Chapter Two

Broken Faith

Niko silently slinked his way through the crowds, trying not to be caught with the sake pot. Alcohol here was considered a delicacy, and if anyone found out he had sake, his head would instantly be gracefully situated on a pike. He cautiously darted his eyes left and right, checking to see if the area was clear. When he felt comfortable enough, he took off towards a nearby alleyway.

The alley itself was dark, the shadows seemed to be reaching out towards him in a kind embrace of death, and the stench of rotten meats started to choke him. Instinctively he clutched his nostrils, trying to desperately save them from stench of putrid entrails and other, more unholy things. Many poison-types lived in these trash pits -it was the only place they were accepted- and the Poochyena found it a tad cruel. Though it was the way society was, and he couldn't reform it at all. The law was in place, and all anyone had these days was broken faith.

He strolled down the alley, giving curt hellos to the various gijinka in the alleyway. He did have to cover his mouth a few times to avoid the cigarette smoke from the cigarettes from some of the Koffing and Weezing he past. However, the residents of the alley minded their own business, unlike most of the others living in the sanctity of a house or other suitable habitat. Niko could pick up the faint noises of gunshots, and the smell of blood was faint but fresh, as if being carried by a light breeze. His heightened senses were both a blessing and a curse; while it made him safer and more aware, it also made him jumpy and cautious.

He pulled his weapon from its holster, giving jumpy glances across the alley before bolting out of it. After getting to a safer spot, he checked to make sure his sake pot was stable. The dark-type knew it would of been unfortunate to lose what was worth a good thousand. He quickly twitched his ears, trying to locate the movements of all of the gijinkas around him. Niko had a terrible case of paranoia, especially after his mother died.

Deciding that it was safe to move on, Niko quickly darted down the next alleyway. He continued to move from alley to alley. Looking up at the sky, he could tell he was spending way too long in the alleyways due to the fading visibility. Nighttime meant that rapists and who knows what would soon start to come out of their dens. Seeing a rusted, scarlet door, he skidded to a halt and quickly went up to the door. He slammed his fist on the door three times before giving three light taps above the handle. The city had many secrets, including certain knocks to get into any place that Niko needed to get into. He waited for a while, catching his breath, inhaling the disgusting air. After a while, a tall, older man came to the door, his face looking like that of a solemn guardian. A small smile came onto his face when he saw Niko, however.

"Ah boy, you seem to grow a bit every time I see ya! Come on in," the man exclaimed, his husky voice almost sounding out of place with the words, with a certain enthusiasm. His blue hair rustled from the boom of his voice, and the scars shriveled up at his hearty smile.

Niko walked into the building hesitantly, the aromas of spices and meats hitting his nostrils in strong bursts. He could hear the sizzling of oils and the rushed commands of the cooks. They went through the kitchen, where most of the food sung in the air, almost like a joyous septette. The older man went through a small room that was filled with towering piles of paperwork. He sat down behind a small, red desk that looked like it was about to fall apart, and various photos and swords hung on the peeling wall behind him.

"So what brings you here today, Niko?" The man asked in a serious tone, one that complimented his tone better. His blue and red kimono seemed to radiate a sense of dominance, and the glare he was giving the poochyena was filled with authority.

"T-This," Niko put the sake pot on the table. "A fresh pot of Salmon Sake. I left the bones in there, in case you wanted to make a broth with it, Fei."

"I see then. How much do you want for it?" he asked solemnly, before making an aside comment. "Wow, normally your sister is doing this... You're not that kid anymore." Fei gave a small chuckle.

"I'm just not a kid. Nothing else has changed," Niko calmly answered back, even if he was feeling nervous on the inside. He was really afraid of doing something wrong, and tried to imitate his sister as she did these transactions. Niko wasn't a people person or good with words, and he knew that bargaining wasn't his forte either. But he forced himself to look calm and started playing with his gun. "Anyways, there should be enough sake in there to fill around 12 bottles, more than the last batch we approached you with. I'll put down a price of 7500 Poké. It should be a steal considering the average bottle sells for around 2000."

"I'll make a profit of 16,500. That's not fair, boy," Fei replied, his sense of honor dancing in those words. "How about I pay you 12,000 for it? I'll get the money I payed you back. That's fair."

"How about you pay me 10k? You'll make a good profit," Niko remarked, his cool facade hiding his fear.

"Niko, my boy, you got to understand that you and Cayenne need to survive. You two are basically family to me, considering how things are. I'm going to pay you 12,000, and that's the deal of it. Besides, if anyone has a chance of escaping this hellhole, it's going to be one of you. I remember when I first met Maria." Niko felt his heart being stabbed at the mention of his mother's name. "She was so cheerful and energetic: a true party girl whom everyone looked up to. She was a blessing to all of us who knew her, and it seemed that her kids don't take after her. You sister has her spark, but you have her heart. Listen to me my boy. Even if time stopped, that doesn't mean you have to live your life in fear the entire time.

"Go out of Castelia. Get away from here. Flee! Leave us all behind. I'm just an old Salamence with wings that can't fly. You two have a chance at least to live on through this incident. Besides, what's the use of hope? With hope, only despair can truly exist, so stop hoping about getting what you need, take action, and achieve it! Stop believing in a broken faith, Niko. Just continue on living." Fei finished giving his powerful speech, coughing after straining his voice. Niko rushed to his side and tried to give him support, only to be shooed away.

"I will, sir. I promise you that," the Poochyena meekly promised before heading towards the door.

"Hey, boy. where are you going?" Fei asked, regaining his posture.

"Home."

"Come on, stay awhile, my boy!"

"I guess I have nothing better to do," Niko responded distantly before his stomach used Growl. "And I guess I'm also a bit hungry..."

" A bit? It sounds like it can devour the entire Red Dragon in a second," Fei heartily chuckled.

"S-Shut up old man! It's most likely just the poison talking," Niko grumbled, embarrassedly before looking away.

"Poison? I guess no matter how many times, you wind up with some substance in you," Fei sighed before starting to head out towards the door.

"It's not my fault it's the Imperial's favorite weapon!" Niko retaliated before trailing after Fei.

"At least you're like your mother when you're poisoned. That trait saved her, and your, life more times then it should have," Fei bitterly responded to Niko, but the Poochyena could sniff out worry faintly trailing the words. The two of them stayed silent as they walked through the kitchen as the chefs continued to hastily cook orders. Fei led Niko into the main room, which had an elegant, oriental flare to it. A giant garnet seemed to race along the walls, and the paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling gave it a more traditional vibe to the restaurant. Gijinka at the tables were shouting in everything from arguments to friendly chatter. Niko took a seat with Fei at a small, secluded booth near the back corner of the restaurant. A girl with short, white hair and black buns walked up to them with a leaf in her mouth.

"Hello, sirs! It's nice to see you both dining here again. Fei, shall I get you the usual, sir?" the girl asked in a sweet tone after giving the traditional bow that was part of Fei's Johtoan heritage.

"Yes, Fang." Fei tilted his head in response and then started to survey to restaurant.

"And you?" she asked Niko, though it felt more like a jab.

"I'll just take some Sriracha pot stickers," Niko timidly replied before sighing, seeing the girl starting to walk towards the kitchen. Her small, round tail was noticeable from her red and gold dragon-patterned qipao.

"When did you hire her?" Niko asked Fei quietly.

"About a week ago. She's been doing good so far. We've gotten notice that we had to expand. Apparently, even our dictator loves this place," Feir replied quietly but spat out the word dictator in bitter disgust.

"You need to tell me that story one day. About the war that happened before I was born. You promised you'd tell my sister and me that story when we were younger, yet you never did. I guess it's better late than never, right?" Niko gently asked the old man, his voice seemingly clouded by distant memories.

"Fine, I guess I'll tell you about the current situation as well... I know you probably know, but it's still a great tale nonetheless. I'll start when we get out food," Fei responded to Niko, giving him a passionate pat on the head.

The two sat chatting for a while, reminiscing on old memories while waiting for their food to arrive. The Red Dragon itself seemed to have a lively vibe to it, and it gave Nico a morale boost of sorts. It was a safe place: fights rarely broke out, items stayed in place, excellent food always served, and overall good people . It was sort of some unthinkable paradise, but not all paradises can be kept safe for long. And Niko knew that when fights did break out they were usually large and normally involved weapons. The fights mostly ended when one side was killed, each fighting like a dragon. The Poochyena sighed and fiddled with his weapon until he saw their plates arrive. Niko grabbed one of his pot stickers and bit into it, the taste of Sriracha and fresh pork mixing in a spicy harmony. He noticed Fei stand up and walk to a small stage near the back of the restaurant. Considering its small size, the old Salamence didn't have to strain his voice that much.

"Listen up, everyone! Since today's Wednesday, it's another day for legends and history! Today, I'm going to be covering the great war that happened and its after effects. Now settle down and stay awhile. There's no rush! We always have desserts and a fresh new shipment of sake for anyone who wants them," Fei told the crowd, who all started to burst into cheers at the mention of sake, making Niko laugh.

"Now, let me see here. There use to be six great nations: Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, and Kalos. These nations lived in peace and harmony for millennia, each having their own governing gods and own different cultures. They had excellent trade and commerce, and political issues were always handled with care. During this time, there existed two different races, Pokemon and Humans. The two species are considered our ancestors by some, while others simply said they never existed. Whatever the case was, the two races lived together in peace and harmony. However, a great war soon began, due to a new, power-hungry ruler taking Kanto's throne. This war, known as the Thousand Years War, lasted for a millennia and destroyed the very fabric of our planet. Sometime during the war, gijinka were created, and by the end of the war, they were the only ones left. I participated in this war. It was a very bloody, gruesome war where too much blood was spilled. Most of the land was left uninhabitable by how much nuclear power was expended in this great battle.

"Kanto became a wasteland; the most advanced nations in the world now a pile of nuclear ash. Johto was also slammed indirectly with what happened to Kanto, making most of the country uninhabitable. And what is inhabitable is filled with strife and poverty, worse than what we have here, in our once beloved Castelia. Hoenn has become a safe haven for pirates, and most of the world's illicit crimes happen there. It is not the island paradise it used to be, considering that the planet itself is in paralysis. Sinnoh was largely untouched, but it is forbidden by anyone to go there unless they're a religious zealot who believes in that broken faith. Here, our beloved Unova, has suffered the most damage. Our beloved, fallen Castelia is only a shell of what it use to be, but it is still the only city left in the world. The sea itself is toxic sludge, and the air we breathe is of heavy pollution. Towards Pinwheel, the smog is too thick for even poison-types to last there. The north is an icy tundra, laid waste due to Kyurem's rampage. Kalos has disappeared off the map entirely, ever since the war started. Kalos is sort of an enigma. What's there, I don't know, but I don't dare to ever find out."

"Now, I guess it's time to move onto the planet's paralysis. I know this is forbidden, but what can those fresh recruits do to a seasoned veteran? Ah well, 15 years ago marked when the war ended and also humanity's growth. Our leader, Sir Thomoson, was fabled to have killed the Time Lord, Dialga. I remember when Dialga was killed, and I'm sure most of you should as well. The world seemed to start losing all of its colors, people started to get more malevolent, and so forth. Thomoson united us here in Castelia, but we've been under a hollow law and broken faith ever since he started ruling. But at least we have a false sense of security. Well, after Dialga died, strange things have started to occur. The sun never rises anymore, and it seemed all the Volcarona and Larvesta were killed as well. There hasn't been a lot of faith, and hence there isn't any mentions of the gods in a long while. Another strange phenomena is that no children have been born at all, ever since Niko was born." Fei gave a quick glance towards the Poochyena, who was lazily eating his pot stickers. "Not to mention other countless strange phenomena. Well, I thank everyone who has stayed through that rather long speech, and I hope you have a good night! Also, remember, dessert's fr-" Fei started to end his long, didactic speech, bowing to many different corners of the room. Niko could hear the strain starting to mix into Fei's voice; the old man wasn't getting any younger after all. The room seemed too quiet to Niko, however. As if... to him, something was missing. A certain voice. Niko quickly turned his head to his side and realized it was his sister. Though he couldn't keep at the hazy state for long, a loud noise, sort of like a boom, cut the silence and the ending of Fei's speech.

The world seemed to freeze at a standstill for a second, Niko observing everything in slow motion. He quickly tried to get up and rush to the falling old man, gunshots singing through the screams of the diners in the Red Dragon. However, the world seemed to speed back up to normal speed just as he reached Fei, who was on the ground face down. Niko hesitantly flipped over the old Salamence, fear starting to cloud his judgements. He quickly examined Fei, noticing he was still breathing. He looked at the hole in Fei's kimono to see the lower half starting to fade into scarlet and a small hole around where the stomach would be located.

"Niko."

Niko quickly snapped to look at Fei's face. The dark-type could see his face contorted in pain and agony was cast through his eyes.

"I'll be fine boy. It's just a mere flesh wound," the old dragon tried to reassure Niko. Though the look in his eye's gave Niko a sense it wouldn't exactly.

"Y-You sure Fei... I mean you're bleeding quite a lot..." Niko quickly replied worryingly. Niko could see Fei was about to reply before the old dragon was cut off.

"Listen up! All of you stay on the floor, or we'll shoot again. I want everyone to throw their money on the floor," a demanding, powerful voice ordered, though it was a bit high pitched and... kiddish.

Niko stood up and looked in the direction of the voice to see a quivering, blond haired teen. He seemed to be wearing clothing made out of leaves, including a leaf hoodie. Niko also quickly examined the other two; a gothic girl with white ribbons and two tornado-like curls coming from the sides of her head, and a bulky, umber-skinned man carrying a two by four.

"A-and, what if we do refuse?" Niko hastily asked, putting his hands on his weapon.

"Then, we'll crush a little shrimp like you," the bigger man replied.

"Jake, calm down. You focus on getting the money. Susan, can you help me take care of this... problem?" the leader asked the girl with a certain disgust.

"Erik, just do it," she barked back at him, and the two of them drew their weapons. Erik quickly aimed at Niko and fired.

Niko quickly drew his pistol-knife and sidestepped but not without a shot hitting him in the shoulder. Cringing from the pain, he glanced at the two thieves before rushing at them. Using a table as leverage, he lunged at the blond started to slash at him. The girl quickly jumped in front his opponent, erecting a barrier. The sudden rebound of force sent him flying backwards, causing the Poochyena to slam into a table, as Niko struggled to get back up. Niko's opponent slowly started to walk towards him, a sadistic smile starting to form on his face as he aimed his gun at Niko. Reacting quickly, Niko shot the boy, the bullet going through his attacker's leg. His scream of agony filled the room, and Niko used the distraction to hide behind a table flipped on its side.

Every so often, Niko lifted his head above the table to make sure his shots weren't being fired aimlessly. He noticed that the ceiling above the two thieves was starting to come loose from all of the bullets singing in the air. Niko quickly shot four bullets at a beam, getting a small hope ofvictory as it came crashing down on his opponents. The hope faded when he saw them both relatively unharmed by the falling rubble and quickly jumped from under the table. He saw the girl, who was busy lifting down the pieces of beams and paper, and stabbed her with the knife. He pulled it out of her stomach and watched her fall, his mind and body starting to freeze up.

D-Did I get her? I don't think I actually did... but maybe I did... I should worry more about that thief right now. Niko sighed as he turned around, only to see a gun pointed at his face.

"Put the weapon down, or I'll shoot, pooch," Erik ordered, playing with the trigger a bit nervously.

"F-Fine, you got me, I guess," Niko replied, faking a reluctant tone, before setting his weapon down, positioned so the barrel was aimed at the thief's foot.

"Any last words?"

"Two. Dark Pulse," Niko cockily responded.

The boy saw the thief start to fall down towards the ground, head first. He quickly took the initiative and tried to land a blow.

"Smart bastard... String Shot!" the thief retaliated as he released a web of sticky, silky strings over the restaurant. His body landed on one and used it to propel himself up one of the strings, causing Niko to have a disadvantage.

Niko picked up his weapon and continued the fight, the two of them exchanging fire in the small room. The Poochyena noticed that the thief was using his gun's recoil to bounce along the strings. Eventually, Niko ran out of ammunition and decided to start hacking away at the strings, despite the risk of being shot. He started to cut the strings close to him but had some trouble due to the dulled blade and the fresh blood on it. It didn't help he had to dodge a rain of bullets as well. Through his hasty slashing, Niko heard a loud thud and turned to the direction to see the thief getting up from a fall. Seeing his opportunity to strike, Niko lunged forward to hit the Sewaddle but was interrupted by a plume of fire that appeared before him. Quickly pulling his knife back, he saw a boy standing there with an innocent smirk, making Niko almost crash into him.

"Hey, watch where you're going!" Niko yelled at him.

"Well sorry, I heard there was a fight, so I came to collect the soul of the loser," the boy responded with a cheerful tone before brandishing a large scythe.

"Are you some kind of sadist!?" Niko yelled.

"Nope, just a regular reaper. Name's Asher."

"Niko. Now can you help me get these thieves?"

"Sure, why not?" Asher responded in a more deeper voice.

Does this kid have bipolar disorder or something?

Niko pushed away the nagging thought about the reaper and focused on the now back together group of thieves. The girl, Susan, was clutching her wound, and the leader was reloading his gun once again. Niko and Asher both got on the defensive position and looked at the three of them

"I'll get the big guy. You can have the others," the reaper told the Poochyena before jumping towards him, leaving Niko with the other two.

The leader quickly sprinted forward and shot out a few razored leaves, forcing Niko to quickly dodge. As he made his escape from the leaves, a scream of agony escaped his lips as his shot arm started to lock up. Clutching it in pain, Niko decided a more offensive approach was necessary. Encasing his mouth in fiery flames, the Poochyena rushed forward and quickly sank his teeth in the leader's flesh, which instantly set it ablaze. While the blond did scream in agony, he soon turned that scream into a bug buzz, forcing Niko the release and clutch his ears to stop the mind-wrecking noise. The Gothorita started to attack as well, using her ribbons to unleash a series of orbs; her Hidden Power. Niko quickly cut most of the orbs with his pistol knife, but some sneaked past and slammed into his body. He saw the leader pull out a small knife, rushing towards Niko with a murderous intent. Niko parried the blow with a spare chair and proceeded to try and stab the leaf thief.

The two soon got locked in a dangerous knife fight, parrying each other's blows and sending sparks everywhere. Niko was able to land a major cut in the Sewaddle's abdomen, but also got a cut right below his eye in the process. The two continued this long, dangerous, and bloody game, countering each other with every move. They both lunged forward, locking their blades together and staring each other straight in the eye, the thief's bug breath making Niko's nostrils scream in paralyzing agony. The two stayed in that position for a while, trying to overpower the other, but to no avail. Niko could hear the sound of something burning, and felt an immense heat source near by, and looked over to see a massive fireball heading in his direction. The two of them jumped backwards, trying to not be consumed in the intense heat, but they were still singed. While the Sewaddle was recovering from a more serious singe, Niko aimed his gun at the boy and fired off a Dark Pulse, nailing the Sewaddle right in the stomach. The Poochyena quickly rushed in and slashed once more, but not where it could be fatal. Collapsing on a chair, Niko started to assess the situation.

Alright, the restaurant is badly damaged, and there's rubble and dust everywhere. Most of the people were able to escape, which is a good thing... I was able to take down the leader, and Asher's fighting the other two. If only Cayenne were here... I'm not good with these kind of things. Niko, think, instincts were taking over then... They were telling me to kill him, but common sense kicked in... Hmm, if I can get rid of that Gothorita then maybe...

Niko started to slowly get up, helped with the kind hand of pain. He slowly started to drag himself over to the fight, having to stop due to his adrenaline and feral instincts leaving him. He grabbed his gun and looked at the Gothorita, who was helping the Timburr from the sidelines. Very shakily, Niko fired a Dark Pulse, just hitting her by a small margin. She hit the ground, allowing Asher to quickly trip the Timburr and slam a tag onto his face. Niko approached the Timburr carefully and touched the tag, which had a single symbol of kanji on it. The Timburr was consumed by a fiery inferno, writhing in painful agony. The screams made Niko cup his ears, them piercing through his ears.

"W-what was in that!?" Niko demanded, the screams still ravaging his ears.

"Hmm, gunpowder, magic, souls, the usual stuff," Asher gave a distant, lost-in-thought response.

"The usual!? That had the power of a Fire Blast!" Niko yelled more in fear than anything else.

"Well, yea... I mean, as being part fire and part phantom, I can only manipulate heat in the air around me. Hence why I carry around those spell tags that activate on touch. It's pretty simple; a reaper always has to be prepared," the boy responded as if it was common knowledge, reverting his light-hearted, innocent voice. Niko gave Asher a confused look before tossing his thoughts aside.

The Poochyena looked to see the three thieves all huddling together, heavily injured.

"Just kill us. It would be satisfying to you, wouldn't it?" Erik asked, disgusted.

"What's the point of killing... It never solves anything. I don't like to fight or even hurt people... I only fought you to protect this place," Niko glanced at the damage. "Even if it didn't go that well. It's not fair to hurt the weak, laws were created to keep order, justice. Justice... No one cares about it any more... It's disgusting."

"Then you're a weakling, we'll cross paths once again, idiot," the thief leader spat before heading out the door with the rest of his badly damaged crew. Niko sighed and sat in a still stable chair with Asher taking a seat next to him. The two engaged in inane small talk, recovering from the heavy amount of energy used in the previous fight. Even if it was only a short fight, the ravages against both of them made the fight feel a lot longer than it is. The Poochyena skimmed the Red Dragon to see it a hollow shell of it's former glory. Ruckage was everywhere, and the ceiling had collapsed in some areas. Besides that, the place mostly needed an upgrade.

The boy got up quickly and decided to look for Fei, making sure he was okay. He could see the old Salamence sitting in his office, filing papers...

"I see you're finally done with that little skirmish," the old man told Niko as soon as he closed the door behind.

"Fei, I'm so-" Niko was about to go off into his apologetic streaks, only to be cut off by his older friend.

"Niko, my boy, I'm not mad at you. You did well to prove you can survive, no matter how pacifistic you are. Keep your sense of justice. It will help you. Now then... the sake you brought in can pay for the repairs in itself, maybe even an upgrade as well. Niko, before you start berating yourself, you have to understand that this is how life works right now. No matter what happens, I'll be here for you, and so will Cayenne. I mean, what can possibly go wrong?" Fei chuckled lightly before finishing his paperwork. His words provided Niko with a false sense of courage, even though he knew it was useless.

The boy was about to respond, but then he heard the door open. He turned his head to see Asher come in, a hollow look on his face. He coughed for a bit and slammed the tip of his scythe on the ground. He looked to Fei, to Niko, and the back to Fei.

"Excuse me, but your name is Fei, correct?" Asher asked the old Salamence and got a nod in return. "Alright then... You have someone here to talk to you," Asher replied before moving aside. An armored man, with a large, demonic face on his armor came into room. There was something off about him, sort of like he wasn't ethereal.

"Fei, we have been informed you have committed treason. The punishment for treason is as everyone knows, death. We will executed you by guillotine immediately, " the armored man boomed grimly, instantly killing what happiness that was in the room. Niko felt like the world just came crashing down, shattering into a million tiny pieces. Desperately, the Poochyena tried to call out to Fei, but found himself choking on the words. He couldn't understand why Fei, of all people, would be executed. It felt like his body was shutting down. The milliseconds felt like hours, seconds an eternity. It just didn't make sense. Not even Asher could try and comfort him a little, despite the boy's motherly gestures. A soft melody played through his head as he watched his old friend get up solemnly. Each step Fei took made the melody more discorded, and when Fei reached armored man, it was completely out of tune. He looked back Niko and gave him a last few words.

"Niko, I may be gone from now on, but you have grown. Now flee from here! Fight to survive! You must fulfill your destiny, and I have no regrets. Tell Cayenne I'm sorry and goodbye. Be strong, just like when Maria died. Be strong, Niko. Be strong." The old Salamence then walked out the door with the armored man. Asher held Niko's hand trying to reassure him things would be all right, even if his entire world was crashing down on him once more.