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Chapter 33~
A NEW CHAPTER IN LIFE, AND ALSO SOMEONE TO LOVE

**RMS BRITANNIC**
    Reflecting on it makes me realize how lucky I was to have Olympic and Tempestuous for my parents. No one's relationships were perfect, heaven knows my mother had gotten so angry, she had done a number to my father, but that was the only time they ever fought. Despite my father's infamous temper, he never once raised his voice at a lady. Seeing them both, one would never think they were a pair. That's why I thought their union was possibly the most beautiful I would ever see. My mother, an elegant liner, the cream-of-the-crop for White Star Line with a warship. If I thought someone was ugly, family or not, they were ugly. Not so with my father. I could see what had won my mama over with him. He was attractive in many ways, not just in looks. I don't think I ever met any other male as gentle and golden as him. Not up to his standard.

    He and my mother joined in a long and affectionate nuzzle, they had missed each other so much. Not much time had to pass for her to miss him. If there was anything I wished for, it would be for them to always be together. She kissed him, and said  "Having you here brightens my days, old boy."

    He returned the kiss, and replied "You add a special something to my life, too."

    When they parted, he made a wide circle, and came up closely alongside her. She pressed herself against his hull, and smiled. For this small amount of time, they could still live as mates, and would make the most of it.

    I roused Nelson from his nap, and his eyes widened with delight upon seeing his father. He raced over as quick as he could, and fell into Daddy's side in a little coughing, snuggling bundle.

    "Don't wear yourself out, love." Mama said.

    Nelson looked up at her and said "I'm alright, don't worry."

~~~~~~

    Later on, my father took me offshore so just him and I could spend time together on my last day as his little girl before my job started. On the way out, I passed the tender, Ireland, who winked and smiled at me. I stopped for a moment, came over to him, and said "I'm leaving tomorrow."

    He smiled back and said "Good luck to you, dear girl. I'll miss you."

    I nuzzled him and asked "Have you met my father?"

    "No." he replied.

    I turned to my father, and motioned him over.

    He slowly came forward, and stated "HMS Tempestuous; Commander of the Royal British Navy."

    Ireland ducked his head nervously, but politely, and said "The name's Ireland, a pleasure to meet you, Commander."

    Turning to me, Ireland asked in a hushed whisper "A warship is your father?!"

    I smiled and nuzzled my father affectionately for a 'yes'.

    My dad turned to Ireland, and said "You act as if you know my daughter well, are you friends?"

    I bit my tongue at that. Ireland and I were not so much friends as the fact we were lovers. I had snuck away when my mama was off working numerous times to be with him. We had kissed in the moonlight. Mama knew nothing. At all.

    Ireland smiled quickly and answered for me "Aye, we are friends. She's a great friend to have. You raised her well, Commander."

    My father smiled a bit, and said "I can't take all the credit for how she's turned out. I was not a big part of her life once the war ended. Civilians and military can't stay together."

    Ireland looked at me, then him, and said "I see where your daughter got her size from. Olympic and you are both quite big in size. I wouldn't know by looking at Britannic that you, sir, were her father."

    My dad nuzzled me, and replied "It's a blessing. If she looked like a crossbreed, she would be questioned her entire life. As you should know, a warship and ocean liner should never have mated, but I am a rule-breaker."

    "You look like quite the powerful dreadnought." Ireland observed.

    "I've killed over 200 ships with these guns in my 27 years if that counts as anything, kid." my father answered.

    Ireland visibly paled.

    I nuzzled him, and said "Well, Daddy is a warship. You've got to expect it, my friend!"

    He laughed a bit, and said "I guess so. Well, don't let me take anymore of your time. Hope to see you off tomorrow, Britannic!"

    "Thank you, dear one." I whispered.

    He gave me a final wink, and sailed on.

~~~~~~

    None the wiser to the true relationship Ireland and I were forging, my father merely said "He seems like quite the nervous chap."

    "Well, you are rather imposing, Daddy."

    "Was it my size, or the guns that did it?"

    "Imagine a 16" gun barrel aimed at your face. Wouldn't you be a little scared?"

    "Well, I've been face to face with other warships my entire life, I'm used to it. Heavens! It isn't as if I planned on firing them!"

    "I think your teeth were a bit startling, too."

    "Hence why you don't want ones like mine."

    I nudged him gently, and said "Your frightening and awe-inspiring all at the same time."

    He snorted and said "You learned that from your mother."

    "So? What if I did?"

    "You are EXACTLY like your mother!" he exclaimed.

    I pressed into him and replied "No, I've got your stubborn streak."

    "It runs in my bloodline, I'll admit...." he said with a smirk.

~~~~~~

    My father and I spent part of the evening together, and while out, he professed how proud he was of me to finally come-of-age to have my maiden voyage.

    "Do you remember your maiden voyage?" I asked.

    He smiled and said "Well, for a warship, we don't exactly have 'maiden voyages', but I had my trials like everyone else, to see what my best running speed was, and to test my maneuverability. I had my weaponry fired, and later had my guns enhanced to what they are now. I also had my bow broken. That was the extent of my 'maiden voyage'. After that, I was thrown into the first war there was. That's been my life ever since."

    I smiled and said "You've done well."

    He returned the smile, and replied "I've survived, darling. Let's put it that way. Make sure you too stay safe. We are most proud of you."

    I leaned in to kiss him, and replied "Don't worry, I'll be fine."

    We spent a few more hours out, and at dusk, returned to the harbor. Nelson grinned and said "You were out all that time and didn't even bring supper?!"

    Just then, Mama came up with a fish and said "I did. I figured the old man would forget."

    "Hey!" my father growled.

    Mama narrowed her eyes and said "Mind your manners, or all you'll get will be a few bones."

    Having our meal together like a family, like the way we did before the war ended, made me happy. The only one missing was Hood, who my father said had come down with a cold of some sort, making him unfit to travel. So, I imagine he was basking in the care of the German lady, Wilhelm Gustloff.

    Thinking on this, I asked "How is Miss Gustloff, father?"

    He replied "She is very tired, the poor dear. I worry over her, after all, she is a little old to be having children... I  just hope nothing comes to an awful end."

    My mother knew what he meant, either a miscarriage, or such a difficult birth, she herself would perish.

    Mama nodded solemnly and said "I know, dear."

    "If anything happens to her, that guilt will haunt me. I was foolish." he said.

    She met his eyes and said "She wanted to have children. It is no ones fault, darling."

~~~~~~~~~~~~*

    When nightfall came, my father and mother anchored side by side to sleep, and Nelson sat his little posterior in between them. I waited a little farther off. Although I was supposed to be sleeping, to prepare myself for the big day tomorrow, I couldn't. I wouldn't until I said a farewell to Ireland. I let a couple hours tick by, and when I was certain my parents were asleep, I pulled forward into the blue-black of the harbor, and hoped I would meet my love.

    He was at his berth, as I had expected. When he saw me come up, he exclaimed "Britannic, I didn't expect to see you tonight."

    I bit my lip, and said "Well, I shouldn't be. If my mother or father knew I was out here instead of sleeping, they'd be furious."

    "Why'd you chance it, sweetheart?"

    "I wanted to see you again, and just talk for a little while."

    "Well, I'm glad you could come. Did you have a nice time with your father?"

    "Oh yes. I enjoyed it a great deal."

    "He's rather imposing. Is he a retired Commander of the Navy, or current one?"

    "Oh no, he is in active service."

    "A fearsome looking fellow."

    "He has quite the temper, but he is indeed loving and gentle once given the chance."

    "Well, he must be to have a daughter so nice as you."

    I blushed and replied "Well, like I said, it was him and Mama who made me who I am. I can't credit one more than the other. Both gave me the unique traits that make up who I've become."

    He leaned in to nuzzle me, and said "You're a lovely girl, Britannic."

    What ensued was possibly the best evening of my life. We talked and laughed, and just enjoyed spending time together, but then, there also came something I never could of expected. It was true passionate love. When we kissed, it seemed like fireworks lit up the night, and everything seemed twice as beautiful. I was bow over stern in love, and I had never imagined it to be this great. This fantastic... And so, when he asked if he could have the privilege of calling me his mate, I could only smile in a dazed way, and whisper a 'yes'. I had lain under a blanket of stars that night in the Southampton harbor, with my parents and brother fast asleep, and had become mated to Ireland. I felt like I was in heaven. So, this is what is was like....

    The night before I would set sail on my maiden-voyage, I grew up.

    I became someone's true love.
Britannic tells about her love, the White Star tender, PS Ireland.

Whether their love will last though, we wonder.
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NUMA and the U.S Navy were running out of leads. They had checked the Titanic's two rescue ships', Carpathia and Mount Temple's reported conflicting positions but still found nothing. Things were not looking good. Dirk Pitt was starting to feel pressure as were the rest of the salvage team.  

"It's been sixty-two days and we still haven't found the ship!" said Emily Rose. "Where could she be?"

"She's lying somewhere at the bottom of the sea." Kimmy said.

"We know that, but where is she really lying? In which part of the Atlantic is she in?" Emily said, now starting to feel frustrated.

"If we continue to looking, this salvage operation will cost us millions of more dollars!" Arthur said, feeling the frustration building up inside him.

"Come on guys, we must try and recover what we can." Pitt said.

"You're right, Dirk," said Giordino. "Without the wreck, we'll never know the truth."


On day sixty-forth, Matthew Anderson decided it was time to send down his own sonar that he built to help find the ship. Attaching it to steal cable, it was to descended to it's operational depth and send up a continuos stream of images. Matthew was confident that the sonar would pick up the Titanic on the first few lines through the search box. As the USS Denver travelled down the first line, he was transfixed by the slowly moving, almost desert life sea bottom as he carefully watched. Towards the end of the first search, the sonar picked up some small debris. This told Matthew that the wreck could be close. Line two started the next day on day sixty-five. Matthew was determined to stay at his post. Then the sonar suddenly picked up something manmade.

"Is that a bit of Titanic?" he asked himself. "No can't be... it's a bit too early to tell. But I can tell that this is a piece of manmade machinery. It could have come from the ship or from something else but it's telling me that the ship is somewhere."

The Denver turned and started line three on day sixty-six. The hours went slowly by but Matthew was now tired and worn and didn't want to go to bed until the goal was in sight. Suddenly, a huge object appeared on the sonar screen.  

"That's a big piece of something! Holy cow! I've never seen anything like it!" Matthew gasped. "I think that this could be our wreck. But I'm not totally sure if it is or nor. Perhaps it's a sunken cargo vessel or even a battleship. All I know for sure that this is a massive piece of a sunken vessel. It might be Titanic. I'll have to print this sonar picture out and look at it even more closely."

It looked as if the Titanic had now been found after nearly seventy years of being hidden from the world. But the only way to conform the find was to send down the submersibles. Until then, celebrations were on hold.

After Matthew printed the final high definition sonar image and took a more closer look at it, it revealed a unique map of a battle strum landscape hidden from human eyes for generations. It was both revelatory and puzzling. It showed not one but two large pieces and a mass of smaller debris all spread over an area nearly two miles wide. The largest part was most likely Titanic's main hull. Matthew was beginning to get excited. His sonar might have found the correct position of the wreck. But excitement quickly turned to concern when he measured the sonar image on the computer.

"Now that's a bit worrying..." he said with a slight frown.

At that moment, Dirk Pitt came after hearing about Matthew using his sonar to help them in the search.

"What have you found?" he asked.

"Take a look." Matthew said, showing him the printed high definition image. Dirk was at first stunned then showed an impressive expression.

"I think you've help us find and hit the jackpot!" he smiled. "But why the near long face?"

"Well, after I measured the image on the computer, I'm getting the impression that Titanic is lying close on her port side. We might not see the beauty of her as she once was. So I think we have to be prepared for that unfortunately and if so, then this would be a disappointment. Because we wanted to find her upright, proud and defiant to the end."


Matthew later showed Kane and the others the final high definition sonar image. They were all amazed. Matthew told them that he thought the Titanic was nearly lying on her port side. The two Emily's and Daniel thought the same thing. But Kane, Kiara, Arthur and Kimmy had a different impression and thought Titanic was sitting upright. The way how the wreck was being shown on the image was slightly hard to tell due to the angle of how the sonar had picked it up.

In his cabin, Dirk Pitt had the new search position that Gene Seagram told him several weeks ago. He began to have some confidence and felt that the Titanic was somewhere in this position after he studied it closely.

"I've got a feeling that this could be the right location." he thought.

Seventy days had now past since the search for the Titanic had began. The salvage team started to get ready for the dive down the ocean floor. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood. Two other submarines had arrived to help out in the search, the NR-1 and the Aluminaut.

The Aluminaut was conceived by Louis Reynolds which was part of the Reynolds Aluminum Company. She was an aluminum submarine, the only one people knew in the world and had a design depth of 15,000 feet. Up forward were four viewports, wide angled viewports which would be used by the captain and the pilot to maneuver the submarine around on the bottom. Also up forward was a television camera, lights, still camera and a motion picture camera that were on a pan and tilt magnesium so that the crew could photograph off from the sides or up above or down below.

The NR-1 was a Deep Submergence Vessel. She was a unique US Navy nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine, built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics at Groton, Connecticut. Her features included extending bottoming wheels, three viewing ports, exterior lighting, television and still cameras for colour photographic studies, an object recovery claw, a manipulator that could be fitted with various gripping and cutting tools and a work basket that could be used in conjunction with the manipulator to deposit or recover items in the sea. Surface vision was provided by a television periscope permanently installed on a fixed mast in her sail area. Dirk Pitt thought they were one of the most beautiful submarines he had ever seen. Matthew Anderson  thought the same.

"Hey Dirk," he said. "When's our dive coming up?"

"Tomorrow," Pitt called back. "We've just had two new submarines to come and help us out."

"Looks like you called in the reinforcements." he said. Pitt just laughed, saying, "With they're help, we can find the Titanic more easily."


Later the evening, Kane was relaxing in his cabin... when suddenly he heard the voices in his head again...

"April 1912... They're all going to know... THEY'RE ALL GONNA KNOW!!!"

Kane shook hard from this... "Damn it.... stop it! STOP IT GOD DAMN IT!!"

"It may have been many years.... but the memories are still there.... you can't escape it.... You can't escape your past!! They will know who you really are!"

"Stop screwing around!! I won't let this overtake me!" Kane cried out, but the voices still kept coming.

"You know the truth don't you... you embrace hate... don't hide from it... embrace it.... embrace it... EMBRACE IT!!"

"SHUT UP!!!" bellowed Kane as he throw a chair across the cabin into the wall. "JUST SHUT UP!!!!"

Kane Smith then pounded his desk several times before falling to his knees, his eyes slightly glowing red.

"This must not happen again!!" Kane said. "Whatever is going on here... I can't give into my other half... my dark half that overtook me!"

He smashed his hands on the ground in anger, still shaking like hell.
The forth and final part of Chapter 6. NUMA are running out of leads... Matthew Anderson uses his own sonar and tracks down what looks to be a shipwreck, which it is.... but is it the RMS Titanic? While that's going on, Kane continues to hear voices in his head.
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“We have a stowaway?” Chrom couldn’t keep the amusement out of his voice. “Can we do that?”

“A freeloader.” Though his expression was as neutral as ever, Chrom recognized that extra degree of furrow in Frederick’s brow, and the fraction more of frown he was wearing. His lieutenant was irritated. “Assuming the best. Thus far only food and silverware have gone missing. People have reported seeing the perpetrator, but he or she vanishes before we can trap them.”

“I saw it yesterday!” Lissa agreed, then immediately cringed. “Just a shadow out of the corner of my eye, slithery like a Seviper! I was outside the medic’s tent.” She hugged herself, shivering. “What if we’re being haunted? Not a Ghost type, but a real and actual ghost? Brr!”

“A ‘real ghost’ would not steal food,” Frederick pointed out.

“It could be trying to starve us, little by little!”

“We have a thief,” Frederick insisted. “Or worse, we could have a spy, collecting information about our numbers and strengths, to bring back to Plegia.”

“When do you think they arrived?” Chrom asked.

“At least three days ago.” Frederick shook his head. “Based on talk about the camp, however, it could be a week or more.”

“Three days could be a spy, but a week sounds like a stray. Either way, I want you to focus on this, Frederick. Reassign your other duties, use whoever you need to. Let’s get this settled – spy, thief – or ghost-” he added, at Lissa’s nod, “let’s catch it.”

“Understood. I will work out a strategy with Shion. They won’t be trouble for much longer.”

***

It had started simply enough. A day like any other found Rae taking charge of cooking dinner. Rucimim and Killian had been assigned to the task, but the Joltik threw random things in the food if no one was watching, and Rucimim was trying to do everything one-handed as he finished his latest read. Exasperated, Rae convinced Killian to retrieve the bowls and spoons from the supply cart while she kept an eye on the roasting vegetables, where she could remind Rucimim to keep the spit going if he forgot after pausing to turn a page. She half expected the Joltik to vanish, but he returned promptly with a stack of crockery.

“There’s no spoons,” he said.

“No spoons?” Rae echoed. That was ridiculous. They had over a hundred spoons. “They should be in the green crate.”

“There’s no green crate.”

“I packed it myself!” She grimaced. “Keep an eye on this. I’ll see if it shifted.” Killian shrugged, crouching next to the fire.

Rae trotted to the supply wagon, closing her eyes just before climbing in, that when she opened them she could make out the boxes and crates in the relative darkness. After a moment or two, she could see edges of color, just enough to help identify the specific crate she was looking for.

Killian was right: the green wood crate with their spoons and ladles wasn’t on the cart. Neither was the reinforced, double-thick box of knives and cleavers. That had definitely been there less than an hour ago! Where could they have gone?

She went back to the clearing. Killian had the handle of the skillet in hand, shifting it over the flames to help stir the contents. Rucimim had set his book aside, resting his eyes while he kept the spit going. “You’re right. Two of the crates are- what is that smell?”

Rucimim opened his eyes, looking at her curiously, then shut them again as he breathed in deep. “Bad beer?”

Barley beer,” Killian corrected. “Aren’t you sick of bland veggies?”

Rae stifled a groan. If that was all he’d added they were lucky. At least cooking the alcohol ought to burn it off. “There’s nothing bland about rosemary and coriander,” she muttered. She’d have to put the mix back, and hope they could use it tomorrow instead. “And I smell pepper. A lot of pepper.”

“Yeah, right,” Killian “muttered” back, with a crooked grin. “That’s way too normal.”

“Just be glad I hadn’t put the spices in yet! Crack three cloves of garlic and add them for five minutes. Any more than that and the whole thing will just taste like garlic beer. Then break up the rest of the bulb and get it in the boar, along with the ground mustard and fennel.” The pair looked at her blankly. “When will someone who knows how to cook get this assignment?” Rae mumbled, going over to the prep table. She tossed three of the cloves to Killian, bringing the rest – along with the jar of powdered spices – to Rucimim. The Audino rushed to take the ingredients in his free hand before she could balance them on his book. “Somebody moved the utensils - I’m going to check the other carts. Be right back.” She leaned down, pretending to have lost her balance, and muttered to Rucimim, “Keep an eye on him!”

Thankfully, the green wood crate of spoons had just shifted over to the cart being used as the pantry, but the reinforced box of knives was nowhere to be found. At a loss, Rae went to Frederick to see if he’d had them moved. Daisy and Clara overheard the exchange. The Whimsicott took Rae’s arm in both hands, then lost her nerve as the much taller woman stared down at her. “Um…” Now she had Frederick’s attention, too. “Um, there was a box of knives over by the armory a little while ago,” she said. “We put it in the tent where no one would trip on it.”

The women led Rae to the armory; the manakete was relieved to see that it was the missing box. But her relief was short-lived. “Where are all the cleavers and carvers?! How are we going to portion the boar with no carving knives? It’ll take forever if all we have are paring knives!”

“I don’t… I’m- that is-” Daisy stammered.

“That’s exactly how we found it!” Clara said.

“I’m not blaming you! I’m sure it was already like this!” Rae assured them. “Normally this box is really heavy; I couldn’t pick it up at a dead lift. You didn’t shove it in the tent, right? There’s no trench. So they were gone before you found it.”

“Right,” Daisy sighed, relieved that the much bigger woman – and dragon, besides! – wasn’t mad.

“Let’s get what’s left back to the cookfires. Naga only knows what’s Killian’s done to it by now,” Rae grumbled. She hefted the box to her shoulder, balancing it with both hands. “By the way, do you two know anything about cooking?”

Daisy pulled the tent flap aside, then choked on her response. “Did… did you hear something?” she whispered, tilting her head. She’d thought she heard a soft, metallic sound from inside the armory. But there was no one in there besides them!

Clara aimed her ears forward, then turned them gradually in either direction. “Nope.”

Rae shrugged. “Just knives rattling.”

Maybe that was it. Still, she hurried away as soon as the other two were out. What she’d heard sounded far more like a sword leaving its scabbard, than knives shifting in a box.

*

When camp broke in the morning, all but two of the cleavers turned up in various tents - including three blades that tumbled from the top of a tent, nearly stabbing Ciaran on their way down. Also missing was all of the bacon they’d saved from last night’s boar, which led to half a day’s grumblings.

Nothing more went missing for four days; instead, the sightings began. It was thought that Apollo had the first sighting (though, being it was Apollo, some wondered if it wasn’t a vision). When the Xatu went to leave his tent that morning, he drew the flap aside, only to find another flap in his way. When he reached for it, the cloth vanished upward - but when he went outside, there was nothing on top of the tent. Edith swore that she, too, had seen the strange cloth blocking their exit.

Later the same day, Ao and Aaliyah were sparring outside the armory when there was a loud crash inside. They found Gabriel’s plate armor tumbled across half the tent. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Ao lashed out with the hilt of his sword, not wanting to accidentally maim an ally. He was startled when the hilt jerked downward, suddenly heavy! Then he saw, fitted into the hilt’s bindings, was a narrow boning knife, anchoring it to the ground. Before he could investigate further, Gabriel came into the tent, and blew his temper to see his armor scattered. Aaliyah tried to calm him down, but by the time they sorted things - both the misunderstanding, and the armor - out, all evidence of the intruder was gone. Even the boning knife.

The following morning, before breakfast, Makenzie and Tsu’ai met to compare folk dances from their respective countries. As Tsu’ai executed a graceful spin, her ears piqued: someone was humming the folksong that went with her dance! She stopped, looking at Makenzie: the Meowstic was turning her head about, trying to find the source, but none of the tents near them were occupied.

Later both Victor and Mina, and their Dragonites, saw a dark shape on top of Chrom and Natsuki’s tent, but the two wyvern riders weren’t together when they did. They nearly crashed into one another as they both dove to check on it; by the time Spirit and Abram recovered, the shadow was gone.

When she went to check on Esme, who had been badly injured in battle, Lissa shrieked as something “slithered” passed the tent just as she was going inside. Quintell rushed out at her cry, but could find nothing out of the ordinary. Being anchored by the trembling, terrified princess gripping his arm didn’t help him search.

On the third day, Padula heard a strange noise while feeding Starling - half whistle, half hum. When she asked if anyone was there, whatever it was went silent. She stayed still, quiet, listening, but after several minutes, all she heard were the rustle of feathers - a small bird, fluffing its wings. She’d just begun to think it might be Rory, Silas’s pet bird, when she caught the quiet shuffle of someone retreating on all fours. Rory definitely couldn’t do that!

*

Frederick took Chrom’s instructions with utmost seriousness. Before the sun was fully up, the entire camp was roused, with the excuse that Shion was going to put them through cooperation drills. No Shepherd was allowed to abstain - except Frederick, and the four people he had chosen to aid him. The five of them waited in the pantry cart, in case the intruder had run out of rations. Naturally, it wasn’t that easy, but at least it gave them a reason to have breakfast while everyone else was stuck in drills.

Finally, after the camp had long gone quiet, they came out from the sheltering wagon. “Sai, Zardon, I want you two to circle out of the camp, transform, and watch above us,” Frederick murmured. The two manakete nodded their understanding and hurried in opposite directions. “Zipporah and Howkin, I need you two to transform now. You should be able to hear and smell anyone still in the camp.”

The Shepherd’s camp felt as abandoned as it looked. Drafts drifted through empty tents; firepits smoldered, their ashes too damp with dew to blow away. The taguels and the knight stalked the deserted campsite, quiet as they could be, but nothing seemed to be left. The armory and the shelter for the mounts held no clues. The manaketes’ shadows passed overhead, but neither gave any sign of seeing someone else. Their spy appeared to be gone.

“It… strange,” Zipporah said to Howkin, as quietly as she could. “Cook fires… that way?”

“Other side of the camp,” Howkin agreed. “So?”

“So… you smell pepper, too?”

“Yeah…” Howkin paused. Fact was, pepper was all she could smell. “It’s a trick!” she realized. “Our noses won’t tell us anything.”

“Listen now,” Zipporah agreed. “Pepper does not fool ears.” The pair split up, trying to track where the smell was strongest.

Breathing through her mouth as the scent became uncomfortable, Zipporah nosed her way into the armory. There was absolutely no reason for the weapons tent to smell like pepper, and there had been hints that the intruder lurked in this area. Sure enough, if she held her breath, she could hear the sound of a heart at rest. Someone was in here, asleep. Her ears took her to a suit of plate mail on a stand, put together as if a person were inside. And in fact, there was a person inside. She pressed a paw to the midsection of the suit, then cried out as the entire thing collapsed in a racket of steel and silver. The leg sections tore apart, the arms bouncing away in separate pieces! The helmet tumbled in the opposite direction of the chest plate, bouncing off two locked chests! The taguel frantically back-peddled away from the collapsing suit, yelping as she backed straight into a (fortunately empty) weapon’s rack.

The sleeper was wide awake, now, their heart fluttering in a panic. Zipporah opened her eyes wide, realizing that the stranger had actually been sleeping in the suit of mail! But how, when the suit was nearly twice her size? The little woman had disheveled hair nearly halfway down her back, and a frantic look on her face as she struggled out of the chest plate. Her clothing was close to her body but not bindingly so, the dark and basic style preferred by thieves.

Finally getting to her feet, the woman stared at Zipporah, metallic eyes wide and dilated. Before Zipporah could say anything, the stranger grabbed something from the pouch strapped to her leg and threw it at the ground at the taguel’s feet. She gagged as a cloud of flour burst from the loose packet, along with burst of pepper, powdered so it would get in her nose and eyes! The thief fled from the tent, but ran straight into Howkin. Able to smell the additional pepper, even from outside the tent, the other taguel did not give the stranger time to re-arm herself, instead tackling her almost before she’d realized she wasn’t alone. The woman screamed, mouth wide and eyes squeezed shut, as she skidded a few feet on her back. Though she should only have had the air knocked out of her, she lie still, breathing raggedly through clenched teeth.

Her hair, in fact, only came to her shoulder blades. She groaned as she tried to sit up, leaving a fistful of feathers on the ground.

Their intruder was a bird type.

*

A very sullen bird type, especially with both vestigial wings badly sprained and halfway plucked. Though Lissa had seen to her injuries (with some reluctance), the stranger was still wracked with trembles, her hands squeezing the emptied scabbards bound to her arms. Frederick had removed the woman’s two swords, and a total of five knives scattered about her body - at her belt, on her leg, in her boot… and to each forearm. Then he left, giving Sai a chance to do a more thorough second check. The prisoner said nothing throughout both searches, though a strangled noise escaped her when Frederick removed her leg pouch. It hid three more pepper bombs, several small, sharp tools, and a chisel of some kind. She hadn’t stopped shaking, since. And he didn’t care. She was a thief or a spy, or both, and he would not allow her any chance of causing Chrom or Lissa harm. Neither of the royal children were allowed near her until Frederick was dead certain the only weapons she had left were her fingernails, which were dull and short. She had sat silent while Lissa tended to her injuries. Once the princess was gone, she pulled the lacing out of the front of her tunic in order to bind her hair into a knot. She didn’t seem to care that it left her sleeveless shirt opened nearly to her navel. Without a word, Frederick took the end of the woman’s scarf and loosened it enough to provide her more modesty before the prince arrived. Naga only knew what anyone would say if word got out that he or the prince had questioned a woman left to sit in that state. Spy, or not.

When Chrom entered the side tent they’d brought the prisoner to, he showed no hesitation or fear. He didn’t have to, knowing that both Frederick and Sai had searched her for weapons. Someone who relied on cold iron was no mage; such weapons were too cumbersome, and could interfere with casting. “Tell me your name,” the prince began. The woman looked at him, face a blank mask. “I promise we will not harm you, if you mean no harm. Can you tell me your name?”

She stared; he waited her out. When she finally spoke, the one syllable was enough to give away her foreign origins: “Su.”

“Is that your name?”

“It is what I am called.” For a bird, her voice was surprisingly tenor. Her accent lent it a rich timbre, full and rich as tree syrup. Chrom had heard the same accent from a couple of his other soldiers, but couldn’t immediately place it. Something from the continent of Valm.

“Why are you here, Su?”

She tilted her head in a modified shrug, not yet willing to chance moving her back. “I go where I want to be.”

“Then you want to be here?” She didn’t answer. “Why?”

“Answer the question,” Frederick warned her, when she still didn’t respond.

“It feels safe there.” She lowered her head. “The armor. The weapons. Metal. Blades.” A hint of a smile, sounding almost shy. “I do not remember… when, when last I slept so well.”

Chrom coughed, trying not to smile himself. Frederick frowned at him, not fooled. He did know she’d been found sleeping in Frederick’s armor, didn’t he? “Did anyone send you here?” he asked, when he got his expression straightened out again.

She shook her head - paused, then hugged herself and shook her head again. “No. No, no, I told you. I go where I want. I go here. I go to Ragna Ferox when summer is worst. I go to Plegia, when weather is cold.” She cringed away from Frederick’s scowl. “I migrate. I go where I feel safe.”

“And our armory makes you feel safe?”

“Sharp things have always made me feel safe.” She smiled weakly. “Boys and girls, they have dolls, toys, yes? Talismans. Warmth and safety. My talismans are chisels. Knives. Warm, and safe. And sharp.”

“Yes, the knives,” Frederick intoned. “Where did you put all of our knives?”

“It is my treasure,” she said, cryptically. “I return it, I am let go?”

“Do you want to go?” Chrom asked. Frederick frowned at him knowingly. Su looked reasonably confused. “If you agree to stop </I>moving</I> things where people can’t find them, I don’t see why you can’t stay. You’re very talented.”

“ Moving things’, sir?” Frederick echoed.

“Of course! She hasn’t stolen anything if she hasn’t left and hasn’t sold them. They’re just moved.” Su’s mouth fell ajar. “All I ask is that you put them back, and stop hiding. You’re welcome to stay,” he said, giving Su a smile. “I think you’d have a lot to offer us, if you’re willing.”

“Offer?” She shook her head slightly. “I have no money. As you say, I have… I have not sold your things. I carve wood, but nothing special. I have nothing for you.”

“You’re wrong. Tell me, how long have you been in our camp?”

She looked away, eyes scanning without seeing, as she calculated. “Six. Six days.”

“You have only the slightest idea the kind of people we are,” Chrom told her. She shrunk into herself, so he hurried on, explaining, “We have manaketes, filled with the wisdom of centuries, and all the tricks they’ve seen and done for themselves. Taguels, with senses none of the rest of us can even imagine. In sword wielders alone, the Shepherds have decades worth of weapon and tactics training. And yes, even tricksters and thieves who have already joined our cause. And you-” he concluded, resting a hand on her shoulder, “-kept any one of us from being sure you were here. You kept us guessing for nearly a full week.

“Stay with us. Return the kitchen knives to the right cart and any other blades can be kept safe in the armory. When the time comes, I know someone as quick and slippery as you are can pay us back a thousand-fold with information and intelligence from our enemies.”

“You… you think… I can spy for you?”

“I know you can. And I know, in time, I’m going to need you to. Not yet, and hopefully not soon. But I know you could do it right now, and if you stay and work with us, you will only be better at it when the time comes.”

“I…” Su looked bewildered, hopeful, terrified. The wood reinforcing one of her scabbards was starting to squeak from the force of her nervous grip. “May I… may I still sleep in the armory?” she asked.

“By it,” Chrom offered, before Frederick could answer. “Maybe later, but not yet.”

She looked crestfallen, but nodded anyway. “I understand.”

“Please. Will you show Frederick where you put our knives, so he can get them put away?”

“The yellow one.”

The men traded a look. “What?” Chrom prompted.

“The yellow… the beast. That is one of you, yes?”

“Zipporah,” Frederick realized. “She’s the taguel you attacked with a bomb made from our flour.

“That one. Yes.” Su hugged herself again. “Allow me to make my apologies. If I am to stay, I must apologize. Then I will show you my treasure.”

“That’s fair,” Chrom allowed. “Frederick will accompany you. Zipporah might not realize you mean to apologize, and her husband might not want to risk letting you.”

Su shivered violently. “My blades. You will return them to me? Please? I cannot stay with none. It is not safe for me. I cannot stay if I cannot have my treasure with me.”

“You have to earn our trust,” Frederick pointed out. “Zipporah and Zardon won’t be the only ones worried if you go around camp with more points than a Nidoran.”

“No, no. No. I cannot. I cannot.” She was pleading to Chrom with her eyes before she asked, “My chisel. At least? My tools for carving. I whittle, it is harmless, please let me have those.”

“That chisel is nearly as sharp as Falchion,” Frederick noted doubtfully. “And it’s much too large for ‘whittling’ with.”

Su pressed her lips together tightly enough to turn them white. Closed her eyes, lowered her head, and stared down at her tightly crossed arms, her white knuckles gripping the empty scabbards. Quieter, she explained, “Bandits killed my papa.” She said papa with the lilt of a young child, the tone of someone who had lost him before she was mature enough to call him father. “He hid me in a chest… gave me his chisel, if… for if they found me. They killed him, but they did not find me. It is the last thing a good man… a very dear man gave to me. My greatest treasure. I would not bloody it unless I had no other choice. I have not yet bloodied it… and I will not. I only want it for… because my father gave it to me.

“It is my talisman. My protection from those who mean me harm. If you do not mean harm… if you truly mean well, please. Give it back.”

Frederick waited to be certain she was done. “Wait here,” he ordered, ducking out of the tent.

Su looked at Chrom questioningly, wrinkling her brow at his unexpected smile. “Frederick’s a good man. He’s gone to get that chisel for you. And probably your wood tools, too.”

“You think I can spy for you? Truly?”

“Yes. Truly. And the best part?” Chrom grinned, barely able to keep from laughing. “When you succeed, if anyone asks how I found out? I can say a little bird told me.”
For :iconpkmn-awakening:
Congratulations! SU has been added to your inventory.
ALRIGHTY - below is a list of the cameos that appear in the above story. Note that these are walk-on roles only; those who are just mentioned aren't referenced below. Let me know if your character is grossly OUT of character and I'll do my best to correct it!

CAMEOS in order of appearance

CHROM: npc
FREDERICK: npc
LISSA: npc
RUCIMIM: :iconsallidii:
KILLIAN: :iconsunrisephoenix:
DAISY: :iconwildcatprincess4ever:
CLARA: :iconwildcatprincess4ever:
CIARAN: :iconsharkvveek:
APOLLO: :iconsunrisephoenix:
EDITH: :iconsilcat:
AO: :iconai-ra:
AALIYAH: :iconshadowlink720:
GABRIEL: :iconchillijei:
MAKENZIE: :iconsuper-cutie-eevee:
TSU’AI: :icongoddess-madoka:
VICTOR: :iconjerry-berry:
MINA: :icondragonlover1440:
ESME: :iconeleven1nd160:
QUINTELL: :iconsnowmuffins:
PADULA: :iconsunrisephoenix:
SAI: :iconorion-starshine:
ZIPPORAH: :iconeleven1nd160: (sorry, Zip!)
HOWKIN: :iconthalateya:

All of the above are property of the noted owner. I just stole borrowed them for a bit just like Su borrowed the knives, y'see?

So now... Silas has Rory, Syaoran has Herman, and Chrom has Su? Why, why do I torment Natsuki like this?

TOTAL: about 4,100 words = 65 EXP + 150 gold for Su

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The picture from before was no longer a good omen. It brought me back to my home, but with it came a man I wished to never see again. I thought that if I could find Latias again, I could apologize for my actions and for what I did in front of her. I promised her I would rescue her brother from Rooxie, but Latios was still been under Rooxie's control for four years. Even though I made her a promise, I failed to keep it after all these years. To tell the truth though, I doubt she even expected me to keep that promise after she ditched me.

My mind was still unstable after the supposed killing of Yinca. Nuzlocke trainers were beginning to capture legendaries due to their immense power and skill. I had to capture as many legendaries as I could, but I could only manage two; the captures of Azelf and Uxie were good omens, but they were the only good things I could obtain. Not only that, they willingly joined me. Mesprit was missing at the time, and they asked me if I could search for her. Not only did I have to keep Latias' promise, but I made a promise to Azelf and Uxie too. I last heard from Ana that they were under her protection for the time being.

Uxie, Azelf, and Mesprit... were also some of the first creations made from the god, Arceus. Each one would be their own type of being, each one representing a certain trait that humanity soon adapted from. Azelf was made the being of willpower. Uxie was made the being of knowledge. Mesprit, the pokemon that has yet to be revealed to me, was made to be the being of emotion. Uxie and Azelf seemed to resemble small, fairy-like creatures. They had light blue skill yet large heads when comparing them to their smaller bodies. Uxie and Azelf's small and stubby arms and legs could only make me assume that Mesprit has a similar body type.

Even though I managed to capture the legendaries, what I did to find them was frowned upon by Latias. I would beat the pokemon and trainers with a very strong and long police baton. I stole it from a unwary police officer, and during the time I had it I... I made sure to almost beat the life out of every nuzlocke trainer I faced. Using guerilla tactics, I would sneak up and beat anyone I faced, and then I used Uxie's ability to erase their memories. And then, like the coward that Cyrus referred to me as, I would run away.

Those actions were enough to drive Latias away from me, and even then I tried my best to finish where I started. If me beating other trainers was enough to make her run, then what's to say that she won't flee from me again once she knows the truth. I killed people; twenty-five people were killed by my own hands. I mercilessly fired my gun at them, and at the time I thought they deserved every last bullet.

No explosions were seen or heard as I scurried through the forest. The silence in the air made me feel like the forest itself was lifeless. No wind blew as the sun's orange glow was replaced by the dark-blue hue of night. My breath was becoming visible the more I panted. The forest seemed never-ending as I kept pushing away every branch in front of me. I had to get Latias out of here; if she were to get captured here, then it would be impossible for me to get her brother back. That is... if she still trusted me with such a goal.

If Latias already knew the truth about my past actions, all I could hope for was that she wouldn't run; I needed to explain myself and tell her that I've seen the error of my ways. That way she won't be afraid of me when I take her to a safer place.

My running pace was made awkward due to my occasional limping. The one year of torture I received for my sins almost left me completely helpless. It took a lot of determination and discipline to shift myself to the right track, but even then my body still felt off. I could run, but not as well as I used too. I could take a hit, but not without seriously harming myself. The attack I received from earlier was beginning to take a toll on me, for it was getting harder to move with each passing moment.

I winced from the pain as I kept charging through the forest. All of my hope was placed onto finding the dirt path before it was too late. Before I could even locate the dirt path, something blindsided me on my right. A whip-like vine swatted my right leg and sent me tumbling forward. The pain was horrendous, and soon my limp body was tumbling out of the forest and onto the dirt path. My body slammed into something; I hit the legs of a trainer that was towering over me in the night. He wore black jeans and a light-gray sweatshirt, and along with it was a dark-blue cap. He looked at me with much curiosity; at first I thought he knew it was me, but something told me he was still rather confused. Even so, I knew it was Rooxie the moment he spoke.

"Who are you?" Rooxie began, only to soon signal the creature that blindsided me. I wearily turned my head to the forest to see a large, overgrown creature covered in large vines. Each of the vines seemed to intertwine with each other, covering most of its body in the process. Only one place of its body wasn't covered: the place where its two large, white eyes were. It had a rather round appearance to it, and its arms seemed to resemble the vines as well, but they too. The sound of another creature moving caught my attention; a few yards away was another pokemon of the same species. I could only catch the left side of its body before my attention was back on Rooxie. "You seemed like you were in a rush to get here. Do you know what I'm doing?"

"... Tangrowths," I muttered coldly. "Those are some strong pokemon."

"Your voice...," Rooxie began. He stood erect for a moment and looked over at his other tangrowth. I soon did the same, and this time I was able to get a good glimpse at what the other tangrowth was doing. In its right hand of vines was a petit-looking dragon pokemon. Red feathers covered most of her lower body while smaller, white feathers covered her neck and head. The pokemon appeared to be tired and rather exhausted. Scuff marks of dirt and signs of cuts were littered all over her body. Her weary eyes looked over to me, and her eyes widened almost immediately; She knew who I was. "You sound too familiar...."

Fortunately, Rooxie wasn't putting much pressure on me. Even though I was slightly fatigued, I managed to force myself onto my feet. My brown hair covered most of my face including the black strand of cloth. My white robe was tattered and covered with marks of dirt, and I found it insulting that such a holy garment was made filthy thanks to this jerk. I looked over at Latias to see her eyes tearing. Her eyes were filled with innocence, yet it was hard to tell if she was whimpering out of joy or sorrow. "Those tangrowths of yours... they're strong."

"You... don't seem to be hostile," Rooxie began as he walked closer to me. He kneeled forward slightly and began to scan my body. It had been years since we last saw each other, so I had high hopes that he wouldn't recognize me in the slightest. After a few moments of scanning, he took a few steps back and stared impatiently at me. "... Sorry for hitting you with my tangrowth. I ordered him to keep watch on the area and... I guess he got a little too excited. I'm Rooxie."

"I've heard of you," I muttered coldly. "But I hope that's where the small talk ends. You must release that Latias."

Rooxie blinked rapidly, probably in confusion or irritation. I doubt he wanted some stranger to tell him what to do after he got so close to capturing a legendary pokemon. "Whoever you are, you're a piece of work, you know that?" I ignored his initial question and turned my back on him. I heard him let off an annoyed 'tch!' as I started walking toward the Latias locked in a tangrowth's grip. As I got closer to her, I noticed that her body started to shiver rapidly back and forth. Her eyes were locked onto me, and it appeared as if she was scared of me the most out of everything. "Hey! I'm talking to you!" I ignored him once again; I wanted to talk to Latias, not him. Fortunately, the necklace I have only lets me understand Latias, so its at least good to say that Latias and I will have a private conversation.

As I looked at her from a few feet away, I noticed that her chest seemed to be inflating slightly and deflating rather quickly; her breath-rate had increased, probably in fear of me. Her mouth was slightly open, almost as if she was trying desperately to say anything. I couldn't possibly know what she was afraid of.

"... I'm sorry," I stated calmly. The Latias stopped breathing rapidly and looked at me with less fear. "I'm sorry for what I did, what you saw me do.... And you probably know what you didn't see me do." I reached out for her with my right hand and placed it on her neck. I was just able to feel her heart-rate, and it was moving very fast initially. However, when she lowered her head to my arm, her heart-rate lowered; the was finally starting to calm down. "You were right all along; what I did there... it was only the beginning of the harm I would bring to so many people.... I spent a year looking for you, but after seeing the fear you had for me in your eyes...." I turned from her, soon removing my hand from my neck. "You were running away from me... all this time, weren't you?" Latias didn't reply back. I swallowed nervously, for when my eyes caught onto Rooxie's I noticed that he was looking at my neck; my necklace wasn't hidden. Even though Rooxie was about to discover who I was, all I cared about was Latias' response. "You know... you once told me that you wanted me to be your trainer." I turned to her, watching her as her eyes began to tear. "... I'm getting you out of here regardless... but even so, would you run from me?"

Rooxie's voice boomed with anger. "Oh son of a- It's you!" The nuzlocke trainer faltered from shock. "Y-You're here? Why are you here?!"

"Not for a fight; I don't want any fighting," I calmly stated. "I am a holy man, and I seek to find the purification of my soul one day and a world of peace. So please, Rooxie, don't order your pokemon to attack."

"... I won't," Rooxie grudgingly replied. His teeth were bare as I stepped back to Latias. The tangrowth holding her was eyeing me from my left, but most of my focus was left onto Rooxie anyways. Even though I hoped for no violence, I could feel the anger raging through Rooxie for I too had that anger. Even so, something was holding him back from attacking me, yet I didn't know what at the time. "I thought were you done meddling with nuzlocke trainers like me. Why are you here?"

"I initially came here for a field trip... especially after I saw that photo on the web."

"So, you saw it too...."

"It gave me enough reason to come back here; after losing my eye to you, I spent a year searching for Latias here."

"You don't say?"

"And besides, some people didn't like the fact that I was residing on an island for the rest of the time."

"You were gone for four years," Rooxie mused to himself. "It was almost a dream; the one trainer that was once a pin in my backside was gone. I was almost allowed to do whatever the hell I wanted. I could even nuzlocke again... I could, if it didn't get banned in Hoenn and Sinnoh."

"Serves us both right," I replied coldly.

"Both of us?" Rooxie asked curiously. "What would you blame yourself for?"

"I blame you and every nuzlocker for being the people that killed so many pokemon in both Hoenn and Sinnoh; those trainers grinded and grinded until there was almost nothing left to grind on, especially with Team Ana having to bring out as many pokemon as they could rescue.... And-" Rooxie's eyes widened upon hearing the last word. "... I blame myself; I was the catalyst that set everyone off. If it wasn't for me, and if it wasn't for my involvement in Team Redux, all of you wouldn't even be afraid; you grinded so, not only that you guys stood a chance against me or my sister when I got out, but also so that you were strong enough to oust Team Redux. If I wasn't a part of them, then they would've been safe."

"Rumors are a powerful thing though," Rooxie cockily replied. "I kept my end of the bargain; I made sure to not tell any civilian of your murders. However, that doesn't stop everyone. Even if one or two of the trainers involved spilled the beans, that's enough to spread the rumors around." Rooxie turned his head away from me and grinned menacingly. "Especially when the people involved didn't exactly deny it when they asked questions about it...."

"To the fine print," I replied with a tired smile.

"All agreements have loop-holes," Rooxie began. "It just so happened that the one you made with us was flimsy."

"Like I had a choice?" I asked in a cold tone. "Go to jail for life or spend a year with you guys, get tortured from the trainers that had to relieve their anger on me, and then be released. It doesn't even matter to me that I'm still convicted technically; I'm here now, and I'm trying my best to atone for what I did."

"Nothing you do could bring those people back," Rooxie growled. People say that the truth hurts... at that moment, the truth painful. I felt something grip my heart, almost as if Rooxie somehow got hold on my heart. My heart began to feel tense as my body got tight, and my body shivered. "Those trainers at Slateport, the twenty you killed in the forests. No amount of praying will ever bring them back! You were too lucky to have someone higher up keep you out; no other person on this planet would get that kind of treatment; even great people don't get it. But you... a cold-blooded murderer-"

"Are you done?" I replied wearily. Rooxie's eyes were focused on me as I turned my head to Latias. The expression on her face was almost indescribable; she was almost on the verge of tears due to the sorrow she felt, but her eyes expressed a form of fear as she looked back at me. Her teeth gritted at times in anger, but I had no real clue if her anger was toward me or Rooxie. Either way, I knew that this conversation was scaring her. I sighed as I closed my eyes in annoyance. "I understand what I did. I don't need everyone and my mother reminding me how much I fucked up anymore. You act like I don't remember it."

"You sound so cool and collected," Rooxie replied distastefully. I could tell that he was on the verge of starting a conflict. Anger resonated in his hands as he tensely curled them into fists. "What should make me even trust you?"

"Because I'm not willing to start a fight with you. Isn't that something new?" Rooxie was irked by my statement, but as I saw him falter slightly I could tell that he was accepting my statement as the truth; he was reluctant to accept it as the truth, but in this world there are more truths that are just as hard to accept. "I am pleading to you that you release Latias. Order your tangrowth to release her."

"Why should I?"

"Isn't it obvious? She doesn't want to be with you; you took her brother away!" Trying to reason with Rooxie was a losing effort. Even though I exclaimed the truth, Rooxie didn't seem to care. He captured Latias' brother, and he practically made him a mindless slave. "The Latios you control used to be Latias' brother, but the nuzlocke tech and the pokeball he's in... it changed him."

"So did all of the 'nuzlocke-teched' pokeballs back then." The way Rooxie said it... he essentially said, 'Oh, all people make the pokemon they catch become mindless slaves. It's no big deal.' That pissed me off to the core, but I tried my best to not show it. Unfortunately, I winced in anger. I've known this fact for a long time; any pokeball built to be used in coalition with nuzlocke tech needed to make pokemon captured less hostile towards humans. I could only assume that the reason for this was to make sure that not too many pokemon rebel against their nuzlocke trainers. "And I found this Legendary pokemon. I can't simply just let you have it."

"Her," I corrected in a dark tone. "Latias is she; she isn't an 'It'."

"Either way, I can't just give it to you."

A voice with a dark tone called out from the forest. As each one of us turned our heads to hear the sound, I noticed that the source of it was coming from the old base. It did not take long before Cyrus revealed himself to us. "Conrad, you're such an idiot." He walked onto the path with a pokeball at the ready. His eyes glared at Rooxie's as Cyrus took the main role; he stood in front of me, blocking me from my view of Rooxie. He took over. "I'm sorry, but you're going to release that Latias. Conrad and I will be taking her from you."

Rooxie glared back at Cyrus. "I'm not afraid of any one of Conrad's friends. What makes you think I'm going to give in to you?"

"You don't care to ask me my name?"

"I don't care about it, that's all," Rooxie grunted. "So please, don't get involved. Just let me go away with my prize before I tell my tangrowths to knock the crap outta you."

"Is that a threat?" Cyrus laughed at the remark. His shoulders were far from tense; it was like he was not even taking the situation truly seriously. It was like he hardly perceived Rooxie as a threat at all. Suddenly, I noticed that Cyrus started to reach into his pocket. He let off a cocky grin as his eyes darkened. "Kid, you have no idea." Cyrus quickly pulled out a black weapon from his pocket. My heart sunk as the weapon was aimed at Rooxie; Rooxie's eyes widened in shock. "Well... looks like the situation changed dramatically."

"Tch!" Rooxie's teeth gritted. "Where'd you get a fucking gun?! Those are-!"

"-Incredibly rare and hard to find. Yeah, I know," Cyrus replied as a grin slithered on his face. I was appalled; I would not stand for an action like that ever since those years before now. I cannot stand the sight of guns, and the fact that Cyrus whipped out a functioning one was distasteful to me. "Now... you know the circumstances at hand. Will you let us go with Latias in tow... or are you just going to keep protesting like an idiot."

"You can't just do that!"

"I believe I can... and I will," Cyrus' grin refused to fade from his face.

Rooxie was beyond angry; he was furious. "Damn you...,-" an odd thing occurred; Rooxie let off a sigh of relief. "If a gun is rare enough, then what could make me think that you still have any bulle-" Before Rooxie could even finish his sentence, Cyrus pulled onto the trigger. A loud bang shook my body as a bullet raced through the air. Cyrus' gun upon recoil was directed towards Rooxie, leading me to believe that the bullet was heading straight for Rooxie's head. However, I soon noticed that Cyrus had his gun pointed downward.

The bullet pounded the dirt right in front of Rooxie's foot. A small cloud of dirt shot upward as Rooxie flung himself back in shock. "Shit!" He yelled as he fell to the ground. His body began to rattle as his eyes widened at the sight of Cyrus. "Dude, what the fuck man?!"

I could not stand for this. "Cyrus, there was no need to do that!"

"He was not going to listen to us either way; you needed me for this."

"Don't you dare kill him."

"I won't," Cyrus replied. "That is... if he behaves."

Rooxie was infuriated. "Screw this!" Before I knew it, two beams of red energy shot out to where the two tangrowths resided. The beams made contact, soon turning the two pokemon into beams of red energy as well. Rooxie was returning his pokemon to his pokeballs and, due to how the tangrowths were returned to their pokeballs, Latias was no longer in the hands of one of the tangrowths. "I'm getting the hell out of here!" Rooxie pulled out another pokeball and launched it into the air. The red and gray sphere released a blue and gray dragon and, even though the pokemon shared the same body shape as Latias, he was much bigger and looked more intimidating. It was the Latios; Latias' brother that was still under the control of Rooxie's nuzlocke tech.

Cyrus got annoyed. "I warned you," He sighed as he directed his pistol at Rooxie. I quickly looked at his eyes and caught his intent to kill; I could not bear to see another death due to my actions. Before Cyrus was able to pull the trigger I grabbed him by his shoulders and threw him to the ground. He let out a loud grunt as his body slammed against the dirt path. His pistol left his hand and hit the ground with a clicking noise. "What the hell?!"

"You can't kill him!" I yelled to him. "I promised to bring him to-!"

"I don't care!" Cyrus quickly got to his feet and shoved me to the ground. I was still heavily weakened from that test of strength between Cyrus and his honchkrow, and I fell back on my behind without too much effort on Cyrus' part. "We can't let him keep a Latios either. A nuzlocker will only bring more trouble anyways!" Cyrus turned his head to the right. "Son of a-!"

Rooxie was no longer in the area; his Latios already flew him at least a mile away from this location. Cyrus' focused his attention on the small figure in the sky and pointed his pistol at it. He began to shoot randomly at the target; repeated bangs filled the air and shook me in more than before. I wanted Cyrus to stop, but nothing could stop him from firing like I used to. As I saw Cyrus shoot at Rooxie and the Latios, I saw myself; a version of me that I wish I had forgotten.

Cyrus lacked much ammunition; he was soon only greeted with clicks with each pull of the trigger. He dropped the gun to the ground and sighed heavily. He turned his head while giving me a distasteful frown. "I should've expected that. Don't blame yourself too much."

"... Okay then," I replied emotionlessly as I stammered back to my feet. "... You could have hit the Latios you know."

"A small price; a legendary pokemon like that one should be able to take a bullet."

"And if you shot him in the head?"

"At that angle I would've hit Rooxie's head before the pokemon's. You worry too much."

"You could've killed him...."

"I think you should be focusing on someone else at the moment, Conrad." Cyrus directed his finger to Latias behind me. I was beginning to wonder why Latias did not bother to chase her brother in an attempt to catch him herself. As I turned my head over to Latias I got my answer. She was not even hovering; she was on the ground with her hands covering her ears. Her eyes were heavily shut while her body shivered greatly with fear. I dashed over to her and kneeled by her side. As I placed my hand on her head her eyes finally began to open.

"... I hate that sound...."

"Understandable," I replied softly. "Cyrus is out of ammo and Rooxie is gone. You're safe now."

"... I doubt it," Latias murmured softly. Her eyes were on the verge of tears as she looked up to me. She gazed at my scarred face and winced at the sight of the black cloth covering my left eye socket. "I've only heard rumors from wandering trainers about what happened to you ... And for me to see your injuries for real...."

"You've heard about me?"

"What I heard from wandering trainers.... those were the reasons why I tried to hide myself from you." I stared blankly at her upon hearing that remark. I could not tell if I was angry from the fact that she was avoiding me during my search for her or understanding due to how much of a monster I was before... and probably still am. "You killed many people, Conrad.... I knew that you started looking for me after you were released... so I made it my responsibility to avoid you at all costs."

"Again... very understandable." I erected myself from the kneeling position and took a few steps back. Latias uncurled herself from her frightened position as I back-stepped away from her. "To be honest.... I'm just glad that you're okay, Latias. I apologize for scaring you away. You may go now." Latias faltered slightly from the remark. I guess to her it seemed to come out of nowhere. "You seem shocked."

"I just.... don't really know how to reply to that...," Latias replied glumly. "I mean... you just found me. Now you want to go?"

"I don't want to go, but I know you want to."

"Doing things for the sake of pokemon...," Latias lowered her heard to the ground. My heart told me to approach and comfort her, but my mind denied me that courtesy. Latias fled from me during my search for her because she was afraid of me. It did not seem right for me to go against her earlier wishes at the time. "Conrad... you haven't changed."

"Tell that to everyone else," I mused quietly as I turned my head to Cyrus. "This gun-slinger was surprised that I wanted to give up violence, yet he does not see that my goal is still the same; the only real difference is my approach." Cyrus scoffed at me and turned away, making me chuckle in response. "Still, I sense urges to fight like I did before; I kept having the urges to kill and maim the way I used to... but that isn't the case anymore. I can't fight like that; I've made too many enemies, and I think my pokemon still hold it against me...."

"Conrad...," Latias' voice called to me ear. I turned my head back to her to see that she was a yard away from me; she had moved closer to me. I jumped from the sudden change, but I quickly regained composure. "I'm sorry... that you had to go through that alone."

"Don't be; it was my own fault. I caused too much suffering."

Cyrus scoffed again. "Stop beating yourself up like. You sound pathetic." Latias and I turned our heads to him. Latias scowled angrily at him, but Cyrus was still far from threatened. "What's beating yourself up going to do? All that's going to accomplished is that more people are going to pity you. Is that what you want?"

"You misunderstand," I formally replied. "I want to give her more information. She doesn't truly know what I did."

"So you didn't tell her about how you murdered those people?"

"She knows about it, but she doesn't truly know either; you don't truly know either, Cyrus." Cyrus stared blankly at me. "It's one thing to tell you what happened, or explain thoroughly what I did to deserve the punishment given to me, but it is another thing to witness what I did. The only one who truly knows what I did was me; my actions were just...." I dropped to my knees. My back curved as I leaned forward and grasped my hands together. My fingers curved as I closed my right eye; my only eye.

Even though I could see nothing but Darkness, Cyrus' voice echoed as he tried to speak to me. "What are you doing?" I ignored him as I begged for Arceus to help me. Just before I tried to explain myself the urge to think that my old methods were right almost took over me. Praying normally helped me in this kinds of situations, so I remained still and silent. "We need to get moving; I don't want to be seen out in the open with Latias nearby. What if a trainer comes?" At first I remained silent and continued to pray. Unfortunately, Cyrus asked another question. "What would your sister think if we got hurt?"

I angrily opened my right eye after uncurling my hands. My eyes glared up at Cyrus as I stood myself up. "That depends... are you mingling with her?"

"Dude, what do you mean by mingle?" Cyrus asked before turning all red. "Don't tell me you forgot that your sister is with Robert."

"You're so misunderstood," I said in a dark tone. "Have you been anywhere near my sister?"

"We talk occasionally," Cyrus began. "I decided that it would be my responsibility to look after her in Goldenrod City since you aren't around anymore. You should be thanking me instead of talking to me with such a tone." I looked away upon hearing that. Cyrus sighed again. "She's worried about you, Conrad. She's partially the reason why I started looking for you, I guess. She always brings you up whenever we start a conversation."

"I wish she didn't," I replied with a sigh. "She has her own life now. She should stop worrying about mine when she's going about hers."

"She wants to talk to you."

"I honestly don't care," I replied somberly. "The only ones I want to think about right now are my pokemon and Latias; we should be focusing on where she's going to go; we can't let her fall into nuzlocker hands."

"What do your pokemon want to do then?" Cyrus asked them. "For someone that claims to care about your pokemon, you sure go with your own beliefs instead of asking them what they want."

"It's for the best if we take my course of actions!"

"Oh, so you claim to care about your pokemon's feelings yet you don't let them do what they want?!" Cyrus grasped my shoulder and tightened his hands, causing me to wince in pain. "All of those years were probably wasted on that island. Tell me, did your pokemon really want to stay there or did your practically urge them to go?!"

A loud cry called out to the both of us. Both Cyrus and I leaped backwards; the cry almost came completely out of nowhere. Cyrus and I turned to the source to see Latias staring at the both of us. "Stop fighting!" Latias cried out again. "Enough happened today...."

Cyrus focused his attention back onto me, but then he looked toward my neck. He must have been confused with the effects of my necklace, since usually only I can understand pokemon speech using it. At that point in time, Cyrus himself learned first hand that anyone that touches me can utilize the ability as well. "Your necklace affects the one touching the wearer as well... incredible," Cyrus muttered under his breath. "... But she is right though. We've went through enough today; we can't start fighting with each other now, especially when we have her to protect."

"... That is very true," I replied with guilt as Cyrus released me from his grip. "I'm sorry for troubling you, Latias."

"It's fine, Conrad." Latias softened her tone as she began to approach me. "You should do what he wants; you should see your sister."

"Why should I?"

"Because she cares about you, isn't that enough?" I turned away. "Conrad, would the situation be different if Yinca was there instead of with you?" Upon hearing that comparison I let off a deep sigh. "Please... you should see her. I'm very certain that she would be very happy to see you."
He could do this.

All he had to do was stand there, and not panic. Not freak out. Not have a panic attack.

He took a shuddering breath in, and opened his eyes.

Water.

That’s all he could see, standing on a bridge he’d come across in the village near his school. A rickety  wooden bridge over a strongly running river.

On the other side, a mystery. Underneath, a nightmare for him.

And so he stood, on the bridge, looking down at the water in an attempt to overcome his fears.

His breathing quickened, hands gripping the old wood as his memories grabbed him and dragged his consciousness kicking and screaming into the past.

He couldn’t breathe, if he breathed he’d drown.

A voice was shouting something angrily, the words deadedned by the pounding in his ears, the roaring sound of his liquid prison.

Strong hands almost breaking his shoulders as they foced him down, holding him there

Can’t breathe, oh god can’t breathe getmeoutpleasesomeone help

“Anders?”

He Gasped, a light touch in his arm jolting him back to the present. His head snapped to the side, eyes wild with fear as he took in the delicate form of his closest friend and girlfriend,

“R-Resa…”

Concerned violet eyes met panicked green, the only sounds for a moment being the gentle rustle of leaves in a breeze, the constant steady sound of the water running, and Anders’ ragged breathing.

“Are you alright?” She asked gently, treating Anders similarly as you would a panicking animal.

“I….I’m…” Anders floundered for the words he wanted to say to reassure her dancing just out of his reach, pushed aside by panic and fear.

‘Just tell her Anders.’ The voice of Anders’ constant companion came, slicing through his thoughts from the connection the two shared. <i?‘Knowing her, she’s already noticed. You’ll….well you’ll feel horrid telling her, but admitting it to someone may help.’

‘I….I can’t Sinatra. I can’t tell people about what happened…..not yet.’</i>

A sigh came across the link ‘you idiot. You don’t have to say everything, start with having a phobia.  Small steps Shadowmancer, small steps.’

Anders took another breath, steadying his nerves and looked Resa in the eyes, before uttering one of the hardest things he had ever said.

“No….I’m not alright.”
There's not much that can be said about this.....

Phobias aren't a fun thing.

Resa is :iconfreakyfanatic101:'s
Anders is mine
:iconacademia-luna:
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