Target Pokemon: Pawniard, Pawniard, Riolu, Sewaddle
Difficulty: Complex + Complex + Complex + Easiest
Target Length: 93K - 125K
Actual Length: Just over 101K
Author Note: Yeah, asking for two Pawniard is a little bit greedy, but I'd LOVE two of them. Don't really expect to get both though. If whoever grades this isn't sure of whether to give both to me or not, I'd HAPPILY drop the Sewaddle for a second Pawniard.
Koma could feel his heart pounding. He and the hunting party had jogged for half an hour, no easy feat when you were covered in steel armour. The plains around the Citadel were incredibly boring - swaying yellow-green foot-high grass as far as the eye could see with only a few small clusters of rock to break up the monotony.
Suddenly, the Bisharp in the lead raised his left arm, signaling that he had found prey. In one unified movement, all of the seven Pawniard that were following him dropped to one knee, cutting their height in half. Now only the tip of their helmet-blades would be visible above the gently-moving grass. The Bisharp separated the group with a wave of his hand, and directed one group to go left and the other to go left. All of the Pawniard obeyed silently and swiftly, being sure to bend over to keep themselves out of sight.
Koma found himself in the larger group. He had no idea what Loid had seen. He was just about to ask the Pawniard in front of him whether they had when he heard a snort, and a hoof scuffing at the ground. He decided to risk a quick look. He un-bent his spine, and immediately saw their quarry. A lone Rapidash was chewing some of the grass. Its yellow skin glowed in the sunlight, and it had shortened its flaming mane so as to not set the grasslands alight. The horn on its forehead made it look mystical and kingly, but to Koma it was nothing more than food. Luckily, it was not looking in Koma's direction, so he quickly sunk back out of sight. He caught the Pawniard behind him giving him a dirty look, but nothing was said.
As the group moved carefully around the Rapidash, the Pawniard began to spread out. Koma knew that when they were done, they would have formed a circle around their prey. When he could no longer see any of the Pawniard through the swaying grass, he sunk to his knee and waited.
Two minutes later, Koma heard a sharp whistle. He stood up straight, and the other six Pawniard stood up straight as well. The Rapidash was immediately aware of the pack, and reared onto its hind legs, screaming a challenge. Rapidash were one of the strongest species of Pokemon found in the grasslands, and their fire-based attacks could do serious damage to the Steel-typed Pawniard and Bisharp.
Loid rose out of the grass and snarled. The Rapidash returned to all fours, and turned to look at the newest threat. Despite having a type advantage, the Rapidash was not stupid. Being a Bisharp, Loid was easily three times the size of the Pawniard. His armour was much thicker, his helmet-blade sharper, and instead of having knives for hands he had metal gauntlets with a blade set in them, allowing him to grapple hand-to-hand with his opponents. His red pauldrons and shinguards seemed to shimmer in the sun - his torso was covered with a light black cuirass of sorts, but he was able to use the thicker red armour to deflect blows that would shatter it.
The Rapidash decided to take the safer route. It ran left, towards one of the Pawniard. The Pawniard growled and raised its claws high, preparing to strike at the Rapidash's soft underbelly if it tried to jump. The Rapidash was ready for this, though - instead of trying to jump, it smashed into the Pawniard, trying to skewer them with its horn. The armour held, though, and so it retreated, gesturing wildly with its horn. The white of its eyes had started to show - it was beginning to panic.
Loid formed a ring with the fingers on his right hand and blew into it. The sharp whistle echoed throughout the grasslands again, and the eight hunters began closing in. The Rapidash snorted in fear, and blew a stream of fire at some of the enclosing hunters. They jumped back quickly, and Loid moved closer, breaking the link. The circle closed behind him as he directly challenged the Rapidash.
The Rapidash wasn't going to put up with this any longer. How dare these insignificant creatures interfere with his meal? It reared and extended its mane to the maximum length. It breathed a fireball at Loid which crackled as it flew through the air. Loid raised his hands, and water rose up out of the ground. It was his Hidden Power - he was the only Pokemon from the Citadel who had the ability to manipulate water. He swung his arm, and the water moved through the air like a wave. The fireball crashed into the improvised shield and fizzled, turning into smoke which wafted away on the wind.
Loid dropped his hands, and the water dropped back onto the ground. He then crouched and clenched his fists. As he did so he began to shine, almost like he was absorbing the sun's rays and reflecting them at anyone who looked.
The Rapidash didn't like what was going on, so it decided to go for a straight out attack. It whipped its head around, and its mane flowed around its neck like a scarf. The mane expanded until the unicorn's entire body was covered in fire. It neighed, and charged the Bisharp. Loid looked up and saw the incoming attack, but held his ground. Just before the fire-wreathed horn smashed into his armour, he blurred to the left, and then moved behind the Rapidash. It snorted in shock, and turned to look at Loid, but before it could see him, he brought his right gauntlet-blade down across the Rapidash's side. He scored a hit - a red line had been drawn across the Rapidash's yellow flank, and it began dripping blood.
The Rapidash wasn't beaten, though. It huffed, and electricity began swirling around its horn. The crackling sparks grew in length, stretching down from the tip of the horn to the bottom of its chest-bone. It charged Loid, even though that tactic hadn't worked before. Instead of dodging, though, Loid braced himself. He swung his left arm in a downwards arc, deflecting the deadly horn so that it wouldn't impale him. Electrical sparks crawled onto him and inflicted minor wounds, but they were like nothing to the Bisharp. His elaborate curved helmet-blade became sheathed with a silver aura, and he viciously headbutted the Rapidash in the chest.
The Rapidash screamed in pain and backed away. There was now a huge bloody gash where the breasts would be, and the blood was freely falling from wound. It realised there was no way it was going to win this fight - it was outclassed, plain and simple. It stepped backwards painfully, noticing that the circle of Pawniard left it with almost no maneuvering room whatsoever. It breathed another fireball at Loid, hoping to use it as a distraction while the Pokemon raised the water necessary to deflect it. But Loid didn't even do that. He simply crossed his arms in front of his face, and his forearms began glowing with black energy. The fireball collided with the shifting cloud of darkness but could not tear through it. Loid swung his arms to the ground, and the fireball was ripped in two. The two halves spluttered onto the ground, and guttered out.
The Rapidash finally gave. It turned, and ran straight towards Koma. His heart started pounding again, but he remained calm. As the fiery unicorn bore down on him, he coated his right blade with dark energy. He saw the muscles in the horse's legs contract - it was preparing to jump right over him. He swung his blade, and the blackness shot out at the horse in the shape of a spinning crescent. The Night Slash cut the Rapidash's right foreleg, almost severing it. The unicorn screamed in pain, and collapsed onto the ground. Its momentum kept it skidding forward until it stopped in front of Koma's feet. The majestic beast lay there, panting, with its dark red blood pooling on the ground underneath it. It tried to get up onto its hooves but screamed in pain. Koma raised his blades, preparing to perform the finishing blow, but Loid stepped in-between him and his kill.
"It is my right as pack-leader to perform the kill," Loid said in his gravelly tone.
For a second, Koma resisted. I was the one who brought it down, so should I not get the kill? he reasoned internally, but then the pack mentality reasserted itself. He dropped to a knee and lowered his head.
"It is my honour to relinquish the kill to you," Koma intoned formally in his lighter-toned voice.
Loid nodded, and gently placed a hand on Koma's head, being careful to separate his fingers so as not to spear his palm on the Pawniard's sharp helmet-blade. He then approached the Rapidash. It looked up at him, snorting faintly. Loid held out his hand, and black energy began swirling around it before resolving into the unmistakable shape of a sword. He reversed the sword so that the blade was pointing downwards. Swiftly, he plunged the sword into the defeated Rapidash, severing first skin then muscle and flesh. It screamed once, and then lay silent.
Koma was sitting at a low table in the mess hall of the Citadel. Torches were set in brackets all around the hall, and three small circle objects were hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers. One side of the room had rectangular windows, but they opened onto an inner courtyard and so no breeze was able to stir up the smoke that was always lingering in here, not enough to be a pain but just enough to notice.
Koma bit into the cooked meat on the table in front of him with his sharp, needle-like teeth. Like most Pawniard, he preferred his meat raw, but recently Loid had decided that they would cook all their meals, like the humans did.
As he chewed the toughened flesh, he looked over at the highest table. Like all the other tables in here, it was roughly cared out of stone and had a single candle burning in the exact centre of the table. Seated there were five Bisharp, all Pawniard who evolved and become a part of Loid's inner circle. In the middle seat was Loid, seated on the only cushion in the whole of the Citadel. Seated to Loid's right was his partner, Loin, and to her right was the only other female Bisharp Tempa. To Loid's left were his personal assistants Daru and Stanaka. Usually one of his assistants led the daily hunt.
Evolving and becoming one of Loid's right hand men was Koma's dream. All he wanted was to be respected by others the way he respected Loid. He swallowed the meat and took another bite. The meat tasted much better than usual, probably because he had helped bring it down.
I DID bring it down, a little voice inside him said. It should have been MY kill.
Koma shook his head to clear his thoughts. Recently he had been having thoughts that seemed to deviate from the teachings. There were a list of stories that Loid had amassed that were told to all Pawniard to teach them to proper ways to act in society. Koma had studied them all, finding the hidden standards and meanings. He felt like a model member of the Citadel's society.
So why did a small part of him feel discontented?
Koma crammed the last meat portion into his mouth and stood up, leaving his cross-legged sitting position. He turned and bowed to the higher table before leaving the dining hall through the huge ornate wooden doors. He wasn't sure how the Citadel had been built, and none of the stories mentioned it. He had decided not to ask - if Loid deemed him worthy of the information, he would share it. There was no way that Loid simply didn't know.
Why are you so sure? the little voice asked.
Koma growled. He hated the little voice. The only way to keep it quiet these days was to train, which was fine by him. If he wanted to evolve and become Loid's right hand man then he needed to get stronger. He was already strong - he won most of the tussling with the other Pawniard - but he could always get stronger.
Koma headed down the spiraling, stone-cut staircase to the training areas. He passed the doors that lead to the wrestling room and the weights room, heading for the Arena. The Arena was a large, open air colosseum cut into the side of the Citadel. Like the entire Citadel, it was made of dark stone, with seats around the top for spectators and a pit in which the combatants could fight. A chain net hung over the pit so that whoever was in there could not escape.
Koma walked out into the dying light of the sun, shading his eyes from the sunset with one of his blades. He moved down into the open gate, entering the pit. Once he was through the gate, he pushed on a lever and a steel lattice framework slammed down with a crash, preventing anyone from leaving. At the exact same time, the chains covering a gate on the exact opposite of the Arena rustled as they fell to the ground.
This new passage lead deep into the ground, where wild and powerful Pokemon lived. They were attracted through the hole by the sunlight, which was usually blocked by a mass of taut chains. The chains began rustling as a Pokemon began to emerge. Koma settled into his fighting pose as his opponent emerged.
It was bulky and rock-like, with four heavily muscled arms. It shuffled forward into the pit on two stubby legs while looking at Koma through it's surprisingly large eyes. It gave Koma a feral grin and began beating it's craggy chest. Koma grinned - his opponent was a Graveler, one of the strongest Pokemon commonly seen in the Arena. It was a perfect training partner.
The Graveler wasn't the type to fumble around. It immediately smashed two of arms into the ground and pulled out a huge chunk of rock, easily twice its size. It then used its other two arms to rip the large rock into chunks and began throwing them at Koma.
Koma's grin grew in size and ferocity. Like everyone in the Citadel, he was happiest when fighting. He spun to his right, and the rock skimmed past his face. He ducked low, crouching, and a second rock passed through the air where his head was a moment before. He saw a third rock coming, and jumped into the air. The rock crashed into the ground, sending dust and splinters flying everywhere.
Koma's grin grew feral. He could feel his muscles tensing, preparing to deal out damage. He would have opened the battle with a war dance, as was custom, but the Graveler hadn't waited. Koma was fine with that.
He hit the ground, and yelled a battle cry. The Graveler returned the shout, and threw the rest of the rock at Koma. Koma's right blade started glowing silver, and he ran at the incoming rock. He jumped, and slashed at the rock. Silver lines of light flashed across Koma's vision, and the rock shattered into hundreds of pieces. Koma hit the floor, and continued running towards the Graveler. The Graveler's grin slipped a bit, but it prepared its next attack. All four of its fists began glowing white as Koma's hand-blades started glowing black. Koma sliced at the Graveler's legs, but the attack was blocked by a glowing white fist. Koma grunted, and feinted a strike at the Graveler's face before going for a shot at its upper-right arm. The Graveler tried to block the feint, but when that failed it used a third arm to block the real attack. The two arms that were not occupied punched Koma hard, knocking him backwards.
Koma hissed as he tried, and succeded, to stay on his feet. But he didn't get a rest - the Graveler smashed all four of its fists into the ground, sending a shockwave through the ground towards the Pawniard. Koma was suitably worried - Ground typed attacks, even relatively weak ones like this, could severly damage him because of his Steel typing. He jumped into the air again, but the Graveler was prepared. It had formed a glowing white rock in its hands and threw it towards Koma. The white rock smashed into the Sharp Edge Pokemon, carrying him across the arena and crushing him into the wall. As the white rock crumbled into dust, Koma collapsed onto the floor - he had never fought a Graveler before, and it was stronger than he had predicted. He felt like his grin was going to split his head open, and for once his inner voice agreed. There could be no greater feeling than this.
Koma got to his feet and yelled furiously. His red and black armour started shining brightly, outmatching the sunset. He kicked off the wall, and a crater shattered inwards. Koma had never moved this fast before - he felt brightness and light everywhere, like a powerful spotlight was shining onto him from above. As he moved it felt like he was approaching infinity.
The Graveler had a hard time keeping an eye on the incoming Pawniard - it was not much more than a ref blur with a sharp silver blade pointing out the front. Its fists started glowing again, and it grinned cockily - there was nothing that could stand up to its Rock Blast attack.
Koma saw the grin, but wasn't worried. Using the Faint Attack technique that was his specialty, he split into three moving blurs. Unknown to the Graveler, two of those clones were insubstantial. They separated, coming at the Graveler from three different directions. The Graveler tried to block the first one with its two left hands, but the blur disappeared as soon he touched it. Half a second later, the second blur came in, and the Graveler threw up its right arms, attempting an counter-strike. This blur, too, faded away upon contact.
Panicking, the Graveler looked up to see that last blur above him. Koma's helmet-blade was glowing silver, and small sparks were shooting off of it. Koma smashed into the Graveler, hitting it cleanly in-between the eyes. Nothing happened for a heartbeat, and then the Graveler was pushed halfway into the ground. Koma stabbed one of his blades into the Graveler's chest, finding purchase in a crevice, and using the leverage to somersault into the air and land cleanly on the ground.
The Graveler was dazed, bleeding, and halfway buried in the ground, but it wasn't beaten. Without moving, the Graveler commanded the earth itself to rise up and attack the Pawniard. Clumps of rock detached from the ground and hovered into the air. At the Graveler's silent command, the rocks started flying towards Koma, but thanks to his increased speed he was able to avoid them all.
Starting to seriously panic, the Graveler lifted itself out of the ground. It's entire body began glowing a muddy brown. It didn't like using Double-Edge because the own user's body was damaged, but there obviously wasn't going to be a choice, not if it wanted to return underground with this runt's head. It used it's powerful arms to launch itself towards the Pawniard like a cannonball.
Koma was feeling great, and he wasn't sure why. He felt like a door of power had been unlocked, and the light behind it was bathing him. He saw the incoming Double-Edge and decided to teach the Graveler a lesson. Instead of dodging, he grabbed the light, and covered himself in it. A hard silver aura surrounded him, like he was being covered in pure steel. The Graveler slammed into Koma, but dealt minimal damage, and instead of knocking the Sharp Edge Pokemon over, the Graveler was rebounded.
Koma clenched his fists, revelling in his newfound power.
See? asked the internal voice. You could become great. You could become the leader of the Citadel.
Yes, I could, Koma thought. He then realized the implications and backtracked. But why would I? Loid is a right and just leader. My only wish is to serve under him.
The voice was about to argue but instead it redirected Koma's attention to the Graveler. It was getting up off the ground, panting heavily. The wound on its face was opening, and dark brown blood was freely dropping onto the ground. It was time to stop screwing around and finish the little bastard off. It smashed all four arms into the ground and began heaving. The very floor of the Arena began quivering. The chains across the pit started jangling, and pieces of rock began falling onto the ground. With a mighty shove, the Graveler pulled its arm upwards, ripping open the very earth. A huge crevice began spreading outwards, destroying the bottom of the pit. For the first time, Koma felt something akin to fear.
[i]There's no way to dodge,/[i] he thought in horror. The Iron Defense makes me too heavy to jump, and even my increased defences won't leave me with enough stamina to continue the fight. There's nothing I can do.
Let me work with you, the inner-voice hissed. I am your power. I opened the door and shone the light on you.
Koma resisted, but he knew there was no other way. He gave in, and felt a new power, one that was pure gray in colour. The grayness enveloped him, covering him and preventing him from moving.
The fast-moving fissure smashed into Koma, sending waves of pain shooting through his body. He was thrown into the wall of the arena again, and as he sunk into a sitting position the grayness small tendrils of power wrapped around him.
The pain didn't leave. It kept reverberating, bouncing around inside him, growing worse. He began screaming, but no noise left his mouth. It was like a fireball growing inside his ribs, and he couldn't get it out. He wanted to dig it out, but could not move his arms.
He roared, and the world of pain ended. The massive weight on his heart left, and a huge gray-coloured energy blast shot out towards the Graveler. It struck the Graveler, and simply carved a hole through it. It's entire face and both of its left arms were disintegrated completely and immediately.
Finally, Koma fell silent, and the gray attack slimmed into a tiny beam, which then disappeared. All he could do was pant as the remaining parts of the Graveler collapsed onto the obliterated floor of the Arena.
"That was a Metal Burst," a voice spoke, and Koma would have jumped if he was able to. He tilted his head and was just able to see Loid, standing over him with his hands tucked behind his back.
"It is an attack only Bisharp can use," he continued. "The fact that you pulled it off means that you are ready to evolve."
Koma's jaw dropped. Finally, he was going to evolve. He would become a mighty and powerful Bisharp and serve faithfully at Loid's side. He relaxed, and started glowing bright white. He felt strange, like his innards were being rearranged, but he didn't mind the temporary discomfort. Soon he would be stronger than he ever thought possible.
That was when Loid removed the glowing blue stone from behind his back.
Koma was in a world of light. He looked down at his body, which was glowing pure white and felt pleasantly warm. His legs were starting to stretch but there was no pain. It was like watching the grass grow in super-fast motion. He reached down with his left blade, trying to feel his growing legs, but his blade wasn't there. The blade was moving a bit higher up his wrist, and large fingers were growing downwards. He experimentally wriggled them, and smiled. He'd always wanted digits.
Now is our power truly revealed, the internal voice purred.
Koma relaxed, and let the light and warmth envelope him. When he closed his eyes, however, he felt a small source of cold somewhere. He opened his eyes, and noticed a black spot where the sky should be. It got closer and closer, bringing the feeling of a brisk wind with it. Koma tried to get up and run, but he couldn't. When the black sphere was the size of the sun, all the warmth had been chased away.
Koma looked down at his legs. They were shrinking, and the white aura was fading away. Feeling sick, he looked at his new hand. The fingers were retracting and his wrist-blade was reverting to his old dagger. He looked around in confusion, and realised that the world wasn't white any more. He could just barely see his surroundings, but all the colours were inverted.
NO! the voice yelled with a frothing rage. We were so CLOSE!
Finally, the black sky faded into the normal blue, and the colours returned to normal. Koma's white aura faded completely and his battle-fatigue returned. Feeling confused and light-headed, he looked over at Loid, and saw the glowing blue stone in his hand. It was ovaloid, and despite its beauty Koma knew it was an object of evil power.
Hold on for me, the voice whispered, I'll be back...
Koma felt a wrench. He couldn't feel the voice. It had been there for weeks now, but he couldn't reach it anymore. He had hated it, but now he knew what it was - his future self. The theoretical possibility of his evolution.
"It's called an Everstone," Loid remarked.
Koma looked up, almost surprised to hear Loid's voice.
"I've watched you, you know," Loid said, sitting down next to the immobile Koma. "You showed incredible power and spirit. Every sign of being a fighter as powerful as me."
"Then... why..." Koma murmured, slowly beginning to lose consciousness.
"That very reason," Loid explained. "I took control of the Citadel from a Bisharp by the name of Krane when I evolved. I knew it would only be a matter of time until one of my pack would become strong enough to evolve and challenge me. Maybe even defeat me. I couldn't take that risk, so I designed stories and an education system to keep you Pawniard under my control. Unfortunately, despite your excellent studies, your power continued to grow."
"The voice..." Koma muttered, only barely holding on.
"Yes, that's what happened with me too." Loid smiled gently. "The voice represents all your innate power, and emerges when you are ready to evolve. I was lucky that I found this Everstone on a human I encountered."
Koma tried to speak, to ask him what he meant, but he could not. His eyes began closing.
"You're probably wondering what I mean," Loid continued. "It's quite simple. Not long after defeating Krane, I happened upon a Pokemon Trainer. He was only young, but tried to capture me in one of their disgusting machines nonetheless. After I defeated all of his Pokemon, I slit his throat and took this stone. From there I could put my plan into action - I could keep control of this pack and rule over it like a human king for the rest of my life."
Koma felt sick and angry, and wanted to tell Loid so, but his eyelids gently met and he lost consciousness, falling into an endless hole of black.
Koma awoke in room some time later. He looked out of his small window, and saw the sun high in the sky. It had to be the next day. He got up out of his nest of hay, and shook his head groggily. Suddenly all of the memories from yesterday came rushing back, and he collapsed back into his hay. Surely it had to be a dream? He looked at his arm, but his blade was there, not the hand he briefly had. He tried reaching for the voice, but it wasn't there.
All at once, yesterday's rage returned. Koma jumped up, and stormed through the long winding corridors and stairwells of the citadel, heading for the mess hall. He pushed the door open with a violent shove. The mess hall was filled with Pawniard, and at the head table Loid was tearing into a pink steak. When the door crashed against the stone wall everyone looked up, startled.
"You asshole!" Koma yelled at the top of his lungs. "What right do you have to stop our evolution?"
Loid raised an eyebrow. "I'm afraid I don't have any idea what you're talking about," he lied smoothly.
Koma stomped into the hall, yelling, "he told me all about it. He brainwashes us to act like humans and stops us from evolving so we cannot challenge him!"
Loid stood up and separated his arms gently, looking for all the world like a gentle father figure. "If you are telling the truth, then why would I reveal my plans to you?" he asked reasonably.
Koma was struck dumb. The answer was obvious - he now had plausible deniability - but claiming that would sound incredibly suspicious. He was shaking with rage. There was nothing he could do. He had no proof that Loid was lying, and there was no way he'd be able to defeat him. His blades shook in helpless fury.
"You probably just had a bad dream," Loid said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "You missed out on the morning hunt, but we brought down a plump Slowbro. Sit down and have a piece."
Loid turned his back on Koma to re-plump his pillows, but froze in shock when he heard Koma's voice speak a single work.
Loid clenched his fists in anger, and swung himself around to face the impudent little Pawniard. The little runt was standing there defiantly, with his arms crossed. Loid's arms where shaking, but he stilled them.
"I'm sorry, what did you just say?" Loid enquired politely.
"Are you deaf as well as a liar?" Koma shot back. "I'm not going to sit down and beg for food from a bastard like you!"
Without even responding, Loid threw his hand towards Koma. A bright blue flash of energy leapt across the room, jumping from Loid's palm towards the defenseless little Pawniard. The attack crashed into Koma, cracking his armour and pushing him into the wall. Koma coughed up some blood, and collapsed onto the ground.
"That's my own special move, the Focus Blast," Loid yelled across the room. "You're lucky I didn't use it at full power or you'd be dead right now!"
Koma spat some more bright red blood onto the ground. "Eat my ass you fucking despot," he said clearly, refusing to break eye contact with Loid.
All the Pawniard in the room gasped. Loid's hands began shaking in anger again, and blue sparks coiled around his wrists. He controlled himself - if he wanted to remain in control of this pack, he'd need to dispel any possibility of the little shit's words remaining in their minds. The only way he could do that is by appearing benevolent and forgiving.
"If you don't want to stay here, I won't stop you," Loid said, turning his back on the Pawniard again. "Daru will set you up with some supplies and I wish you the best of luck in the world."
Loid clapped his hands, and wordlessly Stanaka stood up from his seat and walked over. He looked almost exactly the same as Loid, except he was a bit smaller and his blades weren't as bright. He bowed to Loid, and picked Koma up, brushing off the worst of the dust and blood before helping him leave the hall. After they had left the hall, the gentle murmur of conversation slowly returned to the hall. Loid listened closely as he returned to his seat but couldn't detect any worrying conversations. When he sat back down in his seat, he leaned over to Daru, who looked much like Stanaka but was a bit chubbier.
"When everyone has gone to sleep tonight, track that little fucker down and kill him," Loid murmured.
"Your will be done," Daru said as he placed his right fist over his heart.
Stanaka silently assisted Koma through the Citadel, smiling politely at any Pawniard he passed. Koma was surprised - he hadn't expected to be treated so courteously. Instead of heading downstairs to the storeroom, however, Stanaka took him to the main gate, which was open.
"Good luck," he hissed in Koma's ear, and he shoved him violently out onto the ground. As Koma hit the dirt Stanaka pulled a lever, and the wooden gates swung inwards, denying entry to the Citadel. Koma sighed, and picked himself up. He hadn't eaten since yesterday, and he had no idea where he was going, but at least he was alive. He picked himself up, spat out one last wad of blood onto the gray stone walls of the Citadel, and hobbled off in the direction of the wind.
Daru watched him leave from a window high in the Citadel. He'd have to move out soon too - following from a distance was so much easier than tracking.
Koma moved wearily through the grasslands, not even trying to hide himself. His aches had subsided and he wasn't bleeding any more, but his cracked armour worried him. It would fix itself with some food and rest, but until then he was fair game for any passing Braviary or Sandile. He passed a pair of frolicking Ponyta, but wasn't feeling up to chasing them. He'd probably get burned to death in a stream of fire or something.
He kept on walking, not really knowing what to do. By the time the sun was touching the horizon, Koma had stumbled across a small thicket of trees. He shrugged - it was a form of shelter.
He entered the thicket and saw a Sewaddle tearing at a low-lying bush with its spiky little teeth. The little Bug Pokemon was covered in leaves which were attached to its body by sticky thread, and it squeaked happily as it ate the bush's foilage. Normally a proud Pawniard wouldn't dream of hunting and eating such an insignificant Pokemon, but he was so hungry he couldn't stop himself.
He wasn't so low as to fight it without giving it fair warning. Koma hissed, and the Sewaddle turned to see the Sharp Edge Pokemon preapring to fight. Instead of running, it squeaked defiantly, accepting Koma's challenge. It wasn't an idiot, though - it initiated the battle by spitting a wad of yellow sticky goo at Koma's feet, hoping to keep him from moving or at least slow him down. Unluckily for the Sewaddle, Koma was faster. He threw himself to the side and fired a Round at the Sewing Pokemon by yelling loudly. The harmonic vibrations of the shout reverberated through the air, irritating the Bug Pokemon. It retaliated by screeching loudly, and a bunch of leaves detached from the shrub it had been munching on, hovering just over the Sewaddle.
Koma got to his feet and started running towards the Sewaddle, his two arm blades surrounded with a black aura. The hovering leaves suddenly shot towards the approaching Pawniard. He twisted, trying to dodge the projectiles, but most of them made contact, and a couple hit cracks in his armour, further damaging it.
When he was right next to the Sewaddle, he brought the dark knives swinging across it, one aiming for the leaf-covered body and the other going for the yellow-and-white head. The Bug rolled to the right, and both attacks missed, but Koma quickly followed up with a swipe to the side, and the blade caught the Sewaddle in the side. Orange blood began dripping out of the long wound.
The Sewaddle wasn't experienced in battling, and it had never felt pain like this before. It began screeching horribly. The crying was physically painful, so much so that Koma let the dark energy dissipate so he could try to cover his head with his blades. Realising that its antagonist was cringing, it kept up the cry and began moving closer, increasing the effect it was having on Koma.
Koma winced. He couldn't remove his blades from where they were - the horrible sound was threatening to knock him out. So, in a moment of ingenuity, he flung himself forward and headbutted the Sewaddle. The spike on his helmet cut deep into the chest of his opponent, causing it to squeal in pain. It lost all sense of control, and began biting Koma all over.
The majority of the bites didn't hurt thanks to his mostly unbroken helmet, but one of the bug's tiny teeth pierced his skin damn close to his eye, so he yanked his blade out and backed away. Now that the Sewaddle wasn't being supported, it didn't have the energy to stay upright. It collapsed onto the ground, wriggling and screeching pathetically as more orange blood started flowing out of the chest wound. Within seconds there was a pool of blood on the ground, staining the lower parts of the grass stalks.
Koma decided to end the Sewaddle's pain quickly. After all, it hadn't done anything wrong. Furthermore, it had put up a good fight, better than he expected. He held out his right blade, trying to keep it as still as possible. White energy began coiling around the blade, emanating from the centre of Koma's chest. Normally, the Guillotine technique was too inaccurate to use in battle, but the Sewaddle was incapacitated and nearly dead. His dagger began to shake, but he steadied it with the flat of his other dagger. When the attack was ready, Koma yelled a loud battle cry and the white energy flared out, increasing in size until it enveloped the dagger and was easily three times its size. The Pawniard took aim by closing one eye, and then brought the massive glowing-white energy sword down. The Guillotine sheared neatly through the dying Sewaddle's neck.
For a couple seconds, nothing happened as the energy sword lost its integrity and separated into chunks which coiled up into the twilight sky like smoke. Once the entire blade had disappeared, the Sewaddle's head gently rolled off of its body, coming to a stop half a metre a way. More blood leaked onto the ground, but the body was running out of liquid to spill.
Koma quickly sent up the ritual prayers, the first one being thankful for the fill and the second one requesting that the victim have a good afterlife. He dug a shallow grave for the Sewaddle's severed head with his blades, and covered it with leaves afterwards. That done, he set up a fire by gathering small twigs and clashing his daggers together to create sparks. After a few tries, the twigs caught ablaze, and Koma settled down to eat his meal. He found that for some reason the raw meat tasted infinitely better than the cooked variety dispensed at the Citadel.
One hour later, he was dozing in front of the dying fire. He didn't realise he was being watched.
Daru watched Koma fall asleep from behind a shroud of bushes. He could easily take the runt, but why work up a sweat when you didn't need to? It was just easier to wait until the traitor fell asleep, and then kill him quickly and quietly with a Guillotine.
Koma's head finally lulled forward and he collapsed onto the ground, unconscious. Daru grinned, and he began to step closely towards the sleeping Pawniard. He extended his right arm out to the side, and white energy began pouring out of his glove. It flowed upwards to his wrist and then along his wrist blade, taking its shape and extending it. As he moved closer to Koma, the blade grew, until it was easily a Bisharp's height in length.
As Daru took one last step forward, into the perfect kill position, he stepped on one of the twigs Koma had gathered for his fire. The twig broke, and made a violent snapping sound that echoed throughout the clearing. Daru saw Koma's eyes snap open immediately.
Shit, Daru thought. He quickly slashed down with his hand, hoping that the Pawniard wouldn't be quick enough to dodge.
He was wrong. Koma rolled towards his attacker and the long white blade stabbed into the ground where his neck had been laying not a second before. Koma coated his right dagger in silver-coloured energy and struck upwards, trying to hit his agressor between the legs.
Instead of trying to pull the sword out and deflect, Daru ended the Guillotine attack. The sword snapped in two and the Bisharp somersaulted over the Metal Claw attack as the Guillotine blade faded into nothingness. Daru landed cleanly on the ground on the opposite side of the clearing.
"You can't beat me," Daru hissed at Koma."I am a Bisharp and you are nothing but a lowly Pawniard."
Koma was feeling good. After the meal and the rest, he was beginning to feel like his old self again, and even though his armour wasn't repaired he could swear that some of the larger cracks had become dents. Despite this, he knew Daru was right. None of the attacks he knew could do any serious damage except for Guillotine, and there was no way he'd be able to land such an inaccurate attack on the fast Bisharp.
He couldn't just give up, though. He yelled a battle cry and swung his blades at Daru. An X-shaped blast of energy flew towards the Bisharp. Daru didn't even bother to dodge. He held out his left hand, and the Night Slash crashed into his palm. Instead of taking damage, however, he closed his palm and snuffed the attack out.
Koma heard Daru chuckle as he planned his next attack. There was no way he could win this fight - his only hope was to distract Daru and then hide. Hopefully his aggressor would think he was trying to make a run for it, and blindly stumble away in the dark.
Koma only had one ranged attack that was any good - the Round he had used earlier. He began yelling at the Daru, changing his pitch and altering the sound of the call, trying to confuse him. But Daru just laughed.
"I told Loid it was a mistake exposing you idiots to the Teaching Machines," Daru chortled, "but at least he heeded me enough to keep back the more powerful ones."
Daru took a deep breath and leaned his head backwards. When he couldn't take in any more air, he flung his head forward and barked. The attack was similar in principle to the Round, except where the Round did damage over time, Bark Out hurt the victim in one explosive blast. The only regret Daru had was that he hadn't practised once - as the loud sharp bark echoed throughout the tree grove an invisible force dug a hole in the ground a metre to the left of the Pawniard.
Koma realised that he was completely outclassed in every way. He turned to run - his only chance was that Daru would lose him in the Darkness. Before he could put some trees between himself and the murderous Bisharp, Daru barked again, and this time the move hit. Koma felt something smash him hard on the shoulder. He spun around and fell to the ground. He tried to crawl away, but Daru barked again and suddenly Koma felt like his right ankle had been stamped on. He screamed in pain, and felt Daru stop him from moving by pressing down on his left foot with one of his powerful legs. Daru barked one last time, and the force this time smashed into Koma's back. He felt his armour buckle but refused to let the scream out - he would rather go to Hell than give the Bisharp the satisfaction of hearing his cry.
Wordlessly, the Bisharp started extending the Guillotine again, preparing to finish off the Pawniard. Koma struggled, trying to break free, but Daru was simply too powerful. Koma's teeth ground in frustration as he realised the only thing between him and escape was the weight on his foot.
Suddenly, miraculously, the weight on his foot was lifted. He scrambled away instinctively, and heard Daru exhale hard as he fell onto the ground. Once Koma was several metres away from the sound of Daru's heavy breathing, he turned to look at what happened, and was surprised by what he saw.
A fox-like Pokemon was standing at the edge of the clearing. It was blue and black in colour, with a cream chest. A pointy-tipped tail lashed violently from behind powerful legs. Its ears were pointing straight up and twitching, and some black headband-like protusions flapped behind its head even though there was no wind. The fox's stance indicated readiness for a fight, but it wasn't preparing to make a move. Its intense red eyes flashed over to Koma for a second before returning to Daru. Koma wondered how it had pushed the heavy Daru over from five metres away.
"May I ask what the young one did to deserve death?" the fox asked politely. Its tone of voice and inflection told Koma that his rescuer was female.
"No you may not, Lucario," Daru spat as he got to his feet, "this is none of your business."
"I challenged the leader of our pack and he cast me out after defeating me," Koma said timidly.
"That seems fair," the Lucario said mildly, "but then why do you try to kill him?"
"The great Loid leaves no loose ends," Daru replied proudly. He swung his arms towards the ground, and black plasma coated his hands. As he rushed towards the Lucario, she sighed.
"So impulsive," she muttered, and she threw her right paw towards the incoming Bisharp. Much like the Bark Out that was Daru's specialty, an invisible force moved out and pushed at the Bisharp. Daru span on one foot, and fell to the ground. Koma couldn't hold back a chuckle as Daru got back onto his feet. The black plasma flared up around his hands again, but before he could take even one step forward the Lucario threw her left paw forward and he was knocked onto his rear end.
"Stop fucking around and fight!" Daru snarled as he jumped back up to his fighting position.
"Very well," the fox agreed, and she took on a strange pose - her paws were on either sides of her hips, pointing inwards. As Daru leaped forwards, the Lucario raised her paws up to her chest and glowing blue fire began pouring out of her wrists, flowing into a single ball of flame. She ran towards Daru, keeping the fireball in front of her. When there was but a metre between them, she pushed the fireball forwards. It crossed the distance in a blink of the eye and struck Daru hard in the chest, knocking him head over heels.
The Lucario jumped backwards and extended her right paw towards the weakened Bisharp, and steadied it with the left. Small blue energy balls began peppering Daru and the ground around him. None of them caused any serious damage, but they stung like a bitch.
"This is your last chance to leave. I advise you take it," the Lucario said calmly.
"I don't need to!" Daru screamed. "I can take you - I just need to get close!"
"Oh, is that so?" the fox replied, sounding genuinely surprised. She lowered her paws and the rain of energy balls stopped. "Let uss settle this in hand-to-hand combat, then."
Koma could only watch in amazement as Daru got to his feet once again. His armour was cracked all over and blood was leaking out from under his black cuirass. His wrist-blades started to glow silver. Koma could only think of one thing- why would his rescuer give away her greatest advantage?
The answer was soon made apparent. Both fighters moved towards each other, faster than Koma could watch. Two small silver trails danced through the air behind Daru, and he could just make out a trace of blue fire covering the Lucario's palms. He blinked as both fighters rushed past each other and missed the fatal exchange.
Both the Bisharp and the Lucario stood motionless with their backs facing each other. A small trail of red blood began dripping from the Lucario's face. Koma's mouth began to drop when he saw Daru. Blood was falling onto the ground from at least five different places. Suddenly, Daru coughed, and blood began spraying violently from all over. He collapsed onto the ground, and blood continued to squirt out of his wounds. He tried to get up, but blood exploded out of his arm. He collapsed completely onto the ground and exhaled his last breath. Koma could only stare at his rescuer in fear and wonder.
The Lucario wiped away the trickle of blood with the back of her paw, and walked over to Koma. She crouched in front of him, causing Koma to unconsciously move backwards.
"What is your name, young one?" she asked kindly.
"My name is Koma," he said quietly, unable to make eye contact. He saw the fox smile gently, though.
"A fine name," she said approvingly, and she held out her paw for him to take. Koma looked at his blades uncertainly - there was no way she could help him out without being cut in return. The Lucario noticed his glance, but continued to smile.
"Don't worry, you cannot cut me," she said reassuringly.
Koma swallowed hard, but placed his blade in the Lucario's paw. She hoisted him up, and sure enough, he didn't cut into her palm.
"My name is Mazie," the Lucario introduced herself, "and let me bring you to a safe place."
Koma nodded, and he followed Mazie out of the clearing, leaving Daru's corpse behind.
Mazie brought Koma to a small underground cave that was fifteen minutes' brisk walk away. It was almost too much for Koma in his battered state, but Mazie helped him out with gentle pushes and lifts whenever he needed them. The cave entrance was little more than a hole in the ground, but it was kept lit by several torches lit in strategically placed alcoves. When they entered the mouth of the cave, Koma heard a scurrying sound and some joyful shouts.
"Mama! Mama!" a high-pitched voice yelled, and as the source moved into the light Koma saw who was making it. Another fox-like Pokemon scurried quickly towards the cave mouth - probably the child of his rescuer. It looked much like Mazie, except it was only half as big and had no cream colouration on its chest. It had small silver armguards on its forearms, and with the quickest of glances Koma could tell the armour was of incredibly high quality.
When the child saw its mother assisting the stranger into their lair, it gasped and took a step back. Its mid-sized blue tail stopped wagging and became iron-still, locked halfway between a gesture of fear and aggressiveness.
Mazie quickly assessed her child's stance, and gave him a reassuring smile. "Be not afraid, Reece," she said using the quiet, reassuring tone that seemed to be her default speech setting. "This is Koma, a wounded Pawniard who as attacked unjustfully. We are to offer him hospitality."
Reece gasped, but his tail started shifting from side-to-side again ever so slightly. He bowed to Koma, and Koma returned it just in case it was some obscure piece of Lucario ettiquette. He knew all about strange customs - whenever an intelligent Pokemon wandered across the hunting party, if they didn't respond to the greeting dance in exactly the right way, they were treated like dumb animals. They never guessed that the correct answer was to stand perfectly still.
"Welcome to our home," Reece said, and he reached out to help Koma down the roughly-cut staircase. Koma pulled back, however, also moving away from Mazie.
"I don't require any hospitality," Koma said roughly, stepping outside the cave. "I'll just sleep outside tonight if you have no objections, and move on in the morning."
"Don't be silly," Mazie chided, "you won't be able to travel for half a week at least, and there's no point sleeping on the hard ground out here when we have a spare nest inside."
Koma weakened a little. It would be sooo much nicer on a stack of grass then it would be on the hard dirt outside. "You're sure I'm not kicking anyone out?" he asked.
"Of course not." Mazie smiled gently. "We have four beds, and as you can see there are only three of us."
Koma couldn't decide, his wish for comfort battling with his pride as a Pawniard. Finally, his shoulders slumped and he gave in.
"Very well," he said, and allowed himself to be shown into the cave.
The tunnel leading downwards curled around, almost like one of the spiral staircases back in the Citadel. There were torches down here as well, so that Koma could easily see where he was stepping. Finally, the passageway opened into an underground room, brightly lit and with many alcoves to store things. True to Mazie's word, there were four neatly stacked piles of grass kept together by large rocks, one in each corner of the room. A small fire was crackling away in a lowered section of the floor in the centre of the room. On one side of the fire was a stack of firewood, and on the other was a low table with some strange coloured objects stacked in a bowl on top of it.
Mazie and Reece crossed over to the fire and sat down on the ground. Koma followed them, sitting opposite them next to the table. It was hard but warm, and he much preferred it to the cold ground outside. The coloured objects were giving off faint aromas that intriuged him and made his stomach rumble, although he didn't know why.
"What are those?" he asked, pointing to them.
"It's fruit," Reece said, sounding confused. "You know? Apples and lemons and grapes and peaches?"
Koma titled his head to the right. He'd never heard of any of them.
"Feel free to try some," Mazie offered, waving a paw at the bowl.
Not wishing to appear rude, Koma picked up a round orange sphere.
"What is this called?" he asked.
"An orange," Mazie replied.
"You're kidding," Koma said flatly. "What, is the other one called a red?"
Reece started giggling, which brought a small smile to Koma's face. Any emotions other than rage and pride were frowned upon at the Citadel - they were supposed to make one weaker.
Koma sat there, holding the orange. "Uhh, what do I do with it?" he asked uncertainly.
Peals of laughter erupted from Reece, and he fell onto his back. Even Mazie couldn't supress a small grin.
"You eat it," she said.
Koma looked at the orange, frowning. He'd never eaten anything like it before. Everything he had ever put in his mouth was either meat or some leaves he had been taught healed internal injuries. Trusting that this wasnt some kind of practical joke, he bit deep into the sphere. The skin was tough, but the flesh inside gave easily to his sharp teeth. As soon as he had penetrated the skin, a strange new flavour rushed into his mouth like water into a dam. It tasted like nothing he had ever eaten before. He quickly took another bite, and then another.
"Am I to understand you like it?" Mazie asked in a joking tone of voice, and Reece continued to giggle as he pulled himself back up into a sitting position. Koma nodded repeatedly and took another piece of fruit - this one was pink, and the taste wasn't as intense, but it was pleasureable nonetheless.
"When you are ready, tell us your tale if you will," Mazie requested, and Koma complied. In-between bites of fruit, Koma told the two fox-like Pokemon of his days in the Citadel, his near-evolution, and then his confrontation with Loid. He left Mazie to tell Reece about the battle with Daru, preferring to chow down on the fruit. It wasn't as filling or energising as meat, but it sure tasted nice.
When his story was finally told, Reece clapped his paws together like he had just heard an epic legend. "What will you do now, Koma?" he asked in his young, enthusiastic voice.
"I guess I'll move on." Koma shrugged. "There's nothing left for me at the Citadel - I mean, I'd love to get back at Loid and free the rest of the pack, but I just can't. I don't have the strength, and my evolution was paused."
Mazie studied Koma through slitted eyes. She opened her mouth like she was about to say something, but thought better of it and closer her eyes.
Upon eating the last of the fruit, Koma belched and then looked around at the beds. "Is there any particular one I can use?" he asked.
"Feel free to take your pick," Mazie replied, and Koma nodded his thanks. He bowed to the two kind Pokemon and hobbled over to the nearest bed, collpasing into it. It wasn't as comfortable as his bed back in the Citadel, but it was certainly much more so than his campsite from earlier. He closed his eyes, and sleep came quickly. Mazie and Reece didn't stay up much longer either - they held a conference in whispers next to the fire, then sought their own beds.
During the night, most of Koma's serious wounds closed up. The cracks in his armour also closed up as if they were flesh, and the smaller dents fixed themselves - they popped outwards as if they had been struck from the inside by a hammer.
When Koma awoke the next morning, the fire was all but dead. Reece was snoring in the bed opposite him, but Mazie was nowhere to be seen. Koma swung himself out of the pile, pushing back the small wads of grass that slipped past the rocks. He noted that his armour was almost completely back to normal, except one dent right above his heart where Loid's Focus Blast had struck him. His body wasn't much worse - he could acutely feel all of his bruises and pulled muscles but he was pretty sure he didn't have any open wounds.
He climbed the stairs up to the surface - he started every morning with some stretches and basic exercises, and yesterday was the first day he had not done so. He didn't want to get rusty, so he had resolved to work out in case he was losing his touch.
When he exited the cave, he saw Mazie outside, performing some kind of dance that involved much stretching and twisting of limbs. Ignoring her, he began to do his own stretches. Once his body was limber and his armour had settled right, he began performing sit-ups, to strengthen his back and stomach muscles.. The first few were harder than he remembered, but he soon fell into a rhythm. After fifty situps, he changed to push-ups to work out his arms. He was just about to swap over to squats when he noticed Mazie watching him.
"Good morning," he called out without stopping his stretches.
"And a good morning to you as well," Mazie replied, continuing to watch him.
After he had finished with his exercises, Mazie moved closer.
"May I ask you a question about last night's battle?" she asked.
Koma grunted in reply, but it was an affirmative grunt.
"Am I correct in believing that one of the sound-based techniques used was used by you?"
"How did you know that?" Koma asked in return, somewhat surprised in spite of himself.
"I have good hearing. The longer attack was from a much higher-pitched voice than the sharp barking attacks," she explained.
"Yeah, I tried a Round on him, but it didn't seem to do much," Koma said begrudingly.
"That's understandable," Mazie mused, "am I correct in guessing that this Round of yours is not a move you acquire naturally?"
"I'm not sure," Koma replied slowly. "One day I suddenly found that I was able to use my voice to disturb my enemies. I don't use it often, though - it doesn't seem as effective as simply cutting at them."
"I see," Mazie said. Her voice trailed off, and both Pokemon sat next to each other silently.
"Perhaps it has something do with the Teaching Machines?" Koma offered.
"The Teaching Machines?" Mazie enquired.
"Yeah, they're these werid silver circles that Loid hung up in the mess hall," Koma explained. "Loid told us that being around them would make us stronger, but otherwise to pay them no mind."
"Hmmm, perhaps they can indirectly affect one's ability to learn new techniques..." Mazie thought out loud.
Koma stood up straight. "That would actually make sense!" he exclaimed. "When Daru was using the barking attack, he said something about Loid not exposing us to all of the Teaching Machines. Perhaps he kept some back to only use on his inner circle!"
"Think hard, what abilities have you seen that seem atypical of your pack members?" Mazie asked.
"Well, there was the barking attack Daru used," Koma said, scratching a line in the dirt, "and Round is probably one of them too. Except that would be one of the common moves."
"Right," Mazie agreed as Koma drew another line.
"Loid also used something on me called 'Focus Blast', that's probably another secret one," Koma finished as he drew one final line.
"Why do you say that?"
"It was the most powerful attack I have ever seen," Koma said simply, "I almost died because of it, and apparently Loid wasn't even using it at full strength. No way he'd give that to someone who might rise up against him."
He then drew circle around one of the scratches, and drew two more circles off to the side.
"That means that we still don't know what the other two Teaching Machines do," Koma finished.
"Are you sure you're not forgetting any?" Mazie pressed.
Koma thought about it, and suddenly an answer came to him. "When I was fighting the Graveler, I did something to make my armour shine," he said quickly. "While it was shining, I moved incredibly fast, faster than I ever have before."
"I've seen that before," Mazie said abruptly. "An Onix I fought long ago used it. It's a speed-increasing move called Rock Polish."
Mazie seemed to drift off into memories - not wishing to disturb her, Koma fell silent. A couple minutes later, Mazie shook her head an returned to the world of the present.
"Are you able to use Rock Polish right now?" she asked Koma.
"Let me try," he said as he got up. He tensed his muscles and grunted under his breath, but nothing happened. He tried stamping around and even utilizing a few fighting stances, but he couldn't seem to force his armour to glow like he had before.
"Never mind, it appears you haven't mastered it," Mazie said thoughtfully. "Unfortunately, without the Teaching Machine around you might never master it."
"It's a valuable skill, though," Koma remarked. "I'd love to add it to my arsenal."
"Well, all you can do is hope," Mazie said as she got up. She turned to look at the cave entrance and saw Reece emerge. He shielded his eyes from the harsh sunlight and called a greeting.
"Perfect timing. How about you try sparring with Reece?" Mazie proposed.
Koma shot the little Pokemon a long look. "Are you sure that's alright?"he asked Mazie. "I don't want to hurt him."
"Somehow, I don't think that will be a problem." Mazie grinned. She nodded to Reece, and he immediately sunk into a fighting pose. The pose was quite standard - legs separated, with one arm straight out and the other bent into a v shape.
Koma sighed. He wanted to get this over and done with. As much as he liked the little fox, he couldn't be much of a challenge. Mazie, however, might be interesting.
Koma began walking towards Reece. As he did so, his two daggers became sheathed in black energy that writhed like fire. When he was within striking distance, he threw a haphazard slash at the fox.
Reece easily ducked under the attack, and hit him with a quick punch to the face. The strike rattled his helmet and forced him back a step. Koma snarled, and swung at Reece with the other blade. Reece nimbly stepped to the side, and threw another lightning-fast jab. This one hit Koma on the shoulderplate, but it still stung underneath.
Koma jumped backwards, away from the fox. He seemed similar to the Pawniard - a close range fighter. Well, Koma had a way to fix that. He felt for the source of energy inside him, the silver flow that was Steel incarnate. He pulled it to the surface, and a hard steel covering began to surround him. Randomly, he recalled that he had in fact used this ability in his battle with the Graveler. For a minute, he entertained the idea that it had been granted to him by the Teaching Machines, but soon discarded it. He could feel the energy inside of him - he didn't feel that way when he fired Rounds or had used Rock Polish. The power to perform those moves felt external.
He was just about to send a cocky remark on its way to Reece when he noticed what the fox was doing. A blue right was glowing around head, and his normally red irises were silver. Suddenly, the silver coating that was covering Koma began to appear on Reece as well. It started from the tips of his ears, and flowed down his head and body until it touched the ground.
Koma growled in his throat - he forgot that Mazie appeared to have some strange abilities, and that they would probably be passed down genetically. He started running towards Reece, and his blades started glowing silver - even brighter than his armour with Iron Defence activated. He feinted low, but then swung upwards. His dagger grated along Reece's reinforced skin, making a squealing sound and sending sparks flying. Koma screamed a battle cry, and his knife pushed in just a tiny bit more as it continued. Reece threw his head back, and Koma's knife scraped along his chin, drawing a thin red line. As the knife left Reece's skin and entered the air, a small trail of blood followed it.
Koma grinned, and went for a stab with his other knife. Reece leaned to the left but kept his right arm where it was. Koma's knife went under his armpit, and Reece suddenly pulled his arm in, effectively trapping Koma's left arm. Koma snarled and tried to headbutt Reece, but Reece rolled onto his back, pulling Koma into the air. He used his leg like a brace, and Koma was thrown into the air. He hit the dirt and skidded on the ground for a metre.
As Koma got up, he knew he'd have to fight drastically. He dusted himself off and began running towards Reece. As he did so, he starting firing Rounds randomly, hoping to distract his opponent. It seemed to work as instead of preparing an attack, Reece assumed the pose from the start of the battle. His arm was held straight out, palm pointing towards Koma. The Pawniard's two blades started glowing silver again, and he let them drag behind him so that when he whipped them towards Reece he'd have the most potential energy behind them possible.
He stopped launching Rounds and was just about to start swinging his blades forward when Reece took a single step forward, still keeping his arm straight. Koma noticed the glowing blue energy in the centre of his palm too late. As Reece stepped forward he ducked low, and almost gently placed his glowing blue palm on Koma's chest.
The crack of lightning resounded through Koma's ears as he was launched backwards through the air. As the ground moved up to greet him, Koma knew he had lost. He vowed to pay back the defeat, though, even if it took him a year.
Two Weeks Later
Koma circled to the left and Reece circled to the right, mirroring him perfectly. Over the time they'd spent living together, they'd memorised each other's fighting styles. Koma knew that in order to continue the fight he'd either have to begin a Round or wait for the Riolu to make a move. He was just about to start yelling when Reece moved in, preparing for a low strike. Koma hadn't yet set up his Iron Defence - he'd learned the hard way that if he started using a defensive ability while Reece wasn't occupied Reece would copy it with Copycat.
The past two weeks had taught Koma much and yet at the same time had been some of the happiest times of his life. He'd spent each morning training with Mazie, then sparring with Reece. The three of them napped through the midday heat, then went hunting and foraging in the evening. Mazie had shown Koma where all the delicious kinds of fruit grew, and where the best hunting was. But throughout all of this, Koma never forgot his drive - to return to the Citadel and overthrow Loid, not for revenge but for the good of the pack.
One technique Koma had picked up was the art of non-lethal fighting - unlike regular Pawniard he was now proficient at fighting with his legs and arms, not just his blades, and he used those skills now. He leaned to the left, swerving past the incoming punch. As he did so, he swung his right arm down and followed up with his left leg, pirouetting on his right foot. This had the effect of knocking Reece's punch down and kicking him squarely in the side. The kick connected, and Reece was pushing into a patch of tall grass.
Wasting no time, Koma dug deep and found the spirit of metal inside of him. He drew it to the surface, activating his Iron Defence. Once again a silvery veil covered his body completely, reinforcing his armour. When Reece emerged from the grass, Koma grinned - he hadn't managed to copy the move. The battle was slowly turning in the Pawniard’s favour.
As the two younglings clashed together again, trading punches and blocks, Mazie watched from on top of a rock. Koma's skills had increased, but he showed no sign of either evolving or using any un-natural moves. Mazie decided to inform him of her suspicions after the fight - she was afraid that not only would Koma fail to absorb the other two moves, but that the effects of the Everstone had to be permanent. She had held off on sharing these with the young Sharp Edge Pokemon, fearing the hypothesizes’ accuracy, but now she had no doubt in her mind.
As if Mazie's negative thoughts could affect the flow of the battle, Koma suddenly stumbled in a small pothole. He screeched as he fell backwards onto the ground. Reece lunged forward with a glowing blue palm - his Force Palm attack was his favourite finisher. Koma could barely stay conscious after one.
Koma coated his left dagger in black energy and swung it at the Riolu. The darkness detached from his blade and struck Reece in the face. Using the attack as a distraction, Koma rolled to the side and got to his feet. He began yelling Rounds at his opponent, and Reece covered his ears and sunk to his knees in pain as he tried to block out the sounds. Koma used Faint Attack to split into three copies and each copy advanced on the flinching Riolu. Reece swung at one with a sloppy roundhouse punch but it faded away as he made contact. He lashed out with a kick at another, but that one too faded away. He turned around to look for the real Koma, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, Koma's sharp helmet-blade crashed into Reece from above. A large wound opened up on Reece's forehead, and the fox-like Pokemon cried out in pain. As Koma rolled off Reece and his feet touched the ground, he began raking his blades across the Riolu's body. Since Reece hadn't been able to activate Iron Defence through Copycat, the blades opened up thin wounds all across his chest.
Koma couldn't help but grin - finally, he'd be able to repay at least ONE of the ten or so losses he had endured. He continued to swipe Reece repeatedly, focusing on his chest. That’s why he didn’t notice the winding trails of blue energy creeping up Reece’s arm. As Reece continued to get hurt, the blue tendrils got wider until eventually they covered his entire arms. Koma noticed them too late. Reece’s brightly-shining right arm buzzed up, smashing into Koma’s chin – one of the few places he wasn’t protected by armour. As he rose into the air, Reece’s left arm smashed into Koma’s chest. It was every bit as painful as being hit by Loid’s Focus Blast.
Koma flew high into the air as his cuirass shattered outwards. The four protective blades flew outwards, and landed point down in the dirt. Koma followed suit – clattering into the ground. His armour was almost entirely destroyed – the attack had been so strong that only his helmet, armguards, and platelegs were intact, and even they were damaged.
He struggled to his feet as Reece slowly walked over. The Riolu was panting heavily, and his glowing blue arms were hanging limply by his sides. It seemed like the technique he was using required a lot of effort – it was like a Reversal. It had reversed who was going to win.
Koma got to his feet, then collapsed onto his knees. He groaned as he hit the ground with his blades. They made a slight hissing sound as they slid into the damp ground. Koma groaned again. Then he growled.
Why? Why can’t I beat him? Koma thought helplessly. He spat some blood onto the ground, but a couple tears leaked out of his eyes as well. I was so close. So close.
“SO CLOSE!” Koma yelled, and his remaining pieces of armour started glowing bright yellow. He looked up at Reece, who had stopped advancing. There was a look of shock on his face. He didn’t see Mazie rise to her feet in amazement. All he could see was his opponent, and bright yellow-white light everywhere.
I told you I’d be back, the voice whispered.
Koma grinned. He was back to where he was when he fought the Graveler. He managed to get to his feet, and when he was standing up straight the pain had started to fade. He screamed a battle cry, and ran towards Reece. Whether he was just incredibly fast or Reece was too stunned to react, Koma didn’t know, but it didn’t matter. He swept his right hand-blade through Reece’s right side, and blood began spraying everywhere. He continued moving forward, and he elbowed Reece hard in the back. Reece spat some blood into the air, and then collapsed onto his face.
Koma shook the blood off his blade, and then collapsed to his knees. The light shining from his limbs and helmet became pure white and swept across his entire body. The light shut out his hearing, and slowly began to block out his vision. When his vision had become nothing but white, he returned to the world of light that Loid had yanked him out of. He saw the outline of a Bisharp growing around him, and like last time his body began expanding to fill that outline. He could actually feel his own body growing, but it wasn’t painful. It was like stretching a muscle, but there was no end-point. His blade retreated backwards and the stump that remained spilt into fingers. His destroyed armour rebuilt itself, and stretched along with him.
Even if he was physically able to be aware of the world around him, he wouldn’t have noticed Mazie as she got up and walked over to her son. She checked him quickly – despite being unconscious and having mutliple superficial wounds, he seemed fine. She covered his wounds with pure life-force that she emitted from her paws. As Reece’s wounds began to close up, she gently picked him up and took him into the cave so he could rest. When she returned, Koma had finished evolving. He was wriggling his fingers and stretching his legs.
Koma couldn’t hear the voice and he knew that he never would again. This knowledge didn’t sadden him though – he could feel the qualities that the voice represented within himself now. Before his evolution, he had planned on returning to the Citadel because it was the only home he had ever known and he wanted to free the other Pawniard. Now, however, his greatest wish was to knock Loid off his pedestal and bury his blades in the Bisharp’s heart.
He finished examining his body, and he turned around to see Mazie watching him carefully. “I didn’t mean to hurt Reece,” he said calmly.
“Fear not, he will recover soon,” the Lucario replied. She then assumed her fighting stance – exposing her elbows, reminiscent of the sword-fighting style that Gallade used.
“Let us spar,” she said, and without waiting for an answer threw a blue fireball towards Koma.
Koma’s jaw dropped, but his new battle sense took over. He ducked low and leaned to the side and the shining orb flew over his shoulder. Koma could feel the warmth as it passed. He stood up, and covered his new fists in black energy. It was so much easier to do now that he had evolved.
To his surprise, Mazie just stood there. She simply looked at him, not making any move to attack. Koma began moving forward cautiously, watching her closely, ready to anticipate in a second. Suddenly, her eyes flicked off his face, moving slightly to the right. Koma looked over his shoulder.
The blue fireball had turned around and was coming back.
Koma’s jaw dropped. He threw up his hands and caught the orb. He soon found out that it was actually rotating really fast – it began to eat through the black fire surrounding his hands. Koma began to worry as the attack pushed harder against him, threatening to smash into his cuirass, but he remembered the Metal Burst technique he had used on the Graveler.
Koma took one hand away from the painfully-strong sphere, and the force on his only remaining hand increased to the point where he was afraid it might break. Using the newly freed hand, he began to wind silver energy around the orb. The orb’s own rotation sucked the energy in, turning it pale cream in colour. Thinking quickly, Koma began staggering backwards, trying to make it look to Mazie like the attack was drilling through his armour. When he couldn’t take the pain any more, he twisted to the side and let the attack pass under him armpit.
Mazie saw the attack shooting towards her too late. She put out her paws and tried to regain control of the Aura Sphere, but the Metal Burst that was fused with the sphere interfered with her abilities. She jumped to the side, attempting a dodge. She just managed it – the buzzing sphere scratched her cheek on the way past – that in itself was impressive as she was Steel-typed as well as Fighting.
Koma didn’t want to give his fox-like opponent any chances to get her composure back. He swung his wrist-blades repeatedly at Mazie, like he was punching a punching bag. Silver waves flew through the air towards the Lucario. Mazie got her feet underneath her, and howled loudly at the sky. Blue energy seeped out of her paws and creeped up her arms to her elbows. The Aura then solidified and blades began to extend out of her elbows, like the blades of a Gallade.
Well, that solves the mystery of her strange fighting stance, Koma thought as he continued to launch the waves at Mazie.
Mazie started performing a complicated dance, swinging the bright blue swords around her body. The blades deflected most of the slashes into the ground. Dust rose up into the air, partially obscuring Koma’s vision. He soon realised what Mazie was doing – not only was she deflecting his attacks, but raising her own attack power at the same time.
As soon as he realised this, he stopped the torrent of attacks, but he was too late. Mazie spun around and threw both hands towards the Bisharp. Aura streamed from her paws towards Koma. He threw up his hands, and black fire blasted towards the incoming attack. The two moves collided, and detonated. A shrill squeal filled the air, and Koma was blinded. Before his evolution, he would have tried to get his vision back my blinking repeatedly, but the Bisharp side of him knew that the best thing to do was take this chance to increase his own battle abilities. He reached for the light, and surrounded himself in it. His armour began blazing bright yellow, and it began to clean his vision.
As soon as Koma had his vision back, he saw Mazie rubbing her eyes with her paws. Koma grinned, and blurred towards her. As soon as he did so, Mazie looked up at him and returned the grin. She moved to met Koma, every bit as fast as he was. They clashed – Mazie’s blue Aura Blades caught and held Koma’s wrist blades. Koma struggled to push down on the blades, but Mazie was struggling just as hard. Sparks began jumping off of Koma’s blades.
“Never assume the opponent cannot do the same as you,” the Lucario said.
Koma barely heard her. He was watching the sparks leap off of the blades, entranced. His mind was whirring as everything fell into place. The first Teaching Machine had gifted him the power of the Round. The second had taught him Rock Polish. The final machine…
…had given him a Hidden Power.
Koma blinked, and when his eyelids raised again his eyes were pure red. He focused on one of the sparks as it fell to the ground. He heard a clicking sound in the depths of his mind, The spark expanded until it was a roaring fireball. At a silent command, it rose up into the air behind Koma, turning into a wave of fire as it did so.
Mazie looked up in shock. There was absolutely no way that Bisharp would be able to control fire naturally. She tried to pull away, but Koma twisted his wrists inwards. The two Aura blades were pulled inwards, and Mazie’s arms bent into a cross. She couldn’t escape.
For the first time since Mazie had evolved, she wasn’t completely sure that her abilities would give her the win. She ended the flow of Aura to her elbows, and the swords snapped off. She wasn’t quite fast enough, though. The fire hovering over the two combatants began to flow down over Mazie. She jumped backwards, but the crackling flames flew down her legs and tail. She hit the ground on her rear end, unable to move.
That was when Koma burst through the fiery waterfall, his elaborate helmet-blade surrounded with silver energy. The flames burned him severely as he dived through, but he channeled the pain into his blade using Metal Burst. Silver mist wreathed around the curved edge of his helmet, growing ever thicker.
Mazie tried to back away, but her legs wouldn’t move. She raised her arm to ward off the blow, but Koma knocked it aside with a skilful twist of his head. He then whipped it back and plunged it into her chest, barely missing the spike protruding from her chest. The blade sunk into her flesh, but Koma stopped before it could go too far. He then pulled the blade back out, and pointed his wrist-blade at Mazie’s neck.
Mazie turned her head on the side, laying her cheek on the singed ground. She coughed out a bit of blood, and then whispered, “you are ready.”
Koma got up off her, and mentally killed the small fired dotting the ground. “Will you be alright?” he asked, concerned.
Mazie simply nodded, and weakly gestured to her chest where Koma had stabbed her. Pure blue Aura was already welling around the wound, keeping her out of shock and slowly regenerating the flesh. Carefully Koma picked up the Lucario and took her inside, just like Mazie had done for Reece not an hour beforehand. He placed her on one of the piles of grass, and then turned to leave. He looked back at the sleeping Riolu and Lucario – both of them had helped him so much. He wasn’t sure he’d ever see them again, but it would be nice if he could. He had some business to attend to first, though. He wrenched off a small piece of his shoulder armour that had been damaged by the Aura Sphere. It was red and jagged, but looked a little bit like a paw.
Koma smiled, and left it lying on the low table, next to the fruit bowl. He then climbed the stairs, preparing to return to the Citadel.
After spending a night at the edge of the forest, Koma woke up to find his armour completely repaired. He knocked all the different pieces with his fist to make sure they were sitting right, and then began his walk to the Citadel. As soon as he passed the treeline, he could easily see the dark complex against the blue sky.
He walked past a pair of frolicking Ponyta. They watched the Bisharp go past, and one even screamed a challenge at him, but Koma ignored it. When he was a Pawniard, Ponyta were big enough that they posed a challenge. After all, he had barely reached up to their chests. Now that he was a Bisharp, he could take them easily.
The sun was at zenith of its arc across the sky when Koma arrived at the Citadel. He found himself standing before the drawbridge, wondering how best to get Loid’s attention. He could call out a challenge, or fill the sky with fire. In the end, he opted for the simplest solution – a blast of silver energy from his hand blew a huge hole in the hardwood of the drawbridge. Small tendrils of smoke wafted upwards. Immediately, he heard yells inside, mostly high-pitched Pawniard voices.
Two minutes later, a Bisharp emerged from the smoking hole. Koma could tell from the Bisharp’s arrogantly-tilted head that it was Loid, although he recognised his ex-idol anyway. Loid jumped over the moat, landing firmly in front of Koma.
“Welcome to our Citadel,” Loid said politely, “from which clan do you hail, stranger?”
“This one,” Koma replied stonily.
Loid squinted as he took a closer look at the Bisharp standing in front of him. After a couple seconds, his eyes shot open.
“Koma?” he asked incredulously.
“That’s right. I’ve returned to free the clan from your tyranny,” Koma replied, making sure his voice was loud enough to carry into the foyer of the Citadel. He had no doubt that a whole bunch of Pawniard, and probably most of the Bisharp, were watching carefully from the shadows.
Loid laughed scornfully. “What tyranny?” he asked. His manner confirmed Koma’s suspicion – Loid was acting like he had in the mess hall, playing for an audience, as opposed to being brutally honest like at the Arena.
“Under my rule, we’ve had an unprecedented spell of internal peace,” Loid continued, “We’ve been moving with the outside world, not against it – we don’t eat raw meat like beasts any more, and since you left we’ve almost managed to get an electric light working. Our powers increase with the help of the Teaching Machines. We solve our disputes through discussions, not violence. What have I done to deserve such hatred from you?”
“Well, first of all I didn’t leave, I was thrown out,” Koma remarked off-handedly, and he was rewarded with an angry lip-curl from Loid. “But aside from that, how is any of the things you’ve just described better than the old ways?”
“It’s the way of civilisation to improve and evolve,” Loid said piously.
“Human civilisation,” Koma shot back, “in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not humans!”
“And is there a reason we shouldn’t strive to be like them?”
“Yes! They’re cowardly creatures, with no real strength. They cause wars, rip apart the world, and spread across the world like a plague. Their way might work for them, and I do not condemn them for their nature, but their way is not ours. They’re disgusting, deceitful beings, and worst of all they have no honour!”
Loid snorted. “And what use is honour in the modern world?”
“You’re actually choosing social and technological advancement over honour?” Koma asked incredulously. He began addressing the hidden crowd. “What kind of leader does not value honour?”
The audience stirred. Even though they’d been brainwashed, the Pawniard knew Koma had a point. Some uneasy muttering began floating out of the castle. Loid began to hiss as he realised his power base was slipping away from him. He’d have to get rid of Koma, and quickly.
“So am I to understand that you are choosing the old ways over the new?” Loid called out to Koma, making it sound like a challenge.
“I am,” Koma replied simply.
“Well then, according to the old customs, in order to take my place you have to kill me,” Loid spat. “Are you Bisharp enough to do so?”
“Come and find out,” Koma taunted his opponent as he sunk into his fighting pose.
Loid began to prepare for battle as well. He knew this wouldn’t be an easy fight, but he had no doubt that he would be the victor. He could use Bark Out as opposed to the inferior Round, and he’d surrender if Koma could survive two direct hits from Focus Blast. He struck the exact same fighting post as Koma – shoulders lowered, legs bent, arms cautiously outward.
Koma knew that time wasn’t on his side. Loid was more experienced and had access to more moves. His only chance lay in hitting him with a fireball when he wasn’t expecting it. Koma saw blue energy start curling around Loid’s upper chest – the fight was about to begin.
Before Koma could react, Loid threw his arms forward. A wave of bright blue energy flew towards Koma, but he was ready for it. Loid’s best chance of finishing this battle with his reputation unscathed was a quick unmerciless beat-down.
Koma rolled to the left, and the Focus Blast passed harmlessly over his leg. Acting on instinct, he threw a blast of silver energy towards Loid. Loid followed up the Focus Blast with a silver blade that whistled through the air as it flew. The two attacks collided, and a sudden flare of light blinded Koma.
Through his battle sense, Koma knew that now would be a good time to raise his battle abilities. The choice now was whether to strengthen his muscles or increase his speed. He chose the latter. Koma’s red armour began to shine bright yellow and the second his eyes began to clear he flew towards Loid. The ground that Koma kicked off shattered into pieces.
It occurred to Koma a little too late that Loid had the exact same battle sense and that he had probably prepared for battle as well. He tried to alter his course, but it was too late. Koma smashed into Loid, and Loid hooked his elbows around Koma’s, preventing him from fleeing. Koma lashed out with his helmet-blade, scoring a scratch on Loid’s cuirass. Loid took a deep breath before emitting a sharp cry. Koma felt like he’d been punched in the stomach, and he was pushed backwards through the air, but his feet didn’t leave the ground. Two trails of dust were kicked into the air as Koma flew away from his opponent.
Loid continued to bark in Koma’s direction, but Koma started yelling in response, ululating his voice in varying registers. The vibrations weaved through the air in front of Koma as he dug his feet in the ground, trying to stop flying backwards. The Bark Out projectiles smashed into the wall of Rounds, detonating silently. The only visible sign of the explosion was a slight warping of the air.
Koma yelled again, a battle cry this time. His armour started glowing even brighter, almost as bright as the sun. He pulled his legs up, hoping that he might fall to the ground but recover quickly. Fate was on his side, though – as soon he pulled his feet up they struck a boulder that was sticking up in the air. Acting instinctively, Koma crouched and kicked off the stone. He shot towards Loid, moving faster than a Rapidash and shattering the boulder behind him into a thousand pieces.
Loid saw the bright speck growing larger and knew that Koma was coming back. He also knew that Koma wouldn’t be able to change course, which meant that this was a perfect time to get a good attack in. He toyed with the idea of throwing a Focus Blast at the runt, but he didn’t have an infinite number of them and considering Koma was head on it was a tiny target to aim for. He decided to use his Hidden Power.
Loid raised both his arms into the air, and half of the moat surrounding the Citadel hovered into the air behind him. He slowly swung his arms forward, and when they met in front of his chest the water rolled forwards, hovering over the ground and surging towards Koma.
Koma saw it coming and couldn’t believe his eyes – Loid had never manipulated that much water at once before that he had seen. He didn’t panic though – he had planned on Loid using his Hidden Power. Not for the first time was he thankful that his Hidden Power was the polar opposite of Loid’s.
Koma managed to pull both his arms forward. He then scraped his wrist-blades together, making a screeching sound that was quickly whipped away by the wind. Sparks flew into the air and past him, but Koma let them go – they weren’t what he was looking for.
When he was but ten metres from the rolling wave, a large spark fell off the blades, speeding towards Koma’s face. He took a deep breath and then fired a Round at the spark. It immediately ignited, and mushroomed outwards horizontally. The fire boiled towards the wave and they crashed together, making a violent hissing sound. Steam erupted outwards in all directions, but Koma wasn’t aware of this – he was too busy using the Round and his Hidden Power to carve his way through the wave. He turned off his Hidden Power when he was almost through the wave so that Loid wouldn’t know of his ability to manipulate fire.
Loid chuckled underneath his breath. He could see the smoke rising from the front of the torrent – the runt was probably trying to hold it off with Night Slash or Metal Burst, but that wouldn’t work. Physical attacks weren’t good at deflecting special ones, and vice versa.
He was about to turn and return to the castle when a small prick of light blinked at him from the corner of his eye. He turned to look but the prick of light had gone. Instead, it had been replaced by a gentle light-orange glow, barely visible through the rushing waters of the Hidden Power attack. As Loid watched in astonishment, the glow got brighter and brighter. Just as it began painful to look at, Koma burst out of the wave. He was moving so fast that a vacuum was being created behind him, sucking some of the water after him.
Loid couldn’t move fast enough to retaliate – he felt like he was underwater. He cut the mental flow of power, and the floating lake crashed to the ground. He just managed to get his arms up in a defensive posture before Koma smashed into him. Koma’s momentum neatly picked the older Bisharp up off the ground and Koma’s helmet blade grated against Loid’s wrist guards.
Koma reached for the silver energy and pushed it outwards through his head. His helmet blade started glowing brilliant gray, starting from the back near his neck and moving forward towards the tip. When it reached the tip, Koma heard a crunch as the Iron Head attack began to penetrate Loid’s armour.
Loid’s eyes opened in shock. Never since he evolved had his armour been even slightly damaged. Instinctively, he pulled his arm away to prevent further damage to it. Big mistake. Koma’s right arm blurred forward, making a beeline for Koma’s face. It connected with Loid’s right cheek, but the shockingly powerful punch wasn’t the most painful thing happening to Loid. Fortuitously for Koma, he’d carried the combatants all the way to the external wall of the Citadel, and the instant that he’d punched Loid the older Bisharp had hit the Citadel’s wall as well.
To Loid, it felt like his head had been put in a vice. The pain just served to enrage him, though. He covered his right hand in the blue energy of Focus Blast and placed it almost delicately on Koma’s cuirass.
Just as Koma was about to throw another punch at Loid, he became aware of a burning sensation on his chest. He looked down and saw a blue flare growing bigger and brighter, originating from one of Loid’s hands. He let go of Loid, intending to disengage, but he was too late. The bright blue glow pulsed, and suddenly Koma found himself flying backwards over the moat with a huge spiderweb crack in his body armour. He hit the ground with a thud, and curls of dust floated up towards the sky.
Loid picked himself out of the horizontal crater, hissing with pain as he did so. His head was throbbing and he was sure the back of his armour was almost completely destroyed. He stepped out over the moat, and the remains of the water inside rose up to meet him. Using a small platform of water Loid began walking over the chasm towards Koma.
Koma’s eyes opened groggily, but his battle sense was still whirring away. He could feel his armour almost completely destroyed, but he has expected that from Loid’s Focus Blast. His pupils quickly whipped around, taking stock of the situation. He noticed Loid strolling casually on the floating bubble of water, and he knew this was his chance. He lifted his legs up into the air and pushed his arms against the ground. By doing this he threw himself into a somersault. As he was flipping through the air, he scraped his right bracer against his greaves, producing some sparks. Koma reached for them with his Hidden Power, and they flared into life as fireballs. Koma’s feet hit the ground and he threw his right hand towards Loid. The floating patches of fire shot forward, intending to intercept Loid.
Loid saw the fireballs whizzing towards him, and finally understood how Koma had managed to get through the massive wave of water. He raised his arms and the last remnants of water in the moat flew up to defend him. The fireballs crashed into the thin veil of water, turning to steam and evaporating the water. Loid grinned – the runt obviously had yet to fully master his Hidden Power.
That was when another three fireballs shot through the curtain of steam. Loid’s jaw dropped, but he quickly halved the water platform he was standing on and threw the rest forward. The spray of water collided with the fireballs, expunging them and creating more steam. Loid sped up the movement of his tiny water platform, intending to reach the edge of the channel before Koma could launch more fireballs.
He wasn’t successful. He heard the fireballs flying towards him, so he leaped forward using the water platform. Once he was moving forward, he pulled the water with him, covering himself with a thin layer of water. He began to pierce the cloud of steam, and immediately his eyes started betraying him. It seemed deceptively easy to see, but in actuality the water vapour in the air was refracting the light, playing tricks on his vision. Loid closed his eyes, deciding to trust on his hearing. He heard the fireballs ahead, so he pulled the water up to his head and shoulders, giving them better protection.
He burst out of the steam-bank, and suddenly the crackling sound of fire was behind him. Loid opened his eyes in confusion and looked around for the fireballs. He couldn’t see any until he looked behind him. A huge fireball was following him, intent on striking him from behind. Loid realised in a panic that Koma had held the fireball outside of the cloud of steam, waiting for Loid to emerge so he could better aim his attack. He ordered the water to flow downwards and intercept the writhing ball of flames, but it couldn’t flow fast enough. The fireball crashed into Loid’s back, right where he had been pushed violently against the Citadel walls. Loid screamed in pain, a heartfeld, primal scream that chilled the silent audience.
Koma wasn’t done. He curled his right hand into a fist, and the fireball suddenly detonated. Loid was blasted downwards into the ground. He struck it with a clattering sound as now the front of his armour begin to give. Koma could only imagine the damage to the rear of Loid’s armour – Bisharp were weak to fire attacks, but it was something Loid had never worried about before because of his Hidden Power.
Loid extended one shaking arm and put it on the hardened dirt, slowly rising. Small blue sparks danced along his arm. Cracks spiderwebbed across his armour – one more strike and they’d probably be disintegrated. That wasn’t what Koma had in mind now. He was preaching the old ways of the tribe, the laws and customs that all Pawniard were naturally born with, and so he felt obligated to finish the battle in the way his ancestors would have.
“It seems you’re heavily damaged and shit out of water,” Koma called out insultingly, like he had complete control of the battle. Reality was much different – he felt about as good as Loid looked. The only reason he could hide it is the damage was centralized on his cuirass, as opposed to having cracks criss-crossing all across his armour like Loid.
“You don’t look much better than me, runt,” Loid shot back as he got to his feet, “and while I might not have any water left in the moat I can always extract it from the ground. Don’t forget that I also have Focus Blast – that isn’t going away any time soon.”
“I believe I’ve more than proven my battle abilities, and that it’s time for us to finish this battle in the way our ancestors did,” Koma said. He felt like the voice within him was speaking the words through his mouth, even though it not longer existed separately from him.
“I don’t see why I should have to. I can defeat you easily with all the other moves in my arsenal,” Loid replied lofitly.
“Surely you’re not afraid of the runt?” Koma taunted. “It sounds to me like you’re either too scared to lock blades or you plan to double-cross me using Focus Blast or something.”
Loid gritted his teeth – his rough plan had indeed been to agree to lock blades and then hit his opponent with a Focus Blast, but by calling him on it and making it look like a disgraceful action, Koma had effectively backed him into a corner. His brain told him that he might have a better chance at winning by continuing the fight normally, but his pride chewed at the bit. Besides, if he didn’t take the new Bisharp’s challenge, he might lose control of the pack.
“Very well,” Loid hissed. The blue sparks that had begun to gather around his gauntlets gently faded out of existence. He rubbed his shoulders and stretched his legs as Koma did the same.
Koma did something extra, though. He detached his crumbling cuirass and dropped it to the ground, wincing as the large silver disc-blades clattered against each other. He also detached his pauldrons and leg-guards, dropping them to the ground.
Loid watched all this, and laughed out loud. Koma had clearly gone insane – his yellow skin was visible for all to see. Displaying skin was a sign of shame – perhaps Koma knew that he was going to die anyway, so he was softening the sudden drop in pride that his death would bring him.
Loid suddenly yelled, looking up into the sky and throwing his arms backwards. The yell was almost a scream – it seemed like it was trying to rend the sky in two. Slowly, two pure white Guillotine blades began extending, one from each of his wrist blades. They extended until they were Loid’s height in length. But Loid wasn’t done yet. Even slower, a shimmering white blade began to extend upwards from his helmet blade, reaching for the sky.
Loid lowered his head and pointed his arms towards Koma. The three white blades pointed towards Koma, each other threatening death. A fourth blade began extending, but this one was Koma’s. This where Koma’s decision came into play – by removing his heavy armour, he should be able to aim easier and move faster, not to mention that by having to keep an eye on three different blades Loid was actually working against himself.
The two Bisharp jumped forwards, flying towards each other. One was almost naked and wielding a single glowing blade, and the other was wearing damaged armour and attempting to manipulate three. The two combatants flew past each other, and the sound of metal clashing on metal echoed around the Citadel and the surrounding plains as one of the four swords found their target.
In the two weeks after the battle, the Citadel hadn’t changed much. Some of the Pawniard conversed in whispers in the mess hall as one of the Teaching Machines was lowered from the ceiling. They didn’t dare speak openly, though – most of them weren’t sure about the pack leader. They decided to play it safe, half of them chewing on cooked Poliwag meat and the other half eating it raw.
The pack leader wasn’t in the hall at the moment, though. No, he had taken to locking himself in the leader study and going on long midnight trips. He hadn’t been like this before, but then again he had no reason to before.
The large doors of the dining hall creaked as they opened, and the pack leader strolled through them. He walked casually in-between the tables towards the Pawniard whose turn it was to serve the meal. Everyone present noted the tiny blue flashes of energy that played around his hands, but nothing were said.
“What can I get for you today?” the serving Pawniard asked, with a slight tinge of nervousness in his voice, “Raw meat or cooked?”
“Do you even need to ask?” the pack leader grinned, amused.