got my leave forms wrong, so I will miss my kid's birth. I shouldn't have taken it out on you or Lioa."

"Wait, you got my name, right? Also, don't you have a son and daughter already?" James queried.

"Yes, but I am going to have another one. Come on, why don't you go and play some sports with the others?"

"Don't like sports except for scoof. I can't play scoof because I don't have skates, a bat, three Voltorbs, keeper equipment, or anything like that. I really want to see Quigk Mothims play against the Kithuk Zebstrikas. That would be the clash of the season." James mimicked someone whacking a Voltorb at another player with an invisible bat.

Sutton smiled at the boy, who seemed to have drastically calmed down. "Maybe you will be able to play at some point. I am sure Captain Bourbabel could get the equipment if you asked him nicely. Just be good and have fun."

"Sure," James said quietly. He looked around to see Lioa and Kitiku behind him. "Hey, Mister Sutton, I guess you are alright. Maybe the Captain is too, sometimes." James turned back before joining his friends.

On the other side of town, Clarence sat at his desk in the office, going through paperwork with the help of Hishrak, who was sorting them as he signed or declined each piece. He milled through suggestions, arrest warrants, and death warrants. Something he definitely didn't like doing and denied almost everyone, with the exceptions going to those committing treason or murder. Even then, he felt somewhat bad about signing. An unopened letter sat on his desk. It was addressed to him by first and last name and rank. It was written on parchment and had been sealed with wax. He then sighed as he opened it up.

"Dear Captain Clarence Bourbabel,

It has come to my notice that you performed outstandingly stupid, which caused your arrest. As stated in your garrison contract, these kinds of incidents are not acceptable under Southern law. As punishment for your actions, your leave has been cancelled until the 21st October. Once this date has passed, you may re-apply for leave again. However, do not expect to receive any. The Southern Guard is watching you and your actions from now on, with closer intent. Furthermore, it appears that you managed to almost cause a diplomatic incident between our Lord Elite Piscar and Master of Coltar, Gere Phillip Filktas.

Regarding the Rei-Spitz hunt, I am delighted you have nothing to report. However, our Lord Piscar has concluded that Hanson Rei escaped the Charizard attack. His face is burnt unrecognisably, but he lives on. He shall do whatever it takes to scorn peace in Coltar. If you find him, kill him without question or mercy. Suppose you find a member of the Spitz or Rei family. In that case, you are to inform Lord Piscar immediately, so they can be destroyed.

I am somewhat surprised that you have put yourself forward and started developing that shanty of a town. Although I agree that some basic education is required for these savages, I am disappointed you would plan to extend their education to that of a Southern level. Lord Piscar has graciously given gifts to your plans. Do not disappoint him.

Yours faithfully,

Lord Mylious Jackson

Captain of the Southern Elite Guard."

Clarence sighed, a little relieved that all he had received was a light telling off. "Come, Hishrak, let's get back to the school."

James, Lioa, Andrew and Kitiku sat down on a small bench at the back of the grounds. They were squished in together, making Sutton laugh every time he looked over at them. 'They are a real rag-tag bunch. Lioa and James constantly fight for control over their group. Lioa is the brawn, not a bright boy, but certainly not the one to get into a fight with. Then you have Andrew. He and his brother were close as close could be. Kitiku is shy still. Although, I do still have a promise to keep taking him to the route to Finar and practice catching Pokémon. Kitiku is starting to warm up to me now.'

The bell interrupted Sutton's thought process. He looked as the students started to filter back inside.

"Sit where ever you want." Clarence sat on the desk as the students came into the room. Hishrak had teleported him into the room only moments prior, as he agreed this was important. "As long as you take notes, do assignments, and do as you are told, where you sit doesn't bother me. My name is Captain Clarence Rehan Bourbabel, and I am teaching every class Pokémon care once a week. Let's start off by standing up and announcing who we are and what our lead Pokémon is."

Clarence started to note down on the board the names and the Pokémon of each student. Eventually, he reached Lioa, who was sitting in front of James.

"Lioa Hiro Takui and my lead Pokémon is a Gurdurr. Don't expect me to call you, sir. You are a waste of my time. This entire thing is a waste of time," Lioa said, slumped at his desk.

"Yet, you answer the questions," Clarence said, his voice soft and calming. "Lioa, please sit at the front. There is a spare seat here."

"You said you didn't care where we sat," Lioa said as he got up with his bag.

"You didn't do as you were told. In fact, you tried to be rude and argumentative. So please..." Clarence pointed to a desk at the front. "You shall sit here until you learn you can't treat people like that, Lioa," Clarence scolded as he sat on the desk still and pointed to Kitiku. Kitiku froze-up. He couldn't talk in front of these people. James watched as his friend started to panic upon standing up.

"Leave him alone," James stood up and shouted. "He doesn't want to talk in front of everyone!"

"James, sit down. Kitiku, take your time," Clarence said, but the boy remained frozen. "I'll speak with you outside in a minute, okay?" Clarence said, looking at Kitiku.

Clarence noted this behaviour and hoped the boy would calm down soon, as he pointed at James to go next.

"James Tak Bryson. Onix, sir," James said quickly before sitting back down. He watched as Lioa shook his head at him, annoyed. James placed a hand on his friend's shoulder, who remained uptight and upset.

Clarence continued to make his way around the room until he had noted all but Kitiku's name on the board.

"You are now in groups of three. Each group will discuss three Pokémon types, as assigned based on their own Pokémon, regarding how to look after them."

"Kitiku, which group am I in?" James whispered, and Kitiku raised his head to see the board before signing the number four to him. "Thank you."

"Take notes with each other about what you think, and afterwards, we will go through it." Clarence smiled as the students got up and started to discuss things with each other. 'A great way to make them think that I am not teaching them anything. Less defiance that way. Also, this gives them a chance to talk with people they wouldn't usually, and to get to know people who have similar Pokémon to them. Lastly...'

His mind turned to Kitiku, who had been sobbing. Clarence sighed softly as he crouched down next to Kitiku. "Let's go out into the corridor and talk. You aren't in trouble. I am just worried about you." Clarence left the room and leaned against the wall in the corridor. He waited a couple of minutes for Kitiku to arrive.

"Kitiku, I know you hate talking, and I know you don't like to interact with people you aren't friends with. However, this is unhealthy," Clarence said calmly as he tried to influence how the boy was reacting. Kitiku continued to sob, assuming he would get scolded for being nervous. "There is no need to be so upset. As I said, you aren't in trouble."

Kitiku rubbed his eyes with his left hand while holding himself upright with his right crutch.

"Would you sign your name and Pokémon? It would make me very happy if you would," Clarence asked.

Kitiku looked up and nodded as Clarence wiped his tears from his eyes.

Clarence opened the door once more; to the officer's surprise, all of the students, including Lioa and James, were happily working on their tasks. "Okay!" he called out, and everyone in the room turned around. "Go ahead, Kitiku."

Kitiku looked down as he signed, 'My name is Kitiku Tak Bryson, and my Pokémon is a Klink.'

"There, I shall translate: my name is Kitiku Tak Bryson, and my Pokémon is a Klink." Clarence felt much happier now that Kitiku had almost interacted with the others. "Kitiku, go and join group four, please."

The boy nodded and crutched over to the group in the corner.

"Is everyone getting on okay?"

"Yes, sir!" A loud chorus rang out.

"Okay, five minutes, and then we hear from each group what they have found out through discussion." Clarence watched as they continued to stand and talk with each other. He watched as the clock started to tick closer to the hour. 'The tiredness will start to hit these kids soon. They have been here nearly four hours. I expect many of them to take a nap during lunch.' "Time is up. Group one, what did you find out?"

The groups went through what they learned about each other and their Pokémon until Lioa's turn.

"I am not partaking in this." Lioa stood and crossed his arms.

"Lioa, you can spend your lunch with Lord Clavouro then. Since he is your current head of the class, despite his moaning and grumbling," Clarence's comment did make a few of the students laugh. "I am sure he will be happy to see you."

"That's unfair!" Lioa shouted out.

"It's happening. Sorry Lioa, but you need to learn you can't just act up," Clarence scolded.

"Fine! Ruskuo, break us out of here!" Lioa threw his Gurdurr at Clarence, who simply moved out of the way of the floor where the angry Gurdurr popped up. "Use poison jab!"

The Gurdurr swung angrily at Clarence, who walked over to the Poké ball sitting on the floor and returned the Gurdurr.

"That's cheating. Fight me, you coward!"

"Lioa, that is enough. Come with me. This has to stop." Clarence's face turned serious. "You could severely hurt someone at the rate you are going. Let's go and see Lord Clavouro."

"Sir?" James interrupted.

"Yes, James?" Clarence answered.

"What was your first-ever Pokémon?"

"It was a Machop, James."

"So... one of your Pokémon must be a Machamp?" James deduced.

"My first Pokémon died when I was twelve. There was an accident. I felt awful even though I couldn't have done anything to change the outcome. Since then, Barook, my Braviary, has been my oldest Pokémon," Clarence thought hard as he spoke.

"Did you fight in the civil war?" James asked

Clarence's mind shot back to the time of crisis at James's question.

Date: 5th July 1974

Clarence stood at the archway of the throne room in the Elite Southern castle. Hishrak stood by his side. His uniform was coated in bloodstains from the days before. His hat was dusty from the shaking of the building. His hair was tied back in braids, as was required, and his moustache was thinner. He was waiting for the enemy to appear. He had to fight them off and protect Lord Piscar. Several Guards had rushed ahead to attack the opposing troops, but none had returned. He could hear footsteps from the other side of the door. He had to be a hero. He had to fight whoever was coming.

A young man, the same age as himself, entered the doors. His lip was bloody, and his green hair had become incredibly messed up. His midnight blue uniform and Guard's cap was destroyed in places. It was clear to Clarence that some of the Guard's fingers had been broken.

"Clarence. Step aside, and you won't die," the young man said.

"I... I can't let you past," Clarence stuttered as he thought about the consequences if he surrendered.

"Then I have no choice but to make you. Nayhak, clear the room!" Aaron shouted as he threw his Poké ball into the air. The Steelix came crashing down and roared at Hishrak. "Shake the earth!"

"Hishrak, stop him, use psycho screech. You really think a Pokémon like that could do so much damage?" As the psychic waves shuddered past at a piercing volume, Clarence called back. Meanwhile, Nayhak started to thump the ground harder and harder, creating a wall of materials. The psychic sound waves collided with the materials and forced the air to ripple. His opponent stood tall as his hair blew wild due to the force of the attack. The floorboards started to churn up, and Hishrak's foot caught on the torn-up floor as he desperately tried to hover out of the way. His arrogance at his own power led to him receiving a nasty cut and a broken foot.

"I believe in all Pokémon, as do you!" The young Lord drew his long sword and defended. Clarence copied quickly but with his short knife. The battle halted, and silence fell for a moment.

"Psycho screech!" Clarence called out as he charged towards his opponent.

"Earthquake!" The beast shook the earth around her Lord, creating massive cracks with every thumping of her tail. The Lord collided with Clarence, and their blades met. Clarence quickly started to slide his short knife along the edge of the sword in an attempt to slice his opponent's hand. Aaron narrowly avoided being pierced by the blade; Clarence carefully stepped around in a circular movement to dodge the quaking earth caused by the Steelix.

"I said, use psycho-screech!" Clarence shouted as he leaned in to try and force Aaron to yield, his anger and frustration focused on his stone.

Hishrak's psycho-screech was much more assertive this time, as Clarence's psychic stone, which hung around his neck, started to vibrate and empower his Pokémon. Clarence's skin began to crack from his wrists along his veins, and he began to bleed a little. The Steelix's eardrums burst as the psychic wavelength settled inside her head. She swung at Clarence, hitting his chest and breaking most of his ribs. He lost his balance, dropping his -knife, before her tail slammed Hishrak into the wall, making the wall display a cracking-well, as Hishrak collapsed and fainted.

"Just surrender, and you will be treated fairly!" the young man called out, as Clarence quickly returned Hishrak and sent out his Houndoom, Miskiak.

"Use fire blast!"

"Dodge it!" Aaron readied his shield, but the fire blast struck the Steelix, making her glow orange before she collapsed. 'Why didn't she dodge?' He quickly spun his sword into attack position before returning her and waltzing forward, casually tossing his Samurott onto the churned up hall floor. Clarence held his short knife in his mouth, biting softly on it, as he drew his long sword into a defensive position.

"Dark pulse and choke it!" Clarence called out, dropping his short knife onto the floor. He shuffled to the side to pick it up as the Houndoom started to work itself up into a frenzy and fired an epic wave of dark energy spiralled towards the Samurott.

Aaron ran in front of his Samurott, letting his shield take the battering as the dark wave consumed the hall. He moved, so his whole body tucked underneath the shield long enough for Clarence and his Houndoom to charge towards him. "Bite him!"

Aaron raised his shield as he stood up and swung the shield at an angle. It smashed the Houndoom in the face, sending it flying backwards and crashing into the ground, breaking one of its legs. He then raised his sword and met Clarence's sword in a cross before kicking Clarence, who had dropped his guard, in the stomach.

Clarence hit the ground with an almighty thud and rolled quickly to avoid the sword slicing into his arm. "Bite him!" Clarence called out again as the Houndoom charged forward to save his master.

"Scald!" The Samurott blasted water over Aaron's head as Aaron elegantly crouched down and shielded his head.

The water poured towards Clarence and his companion.

The Houndoom quickly threw up a protective field around his master and himself. Clarence scrambled backwards before seeing his Houndoom being kicked over and blasted by scold once more.

"Miskiak, return! Barook!" Clarence bounced the Poké ball hard against the ground and cracked the seal. As he did, the Braviary started to flap quickly, mustering up an airflow and swooped out of his ball. Clarence grabbed on as the Braviary climbed to escape the building.

"Oh no, you aren't leaving." Aaron drew his short knife and tossed it at the Braviary, slicing one of its wings, making it come crashing back down.

However, Clarence expected an attack of some description. Clarence quickly reacted to Barook's hitting the ground. Although wounding him, the crash had torn up some of the boards to reveal some rocks.

"Use ice beam!" The Samurott clumsily ran towards Clarence and Barook before blasting ice at him. It became clear that the Samurott had been hurt by the dark pulse attack. Upon closer inspection, its front leg had been infected by a puss like goop.

"Crush it with rockslide!" Barook forcibly made the wind pick up around him by battering the air against Clarence's shield with his one remaining wing and started to hurl the rocks in quick succession at the Samurott.

Aaron ran towards the Samurott as it fainted, jumping and landing in front of Clarence, striking him hard with his shield. Clarence reached for his knife and ploughed it into the shield, wedging it.

"Barook, use brave bird!" Aaron had thrown a ball behind him as he jumped, unknown to him.

"Irkaknok, use the rocks and use stone edge!" The rocks shot up towards Barook as the Salamence shot a pulse into the ground. Barook quickly flew up and swooped down, slamming into the Salamence hard.

Aaron kicked Clarence in the ribs to make him drop the short knife. Clarence swung his legs to try and force his opponent onto the ground, long enough to grab the long sword lying a metre away.

"Barook again!" he shouted, as the Braviary struggled to flap its second wing, as when he collided with the beast. "Hit it and break its wing!" Clarence shouted, hoping Barook would crush the Salamence before it could do any more damage.

"Stone edge!" The Salamence quickly struck the ground with a pulse that forced the ground to tear up and dig into Barook's body.

Aaron then swung his shield and bashed Clarence hard, forcing him to let go. He scrambled towards the long sword, which he picked up, as he went to return Barook. Aaron drew the knife in his boot and hurled it at Clarence, pinning his uniform to the wall, with him attached. Clarence quickly attempted to pull the knife out. Aaron ran his second knife through Clarence's leg to stop him from kicking or trying to escape.

"Clarence, stop. It is over. You can't win, not now..." a second voice said, dark, deep and foreboding. "Should I give him an injection now? Or wait until interrogation, sir?"

"Now will be fine. He needs to rest and recover. He will be treated fairly post interrogation, the same as others. We will interrogate him once his wounds have been seen to."

Please note: The thread is from 1 year ago.
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