Okay! I finally updated this chapter! Believe me when I say I wanted this up earlier, but I had tests, and homework, and work work, and projects to do! And none were fun for me! BUT! With my summer break coming up, I will have time to update more at a faster pace!
... is what I want to say, but I signed up for summer classes, so that is partially a lie. Then again, it depends on how the class goes.
Other than that, I am also co-writing with a friend in a fanfiction story and I am really loving how it is going so far. If you guys are Persona 5 fans, I recommend you read that story. It is called P5: Phantom Drive.
Now... let's start this new chapter!
Disclaimer: I do not own Fire Emblem or Pokemon. I also do not own the opening.
(Grima had his clutches on a fallen Ylisstol. He opened his mouth to reveal a colorful orb that split into different color lights. A map of Ylisse appeared in the background and the lights all landed on different places. Camera zooms in to the blue light)
It used to feel like a fairy tale
Now it seems we were just pretending
(Lucina is seen walking in the woods with her mask on
A strong wind blew and removed the mask from her face.
Lucina turned and saw her friends behind her, whom all disappeared as Roxy appeared in their place)
We'd fix our world
Then on our way to a happy ending
(Lucina and Roxy continued to walk in the woods, unaware of Coral watching over them as she took her leave.)
Then it turned out life
Was far less like a bedtime story
(Scene changed to Ylisstol in the castle, where Chrom and Robin danced in the throne room)
Than a tragedy
With no big reveal of the hero's glory
(Camera zoomed in on Chrom's mark. Color changed and camera zoomed out, changing the scene to Lucina facing Grima)
And it seems we weren't prepared
(Scene changed back to Coral in her burning village, her family standing before her.)
For a game that wasn't fair
(Camera zoomed around them and replacing Coral's family was a cloaked man, with six shadowed Pokemon by his side)
Do we just go home?
Can we follow through?
(Scene changed in Plegia, as camera moved from Aversa, to Validar, to a cloaked Plegian in Robin's clothes to Grima behind them.)
When all hope is gone,
There is one thing we can do
(The Fell Dragon let out a loud roar, summoning many Risen by their side, all who charged in to fight)
Let's just live!
Day by day and not be conquered by our sorrows
The past can't hold us down
We must break free
(Chrome and Gladiknight fought against a pair of Risen Chief, with Robin and Sparky providing backup
The Shepherds all fought against Risen of the same class as them in pairs, with their Pokemon fighting alongside them)
Let's just live
Just one day let's forget about our problems
Let's fall in love with life
And just be free
(Scene changed again to Lucina's friends from the future, all fighting off against their own Risen)
The sun will never fade
(Lucina and a boy wearing the same cloak as Robin's killed a chief together)
The night won't steal our day
(The scene changed to the future kids in the peaceful woods, looking at the camera)
Let's laugh and dance and love and let's just live
(Scene changed again to Chrom, Robin, and Coral looking at the sky from their castle balcony, with the title appearing)
Last time, Panne, Olivia, Kazuki, their Pokemon and Jack set off on a small quest to find the stone that turns taguel into human. Along the way, they met up with some strangers called Varrick, Razor and Wrecker. At first, they seemed to be neutral, then they were seen as allies, but when Varrick let out that they knew about the human-stone, it was then everything went wrong. And things got even worse, as a stranger came and kidnapped Kazuki. Will the group save the girl? Or will their conflict with one another destroy themselves first?
After Kazuki's kidnapped, the Shepherds ceased their fight with Varrick and his Pokemon to search for the missing child, the weakened Yasu in Olivia's arms.
"Where are you?!"
Everyone was worried about the little girl, all wondering what was happening to her at the very moment and why the kidnapper took her. Out of all of them, there was one who was worried the most.
"Kazuki! Kazuki!" Panne was frantic ever since Kazuki was taken. She turned into her beast form, and searched every nook and cranny of the cave for the girl. She even went as far as to ram herself into cave walls every once in a while, in hope of finding some kind of secret entrance.
Jayne was worried about her trainer's situation and placed a hand/paw on her shoulder. Instead of calming down, however, the taguel reverted back to her human form and slapped her hand away.
"Don't touch me!" she shouted. "Right now, Kazuki could be in danger! I have to get to her!"
"Hey now. We're just as worried about Kazuki as you are," Jack told her. "You don't have to take it out on Jayne!"
"Shut up, Jack! Like you even know how worried I am for her!"
"Of course I know! She's the daughter of my trainer's friends! Plus she's a kid! Believe me, I know how scary Yuuki gets when it comes to her daughter!"
'Times like this I wish I know what they're saying,' Olivia thought, practically listening to a one-sided conversation.
"You think I'm scared of some manspawn?! That's not even close to why I'm worried!" Panne shouted at Jack.
"Then why?!" he demanded.
"That's for me to know! Now if you're going to keep wasting my time, then you all continue to the human stone!" Without another word, Panne left the group.
"Panne, wait!" Olivia called.
Unfortunately, the taguel wasn't stopping or returning to them.
The dancer turned to the Weavile and asked, "What did you say to her?"
"I just said that she should calm down," he answered. However, since he was speaking in his language, Olivia didn't understand a word. She sweat dropped at the realization.
'Why did I ask?' she wondered.
"Hey," came a voice none of them wanted to hear. Olivia and the Pokemon all turned and saw Varrick approaching them. "Look... About what happened back there-"
"Why are you here?" Olivia interrupted. "Things would've been better if you hadn't followed us! Kazuki wouldn't have gotten kidnapped if you didn't attack us!"
"Look, I understand that-"
"You do not! This is practically the reason why you were banished form Ferox! You never thought about anyone but yourself! It's bad enough you got the warriors under you killed, but now a child's going to die because of you!"
While Olivia was shouting her heart out at Varrick, blaming him for what happened to Kazuki, both Jack and Jayne just looked at her in shock, unaware that the shy dancer would have this side of her. Cori hasn't been with them long, so she wouldn't know about Olivia's nature. Much.
"I know it's my fault, woman!" Varrick shouted, frightening the dancer a little, just enough to stop her from talking. The guy then flushed a little, avoided eye contact, scratched the back of his head and said, "Look. I'll help you look for the brat, if it's enough to make up for it."
"And why should we trust you? After what happened earlier?" Jack asked.
"Assuming you're asking me why I should be trusted, well I helped you guys out earlier when you were surrounded by the Risen, didn't I? Besides..." He pointed to his Pokemon companions. "These two will continuously get on my case if I don't help you find her."
Both Razor and Wrecker sweat dropped at the second half, knowing how much of a lie that was.
Olivia turned away with a huff and said, "Well, I guess you'll be forgiven if you help us find Kazuki..."
This time it was the Shepherds Pokemon's turn to sweat drop at her action.
"Forgiveness? I never thought I would ever need one from you," Varrick said.
"Not me," the dancer corrected. "I mean Panne. I do care for Kazuki, but Panne cares more about her in a way you'll never understand." With that, the dancer continued on down the path Panne went, resuming the search. Jack, Jayne and Cori followed after her.
Varrick sighed and also followed them, with Razor and Wrecker not far behind.
Meanwhile, with Panne, she had been sniffing the air for Kazuki and the napper's scent and her ears up and alert for any heartbeats. As she did so, she was having an unpleasant trip down the memory lane.
It was years before she assisted the Shepherds in saving Emmeryn's life. She was in the woods with her group of taguel, hiding from some human hunters or slave merchants. With her was a small, male taguel, her brother, Kayne.
"Big sister... I'm scared," he whispered, not wanting to be found by the men.
"It's okay. Big sister is always here for you, Kayne," she vowed, patting him on the head to calm him.
Time passed after that. Every once in a while, if there was a human nearby, the group all hid somewhere in the woods to avoid being seen by them. Other than that, though, things had been peaceful for them. That is... until one day...
"Kayne! Kayne! Where are you?!" Panne cried out.
There was fire everywhere, caused by a human hunter as a mixed group of hunters and slavers hunted down the panicking taguels. Some of the frightful creatures got hit by daggers and magic and were captured. Some were caught in traps that the hunters had set up. Some... Let's just say they were extremely unlucky.
Panne, on the other hand, was one of the very few who didn't panic as much as most. Or to be more precise, she wasn't panicking over being found by humans nor the possibility of getting caught by them. She was panicking... because she couldn't find her brother.
"Kayne! Answer me!" she shouted. Due to the flames, the screams, the laughters, and the fast heart race, however, she wasn't able to hear or sniff out her lost sibling. And it didn't help that she was running from their pursuers too.
After somehow managing to avoid capture and death, Panne went back to the hideout, which was now burned down from the flames. She searched amongst the many corpses left behind, hoping to find her brother alive and not captured by the man spawn. But alas... amongst the many corpses, she was not able to find her one and only relative, be it dead or alive. All she found... was her brother's black bandana.
*END OF FLASHBACK*
'I'm not letting it happen again,' she thought, running faster than before. 'I refuse to let another die on my watch!'
With Kazuki and her kidnapper, the former got knocked out by the latter for screaming and struggling the way she did when they got away from the other Shepherds earlier. As the napper ran, he ended up at a dead end.
He placed a hand on one part of the wall, which was pushed deeper in, and revealed a hidden door. As soon as he walked in, the door closed, encasing the room in darkness. Torches on walls were then lit up and revealed a path for the kidnapper.
He walked down the path until he entered a room, where five other cloaked people like him were.
"Well look who finally decided to show?" said one of the five. "You're late, newbie."
"Don't bother with him," another one of the five spoke. "Besides, he's not that new anymore."
"Guy's always going to be 'newbie' in my eyes if he keeps acting this way."
"Enough," demanded another one of the five, this one sounding much older than the others. "We're already wasting time as is." To the kidnapper, he then said, "Refrain from losing track of time. We don't have much of it left."
"I understand," he answered. "Apologies for the wait. However, I believe I have the solution to our problem." This got everyone's attention.
"And how is that, newbie?" the first of the five questioned.
"The people before us had created the stone to make us humans, correct? What did they use again?"
"Many questionable things. Herbs, animal parts, dark magic..." a female amongst them listed.
"But were there any that is human?"
"Not of what I remember... Why?"
The kidnapper tossed Kazuki to the floor, unpleasantly waking her up and shocking his allies.
"Ow ow ow... That hurts..." she whined. Looking up, the child ninja noticed she was surrounded by many strangers. To be surrounded in a dim lit room with a group of unknown people frightened her. "W-Who are you guys...?"
"A child?! I never thought you'd ever..." the second cloaked man spoke.
"If you brought her here, don't tell me..." trailed off the last member, another female.
"No one has tried it yet, have they? We know how the ritual is done, and we still have the incomplete Humanstones," the kidnapper reasoned. "These stones are suppose to make us humans. Shouldn't it make sense for there to be something human in it to make it work?"
"That's like saying the Beaststones were used with animal parts. Or our's for that matter. That's why you're always the newbie," the first man claimed.
"No, it may make sense," the elder said. "Besides, as he said, this is something no one has done yet. And time is currently not on our side. It won't hurt to try."
"I feel sorry for the child, even though she's human," the second female said.
"Well, it can't be helped. Besides, think of it this way. She won't die in vain, if this works," the first female reasoned.
At the word 'die', Kazuki flinched and tried to escape. Instantly, her kidnapper held her down, while she struggled to be released. "If we're to do this, we must do it now. There are others here. And I doubt the Risen guarding the entrance is going to hold them off for long, should they find it." They all nodded in agreement and prepared the ritual.
Back with majority of the Shepherds and Varrick's team... So to say, it was deja vu all over again for them, for they were surrounded by Risen once again.
"So this is where the rest of them were," the banished Ferox warrior said, with a hint of an amused tone.
"This is not the time to be amused!" Olivia scolded.
"You have one odd human, you know that?" Jack said to Razor, as they both took down a Risen Fighter.
"Believe me, I know," he agreed.
Jayne jump kicked a Risen away. "I wonder how Panne is doing," she wondered, hoping that she wasn't fighting off a group herself, alone.
"I'm sure she's fine," Cori assured, using her Revelation Dance at a couple of the undead soldiers.
"I hope so." As Jayne faced off a Risen Myrmidon, she was unaware of a Risen Mage preparing a fire magic at her. "Yasu, are you okay?!"
"Y-Yes!" the young Normal-type answered. Earlier, the Eevee regained conscious.
Wrecker, who was taking down a pair of soldiers, noticed this. "Hey! Look out!"
Just as the mage was about to fire, he was axe-kicked in the head by a certain taguel.
"Guys!" Panne cried out.
"Bout time you returned, taguel!" Varrick shouted.
"Save it! Kazuki's nearby! And these guys are in the way!" Enraged, Panne went into her beast form and fought against a handful of Risen, ferociously killing them before they could land a hit on her.
Simply hearing the news that Kazuki's near and that the Risen were actually preventing them from advancing made the rest of the Shepherds hasten their fight, killing off the Risen at a faster pace than before.
With Kazuki, the child was tied up to a pole and gagged, watching in fear as the six cloaked people practically prepare for her death. She tried to break free, but the restraints were too tight and she didn't have a weapon of any kind to help her, not like she was even allowed any. Not only that...
"Try anything funny and I'll break you," threatened the cloaked man that insulted her kidnapper.
'He's too scary to do anything...' she thought, crying anime tears. 'I'm scared... Someone, help me.'
"Hey. This ritual isn't going to work if she's dead. Stop scaring her," said her napper.
"Huh? It'd be her own fault if she dies. She shouldn't try anything funny to begin with," the guy said. "Besides, you shouldn't have gotten a kid in the first place if you think this is going to work."
"Does it look like I have the time to go to a village full of them and bring back an adult, idiot? We're running out of it, or has the side effect already gotten to you?"
This caused the two cloaked guys to glare at each other, wanting so hard to take down the other person.
"Stop your meaningless squabble," the elder ordered. "Preparation is almost complete. Go to your spots. And bring the girl, too."
The two did as told and dragged Kazuki to the ritual circle. The child tried to fight against their grips, but failed miserably and was pushed to the floor.
"Now then. Let us begin." The six figures took their spot on the edge of the circle, arms raised as the leader began to chant.
Outside the room, the group was still occupied with the Risen. The undead army was coming at them like a swarm of cockroaches; when one goes down, two more comes around. To the Shepherds, it was like the final battle of the war against Plegia all over again, especially when they were feeling fatigued from fighting for so long.
"There's just no end to them!" Panne growled.
"For once, I agree," Varrick said, just as annoyed as she about the Risen.
"The Pokemon are getting exhausted too," Olivia informed, as Cori fell on her butt in exhaustion and Razor started to breath heavily.
Jack gritted his teeth in slight anger, blaming himself for his selfishness. If he hadn't spoken about his problem, they wouldn't be in this mess, and Kazuki wouldn't be taken.
As a Risen approached him with its sword, Jack prepared a Metal Claw. However, he was already at his limit, and the move faded away. Instead, the Weavile caught the blade in between his claws and tossed it away. He then jabbed both his claws through the zombie and killed it. Jack was started to get tired of the fighting and fell on his knees. Unknown to him, a Risen fighter raised its axe to attack him from behind.
Olivia noticed this. "Jack, look out!"
He turned and saw his assailant swinging the weapon down at him, going for the kill. Suddenly, the axe broke and the Risen was cut to pieces. The same happened to all the Risen near the group. There, floating between the Shepherds and the undead army, was Kartana.
"Aren't you... Coral's Pokemon guard?" Panne asked.
"Leave this to me! You guys go!" it told them.
"Am I right in guessing that paper thing is telling us to go on ahead while it takes care of them?" Varrick asked.
"That's what it looks like," Olivia agreed.
"Thanks!" Panne quickly thanked, already going on ahead.
"Wha-?! Panne!" The rest of the group followed, leaving Kartana with the Risen.
When the group got to a dead end, they skid to a stop.
"A dead end?" Varrick questioned.
"Not entirely," Panne corrected. "I hear voices on the other side."
"There has to be a secret passage around here, then," Jack suggested.
"Agreed. Scan the walls! Hurry!" At the taguel's words, the group feel the walls for anything suspicious.
Jack noticed one part of the wall seemed different from the rest and placed his claws on it. The wall sunk and revealed a hidden passage. "Found it!" he informed. At that, the group turned to the door.
"A secret passage!" Olivia exclaimed.
Just then, a familiar scream was heard.
"That's Kazuki!" Panne shouted.
"Kazuki!" Yasu cried out in worry.
"Come on!" At Varrick's insistence, the group hurried through, hoping to get to the child in time.
Down below, Kazuki was screaming in great pain from the ritual as the people around her continued their chant. The incomplete Humanstone in front of her started to glow and floated off the ground.
"Kazuki!" came a faint shout.
"They got through?!" questioned the insulter. "Newbie! You underestimated them!"
"I said I doubt the Risen would hold them off long," the kidnapper corrected.
"Enough. Either you will help continue the ritual or you will keep them distracted," the elder told them. "We don't need all six of us at this point."
At that, the two and one of the females ran out while the other three continued the ritual.
Panne, Olivia, Varrick and the Pokemon continued their way down the dark path, picking up their pace each time they hear Kazuki's painful cries.
Panne's ears twitched, as she heard something coming their way. "Get down!" At her shout, everyone lied on the ground, as a few knives were thrown past them.
"Tch. Missed," came a voice. The group looked up and saw the three cloaked figures standing in front of them.
One whiff, and Panne bared her fangs at the group. "YOU!" She charged in at the trio, mainly the person who took Kazuki. The guy jumped back last second, avoiding her claws. While irritated that she missed him, Panne then swiped at his two companions near her, both who also moved back and avoided her.
"Whoa! She's one angry taguel!" said the kidnapper's insulter.
"That anger will be her downfall," the female of the three stated.
"I'll handle her. You two take care of the others," Panne's target said. Before either of them could say anything in response, especially the insulter, the kidnapper engaged combat with Panne.
"Hey! Why do you get to have all the fun?!" the guy questioned.
"Want fun?" asked Varrick, as he suddenly got at his face. "I'll give you fun." Next thing the guy knew, the banished Feroxi warrior swung his chipped blade at him, in which the cloaked figure responded by unsheathing his own sword in time to block the strike. The force behind it, however, was powerful enough to knock him away.
The female faced down against Olivia and the Pokemon. The pinkette raised her sword with trembling hands, not knowing how strong her opponent was. "You're frightened, I see," the cloaked female stated. "You're scared that you might die from this battle. If you're so scared of death, then you should just leave and forget you ever even stepped foot. However, since your friends are here and we have the little girl, you're willing to go past that fear to save her. For that I commend you."
Olivia was quite shocked at how on-point the claims were, but tried not to show it.
"However... like your taguel friend with her anger, your courage will be your ultimate downfall." At those words, the unknown female rushed at the dancer, pulling out a lance from her person as she did so.
The speed she went was too fast for Olivia to see, as Jack suddenly got in between them and caught the pointy weapon in his claws.
"You're opponent is me!" he shouted, managing to push her back.
"... So be it," she said, getting ready to fight against the Weavile instead.
"Jack!" Olivia cried out.
"Leave this to us! You bring the other Pokemon to Kazuki! She's in huge danger!" Jack told her in his language.
Though she didn't quite understand what he had said, the dancer knew what the Sharp Claw Pokemon's intentions were. "I got it. Let's go!" At that order, Olivia led the rest of the Pokemon further down the hall.
"You're not going any further!" the insulter claimed, attempting to cut in front of them, when Varrick got in his way first.
"Where do you think you're going? You're opponent... is me!" He swung his sword at him, forcing him back once more.
As he skid to a stop, from the shadows under his hood, his eyes widened in shock as he stared at Varrick. 'What the hell is he? There's no way a human can ever be this strong!'
Varrick noticed Razor and Wrecker staying behind while Olivia and the other Pokemon left. "You two go with them. No doubt there are others up ahead." With his command, the other two Pokemon followed after the group.
Seeing the two strong-looking Pokemon leaving, Varrick's opponent let a small smirk form on his face as he said, "You're letting them go instead of staying here? You must be extremely overconfident there."
"Shut up," the ex-Feroxi said, glaring at the man in front of him. "And attempt to make my day."
Hearing those words with the face he was making extremely frightened the cloaked man.
With the other half of the cloaked figures, Kazuki was still screaming in unbearable pain. As she screamed, the remaining cloaked female tilted her head away from the child.
The other remaining young, cloaked male next her noticed this and said, "I know this is unbearable to see, but we have to do this," he whispered.
"I know. I know but... It's too cruel," she whispered back.
"Life is full of cruelty."
"Kazuki!" came Olivia's voice. The cloaked figures, minus the leader, looked to the entrance in the room and saw Olivia and the Pokemon enter. The dancer's eyes widened when she saw the state the child was in. "Hey! Leave Kazuki alone! Cori, Revelation Dance!" At her order, the Oricorio produced flames from her wings and fired at the cloaked figures.
The female pulled out a book and casted a fire spell of her own at the attack, cancelling it out.
"So it seems some of you got past the other three," the leader spoke. "No matter." To his remaining members, he ordered, "You two, take care of them. I will be enough from here." With that, the two other cloaked figures engaged in combat with the Shepherds. The female by firing another fireball, and the male by firing a pair of arrows at them.
Jayne used a Quick Attack and intercepted the arrows, breaking them before they even come close to killing her friends, while Cori used Mirror Move and intercepted the fireball with her own.
"Why don't you stay out of our way?" the archer questioned.
"And let you kill Kazuki?! Never!" Olivia answered. "Stop this ritual and give her back to us!"
"If we say yes, are you willing to take her place?" the cloaked mage asked, confusing the dancer. "We need a human for this ritual. If you don't want the child to die, are you willing to take her place then?"
"A human? Then why wouldn't any of you volunteer?! You're all human, aren't you?!"
"Us?" The archer and the mage looked at each other at the claim. Next thing the dancer and the Pokemon knew, both removed their hood... and god, were they shocked with what they were seeing. "Does this look at all human to you?" Both their faces were partially rabbit, similar to Panne's beast form, only more monstrous-looking.
"You're... You're all taguels? But why do you look like that?!"
"This is what happens... when a taguel uses an incomplete Humanstone," the mage explained. "We were humans for a short while. But after that, the beast part of us often takes control and go on a killing spree. After that, this is what becomes of us! And if you think that's bad, we have a time limit! On the midnight of the 12th full moon after we're exposed to this curse... we're forever to become those bloodthirsty monsters! Completing the Humanstone may be the one thing, the only thing, besides death, that can save us! And according to our new member, the only way to complete it... is with a human sacrifice."
"But there has to be another way!" Olivia tried to reason.
"We already tried. The taguels before us already tried! There is no other way. And as much as it pains me to say it, either you let us sacrifice the child or you sacrifice yourself in her place."
Olivia was conflicted. After hearing their story, she wanted to help them somehow. But she didn't believe that sacrificing a life was the way to do it. "There has to be another way!" she shouted once more.
The two taguels raised their weapons. "So be it," the archer said, as they fired more fireballs and arrows at the group.
Back with the majority of the group back in the halls, things were going well... for Varrick at least. Panne was head-to-head with the taguel that took Kazuki, and Jack was having a tough time with his opponent.
Now limited to a few more attacks, the Weavile did the best he could against the unknown taguel, avoiding the jabbing attacks and slashes from her lance and delivering some swipes whenever he had the chance. For the most part, however, they were at a standstill.
"You're better than I thought," the cloaked female stated. "I thought those Risen out there tired you out greatly. I see I greatly mistaken."
Jack gritted his teeth, sensing that his opponent will be stepping things up a notch.
"Now then... to go serious." She tossed her weapon away and took out something from her back. It was a lance, with the head being bolt-shaped. Jack could've sworn he was seeing sparks on the blade.
'A magical weapon, is it?' the Weavile thought. 'Now I really do have to be careful.'
The girl charged at him once more. Jack narrowly leaned to the side to avoid getting stabbed by the blade. It was then, he realized he made a mistake in doing so, as the lance unleashed shocks of electricity, hitting the Dark-type and weakening him even more.
"What... was that...?" Jack muttered in pain.
"Surprised?" the female asked. "Or rather... shocked?"
The Pokemon inwardly groaned at the horrible pun. When he opened on eye, he saw the lance above him and quickly rolled out of the way, avoiding a stab to the head. He took a deep breath and, with all his power, unleashed a powerful Blizzard. The move was strong enough to freeze his opponent's legs and blow her hood off. One look at her face, and Jack gasped in shock.
The girl let out a small shriek as she quickly tried to put her hood back on. Note: tried. The Blizzard's freeze effect also got to her hands, freezing them on her lance. Clenching her teeth from the cold, she glared at the Weavile.
"So now you know... HUH?!" she shouted, losing her previously blank tone. "This is why we need that kid!"
Over to Varrick, he was easily handling his cloaked enemy. No, to be exact, he was toying with him. Each strike the unknown taguel threw, the human easily blocked, with a smile on his face.
"Hey, come on, now! Where'd all that bravado go?!" the human questioned.
"S-Shut up!" the cloaked figure shouted, throwing yet another swing at the guy.
Varrick swung with his own blade, this time breaking the opposing blade. The cloaked taguel was shocked and lost for words, distracted long enough for Varrick to come up and hit him away from his spot and into a wall... right between Panne and her opponent.
"Dammit man-spawn! Were you trying to hit me?!" she accused.
"I didn't really hit you, did I?!" Varrick retorted.
Before Panne could say anything in return, Kazuki's kidnapper said, "I see you've changed." Confused, she looked his way and, from the corner of her eyes, noticed Varrick's opponent had his hood removed. Her eyes widened in shock when she saw the face under it. It seemed human, but some part of his face seemed morphed. And by the looks of his ears, Panne could tell; this man was a taguel.
"A... A taguel?" she breathed out. "No. How can that be?!" Her ears perked up slightly as she realized something. Something that didn't bother her much with all her worrying over Kazuki. "You..." she spoke to the person who took the child. "Remove your hood."
"And why would I do that?" he asked.
"Because I want to know something."
"... Make me." At those two words, the kidnapper resumed the fight between them.
Unlike before, Panne wasn't fighting him with anger; this time, she was fighting with determination, one for finding out who, exactly, was under that hood. At some point, the guy threw a punch in which she ducked under and quickly grabbed him by the collar and tossed him over her shoulder. Her eyes widened when she saw what his face was. It may be half monstrous like the others, but the human side of his face? How can she ever forget?
"You can't be... How is this possible?" she spoke.
"Surprised?" the kidnapper asked. "Well, I guess you have every right to be. It's been years since we last saw each other after all."
There was no doubt in her mind now. The voice, the scent, the face. She couldn't believe it, but he was right in front of her, alive and well. For the most part, that is.
Kazuki's kidnapper... was Panne's long, lost brother...
She shook her head in disbelief. "No. No, this is a lie. A lie! My brother would never do any of this! Kidnapping a child?! He's too kind for that!"
"Correction: I was too weak!" Kayne retorted. Panne's eyes widened even further, for she had never, in her whole life, ever, heard her brother raise his voice like he did. "All my years, hoping we would ever find peace with the humans as taguels, and it never happen! Nor will it ever. The day those hunters and slave merchants came... They took me. I was crying out for you, sis. You were several feet away from me, you PROMISED you'll always be there for me! But that was just an empty promise, because you ran far ahead from me, your own brother, just to save your hide! I was this close to being sold as a slave had I not been saved by other taguels! Ones that had the solution to our problem! Well, for the most part, at least, as you can clearly see. We had tried to find ways to complete the Humanstone, used whatever magic we can find, whatever ingredients we can get our hands on, and it was then that it occurred to me... Of what we found and used, there was one way we haven't tried yet. Would the Humanstone be complete... if we used a human sacrifice?"
To hear those words coming out of his mouth, Panne didn't want to hear or believe any more of it. "You're lying!"
"I speak the truth! Unlike a sister who turned coward on her own brother!" She flinched at the claim. "And besides that, you're already too late." The slight fear turned into confusion, before she remembered why she fought Kayne in the first place. "The ritual is almost good as done."
"KAZUKI!" She quickly rushed to where the child was, the screams starting to get faint.
"No you don't!" Kayne tackled his sister down. "I'd rather sacrifice a life than live out my own as a monster I was not meant to be!"
"Kayne! Let me go! This isn't you!" Panne tried to reason, as she tried to get him to release her. Unfortunately, his grip on her was too tight and time was being wasted.
"It is now. Thanks to you."
Back in the room below, Kazuki was starting to lose strength to even scream, as she felt her life slowly fading.
Olivia and the Pokemon noticed this and the former tried to reason with the two taguels blocking them again. "Please! We can find another way! We have people back in Ylisse who can help you!"
"No human will ever accept us for who we are, so stop trying to lie," the archer said. "If you wish to keep stalling, be our guest. The ritual will be complete soon. All we need to do, is stall you guys a little longer while our leader is making the finishing touches."
A pair of familiar roars was then heard as Wrecker and Razor both appeared from behind Olivia's group and hit them both with a Heavy Slam and a Take Down.
"You two..." the dancer breathed.
"Sorry for the lateness!" Wrecker apologized.
"Hurry to the kid!" Razor shouted.
Yasu nodded in understanding and gave Olivia a push to Kazuki's direction. The human understood what was going on and rushed to the child. "Thank you!" she said as she passed the two heavy hitters.
"Hey!" The mage taguel shot out another fireball at the dancer, which got intercepted by Razor's Slash.
"Where are you looking at?" the Ursaring questioned with a smirk.
"Your opponents are over here," Wrecker told the two. "Don't get in their way!"
The two taguels mentally cursed their luck, knowing they couldn't do anything to help their leader at the moment. Well, not like he needed one at this moment.
As Olivia's group ran towards the elder cloaked taguel, she raised her sword up in an attempt to knock him out with the flat side of the blade and stop the ritual. What she didn't expect, as she swung it down, was a barrier of some sort protecting him, as she got pushed away from the guy.
"What?" she questioned.
The other Pokemon tried attacking him themselves, but ended up with the same result as her.
"What is this?" Jayne gasped.
"How can our attacks not reach him?" Cori followed.
"You think we don't have a countermeasure against this?" the leader asked. "How stupid do you think we are? Now watch... as I complete the Humanstone!" He chanted an incantation, one different from before. Kazuki's body and the stone started to glow as the child screamed even louder, feeling a horrible, burning sensation all over her body.
"STOP! Please stop it!" Olivia cried out.
Unfortunately, the guy didn't stop and continued the chant.
"HEY!" Heads turned and everyone saw Varrick and Jack at the entrance. "Did you not hear her? She said to stop!" Both he and the Weavile rushed at the elder and, with everything they had, swung their chipped blade or claw down at him. However, the result still remains the same. But unlike with Olivia and the other Pokemon, neither gave up after the first strike and did everything they could to take down whatever barrier it was that was protecting him.
"Stop wasting your strength," the leader said. "Besides, it's getting hard to concentrate if you keep attacking like so."
"You think we're going to stop after hearing that? Think again!" Varrick shouted, his attacks getting more ferocious than before.
As they were attacking him, Jack noticed something off about the ritual. Earlier, it seemed quite close to being completed. But now? It seemed to be taking longer than he had thought. Not only that, but both Kazuki and the incomplete Humanstone weren't glowing as much as before. It didn't take him long to realize that the ritual needed at least one person to be completely focused and concentrated on it for it to finish. With the taguel focusing on putting up a barrier to prevent Jack and Varrick from interrupting, it won't be long until the ritual is cease to a stop and they save Kazuki.
Eventually, the leading taguel couldn't take much more of the distracting hits and had all his attention at the two attacking him, creating a force field strong enough to pushed them both away and into a wall. In doing so, the ritual ended and Kazuki and the Humanstone stopped their glow and fell on the ground.
"Damn you... What did you do?!" the elder demanded.
"Heh. Looks like the big guy finally wants to fight," Varrick said with a smirk.
"Says you. I'm just glad Kazuki's safe now," Jack said, eyes on the unconscious girl.
"You idiots!" the elder shouted. "Because of you-!" He suddenly stopped and started to hold his chest, as if having a chest pain or a heart attack. He then started to breathe strange and started to tumble down on his hands and knees. It wasn't just him; the archer and the mage were also acting this way, only in more pain, as are Kayne's group.
Seeing him suddenly writhe in pain worried Panne as she kneeled to his side. "Kayne! Kayne, what's wrong? Kayne!"
"How can it...? But I thought... we had more..." the boy can only let out.
Next thing Panne knew, he and many others were encased in stone, similar to how a taguel would be in their beast form. However... when the stone cracked, they didn't turn into large rabbits in armor. They were more monstrous, with huge fangs and claws and a long, scaly tail. Eyes were slits and blood red and they were drooling out saliva.
"Kayne..." Panne spoke. "Is that... you?"
Her 'brother' turned to face her. One look... and he charged at her with a bloodthirsty look. The normal taguel was swift enough to avoid him, narrowly dodging his long and sharp claws. She saw the other two also rushing towards her with the same look in their eyes and managed to dodge them as well.
"Kayne!" she cried out. But instead of recognition of any kind, the now-monstrous taguel responded with another attempt to kill her.
Before his claws can even touch her, Kartana appeared and blocked them with a Leaf Blade. It pushed the beast back and was about to go in for a kill when Panne shouted, "No don't!" Confused, it turned to her, wanting an explanation. "That's my brother! He's just... different, but that's him!"
Almost as though disagreeing with her, Kayne and his allies went in for the kill once more. Deciding to question her later, Kartana rushed at them itself, with another Leaf Blade prepared.
"Don't kill them!" Panne shouted.
Kartana didn't need to be told that to do the right thing. He only injured them enough to knock them out. Or at least... he tried to. It wasn't that he killed them, but the three monstrous taguels didn't get knocked unconscious by those hits and got back up, this time targeting the origami Pokemon. Kartana was too fast for them to land a single hit and did its best to not kill them as it counterattacked.
"You hurry to the others!" Kartana told Panne.
"What?" she asked.
"GO! If this is what happened to these three, who's to say if the others are safe?!"
As much as she wanted to stay and help, the taguel knew the others would also be in danger if this is what had become of Kayne and his two allies. "Don't die!" With that, she left.
Back in the ritual room, the remaining three also turned into monstrous taguels and were currently fighting the rest of the Shepherds. And Varrick's team.
"What the hell happened to these guys?!" the banished Feroxi warrior questioned, blocking a swipe from one of the monstrous taguels.
"This must be what those two were talking about!" Olivia said, avoiding a strike from another monstrous taguel. "They said the stone was incomplete when they tried to use it, to become humans. It worked, but with a price. They had 12 full moons at midnight to find a way to return to their normal selves before... this happens."
Varrick blocked another strike. "So what do we do now? Kill them?"
Hearing that suggestion angered Olivia. "There you go again! Thinking about fighting but not of the consequences in doing so!"
"What?! It's practically our only option now! Besides, these beasts-!"
"Are alive! They're people like us! Like Panne!"
"Oh, are they really? Tell me again when they're not killing us! But wait, by that time, we'll be dead!"
"Is this really the time to be arguing?!" the Pokemon all questioned in unison.
Just then, one of the monstrous rabbits noticed Kazuki, still lying on the floor and unmoving. Seeing how vulnerable she was, it moved closer to her instead.
Jack noticed it moving away from them and saw where it was heading to. "Hey, where do you think you're going?!" he shouted, rushing over to protect the girl. Unfortunately, he wasn't fast enough to get to her in time, as the monster was already prepared to cut her in two.
"STOP!" Panne appeared in her rabbit form and got Kazuki out of the way in time, but got a large cut on her back in the process.
"Panne!" Jayne cried out in worry.
"I'm fine!" the taguel assured. Looking down at the child she had saved, Panne didn't have time to check and see if Kazuki was okay, as she heard a snarl behind her. Her ears perked up and she looked to the monster that almost killed Kazuki. "You... You may be my kind once before, but for what you did to Kazuki, what you almost did... I won't forgive you!" She leapt at the monster and tackled it down. Panne then leapt into the air and axe-kicked the monster deeper into the ground.
"We have to get out of here!" Olivia said.
"And what about the stone?!" Varrick asked.
"Kazuki is more important than that stupid stone! And we're all tired out! Come on!" With her insistence, the group all rushed out of the room, away from their pursuers, with Panne carrying Kazuki on her back.
As soon as they were all out of the cave, Olivia had Cori use Revelation Dance at the ceiling, creating a cave-in to block the group of monstrous taguels way out.
"Hopefully, that can hold them long enough," Varrick said.
"Kazuki! Kazuki!" Panne called, getting everyone's attention. They looked and saw her gently shaking the child awake. "Kazuki, wake up! Come on! Wake up, Kazuki!"
The child remained lying on the ground, not at all responding to her call. This left a bad thought on everyone's minds.
"Panne... I don't think-" Jayne spoke.
"No!" the taguel interrupted. "She was just breathing back there! She can't be... She can't..." Tears threatened to form in her eyes, not wanting to think of the possibility.
The Shepherds knew how much Panne cared about the child and couldn't help but be even more sad than before. Varrick looked away from the scene, clenching his shaking fists. Despite his crazy thirst for fights, he still had a heart for kids. To know that he was too late to save this one child... it left more than a bad taste in his mouth.
"I should never have brought her here... I've failed another," Panne whispered, blaming herself for what happened to Kazuki as she held the child close to her. "I'm so sorry, Kazuki."
"No. The fault was mine," Jack said. "I should never have spoken about my troubles."
"I promised Lady Coral I'd protect you guys. I should be blamed," Kartana spoke up. "I should've come sooner."
Everyone else was silent. Some were shedding tears at Kazuki's unfortunate passing. Others looked away in shame and guilt.
After a few seconds of crying, Panne heard a light groan.
"P-... Panne?" they heard. "Why are... you crying?"
Looking to the source, to their shock and relief, they saw Kazuki awake, looking up at Panne in curiosity and confusion.
The taguel felt her heart stop when she saw the girl look up at her. All the sadness and remorse she felt were replaced with relief and joy, as she hugged the child, surprising the young one.
"Whoa! Panne? What's wrong?" Kazuki asked.
"You're okay... Thank Naga..." Panne whispered.
From those words, the child could tell what had happened and hugged the taguel back. "Hey, it's okay. I'm okay," she told her, petting the older girl on the head.
After a while, the sun was starting to rise. The Shepherds were facing Varrick and his group as they were ways away from the cave.
"What will you three do now?" Panne asked.
"Don't know. Maybe I could sell this for starters," Varrick answered, holding out a familiar stone. The Shepherd group were shocked at the sight of it.
"The Humanstone?!" Olivia gasped.
"When did you-?!" Jack asked.
"Grabbed it when we were escaping. Those beasts are past saving, and it'd be a waste for this to be made and not do anything with it," Varrick explained.
"How did you even know about it?" Panne questioned, her eyes narrowed.
"Let's just say... I didn't spend the rest of my time since my banishment fighting." Varrick then tossed the stone to Jack. The Weavile caught it and looked up at him in confusion. "Thinking about it now, since it changes living things into humans, I highly doubt there'd be any merchant interested in a stone like that. You guys can have it. Besides, those guys used a kid's life to make it complete, if it really is complete that is. Adding that to the thought and I'll be having nightmares of kid slaves if I sell that thing."
The group looked at each other, all thinking that Varrick might not be that bad of a guy after all.
"Thank you!" Kazuki said. "For helping us out and giving us the Humanstone! Thanks so much!"
For some reason, Varrick turned away after the child thanked him. "Don't thank me. I just did what I wanted to do is all."
Wrecker and Razor looked at each other, knowing very well that it was nothing but a lie. He didn't want to admit it, but Varrick actually has a soft side towards children. If anyone knew, it'd practically be the end of him.
"So what are you guys going to do then?" Olivia asked.
"Guess I'll do what I always did with these guys; wander around, fight some good fights, just go with the flow," the guy answered. "Don't bother asking me to join. You, of all people, should know I'm horrible with groups."
"I wasn't going to ask anyway." The dancer didn't need to be reminded of his actions back in Ferox to know better than to ask him about joining the Shepherds.
"You really won't come?" Kazuki asked.
"Sorry. But I'd rather not work with other humans. Much less animals." The guy glanced at Panne when he said that, in which the taguel noticed and glared. "Well, in any case, we'll see you guys around." At that, he, Wrecker and Razor took their leave.
As soon as they were out of sight, Kazuki asked, "Do you think we'll see them again?"
"I hope not," Panne answered. "I don't like that man-spawn."
"Though he did help us save Kazuki and got us the Humanstone," Jayne pointed out.
"I suppose... Now, what do we do with the stone?"
"Let's see if it works," Jack suggested. Panne and most of the Pokemon all flinched when they heard him suggest that. "Let me finish! Look, I was practically the one who made this quest. The lease I can do is take responsibility for it. So, if I go feral like those other taguels did, if I show any sign of the side effects, I want you guys to kill me. Especially you, Kartana." The Ultra Beast of a Pokemon gasped at the specific request. "You're small, fast, and strong. If anyone can get this job done, it'd be you. After all, you're Coral's Pokemon, too. A ninja is always ready for death. Whether it'd be his own, or someone else's."
"Why are you telling me this?" Kartana asked.
"... Because I want you to take my place on her team." Panne and the Pokemon all widened their eyes at the Weavile's response.
Olivia and Kazuki, both who cannot understand the Pokemon language, looked at them all in confusion. "Wait, what's going on?" the dancer asked.
"Jack is going to test the stone to see if it works," the taguel answered. "And he said if it doesn't... We're to kill him on the spot and Kartana can take his place on Coral's team."
The humans' eyes widened at the situation. "Jack, you can't!" Kazuki cried out.
"He said he'll take responsibility for what happened."
"But that wasn't your fault!"
Panne placed a hand on Kazuki's shoulder, prompting the girl to look up at her. "I know how you feel. But this is something he has to do."
Reluctantly, she nodded and internally prayed nothing bad will happen to Jack.
The group all backed away from the Weavile, as he activated the stone. Like how Panne would go in her rabbit form, Jack was encased in stone. The boulder than broke off, revealing someone else in his place.
It was a human male around the 20s. He had on a black, zipped up jacket with red pockets and collar, black pants, and black shoes with metal claws on the front side. Hanging from the side of his pants was a long, red handkerchief, and around his purple hair was a red scarf. The guy also had on claw blade gauntlets, with the blades sheathed. He opened his eyes, revealing them to be red.
Everyone was silent, not knowing what to do at the moment.
"Jack?" Kazuki asked.
The man didn't answer and simply stood on his feet. He looked down on himself, from his hands, to his legs, to his whole body. He even touched his face and even stretched it some.
"It worked," he spoke. "The stone actually worked! It's still me!" At that, everyone cheered, not believing how big of a success it was.
"Do you feel anything funny?" Panne asked, to be on the safe side.
"Hmm... I don't feel odd. Except for these gauntlets." Jack held up his arms. "Kind of feel a bit uncomfortable. But I can deal with that."
"Can you still understand us?" Cori asked next.
"Yes, I can understand you. Wow, this is awesome!"
"You should change back so we can surprise the others when we return," Olivia suggested.
"You're right. Now... where is the Humanstone?" Spotting the said rock on the ground, he went to pick it up. However, the moment he made contact with it, the stone broke in half and crumbled.
Everyone froze when they saw that happened. "WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?!"
"What just happened?!" Kazuki asked.
"How should I know?!" Jack replied. "I barely touched it! Panne, what happened?!"
"I don't know! This is the first time I've seen it used!" the taguel answered.
"You don't think it was a one-time thing, do you?" Olivia asked.
"One-time thing?! Then doesn't that mean I'm stuck in this form?!" the human-turned Pokemon asked.
"Beaststone and Dragonstone usually break after the user changed back, so that's a possibility," Jayne stated.
"So in other words I'm stuck like this?! How can I fight?!"
"How about your moves?" Yasu questioned.
"My moves?" Jack looked down at his gauntlet.
One grip on the bar in his palms, and the blades shot out. Looking towards a tree near them, he concentrated his energy in the blades like he would do as a Weavile. It took a lot of concentration, but as soon as he felt something from his hands, he went to strike. Normally, one Metal Claw would cut a tree in half. But in his current form, all it did was make a deep cut.
"Looks like I have to practice. But other than that, combat doesn't seem to be a problem for me," he said.
"You were the one panicking about how you can fight," Panne pointed out.
"Hey, I was caught up in the moment. Besides, where I come from, humans are not that good of fighters, so to say. I was a bit afraid being human now means no combat experience whatsoever. Glad that wasn't the case."
"I doubt being human means losing combat experience you gained," Cori said. "That's like saying I change to my other forms and forgetting how to dance in this form."
"Yes, I suppose you have a point there, Cori," Jack couldn't help but agree. "Well, I guess that means we have to break the news to the others this way. Hopefully, Frederick won't give me a hard time like he did to my trainer and Seth."
The group all nodded in agreement and started to walk back home. As they walked, Panne stopped in her track and looked back at the sealed cave, thinking about how she had failed her brother once again.
'I'm sorry to have failed you, Kayne,' she thought. 'Twice. But, I promise. I will come back for you and figure out how to break that curse upon you and our other brothers and sisters. Until then...'
"Panne. Are you okay?" the taguel heard Kazuki asked. She looked down and saw the child and Yasu standing next to her, the latter on the former's head as they both looked up at her with a worried look in their eyes.
Panne let a small smile form and pat the two of them on the head. "I'm fine, little one."
A smile formed on Kazuki's face as she grabbed her by the hand. "Come on! We're falling behind!"
"Yeah!" Yasu agreed, as Kazuki dragged Panne over to the group ahead of them.
'Until I can find out a way to break your curse, brother, wait for me,' the taguel continued to think.
Meanwhile, in the cave, the monstrous taguels all continued to strike at the boulders in an attempt to clear the path. However, no matter how many times they strike, the wall of boulders wouldn't budge much.
"If you keep that up, you'll waste a lot of your energy and never leave," came a voice behind them.
They all looked and saw a cloaked figure behind them. One of them roared and dashed towards the figure. The figure threw something at the beast, causing it to fall unmoving. The rest of the monsters charged in right after, only to meet with the same fate.
"Now, now. Calm down, all of you," the figure said. "If you all kill me, you wouldn't get what you want. You want to be free of the curse? Well, there's a way to do that. I can help with that."