Hello there, fellow readers and writers of fanfiction. Tendou Souji's the name, and I'm here to present you the first chapter of a three-shot story. I got the idea for this fic after reading Reaper's (he's an ascended Latios that is scheduled to appear in Pokemon Heroes: Uprising) profile on Soldier of the Future's deviantart account. I just couldn't get the idea for this story out of my head and just had to write it down.
This release connects our respective stories'—Zenith League and Pokemon Heroes: Uprising—universes so dimensional travel is going to be faintly touched upon. It takes places concurrently with Zenith League and following the aftermath of the Uprising War. Though the ending of Pokemon Heroes Uprising has yet to be determined, Soldier of the Future has agreed to make this story canon to the Uprising timeline.
Coincidentally, I'm dedicating this fic to said writer. I hope that you'll be inspired to continue your story. Oh, and I wish you a happy 21st birthday. Without further ado, I give you One Soul, Two Visages.
Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon or the characters appearing in this short fic, save for a certain reimagined Pokemon Ranger.
The Reverse Realm.
Some claimed it to be a detached portion of the realm of the living while others remarked that it had a symbiotic relationship with the real world. The moment the existence of this realm came to light, avid pursuers of knowledge engaged one another in a contest to see who would be the one to discover the unique world's true role in life and whether or not the discovery would be a cause for concern. Petty squabbles emerged, primarily due to conflicting theories and findings. Though the issue of the role of the Reverse Realm had yet to be resolved—except for certain, mythical creatures who were familiar with its workings long before its supposed 'discovery'—the curious ones stood unanimous on a different yet related matter: the sole inhabitant and ruler of the Reverse Realm. Said to be the shadow of Arceus, legends noted Giratina's banishment into another realm by the Alpha Pokemon. Comparing their findings with the lores regarding the Renegade Pokemon, they came to the conclusion that Giratina was most likely sent to the Reverse Realm and had taken residence there ever since its banishment. This conjecture gradually became a widely accepted fact and birthed feelings of pride and accomplishment in the hearts of those who came up with it.
Sadly, they couldn't be any more further from the truth.
While it was true that Giratina was sent to the Reverse Realm by Arceus, it was not because of banishment of any sort. Rather, the former was assigned to reign over the realm as the goddess of death. As the occupation implied, the Reverse Realm actually served as a gathering place for the dead. Giratina would judge the souls guided into her realm by her emissary and, if she deemed them to be worthy enough, present them with the opportunity of going through the process of reincarnation. If they accepted the offer, then they would be sent to the Bien de Alma (1) where they would be purified of all their sins before being being sent back to the realm of the living to begin life anew within new shells. Rejection of the rare opportunity did not earn them Giratina's ire, much to their relief. Rather, they would reside in the Reverse Realm for all eternity, free of all worldly burdens. Essentially, the whole subject of reincarnation placed each of the souls in a win-win position. On the flipside, those who had committed utterly atrocious acts beyond imagination would find no solace in the world under Giratina's rule; they shall know naught but suffering and torture. Their screams of agony livened up the otherwise dreary and depressing atmosphere, something that Giratina's favourite—and not to mention only—follower found to be completely ironic and slightly amusing.
"They inflicted pain and misery to humans and Pokemon for mere amusement, and now their suffering has become a source of entertainment in this dull realm," Reaper sardonically uttered to himself. "Ah, how the roles switch so easily. I guess there is a masochist inside every being in this universe after all."
Reaper was a Latios though he never truly saw himself as one, not after the purging of his entire kind at the hands of invaders from the planet Phaaze. He thought the terms 'abomination' and 'freak' were the perfect tags to describe the kind of being he was, much to the chagrin of Laia—she always found a way to worm through his mental barriers. The Eon Pokemon was one of two ascended Pokemon in existence, the other one being Laia who was an ascended Latias. That was about the only similarity between them. While her transformation occurred upon receiving the blessing of Arceus, he had the poisonous and acidic substances of Phaaze to thank for evoking his own alteration. Laia's red feathers increased in radiance and gained an angelic property while his blue feathers merely faded to a very dull shade of grey. It was not because of the state of his feathers that he decided to don a black, tattered cloak that covered most of his visage save for a few features—eyes and ears—and a portion of his body. Rather, he did so to hide the numerous amount of incurable scars that marred his physique.
Tracing a claw along the scar streaking across his left forearm, Reaper sneered, "Stupid Laia. Always trying to pull your own weight. Would you have been able to live with yourself if I died trying to save you?"
The state of his mind proved to be an even more bothersome matter to his fellow Arceans than his physical appearance. Post-transformation, Reaper began to embrace the darker side of the emotional spectrum. He became cold, sardonic, devious and extremely resentful: the last particular emotion was mostly directed towards Laia. At first, he blamed the toxins that had forced his transformation for instilling those negative feelings in his mind. However, as he continued on with his musings, he discovered that he had suppressed them long before his torture at the hands of the Phaaze invaders. He had always found Laia's optimistic attitude to be very unappealing and disliked her constant meddling into his business. He masked those feelings for fear of incuring the wrath of his parents who expected him to be the epitome of patience and restraint. After their deaths, Reaper felt that he could breathe easier and started to subtly show Laia how he truly felt about her—it did not help that she was the epitome of optimism. The turning point came when Alto Mare was attacked by Phazon-based invaders. When the toxins invaded his mind, they destroyed every little bit of insecurity that kept him from truly accepting his true self. With all the unnecessary baggage gone, he became much more straightforward with his dislike of Laia and even mentally cheered when he finally managed to wipe out the joy from her face the first time around.
Smiling upon recalling that unforgettable memory, Reaper focused back on the present and took in his surroundings: the platforms hovering at many different angles, the 'waterfalls' strewn about the place—he did not know whether the streams of water were rising or dropping as the force of gravity in the Reverse Realm was annoyingly unpredictable—the floating crystal pillars and the swirling whirlpool of spatial clouds that served as both the top and bottom of the realm of the dead. "Did I ever mention to Lady Giratina how much I hated the complete randomness of this place?" he grumbled. "Ferrying souls to this realm is one thing but guiding them to the Bein de Alma—which changes location every single time I leave this forsaken place—is a migraine. I swear, I've never been so exhausted in all my life."
While most of the legendaries were given well-deserved breaks from their duties following the conclusion of the Uprising War, Giratina and Reaper were stuck working overtime, so to speak. Many souls of the dead were left wandering freely in the living world as both Giratina and her follower had been called up to the front lines. If left unchecked, the balance of both worlds could be compromised, something both of them were not willing to chance. Though the task of passing judgement on thousands of souls had run the Renegade Pokemon particularly ragged, it was Reaper who had suffered more. Not only did he have to scour the entire globe to ferry every single lost soul to the Reverse Realm, he also had to lead those deemed worthy by Giratina to the ever-elusive Bein de Alma. The whole ordeal left Reaper so fatigued that it took him two months to recover to the point that he did not require daily supervision.
Tearing his gaze away from his surroundings, he spun around and directed his eyes towards the massive structure that stood behind him a second ago: the door to the Bein de Alma. A long flight of steps led up to the door from the platform over which Reaper was hovering. A forty foot-tall lancet arch—twice the height of Giratina—gave the part-wood, part-concrete door its shape. Designs of skulls were engraved onto the door's surface with each of the skulls' eye sockets giving off an eerie green glow. A single, ten foot-tall fire column on which black flames burned brightly stood on either side of the door. Speaking of black flames, there was a rumour circulating amongst the circle of legendaries that Giratina cast damned souls—after she was done torturing them—into the bowls atop the columns, their sins being used as fuel to keep the flames burning. Reaper never cared for something as trivial as a rumour so he never bothered to touch upon the matter with Giratina.
"Business is rather slow today," he pronounced tonelessly. "I've guided naught but five souls into this realm up until this very moment. I should not waste this rare opportunity for a brief respite from my duties." With that said, the ascended Latios conjured up a pack of cards which settled down on his right forearm. Since Giratina was often preoccupied for some reason, Reaper always spent his free time by his lonesome; it suited him just fine. It was frustrating at first because he always grew bored with an activity the moment he discovered it. Everything he tried simply did not stick with him: everything except card games. The simplicity of each card game appealed to him greatly, and his downtime had never stopped revolving around card games ever since he stumbled upon them. If he would have to choose, he would say that his most favourite card game was solitaire. Conversely, his least favourite was card house-making, primarily due to the random strength of the gravitational pull in the Reverse Realm which would render his many card masterpieces unrecognizable in an instant. At that moment though, Reaper did not have solitaire or card house-making in mind. Instead, he decided to engage in a game of reflection using the Major Arcana—a suit of twenty-two cards—of the Tarot pack.
Utilizing his telekinetic powers, he lifted the cards into the air one by one until all twenty-two of them surrounded him. With a twitch of a claw, each of the cards took on a bright blue splendor as they began to move around the ascended Latios in a circular fashion. One by one, the cards entered and exited his line of sight; the Fool, the Emperor, Justice, the Tower, Judgement, every single one he gave nothing but a mere glance. When he got to the last card, he raised a forearm, halting the circular motion of the flat items. Beckoning it closer to him, Reaper grabbed the card and fixed an unblinking stare on it. Unlike the other cards in the pack, the one in his paw did not possess an illustration: it was a blank card.
"The Death Arcana continues to elude me," Reaper said, a little bit of annoyance creeping into his tone of voice. "I find it hard to believe that there's not a single soul in this whole universe that fits the criteria of this Arcana. While it is associated with foreboding and of doom, the Death Arcana symbolizes change, exposure, transition, termination and inevitability. Is this blank card saying that even the deities are hard-pressed to accept change, to accept the notion that the cutting of bonds is sometimes necessary to open up new possibilities?" His moment of reflection was interrupted as Reaper felt a familiar presence attempt to connect with his mind. Sighing and dispelling the blank card together with the others, he dropped his mental barriers and established a mental link with the only other living being in the Reverse Realm. "What is it that you require of me, Lady Giratina?" he asked via telepathy.
"I'll make this short and simple," Giratina's gruff voice rang out in his head. "A remnant of Entity Three's forces has been located. Deal with it." She promptly severed the mental link.
Reaper indifferently remarked, "That was rather straightforward, even by her standards." A smirk suddenly crossed his visage. "Whether it was intentional or not, she's just given me a loophole to exploit." He held out his right arm and tensed the limb. On cue, an elegant-looking scythe materialized in his paw in a flash of blue flames. The handle of the scythe was sky blue in colour—a homage to the previous state of the grey feathers on his body—and the blade was ash grey. The connection between them was red and resembled the once-noticeable, teardrop-shaped grey spot in the middle of his face. While it may seem like a normal scythe, the blade had actually been infused with a small portion of Giratina's energy, allowing Reaper to open portals to other dimensions via slicing the fabric of reality. "Though she did say 'Deal with it,' she did not mention how I should go about accomplishing this task. I really couldn't be bothered, so I'll just get someone else to do it for me."
Holding out the weapon in front of him in a horizontal manner, he siphoned a bit of his power into the blade; it promptly emitted a purplish glow. In a fluid motion, Reaper twirled the scythe around his right forearm before he grasped the edge of the handle and executed a diagonal slash, the swing leaving behind a jagged tear in the air. The tear then began to dilate until it formed a perfect oval shape. Reaper chuckled hauntingly as he stared at the bluish vortex within the oval-shaped portal.
"Who shall the unfortunate one be? The one who will become my puppet."
Kellyn shoved his hands into his pockets as he strolled along a path in the forest at which he was assigned, each of his steps bringing up a small cloud of dirt-laden dust. Even with the high density of trees, the sunlight that filtered through the forest canopy and shined down to the forest floor was still pretty intense. He was glad that he had customized his jacket with a detachable hood just in case the weather became a variable during missions. Customization of one's Ranger uniform was forbidden in the Pokemon Ranger Corps—the military organization's peacekeeping counterpart, the Ranger Union, did not see anything wrong with expressing one's individuality—but the brown-haired teen could not care less about some silly rule: he answered to the Ranger Union, not the Pokemon Ranger Corps. It was for this reason that he dressed the way he did: a button-up white shirt kept partially buttoned beneath a red zip-up vest, a long-sleeved grey jacket with a gold tribal design on the back, the standard-issue grey pants provided to every Ranger operative and shoes designed similarly to the pair worn by Spenser, a fellow Top Ranger. His accessories included a black fingerless glove with the monogram of the Ranger Union embroidered on it covering the palm of his left hand, a rather large belt buckle with the symbol of the Greek letter 'χ' engraved on its smooth and sleek surface, a titanium-enforced card guard fixed on either side of the belt connected to the buckle and a χ-gun (2)—the next-generation Pokemon Ranger pacification tool—which was attached to his left hip via magnetism.
Stepping into the shade of a tree, he took a moment to reflect on the circumstances which led to his being in a forest on patrol duty. The mission was supposed to be carried out by one of his subordinates but he decided to undertake it himself when he found out that the mission involved him going outdoors. Since his promotion to captain, most of his Ranger life centred around paperwork and attending meetings with his superior officers. While it was very unbecoming of him as a captain to carry out a patrol mission of all things, he knew that it was only matter of time before he would give in to his urge to burn all the paperwork and kill the other officers in frustration. Though the mission had been pretty uneventful thus far, the captain-ranked Ranger was not complaining; he was not one to reject a little peace and serenity.
"Incoming transmission," the communication device on his right ear suddenly announced.
"And so the serenity ends," he lamented as he pressed a finger on it to establish a connection. He pronounced in a rich, deep voice, "This is Captain Strife."
"No need to act so formal, Captain Strife," a familiar voice teased him through the link. "It's only me."
The Ranger's posture stiffened a little. There was only one person who would utter his title in such a teasing tone of voice. He figured that it had something to do with the well-known fact that he was the youngest and fastest to achieve that rank at the mere age of 20. "Rhythmi" was his curt response.
"That's it?" Rhythmi mumbled in a hurtful tone. "I go through all that trouble of hacking into Ranger Corps communications just to contact you and all I get is a 'Rhythmi?'"
Kellyn pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing exasperatedly. He considered her to be a reliable colleague given that her intel had gotten him out of some sticky situations in the past, but sometimes she was just too sensitive for his liking. "I'll get you something when I stop by the nearest town," he offered, knowing that the blonde was a sucker for souvenirs ever since Sven gave her a pendant with a shard from the Yellow Gem. "Apology accepted?" He could imagine her smiling at the other end when he heard her breathing pattern change.
"Thanks, Kel," she said happily, her mood turning one hundred and eighty degrees.
The Top Ranger rolled his eyes at her usage of his nickname. Out of all the people in both the Pokemon Ranger Corps and Ranger Union, only her and Keith could get away with calling him that: the luxury did not even extend to his mother and brother. "In any case, mind telling me why you're going against protocol by hacking into Ranger Corps communications? You know as well as I do that it has been agreed upon between the two Ranger organizations that interference in the other's affairs are not allowed save for the most extreme of situations."
"Says the boy who's doing the same thing by joining them and doing missions for them," Rhythmi retorted.
Kellyn snickered under his breath. "Touché."
"I was being serious just now, Kel," Rhythmi enlightened him. "You're lucky that Chairperson Erma informed us that despite your joining them, you are not shirking away from your duties as a Top Ranger, and more importantly, as a member of the Ranger Union. If she hadn't, Keith would've probably tracked you down and try to persuade you—by force if necessary—to quit and devote yourself fully to the Ranger Union."
A faint smile flickered on the captain-ranked Ranger's face. He sceptically asked her, "Do you really think he, of all people, can convince me to change my mind?" He added, "This is Keith we're talking about, you know."
A brief pause ensued.
"...No, I don't think he'll last ten seconds against you," the Top Operator admitted dejectedly. She heard him make a noncommittal sound, giving her the impression that Kellyn, despite his constant aloofness, did not look forward to subduing Keith should the confrontation happen. The blonde smiled a little.
"The Ranger Union monogram," Kellyn uttered suddenly.
The Top Ranger closed his eyes and whispered, "It's still a part of my uniform. That should be enough to make you at least breathe a sigh of relief." He paused as he pondered on his next words. Truthfully, he couldn't care less about his colleague's feelings, but a small part of him hoped that she would not misinterpret what he was about to say. "Listen Rhyme," he said softly, calling the Top Operator by her nickname, "I can't promise you that I'll always be loyal to the Ranger Union. You know me well enough to know that ultimately, my allegiance is to myself, not the Union. However... I can promise you this—I shall not betray the Union and, by extension, you and Keith. This... I'll make sure of."
Rhythmi's response came delayed, but it came nevertheless. "You really do look down on Keith and I, don't you?" she respired tiredly. "We're your friends, Kel. Though we won't always support your actions, know that we will always respect them. That's what friends are for."
"Friends, huh?" Kellyn pondered. "Do I really consider them that after I promised myself that the bonds I'd have with my colleagues would not go beyond simple acquaintanceship?" Shaking his head, he replied, "I'm... grateful that you understand."
"No prob" was Rhythmi's casual response. She then reminded him, "Anyway, Chairperson Erma said that you wanted me to contact you as soon as I got back from my sick leave. Since you already left, I stopped by our Ranger Corps friends to see if they could divulge to me your location and provide me with the appropriate frequencies so that I may get in contact with you. As you would've probably guessed, they shooed me away and told me to not meddle in their affairs, forcing me to do things the hard way."
Kellyn clicked his tongue. "Who is she trying to kid here?" he thought. "Hacking into fortified databases is almost second nature to her."
"Kel," Rhythmi spoke up, having not heard a word from her friend for ten full seconds, "you still there?"
The captain-ranked Ranger blinked and adjusted his ear piece. "Sorry about that," he apologized suddenly. "You caught me during one of my musings."
Rhythmi pouted. "So you basically ignored everything I said just now?"
"Not exactly," Kellyn tossed back smoothly. "I was just trying to recall whether or not I did tell the Chairperson that. Luckily for us both, I haven't locked that memory away yet." Coughing slightly, he requested, "I want you to pass something along to the Chairperson for me. It's currently in my possession so you don't have to worry about hunting high and low for it throughout the base."
"So you want me to enter the field and get this 'something' from you myself?!" Without awaiting an answer from him, Rhythmi continued, "Thanks but no thanks. I'd much rather have someone else do it for me. In fact, I'm sending one over to your location right now."
"Rhythmi, I know what you're thinking," Kellyn growled. "Don't you even think about sending—"
The blonde interrupted, "Too late. He's on his way there as we speak. Been nice talking to you, Captain Strife." With that witty remark—most probably directed at his young age—she cut the connection.
"Damn," he swore. "She just had to ruin my day. I have half a mind to go back to base and execute her."
His left eye twitched slightly as his fingers settled on his communicator again. He curtly muttered, "What is it now, Rhythmi?"
"Nothing much. Just wanted to remind you to not forget that souvenir you promised to get me," she expressed her anticipation in her usual peppy tone before she severed the link again.
Kellyn exhaled a deep, languid breath as he moved his arm back to its original position. "Scratch those second thoughts," he ominously articulated. "I will execute her... without hesitation."
Adjusting the hood over his head, he moved to step out of the tree's shadow. Just as he set foot in the sun once again, he froze in his movements as he eyed the reddish glow that suddenly pulsated through his three layers of clothing from the right side of his chest. Frowning slightly, he settled a palm over the region and bowed his head, only to jerk it back up as he felt his senses heighten exponentially. Though he could now see further and pick out the finer details of the setting around him—the veins of the leaves on the trees, the uneven surface of the tree trunks and the blades of grass swaying to the side at the passing of a small breeze—Kellyn was far more interested in how much more sensitive his sense of hearing had become. He was now able to detect the subtle changes in the air currents. Speaking of air currents, he detected some aerodynamically-shaped objects cutting through them like knives through butter. He'd normally pay no heed to this sort of discovery... if said objects weren't streaking towards him at high speeds.
His self-preservation instincts kicked in. In a flash, he pulled out a pink card from the card guard connected to the right side of his belt—it housed cards which had a specific Pokemon move sealed within each of them—and smacked it on the slot-like card reader acting as the ejectable magazine installed on his χ-gun before he pushed it back into the grip.
"QUEEN: CONFUSION POWER!" the χ-gun's mechanical voice announced as it became bathed in a bluish light.
Switching his hold on the tool in a way that his fingers clamped the three upper 'spokes' of the χ-gun, he turned around—using his left foot as a pivot—and stabbed the grip into the ground. The light emitting from the χ-gun died down as it was expelled from the futuristic firearm in the form of an explosion and its particles dissolved into the air, forming a dome of energy around him. On cue, multiple bullets shot out from the foliage towards him but the Top Ranger did not look the slightest bit worried that there was a small chance that the bullets may break through the barrier and litter his body with holes. His faith was rewarded as the bullets froze in mid-air upon coming into contact with the surface of the force field. Scoffing at the naivety of whoever sent the tiny projectiles at him, he dispelled the force field and watched pensively as the bullets dropped down onto the ground.
"And so nature provides me an outlet for my ruthlessness," he remarked to himself, casually tossing his χ-gun up and down. Shrugging as he caught the tool by its grip, he drawled, "Oh well, I suppose I have time to kill. It would be rude to turn down an offer of recreation." Scanning his surroundings, he spotted a Starly—perched on a thick tree branch—methodically preening its feathers. "You'll do." He aimed his weapon at the Starling Pokemon, but not before he flipped down the tip of the 'spoke' facing him. A sound resounded from the tool as the vertical 'spokes' rotated until they became horizontal and folded against the front 'spoke.' The remaining one folded down and took on the role of the grip of the Gun Styler, the alternate form of the χ-gun. Kellyn appraised the Gun Styler for the briefest of moments and pulled the trigger, shooting out a Capture Disc at the Starly. The top-like device looped around the Pokemon several times until the trail it left behind was absorbed into the Starly's body, transmitting his feelings to it. Instantly, the Starling Pokemon flew off the tree branch and landed on Kellyn's outstretched arm.
"Scout the area," Kellyn commanded the Pokemon. "Find out how many hostiles I'm dealing with."
The Starling Pokemon complied with the captain-ranked Ranger's simple command as it took off into the sky.
Once the Starly disappeared from his line of sight, Kellyn sat down on a nearby boulder and absently tapped the barrel of the Gun Styler on his left knee. A yawn escaped his lips when he thought of the kinds of things he had to endure to get to his current position as a captain-ranked Ranger. He remembered the sleepless nights, the harsh training regimes and worst of all, the smell of antiseptics. He shuddered. He never really did like hospitals, yet he almost always ended up in one at least once a month due to extreme lethargy. The ordeals would be made even more unbearable if he was assigned to Dr. Uzuki. Though possessing one the most brilliant minds Kellyn had ever encountered, the man had a penchant for using his patients—Kellyn included—as guinea pigs to test out his weird concoctions. The very bad aftertaste aside, they were strangely and highly effective remedies. When he thought that he would have to stay bedridden for weeks, he was back in the field in only one day after gulping down one of Dr. Uzuki's 'miracle drugs.' Some things in the world were simply not meant to be comprehended, and Dr. Uzuki was a prime example.
Kellyn jerked his head up upon hearing the gunshot. Getting back on his feet, he stared blankly at the direction from which the sound came from. Unconsciously tightening his grip on his Gun Styler, he broke into a sprint in said direction, his thoughts centred on the fate of the Starly he had tamed earlier.
"Protocols be damned. If they did what I think they did, then they'll get no mercy from me."
The Pokemon Ranger gazed down at the Starly's prone form on the ground; blood was oozing freely from the bullet wound it had on his chest. One of its wings was bent in a very odd angle and Kellyn was positive that one of its legs was broken as well. The only sign that it was still amongst the living was the subtle rise and fall of its chest. Kneeling down, he slid out another pink card from the right card guard and inserted it into the card reader.
"BLANK: HEAL PULSE POWER!"
He knew that it was long shot, but he still had to try. He was the one who basically sent the Starling Pokemon to its death. Hovering the χ-gun over the Starly—he had changed the tool back to its original form while he was searching for said Pokemon—he willed the weapon to emit waves of light pink energy that washed over the Starly's body which glowed the same pinkish hue as it absorbed the healing energy.
Watching the wound slowly stitch itself closed, Kellyn mentally prayed, "Please work. Don't let this one pay for my arrogance with its life." When there was nothing left of the injury but a scar, his eyes scanned the Starly for any signs of life. A slight rise of its chest made Kellyn's heart soar a little, but then it all came crashing down when it fell and did not rise up again. His whole body shook with rage: the Starly was dead, and it was all his fault. Letting out a guttural scream, he raised his χ-gun and stabbed one of the 'spokes' into the ground beside the Starly's body.
"Damn it!" he berated himself. "This wasn't supposed to happen. You were meant to return to me and give me the info I asked for before I release you back into the wild. To lose your life while you're still in your base form... Fate truly is the bearer of cruelty." Expelling a harsh breath, he lingered his gaze on the Starly's corpse. "I can't offer you anything but retribution. I hope that it'll at least put your soul to rest."
He bowed his head as a sign of respect, muttering a soft prayer for the deceased Pokemon. He then stood up and threw his head back, eyes shut as he put a lid on his emotions. Taking a deep breath, he tilted his head down and lifted his eyelids, his blue eyes nothing more than chips of ice. His mind was cleared of any emotional baggage, and he immediately sensed that something was not right: the forest was quiet, almost too quiet. Pulling out his χ-gun from the ground, he steeled himself for combat.
The inevitable soon came as Kellyn ducked his upper body to avoid the swing of a dagger. Unfortunately for his attacker, the blade of the dagger got wedged into the bark of a tree, inadvertently giving Kellyn an opportunity to counterattack. Staying true to his character, he seized it without hesitation. Grabbing the arm of his assailant—Kellyn really could not care less about his attacker's identity—before he had a chance to react, he struck the guy's elbow with his χ-gun, the action slamming the inner side of the joint against the tree and snapping it in half. Eliciting a scream of pain from his aggressor, Kellyn wrenched the dagger from the former's grip and twisted his body around him, ultimately plunging the dagger into the back of his neck all the way up to the hilt. The tip of the fighting knife protruded from the front of his neck, coated crimson. He twisted it out—cutting his quarry's jugular artery in the process—and pushed the corpse to the ground.
Sensing no further attacks—at least not yet—he slipped the dagger into his sleeve and chanced a look at the person he had just killed. His red hair and slightly tanned skin did not interest Kellyn that much. Rather, the Top Ranger found himself scrutinizing the guy's clothing: a black hat, a black shirt, black pants and silver boots. The large red 'R' emblem on the guy's shirt pretty much gave his identity away: he was a Team Rocket grunt.
A twig suddenly snapped behind him, prompting Kellyn to turn on his heel and raise his arms in front of his face. Despite this, the following attacker managed to break through his defence and sock him right in the jaw; the force of the blow was so powerful that it knocked his χ-gun out of his hand. Even though he had been disarmed, Kellyn was not going to allow his opponent to gain the upper hand as he pressed his palms on the ground before his chest could come into contact with the ground and thrust a leg upward, successfully landing a hit on the assailant's gut.
"Oof," the attacker puffed.
Bending his leg and vaulting himself off his foe, Kellyn used the momentum to roll forward into a crouching position and swerved around to face the former, slowly standing back up. Tenderly massaging his jaw, he sized up his new attacker. He was dressed pretty much like the grunt he had killed, meaning that he was a grunt as well. The only visible difference between the two was that the guy facing him was taller and burlier.
The Rocket grunt sneered, "Lucky hit, you little rascal. Even though the reports claim that you are a captain, nothing beats brute strength. I'll snap you like a twig."
"I'd like to see you try, you lizard-brained imbecile," Kellyn retorted calmly.
"That's it, you're getting it now." The grunt promptly advanced towards him and started to assault Kellyn with a series of heavy punches which included jabs, straights and even haymakers. Powerful as they were, they lacked accuracy and precision; furthermore, they were almost useless against a fresh opponent. People like the Rocket grunt, who preferred to charge straight in without appropriate planning, tended to make this mistake, thereby awarding control of the battles to their opponents.
Kellyn bode his time as he skillfully utilized his smaller build to dodge the low-ranking agent's attacks, all the while searching for an opening to exploit. When he leaned backwards to avoid an uppercut, he saw his chance and gave the grunt a palm strike to the chin, stunning him temporarily. He then delivered multiple hooks to the burly guy's left side before ending his attack with a heel kick at the same spot, making him hunch his body to the left which exposed his face. In prompt fashion, Kellyn jumped and landed a hard punch on his foe's right cheek.
The peon staggered backwards, reeling from the attacks. "You piece of shit! Stay still!" he growled.
"It's not my fault that you suck at fighting," Kellyn drawled while he beckoned the grunt to come at him for round two. His words set the latter off yet again as he dashed towards Kellyn like a stampeding Tauros. The Top Ranger was somewhat expecting that move from his opponent, but he clearly underestimated the guy's speed as the low-ranking Team Rocket agent barrelled into him and rammed his back against a tree.
"Gah!" Kellyn cried out in pain.
"Got you now, Ranger boy," the grunt snickered gleefully as he hefted the Pokemon Ranger over his shoulder and slammed him onto the ground. Unwilling to give Kellyn a chance to recover, he raised his leg and stomped on the Ranger's ribs repeatedly, reveling in the gasps of pain escaping through his lips. "Serves you right for mocking me."
"Ugh..." The captain-ranked Ranger was sure that grunt had broken some of his ribs. He was cut off from this train of thought as the black-garbed peon kicked him so hard that his body flew a few inches off the ground and rolled away until it came to a stop about five feet away from his assailant.
The grunt chortled and cracked his knuckles, thinking of the promotion he would be getting for being the one to take down the target. "Time for my coup de grâce." Venturing forward, he once again raised his leg to stomp Kellyn's head and end the Ranger's struggle. Just as he was about to do so, Kellyn rolled over onto his back which made the grunt's insides freeze: the Top Ranger had him at gunpoint. His last move had unexpectedly gifted Kellyn control of their bout.
"Bang," Kellyn respired tonelessly.
It was to be the last thing the grunt would hear in his life as his head was blown clean off his shoulders, the headless body falling backwards onto the ground.
Pushing himself up to a sitting position, Kellyn chanced a moment of reprieve. "What an off-day this is turning out to be," he thought, positively livid at his performance. "Something tells me that this is far from over." He shrugged and wiped the blood splattered on his face with the sleeve of his jacket. "Regardless of that, I won't accomplish anything by staying idle." Digging his heels into the ground, he slowly got back up on his feet, wincing slightly from the pain around his abdomen. "Looks like another appointment with Dr. Uzuki is on the cards after I get rid of the others."
He was a wounded prey, that much he realized. And he knew that flocking predators would be just around the corner. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on feeling any changes in the air currents with his heightened sense of hearing. Keith once—and still did—thought of him as a magnet for danger so Kellyn accepted that it was only fitting that he detected a lot of bullets heading his way.
A wry smile crossed his features. "Just another day in my life," he muttered as he took cover behind an oak tree. He pressed his back against the tree and sighed, listening to the gunfire pepper his cover and chip away at the bark. "I grow weary of this. If it weren't for my broken ribs, I could end this charade before they could even blink." As if on cue, the red glow from his right chest spread down to his abdominal area. His eyes widened slightly when he felt his ribs snap themselves back into place. He snorted. "Trying to get into my good books, huh? Well, I think my opinion of you has risen just a slight notch." He nonchalantly twirled his χ-gun around his trigger finger. "I still hate you though." He poked his head out of his cover to survey the area before he jerked it back just as a bullet zipped by. "Five hostiles. This is going to be easy." Exhaling one last calming breath, Kellyn darted into the horizontal rain of bullets.
He dashed straight on—blocking the accurate bullets with his χ-gun—as he searched for his targets. The barrage of bullets seemed to be decreasing in intensity the further he sprinted forward. Kellyn smirked: the intimidation factor was coming into play. A grunt holding a submachine gun stepped out from one of trees to gun down the Pokemon Ranger but he got a bullet in between the eyes before he could even pull the trigger. Spotting movement from the corner of his eye, Kellyn effortlessly switched his χ-gun from his right hand to his left and fired two rounds: one disarmed the target while the other put a hole in his heart.
"Three more," Kellyn said to himself. His eyes narrowed at the remaining targets who were huddled in a group; they were slowly backing away from him while loosing some defensive rounds in an attempt to halt his progress. He could just shoot them and be done with it, but that would be anticlimactic in his opinion. Spotting a felled tree leaning against one that was still standing strong—it made Kellyn think of a ramp—he hatched an idea to resolve the conflict in style. Picking up his pace, he jumped and ran up the entire length of the tree trunk before he launched himself off it. There was an element of risk to this manoeuvre as it left him wide open. Luckily for him, the grunts were too shell-shocked to even cock their guns at him. Two of them managed to overcome their shock and dived to the sides, forcing Kellyn to settle on the 'frozen' peon. As he dropped down onto the Team Rocket agent, he raised his χ-gun and stabbed the latter's throat with the dagger portion of the weapon. He pulled it out and watched the grunt gurgle out some blood from his mouth before his whole body went limp.
Two targets remained and Kellyn was not done, not by a long shot. Standing up, he produced the dagger which belonged to his first assailant from his sleeve and tossed it at the enemy on his right. The knife twirled in the air and embedded itself into the grunt's left shoulder, sending him stumbling back onto the ground as he screamed out in pain. Regarding the grunt on his right, he too was taken down by a dagger, his χ-gun's dagger to be exact. Unlike his comrade, he fell to the ground silently when the χ-gun's dagger buried itself near his collarbone; however, he was still alive—if only barely—and that was ultimately why Kellyn chose to approach him first.
Holding his hand towards the Ranger, the Team Rocket agent breathlessly begged, "Help me... P-Please."
Raising an eyebrow at the odd gesture, Kellyn reached out to supposedly grasp the peon's hand. Just when it looked as if Kellyn really was going to help his enemy, he extended his hand past the guy's own and instead grasped the grip of his χ-gun. His face betraying no emotion, he tore his weapon from the helpless person's collarbone, dragging it across his throat and killing him in the process. Blood sprayed from the grunt's throat and splattered across Kellyn's right cheek.
"Sorry," he apologized coldly. "You caught me in a bad mood." Taking a look at his χ-gun's blood-coated dagger, he produced a cloth and started to wipe the blade clean. He was so focused on cleaning the blade that he did not notice the other Team Rocket agent pulling out the dagger from his left shoulder and taking out the handgun from the holster strapped around his thigh.
"Die, you bastard," he rasped as he tried to steady his trigger finger and put a bullet in Kellyn's head. Suddenly, a tiny, shadowy speck appeared on the emblem of his shirt; tiny it may be, but it was enough to draw his attention away from Kellyn. Gradually, the speck got bigger and bigger until it became a ball slightly smaller than the diameter of his chest. He only had time to glance upward before a crimson sphere of energy dropped down on his chest. His arms and legs flailed about wildly as the circular mass of spiralling radiance drilled into his chest, eventually tearing right through it. The hapless grunt coughed up a large amount of blood before his body fell still.
Kellyn, though aware of the fate that befell the Team Rocket agent, stayed calm and composed as he continued to wipe his χ-gun's dagger clean until not a single speck of blood remained. Satisfied, he reattached the weapon onto his belt and directed his gaze forward. "I didn't need your help," he articulated in a stern tone.
A figure dropped down onto the ground behind him as those words left Kellyn's lips. "Are we seriously going to have this conversation again?" the figure grumbled with exasperation as it dusted itself off. "Ever heard of 'thank you?'" It received only silence, causing it to sag its shoulders. "I guess not."
"Why did Rhythmi send you?" Kellyn asked.
The figure tilted its head, a little confused as to why the Ranger was asking it that sort of question. It worriedly replied, "She was concerned about you. You're running yourself to the ground by doing missions for both the Ranger Corps and the Union—in succession no less. Why not consider—"
"That's not what I wanted to hear," Kellyn interjected. "I meant why did she choose to send you instead of any other available operatives?"
"She... kinda forgot to jot down your exact coordinates when she severed the link," it answered truthfully. "Even if she did send someone else, I doubt that he or she would've been able to track you down as fast as I just did. I don't think that it should be that surprising since we're bonded to each other, Kel—" Before the figure could pronounce the last syllable of the Top Ranger's name, a bullet zipped past his head—it came to within an inch of taking out its right eye—and splintered a large portion of the bark of a tree.
A wisp of smoke trailed out of the barrel of the χ-gun as Kellyn regarded the figure with visible annoyance etched on his expression and a little bit of rage clouding his eyes. "I don't recall us being under first name basis with each other," he uttered with a threatening voice. "It would serve you well to remember that, lest you want a bullet in the between the eyes. Is that clear, Aura Pokemon? Or would you prefer I call you 'Chaos Pokemon?'"
As the former title implied, the figure was a Lucario: a male one. However, the title lost all of its meaning when one took this specific Lucario's appearance into consideration. He actually had the appearance of an average Lucario with only a few notable differences: the black fur on his body and legs were embellished with strange, white markings which were outlined in red—they emerged as a result of his usage of a specific kind of power—his eyes were bright amber instead of deep red and his spikes were slightly longer and sharper. Plus, the ball of energy he had used to kill the final Team Rocket agent was crimson in colour instead of the traditional blue. The Lucario had told Kellyn that the kind of power he used was called Chaos and thus the title 'Chaos Pokemon' came into existence.
"Whichever is your preference, Strife," the Lucario said with a hint of sadness lacing his tone.
Giving the Lucario a terse nod, Kellyn lowered his χ-gun and tossed a USB flash drive at the former. He ordered, "Give that to the Chairperson."
Glancing down at USB flash drive lying innocently in his paw, he looked up at the human and asked, "This is no ordinary flash drive, right?"
"Of course it isn't," Kellyn scoffed. "It contains a security encryption program I wrote. With my joining the Ranger Corps, suspicion towards the Union from the former has increased. It's better to be prepared than wait for them to make a move on the Union."
The Chaos Pokemon nodded in understanding. "Alright, I'll make sure the Chairperson gets this," he promised Kellyn. He hastily turned around and started to distance himself from the Top Ranger. Halting in his steps, he glanced over his shoulder and pronounced, "If you need me, you know how to—"
"I know," the hooded teen interrupted with a growl. "Now go."
Eyeing his partner one final time, he jumped onto a tree branch and vanished from Kellyn's sights.
Kellyn stared at the direction in which the Lucario disappeared to ascertain whether the Pokemon was carrying out his given order or not. When a full minute had passed, only then did he turn on his heel and start to walk in the opposite direction. He did not get very far though as fate had other things in store for the Pokemon Ranger.
The hooded Ranger paused in his forward motion. Slowly rotating his body, he tilted his head up to gaze at the small crack that had appeared in the air. Suddenly, the crack lengthened in diagonal fashion before several smaller ones branched away from it, the cracks forming the shape of a circular mirror. The 'mirror' promptly shattered to reveal a bluish vortex.
The captain-ranked Ranger took a step back. "What in the—"
Without warning, multiple ribbons of blue energy shot out from the vortex and wrapped around Kellyn's body. Eyes widening, he madly flailed his body about in an attempt to get them to relinquish their hold on him but his struggle served to only make the ribbons constrict him in even tighter. With their target fully immobilized, the ribbons lifted him up into the air and jerked him into the vortex.
Crossing the barrier between dimensions, darkness was Kellyn Strife's constant and only companion.
(1) - Well of Souls
(2) - The gun is in the shape of the Greek letter 'χ' or an upside down '4.'
That's a wrap, at least for the first chapter.
Kellyn may have been a bit OOC but that's just the way he acts in my universe. I sincerely hope that one of you can do me the favour of drawing Reaper to use as the cover art. I think that it would really make Soldier of the Future's day.
Just in case you guys are curious, here's a gist on how Kellyn's weapon works:-
BLANK: Defensive cards/moves that augment Kellyn's physical abilities
JACK: Moves between 1-25 in terms of power
QUEEN: Moves between 26-50 in terms of power
KING: Moves between 51-75 in terms of power
ACE: Moves between 76-100 in terms of power
JOKER: Signature moves/Moves beyond 100 in terms of power
Read and review.
See you guys in the next chapter.