Everyone has moments that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Those of us who are lucky have the good ones outweigh the bad. I'm not that lucky. Most of the memories that I will never be able to simply let fade away are not pleasant.
But there are some…
I still remember the day I first met her, it took me a few months to realize it, but I was pretty much a lost cause from day one.
She was in the market, I know, cliché, but still. She had been targeted by a group of thugs who specifically went after girls who matched her description, one of them pretending to be a "Deal Guide" who would take her around and show her the best deals on every item she needed. He would then proceed to lead her down a back alley where the rest of his crew were waiting to rob her blind. Today they had targeted a girl about my age who seemed a little lost in the crowds. I noticed, but honestly didn't bother to step in. nobody in their right minds would have sent her out for much more than a single item, not in this part of town anyway. She wouldn't have much money on her to lose, she would hopefully learn a valuable lesson, and these guys didn't actually do any physical harm to their targets, so she wouldn't be hurt.
Still, something was nagging at me, so I followed them at a distance, even at thirteen I was fairly good at being able to go unnoticed, and I decided to take the "higher road" for good measure. Good thing too, because what I found was not a pretty sight. It turns out that a rival gang from another district had moved in and taken over the blind robbery scam. Ordinarily not a problem and I wouldn't have interfered. The trouble is that they hadn't just taken it over, they had also decided to take it a little bit farther.
Aside from the jerk who I had followed here, the short fat dude who he was currently conversing with (body language suggested that the girl couldn't hear what exactly they were saying), and the two cloaked bruisers flanking them, there were twelve guys guarding the seven girls gagged and tied up at the back of the alley. Two of the girls still had their clothes on.
It took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on, apparently it did Her too, because she didn't start making a fuss until another guy came out of the tent that until now I had failed to notice due to its being hidden by the second corner at the back of the alley. He was dragging an eighth girl who was still tied up and threw her into the five who I now realized I was too late to completely save. In our combined defense, we were both very naïve, as a result of our – ironically – nearly oppositely sheltered upbringings. It was right then that I did something very stupid, something that I had been avoiding trying to do for years, something that would define me for the rest of my life.
I decided to be a hero.
I couldn't help it, I had to do something, and for all of my intelligence, running for help just didn't seem like an option right now. Especially not with the guy who had just come out of the tent switching places with one of the guards, who was now reaching for one of the two girls. The new girl's scream was quickly cut off as the bodyguards bound and gagged her, but it gave me the time I needed to come up with a semblance of a plan as I quickly shifted into what my sister once affectionately called my "Analysis Mode".
The roof I was on was old, the ceramic tiling brittle and in some places broken and sharp. Appropriate shard: found, distance to Target: 15 feet, Tailwind: Check, 15 mph, Solar Positioning: Optimal, Rebound: Located, Communication Relay Pole Tensile Strength: 250 ppi, Distance: 5 feet, Distanc to ground: 15 feet, Shock Factor: Unknown. Conclusion: Success.
And thus I effectively ended what little semblance of a life I had with one well-timed kick.
I snagged my foot under a broken tile and put it in the air in front of me. Then I jumped up and used a spin kick to propel the tile shard forward and down. The man whose turn had just come was reaching for one of the girls when a six-inch shard of ceramic suddenly stabbed into his right arm, severing his radial artery and spraying both him and the girl with his blood. The vast majority of the people below quickly looked to see where the projectile had come from, and found themselves blinded by the sunset that was silhouetting the building I had been standing on.
I meanwhile had used some conveniently placed communication relay poles to rebound across the alley, my fall being broken by another rather conveniently place object, specifically the landing pad that I had just created with a six-inch ceramic shard. It really just wasn't this guy's day.
I quickly proceeded to slice through one of the girl's bindings with another piece of tile I had picked up off the roof, and handed it to her so that she could free the other girls. It was at about this point that my entire plan fell completely to pieces.
I would like to point out here that I consider myself to be very smart. I mean come on, I only had like two seconds to come up with a plan, and it had worked, the girls were freeing themselves from the ropes, and the guy who had been about to rape one of them was currently on the ground in serious pain attempting to keep from bleeding out. There was just that one little detail that I had entirely overlooked.
I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get these girls out of this alley past sixteen guys.
I calculated my odds as about sixteen to one. In other words I was screwed. Then the bodyguards' cloaks fell, revealing them to be a Machamp and a Gallade, and I amended that assessment. I was now royally screwed.
The short guy who I now realized was in charge of this operation stepped forward. "Well, well, what do we have here, a little hero?"
"Nah, they're all too busy with people who know what they're doing to play at being janitors right now, I'm afraid putting you down got delegated to me." To be perfectly honest I was just as surprised as they were at the words coming out of my mouth. Then I realized that I was the one who had just said that and my current status upgraded to shock. Also for some reason I couldn't seem to get that incessant smirk off of my face.
The expression on Fatty's face instantly shifted from amusement to irritation. "You two. Eliminate him."
"I don't really think that's necessary, he won't be talking to anybody." I was almost as shocked to hear one of the two guys who had just been ordered to kill me speaking in my defense as I was at the things I had just found myself saying. Almost.
I think that at this point I had entered a mental state that can only be described as a perpetual suspension of disbelief.
"Oh, and why won't he be talking exactly?"
"Simple, the guy's got too much to lose. He's supposed to be some sort of genius, and he spends most of his time trying to help his family stay afloat. He and his sister basically have to raise their kid brother, their parents are complete imbeciles." Wait a second. I knew that voice. Only one person I knew could successfully mock everyone present while simultaneously playing up their intelligence for listening to him. I knew this kid. I just hadn't recognized him out of uniform.
He went to my school. He was the captain of our primary sports team. Heck, he was the Student Body President! I had no idea that he was involved in something like this…wait…no…it was completely out of character, why would he…Jules.
His little sister.
I glanced over and sure enough, one of the girls who still had her clothes on was indeed the sister of the man currently trying to save my life. Well, at least that explained that. He was just trying to keep his sister from getting used, probably trying to make sure that the other girls at least survived their ordeal.
"He probably was just feeling left out, just wanted in on some of the action. He just doesn't know how to say that he wants some." I almost rolled my eyes at the hints he was dropping me. Subtle this guy was not. But still, I appreciated the thought that he was trying to save me, especially considering that we had never considered ourselves to be friends.
An idea seemed to occur to Fatty. At least that's what his feral grin told me. "Alright, we let him live. In fact, we let him have one of the girls too. Yo-"
He was suddenly cut off when the tied-up girl next to him managed to perform a double jump kick that ended in his stomach.
His bodyguards were quick to react, the Machamp yanking her off his boss and holding her by the neck while the Gallade brought one of his elbow blades to her throat. The Machamp helped his boss off the ground with his free hand. The evil grin had again been replaced by rage.
"You girly, just bought yourself a world of infinite pain and…" Oh boy. The evil grin was back. "I am going to do something to you so terrible that you will never recover from it. You could live a thousand years and it will still haunt your every nightmare (I have to laugh as I write this, the idiot had absolutely no idea exactly how right he was, and ironically how wrong. I still feel the effects of that night every day, even now, millions of years later, but this definitely didn't go the way he intended)."
Well, I thought, if I'm going to play the hero, might as well act like it… "Excuse me Short, Fat, and Brain-dead, but aren't we forgetting about somebody here?" Yeah, I know, cliché. In my defense, the only thing on my mind at the moment was saving that girl. Again, I know, cliché.
Now his evil-feral-grin-smile-thing reached literally from ear to ear and was legitimately starting to creep me out. "Oh no, not at all hero, in fact you play a vital role in my little plan. Let me tell you in exact detail what I'm going to do to you." I think I may have actually rolled my eyes there, I have to wonder if this guy realized that he had all but stuck a label on his forehead reading 'cliché stereotypical villain.' He even had the freaky smile down pat. Some of his thugs noticed this as well and seemed to get a little nervous, because if he was a cliché villain, then there was only one way that this could end, because let's face it; I had already filled the role of hapless hero perfectly.
"I am going to give the girl here a choice, a choice between her life and yours. You, quite obviously, are very much an innocent in all of this, and she won't fight you as much as she would one of us. She won't want to hurt someone who is obviously no more in control of the situation than she is. And when you two are found unconscious and in a very compromising position, and a simple medical test confirms appearances, she will be faced with a choice, either tell everyone she was willing and utterly disgrace herself, or tell everyone she wasn't which will lead to your exile or execution. Either way, you both lose, and I win. You won't even be able to reveal what actually happened because it will only make people wonder how long you two had been going if you had time to come up with this story. Nobody would believe you and you'd only find yourselves worse off than before. What's more, neither one of you will take the only way out and abandon the other to their fate because you'll still be clinging to your misplaced ideal that somehow something will save you." Cue evil laugh.
I swore. Well, there's the difference between this jerk and your run-of-the-mill baddie, his plan would actually work. There was nothing either of us could do. But there was one person who could seriously change things. I looked him in the eye as he and another thug advanced on me.
"Jonah, don't do this. It will destroy everything you've done. You're only protecting Jules, I can respect that. Don't destroy yourself like this."
"I'm sorry man. This is the only way. Thanks for trying to save my sister, but it didn't work. At least this way, someone survives…"
I smirked again.
Well, if Fatty got to act like a cliché villain, why couldn't I play the trademark hero?
"Jonah," I said somewhat more quietly than the rest of our conversation had been, which considering that we had almost been shouting at each other only meant that this was the first thing I had said at an ordinary volume since this fiasco started, "how about you stop trying to save me, and we just save these girls?"
He sighed. "I just know that I'm going to wind up regretting this…" he threw a haymaker punch at the guy next to him, slamming him into the brick wall and putting him out of the fight. Did I mention that the sports team Jonah captained basically equates to boxing?
This time when we walked towards the goons my smirk was real, and for some reason I found myself liking our hastily calculated 42 to 2 odds better than the 16 to 1 odds I had thought I had going in to this fight. And then I found myself delivering a monologue and I realized that I was actually enjoying going into a situation where my victory was a logical impossibility. I had a feeling that I would enjoy winning even more, and for some reason it never occurred to me that we might not win.
"I'm sure you remember my friend here mentioning that I'm a genius, right? Well today's lesson is applied sciences, specifically anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. Lesson title: what breaks most easily where?" Eleven guys rushed us, I found myself back in my "Analysis Mode," doge here, his miss hits him, strike him here, here, and here to disable left side of body, strike here ruptures eardrum, disables balance, hit him here, leave him temporarily unable to breathe, simultaneous strikes here and here to relieve him of consciousness. At some point in the fight Jules and the other girl I had freed joined in, stabbing their would-be rapists with the roof tile shards. In about two minutes there were eleven guys lying on the ground in varying degrees of pain, blood loss, and consciousness.
However we still found ourselves facing down a Machamp, a Gallade, and a very angry fat man with a hostage. "Kill Them!"
"How long can you hold the Gallade?" He thought about it.
"Thirty seconds? Do you have any disabling attacks for either of these guys?"
"I can put the Machamp down, it might even be easy. The guy's muscle structure indicates a significant lack of speed training. The Gallade on the other hand…" I could only shake my head.
He understood. "Well, at least we went out fighting; maybe we can hold him long enough for the girls to get away."
Neither of us noticed a Spinarak hiding in a broken drainpipe off to our right, or the Murkrow that suddenly took off from the roof behind us.
We were a little focused on the two pokémon who had just decided to charge us.
The Spinarak had seen everything. She had actually been with the first girl to get attacked, had tried to defend her. She had failed utterly. But now these two boys were going to try – no these two boys were going to die to save her friend and all of those other girls. Well, the least she could do was give them a hand, the one boy, the one who had managed to get the other one to help him save the girls, seemed confident in his ability to take down the Machamp, so she would focus on the Gallade. Put some Poison Stings in him, mark them with her threads to tangle the other pokémon up and show those boys where a hit would do the most damage. Yes, that would do it, as the two fighting types charged the boys she began firing her insidious darts.
The Murkrow had arrived rather late to the party, only just managing to figure out what was going on. There was a problem in that his kind were not well liked around the market, which kept their numbers down and basically ensured that only fellow Murkrow would listen to him.
However, those boys were going to need help, fast. And so, using all of the cleverness that his species were known for, he utilized the only option available to him. He improvised.
He was used to improvisation; it was a very useful survival skill when you lived from day to day. In this case, improvisation came in the form of a Nightshade attack that leveled seven stalls along one side of the street. He continued his rampage of minor destruction until a team of officials showed up to deal with the problem. Thankfully he had only caused enough of a problem to warrant a Noctowl, rather than a Pigeot. He then proceeded to use Taunt to cover his Mean Look attack, as well as several times in its own right, and then take off in a direction that seemed random to most onlookers.
It wasn't random at all. He was heading right back to the alley where two boys were currently fighting to save themselves and nine girls. With officials in pursuit.
His plan was working perfectly.
As the two fighting type pokémon rushed us I can honestly say that my only regret was not having managed to save everybody. That and not being able to say goodbye to or take care of my siblings anymore. My parents didn't even cross my mind.
Jonah and I shifted positions so that we were a bit further apart, splitting the charging fighters so that I could have a clear shot at the Machamp. Thirty-two quick pokes and fifteen seconds later, said Machamp was unable to use his arms below the elbows, had no feeling on his right side, and was completely paralyzed from the waist down. A 33rd strike delivered to the base of his skull relieved him of consciousness.
I then turned to see a strange sight, Jonah was unexpectedly holding out against the Gallade, who in profile looked like he had been attacked with a sewing kit. At first I wondered where Jonah had managed to get needles and thread, but I quickly recognized it as a combination of Poison Sting and String Shot. "Jonah! Hit the needles!"
"What are you talking about? What needles?"
Of course, I could see the threads just fine because of the angle I was at, but to Jonah the thread and needles were so thin they might as well have been invisible. Looking around I again entered a brief bout of analysis, which ended in me chain kicking a rock into a rain gutter over the Gallade. I had noticed earlier that the rain gutters in the alley had all been clogged up by various debris. End result: the now wet strings were highly visible, as were the Poison Stings at heir ends.
"Oh, those needles."
The Gallade was starting to panic; somehow these humans were defeating him. Something was making him slow down, and feel slightly sick and disoriented. He was losing. Against humans. That simply shouldn't be possible.
He turned to run, only to find that he couldn't. To his shock, as well as that of everyone present, he was met with a Spinarak, who had seemingly come from nowhere, and who was using Mean Look to ensure that he couldn't run. Poisoned, Drastically Slowed, and all but Paralyzed with terror, the Gallade finally succumbed to the battle and fainted.
Jonah stood panting over the unconscious Gallade. We were both in a euphoric state bordering on shock. We almost couldn't believe it. We had just won a fight against eleven men and two fully evolved fighting type pokémon.
And then our after-battle high came crashing down.
"Nobody moves or the girl dies!" We looked over to see Fatty holding a handheld laser to the head of the girl I had originally followed here. "Now, I am going to walk out of here, slowly, and none of you are going to follow me!"
As he started backing away a piece of ceramic again flew across the alley in what was an almost exact repeat of my entrance, complete with slicing deep into his arm. Unfortunately this time no major arteries were severed, so he didn't lose his hold on the gun.
Jonah and I looked over our shoulders to see Jules, arm still extended from throwing her piece of tile like a knife. Our heads quickly came back around at the sound of Fatty's voice.
"Alright little girl, you want to die, be my guest." He brought his laser around and fired at her, twice.
The Murkrow could have fainted in relief, he wasn't too late to save those kids. Now if only that infuriating team of officials would show up and finish things.
The boys had somehow managed to bring down the Machamp and the Gallade, and now only had to deal with the fat weakling human. But…
Something was wrong. He could still sense fear in the air. And then he noticed it, the cowardly human had a weapon. And he was ready to use it on the girl who was tied up and in front of him like a shield. Then one of the girls threw something at him and he was bleeding, not a lot, but it had to have hurt. And then he brought his weapon around and fired at the girl. And so the Murkrow fell back onto his old standby.
The Noctowl was growing concerned. This suspect's behavior patterns were strange. He should have been either fighting or trying to escape. Instead he had landed a single flurry of attacks and then run, almost like he was leading the Noctowl. He had even managed to land a Mean Look at some point without his noticing until what he was sure was a fair bit later, and now he seemed to be circling something. The Noctowl would have suspected a trap, but for the life of him he couldn't think of why this Murkrow would want to lead him into one, aside from the fact that he seemed more intent on getting where he was headed than on tiring his pursuer out along the way.
And then he reached his target, and saw something he was most definitely not expecting to see, a back alley with a tent, thirteen unconscious and wounded human males, two unconscious fighting type pokémon, eight human females, six of whom were in a state of complete undress, and two more human males and a pokémon apparently facing down another human male, slightly shorter than the others and definitively fat, holding a human female against him like a shield, while the Noctowl's original target was circling over the entire scene. Well at least that was explained now; the Murkrow had been leading him here. Now he just had to wait for his team to arrive, and…
Then he saw something flash across the alley and blood began to flow from the man who was using the girl as a human shield. He said something that the Noctowl couldn't quite make out, and then pointed at her, almost as if to attack her from across the alley. The Noctowl almost laughed, but then he saw it.
The man had a weapon. An illegal weapon.
Well, this changes things, the Noctowl thought, illegal weapons definitely take priority over a domestic nuisance, not to mention whatever else was going on here.
And so, now that he had a reason that would hold water at his court martial, the Noctowl switched his priorities to the man with the weapon, even as he fired at one of the girls across the alley from him.
Before either Jonah or I could react, a combined Shadow Ball and Nightshade attack intercepted the laser bursts, resulting in a fairly massive explosion. I would not meet the Noctowl whose Shadow Ball had intercepted the second shot that day, I would only get the full version of his story later, from Jonah and another friend.
When the smoke cleared, we saw that it had even damaged the alley we were standing in, and the spiderweb of cracks spread under Fatty and the girl. And then the ground under them gave out, and they fell into a hole that led to the sewers deep underground. I looked at Jonah and gave him the smirk that was quickly becoming my trademark. "Take care of your sister and the other girls, it looks like the cavalry may have finally arrived."
He grabbed my arm and pulled me into a bro hug, he said my name, the first time he confirmed knowing me since I had showed up, "Be careful."
"I always am."
And then again I performed an act that forever locked me into a destiny of a hero.
Jonah was just finishing the last knot on the thugs' ropes. He had been tying them up while Jules, the Spinarak and that other girl, the one that that darn hero had first cut the ropes off of, were seeing to the injuries of the traumatized girls, the Spinarak overclocking herself to make them some blankets to preserve what modesty they were able to retain through the ordeal.
The Murkrow hadn't been seen since he had followed the heroic moron into the hole after the explosion. The Noctowl hadn't seemed overly concerned by his suspect's disappearance, given the circumstances, there really wasn't all that much to forgive.
Then the officials arrived, and the medics airlifted the girls out with Altaria to take them to the hospital for a thorough examination.
Before they were taken away though, Jonah was questioned by the officials, he was reprimanded for taking stupid risks, and told that he should have run for help instead of staying to try and protect his sister, as well as for taking matters into his own hands once hero boy showed up, but even they had to grudgingly admit that there was nothing they could do to him after the Noctowl pointed out that he legally had the right to do everything within his power to protect his sister.
Then they asked him about the identity of the other boy involved in the rescue. He almost told them, but before he had even started he was suddenly struck by what the bird pokémon on his right had just said. They would have punished him for taking the law into his own hands if they could have, but they couldn't get him because of his sister's involvement.
Hero boy didn't have that protection.
What's more hero boy was gone, so there was no way for them to positively ID him unless somebody told them. The idiot had risked his live to save those girls, including his sister, and what's more, he now considered him to be a friend. Jonah found that he couldn't turn the guy in. No, he found that he didn't want to turn the guy in.
"I don't know. He didn't give his name." Jules and the Spinarak both blinked at this. They turned to look at the other girls. None of them said anything. Neither did the Noctowl.
"Where is he now?"
"There was an explosion. It punched that hole in the ground and dropped the guy behind this thing down there along with another girl. He told me to take care of these girls and then jumped in after them."
We were in the sewers for a while, during that time I managed to rescue the girl, make friends with a Murkrow who had none, put down a minor insurrection, settle a territorial dispute, and – eventually – find my way out of the sewers with two friends who I now considered family in all but name.
During that time I was finally formally introduced to Isa and Shaydstryker. I also officially fell head over heels for the girl who would break my heart, heal it, be forever forbidden to me, and die in my arms.
(And since I've used just about every other cliché ever created for storytelling in this section, I might as well use this one too) But that's another story for another time.
On a side note the portions of this part of our legends that are in what is currently known as "Third Person" were originally written by those who were close to me and involved in the incident. I changed the viewpoint to avoid confusion with the portions which I wrote myself.
As I mentioned before, the events of that day would forever define me as a hero in the eyes of others, and the opinion of those who knew what I did bled over to others, shining a new light on me. Let me make one thing clear: I am not a hero.
At best I playact as one, at worst I am a fool who wasn't even able to save the one person in the world who meant the most to him from an ordeal more terrible than any I had ever faced. I am a soldier. I kill when I have to. Because now all I have left is the world that those who we left and have left us helped create.
And so the world is all I have.
And no matter what it takes, I will protect it and everything in it.
So if painting myself as a hero is necessary to fulfill that goal, then so be it. I will be whatever the world needs me to be, whoever it needs me to be. That is why I cast off my name, that is why that seventeen year old died that day, along with all of the other project candidates.
Because I have little choice in who I am. I am simply what the world needs. And that has meant that I am an angel of destruction as often as I am an angel of mercy, if nothing else Atlantis proves that much… but still I stand, and I will protect this world.
No matter what.
I am immortal, unchanging, Immortelle.
I walk among you, living in your cities from time to time.
My name is whispered on the wind and you cannot find a place where no pokémon knows me.
– The Boy in the Leather Jacket
A/N: And so, another chapter, some new characters, and a new narration style are added to this story.
For those who are slightly confused the alley is shaped like a blocky question mark, with the tent at the end where the dot would normally be. The girls are in the sharp corner right before it heads down to the dot, while Isa and the man who may only ever be known as "Fatty" spend most of the chapter at the next corner along the line. Thus they are almost completely cut off from the outside world, and no help comes until a passing Murkrow decides to provides some.
For those who are wondering, yes, I will eventually let you know what all happened in the sewers, those bold numbers at the tops of the last two chapters were the chapter titles, there is a naming system to my chapters, and my not giving any of my main characters real names (or at least revealing them to you yet) is a plot point. It also provides subtle foreshadowing for those who can figure out the primary factor behind a character being given a name. And just because I'm evil and don't believe in spoilers I won't tell you what that system is.
At the end of another Chapter and another Author's Note, both of which again much longer than I originally intended them to be when I sat down to type, I find myself again thanking those who have actually taken the time to bother to read this far in my humble work. Truly, you readers are the great ones who make this whole world of fanfiction possible. So, truly I say:
Thank you for reading,