Midsummer Knights: DREAM

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    *fistshake!* Jax Malcolm's Avatar
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    Default Midsummer Knights: DREAM

    Midsummer Knights: DREAM
    Rating: PG-13

    Prelude: Author's Note

    Because I'm a sucker for comments, I've decided to publish my latest fic here to see what sort of feedback I'd get. Concrit is deeply appreciated. Specific concrit is applauded.

    I will say, though, that if you see something that seems to be randomly brought up, chances are, it'll serve a purpose later.


    Index:
    This post: Prelude: Backstory
    Chapter One: Open
    Chapter Two: Key
    Chapter Three: Duel

    ---


    Prologue: Backstory

    "Ladies and gentlemen, today marks the beginning of a new and brilliant future for Verona City and…!" There was a pause for emphasis that could have slain thousands in suspense. "…The beginning of a fantastic journey for those who will soon call themselves Midsummer Knights!"

    With those words, my home – my dear Verona City – was changed forever.

    My name is Ariel, and I am the History Keeper. It is my duty to record and retell the story of the place where I was born. Because of that, I know all there is to know about Verona City, and I would be happy to pass my knowledge unto you.

    The day the Game (the Game, as it must be set apart from all the others) began was a dreary, snowy day in late December, between the glimmer of Christmas and the freshness of the new year. Weariness of the dismal gray between those wonderful days hung over the citizens like a heavy shroud. But this negative aura was punctured by a ray of excitement, the brainchild of a wealthy business tycoon: the great Midsummer Game.

    But perhaps I am getting far too ahead of myself. Allow me to weave for you the very root of the story.

    The year is far from what you know. The great Ash Ketchum – Pokémon master and league champion for many years, as you probably already know from your own basic history lessons – died many years before now and is nothing but a skeleton, if he should still be as blessed as many thought he was.

    Time is good to the people now. Fantastic inventions of which the people of Ash's time only dreamed now exist in every home. The governments of the world now own computers and computer operators such as myself to record every last detail of the society under it. But we do not obey tyrants. We obey leaders who reach out to us with hands and gifts.

    On the other hand, that bliss is not enjoyed everywhere. Here in Verona City – a spot between Saffron City and Lavender City which the government has forgotten – there has been for many, many years a tense ripple among the people. Whether or not the regular citizens and the indifferent city council have felt it too, I do not know.

    Once, Verona City had flourished in the hands of two prosperous families of equal standing. Both were peaceful, generous families that shared the throne of control over all of us. Wealth spread throughout the city limits, and soon after their rise, the citizens experienced a golden age that made their fair city comparable to its majestic neighbors.

    Unfortunately, like all beautiful times, even Verona City's had to come to an end. Disputes between the two families shattered the quiet of the city. Soon, everyone became polarized in business and politics, and the city became weak. Eventually, like in all dying empires, kings rose from either side in the fight for power.

    The greed of humankind is a fascinating thing, as the creator of the Game observed in the midst of Verona City's self-destruction. Men and women would slaughter thousands if the right incentive was presented to them. So that solitary genius decided to see what would happen to Verona City if such an incentive was presented.

    Thus came the Game. 386 keys were hidden within the walls of Verona City. One of them – any one of them – unlocked not only the sacred gate but also the vault hidden behind it. Within the vault lay the holy grail of the Game: the legendary Midsummer Treasure, an object whose value meant the possessor's wildest dreams would come true.

    So to secure a key ensured one's position among the Midsummer Knights, a group whose purpose was to find the Midsummer Treasure. One person had a one in 386 chance of getting to the vault (theoretically, anyway), but even then, the number of Knights could decrease at any time for any reason – including murder. If a Knight played by the rules (which were only determined by other Knights), that lucky individual would find him or herself with favorable odds. Everyone knew that by the time the mayor gave his speech.

    The Game was the reason why the mayor himself stood upon that platform on that snowy day in late December. Across his lips came the death sentence of thousands and the destinies of few. His speech curled eloquently from his lips as he revealed the game as it was. In the bitter-cold, snowy air, throngs of listened motionlessly to his every word as if it was a gospel from the Messiah Himself.

    Verona City, not a day after the mayor himself made the announcement for the start of the Game, erupted into yet another bloody battle. This time, however, it was of the likes of which no one in Kanto has ever seen – all for the entertainment of one mysterious sadist.

    That, unfortunately, became the stage for the story I want to share. It's a simple story that begins not with the mayor's speech but instead many weeks later, when the winter snow shrank in fear of the spring sun. It is a tragedy and a comedy. A drama and an adventure. Surreal, yet very real.

    This is the story of the Knight of the Puzzle Box.
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    Chapter One: Open

    Clock Street was not so much a street as it was a district. It ran through the western side of Verona City from its northern border to Gold River, the black ribbon of water that sliced the city in half. Within this district, which was sandwiched by warehouses to the west and ritzier shops to the east, was a row of friendly, neighborhood businesses. They were the original log in Verona City, and all of them were hardly intimidated by their wealthier neighbors. In fact, though their businesses were lucky to find customers outside those who lived in the apartments above each shop, they were still far happier than the suit-clad managers of the large stores one block over. That was all that mattered to them.

    One of these shops, however, was owned by a pair of newcomers that quietly wedged themselves in the close circle of Clock Street. Their window was stocked with something different than the usual small gadgets or pastries or whatnot the others sold. Here, dolls sat on pink pillows and cotton fluff as they smiled to each passerby. Fantastic creatures posed in small costumes as they waited for a child's hands to bring them to life. Clefairy in pink dresses and Pikachu in baseball uniforms sat to each side of the window and looked out with their lifeless, glass eyes to the world beyond their safe seats. This – the shop and everything in it – was Moonlight Dolls, known to the other shopkeepers as the Shop of Dreams.

    Beyond the glass door of the shop and within the warm, cinnamon-scented interior, shelves of dolls of every shape, size, and species filled the square room. The only place the shelves never touched was a row to the left side of the room where a counter with the cash register was. Just beyond where the counter stopped (halfway along the room) was a simple, green door that no one but two were allowed to enter.

    In the back – just beyond a waist-high, maple wall that marked the end of the hardwood, customers-welcome floor and the linoleum, staff-only space – was a workshop. A counter lined the wall, and above it, metal cabinets were built into the pink wall itself. All sorts of doll parts littered the smooth, flat surface of the counter: a Jynx arm here, a computer chip there, wires lying in between small, black boxes, and far more mysterious things. It was a curious pile of assorted odds and ends, but the children were fascinated with it. Each day, at least two would enter the shop, skip past the shelves, and stand at the wall to watch magic happen on the other side. Slowly but surely, parts disappeared from the counter and inside the cabinets to give birth to a being that, after an hour or so of work, would sit at one of the ends of a counter, just waiting to be placed among its companions on the shelves.

    The magician who created such masterpieces worked at that counter on a custom doll as a Haunter drifted around the room. Her concentration was devoted entirely to the orange-furred creature in her pale, slender hands, so it was understandable that she hardly realized that no child was watching her then. Dark blue eyes stared at the opening in the back of the doll carefully as a pair of thick-framed glasses threatened to slip off her sweaty nose. She pursed her thin lips and drew her right hand to her face to push aside stray strands of her short, wild, black hair. With that, she wiped it on the simple, heavy, green apron she wore over her gray slacks and wrinkled, white shirt.

    Her name was Viola DiAngelo, but that was all anyone really knew about her before then. She arrived in Verona City as a child with her hand in her father's – a man whose real name has been long forgotten, except by the daughter who calls him simply "Papa." It was the little money and skills he had that opened Moonlight Dolls years ago, and from that, Viola found happiness. She lived as her father's protégé and learned to create the magic that he did. Little by little, the young girl learned to craft Pokémon dolls so lifelike that one could almost feel the warmth of the body they mimicked. And with that, Viola's heart filled with the warmth of being connected with her father.

    However, five years prior to the day called the present, her father passed on. He was sick for many months before then, but it was always assumed he would recover. Then, one snowy, December day, Viola was left with nothing but her father's store, her father's four Pokémon, the skills her father had given her, and a dead body in her father's bed.

    Luckily, however, Viola was not completely alone. She had Sebastian Cross, a young, ambitious man she had met by chance in the streets. His only story was that he was running away from home with six Pokémon and a certain amount of money he had received by selling things he had stolen from his parents' home.

    Viola found out later that the "certain amount" was "a backpack's worth in five-hundred-yen bills," and the "things" mainly encompassed "expensive silverware." Needless to say, Sebastian's family happened to be a wealthy lot of Capulet-aligned conservatives embarrassed by their son's lack of responsibility or interest in the family business. Unable to handle the pressure put on by his family to conform to their ideas, Sebastian took whatever valuable things he could find and fled.

    Though Viola was wary about accepting Sebastian into her home, her business was suffering at the time, and he promised he had the know-how to save it. Reluctantly, Viola bent, and Sebastian became her only family.

    He kept his word, of course. With the money he had, he helped Viola renovate the store and buy methods of advertising to draw customers to Moonlight Dolls. In exchange for his help and friendship, Viola gave him her loyalty as well as a place to hide from his family. Even as the months passed and the realization that the Cross family simply weren't looking for him set in, Sebastian remained at Viola's side to manage the business aspects of Moonlight Dolls as well as give her the happiness she hadn't felt since her father died.

    Presently, Sebastian wasn't in the building, but she knew where he was: enticing more customers to shop at Viola's store. She didn't mind, however. It was toiling in the silence of her workshop that pleased her now and then.

    The bell attached to the glass door of the shop rang as it creaked open on its hinges, but Viola never looked away from her work. She assumed that it was Sebastian on his return from wherever he was advertising and that if it wasn't, Haunter, a Pokémon she only recently succeeded in teaching the ways of the cash register to, could take care of anyone else. As if knowing her thoughts, Haunter floated toward the main portion of the shop. Moments later, Viola realized that her store fell into a cold silence.

    She set her tools next to the half-finished Smoochum doll and turned to face the rest of the shop. There, just beyond the barrier between her workshop and the outside world, was an old, bald man in a wrinkled, gray suit leaning on a wooden cane with one hand and holding onto a strange, wooden box in his other. He was obviously poor, given the quality of his suit, yet Viola knew business was business. Besides, her Haunter, who hung in the air just above the stranger's right shoulder, gave her a distant look that could only mean that even the Pokémon felt sorry for him.

    "Can I help you?" she inquired.

    The man's dark eyes seemed to sparkle in the fluorescent lighting. His spotted hand reached up to stroke his white beard for a moment as he remembered what exactly he wanted.

    "I want a doll… for my grandchild," he informed her.

    Viola sighed inwardly as she walked to the parapet and jumped over it (rather than using the door). She adjusted her glasses as she gave a sideways look at her potential customer.

    "Alright," she said. "What kind of doll are you looking for?"

    Carefully, the old man balanced himself on his own two feet as he began using both of his hands to describe the size and shape of the doll. "A wind-up doll. A small one with gears that walks when you turn its crank."

    Viola raised an eyebrow in confusion. It wasn't every day that someone came in to request an old-fashioned clockwork doll, and most of the dolls in the shop used computer chips to move and speak anyway.

    "I don't think I have one of those for sale, but I guess I can make you one. It will take a long time to make, though," she finally told him.

    "Oh, I was hoping I could get it today," the old man murmured. "You see, in a few days, my granddaughter will be a year older, and she would love to have a doll like that."

    Viola leaned against the small wall behind her and took a deep breath. Though she felt like arguing, she just couldn't bring the words to her mouth. Instead, she jumped back over the parapet and walked to one of the cupboards. It only felt natural.

    "I can get it done in a couple of days," she explained in her calmest voice, "and I can box and gift wrap it in no time. However, no one sells the parts around here anymore, so it'll cost you extra just to—"

    Here, Viola opened one of the cupboard doors to find a Raichu doll filling its bottom half. She didn't remember putting it there, and it almost felt eerie that it was there, right where her storage of cogs should have been. Yet there it was, sitting in its dusty, orange glory with a stitched smile across its face. She took it down from its dusty spot and turned it over to find what else but the key to turn a system of gears inside. A strange shiver ran down her spine as she wondered where the doll came from but pushed the thought aside. She straightened her back as she assured herself that it was probably one of her father's old works, stored among the cogs to be sold later.

    Slowly, Viola turned around as she began debating on whether or not she should sell the thing. If it was her father's, then it had sentimental value to it. On the other hand, her father would have wanted to have all of his dolls sold to children who could appreciate them. Yet a certain pain filled her heart as she thought about giving away something done by her father's hands.

    "Miss?" the old man addressed.

    Viola looked up as the voice snapped her out of her thoughts. With that, she inched closer to the parapet as she looked the doll over one last time. It was only right that it would be given to a child. The doll was useless just sitting in the cog cupboard.

    "I have this," Viola told him with a soft voice and a gaze glued to the doll. "It's a Raichu doll – clockwork, like you said. I've got to warn you, though. It's a bit dusty."

    The man smiled. "No matter. I can clean it at home."

    Viola cringed as she looked into the man's eyes. "The price for a clockwork doll of this size would be well over two thousand yen. That makes this one far more expensive than the other dolls in the store."

    The old man didn't say a word. Viola knew that he wanted no other doll in the shop except the one she held in her arms. She felt a bit guilty that she was selling one doll for such a price, but with the rarity of its parts, it could sell for no less.

    However, the man didn't seem to be troubled by such a statement. Instead, he lifted the wooden box in the hand opposite to the one holding the cane and presented it to Viola. It was indeed large, roughly eight inches long by six wide and deep. All over its faces were intricate designs done in fading brown, gold, and red paint. Each line curled beautifully in on one another to give the box a mystical, oriental look.

    "I have no money, but I will trade you my secret for your doll," the man offered.

    Immediately, Viola was wary. She knew of the possible consequences, namely, the thought that she could be giving her father's work away for absolutely nothing.

    "It is a puzzle box, dear," the elder informed her. "Inside is a treasure you can get nowhere else. Or, if you don't believe me, you could sell it if you choose. I tell you, though, that something is inside. Listen."

    He brought the box close to Viola's ear and shook it. A strange, clunking noise filtered through the box's thin, wooden walls to the outside, but Viola had no way of knowing what it was.

    "So, are you interested?" the old man asked.

    Viola took her eyes off the box once more to glance at the man. She couldn't help but feel a certain sadness when her eyes fell upon the pathetic expression on his face. With a dash of frustration, she felt herself bend as she thought about the little girl who would get the doll.

    What use was the doll going to be to her, anyway? If someone else could get to love it, that was all that mattered, right? That was the entire purpose behind Moonlight Dolls, right?

    With a shaky, uncertain hand, she held out the Raichu doll to the old man. The old man grinned and passed the box to Viola's free hand before taking the Raichu doll in his arms.

    "Thank you," he muttered. "My granddaughter will be very happy, as will you."

    Viola could hardly say a word before he turned and hobbled out of the shop with the doll resting in the crook of his elbow. When he was at last gone, Viola looked at the box, then at her Haunter, who began flying in circles above the shelves.

    Then, suddenly, an important thought came to her.

    "Sebastian's going to kill me for this," she gasped as her eyes fell on the box again.

    ---

    In the apartment just above the shop, Viola sat in a chair and toyed with the box. Her partner – the thin, lanky boy still in his street clothes of a white, high-collared long coat over a gray turtleneck and jeans – paced the hardwood floor of the simple room as he ran his fingers through his strawberry-blonde hair. His brown eyes cast a wild glance back to the girl in the chair as he tried to find sense in her attempts to move the faces of the block she held.

    "So let me get this straight," he growled. "You traded one of our dolls – one that would have been twenty hundred yen – for that?"

    Viola knew all too well that at those times, there was no use in arguing with Sebastian. Instead, her eyes fixed themselves on the wooden box as she propped her feet next to her PokéBalls on the wooden table in front of her. As Sebastian continued to pace angrily, her thumb slid a small panel of wood on one of the faces to the side and out of a notch. Curious, she slid the entire face downward until the two-inch panel above the one she slid hit the wood barrier that kept the entire thing from sliding downward before the other panel slid out. Then, Viola placed the box in her lap with the moved panels hanging over the edge of her leg and the adjacent solid side pressed against her stomach. Her fingers slowly pushed the top panel to the side until it slid over the others side she had changed just moments before. There, under it, was nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    Luckily, Sebastian didn't see it. He was already on a rant of his own.

    "Have I taught you nothing?" he cried. "This isn't the ancient past where everyone traded beads for Ursaring skins! Money for dolls, Viola! Money for dolls!"

    She, of course, wasn't listening. Instead, her mind dwelled on the box. There had to have been something more that she hadn't found. The puzzle was far too easy, with too few moves. And besides, there was no way the rattling could have been from the loose panels. There was something more that she wasn't seeing.

    With that, her fingers felt inside to rub the rough wood. There really wasn't anything inside that space. Nothing.

    "Then why…?" Viola mumbled in a tone so low Sebastian couldn't hear it over his own voice. "Maybe… It seems smaller than it should be for a reason."

    Viola tried to move the other sides of the box. The bottom hardly moved, and the front and back were firm in place. Then, her hand came to the side opposite the one at which she made her first move. Slowly, she moved it upward and felt under it to find a small knob. Realizing it had to have been a drawer, she pulled it outward to see a white knob first, then a rectangular compartment move outward with it. Another panel, one decorated with brown and white squares, greeted her eyes. Her fingers drifted on top of it to feel the smooth finish of the protected wood before slowly, she pushed it outward. There, inside, she found what she was looking for.

    Sebastian was in mid-sentence when Viola interrupted him.

    "Hey," she said, "got any idea what this could be?"

    With a surprised gasp (mainly because he didn't expect her to speak while he did), Sebastian whirled around to see what Viola was talking about. His companion, meanwhile, held up a silver key by its stem.

    It was a small thing – slightly larger than a regular house key and far fancier. Its stem was rounded and ended at the bottom with simple-looking, metal tabs coming out of one of its sides. On the top, its head curled outward like the leaves of a clover but turned back inward to touch a glass ball fixed into the center by a combination of the silver curls and small, silver claws coming from the neck of the key.

    Though Sebastian wasn't entirely sure what the key was for, he had a pretty good guess.

    "Oh crap," he whispered as it slowly dawned on him.
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    *fistshake!* Jax Malcolm's Avatar
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    Chapter Two: Key

    "Okay, okay," Sebastian said with a sigh. "Let's go over this again."

    Viola shoved her hands in the pockets of her long, grey coat as the wind played with the tie she hastily put on before departing.

    "Again?" she inquired. "Sebastian, I get the point."

    Sebastian sent a glare her way before continuing. "We go in, and we ask nonchalantly if the key's theirs. If it isn't, then that's good. We won't have to do anything. If it is, then you're going to tell them you don't want to be inducted."

    "Well, what if I do?" Viola asked.

    She was met with an even harsher glare before Sebastian turned and walked ahead. He disappeared out of the spotlight of a streetlamp before he even dared to speak.

    "You will not be joining," he said. "You do not want to join. Trust me. I've heard stories."

    Viola's hands balled into fists within her pockets. She couldn't stand moments like this, when Sebastian ordered her to do something. Her boots rapped against the concrete to add loud clunks to the taps of Sebastian's black dress shoes. Even by taking a brisk walk with her down a familiar street, Sebastian found ways to subconsciously make his friend feel inferior.

    He didn't mean to make her feel inferior, but he had a good enough reason to give her orders the way he did. The simple truth was that Sebastian cared about Viola. She was, after all, his surrogate sister. The problem was in the fact that he simply didn't know how to act any other way. Every effort he made only came off haughty.

    There were solutions to that. He just didn't think to take them.

    At last, Viola broke the silence by asking, "What's got you worked up about this anyway?"

    Sebastian stopped in the light of a streetlamp to look into Viola's eyes. She was annoyed, and he could tell. Yet even though he knew Viola wasn't one to cross (especially since she was the one who gave him a place to stay), he still risked her anger.

    "You don't want to know," he replied flatly. "Now, come on. It's not too far from here."

    Viola hesitated. She didn't like it when Sebastian was like this – demanding things be done his way or trying to control her every move. However, in Viola's mind, he always seemed to know what was best, so she didn't argue. Instead, she followed him like a pet on a leash.

    Sebastian wasn't kidding when he said the place was near. With a quick, confident stride, he turned the corner and presented Viola with their destination – a large, dark mansion behind a set of iron gates. Viola's eyes widened as she put her bare hands around the rusted bars and looked inward, past the fountain with its stone Milotic in the heart of the cobblestone courtyard and toward the large, oak doors set against the building's stone walls. She knew the place – its balconies and gables and tall windows. Everyone in Verona City did. It was the home of the late Ophelia Dumont, the beautiful actress from several decades in the past – the one who, in her unrequited passion for an unknown god she called her "beloved light of the east," went insane and hanged herself with the cord of one of the chandeliers in the front hall. Rumor had it that her wailing ghost still drifted near the high ceiling.

    "Why are we here?" Viola inquired as she finally turned her head to Sebastian.

    Her partner didn't answer her question. Instead, he pushed open the gate next to the one Viola held. It screamed as it swung in, sending shivers down Viola's spine as she likened it to the bawling of Ophelia's spirit. Without a word, Sebastian walked through the threshold. It was apparent that he wasn't thinking of the same thing.

    "Come on," he muttered upon noticing Viola's hesitation. "This is the place."

    Viola could feel her hands chill as she let her fingers slip off the bars. She didn't like going into a potentially haunted place, but Sebastian was determined to enter. With pursed lips, Viola stuffed her hands into her pockets and reluctantly walked behind her male companion. Her gaze was fixed on her feet, so she didn't notice they had approached the door until Sebastian shoved it open, causing its old hinges to groan deeply like an old man just awakening from a long slumber.

    Immediately, Viola was startled by the light and the scent of fresh roses. She looked up to find herself not on the set of a horror movie (as she expected) but instead in the lobby of a fancy hotel. Most of the floor was marble, save for the red carpeting that ran up the steps straight ahead or in the common area just to the right. Rich, velvet, red-and-gold couches and chairs were already occupied by several people enjoying a quiet discussion by the roaring fireplace. Red and yellow roses stood like huddled soldiers in painted vases set on mahogany tables at the ends of the couches and in the center of the common area. The mahogany walls, decorated with all sorts of paintings, rose to the vaulted ceiling bearing two chandeliers. (There was room for a third, but it was understandably missing.) To the left, meanwhile, there was a marble-top counter, behind which was a black computer and a brunette in a white shirt, red vest, and black bow tie.

    Viola felt dirty just standing there.

    It was Sebastian who brought her out of her daze with a nudge. He pointed to the counter to let Viola know what to do next before pushing back outside. With a jolt, Viola knew he wasn't going to hold her hand for what happened next, though she wished he would. After a deep breath and a half-hearted attempt to straighten her shirt and coat, she strutted up to the desk as confidently as she could, as if to impress the people in the common area (who weren't paying attention to her anyway). Behind the counter, the attendant's green eyes fell on Viola, and for a brief moment, the newcomer forgot why she was there.

    "May I help you?" the employee asked.

    With a quick nod (more to snap herself back into reality than anything else), Viola drew the mystery key out of her pocket.

    "I found this," she said. "Is this yours?"

    The attendant regarded the key with a curious glance as she took it from Viola's hands and inserted its stem into a device that looked, to Viola's eyes, much like an electric pencil sharpener hooked up to the computer. With a hum, the device began to scan the key as the attendant quickly opened a drawer, pulled a white PDA from its depths, and used its wire to connect it to a port on the computer next to the one the scanner's wire occupied. Dainty hands slipped to the keyboard before a chorus of clacks rose into the room.

    "Name?" the woman inquired.

    "Uh…" Viola blinked a few times before responding, "Viola DiAngelo."

    Almost unconsciously, the attendant repeated the name as she typed it into a search bar and hit the enter key. Viola shifted uncomfortably with a guess at what the attendant might be browsing: the Verona City Data Bank.

    The Data Bank, should anyone need to comprehend how vast and incredible it was, could only be described as one word: God. Or a likeness, at least. No one could ever remember exactly who created it or when it actually launched; the government kept it secret for many years until rumors leaked into the public about its existence. From the loins of Rumor came the deadly beast of Misconception, which was, twenty years beforehand, exactly what led to the paranoia that gripped the millions of people within the limits of Verona City. It was only until the witch hunts began that government officials finally produced the truth.

    Unfortunately, the truth was exactly as the public feared. The Data Bank was an index of information on every single creature that lived within the city limits. Everything they did had its own line of text. Every Pokémon that hatched had several bytes dedicated to it. Every dark secret was known to the government and the government only. They were watching, and the citizens knew that but said nothing. While Verona City officials claimed that the Data Bank was nothing to worry about and that no changes to the way the city was run were being made, people who voiced their discomfort over the presence of the Data Bank mysteriously vanished without a trace.

    So, naturally, it scared the citizens even more than the Midsummer Game that somehow sprouted under the government's watch. Everyone became uneasy about the world around them.

    Viola was one of those people who feared for her life, and there, in front of her, was one of the reasons why. She knew her every detail was appearing right then in front of the attendant's eyes, and at that thought, she suddenly felt naked and cold.

    "According to city records, there's a Viola DiAngelo of 326 Clock Street," the young woman said. "Is that you?"

    Unaware of where the conversation was going, Viola nodded as she wrapped her arms around her body in an attempt to shake off her bare feeling. The attendant continued hitting keys for a few moments more until she finally disconnected the PDA and drew the key from the scanner. Her fingers took a card from a pile under the counter and handed all three items to Viola.

    "Okay! You're all registered!" the attendant announced. "Welcome to the Midsummer Knights. You've found Key 151, the Illusion Key, so from now on, you'll be referred to officially by the codename Knight Illusion."

    Viola, of course, was startled. "But… But I—"

    "This month's induction ceremony is in three days," the other informed her. "You're technically already inducted, but each month we like to formally introduce you to the other players. Attendance is optional but highly recommended."

    "But I don't—"

    "The PDA is yours to keep. Check it frequently. Every so often, you will be given a task to complete. If you succeed, you'll rise in rank, and you'll gain points which can be used to buy products at all complying stores throughout Verona City. If you fail, you won't have points taken away, but you'll drop in rank. Drop below Rank Z, and your position within the Midsummer Knights will be revoked. That means you can't play the game anymore after that."

    "But—"

    "Each rank has its own set of privileges, so to keep your rewards, you'll have to work hard to get more. Got all that?"

    There was a silence before Viola finally replied.

    "What if I really don't want to be a Knight?"

    The attendant burst out laughing.

    ---

    When the sun rose, a pair of blue eyes opened to a blurry world. Viola squinted at a square of sunlight on the yellow-tiled ceiling before a hand reached from under her bed sheets and quilt to feel for her glasses on the shaky, wooden nightstand just to the side of the bed. Her fingers closed on something smooth and flat. Curious, she pulled it to her face, only to see it as a fuzzy rectangle of white and green. She sat up and reached over to the table for her glasses. It took her a moment, but at last, her skin met plastic. After hastily snatching the object from the table and slipping it on, Viola's world came into focus, and in her lap was the PDA. She almost forgot the night before ever happened.

    Lying to Sebastian took a lot of her will. She never really defied him before (mainly because his advice was usually the best kind in her opinion), and she still felt oddly guilty. Yet he didn't want her to be a Knight, and there was no way out for her. She gave her word that she would play a decent game, and she certainly couldn't break her own contract. On the other hand, she was afraid of what he would say – of the possibility that he would think she joined for selfish reasons. So, she told him she didn't join. She told him his plan went perfectly, so he took her home with a smug look on his face and no idea of the truth in his mind.

    She winced. Viola didn't like that smug expression he had. What did he know, anyway? He was born to wealth; Viola had to struggle for it. (And she still wasn't rich.) Sebastian had everything he could ever want, but he refused it all. Viola didn't even have a living blood relative, much less a wealthy estate to fall back on.

    Of course Viola was jealous. She wanted the thrill of being a Knight and the opportunity to see what was beyond Clock Street. Sebastian could have that whenever he wanted, but Viola was tied to her shop just to live, let alone to earn the rare extra money she could set aside for the day when she would finally leave Verona City.

    Viola shook her head vigorously. She couldn't think ill of her partner. After all, he got her where she was. If it wasn't for his money and charisma, Viola wouldn't have anything. Still, she didn't care about the stories Sebastian heard. She was going to be a Knight, and that was that.

    Calmly, she turned on the PDA and used the thin, white stylus to look through the features.

    "Starting rank… Q," she murmured. "I wonder what privileges I get for that."

    She prodded the "Privileges" link next to her rank with her stylus. Immediately, a box appeared with a disappointingly short list.

    "Free train passes for up to two people," she read aloud. "Five hundred yen off any item at Deirdre's Fine Boutique, the Attic Trainers' Outfitters, and Yoshimura's Outfitters For Weapons and Defense. Free box lunches at Clock Street Deli."

    There was a long period of silence as the fact of the matter sank into Viola's mind and settled at the base of her brain.

    "That's it?" she questioned with a heavy tone. "That's all I get?"

    With her last ounce of hope toward the subject, Viola prodded the screen to find more, but there was nothing. With a sigh, she tossed the PDA at the foot of her bed and leaned back. She only closed her eyes for a moment when the device started beeping wildly. Startled, she jumped for it and seized it in both hands. In bright, red letters across the screen, the words "MESSAGE RECEIVED" blinked. Quickly, Viola grabbed the stylus sitting within the folds of her quilt and used it to jab the screen. The beeping abruptly stopped, and the words were replaced with different, easier-to-read text.

    "Knight Illusion: Assignment #001," it read. "Take the 12:35 train to the Camilla District. Be sure to board car three. There, you will find another Knight. Meet her and wait for further instructions. Award for completion: 100 points. Assignment type: Very easy. No rank changes."

    "I thought the girl said I'd get a rank change for each success," Viola grumbled. "Whatever. I'll do it."

    With that, she slipped out of bed and began to ready herself for the trip. By then, it was nine o' clock.

    ---

    Though Viola wanted to be a Knight, the thought of lying to Sebastian again was far too much for her, so she opted for not telling him she'd leave at all. So, she waited patiently for ten o' clock to come. That was when Sebastian usually left the shop to comb Clock Street for potential customers. If she hurried, Viola could complete her entire task before Sebastian returned at five in the afternoon.

    The closest train station to Clock Street, however, was actually several streets over, on the wealthier edge of the Tulip-Clock District. Viola rushed along as quickly as she could through that part of town, but the crowd filled with suited businessmen and women hindered her. Her Haunter bobbed about her head like a demented balloon. Though he wanted to suck the energy from the well-groomed souls around his master, Viola already forbade him from doing so. As a result, he had to content himself from simply sampling a taste of energy here and there as he floated along behind Viola.

    Just after noon, the building appeared, nestled between several skyscrapers. The station, contrary to its surroundings, wasn't at all pretty. While the other buildings were covered with polished steel, the station was, for the most part, painted concrete blocks. Its red, metal roof bent as melted snow dripped from its rusted corners. Ticket machines, gray and obviously heavily used, stood against one gray wall near the entrance. On the inside – or rather, the other side of the station wall, benches and train tracks lined both sides of a concrete platform.

    The station itself was relatively empty, as it was the middle of the work day. Still, a large number of people stood about the platform, many of whom were either in suits or, in the case of the women especially, held the hands of small children.

    Viola dashed to one of the ticket booths and hastily dug through her pockets for money. (It had, by then, slipped her mind that she could have simply used her free train pass that came with her rank.) She jammed slips of paper into the slots on the bulky face of the machine and (nearly literally) punched buttons on the keypad just above the slot. In the moments that followed – which were filled by the whirring of the machine and the hum of the activity of the city around her, Viola rocked impatiently on the balls of her feet as Haunter bobbed in midair near her shoulders. He wanted action and excitement; he had been yearning for it since the day his former owner settled in the city. Yet Viola wasn't sure she wanted to satisfy that craving.

    For a brief flash of a moment, Viola began to doubt herself. What was she hoping to get out of being a Knight anyway? Glory? Excitement?

    But then, on the other hand, the risks were both equal and opposite. She wasn't blind to the news reports that detailed the gruesome murders of other Knights, such as the one who was found the week prior with the claw of his equally dead Scizor (for any Scizor can logically be dead if its head was on the ground five feet away from its body) through his stomach.

    With a click, the ticket slid out of another slot in the machine. Viola stared at it for a long while as she thought. She didn't have to take it. She could refuse the job and go home safely knowing that she was one step closer to being kicked out of the game.

    Then, from out of nowhere, the image of Sebastian flashed through her mind. Was that what she wanted? Refuse the game, and she would live under him for the rest of her life. She never imagined that she would be taking orders from a complete stranger. Was she really that weak?

    The more she thought about it, the more she wondered if Sebastian's "good advice" really was as good as she thought it was.

    It was 12:24, and her heart beat in time with the seconds that passed her. As the rest of the world seemed to pass in a slow haze around her, Viola's calloused fingers reached up and took the ticket out of the machine. With a snap, the ticket slid perfectly out of the slot.

    Viola couldn't remember ever rushing into the train station, but apparently she did. Anyone on the platforms that day could swear they saw the ghost of a girl drifting through the clusters of businessmen and mothers and children as if they weren't even there. The Haunter that followed her only added to her eeriness – the train to the corpse bride.

    She was simply going over her reasons again. Each thought swirled in conflict within her mind. On the one hand, she wanted the excitement of being a Knight. On the other, it was putting her life in safety to an end. The conflict in her mind escalated as she struggled to figure out a solution. Excitement or safety? Which would she choose?

    The doors of the train hissed behind her, and she looked up with a startled glance. She never even realized she had stepped onto the train; she must have done it unconsciously while her mind was debating with itself. Quickly, she stepped away from the closing doors while Haunter simply phased through them as if they weren't there. She didn't even have time to look around as the train lurched into motion. Caught off-guard, Viola nearly fell to the gray floor, but instead, she reached up and grabbed one of the metal bars framing the door. She regained her balance and swung herself onto one of the orange, plastic seats. Haunter merely floated near the ceiling; he was apparently more amused by the moving scenery outside the windows than the fact that his trainer nearly fell onto her face.

    For the first time, Viola's eyes rose to take in the entirety of the car. Her fingers flew to the sides of her glasses to adjust them as she observed the people. Most of them were primly dressed in black business suits or something of that nature. None of them looked remarkable to her. None had the battle scars she was expecting for a Knight, but then again, neither did she.

    Her mind recited the message she had practically memorized on the way there. She was to get on the third car of the 12:35 train. Though she wasn't exactly paying attention to even which train she boarded, she assumed this was the right one. How would she know if she failed her mission anyway?

    A pang of panic hit her heart as her hands jammed themselves into her coat pockets in search of her PDA. It didn't take long for her skin to come in contact with smooth plastic, and with that bit of reassurance, Viola pulled her PDA out to examine it.

    Unsure of what to do, she used the stylus to prod random options in an attempt to find her quests. Before she could, however, the screen went blank for a few moments before the familiar "MESSAGE RECEIVED" line appeared. Cautiously, Viola prodded it and watched as the screen filled with text.

    "Knight Illusion: Assignment #001 complete. Award: 100 points."

    With a sigh of relief, Viola leaned her head back and closed her eyes. The moment of serenity didn't last long, however, before her PDA started beeping wildly. Heads swiveled around in confusion as Viola's eyes shot open and down to the device in her lap. A third notice appeared on its screen which she dutifully prodded. Then came something that rekindled her feeling of panic, nervousness, and dread.

    "Knight Illusion: Assignment #002. Duel with Knight Rose. Award for completion: 500 points and a promotion to the next rank. Bonus: Victor receives an additional 50 points and the option to take the opposing party's key. Possession of key merits 50 additional points. Opposition receives no points upon losing the duel. Assignment type: Medium."

    Viola blinked in confusion as the beeping on the train finally died down. "Knight Rose…?"

    Someone nearby cleared her throat, causing Viola to snap into attention toward her surroundings. She looked up to find herself staring into light brown eyes set into a pallid face. Black locks were pulled back into a tight bun tied with a red bow that matched her scarlet, Chinese-style dress with gold trim. Her long fingers were wrapped around a single sphere as she grinned impishly at Viola from where she stood just in front of her.

    "Knight Illusion, I presume," the stranger drawled. "I believe we're meant to do something together."

    "Oh?" Viola frowned at the stranger.

    "Yes," she said. "You see, I'm Rosaline Wu – the honorable Knight Rose, Rank D."

    At that, two words stumbled out of Viola's mouth.

    "Oh crap."
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  4. #4
    *fistshake!* Jax Malcolm's Avatar
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    Chapter Three: Duel

    The train clacked along the track as the passengers aboard its third car rearranged themselves. Most of the passengers crammed themselves into one end of the car, just behind a trembling Viola. They had their wits with them; it was most likely going to be Viola who would be at fault for any stray attacks. Rosaline, who was just moments before a mere stranger, strutted confidently to the other end of the car with her Poké Ball still in hand. She turned, and her light brown eyes fixed themselves on Viola.

    The latter felt her knees go weak. Doubts settled in her. She knew there was bound to be some fights because she was a Knight, but she still felt reluctant to do anything. Was it right for her to use her father's Pokémon this way? Granted, he gave them to her in his will, but wouldn't it be treading on his memory to put them in danger?

    Rosaline, however, didn't waste any time. With a flick of her wrist, the ball was sent spiraling to a spot just in front of her. The ball tapped the gray floor of the train and cracked open to send brilliant, white light flowing in an arc to a point just in front of it. Light illuminated the walls of the car and sent trembling shadows where there normally wouldn't be, almost like the shadows cast by a flashlight in a room lit with candles.

    As soon as it appeared, however, it faded away to reveal a slender, plant-like creature standing on two pointed feet. Its thin arms – both tipped with a different-colored rose – were crossed in front of it as its head bowed in the same way that ballet dancers sometimes bow their heads just before the curtain rises.

    The ball, meanwhile, snapped back together and floated gracefully into Rosaline's hand. She grinned as she watched Viola's actions.

    "Well, child?" she said after a moment's pause. "Aren't you going to send out a little playmate for my Roselia? She could certainly use some exercise."

    Again, Viola hesitated. She wanted to be a Knight, but was she ready for what it meant?

    Maybe I should just go back, she thought. It's not too late. Go back home.

    With that, she turned and walked a few paces as a sign of retreat. No sooner had she done so, however, than her pocket began to beep. Startled, she reached into it and drew out the PDA. On its face, bold words appeared.

    "Knight Illusion, you are ignoring orders. Therefore, your rank has been decreased to Rank R."

    She stared at the words. What did they mean?

    "Got a reprimand, girl?" Rosaline questioned.

    Viola looked over her shoulder in confusion. Rosaline's eyes narrowed at her as the rest of the woman's body leaned forward. A harsh smirk remained etched into the Asian's face.

    "Didn't anyone tell you, girl?" she said. "Weren't you paying attention? The more you defy orders, the more you'll drop in rank. That means you can get kicked out of the Knights just by failing to do something as simple as this." She paused to straighten up. "Of course, I'd hardly say it's fair at all that the Controller would send a new Knight out to battle someone as talented as me, so I don't blame you if you don't want to finish your task."

    At those words, Viola turned completely around. Her eyes were wide, and she shot her opponent a perplexed look.

    "The Controller?" she whispered.

    Rosaline smirked again as she reached into the folds of her dress and drew out her own PDA. "Someone has to send these orders off to our Masters, girl. You really are a newbie if you didn't know that."

    "Who is he then? That someone, I mean."

    After a brief moment of laughter, Rosaline hid her PDA – or Master, as she called it – somewhere in her dress.

    "No one knows," she said, "and no one cares. And that's neither here nor there. After all, look at your Master."

    Viola glanced down. To her dismay, her rank was dropping even as they spoke. By then, she was at Rank U. She had to act fast, but she didn't know what to do. All she knew was that she couldn't bring herself to hurt Haunter.

    The unique thing about Pokémon training is that the longer a Pokémon spends with a human being, the stronger the bond between them grows until they become so close to one another that no word needs to be spoken between them to express their feelings. Even in the world of high technology and the need for individuality over unity, the ancient bond between human beings and Pokémon still lingered. Such is the case with Haunter. Many years had passed since the demise of his former master, and since then, he had been the guardian of his master's daughter. At first, she was scared of him and constantly kept her distance. Then, little by little, as the years passed, they built a relationship together to the point where Haunter was closer to Viola than any human being on the planet. He was the essence of her father, the guardian against harm, and the best friend she ever had.

    At that moment on the train, he stopped floating about the car and playing with the energy of the passengers. Instead, he lifted his eyes towards Viola and studied her carefully from his perch just above a napping man's head. He could see it from that point: the fear and the hesitation and the need for someone else to give her a push in the right direction. Whether he knew it or not, Haunter was about to make one move that would change Viola's life.

    He moved between Viola and Roselia.

    Then, there was a pause. Viola tried to call him back, but she seemed frozen in place with her body defying every order her brain sent to it. She watched as he floated there, prepared to fight for his master. Rosaline, however, barely acknowledged how touching the moment was.

    "Roselia, begin the match with Leech Seed!"

    Without any hesitation, Roselia gracefully swirled her arms out of their crossed position and pointed her red rose straight at the floating specter. In the center of the blossom, a small, brown tip poked between the petals and remained there for a brief period of time. With a smirk just as dirty as her owner's, Roselia tensed the muscles in her blossom hand and pushed forward to shoot the seed straight out of the flower. The brown bullet soared through the air towards Haunter. Air space closed between the object and its target. Time slowed.

    Then, just as quickly as the bullet was moving, Haunter's body drifted towards the floor. His hands stayed in the same place, but the rest of him slid smoothly downward to let the seed project cleanly over his head and land at Viola's feet with a tap. As soon as it was gone, he snapped back into place and merely laughed as Roselia stared dumbfounded at the insolent beast.

    Rosaline was none too happy with this outcome. "Roselia! Strike with Leech Seed again!"

    The rose didn't need to be told twice. She quickly lifted her red-tipped arm as another seed poked between her petals. With another push, the seed went flying at the specter, but again, the ghost slid out of the way. Suddenly, the train filled with a strange, scratchy noise as Haunter bounced about the cabin in delight. Naturally, his egotism was met with disgust on his opponent's side.

    "Fine," Rosaline said. "Roselia, use Stun Spore to stop Haunter in his tracks!"

    Obediently, Roselia raised her rose-tipped arms again and aimed directly at Haunter. She was sure she wouldn't miss this time as she tensed her muscles to prepare for an attack. Soon, a fine cloud of gold dust sprayed from the centers of her blossoms and towards the waiting ghost.

    Then, he disappeared completely.

    Roselia looked like she had inhaled her own noxious cloud as the gold dust passed completely through the space Haunter had formerly occupied. It drifted to the side and coated a plastic seat not too far away with a fine layer of gold. In the meantime, Roselia and Rosaline looked around to spot the ghost, but neither could see a speck of purple. Frustrated, Rosaline turned to Viola, who stood still throughout the whole thing.

    "Where is it?!"

    Viola shrugged. "Damned if I knew."

    "You're its trainer!" Rosaline's face began to turn as red as the silk of her dress. "And you're supposed to be dueling me!"

    At that, Viola only grinned and gave Rosaline a dark look. The Chinese woman took a step back. She couldn't remember seeing such intensity and confidence in the other's eyes. In fact, her eyes widened at the realization that she couldn't remember Viola's eyes being sapphire blue – deep and near black.

    All of a sudden, a bolt of black lightning struck Roselia from the side. Viola didn't move; she only watched Rosaline tear her gaze away from her and notice for the first time that Haunter had appeared on the left. Rosaline cursed, knowing full well that she allowed herself to be distracted long enough for Haunter to reappear.

    "You!" Rosaline's eyes turned back to Viola. "You did that on purpose!"

    "All I did was look at you," Viola explained calmly. "The rest was your own fault for letting your guard down… just like you are again."

    Rosaline's eyes turned back to the Haunter just in time to see him slide a pin of pure light into his ghostly body. His lips moved without sound, but Rosaline didn't need to hear him to know what was happening. The sacrifice, the spell… Her eyes looked downward at her own Roselia, only to see her doubling over as a black aura suddenly began to surround her body. The rose's spindly arms were wrapped around her shivering frame. The damage had been done.

    Knowing she had to act fast, Rosaline went through all the possible strategies in her head.

    "Roselia, Leech Seed!"

    Viola smirked. "Again? A tired strategy, my dear."

    Rosaline smiled. "But we're not aiming at Haunter."

    Quickly, Roselia lifted her red arm as the tip of a brown seed emerged from it. Every muscle in the cabin tensed as the Grass-type smiled at her target: Viola herself. With a small "phut," the seed went completely airborne.

    The next instant went by in hours. Viola watched as Haunter glided between the seed and her to protect her, and the next thing she knew, green tendrils snapped around to the back of his head to bind his face. A red, eerie aura began to surround the tendrils as small, red energy bubbles pulled from the tip of the seed in the center of Haunter's face back to Roselia. Haunter lowered himself slightly as his ghostly hands, though struggling to tear the tendrils off, began to work sluggishly.

    At that point, Viola's sudden burst of confidence faltered. It wasn't so much because she was hesitant to hurt her father's Pokémon. It was because of something else. The fear of a cornered animal lingered in her eyes, and the darkness of the realization of what Haunter had done pulled at the corners of her mouth. Her fingers fumbled in her coat pocket for a moment before bringing out a single Poké Ball. With a press of a button, it enlarged in her hand. Quietly, she aimed the same button at the back of her Pokémon.

    "Haunter—"

    Quickly, Rosaline flung her hand in an outward gesture. "Roselia, Magical Leaf!"

    With swift and graceful movements, Roselia stretched out her arms and twirled. Each quick, violent turn shook free a razor-edged blur of green and pink that flew through the air like a boomerang and sliced across Viola's wrist. With a sharp shriek, Viola dropped her Poké Ball and stepped away. The ball landed on the floor with a muffled tap, and Viola's free hand fluttered to her open wrist. Even with her hand encircling it, blood trickled from the ripped skin and dripped onto the floor. Viola clenched her teeth as the pain still bit the severed nerves.

    "Sorry, baby, but a duel is what it sounds like," Rosaline said with a soft giggle. "It's a fight between only two Pokémon. Unless, of course, you were surrendering, at which point I'll have to apologize and accept it. Oh, where are my manners? No need to force the newbie into battling me!"

    Viola growled and turned back to her Haunter. "Haunter, hang on! We can get them! Do your worst!"

    With narrowed eyes between the tendrils, Haunter acknowledged, and a ball of pure, black energy formed between his open hands. Roselia stared at it, purely stunned by the power being put into one of the most infamous Ghost-type attacks. Her trainer, meanwhile, only watched quietly. In moments, the ball was almost as large as Haunter's head, and that could only mean that it could possibly rip a hole in the train's floor. Rosaline's fists tightened. Her mind drew a blank, unable to concoct a possible counter, and Roselia wasn't nimble enough to evade even the powerful shockwaves.

    In seconds, she didn't even have to. Haunter gave one last push, and the ball careened towards Roselia. The rose didn't dodge; she instead allowed herself to take the full brunt of the hit. No scream filled the cabin. She just vanished into shadow for several moments before reappearing at her master's feet. She was bruised and battered, but she still didn't look any worse than the Haunter that was still struggling with the tendrils on his face. With a small boot from her master (an action which earned a flicker of disgust across Viola's face), the Roselia rose to her stubby legs and walked forward. Her back was straight, and a glint shone in her eyes. The bruises meant nothing to her, and Haunter's movements were becoming more sluggish by the minute.

    "You call that your worst?" Rosaline taunted. "Pathetic. Let me show you true power. Roselia, it's time. Hidden Power!"

    With a cry, Roselia crossed her arms in front of her and closed her eyes. Viola watched in wonder as the rose gathered her energy. White orbs danced in rings around her as she pooled all of her energy into her arms and hummed quietly to herself. In a low voice, Viola leaned forward and whispered something to her own Pokémon. Rosaline didn't notice; she was too intent on watching her Roselia finish charging. By that time, the orbs threw a white glow around the yellow-lit cabin.

    Then, all at once, a battle scream rose from Roselia's throat as her arms snapped forward. The white orbs surrounding her pooled into a larger ball just beyond her blossom-hands, and from that ball shot a large beam of light. Viola quickly dove out of the way before Haunter took the hit and was blasted backwards several feet. When the beam finally released him, he fell to the floor of the car and didn't stir.

    However, just as Rosaline opened her mouth to gloat, her own Roselia fell flat on her face as well.

    "A draw," Viola said calmly as she stepped forward to pick up her Poké Ball.

    "How dare you!" Rosaline's voice alone revealed how livid she was. "How dare you do that when I was clearly winning! How dare you cheat like that!"

    "Cheat?" Viola smirked. "Haunter learns Destiny Bond naturally. It's a nasty move, yes, but it's completely legal according to Pokémon League rules that have existed for centuries. You can't deny them, nor can you deny this."

    To prove her point, Viola reached into her pocket and pulled out her PDA. On it, bold words proclaiming the completion of her task were displayed. As if to verify the truth, Rosaline produced her own PDA and examined it to see the same message.

    "You didn't deserve that win," Rosaline hissed.

    "Maybe not," Viola said, "but I knew I wouldn't have won if I had played completely fairly. Apparently, neither did you, judging by your treatment of a downed Roselia."

    With that, Viola turned and recalled Haunter with only a few inaudible words left to say.

    "What was that?" Rosaline demanded.

    As the train came to a halt, Viola looked over her shoulder and gave Rosaline an emotionless stare, as if the woman had only just noticed Rosaline even existed.

    "I'm warning you, Knight Illusion," Rosaline said. "I know many powerful Knights, and I will see to it that they know you exist. You may have been my match in wits now, but there will be a time when you make a mistake."

    Viola turned away from Rosaline and walked through the open doors of the train. She didn't really feel like responding to the threat.
    Public Service Announcement:
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    "It could be worse. We could be MySpace."

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    "One part character shrine. One part fanfiction."

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