AN:

waves Hello, again reader peoples!

Glad to see you're still here and have waited so patiently for chapter ten. Sorry this took so long, but I was only typing weekends, then finals, and THEN a 3 week vacation. -- Took forever to start writing again. sigh Even longer to get internet access (gotta get a laptop…)

So, without further to do, here's chapter ten of The Suns of Midnight!

(Oh, and pleas note that I've no idea how "Jiragi" is actually spelled, I type it phonetically and from vague memory. I'd appreciate it if someone could tell me if the spelling's right.)

KEY

"blah" - speech (pokemon and human speech are written the same way)

'blah' - thought

blah - telepathy

(AN: blah)- author's note

- time passes

"You can choose a ready guide

In some celestial voice.

If you choose not to decide

You still have made a choice.

You can choose from phantom fears

And kindness that can kill;

I will choose a path that's clear-

I will choose free will"

- Rush, Freewill

As I stepped back into the silvery hallway, I noticed something. It was quiet. And not like that nice tranquil silence, either, I mean complete silence.

Eerie silence.

Like graveyards.

Like forgotten temples.

Like death.

The place that was once been bursting at the seams with excitement and where you could find untamed energized chatter practically bouncing off the walls wherever you looked was no more. The pokemon were no longer talking. They were not whispering, sleeping, running, walking, chatting, laughing, singing, stretching, complaining, or muttering to themselves as they were before. They did not move. It looked as if they dared not breathe. They did nothing. Nothing except stop in their tracks, dropping whatever they were doing and staring at Winterleaf as she glided gracefully along the smooth linoleum, sunlight shimmering regal brilliance off her emerald hair, carrying herself with the sophistication of an empress. The great number of pokemon stared wide-eyed as she passed with a great passion of awe and agonizing envy as if she were the one that made all of creation. This certainly explained the gardevoir's irate outburst at my sarcasm and pretty much everything else I dared to say in her oh-so-breathtaking-presence. These pokemon acted as if she were a deity, a poke god. It suddenly didn't seem surprising that Winterleaf had adopted such a bloated ego. With attention like this, who wouldn't?

I blinked and snapped myself out of my state of self-deliberation and hurried to catch up with my guide. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the pokemon on the sidelines flash me dirty, spiteful looks and cross their arms with conceited expressions that screamed out arrogant satisfaction that the insolent little dark type had been humbled to a pathetic thing scrambling in the shadows to keep up with the all knowing, all powerful Winterleaf. I have to admit, I must have been looking sort of ridiculous slipping and sliding on the linoleum (hey, it's not MY fault if my paws couldn't get a good grip) trying to keep up with the gliding figure ahead of me. No doubt the onlookers had drawn their own little scenario of the insolent dark one coming face to face with the omnipotent Flamemasons, certainly involving me coming to a overwhelming revelation and humbling myself to the Flamemasons cause, Groudon, and "Team Magma", whatever that was.

Right, maybe when snorlax fly.

I noticed the taillow and zigzagoon from last night huddled close together, whispering and chuckling to each other, as if in conspiracy. I paused and stared them both in the face with slightly bared teeth. If these clowns had something to say, they could at least say it to my face. At my glare, the zigzagoon turned his head, as if a flea had conveniently begun to harass his backside. The taillow however, kept eye contact; its white chest seemed to puff up in derisive confidence with every breath he took. It's really easy to be confident and brave when safe in a crowd of myriad protectors. He cocked his head in the classic I'm-better-than-you-are method and said in a crackling voice "What's the matter, darkling? I thought you liked getting attention." The zigzagoon and a bunch of others surrounding the taillow began to giggle, as if they were the backup gang from an old greaser movie.

It was then I suddenly realized Winterleaf stood behind me. She must have teleported back here to enjoy the show. No doubt she was relishing this.

When I didn't answer, the taillow's mouth morphed into a long menacing grin "What? No answer? It's not fun begin laughed at is it? Not when you're on the receiving end. Why aren't you laughing anymore, darkling? This is really funny. Why don't you laugh?"

A natu joined him at his side and playfully jabbed him in the wing "I don't think she gets the joke, Race."

The taillow- Race- adopted a look of false remorse "Oh? You don't get our joke? Is that why you aren't laughing? We are. Aren't we guys?"

As if on cue, the cluster of pokemon broke into degrading laughter, the kind, when heard enough, that would make someone actually believe they were lesser than what they were, believe that their laughter told truth, and that they truly deserved to be abused and laughed at by their peers. It was the laughter of cowards.

Behind me, I felt Winterleaf's psychic energy grow warm with amusement. She was really loving this.

It's true that when you come right down to it, in the sense of pokemon battles, size does not matter. I once saw a rattatta take down a full-grown gyarados. No joke.

Despite this however, it's still natural to believe the smaller you are, the weaker you are. And the sight of an umbreon take guff from a pokemon less than half it's size, well it's just not good for the image.

I looked back to the smug gardevoir. She smiled calmly at me. 'Why, what's the matter Ozaki? Where is the insolent and proud creature that stood before me this morning? Does she stand and let her dignity be torn down by a lowly taillow? Why if I did not know better, I'd say you were afraid. Why do you let yourself be abused so?'

I looked back to Race, who seemed to blow up with ignorant pride by the second. I could have given some sort of classic witty retort, I could have unleashed a shadow ball to wipe the smirk of Winterleaf's face, or I simply could have torn the taillow to shreds and devoured him. There are a lot of things I could have done in a blaze of blinded fury, and I'm sure the crowd around me expected nothing less. After all, dark types are famed for having short tempers and never allowing a stab at their honor go unpunished.

That was they were waiting for. For me to suddenly blow my top and start killing everyone so they'd actually have a reason to hate me besides natural bias. It would make them feel a whole lot better about themselves. Now, I'll admit that I may be hotheaded, I may be cynical, I may be stubborn, and I may even be just plain mean, but one thing I'm not is stupid. Anyone with half a brain could see that this was obviously a goading trick.

Since it was obvious I wouldn't be following anyone anywhere anytime soon, I sat down, tail curled on haunches and yawned wide, taking time to show off a fine array of sharp incisors.

Race's small cluster of cronies looked at each other in confusion as their ringleader snapped his beak. Obviously this was not the answer they were expecting. Race lifted his wings and flapped them excitedly "Hey! Hey! Just what do you think you're doin', huh? Huh? Oh, I get it, you're afraid to face me so you're cowering in fear. Yeah, that's it! You little phony, actin' all big shott-ish when youse nuttin' but a wimp."

I yawned again and said "Not cowering. I'm just bored. Wondering when someone of actual stature will say something. But apparently no one will, so I just may go back to bed. I'm supposed to be asleep in the daytime, you know. And I didn't get much sleep last night either. I was too busy laughing at a certain flammable idiot that doesn't seem to know which way he's going. Nevertheless, you wouldn't know anything about that; would you, Race? What? No answer? It was real funny Race, why aren't you laughing?"

"You think yer big stuff, dontcha? Well c'mon an' battle me!"

"I don't waste my energy on fools or cowards." I said with yet another well placed yawn "And after all, judging by the events of the past six hours my 'challenger' is both. Why don't you go do something more to your ability, like picking fights with hatchlings?"

That got him. With a squawk, he began a long stream of insults along with some choice words I probably shouldn't repeat at the moment. Behind him, Winterleaf frowned and again began down the hallway. I trailed alongside, smiling sweetly back at her.

Game. Set. Match.

"Ye shouldn't 'ave done that, Ozaki" Tikatt whispered to me. He sat close by me as Winterleaf and the rest of the Flamemasons prepared to enlighten me of the concepts of their purpose here in Rustboro. For some reason, the inkblot had been called in as well. He shuffled his paws nervously and couldn't look the five in the eyes.

I blinked at him curiously "Why not?" It was a perfectly honest response, too. I really didn't see any reason why I shouldn't have done what I did in the hallway, or anything for that matter since I came to this strange place. Everything I did, or said to anyone was the only thing I could've done, and they probably deserved it anyway. I give respect or disrespect when it's due and that was that. I told Tikatt so.

"Even still" he said, "It wasn't the best thing t'do. I mean it's not the best impression in a new place."

He looked so forlorn as he looked down at his paws that I actually did begin to feel a bit sorry- just a little bit, you understand. I was suddenly beginning to worry that maybe he was here because of me. I had to know for sure.

"Eh, I'll be okay. But why are you here? You didn't do anything, did you?"

He shrugged his soft gray shoulders "I dunno. Maybe. I do a lotta bad stuff, but I dunno it's bad 'till it's too late. I do it a lot. I don't mean to, but I do. That's why my trainer left me, for me t'get better but it looks like I'm not gettin' any better."

"Oh, come on, that can't be true."

"It must be. I keep gettin' called in here for lectures. I wish I could get better…I'm tryin'. I am, I really, really am. But I never get any better. Why else would no one here like me?" he sniffed "We're the fighting force against the forces of Team Aqua. We're the only ones that can stop 'em. They need strong fighters. An' I'm not strong at all."

"Hey, Inkblot?"

"Yeah?"

"Ummm… " I paused. I hadn't had that much practice at comfort "Umm. For what it's worth, I think you're pretty strong."

The poochena's little tail slapped the tile "Ya do?"

I smiled at him "Yeah. I do."

"Why?"

I shrugged. "I dunno. Just do."

"Oh. Thanks, Ozaki."

The masons turned back to us, the gardevoir in particular with a frustrated look on her face.

Poor Tikatt looked as if he was about to cry or something. He really must have been scared. Winterleaf whispered something into the numel's ear. He nodded to her, than to the cowering poochena before him, staring with wide yellow eyes. "Leave, if you wish"

The inkblot blinked up at me, as if asking for reassurance. I half smiled at him with a shrug. In a blur of gray and black fur, the inkblot had disappeared.

"So Ozaki, it seems that you did not enjoy your chat with Winterleaf," said Ordalphus.

I glared at all five of them. Chat? What chat? Chat was talking. Chats you have with friends. Chats start with "How the heck are ya?" or "Are the berries good today?" or "How about those (insert topic here)" Chats don't involve silent glares and irate accusations.

"No. I guess I didn't." I said

"That's quite a shame, Ozaki."

I scowled at the numel. He suddenly seemed a lot less friendly than when I met him before. And really, that's not saying much, but I had a feeling something was coming. Something that the Flamemasons didn't plan on telling me anytime soon.

I looked into each of their eyes.

Hotstreak kept looking out the window set high in the wall, crimson eyes focused on some unreachable object in the distance. The sunlight shone down upon his face and in addition to his bright yellow plumage, made his body glow furiously. Every few seconds or so a short burst of red flames spurted out of his beak, fizzled out and vanished in midair.

Daskar was the only one who actually made direct eye contact with me, and we both looked into each other's eyes curiously, as if wondering what we would find there. The zangoose didn't have the smugness of Winterleaf, nor the belittling calmness of Ordalphus. He looked at me, curious and, if I didn't know better, a bit admiring. But if Daskar did have any fondness for my attitude, he did nothing to show it. He stared and nothing more. Come to think of it, he hadn't spoken at all since I'd first seen him. Odd.

Cy's three eyes stared ahead blankly, not looking at Tikatt, not looking at me, looking at everything and nothing. A gentle, but slightly annoying humming sound was made as he hovered above his pillow.

Ordalphus looked back at me with his calm, half closed eyes that never seemed to alter. It was the exact same expressions that had remained on his face since I first laid eyes upon him. That patronizing, sickeningly calm expression that was driving me insane. My ears flattened in disgust. How could he be so demeaning and still so damn calm?! Winterleaf was arrogant, for sure, but at least she had the civility to show it. Ordalphus seemed to be hiding behind a cloak of decency and a different sort of arrogance- the kind that while was demeaning, held a firm belief that they were doing good, as if he were doing a great favor I never asked for. A sort of arrogance that says that you are beneath him, you are of a lower breed, but says it in a very polite way. A superiority that states 'you are ignorant, and thus resort to primitive reactions, but I forgive you for it'. As if to confirm my thoughts, the numel's grew kinder as my glare deepened.

Winterleaf's eyes were alive with cruel excitement, her arms crossed confidently. On the surface, she was expressionless but I could feel a wide satisfied smirk lurking just beneath the surface. Whatever was coming, she was going to enjoy it. I frowned and flicked a gold ringed ear. Her reddish eyes made no effort in hiding the fact that Winterleaf detested me. Believe me, the feeling was mutual.

But then, animosities between darks and psychics have been going on for longer than anyone else can remember. Psychics were straight-edged, calm, and overly kind while darks were rebellious, hotheaded and generally very rude. That's what most will tell you, but the nail drives deeper than that.

Nearly all of the poke gods, at least all the important ones, are psychic. Namely the main god of each land; Kanto has Mew, Jhoto has Celebi, and I'd heard that Honen had someone called "Jiragi" or somebody like that. It is said that Mew is the main god however, for she (or he… or it) created all pokemon, Celebi and Jiragi her direct relatives or something similar. Not to mention that the two great beasts of the sky and sea are also psychic and lo and behold, they also preach oneness and getting along with the humans. "Live together", Ho-oh allegedly said. And as a result I get a million lectures about how wonderful humans are. Of course, in all that time no one has ever pointed out the fact that what was said was "live together", he said nothing about liking each other.

There is also the fact that all elements owned by legendaries (fire, ice, water, electric, etc.) seem to give other pokemon with the same trait's a kind of inner pride. The normal, bug, fighting, ground, rock and steel types were just sort of- there, while the poison, ghost, and dark types somehow became demonetized overnight.

I recall confronting a kadabra in a thicket once and getting into a religious agreement with him, arguing that darks were just as good as psychics and flyers- maybe better. He responded by pointing a tacky bent spoon and demanding if that was the case, why were there not any dark deities and then laughing when I couldn't give him an answer. I knew perfectly well that I had no dark deity to pray to, but he had no right to rub my face in it like that.

Winterleaf was grinning at me. I glared at her, positive she was aware of the thoughts that plagued my mind. She was no better than the kadabra, getting shallow pleasure in reminding those with nothing of how little they have. Her red eyes were dancing, hands rubbing together in spiteful apprehension.

Power is sought by all; those with none long for a little, those with a lot want more but there is never enough. The psychics are well respected throughout the pokemon world; after all, they have the power to reach into your mind, your soul, the very essence of what makes you you, they have the power to lift you into the sky and control your limbs at will. In a sense, they in themselves may be considered gods. They have the power to snake their influence into the minds anyone and everyone, be they pokemon or human- all but one type that is completely immune to their special abilities. The ones that walk in darkness, scorning the light, not allowed to join the masses of their peers and with no wish to do so because they both know that they are different from each other. They do not follow the same deities because the dark ones have no deity to follow at all. In the end, all both sides really want is to be happy. But as the mothers of the world say, one does not always get what one wants. No one is ever truly content, for there is always something you do not or cannot have, and one you have it, it suddenly doesn't seem that wonderful and your eyes are hunting the next object of your desire. Those with gods wish to please them, so their own wishes may be granted, those without gods cannot even wish for that. So, if no god is going to help you, the only logical resolution is to help yourself.

Unless you count on the two-legged giant holding the red and white orb to do it for you.

I laughed at the very notion.

The gardevoir's brow furrowed curiously. "What is so funny?"

My smile held no sarcasm- a smile of pure amusement "Don't you know?"

"I would not be asking if I did!"

"So, you don't know. Before I answer your question, perhaps you or your colleagues may answer mine. There is a war coming, with this Team Aqua and this Kyogre, yes? You follow Groudon and Team Magma in order to stop them, do I have it right?"

Hotstreak nodded "There is more to it-"

"But that's it in a nutshell, yes?"

He frowned "I…suppose so, yes."

"Good. Just making sure. Now. I ask you this: why? What exactly would happen if you failed? What would be so bad? Would we all go poof into thin air? Will we all explode? Will we disappear? Kaboom? Poof? Is that it?"

Ordalphus' serene face was suddenly dark and threatening. The calm whimsical smile that never seemed to leave his face was replaced by a glower. So there was a real pokemon under that smiling façade after all. Interesting.

The four other masons looked tense, glancing at each other with silent signals, with the exception of the emotionless Cy. I edged closer, it was going to take a lot more that a simple change of face to make this darkling turn away.

"No, dark one." said Ordalphus "That is most certainly not it. "

I leaned back on my haunches and stared him square in the face "It isn't? Than what is it?" before I could get a response, I continued "I do apologize if I've caused any offence to anyone here, but if one joins an organization such as this, it would only be logical to find out what exactly they're getting themselves into, yes? One should not allow themselves to be led into the chasms of a cave without at least knowing what's inside. For all I know that cave's full of angry beedrill or golbat or maybe the whole thing's not really a cave at all, but a fang-filled mouth."

The looming expression on Ordalphus' face seemed to vanish into thin air, back to the land of hidden agendas, and his classic patronizing smile appeared once more as if nothing had been said. He shook his head pitifully "I see. But dear darkling, how do you know that the cave is not filled with wondrous things, with riches and rewards beyond your wildest imaginations? How do you know?"

"I don't. No one does."

"Ah, that is where you are mistaken, little umbreon. WE know and we can take you there."

"Right. And how do I know you aren't taking me somewhere I'm going to regret?"

"How do you know we are? All it takes is trust."

I nodded "I couldn't agree more, Ordalphus. But if there's one thing I've learned it is that in the end, trust is blinding, it lies and leads you far enough down the path, to where you can't turn back. We are at the mercy of trust. It's the one thing can make or break us- to have trust in others, in ourselves. In a way, it's all one has to go by. And you have yet to give me a reason to give you mine."

The numel laughed to himself mockingly. I laughed with him. "It is pretty funny isn't it? Earlier, Winterleaf you demanded to know what I was laughing at. Didn't you know?"

The gardevoir expression soured.

Fangs glistened in my smirk "I thought not. Thanks."

"Hmph. For what?"

"You gave me my answer, and yours as well. My question is, if supposedly one of the most powerful psychics in Honen cannot even tell what a simple umbreon is laughing why in the gods' names should I rely on what she supposedly 'knows'." I laughed again "She doesn't even know what a simple umbreon laughs at! It's funny, is all."

I rose and stretched "I appreciate what you're trying to do for me, Flamemasons, but I see no point in staying here, preparing for a war that's supposedly coming from out of nowhere. I just arrived, after all. I'm sure this 'Team Magma' you speak of does not need me, and I most certainly do not need it."

Ordalphus frowned again. "That is a grave mistake, young umbreon."

I shrugged "Maybe. But if I make mistakes, I'd rather make my own. If the war comes then it comes. It's not my war. This looks a war between gods, and as our dear Winterleaf as pointed out to me, I, as a dark type have no gods and therefore this is not my war."

"It is everyone's war"

"Not mine. If I want to fight in it than I will, if I don't than I won't. Simple as that."

The numel blinked slowly, and looked at his colleagues, one after the other "We are sorry that you feel this way."

"I'm sure you are. In the meantime, I will be leaving The Flamemasons."

Ordalphus nodded "If that is your wish."

I started toward the exit with one last sarcastic smirk "I hope you win your war."

"We will. Don't you worry."

"I'm not."

I could hear Winterleaf's trite sigh of exasperation "Finally. That's the last time I use my abilities in a storm. Never know what riffraff I may conjure up."

I laughed.

Psychics. Go figure.