Even though the fire went out, the image stuck in my mind. I tried to remain still as the chills racked my body back and forth, throwing me even deeper into panic.
I couldn't get it out of my mind. I kept seeing him opening his mouth, his eyes wide in fear as if he was in danger. He titled his head down a little, and that's when I saw it. What was left of his tongue… it was hacked off. Whoever did it tried to cut out most of it as possible- and it was obvious by the sick, mangled mess that it wasn't by someone who cared about his well-being.
It was just endlessly looping.
I began to cry hysterically. I felt so horrible for him. He couldn't even talk; he was stuck with making hand signals. And even then it was difficult. I would've thrown my arms around him if the sight wasn't so terrifying.
I couldn't keep standing anymore. I kneeled down on the ground and bent over, shoving my face into my hands. I didn't even know where I was. I just wanted to go home.
There was that scratching noise again. I didn't want to look up- the thought of becoming face to face with him again sent me into a bigger panic. I tried to curl up in a ball but my violent sobs had my upper body jerking back, so I succumbed to just keeping my eyes tightly shut and crying pathetically.
"Touko," His voice whispered.
"N!" I jumped up and reached out for him. My fingers stretched out as I blindly grasped at the darkness. Once they brushed against fabric, I let out a sigh and relaxed as he put his hand on my shoulder and guided me towards him.
He was on his knees. I fell into him and tried my best to hold in the sobs so I wouldn't mess up his collar. I felt his neck tighten against my face, but for once, I wasn't all that concerned for his well-being. I was freaking out, there was no way I was about to compose myself quickly and apologize for making him uncomfortable.
"He's gone," He cooed, mechanically petting the top of my head. "So… don't cry. Please don't cry."
I would have giggled if I wasn't so terrified. He sounded so distressed and panicked at the fact that I was crying. I wasn't too sure why, though. This wasn't the first time I've cried in front of him.
"It's not like you haven't seen me cry before." I mumbled into his neck.
He took in a breath. "The other times you were feeling bad about yourself." Hugging me a bit tighter, he added, "That was easy."
I scoffed. "And this isn't?"
"There's nothing I can say to make you feel better." He murmured. "Sorry."
I didn't say anything. I couldn't think of anything to say.
I don't know why, but I didn't make any attempt at getting up even after about five minutes had passed. Maybe it was because I was still scared, despite the fact that I had stopped whimpering a few minutes earlier. Or perhaps it was because I was taking advantage of N holding me. Either way, I was enjoying just being with him.
"Why did he have to show me that?" I whispered. The question had been haunting me ever since I got over the initial shock.
N began to bite his thumbnail. "He's… playful."
"That's playful?" I asked incredulously.
"Three's young." He murmured, shrugging.
"Three?" I blurted out. "His name is Three?"
"Would you prefer Tres?" He muttered dryly.
I jerked my head up to stare at him. His irritated tone caught me off guard. My temper flared and out of habit, I snapped back quickly.
"This isn't a Spanish lesson, jackass." I hissed, pulling away from him and jumping to my feet to glare down at him. "It's a weird name."
I could barely see him, so my pissed off look was in vain. Stubbornness, however, had me holding it even though we could barely see each other's faces. He exhaled sharply and turned his head to the side, his jaw hard set.
A couple seconds later, though, he turned back to face me. "I'm sorry." He said, "I didn't mean to say it like that." He sounded genuinely apologetic.
Unfortunately, I felt like being a bitch tonight. I pointedly turned my head.
"Come on." He pouted and started to stand up to come towards me.
"I'm not calling him Three." I said stubbornly, changing the subject a bit. "That's just rude."
N stopped walking. "You're going to call him something else." He said in a mixture of exasperation and disbelief.
His tone bugged me a bit. But I didn't really stay on that too much- his words got me thinking.
"Yeah," I said happily, my voice raising an octave. I scanned my head for names- something that would fit his face. Or personality, since I didn't really know his face all too well.
"Blue?" I suggested hesitantly.
"A color is okay, but not a number?" N laughed quietly. He took a few more steps, obviously taking advantage of my distraction to get closer. If I was a real bitch I would have stopped him in his tracks, but I let him approach me. I wasn't concerned about that anymore.
I groaned. "You're right."
"Uh…. William?" N murmured.
My eyebrows furrowed. I wasn't familiar with that name. "What kind of name is that?"
He was in front of me now. I leaned my head back a bit to look up at him. He looked a bit nervous.
"The Shadow Triad is English…" He trailed off, looking at the ground.
"Holy crap." I threw my hand to my mouth. "Really?"
He nodded twice.
I felt a bit… stupid. I always thought they looked a bit different, and now that I think about it, I realize that it was the shape of their eyes that weren't the same. They never spoke, either. Was it because they could only speak English?
Or did they all have their tongues cut out?
"Do they all…" I couldn't say it. "Tongue?" I opened my mouth and gestured to it.
"No, no." He murmured, scratching the back of his neck nervously. "That's just… Three."
"If they're English then why are they in Unova?"
"Ghetsis hired them a long time ago." He said simply, his tone a bit reserved.
I narrowed my eyes. The way they follow N around, they must have been his guards or something similar. When I was figuring out the whole Team Plasma mess, they were extremely protective and were always one step ahead of me. Ghetsis used them to take care of N and his problems when he couldn't, or didn't want to.
"Twenty-two years ago?" I said offhandedly, looking up at him with an extremely exaggerated innocent look.
He avoided looking at me.
"They were your kee- babysitters, weren't they?" I silently cursed myself. I had almost said "keepers". It may have been true, but that would have been a bit harsh to say it.
"They still are." He muttered disgustedly, "They won't stop following me."
"But… aren't you their King?" I asked timidly- I wasn't sure how he would take to me calling him that. The corner of his mouth twitched, but nothing more. "Can't you order them to stop?"
He curled his lip. "The contract owner is Ghetsis. It's him they serve, not me."
If The Shadow Triad was following N around against his will, was it because Ghetsis had ordered them to? I stopped myself.
Ghetsis is in prison. Did he order them to continue following him around before he was arrested? Or, what if The Shadow Triad still was in contact with him? Because let's face it- steel bars aren't keeping the Shadow Triad from anything, especially the one they owe their allegiance to.
And going by that assumption- what's the motivation? Ghetsis wasn't planning anything, was he? He disowned N, called him every name in the book. I didn't think he'd want any more to do with him.
I shook my head. I shouldn't be thinking too much into it. For all I know, the poor Shadow Triad could probably just be a bit maternal towards him. They looked after him his whole life… it was only natural.
That is, if they had feelings.
You heartless bitch. I immediately scolded myself. Of course they had feelings. Hadn't I seen the raw sorrow and terror in Three's eyes? Even before tonight, there was always a kind sparkle in the way he looked at me. He was nice. He had feelings. I was the one who didn't have any feelings.
Which leads me to think about why this was done to him. What could Three have possibly done so wrong that would result in that?
"Why doesn't he have a tongue?" I whispered slowly. I didn't move my eyes, instead keeping them fixed on his beige pants. They were illuminated against the dark and were pretty much the brightest thing here, so I focused on that.
"Can we not talk about this?" He said, nervously fidgeting.
"No. Just humor me this one question." I nearly snapped.
I shook off the small feeling of guilt at my brief rudeness. He was hiding so much from me. I would understand if it wasn't affecting anything, but it was really starting to get out of hand.
He remained silent.
"Just this one question," I urged in a more gentle voice. I put my hand on his shoulder. "I won't ask anymore."
He didn't react for about twenty seconds. I could feel my disappointment rising, but before I could sigh and forget about it, he grabbed my wrists and pulled me tenderly to the ground. He sat with his legs crisscrossed, and for some reason, I decided to follow the same order. He laid my hands on his knees and began to play with them, swinging them up and down. He wasn't looking at me, only at my hands.
"Promise you won't get mad?" He said, his eyes flickering up at me. I blinked. It was that same look I had taught him when we were trying to get him to stay at my house.
Huh. He did it better than me.
It was just so childlike. Being slightly influenced by how vaguely infantile his actions were, I said something I hadn't said since I was six and playing in Touya's backyard.
"Cross my heart and hope to die." I whispered softly, bracing myself against the wave of nostalgia that threatened my already crumbling composure.
I took a breath. Focus.
"It was…" His voice broke. "It was me. I ordered it to happen, four years ago."
His words didn't even register at first. I just stared at him blankly, watching as his face went from nervous to panic as my silence began to alarm him.
"You promised you wouldn't be upset." He accused quickly.
My eyes averted to his chest. "I'm not." I managed to breathe.
That's when the floodgates opened.
Kind, sweet, awkward, loving N… the mutilation was under his order? What kind of sadistic monster was I harboring in my house?
"What did Three do that was so bad?" I said in a panic, my voice becoming louder.
"He had a baby Growlithe." He mumbled, flinching slightly.
Poor Three's tongue was viciously cut out because he had a pet? N said he was young- exactly how young? N had a child maimed?
"Are you kidding me?" I spat. "He had a pet, so what?"
"My goal was liberation." He said, shaky but sternly. "I wasn't about to let a direct subordinate have a Pokémon, especially one that was foreign."
"But to cut out his tongue, N?" I cried. I could feel the tears beginning to well up. "You could have given him a slap on the wrist, something that wouldn't have-"
"Do not argue with me, I am your King!" He snarled viciously, cutting me off completely.
I shut up almost instantly. The pure, hate-filled authority in his voice shook me to the core and I felt something from N that I hadn't felt since the night he came back.
I was terrified of him. My whole body was shaking as the chills crept up my sides and up my spine. His hands that still encircled my wrists suddenly became handcuffs and there was no escape. This wasn't N, this was what he used to be. And somehow I had brought it out of him.
I let out a small whimper and forced myself not to blink. I wasn't going to let him see me cry.
Damn. I felt them starting to flood over, and before I knew it, I was crying uncontrollably. I hung my head down and let my hair fall over my face, seeing as I didn't have any control of my hands.
He breathed in sharply and let go, allowing me to hunch over and cry into my hands. There was no getting better, was there? Every time he seemed to be getting somewhere, it went right back to square one.
If I had known it would be this hard, would I still have taken him?
Of course you would. My subconscious snapped at me. You love him.
"I'm so sorry," He breathed, his voice tight and choked. "Touko, I didn't mean to…"
I felt his hand on my elbow. I jumped back and gave him a look of sheer terror as I began to scoot away from him. All I could think of was his hand against my cheek, and I was already beginning to feel the sting against my skin. I cupped my cheek and the second I did it, N stopped dead.
"Oh, no. No, no, no, please." He begged.
I cringed- I could hear the agony perfectly in his voice.
"I'll never hurt you." He said, inching closer. "Please believe me."
Before I could even react, he shot forward and grabbed me. I felt my heart nearly burst in my chest. I tried to struggle but he was too strong- he had me on my back in a matter of seconds. He sat on top of me with a leg swung over on each side, effectively pinning me down.
I don't think he knew how provocative this position was.
He leaned over and awkwardly planted little butterfly kisses along my jaw. "I won't hurt you, please."
Maybe he did know, and was just trying to win me over.
"Fat ass," I growled as I tried yet again to get him off of me. I ignored his affection even though it killed me inside.
His eyebrows furrowed at my choice of words, but other than a confused look, he didn't acknowledge my insult.
"Please, just listen to me." He said, looking up towards the sky. "At the time, I thought it was the right choice."
"It was a stupid one." I muttered.
He pressed his lips together. "It was. You don't know how much I regret it. I ruined someone's life." He whispered and started dragging his fingers down his face. "And I hope I burn for it."
"No, you don't." I said, earning a surprised look from him. "You wouldn't have told me if you didn't think you had a chance at redemption."
"What are you saying?" He asked slowly, eyeing me suspiciously.
"You think I can help."
"There's no way you can help me. Three will never be able to speak again, and I can't take back what I've done." He murmured sadly. His eyes were misty, but he wasn't crying. Not yet, anyway.
"Maybe you can make it up to him?" I suggested.
"You're being oddly optimistic about this." He said dryly.
I pushed the top half of my body up and supported myself with my arms. "I'm just saying… maybe there can be a little bit of happiness at the end of this fucked up story."
"I don't see that happening." He replied, scooting down my stomach a little bit and onto my groin. I bit my lip and kept my mouth shut. He obviously didn't know how inappropriate this was, and I wasn't about to tell him.
"What did you do with the Growlithe?" I asked.
He pursed his lips as if trying to remember. "We… we sent it to a reserve in Sinnoh. Why?"
A huge smile broke through my face. Perfect.
"N, we have to go get him."
His face became hard. "No. Do you not see what he's doing, Touko? He's out to get me." He stopped and blinked. "And he has every right to. But I'm not going to be doing anything for him."
"He's out to get you?" I echoed.
He stared at me. "Why do you think he's so interested in you? That he's so nice to you? He's trying to get you to trust him. That's why he showed you his mouth- he's pulling you away from me; getting you to run. He wants me to be miserable, and the fact that he even dared to touch you and actually teleport you to me tonight is his way of showing me that if you don't run, he'll take you himself."
My jaw dropped. "No" was the first thing that came to mind, and I ended up blurting it out.
He nodded. "Yes."
I… I thought he had actually liked me. Now that I think of it, he had told me earlier that the reason he was interested in me was because N and I were close. He had even signed a heart. I had just misinterpreted what he was trying to tell me. Hell, he probably thought I was an idiot now.
I shut my eyes tightly. Okay, so it wasn't what I had originally thought. Still, Three was justified in a way. He had a right to feel bitter. Even though he was using me as a pawn and was a possible kidnapper, I felt for him.
"I don't care." I said slowly. "I want him to get his Growlithe back. He deserves it, and maybe he'll leave you alone."
"Touko, we can't." He sighed, exasperated. "I don't want to-"
I grabbed his collar and yanked him down, cutting him off in mid-sentence. I really didn't care what he had to say. I kissed him passionately, and after a few seconds of being stunned, he kissed me back quickly. I lowered my torso back onto the ground to where he was lying on top of me. As much as I would have loved to go further, I didn't exactly want to be kissing like this in the dirt.
I stopped. "You were saying?" I murmured, my lips barely brushing against his as I spoke.
His eyes were half closed as he stared at me dreamily. "Okay," he breathed.