Chapter 22- Lost Sword, Burning Shield
In which there is a sudden change of plans
I know what you're thinking.
I've just returned from my operation in another region, and now I have a massive battle in Kalos to deal with. I fight my way through Lysandre's forces, reaching Final Weapon. A long and harsh swordfight ensues, during which I emerge the victor. With that, the curtains close on my unknowable future; perhaps further adventure.
…I wish that was the case.
Truth of the matter is, the cruel hands of fate decided that that would not be so. Or perhaps it was.
I couldn't tell you what happened, myself, to be honest. At this point in time, I'm not even sure what I've been telling you so far was real. I fear that some parts may have been exaggerated or distorted within this scrambled head of mine. Sometimes, it all seems so… impossible. Like an Endless Dream.
But what happened next was nothing short of incredible. And, based upon several outsider sources, I've managed to verify them to be true.
Sometimes, the reality of a situation may be more incredible than any fiction. Sometimes, the world comes up with stuff so crazy it puts what one's dreams could conjure up.
That's why I'm going to continue my story from the moment I discovered as such.
I hit the ground.
Tumbling and rolling, I smashed against several rocks and fell through trees, a trail of flames in my wake. My clothes were mostly burnt off, my armor scattered and cracked. With a final flip, I was suddenly airborne again for a few brief seconds, before plunging into icy water. Somehow, despite this ordeal, I didn't fall unconscious. I barely felt anything at all, in fact.
Well, for about five seconds.
"OH SWEET ARCEUS THIS IS COLD DAMMIT SOMEBODY HELP MAN DOWN MAN DOWN!"
I began thrashing around, trying to pull myself to the surface. I was in some kind of raging river. Eventually, I managed to grab onto a large rock in the middle of the river, pulling myself atop exhaustedly. My entire body ached, blood pouring out of several wounds all over my body.
But I was alive. Despite these horrible injuries, I lived.
…But hang on. Why was I alive?
What even caused these injuries?
I tried to perform a quick mental checkup. My name was Z… well, that was my nickname, anyway. My real name was Edward Auditore De Firenze. I moved to Kalos in order to raise Gogoats, a dream I had held for most of my life and was the family business.
But… If that's what I was doing last, what was I doing here? And what is this… armor on me?
It felt like armor at least. It was plated all over my body like armor, and it was hard. However, dents and scratches marred the surface.
Something was missing here. I felt as if I had forgotten something too familiar, though what it was, I had no clue.
I was lost.
A stray Magikarp slapping against my lower body brought me back to reality. Right. Immedieately, my physical health was probably more important than my mental health.
In spite of my screaming pain, I let go, beginning to gently paddle to the side of the river while riding the current. I grabbed onto a large root that was in the water, using it to pull myself onto a rough riverbank.
Once I was on solid ground again, I collapsed, gasping for breath. I wasn't cut out for this crazy adventuring stuff…
Now, where am I? The surroundings sure didn't look like anything Kalos did on the brochures. Even the trees in the woods seemed different. I removed my cap, noting the multiple burns and blackened parts.
A weight on my waist reminded me of my bag. Perhaps that would reveal my background a little more and let me figure out…
At the very top of the bag was a broken mirror. Through this, I caught the first glimpses of my own face, covered in dirt and blood.
For a second, one of my eyes appeared green, but with a blink, it vanished away, becoming brown as usual.
Oddly enough, despite the large amount of blood on my face, there didn't seem to seem to be any actual wounds on my face- a theme repeated over the rest of my body. So, this meant one of two things; either I was covered in the blood of my opponent…. Or my wounds had healed very quickly.
But who was I fighting?
How did I know I was supposed to be fighting?
Well, the armor was a dead giveaway. It was multicoloured, blackened from flame and spiky, with some parts having fallen off or in the process of peeling off. Holding it together was a green slime-like substance that glowed and shimmered.
"Ugh. Ick. I need an actual shower." I got to my feet, shaking as I stood up, "Right after I find out where I am, I'm going to find the first actual shower here and use it."
"You aren't going to find one. Or anything to that effect for kilometres of this place."
I turned around, spotting a girl in a black cloak standing by the riverbank. She held a netin one hand, a large hiking pack on her back. A Machamp stood by her side, holding a large bucket of fish.
"Who are you?"
"I think you better answer that question for me first." She spoke coldly, "I saw you fall out of the sky on fire for quite some distance, hit the cliffs and then the water. Then you just walked it off like it was nothing. How did you do that?"
"I… I think I've lost some of my memories, actually. I have no idea how I got here… Or where I even am."
The girl scoffed, "I don't suppose you would have heard of a Galar region, would you?"
Galar? I was in the Galar region?!
…No clue what that was. I don't remember there being a Galar in any of my geography classes… or world maps…
"It's not listed on any world maps. Not after the war." The girl sat down cross-legged, "But here isn't the place for a history lesson, stranger. There's a cave up the hills I'm taking shelter in for now. I know this is sudden, but its your best hope for survival out here."
"I'm… I'm not sure."
"If you head for the towns, your kind of magic would get you executed. It's really the only way they can explain how you survived that fall… Also, your armor automatically implies you'd be a threat to the royalty here." She spat at the word 'royalty', "Just… Trust me. I'm in a little of the same situation as you are."
With those words, she turned to leave, her cloak blowing in the wind behind her. I wordlessly followed, questions still swirling in my head.
"Can't you at least give me a brief description of what's going on?"
The girl stopped in her tracks, turning to face me. From beneath the cloak, I spied platinum hair and grey eyes.
"The war never ended."
"Yes. 89 casualties so far, and rising. This bunker is beneath the parliament, and as we speak-" A blast shook the room he was in. Dust fell from the ceiling, and the man gritted his teeth, "-Despite the base's strength, I don't think we can last long. You're the last hope for Kalos, Flare Hunters!"
The man on the main screen was a far cry to the one I saw just yesterday. The President now wore body armor and a basic black helmet, as the background behind him was no longer his office, but a concrete bunker. The situation was dire.
The military was under-prepared for such a large, sudden fighting force. The mechanical development of Flare had taken them entirely by surprise. Those who attempted to oppose Team Flare were being slaughtered mercilessly.
The next great war had broken out on the streets of Kalos.
Another blast, and the image flickered, "Don't worry about saving me. I'm only one man! Work on freeing the city and stopping Final Weapon! Hurry!"
The image flicked off, just as another explosion sounded. I turned to my partners.
Once more, everyone was in the command centre, gearing up and preparing for a final clash with Team Flare. Antonie was already at work, pulling out a notepad, "Alright, according to Z, we have two targets. We should focus on clearing the city, while another force assaults Geosenge. X, get armored up and deploy to the city. It's too dangerous to beam in, so we'll fly close enough for you to skydive."
This plan was met with unamious silence and disbelief.
"That's crazy. As much as I hate to admit it, we can't afford such a risky operation." X shook his head, "The city is basically a large fortification at this point in time."
"What do you suggest, then? We can't just leave that Team Flare base unchecked!" I refuted.
"This plan involves the use of child soldiers! We haven't even tested those new armors yet!" Y motioned to Shauna, Tierno and Trevor, "This won't work out as you think it would!"
"The world is going to end, and we're still arguing about things like this?! Look, this has always worked in the past, it'll work now!"
"Z, we've talked about this before." Go folded her arms, "We need you to get your head together."
"I AM CALM!" I yelled, "We need to stop them all, no matter what happens! That's why I'm heading right to the source, on my own if necessary. I'll need all the backup I can get!"
"…Look, if you're that crazy to kill my dad, just go steal the armors and run off on your own. See where that gets you." Emma folded her arms, "Just don't expect us to come in to back you up when this whole thing goes south."
"Everyone, please, this is insanity, I can't think, and I need some tea!" Willow yelled, "Z, I'm sorry, but the two-pronged assault isn't going to cut it! We're just too small to make any real difference! We need to operate as a single strike-force to complete this one."
"And what?! Which one do we attack first!?" I punched the wall, "Wanna go try freeing the citizens and let Kalos get blown to hell?! Or do you recommend destroying that damn ancient weapon and letting everyone get slaughtered in the city? In what way would you prefer Kalos to die, people?!"
"Actually, there is a third method by which the first option becomes valid." Go piped up.
I turned to look at her, "You. What."
"The controls for the Final Weapon are located in a Team Flare Base in the city. While it is true that the actual facility at Geosenge holds the actual weapon and power supply itself, it may be possible to remotely shut it down from the city to buy us some more time."
I stared, "And you withheld this information from me because…?"
"I told you! Don't you remember?!" she exclaimed in disbelief, "Z, dammit, I know you've pretty airheaded recently but this is a whole new thing entirely!"
"Airheaded? You didn't tell me that at any point!"
"That's actually the next thing I need to talk about." Professor Willow muttered, "Z… I'm sorry."
"We're taking you off the strike team."
"OI! WAKE UP!"
I promptly took a large tree to the face. I stumbled back, falling down.
The girl folded her arms, "You just spaced out there for a few seconds."
"Sorry, I was just… remembering. I think your words must have stirred up some memory."
She rolled her eyes, "Yeah, sure. I just hope you won't be doing that too often. Out here, you need as much of your wits about you as you can get. I reckon it's about to get hairy out here pretty soon."
"Can you tell me more about what's going on, though?"
She pulled aside several leafy branches, leading me into a dark cave. Reaching beneath her coat, she produced a flashlight, lighting up the inside of the cave as she gently maneuvered around the rocks.
Her Machamp held out some hands to help me down. I ignored it, jumping down onto the rocks below.
Only to slip once again, tumbling over before landing face-down on the ground.
"You can't just jump down like that, you know!" the girl grunted, "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
"I… I think I remember doing something like that before, and I lived that time." I got up, dusting myself off. Surprisingly enough, I still had no major injuries aside from minor cuts and bruises.
Then again, it was just a few meters down…
"People don't just fall down 10 meters, bouncing off rocks, then slam against a hard ground without breaking some bones. I've still got my arm bandaged from falling down here the first time!" the girl pulled back her cloak, revealing the limb, "So, spill it. How are you doing that?"
"I… I don't remember that part."
"Oh. Well that's just convenient, isn't it." The girl sighed, lowering her hood. Her platinum blonde hair fell out from beneath, also revealing a black headband beneath, "What's your name? Please tell me you at least remember that."
"Um… Edward. I go by Z most often, though."
"Z? Weird nickname. I'm Bea, the Galar Fighting-type Gym Leader. At least, I was." She seemed a bit sullen, "I was kicked out of my own gym as a result of those stupid new regulations put in place by the new king."
"King? Galar doesn't have a president?"
"Nope. It's a bit of a long story, but the short is that this place never really moved out of the monarchial system of rule. And a few other things, as I will explain to you presently." She sat down, "Anyway, the new regulations state I am to record, report, and reject challengers to my Gym who enter with any of the Pokemon banned by the new regulations, according to the 'Glexit' rules."
"Galar Exit. For some Arceus-damn-reason, CERTAIN Pokemon aren't allowed in the region. I refused to follow, and for that I was chased out of my own Gym by the police force."
"They… ban Pokemon?"
"There should be freedom for anyone to bring whatever Pokemon they like anywhere!" she gazed up at her Machamp, "How am I supposed to fight people at their full ability if they aren't allowed to bring in the Pokemon they have been training for their whole life?! That's why this whole thing is just insane! Furthermore, you should see the horrible things they're doing to the citizens in the region!"
"It can't be that bad… This sounds awfully like your own political preference, for the most part…"
"Not bad?! NOT BAD?!" she was furious, "They brazenly bomb their own capital city to keep the people under control! They tried committing actual ethnic cleansing to keep the mages here in check! They're the reason everyone here is barely out of the medieval era technology-wise! WE ARE TALKING GENOCIDE HERE! GENOCIDE WITH A CAPITAL G!"
I flinched, "T-They do all that?"
"Just ask anyone here! People die here from easily curable diseases!"
"Surely the United Regions-"
"Oh sure! Go ask the big regions for help! I'm sure they'll be all but overjoyed to HELP OUT A REGION THEY OMIT FROM ALL THE MAPS FOR THIS EXPRESS PURPOSE!" Bea yelled. Her Machamp passed her a water bottle, and she quickly downed some of it, "S-Sorry, got a bit heated."
"You do sound a little insane right now, not ging to lie."
"Well, I suppose I do." The Gym Leader muttered, "Look, tomorrow, I'll take you to the nearest town. Currently, it's getting late. Then you can decide if what I'm saying is crazy or not."
"But won't the cops be after you?"
"It's a risk I'm willing to take, Z. But just to check… Z, I challenge you to a battle!"
She pointed forwards, stomping the ground, "Go! Machamp!"
I reached into my own bag for my own Pokemon.
Only for another vision to strike me as I did.
"Z, he's right. I'm actually noticing that there may be some slight problems inside your head." Ryu spoke, his paw glowing lavender.
"No, I'm fine! I'm perfectly capable of handling this operation, and I'm going to go on it, regardless of what anyone else here says!" I folded my arms, "I can still swing my sword around, so therefore, I can still battle! Why aren't you letting me keep going?!"
"You're not mentally stable!" Professor Willow exclaimed, "We have other capable individuals! Stay back here, and we'll try to help you figure out what's wrong!"
"The world right now doesn't need mental stability, it needs me to perform my duty!"
"Z… You're going to get killed out there if you head out." Go looked up at me, "Just… don't go. We'll take care of this!"
"No! I don't care if my brain's damaged or whatever you guys say I am!" I yelled back angrily, "If you won't let me head out out… Then I'll just fight my way there on my own! I can take whatever comes, regardless of what you, or anyone else say!"
I checked again. There were absolutely no Pokemon within my bag.
"Um… Bea, I… I hate to inform you, but there may be a chance I have no Pokemon."
"You're kidding me, aren't you?"
"I lost my memory, anyway. I don't suppose I'd be able to actually fight properly…" I shrugged, "I don't think I'd be very good if I couldn't remember their names or anything like that."
"Fine. Tomorrow, I'm going with you." She sighed, waving Machamp back to her. She sat down on a nearby sleeping bag, "But I'm only willing to take you up just outside the town. If I go in, I'm sure to be spotted. Once there, you'll have to make your own way… wherever you wish to go."
"I know what I want to do." I nodded, "I'll see if they can fix up this armor."
"I dunno. Most people here don't know their way around any of the wires and stuff that are poking out. Your best bet would be a blacksmith." She flicked at an exposed braid of multicolored wires, "Besides, this thing looks really important. Maybe it'll be a better idea to remove the electronics for now to prevent drawing attention to yourself."
A blacksmith? Were things really that bad in this strange place…?
I nodded, reaching for the soaked armor, "Do you have something I could use to do so?"
She tossed me a multi-tool from her bag, "It's got a few screwdrivers and a knife. Be careful not to damage anything vital."
I nodded, reaching for the large orange shield-like object on my left arm first. All of a sudden, it clicked and whirred into life, clanking into place over my hand. A ball of flame appeared between the two prongs on the front.
I gazed into the fireball, curious.
"T-This should do it!"
I shut the panel on the weapon, flicking a few switches. The safeties had been deactivated.
I adjusted the large orange cannon on my arm, taking aim experimentally. When I pulled the trigger, the device flipped out swiftly, forming a fireball before my clenched fist between the twin prongs of the barrel.
So, this was what that Bazooka weapon did…
Strapped onto my body were the other two components of the prototypes; the flight pack from that green suit, and a light-blue spear. The entire ensemble was attached over the Z-Armor; the units were somewhat modular, and could be used independently of each other, according to my limited knowledge from Aile's spiels about the progress of weapon development.
Perfect for me. I was going to need all the help I could get.
I slipped on an oxygen tank from nearby. If I was going to be flying there, I would need to be able to breathe in the thin air, after all.
"WARNING! Z has gone rogue! He's making off with prototype weaponry! Any unit available! Stop him!"
The sirens kept whining. I turned to face the door, which was being slowly sliced away by a beam blade.
"Z! Don't do it! You can't do this!" Go called out
I growled, raising my cannon and taking aim at the window.
The door behind me exploded off its hinges. I turned back to face the group at the door, the visor on my helmet hiding my eyes.
"I'll see you in a bit."
To the sounds of protest, I pulled the trigger, running and leaping out the hole. Firing up the flight-pack, I sped away from the ship.
"NO!" Go cried out.
But her voice vanished in the rushing air.
I deactivated my radio. This was my fight, and mine alone.
Lysandre was dying. And I was to be his executioner.
I shook my head.
"Z-W-What is that?!" Bea exclaimed, "Quick, put it out! Is that dangerous?!"
"Relax. I've got this…" I muttered, "I hope…"
I flipped open a panel on the weapon. Luckily, most of the circuitry hadn't been burnt up and the switches were intact. Whoever this 'Aile' person was, they made these things to last… And also labelled them.
Spotting a faded label reading 'Power Cutoff', I took a deep breath and flipped the switch.
The fireball vanished with a hiss. The barrel folded up again, rotating back onto my arm.
But with that hiss, more memories flooded back into my head.
"Sir! A rapidly moving target is approaching the carriers!"
"We've lost engines 2 and 4! Unable to keep in the air!"
"Sir, we're going do- ARGH!"
These voices screamed out in my helmet's radio from all around me.
A crack sounded around me as I broke the sound barrier. I kicked my feet forwards, slowing myself with the feet thrusters.
"A Team Flare fleet…! They're probably going to attack more innocent civilians." I growled, "I'm not letting that happen!"
I looped through the skies, dodging a rainbow of lasers and pokemon attacks in the air. A torrent of flames blasted through me, but I powered through it, looping through the air.
"All of you… This is all of your faults…" I hissed, the world around me turning red. The HUD flashed and beeped, designating hundreds of targets, "That's why… That's why I'll make you all suffer like those you have attacked!"
"YOU DON'T DESERVE TO LIVE ANYMORE!"
I raised my bazooka, firing a shot directly into the hull of a carrier. Pulling out my sword in my free hand, I swooped down onto the deck.
Several Flare Grunts approached me.
I punched one in the chest, raising the green sword and slashing through his gut. Another attempted to put me into a headlock, but I fired up my back thrusters and set him alight. I rammed my cannon straight into another one, pulling the trigger repeatedly. Gunfire struck the meat shield, so I hurled him off the ledge of the ship and focused back on the rest of the Flare Grunts.
The remaining grunts began to back away nervously.
"What's wrong? Don't you want to take me down? Scared of me?"
I raised my cannon, the fireball on the end spinning and burning white hot.
With the blazing ball, they vanished. I sheathed my sword, firing a volley of blazing orbs at the bridge of the airship, before running down the deck. Gunfire streaked past me as I ran, periodically firing into the turbines on the edges of the craft.
The ship vanished into a cloud of orange, hot clouds. I leapt away, speeding skywards and raising my weapon once more.
A red flash before me. An Aerodactyl.
I punched forwards, trapping his neck between the prongs of the cannon.
"Really? Just one? Give me a break."
I pulled the trigger, watching the light of the flames illuminate the sky.
These guys were easy. They weren't my target…
But they made good target practice.
This vision left me more shocked than the ones before.
I was… a killer? Someone who just flew between those huge flying boats and destroyed them like that? Was that who I was?
What could I piece together from the… memories? Yes, memories I just had.
Well, I was a 'Flare Hunter'. I was fighting a group called 'Team Flare', who were led by a 'madman' from my description. I had some teammates…
There was a disagreement, and then I flew off to massacre the Flares. That intent to kill… the smell of adrenalin rushing through my whole body… I could feel it even now.
But… Was that all I was? Was I just a blind killer all the time? Or was this a single event?
How many people had I hurt in my rampage? Did they deserve me doing so?
I glanced down at the armor. It was capable of doing all that…?
Gently, I pried off my chestplate and back plating. The wings appeared to have been shattered, with only the charred remains of the struts that held them in place remaining. The helmet was missing completely; I hoped that didn't mean I'd have to go look for it.
After all, this was 'experimental techology'. Perhaps the people who made it would like it back intact.
Would they really accept it with all the blood on it, though?
Regardless… I had a job to do. I needed to decommission these weapons before getting them repaired and refitted for this strange land. I had a feeling that, if things were as bad as Bea said, I'd need all the help I could get.
"Hey, Bea… I've been getting some visions. I think I might be remembering some stuff."
She paused, removing her cloak and setting up a campfire, "What did you see?"
I bit my lip. I really didn't want to reveal everything to this girl now…
"I… um… was a Flare Hunter or something."
"Never heard of 'em. Sounds kinda weird." She went back to starting the fire. Now that her cloak was removed, I could see what she was wearing a little better.
She wore some sort of uniform. It looked like an athlete's uniform. Around one arm was a bandage, dried blood staining the outside. A dagger was tucked into a sheath on her shorts.
"Quit staring at me."
"S-Sorry." I muttered, "That uniform… are you part of a team or something?"
"It's Johto's official uniform for martial arts tournaments." She looked up at me with those grey eyes wistfully, "Once, I was one of the best in the region. I wore this while running my Gym here to remind myself of those days, a symbol of my own strength, if you will."
"But what are you doing here in Galar?"
"I came here seeking power, of course." She replied simply, "I heard of a region, far from any other, that all the strongest trainers came to. A region so strong, those there had gained abilities beyond a normal human."
"Y-You mean… The people aren't human?"
"Some aren't. They possess powerful magical abilities." Her eyes shone with a strange light, "I came here to learn how to cast spells."
My heart skipped a beat.
"You mean like… Like a wizard?"
"Exactly. They summon fire from their burning hearts. From their sweat and tears, they create typhoons. From their steadfast wills, mountains are raised." The fire burned ever brighter in her eyes, "If I could even master the basics of just one of those abilities, I could become the strongest of all martial arts masters! So that I would go beyond the impossible and right back again, I came here!"
She was now on her feet, a fist raised to the heavens.
"So… You're basically looking for a master to teach you these techniques?"
"Exactly!" She plopped herself back down again, "But when I got here, I couldn't find any. So I applied for a Gym location so I may be able to continue testing my might while waiting for that master. There didn't seem to be that many Gym Leaders so far, so I easily got the Fighting-type slot."
"So that's why you didn't want to follow the new restrictions. Because if you did, your skills couldn't be kept sharp by a variety of Pokemon."
"Not just that. The new laws also call for the extermination of magic users." She growled, "And that is another thing I cannot approve. Without them, how am I to break the boundaries?"
"And that lead to you being thrown out…"
She punched a wall, "I hate being this weak! I want to go up to whoever came up with these new rules and punch them in the face!"
"Regardless… For now, keep doing what you're doing. I'll see what I can do to get you to some civilisation tomorrow." She waved me aside.
I picked up the armor, "I'll do that. Thank you, Bea. You're being really helpful right now."
"Of course. Here, people tend to look out for number one all the time." She spoke gravely, "I try my best to buck the trend. After all, what good is strength if you can't help others with it?"
Turning back to the soggy mess of metal and wires, I smiled a bit. This unusual girl seemed to be quite a bit more than I had expected at first glance. Perhaps I would be able to from an alliance with her, just as I had back in Kalos…
No. Those people I saw in my memories were back there, waiting for me. Regardless of where I went in this new land, I'd hold them in my heart and remember that I was merely a visitor; nothing more.
I would do so until I returned to my homeland.
The night rolled in. But while others slumbered, some kept their hands at work.
Under the moonlight, the brown-haired girl sat atop a small hill, looking down at the bonfire below from under the shade of a mighty oak. Around it was a small crowd of people and Pokemon.
Her followers. Her responsibilities.
And… ultimately… her army.
Look at them, eating and relaxing. She just wished this peace could last forever. But alas, it was for naught. Tomorrow brought new challenges, new conflicts. Allowing herself to relax would grow complacency; a horrible quality for the one so many depended upon.
Her Pokemon, the white and orange bunny, hopped up to her, holding a berry. She allowed a smile to break across her face, before returning to the stargazing.
Meteors tore across the heavens. There were so many of them for the last few days. For what reason, she didn't know. But if the stories were true… People were wishing upon them. She watched the hopes and wishes light up the sky.
And in her own heart, she made a wish of her own.
For security. For peace. For victory.
The light faded away, leaving her with her memories and darkness.
"What is the use, Scorch?" she sighed, looking down at her Pokemon. The fire-type sat by her side.
"This world… It feels all wrong. These days, nobody says what they mean… All lies an' lip service." She sighed, "Forming these superficial alliances with each other, only to stab their fellows in the back when it benefits them. You understand, don't you, Scorch?"
The bunny gazed skywards, chewing on his berry quietly.
"I… I just wish I had somebody I could trust with me… the real me." She raised her hand, bringing a fireball to life on the tip of a finger, "…Somebody who won't push me away. Somebody to second-guess my battleplans, to help me through this war."
The fireball vanished in a burst of sparks.
"Scorch… I'm so glad for you…" she gazed down at the bunny, "You've been with me from the beginning. Will you stay with me, even until the very end?"
The bunny tilted his head.
"I… I know it's hard. But miracles don't just happen from nowhere. Some miracles you gotta make yourself." The girl reached towards the pale moon, tears running down her face, "I swear to you now, Scorch…"
"I will not die until all of us can relax in peace-true peace, where nobody has to be in hiding for what they are- under the shield of one who knows how to lead. Until that day…"
She rose to her feet, replacing the green beret upon her head. She wiped off the tears, shaking dirt and sticks off her kilt.
"Until then… I must be that Shield."
I pulled the cloak over my armor, hiking behind the Machamp through the woods.
"The next town here is Stow-on-Side." Bea sighed, "Once, I was the Gym Leader of this town. Now, it serves as a de-facto rally point for some of the king's troops."
"The king?" That was a subject I had been meaning to bring up.
"Yeah… Nobody likes him much, but he's the king, so he makes the rules." She angrily folded her arms, "He's noticed this of course, and uses his powers to crush out dissent at any means possible."
"And that's where all the rules come from."
"You got it. He's really more like a dictator. But while everyone agrees that, if you so much as say so to another person, you'll be dead in the blink of an eyes. He has a massive army that he uses to keep everyone in check."
"So it's a police state too?"
"I mean… for a certain definition…" She shrugged, "Point is, things are terrible here, and they aren't going to get much better unless somebody stands up to him."
"So… how do I get out?"
She stopped walking. The Machamp paused as well.
"No. You can't. No aircraft here for miles, and the watercraft here are wooden galleons and stuff. You'd need a large crew to get out, and nobody wants to try against the army's force." She spoke, "The only hope is to wait for the king to be removed from power."
"…So I'm stuck with no way of getting home."
"Guess so." She turned away, "…It wasn't always like this, though. There was once a working airport and modern facilities… But once the new guy was in power, he turned everything into serving his army."
We continued to walk. I was slowly coming to grips with the reality of the situation.
I was in a missing region. Ruled by a totalitarian monarch. With no way of returning home, I had only one real choice but to stay here and try to start up a new life.
…No. I refused.
Not when so many needed me back… Not when I had sins to pay for in Kalos.
There was only one option now. One I dreaded, but the only one I could see. There was no way the airports would simply let me sneak in and steal a plane-heck, the planes here probably couldn't cover the way back even if I knew where I was or how to fly one.
The only way to get back was to gather all the missing information and chart a course back.
The only way to do that was to access whatever information that royalty had. I knew it wasn't impossible, because I had done more incredulous feats before, based on my shattered memories. And I didn't think that
So… Crazy as it sounded, there was one, insane, foolhardy option left for me.
I had to overthrow a small region and escape. Easy.
"We're coming up on the town now. This is where our roads will part." Bea bowed politely.
I nodded, "Once again, thank you for helping me get this far. Perhaps we'll meet again?"
"Not likely. I've got to remain on the move. Just… Just promise me you won't do anything rash, okay?"
She smiled again, "Oh… and if you do get home, by some ridiculous chance… Can you see if you could find a way to burn this hell into ashes? I can't stand what's going on."
"T-That's a little harsh…"
"So is the kingdom." She turned away, leaving, "Goodbye, Z."
Her Machamp turned tail and left as well with a wave.
Once again, I was on my own.
Bea wasn't kidding when she said the towns were basically medieval. The entire place had brick and wood houses, candles on lamps outside. The streets were lined with all kinds of shops, the keepers wearing leathers and wool clothing that had been battered and dirtied with age.
It was a far cry from what I remembered from Unova, although the sandy roads reminded me a little of Lentimas...
A large horse pokemon pulling a cart past me almost knocked me over. The driver leaned over the side, yelling at me to 'Git off the road'. I quietly heeded, walking on the right side of the road once more.
Only for another cart to come barreling right towards me! I yelped, leaping aside and narrowly avoiding being run over.
So… that was a little strange.
Regardless, I continued onwards in search of a blacksmith.
At least, I would if a gloved hand didn't grab hold of my shoulder.
"Hold on, old chap." The voice spoke, "You aren't from 'round here, are you?"
I turned to face the man; a kindly looking man in plate armor. A crest of some sort was on his black breastplate, a broadsword upon his back.
"That armor you're wearing, is it registered? Do you have a licence for that?" he tapped on my breastplate.
"Good. Just be more careful around here." He eyed around suspiciously, "We've heard reports of resistance cells in this area, sir. If you spot suspicious activity, alert your nearest guard of such as soon as possible."
"I-I will, thanks." I replied shakily, walking away.
"Keep calm, carry on." He waved, continuing his patrol.
And thus my first encounter a Galar officer ended. He seemed polite enough.
However, the mention of resistance cells intrigued me. In spite of what Bea had told me about the lack of resistance from the public to the king's reign, it appeared that at least one group managed to hold out after all this time.
I gazed up at the smoky grey sky above. I remembered reading that during the industrial revolution, the skies would be similarly smoky on account of all the coal being burnt for fuel. Perhaps that was the source of the smog that covered this strange land.
In an odd sense, it added to its mystery. Each step I took allowed me to gaze upon more and more of the daily life in this land forgotten by time; from large chimneys poking out of bakeries being manned by fire-types to heat the ovens, to the large horse Pokemon that pulled the carts across the streets. A group of children ran by, giggling and playing with a plank of wood and a leather ball.
This place was quaint, actually. Maybe Bea was wrong. Perhaps this region would be all right after all.
…No, it would never be as good as my homeland. That fact alone kept me going. Regardless of what happened here, I needed to return home alive.
"WHAT?! I CAN'T DO THAT!" a boy's voice pierced the air.
I turned to face the source of the cry.
"You've been three weeks behind on your taxes, Mr Ebbin! This entire building of yours is the property of the Empire now!" the soldier yelled, shaking a boy about my age by his collar, "You are now trespassing on Empire property! You are to leave this facility right this instant!"
"This is ridiculous, man!" the boy yelled back in reply, "Surely there's gotta be a mistake! I paid all my taxes on time!"
"Not quite. You merely paid our silence." The man glared, "Don't forget that you're still under investigation by the empire for collusion with the rebel cell. To ensure that we do not… report your activites, I generously offered you an additional silence fund. Which was the only thing you afforded."
"S-So what?! That's just a tag you put on any sucker so you can make a little extra cash on the side! You know I barely make enough as it is!"
"ARE YOU DISRESPECTING AN OFFICER OF THE LAW? DISGRACEFUL!" the officer hurled him to the ground, "LEAVE THIS PLACE! I shall see to reporting you in due time."
The dark-skinned boy lay on the ground, quivering and shaking. The officer shook his head in disgust, turning and entering the building.
I rushed to his side, "Hey, are you okay?"
"I didn't even get to pick up my stuff from inside there!" the boy began to cry, "W-Wooloo! What will they do to him!?"
"Hey hey, calm down!" I patted his back, "I'm…"
This was a tough choice to make now. If I decided to intervene with this one kid, I'd most likely blow my cover. The other soldiers would come for me like moths to a flame. Regardless… I couldn't stand people who just pushed others around like that!
Was this a remnant of my own past?
I took a deep breath.
"I'm going to help you!"
"Unless you got 30 pounds, I don't think anything you can do will help!" the boy sobbed, "I-I still have everything inside that house!"
I gritted my teeth, "And it was repossessed… By the Empire? Is that a real estate agent or something?"
"No man… The king owns everything in the region. He only lets us live and work if we pay him exorbitant taxes for everything every month." He growled, wiping tears, "It's… It's…"
"Oh, like in Robin Hood." I muttered.
"Nevermind. Isn't this like a realtor sort of thing? Surely there must be some court you can contest this in."
"C-Court? You mean like the king's court, right?"
"No, a legal system. Like… Like… You have a judge, a jury… There's a lawyer…" I trailed off, looking at the boy's tear-filled eyes, "Ah, screw it. Kid, when you hear that guy scream, I want you to start getting everything important into your bags. We won't have much time, so take everything you absolutely need, okay?"
"A-Are you with the Siege?" his eyes suddenly widened, overjoyed, "Y-You're with the Siege, aren't you?! S-Scottie sent you!"
"Not really. I'm just a stranger who can't stand those types of people." I grinned, "And I'm going to have to take that guy out."
"D-Do you have a weapon?" he asked, rising to his feet.
"Look, just stick to your part of the plan."
I rose to my feet. And thus, the die was cast. Regardless of what I did now, I'd have to do so carefully to ensure that I remained mostly anonymous.
"Oi, what's all this about?" a voice behind me called, "Are you working with that suspected resistance member?"
…I hate my life.
I spun, swinging out my arm. The bazooka barrel unfolded, and I used this to strike the intruding officer over the head. His eyes went wide, before he fell to the ground, blood pouring from the impact wound.
"Screw it. GOGOGOGOGOGO!"
I kicked open the door, raising my weapon. As far as I knew, I had no close-range weaponry, and I wasn't particularly interested in burning down this poor guy's home.
A broadsword blade swung out, sparking as it struck my arm. I turned to face my opponent, who went wide-eyed.
It was the heat of the moment, okay? I pretty much just did and said the first thing that came to mind in that situation.
The people on the streets below glanced at the source of the cry. A massive hole was rapidly blown in one of the houses atop the hill, the flaming, screaming body of a soldier flying out and striking the ground repeatedly.
An officer on the streets below glanced down at the charred body, before running off to rally his comrades.
At the same time, a girl with a green beret looked up from the spices she was purchasing from a street vendor towards the source of the blast. With a sigh, she pulled on her cloak, raising her hood and reaching into her pocket for her mask.
"Wait, miss! You need to pay me!" the store keeper called out.
The girl paused, raising a finger to her chin in thought. That sounded like trouble up there, and an ally might be in danger…
Eh, what the heck. He could probably deal with it.
"Oh, 'pologies, lass." She slotted her axe away, pulling out a purse and beginning to count out coins, "By the by, tell yer friends here to git some snacks and hide in yon houses soon."
I glanced in shock at my smoking bazooka and outstretched firing arm.
"Hey, guy, you better hurry the heck up, I think I screwed up." I whimpered.
"Don't worry! I'm all done!" he yelled in reply, running down the stairs holding a large box in his hands and a fluffy white Pokemon on his shoulder, "I don't own too much, anyways!"
I peered out of the window, "Good, because we have company!"
Down the street, a decimal of soldiers were charging towards the house, swords at the ready.
I landed upon the dirt, my blade whizzing out from my waist once more. The Flares surrounded me, their own beam blades raised.
"Get. Outta. My. WAY!" I screamed, swinging into one's chest.
He fell back, dazed. I spun, kicking him to the ground with my boot before firing up the thrusters and roasting his chestplate. Ignoring the screams, I leapt away. The guns opened fire, ripping up the ground around me.
A large Hunter armed with an equally large cannon set his sights on me. I sped away, the wings on my back blazing a bright lavender. The brilliant white shot missed by inches.
Raising my sword, I leapt forwards, stabbing the man in the chest. Another attempted to sneak up behind me, but he was swiftly dealt with by a blast to the chest from my cannon.
And so on…
I didn't even see them as people anymore. They were an endless stream, a wave of bodies I was swimming through.
"I don't have time for you!"
I arose from the ocean of bodies, aiming my cannon downwards. I pulled the trigger, using the recoil to soar back into the air on a wave of screams and charred guts.
My target was right there. All I had to do was break into it.
Firing up my wings, I took off into the barrel of the beast.
I shook myself awake again.
"Wait for me here."
"You can't take them all on your own!"
I snatched up a dagger that had fallen on the ground, "I'll try my best. It won't be much good if both of us went down here."
"See you in a bit." I said, turning to leave.
"W-Wait! Mister! Don't do it!" the boy screamed, holding out his hand in an attempt to stop me.
But I had already shut the door.
I stood on the streets, dagger in hand.
"Oi! Drop the weapon!" one of the soldiers yelled.
I glared at them, "I'll get to the point. I'm dropping this when I die."
"Then I suppose you mean in a few seconds then! Get him!"
The soldiers charged me. I ran forwards with a war-cry.
I ducked beneath a sword's swing, raising my blade. It barely even cut through the armor of my foe.
"Hm. A good attempt, but a vain one nonetheless!"
A sword swung down on my head, slicing through my cloak but being stopped by the remains of my helmet. I leapt away, swinging out my knife and evaluating the situation.
Ten of them. Nine of them armed with broadswords, one armed with a large mace. Their black armor glinted in the sunlight, with the words 'GALAR ROYAL GUARD' written on the chestplate.
In the background, townsfolk scurried into buildings for safety.
So… This was what Bea meant, right? Though, to be honest, it may have been partially my fault that they wanted me dead…
Still, it just wasn't right to have this sort of thing happen on a daily basis! There had to be a better way than this!
Back to battle, Z. Right.
I raised my cannon, "Alright, that's it. I'm not playing games anymore!"
"What the heck is that?"
"You lot heard of a cannon?!" I pulled the trigger.
A click sounded, followed by a hissing sound and white smoke pouring out of the casing.
'D-Did it just… Are you kidding me?! It burns out NOW when I need it!?'
A blood-curdling scream filled the air.
The guards edged away, one crying in shock, "W-What?! The Witch is here!"
I looked up, spying a girl. She stood in the middle of the street before me, wearing a light-red kilt and grey sweater-like coat. Atop her head was a green beret, and over her eyes an iron mask. A cloak fluttered behind her like a cape, only to be blown away and wrap around a lamp-post.
Strangely enough, she was also holding a bag of various assorted produce and bottles at the same time.
"Ye souls are forfeit." She spoke, "I give ye these seconds fer yer last rites."
The guards watched, horrified, as she bent down slowly, placing the goods on the ground gently, before reaching behind her back and producing a tomahawk with a handle about the length of her arm. The outer edge of the axe suddenly glowed a bright yellow, air distorting around the edge as if it was a raging flame.
A white and orange rabbit-like Pokemon poked its head out of the bag, and she gave it a gentle pat on the head. In response, it hopped up onto her shoulder.
Without another word, she charged forwards, screaming and swinging her burning axe. Screams of terror sounded as those who were struck were promptly burnt into nothing but ashes. There was no ceasing, no hesitation from their attacker as she flicked her wrist, launching a battle-axe on a chain from her arm into the chest of one of her foes. With a wave of her arm, she flung him into the air.
She crouched slightly, the air wavering around her body, before leaping into the sky on a plume of smoke and steam. She swung her axe down, beheading her foe in mid-air, before clinging onto a lamp-post and leaping away.
Upon landing, one of them attempted to rush her with her broadsword, but the girl simply blocked the strike with her axes, kicking her to the ground before stomping on her chest repeatedly until a sickening crack sounded and blood stained her boots.
Her Pokemon didn't just sit around either. It was scurrying between the soldiers, disorienting and tripping them with its small size and high speed. It leapt into the air, wrapping its arms around the neck of a guard and biting down hard.
Blood poured out, and the man fell to the ground screaming. A bright flash of flame erupted from his neck, and he stopped moving.
Guard reinforcements rushed onto the scene with strange Pokemon of all kinds. I gripped my dagger with both hands.
The stranger briefly turned to face me.
"LAD, BEHIND YE!"
Without responding, she ripped out the sword from the hands of one of her fallen foes and hurled it to the ground before me.
I snatched up the blade. It was heavy, and I wasn't sure if I could even use it all that well. But a strange familiarity washed over me as I held it.
Oddly enough, the world seemed duller as I raised it to attack.
I spun around to face the man behind me. He swung down, striking my left shoulder. With a burst of sparks and rattling steel, the strike glanced off; at least my broken armor was good for that.
I swung, bludgeoning the man with my blade. Swinging again and again, I managed to figure out a sort of rhythm of dodging and swinging between the man's practiced strikes.
But eventually, I knew I had to end his life if I was to break out of the stalemate.
The sword couldn't slice through his chainmail plating. No exposed spots on the guard… except the face.
I raised my blade, screaming as I rammed the tip between his eyes. For a second, they went wide, before they were reduced to a mess of grey matter and blood.
He faltered, before falling onto his back. I gasped, stepping back at what I had done.
I'd killed a man…
"YE DON'T BELONG IN THIS WORLD!"
This cry took me right out of my shock.
That banshee of a girl was still there, hacking through her enemies. She was surrounded by a wall of men and women, each wielding bladed weapons of all eyes of hers burned brightly in spite of the surroundings. She spat at them, before swinging out her axe again, "You lot weren't part of my mission here! But now that you've seen my face…"
"I can't let you live!"
She leapt onto a foe, roaring before raising her fist and punching it down. Grey matter exploded out of his head when she struck. Using the corpse as a launching board, she leapt into the air, twirling her chain-axe over her head.
I couldn't act. I was just standing there in complete horror at the death taking place before my eyes.
The townsfolk had emerged from the buildings, gazing upon the sight of the massacre in awe and amazement. Some were even cheering the girl on.
The chain hooked around a nearby building. She swung over, raising her wrist and aiming it at her foes. She raised her hand and snapped her fingers.
A… literal fireball blasted out.
She could use fire-type moves…?!
The fireball ripped through several of the soldiers. Finally, she leapt off the building with a flip, performing a kick into the chest of one more before twisting around and cleaving her in half.
She dropped through the corpse in a three point landing. The last guard, realizing the rest of his comrades were dead, began to turn tail and run away.
Those amber eyes flicked up, catching sight of the escapee.
"COWARD, GAZE UPON YOUR FATE!"
She roared, launching her chain-axe out and wrapping it around the final foe. In the blink of an eye, the chain went from being grey to white hot, flash-boiling the poor soul alive still screaming.
The smoke cleared from the battlefield. There, in the middle of the street, stood the stranger.
"I warned ye…" She rasped, swinging up her chain-axe from the remains of the last corpse and returning it to her arm. The flames vanished from the axehead.
Screams came from the audience. Screams… of joy?
Indeed, cheering filled the streets, as people filed out of buildings. The girl whistled, giving a little wave to those around her, bowing, and walking towards her groceries.
She paused, mid walk, raising her second axe to her mouth and licked some blood from the blade before sliding it away.
"W-What kind of demon is she?!" I muttered, slowly backing away.
After picking up her paper bag she turned to face me, her mask reflecting the bright daylight. Her white Pokemon hopped up onto her shoulder as she walked towards me.
"Not bad. Not bad at all fer an ootsida." She spoke, her face unreadable through the steel mask she wore, "Say, how aboot ye join me little gang?"
The girl grinned, raising the mask to reveal brown eyes, "Aye. Scottie McShielde I be, and I deliver death that shall come to those who oppose the Steel Siege!"
My name is Charlie Willow.
I was a 'Flare Hunter', as a friend of mine put it.
At first, it sounded like a joking nickname.
Now, it's my job.
It had been two weeks since that fateful battle that potentially cost that friend's life. I had been hard at work, patching up whatever I could, answering for an investigation at points, explaining how we'd basically managed to become Kalos's most technologically advanced fighting force in the span of a few weeks.
The original most technologically advanced force weren't mentioned. They appeared to have suffered a bad case of 'being Team Flare'.
Aile is trying her best to make the ship-now the only one of its kind, considering the rest were destroyed- fly again for the recovery effort, now with actual aeronautics engineers providing input on the design process. Turns out Aile was something of a genius herself, having merely read the ship's manual and documentation before getting it up and running, so she wasn't even that much of a weight on the team. Theoretically, the ship can now reach even higher sonic speeds while ensuring everything inside is perfectly stable and unaffected thanks to 'G-Diffusion' technology the Flares were working on. Quite groundbreaking stuff…
X had to answer for a lot in court, but ultimately it turned out that mind control manipulation was to blame for some of his actions as a result of some of Xerosic's admissions. The latter is now in therapy for what he did, and…. Well, X isn't. That's slightly concerning, given what happened to you and how much Y cares for him, I just know he can pull through this.
Sycamore has enlisted the aid of some of the region's aeronautics, environmental and geographical researchers to extrude out the flight path your body took upon re-entry to the planet. It seems so insane… yet the fact remains you are in possession of some of the region's most powerful hand-held weaponry, strapped all over the body.
And that is what you chose to run away with. For that reason alone, it seems the whole region is after you now.
The plan now is once the large carrier ship is complete, we set out on it with a complement of Kalosian military units in search of your body. The military units were a strange addition to a search and rescue mission, but the decision to include them was added a few weeks ago on account of… some reason I'm not allowed to know.
I fear that it is because they don't trust you.
It seems wrong. They see you as a weapon.
Yet, I just want you back because you are… special to me?
How do I describe my feelings? Is this obsession? Am I wrong to feel this way? After all, I wasn't in the right state of mind when I first followed you…
So do I actually love you? Or was I lying to myself?
Enough writing. I need to get to bed for the next phase of my role.
Somehow, I have this strange feeling, though. In spite of what has transpired, I have the strangest feeling in my heart that you are still alive, fighting to survive wherever you landed.
…Charlie Willow, out.
Flare Hunter Ƶ
-Act Two: POWER-
At base camp, when we saw that green comet streak across the sky, I made a wish upon it just like the stories say.
Maybe this confused lad is the one it sent to grant my wish.
Perhaps this was the miracle we were searching for.