Starts off clean, but later chapters get naughty. :P And no, this is not a Harry Potter crossover!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 11: Fragments
Dust swirled in the streets of Hearthome city, the colourful banners on the contest hall flapping and rippling in the wake of a swift moving wind. A young man drew his coat around him more tightly, the Ninetales at his side blinking her eyes closed against the flying grit. The wind rushed onwards, as if fleeing from some predator only it could see and hear.
It moaned its way up through the twisting, treacherous passes of Mount Coronet, sounding like the tortured soul of some long forgotten beast. Higher and higher over the peaks it blew, the temperature dropping, small groups of Snover sounding their mournful warning cries at its passage.
The gently falling snow was whipped into a fury at the wind's behest, the powdery flakes forming writhing, wraith-like figures in the air. The wind howled against the heavens, climbing to the highest pinnacle, its frigid claws stretching up to tear down the sky.
Despite its ferocity, the wind did not seem to affect the three poké mon standing atop the lofty plateau known as Spear Pillar. The only notice they gave to the wind was in how it ruffled the fur of the largest, and blew the somewhat wing-like appendages of the smaller four footed one to and fro.
Perhaps the third, the one that floated on the other side of the largest, gave small condolance to the wind. If she did, she did not vocalize it, instead continuing to gaze out over the region of Sinnoh, awaiting the words of the mighty one standing beside her.
The smaller of the two quadrupeds pawed the ground, his green eyes holding the fire of zeal. "Arceus, if you'll just allow me to-"
"No," the larger said, gently, but firmly. "I have already told you Shaymin. Making another move now would be unwise. The Shadowed One has made his move, and I have made mine. Further involvement would risk a full-scale war."
"But he will just move again! We should pre-empt that! We should-"
Arceus just looked at him, the expression in his eyes leaving no room for argument. Shaymin subsided. Although he grumbled, Celebi knew he would not disobey Arceus' orders.
Suddenly, a ripple appeared in the air behind the three poké mon, darkness leaking out of what appeared to be a hole in the air. The rift widened, and in the void between the edges of the hole, a pair of icy blue eyes could be seen. A shadowy form slowly materialized around the eyes, floating through the portal and hovering behind the legendaries.
Shaymin was the first to turn, shortly mirrored by Celebi. A low growl rose up in his throat as he glared at the floating figure. It towered over him and Celebi, but was similarly dwarfed in the presence of Arceus.
"Arceus…" it said, ignoring the other two. Its voice had a harsh, grating quality to it. It was as if at some point, it had devoured a desert, and still had parts of it sticking inside its throat.
Arceus did not acknowledge the figure, continuing to stare down at the world below. Celebi did not betray her inner worry, instead asking calmly, "What has awoken you slumbering one?"
The figure payed her no mind. "Arceus!"
Shaymin bared his fangs, growling more fiercely. "What right have you to call the name of the mighty one in such manner? What right have you to intrude upon his council?"
The figure regarded him with a malice filled gaze. "I have as much right as you Shaymin. Cousin." This last was spat, as if a curse.
"You lost that right long ago!"
"You would challenge me for it then?" The dark poké mon chuckled, experimentally rubbing the three claws on each of its hands against each other. "I would welcome the chance to defeat you again."
Shaymin appeared fully ready to take him up on the offer, and Celebi hastily intervened. "No, there shall be no battles here. This is the sacred meeting ground. What brings you here lost one?"
The black and red poké mon snorted, his white crest swaying as he shook his head. "I did not travel here just to dialogue with you two." He turned, re-focussing his attention on the stoic figure standing at the cliff's edge. "Arceus! You broke the rules Arceus."
Finally, Arceus turned around, fixing his penetrating stare on the intruder. "I wrote the rules Darkrai."
"That does not mean you can break them! You are not the One Arceus!"
"And neither are you the original. Both of us are indeed bound by the strictures."
"Which you defied."
"I did nothing that was outside the confines of the strictures. If you take up direct involvement, I am allowed to do so as well."
Darkrai spread his arms, approximating an innocent shrug. "Your spies' eyes have been upon me. I have been slumbering, my servants have been walking the earth, reporting back to me what they see. How can you say I have broken the mandates? I know what you did."
"Then you have seen my servant?"
"I have. You have taken a hand and protected him! I demand that you remove your protection."
Arceus seemed saddened, and Celebi felt a flash of concern. "He can't really…can he?"
"What you say is true, but I did not break the rules Darkrai. Your other self moved against me. It is within my bounds to protect my servant. However, the mandates are clear. I can no longer protect him against those that follow you. However, you yourself may not lay a hand on him."
Darkrai was silent for a moment, a calculating look in his cold eyes. "Fine. I will not touch your champion."
Arceus appeared amused by this. "He is not my champion Darkrai. You should know that already. This one is." He nodded towards Shaymin, who held his head up proudly, glaring defiantly at Darkrai.
Darkrai gave a rumbling chuckle. "You always did have a soft heart for the weak Arceus."
Shaymin glared. "Allow me to strike him down Arceus, then we will see who is weak."
"No." The firm proclamation seemed to rumble like distant thunder, a spark of power glinting in the depths of Arceus' eyes. "As Celebi has said, there shall be no battles here. This place lies on the dimensional cusp. You will NOT disturb the balance!"
Both Shaymin and Darkrai wilted under the gaze of the mighty legendary, relaxing their battle stances. "My apologies mighty one," Shaymin said. "I forget my place."
Darkrai did not speak further, simply turning his back on the three and opening another portal. Just before he floated through, he turned back towards them for a brief moment. "This isn't over Arceus."
Arceus sighed. "I know."
Far below this meeting of poké mon titans, on route 207, a wounded human leaned against a tree in a forest clearing. He was rocking back and forth slightly, holding a small Eevee close to his chest. An Arcanine and a Jolteon lay close on either side of him, looking on with worried eyes. A Marshtomp completed the little group, standing close enough to be part of the huddle, but not crowding in like the other two.
Marty felt a bit worried. This was the first time he had seen anything like this. His trainer was so powerful, and yet even he had been hurt by that evil person. "Poor Hina," he thought. He didn't know what the man had done to her, but she was terrified. It had taken Shawn a good twenty minutes or so to calm her down somewhat. She wasn't sobbing about "the dark" anymore, but she still hadn't stopped trembling.
He wasn't afraid. Not really. Things like death and terror were little more than abstract concepts to the Marshtomp. He had never experienced them firsthand. Just the fact that he could travel with Shawn and get stronger was enough for him. Even if it meant they would have to face some tough opponents who wanted to hurt them. He would do his best to protect his trainer, and his team-mates.
No, he wasn't afraid. The only thing that worried him was not being able to protect the others against being hurt. He would just have to get stronger to make sure that didn't happen.
Kirin sighed. "I think it's time you gave us an explanation Master."
Shawn nodded, grunting as he shifted position slightly. He continued petting Hina, holding her high against his chest to avoid staining her fur with the blood on his shirt. The stain on the wad of cloth that had been his left sleeve had stopped spreading, so it must not be bleeding anymore. Shawn let up the pressure, wincing as it pulled away from the wound.
"Can't you do anything to heal yourself from that Master Shawn?" Marty asked.
"No, I'm too weak. Even if I use a pre-prepared healing spell, it will take too much of my energy. This will be just one more scar for the record books."
Marty didn't understand what he meant by that, but figured if it was important, Shawn would explain. He wondered what the man had done to wound his trainer that badly.
"Tell us about that mean person then," Marty said.
"Yes, what did you mean when you said killing him might kill you?" Cheri asked.
"And why did he attack us in the first place? Why did he hurt Hina?" Kirin added.
Shawn waved his free hand, silencing them. …Alright, alright! Just…give me a moment. I'll explain everything, I promise. It's unfair for me to keep secrets any longer. But, let me just check Hina's health. I want to be sure that there isn't anything else wrong."
The little Eevee didn't respond to the talk about her, simply cuddling closer to her trainer, seeming to draw comfort from his proximity.
Reaching over Kirin, Shawn pulled his book out of his bag again. He flipped it open, turning a few pages until he found the one he was looking for. He muttered a few brief phrases under his breath, seeming to make a great effort. "He must be feeling really tired. Like when I use too much water, or get hit a lot in a battle."
Suddenly, his face blanched. "Oh god…no." Marty looked at him questioningly. "Uh oh, why does Master Shawn look scared?"
"What…what's wrong with her?" Kirin asked hesitantly.
Shawn seemed to have trouble speaking. Hina pulled her head off his shoulder finally, looking up at him. "Master Shawn?"
"Out with it!" Cheri rumbled.
"She…Hina is' Oh Hina, I'm so sorry. You've been….aged."
She tilted her head sideways. Her ears were still flattened against her head, but her curiosity seemed to have overtaken her fear somewhat. "Aged?"
"What do you mean?" Kirin asked.
Shawn swallowed hard. "She has…lost three years. She's now almost four years old."
Kirin and Cheri's stunned looks echoed what Marty felt. "FOUR!" Kirin cried. "She can't be! That makes her almost two years older than me! What…So she's…"
Shawn nodded sadly. "Yes. Three years of her life have been'stolen. I'm sorry. This is all my fault!"
Marty didn't know how such a thing was possible, but he thought he knew what it meant. "So…her life is shorter?"
Shawn looked at him, a pained expression in his eyes. "Yes'that. And it's all my fault!"
Hina piped up, shaking her head. "Not your fault Master Shawn!" She was trembling a little again, but she didn't seem overly concerned about the revelation. "I don't feel any older!"
Shawn just shook his head, not replying. He could once more feel the cold, icy rage rising up within. The same rage he had felt when"
Kirin stood up, nuzzling against him. "She's right. It's not YOUR fault. It's that'monster. He did this, not you. He would have killed us if you hadn't returned us. I…I was completely powerless against him."
Shawn shook his head again, feeling drained. "And if you hadn't been with me, he never would have touched you."
"What happened to "there are no accidents?" This is a terrible thing, but the fact is that you DID save us. Back when we first met, and just now. I don't blame you for anything, and I doubt Hina does either. Blaming yourself accomplishes nothing."
Hina shook her head helpfully, although Shawn doubted she really understood the gravity of what had been done to her. His scanning spell had picked up no abnormalities' except for her age. Three years of her life…gone. Her body had aged without having the benefit of the growth that came with time. And on top of that, there had been those dark flecks"
Still though, Kirin had a point. "I…yes. Like I said, at times it is….very hard. But, I have to accept that nothing can be done to change it now. We have to…keep working towards the right purpose, as best as we can."
Kirin nodded, although her eyes seemed a bit moist. He was grateful to her, for being strong even when he was weak. It seemed that he needed his team for even more than the goals of his mission.
He sighed heavily. "Right. The time for secrets is over. I owe you all that much."
He paused, collecting his thoughts. He cuddled Hina closely, doing his best to make her feel safe. "Nash" the list of your evils just grows longer."
"That person we fought" His name is Nash. He is a" dark wizard of sorts. Although he doesn't take orders from any of their hierarchies."
"Dark wizard?" Marty asked.
"Yes. It is exactly what it sounds like. They are the fallen ones. They are wizards who use their powers for their own selfish purposes, and the plans of the Lone One. But that is not all that Nash is."
"Wait, who is the Lone One?" Cheri asked.
"You would know him as Darkrai."
Cheri's ears flattened, a low growl rising in her throat. "The Dream stealer."
Marty's eyes were wide, like a little kid who had just been told there was a monster under his bed. "The Watcher? He's real?"
"Yes. All too real. That is what we are up against. He is the only one Nash takes orders from."
Kirin shuddered. "That is what you meant? About mysterious forces?"
"Yes. I have fought him before, and I will continue to fight him until the day I die."
Marty nodded affirmatively, some of his enthusiasm bubbling up again. "If you say we can do it, than I know we can Trainer Shawn!"
Shawn had to smile a little at that. Even through all this, Marty could still find a way to be perky and happy.
"Yes, we can. We aren't alone in this, Arceus is real too. He helps us out sometimes, in ways we don't always understand. That is where my power comes from originally. The power given to wizards to resist Darkrai directly, on behalf of those who can't."
Kirin looked confused about something. "But, if Arceus gives you your power, what about dark wizards? Surely he doesn't give them their power too?"
"They…get their power from the same place. Arceus gives us a free choice. Some'make the wrong choice. Darkrai cannot create wizards, he can only seduce them. At times, he can grant them greater ability, although that is greatly limited. The Lone One wins them over with his promises, and they enact his will. We have to fight them too."
"But…why? That doesn't seem to make any sense. Why would Arceus give power to evil people?"
Shawn wasn't entirely sure how to answer that one. …It doesn't always make sense right now. They aren't evil at the start. It all comes down to choices. If we didn't have free choice, we would just be slaves. The choice to do right or wrong is in our hands, just as it was so long ago, when we humans accepted the Lone One's offer of death. Arceus wants us to fight for him of our own free will. Darkrai just wants to destroy everything that Arceus has made."
Kirin nodded slowly. "So you fight for Arceus, and Nash and others like him fight for Darkrai?"
"That's the long and short of it, yes."
He glanced at Cheri. The Arcanine had a troubled look on her face. Ever since she had made mental contact with Nash, she had appeared bothered by something. "Cheri…"
"What did Nash tell you?"
Her ears flattened. "No, nothing of importance. Like you said, he was just trying to mess with my head."
"I know something is bothering you Cheri. Please" I need to know."
She huffed. "Alright, fine. I won't repeat everything he said, but" He asked me if you had……Told me your dirty little secrets yet". And he knew we were mates."
Shawn leaned his head back with a sigh. "So that's it. Well, as I said, the time for secrets is over. I'm pretty sure I know what he meant. Keeping secrets is a bad habit of mine. I promise you I will tell you everything you need to know."
She shook her head, letting out a small bark. "No! It isn't that. I don't have to know everything about you to know that I love you! What he said bothered me, but only because it made me afraid of losing you, to something I didn't understand. Are any of these "secrets' more things that could hurt you?"
Shawn met her eyes. "Please Cheri, just let me explain. It…hurts, to have to, but it's too unfair for me not to. You should…hold your assessment of me until I'm finished."
She looked a bit shocked. "What? What do you mean?"
He closed his eyes for a moment before responding. "To answer your first question…about Nash. He is a…doppelganger of sorts. Do you know what that is?"
Cheri shook her head, and Kirin and Marty simply stayed silent, listening. Shawn tapped his sword, which was lying at his side. "When I made this' Something was ripped out of me. My…dark side, as it were. Making this sword granted me a great power, and I can only suppose that the Lone One was trying to balance that out.
When I was at the place where my own blade was made" I was followed. I don't know if the dark wizard that came after me was acting on his own, or if he was on the orders of the Lone One. I suppose it doesn't really matter. He was there to try and stop me. The dark side that was ripped out of me merged with him, and became Nash. The blade he wields was made as well, from the residuals of this one's energy. He is me, or at least, what I could be, if I were to use my power solely for myself.
We fought then, when he was first created. I defeated him, and had him at my mercy. There is a connection between us of sorts, because he was made with a part of me. At that time, it was stronger, palpable. I just KNEW that killing him was a bad idea, despite the fact that he had become something" unnatural. During that first battle, I found out much of what I know about him."
Shawn paused for a moment, catching his breath before continuing. "There is no way to be completely sure, but if one of us dies, the other might too. I can't take the risk of killing him. I don't FEAR death, but I have too many responsibilities to take the chance of going out early. He has one goal. To kill me. Nothing will stop him from trying to achieve that, although he will occasionally perform tasks for the Lone One, in exchange for assistance at times. The only thing he won't do is kill himself, because he can't be assured of my death if he does."
"But, he taunted me to kill him. And why would he kill you if it ends his own life?" Cheri said.
"That would actually make sense. That would be his last ditch effort. He would rather have you kill him and hopefully kill me, than have me lock him up again. Although I'm sure by now he's already realizing that this is a little less secure than he usually is. As for why" I don't really know. It doesn't seem logical. I do know this though, he is not truly human anymore. Perhaps that is why. Human logic need not apply. I suppose he is just trying to "cancel me out" or something.
He is a construct of darkness, one that takes human form. He doesn't need to eat or drink, although I think he does need to sleep. He isn't without limits, although they are few. He is difficult to stop. But, since I can't kill him, all I can do is contain him. I can't even take that sword away from him." He gestured towards Nash's fallen blade, lying in the grass a short distance away.
Cheri snorted. "It seems to me like you took it away just fine."
Shawn shook his head. …No, you don't understand. He has all the same anti-theft spells on it that I do on mine. If I or anyone else lays a hand on it, it will warp back to his hand, wherever he is. Even when he is in his prison. He could use that to break out immediately.
I'll have to bury it, without touching it, to make sure nobody stumbles across it. If it gets too far away from him, the same thing will happen. The only reason it hasn't happened already is because his prison is still in close enough proximity, even though it's in a folded space. The moment he gets out, he will be able to summon it to his hand. But I need to make sure he won't get it back before then."
"How can he get out if you took his power away?" Marty asked.
"He always breaks out eventually. Sometimes he is helped directly by the Lone One. Sometimes he does it himself. When a wizard is powerful enough, they will eventually erode the walls of even the strongest cage, just by nature of existing. It would be the same if it were done to me. I construct his prisons myself, which means it takes longer, but even still, he eventually gets out of them. No prison is foolproof."
"Can't you stop it though? Fix it before he gets out?" Cheri said.
"No, it doesn't work like that. To repair it, I…d have to open it. That would have the same effect. Some things just…only work in a certain way."
Kirin shivered. "So, what you're saying is that, inevitably, he will come after you again. That's frightening. To always know that that monster will be coming for you at some point. As if Darkrai weren't enough."
Shawn nodded solemnly. "Yes, he is the proverbial sword over my head. I have tried everything I could think of. His limbs regenerate themselves. Putting warning systems on his prisons accomplish nothing. I can't constantly guard him, I…d never be able to fulfill all the tasks that I must. And no one else is strong enough to do it.
All I can do is lock him up each time" and hope that the next time he gets out won't be the one where he takes me by surprise. Nash is like a killer comet. I can't stop him from coming, I can only hope to minimize the damage he causes. It's been eight years now. We have fought many times, on many different battlefields. It is…draining."
"So, what do you suppose his "purpose" is?" Kirin asked.
"His purpose? As in, why would Arceus allow an abomination like him to exist?"
"I suppose as a'reminder. To me. Of what I could become. He is pure evil. There is nothing he isn't capable of doing. And he carries the same power I do. The only difference between us is that I can wield all the elements. He can only use Dark. In truth, we are two sides of the same coin. If I am not careful I…can be as bad as him."
Shawn gently put Hina down, the little Eevee's cry of protest tapering off as Cheri gathered her in. He stretched with a groan, grabbing one of the water bottles and taking off his shirt. "You see," he continued. "What Nash said wasn't entirely a lie. I do have…dirty secrets."
He winced as he used the water to wash the dried blood away, using the ruined shirt to clean up around the partially healed wound. The flesh was pink, scar tissue half formed around the crust of dried blood, where it had broken open the second time. His poké mon waited patiently for him to continue.
"Yup, definitely going to be another nice scar," he thought. Using the pre-prepared healing spell had lessened it considerably, repairing the major damage, but the rest would have to heal on its own. He was too weak to use another, the shock of the healing would overload his system. And there was no great need anyhow, better to save them for when they were truly necessary.
Slowly, cringing inwardly at the reaction he knew he…d get, he turned.
"Shawn!" Cheri cried, as his bared back came into view of his team.
"What…" said Kirin.
Hina just whimpered.
"Ouch! Do those…hurt?" Marty asked.
Running down the length of his upper back and shoulders, numerous scars criss-crossed his skin. He was usually pretty self-conscious of them, and had never let his team see his back before. Even Cheri, who had seen him in his skin, had always only seen his front.
"These are'the records of my mistakes. They are old scars, mostly from when I sought to create my sword. They are the price I paid for my arrogance." He traced one of the longer ones, running down his left side. "They don't hurt anymore…except for this one." He fingered a small little half moon scar, a mirror image of the fresh wound he had recieved. "You see, some mistakes are'more costly than others."
Cheri sounded a bit shaken. "What…what do you mean? Oh Shawn" Those must have been so painful…"
He turned back towards them, the emotion welling up in him threatening to break his composure. "As I said'most of them hurt only at first. But…" He paused, taking a deep breath.
"I had a…lover…once. A mate I suppose you would say. I had planned to marry her. Her name was Nina. She was'my perfect counterpart. My other half. She was a wizard too, a year younger than me."
He halted again, taking a gulp of water. Cheri was gazing at him with a sad look in her eyes. She seemed to already know where this story was going, although she didn't know just how bad it was. Kirin, Marty and Hina were listening intently.
"It was five years ago. I was riding high after locking up Nash yet again. I was so arrogant, so full of myself. I…I don't know how she put up with me. We were on a mission together, and we stumbled across a hideout the dark wizards had set up. She'she told me we should go back and report it, get help. I was'too proud. Too full of my own power. I insisted on tackling it myself, no matter how much she resisted. She'refused to let me do it alone. Since I wasn't going to get help, she insisted on staying with me."
Shawn leaned back against the tree, the weariness from the battle and his injury threatening to overwhelm him. He felt…numb, telling this story. Even after all these years, the pain was still there, fresh as the day it had happened.
Five Years Ago"
Shawn worked Air and Fire together, sending a stream of lightning at the two dark wizards facing off against him. They were working together, one powering the shield around them, the other firing off attack spells.
"Are these the last two?" Nina asked. She was standing in the corridor behind him, adding some of her power to his shield, as he countered the spells from the enemy wizards.
"I think so, there doesn't appear to be any other way out of this room. We've gone through the whole rest of the building." He switched to solid Air, pounding their shield with hammer blows as he grabbed a new attack wizardry from his spell wallet.
"Good. Even though you did the warp lock and most of the fighting, I'm getting tired," she said.
Shawn didn't turn, keeping his focus on the fight. He released the pre-prepared spell, the air around the two dark wizards shimmering as it ate at their shield. "But I was right though, I told you we could do it alone!"
The wizard maintaining the shield grimaced, feeding more power into it to resist the attack. He (if it was indeed a he) was a humanoid, but with eight eyes and pasty skin. He also only had three fingers on each hand. Shawn wasn't familiar with the species. The other was a female human.
"We STILL should have gone back and reported in Shawn! We have to go through and teleport all the ones we captured to holding cells too. We should have done that right away."
"If we…d gone back, they might have cleared out by the time we came back with reinforcements. And if we had wasted time to send those others off, some of them might have escaped."
"Gotcha!" He thought, as he broke through the shield with a spear of Air. He didn't want to use any heavy Fire or Water attacks, because this room seemed to hold some kind of importance. There was an odd looking piece of equipment behind the pair of dark wizards. The reason for this hideout perhaps?
Nina's reply fell on deaf ears as Shawn raced forward, sword at ready. He pushed the air around the two away, making them gasp for oxygen in the sudden vacuum. The one was stunned from the shield breaking, but the other had likely been trying to put one back in place.
He released the vacuum as he reached them, snapping spell-locks in place as the air rushed back in with a miniature thunderclap. The human glared at him as her limbs snapped together, whatever she had been about to say cut off by immobilized lips.
Shawn turned to Nina with a grin of victory, giving her a salute. She rolled her eyes as she walked towards him. "You don't take this seriously enough. We were just lucky! If there had been any truly powerful dark wizards here, or if they had worked together more…"
He shook his head. "But there weren't, and they didn't. Besides, you're always telling me I need to be more decisive."
She shook her head, that familiar stubborn look in her eye. "Not to the point of recklessness! What would you have done if that One had shown up?"
"Then we would've dealt with it like always."
"You aren't one of the Powers Shawn," she said softly.
He shrugged, sheathing his sword. "Maybe not, but I can hold my own. Now, let's get rid of these two first, then we'll see what they were guarding here. Then we'll go back for the others."
She sighed, flipping back the locks of hair that had been disturbed in the battle in irritation. She opened her manual to the last page, preparing the spell that would send the captured dark wizards to holding cells.
Shawn examined the odd looking piece of…whatever it was. "It's like a machine, but there doesn't appear to be any moving parts." There was a stool-like base, with an odd cage structure built around it. All over the whole thing, lines of The Speech spiralled around, carved into the metal. "Some kind of special project, or something they found? No" this isn't from this dimension. These characters are different."
Suddenly, Nina let out a gurgling shriek of pain, causing Shawn's heart to jump into his throat. Just as he started to turn, he was sent stumbling forward by a blow from behind. His eyes widened in shock as his shield just…evaporated.
A blossoming fire of pain ran up his left side as he reeled from the blow. Through the haze of pain and the shock of his shield vanishing, he glanced down. A knife was embedded in his flesh, right below the left kidney, the weight of the hilt almost pulling it out as he staggered.
With a wordless shout, he spun, pulling the knife loose and drawing his blade again, as he faced his unknown assailant.
A form flicked into view from invisibility. A male human, on his hands and knees, by Nina's fallen form. The sight hit Shawn like a punch between the eyes. Nina. Facedown. A pool of blood spreading around her.
He stumbled forward, the pain in his own body blocked out by disbelief. Their attacker was laughing hysterically, hauling himself up to a crouch as Shawn advanced. Shawn could now see that it was one of the same dark wizards he had fought and subdued earlier.
With his detection spells on, he could see the residues of the spell lock around the guy. As well as the invisibility spell, now that it had been cancelled. He didn't try to attack again, didn't try to run. He would be completely drained, having used anything he had left for that last invisibility spell.
His laughter faded into a few chuckles as Shawn dropped to his knees beside Nina, desperately grabbing healing wizardries from his spell wallet. "You…were sloppy," he wheezed, pointing an accusing finger at Shawn.
Shawn ignored him, vision blurring as he activated the first applicable spell, trying to close the gaping wound in her neck. Her whole body convulsed as the powerful spell took hold, the brutal slice sealing up. Shawn rolled her over, cradling her in his arms, heedless of the pool of blood and his own injury. "Nina…no…"
Her eyes remained closed, and he felt for a pulse with a feeling of dread. Nothing. He held his breath, keeping his fingers pressed on the vein. Still nothing.
It felt as if the knife had plunged into his heart rather than his side. "Oh god….Nina!"
The mocking laughter echoed in his ears. Slowly, gently, he let go of Nina's lifeless body, an icy rage consuming his entire being. He slowly turned towards the other human, who was so weak he couldn't even stand. "Heh, that thing over there wasn't the only artefact we had here. That knife is a pretty nice little weapon, able to cut right through a shield. Too bad we couldn't replicate it."
Shawn's Earth-powered kick sent him flying. It felt like a glacier had taken the place of his heart, the cold fury numbing his mind. As the dark wizard's flailing form flew back, he followed up with a hammer of air.
The brutal blow slammed him against the wall with a sickening crunch. Shawn didn't stop, his face twisted in a soundless snarl as he continued to pummel the already lifeless body.
Finally, Shawn's senses returned, and he collapsed to his knees, sobbing. The mangled pulp that had once been a human being lay in the corner, crushed out of existence. "What have I done" Nina…"
Back in the present"
A lone tear trickled down Shawn's cheek, an echo of the past. "Now…now you know. I'm a killer. That….that is my darkest secret. Sometimes….Nash and I aren't so different."
Cheri's eyes narrowed, a low growl rising in her throat. Hina looked up at her questioningly as she rose to her feet, the little Eevee huddling between her forelegs. "I can't listen to this," Cheri said, laying a massive paw on Shawn's knee. "I may not know everything about your past, but I know this. You are NOT like him!"
Shawn leaned forward, placing his hand on her paw gently. "Cheri…What I did was wrong. There's blood on my hands. His…and Nina's. Being forced to kill in battle is bad enough. This was different. It wasn't a fight, it was an execution."
"No!" she roared. "He killed your mate! How is it wrong that you killed him? I was prepared to do the exact same thing you did, before you stopped me. I certainly don't blame you for doing that!"
"Master," Kirin said. "I can't say what you did was right, but beating yourself up about it doesn't solve anything. It's easy to see that you aren't a killer by nature. If you were, you wouldn't blame yourself for this."
Shawn met her eyes. Once again, the insightful Jolteon cut right to the heart of things, showing a strength of character that was hard to fathom. Still though" "That may be true, because you're right, I HATE killing. But that doesn't excuse me from what I've done. I still…have to live with it. And I can't EVER forgive myself for causing Nina's death." Cheri murmured sympathetically.
He leaned back again. "I will always miss her. Even though I know I can see her again in Timeheart, and I know she wants me to let it go. The pain is a'reminder. To not get wrapped up in myself. That scar is a reminder that will always stick with me. And" That's not the only thing that haunts me either. Sometimes…. To stop a great evil" You have to do things that are" hard. But I" will do what I must. Even though the deaths I've caused will always be on my hands. I will do what I must."
"And so you should," Cheri rumbled. "If it has anything to do with…Darkrai," Even she shivered a bit at the mention of the name. "Then doing whatever you think is necessary is the right choice. At least, if you ask me. I KNOW you aren't a bad person Master."
"No, Master Shawn isn't a bad person at all! You're really nice, and you teach us cool stuff!" Marty asserted.
"Yes. Even if you aren't perfect, you're at least trying to do the right thing," Kirin said. "You're fighting Darkrai. That can't be easy."
Shawn was silent for a moment, lost in his memories. "Master Shawn?" Hina piped up.
"I like you!"
Shawn had to smile at the simple statement of faith from the little Eevee. Even though she was still recovering from Nash's attack, she was trying to make him feel better. "Thank you Hina. I like you too. All of you" Thank you. But" There's one more thing I have to tell you. I meant what I said, about no more secrets. And this is the hardest one of all."
He stopped, meeting each of their eyes in turn. "I…didn't want to say anything, because I wasn't sure. But…I have to prepare you all. In case…" He trailed off.
"In case what?" Cheri prompted.
Raw emotion surged through Shawn. It was just so unfair. But they had a right to know" "Well" You see" You already know I'm not from here, right?"
Cheri and Kirin nodded. Hina looked at him inquisitively, and Marty just shrugged. "I come from someplace…far away. It isn't easy to get to that place. And" there aren't any poké mon where I come from."
"No poké mon? That's…bizarre," Kirin said.
"That must be REALLY far away!" Marty said.
"Just what are you getting at?" Cheri asked.
He swallowed heavily. "Eventually, I don't know when, I will have to go back. And when that time comes…. I don't know…. If I'll be able to take you with me."
The silence was deafening. "And you've waited until NOW to tell us this?" Cheri said flatly.
Shawn couldn't meet her eyes. His secret-keeping habit had once more come back to bite him. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to say because" I just didn't know how. I hope that day doesn't come soon, or that I'm wrong. But I just don't know."
"So maybe we CAN go with you?" Kirin said. "When you have to leave?"
"I certainly hope so. But I have no way of knowing for sure."
Cheri's was definitely not pleased. "What DO you know then?"
He met her gaze. "I know that I love you. That I love all of you actually, as friends and partners. And that I want to protect you, and for you to have the best of everything. And I will do everything in my power to take you with me when I have to leave."
Her expression softened, and she leaned forward to lick his face. "Oh Shawn" I can't stay angry at you. I wish you had said something earlier but" I love you too. I won't hold it against you. I truly hope that I can stay with you though! But if not, I'm going to enjoy the time that I have."
"Might happen. Maybe will. Not a definite," Kirin said. "I'm holding out on hope that this is the time you're wrong."
"Me too! I don't want you to leave Trainer Shawn!" Marty said.
Shawn smiled, albeit a bit sadly. "And I don't want to leave you. In spite of the hard road ahead of us, I want to enjoy the company of you guys as long as I can. If I could stay forever, I would. I hope the day I have to leave is a long time in coming. Beyond that, I hope I'm wrong. But I had to tell you, I couldn't keep that a secret any longer."
Cheri nuzzled him. "Well, you can't ALWAYS be right! At least we know now. But I'm with Kirin. And I think this calls for some extra apology on your part once you've recovered…"
Shawn hugged her tight, pressing against her warm, soft fur. "Thank you Cheri. And perhaps it does, although I'm a little weak for that now." Hina squirmed her way into the hug, drawing a chuckle from Cheri as she sighed contentedly.
Shawn smiled, pulling the little Eevee back into his arms. "All of you'thanks for standing with me. Even though I've put you through a lot, and it's not going to be an easy journey."
"I can't think of anywhere else I…d rather be," said Kirin. "If I wasn't with you, I…d just be struggling to survive with Hina."
"And I might not have ended up with such a great trainer!" Marty added. "I…d probably still be a Mudkip."
Shawn couldn't speak, his immense gratitude towards his team welling up and choking off any response. Their mutual affection for him was easy to see, and he marvelled at how quickly their strong bonds had formed. At times like this, being a wizard was the greatest thing in the world.
"So, it seems the secret is out," came a voice from behind.
Almost as one, they turned to look in the direction of the voice, Cheri leaping to her feet in a battle stance. Jasmine floated into the clearing, a slight smile on her wispy face.
"Who are you?" Marty asked.
Shawn sighed. "Do you remember the ghost I told you about? The one that was following us? This is her."
"Oh," Cheri said, calming down. "I see. What do you want?"
Jasmine didn't respond to her, instead turning to Shawn. "You have fought an agent of Darkrai?"
…Yes, I suppose you could say that."
Jasmine nodded. "If that is the case then" I shall not delay any longer. I can't just observe if Darkrai is moving openly. I shall join you."
Shawn raised an eyebrow at her. "Really? That's great, I…d be happy to have you."
She nodded impassively, her smile growing a bit wider. "Yes…and I think you'll be pleased to see what else I have." A slight ripple seemed to run through her lower region, her amorphous "skirt" parting to allow something to float out in front of her.
…Is that an evolution stone?" Kirin asked.
Jasmine nodded, seeming quite pleased with herself. "Yes. If I'm to help you on your quest, I should be as strong as I can be, no?" Without waiting for a response, she focussed her gaze on the lumpy rock. A glow began to emanate from it, growing to encompass her entire body.
When the light finally faded, Jasmine's new form came into view. Slightly larger, and with what looked like a witch's cap over her head, her body was now a light violet colour. She chuckled. "Like what you see? I have decided to maintain myself as female, since that's how you view me anyhow. Mismagius…it has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
Shawn smiled. "It does. I suppose this is the part where I toss a poké ball your way."
She returned the smile. "Indeed. It is necessary, for me to anchor myself to you, and the corporeal plain."
Shawn nodded, and rummaged in his bag for an empty ball. The motion sent a stab of pain through him, but he blocked it out. As it snapped closed around the willing Ghost poké mon, Kirin said, "She seems like an" interesting character."
…That she does," Shawn replied. Briefly, he wondered about the mischievous look she had had in her eye, when she had mentioned that she was remaining female. Once the data entry was complete, he released Jasmine again.
Her eyes were closed as she re-appeared, and she opened them slowly. "Hmm, that is a'most odd experience. Not unpleasant really, but…different."
Cheri chuckled. "It takes a bit of getting used to."
…So it would seem."
…Alright," Shawn said, absently petting Hina. "I suppose we should set up camp here. I don't think we're going any further at this point."
Some time later, after bandaging his wound and putting on fresh clothes, Shawn relaxed in front of his tent. He definitely was not up to more travel today, despite the fact that there had still been some daylight left after his long conversation with his poké mon. They had instead taken an early meal, mostly just contemplating the events of the day and enjoying each other's company.
Jasmine apparently didn't need to eat. "The only sustenance I require is rest and mental stimulation," she had said. Even though she had a physical body of sorts now, apparently there were still some differences between ghost poké mon and other types.
With the exception of Jasmine, who had been patiently listening to Marty chatter on about all the "cool stuff" Shawn could do, the others hadn't wanted to get too far away from him. Cheri was curled around him protectively, absently grooming Hina, who was resting in his lap. Kirin lay at his other side, also seeming to take comfort from being close.
Shawn leaned back against the Arcanine's warm side, running his free hand through Kirin's spiky fur. It didn't have the same luxurious softness that Cheri's had, and seemed to crackle with static energy. Non-the-less, stroking her was a soothing sensation, one that she seemed to enjoy as well.
As the shadows lengthened, Hina started whimpering. "The dark is coming."
Cheri nuzzled her gently. "It's alright dear. You're safe."
She trembled, her voice rising in pitch. "No…no…not the dark. Please'make it go away!"
Kirin looked up, a sad look in her eye. "Hina, it's just night time. The dark can't hurt you."
…Sis'the dark! Make the dark go away!"
Shawn frowned. "Hina" if you're afraid, would you rather be in your ball?"
…No!" Rather than calming her down, the suggestion sent her into hysterics. "The dark is there too! Don't put me in the dark!" She was sobbing now, her little body shaking uncontrollably.
Shawn cuddled her close, doing his best to soothe her, although he didn't really know what to do. "Shh, I won't make you go in there if you don't want to. I promise I won't put you in the dark." This was a problem though. If she was going to be in a state like this, in or outside of her ball"
…Aren't you guys in stasis when you're in your ball?" he asked. "How can she know if it's dark or not?"
Kirin shrugged. "It's kind of like being asleep. There's a vague…awareness to it though. Like being half awake with your eyes closed, but resting at the same time. The time passes really quickly. It seems like only a few seconds, but when you let us out, it's been hours."
…Yes, that would make perfect sense," Shawn thought. Although in truth, the time for the poké mon in the ball was slowed, not sped up. It was a stasis-like state, so a moment or two to them would be hours in the world outside. That was why a badly injured poké mon could be protected by being returned to their ball. The stasis slowed the effects of the injury. The reverse was also true of course, which was why poké mon needed a poké centre, potions or true sleep to recover from battles.
Cheri nodded in agreement with Kirin's statement. "It IS dark I suppose, but it's like closing your eyes."
…I don't like the dark," Hina sobbed.
…Hmm, well, we'll be in Oreburgh soon. I'll have to see if I can do anything about her ball there. For now though, I can keep a light in the tent I suppose."
Jasmine floated over. "Look at me little one," she said gently.
It took a moment for Hina to respond, but she eventually looked up at the Mismagius.
The two stared into each other's eyes. Suddenly, Hina yawned, and promptly fell asleep in Shawn's lap.
There was a brief moment of stunned silence, before Cheri started rumbling dangerously. "What. Did. You. Do."
Jasmine's eyes widened slightly, and she floated back a bit. "I just hypnotised her. She'll sleep easily now."
The Arcanine slowly got to her feet, her body language telegraphing her anger. "How DARE you! She's still a pup! Even if she is technically not anymore! MY pup!" She advanced on the Mismagius, fangs bared.
…STOP!" Shawn ordered.
Kirin was nuzzling Hina, who twitched slightly at the contact, but didn't awaken. Cheri halted her advance, but didn't stop growling. Marty looked a little upset. "Hey, you shouldn't fight each other…"
…I was just trying to help." Jasmine said.
…By using an ATTACK!" Cheri cried. She looked ready to unleash all hell on the Ghost, Shawn's order the only thing holding her back. "She's going to be terrified when she wakes up!"
…Enough!" Shawn said. "Calm down Cheri! Hina is alright."
"Alright?" She growled. "You've never been hit by Hypnosis! It always gives nightmares."
Jasmine shook her head vehemently. "No, I communicated with her telepathically. I put subtle happy thoughts in her head. There won't be any nightmares."
Kirin looked up. "I can't say I like it, but she does seem to be sleeping peacefully."
…Okay, listen," Shawn said. "Jasmine, I understand why you did that, you were just trying to help Hina. But if you are going to be a part of this team, you will not do a thing like that in the future, unless I tell you to. Clear?"
She nodded, seeming a bit sullen at the reprimend. "Yes Master."
Cheri continued to glare at her a moment longer, before returning to Shawn's side with a huff. "I'll be watching you Ghost! You had better hope this is the best sleep Hina has ever had!"
Shawn laid his hand on Cheri's head, soothing her. "Alright Cheri, you're being a little harsh. Jasmine DID help Hina. She was getting hysterical."
The Arcanine didn't seem satisfied, but the rumbling growl finally faded. "Maybe. I don't like it though."
Shawn just sighed, ruffling her headfur as he adjusted the slumbering Eevee's position in his lap. It seemed that there would be a few more challenges for his little group to overcome.
Somewhere far away"
A figure stumbled along through the pitch black, hands outstretched, groping for something unknown. "I'm getting there Master, I'm trying. I'm getting closer. Don't punish me Master, I'll find him. What's that Master? I HAD to go this way Master. They would have known otherwise. They can't know Master. I won't fail Master!"