Regret

Death. War. Destruction. The world of the future lies in ruins. I got the chance to go back and stop it from ever happening, only to discover that I was the cause. This is how I destroyed the world.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5808527/1/Regret

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17. Darkness

That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger ~ Friederich Nietzche

 

-O-O-O-

"Normal people are capable of extraordinary feats in times of due stress. It might be a surge of adrenaline that lets them race across a building to find someone who needs help, or even getting the strength they need to lift something they normally couldn't in order to protect someone or even help save a life.

But people forget every person in the world is capable of killing. We've evolved from a hunter-gatherer society, all our ancestors used to go out into the wilds and kill for food. Trainers do much the same now, except to a lesser degree. But the fact we've come from people that used to kill on a daily basis is still running around in our genes, shaping us and making us who we are.

The point is, if someone breaks into your home, you're going to defend it. You might be a doctor or a surgeon, or any professional that's trained to save lives, but once someone threatens you or your family, you're going to be able to take one to save the lives of your family.

The difference between lawful killings and unlawful killings is quite simple: lawful killings are out of self-defence, or killing one to protect many others.

But of course, the law doesn't work as simply as that. There's a great number of loopholes within every statement, meaning no matter what you do, there's always a high chance that you're the one who's going to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

But the simple fact is, if you kill someone and try to cover up the crime, or even rejoice in their death just a little, you're guilty. No person should be able to kill and carry on their life unaffected by it. If you can... well, you deserve locking up with the rest of the murderers the world has to offer."

- Superintendent Malcolm Starre, Lilycove Police Department. (August 24th, 3008)

-O-O-O-

Wurmple swarmed all around us. Everywhere I looked, I could see their beady yellow eyes. I only just managed to notice the presence of a few more silk pods, and realised that I was only going to be the latest in a long line of victims.

I pulled a face and looked around the trees as best I could, looking for a possible way out. All I found were more silk pods and swarming wurmple. Small puddles and ponds that lay around the area had clusters of wurmple eggs laid within them. There was nothing I could use as a way out!

I needed to run. Xander would only slow me down. I needed to recall him and flee as quickly as I could, and just hope and pray to whatever deity that was listening that I would survive. Loki could use shadows as a method of transport, but I wasn't confident in having him transport anything that wasn't himself. He tried it with a rock once, and it came back as nothing but a fine powder.

I got to choose between becoming wurmple food, or reduced to dust.

I had to take my chances with fleeing. "Guys," I said quietly, moving as little as possible. "We need to run." My legs trembled slightly at the approaching beasts, and it took everything for me not to just flee and leave my pokémon there at the wurmple's mercy. "I'm going to recall you both and run for it." I heard them both make small noises of protest, yet they stayed alert and ready to attack, if need be. "I'll run faster that way," I told them, in blatant disregard of their own opinions on the matter. "Once it's safe, I'll let you both back out again."

I began to count mentally, ignoring my pokémon's distracted cries of protest. Once I hit three, I snatched their balls as quickly as I could, and recalled them in a flash of light.

Unfortunately, the wurmple took that as a threat.

Instantly silk was sprayed at me from every direction, and by some miracle I managed to roll out of the way in time. I spared a glance to the silk-covered spot I just occupied and started at the sheer volume of it.

I didn't give them a chance to have a free hit. As quickly as I could I raced back in the other direction, taking my chances with the sceptile rather than those bugs. I could hear string being spat in my direction, and once or twice stumbled forwards as it shot into my back. It felt like someone was hitting me with rocks, but I carried on running regardless. I ran in an erratic pattern, trying to limit their aim.

My lungs were burning with the effort. I leapt over branches and outstretched twigs, heart racing at a mile a minute as adrenaline coursed through me. I shrieked as they began to descend from the trees and forced myself to run faster, hoping I could somehow outrun them all.

I squinted as far forwards as I could. I could see a small hill, and could smell fresh water. It had to be the stream again! I was certain if I could hide in it, I would be able to lose my pursuers.

Something snapped around my ankles and I screamed as it brought me to the floor. The ground collapsed under my weight, revealing a pit trap into a small network of tunnels. I leapt up as far as I could and slashed open the silk binding my feet together, taking shallow, quick breaths as I tried to figure a way out.

I'd fallen at least two metres – I wouldn't be able to climb out. I could see a tunnel off towards the direction of the stream, and could feel that the mud around it was wet. It had to lead there!

A clicking sound interrupted my musings. I barely stifled a gasp and turned around slowly –

- only to find myself staring at the salivating mandibles of an ariados.

I screamed and fell back reflexively. It hissed in attack and instinctively I kicked it in the face. It reared up in pained anger, hissing and clicking furiously. I backed up as quickly as I could, scraping away layers of dirt behind me as I tried in vain to get through the tunnels and into the stream. I was so close to the edge of the hill! There had to be something I could dislodge that would make us fall into the water below.

Unfortunately, the ariados didn't want me to get away. Its mandibles dripped saliva everywhere, and it pinned my legs down with its heavy, hairy body before I could attack it again. It scuttled over me, and pressed its face into mine. I winced and turned my head, unable to deal with the stench of rotting meat and poison in its breath. I felt saliva drip onto my neck and shuddered.

I was sure I wouldn't be able to attack it without being injured first.

I was just about to make the gamble to escape, when a person's voice echoed from above us.

"Stop."

It was a simple, bland statement, in an equally bland voice. Though it affected the ariados instantly. It hissed and scuttled backwards, moving far enough away for me to sit back up. My heart was racing as my head whipped around, trying in vain to see where the voice had come from.

"Escaped the wurmple, did you?"

My head snapped up at the sound of the voice. I found a man staring down at me from the edge of the pitfall trap. His hair was a dyed green, mottled with sweat and dirt. It fell limply around his face, stretching to his neck and framing his eyes. One long clump of it was neatly between his eyes and over his nose, and I noticed the tell-tale colour of dried blood covering it.

He looked down at me, his eyes shining and yet seeming to be incredibly dark at the same time. "I'm amazed you managed it this far."

I squinted at him, and couldn't stop my mouth from dropping open in alarm. "You watched all of that?"

He grinned. "I was sent here by Hoenn's Elite Four to investigate the mass disappearances in these woods."

My eyes narrowed, and I felt hope attack my heart even as my brain screamed danger! "You're a champion then?" I guessed. "A bug specialist?" I furthered, deathly aware that the ariados was still watching me with menacing eyes.

He shook his head. "I'm part of Sinnoh's Elite Four."

I stared at him, disbelieving. "Then if you're sent here to investigate everything, and you're an Elite Four member, why the fuck are you leaving me down here?" I screamed at him.

He smirked once more, his paradoxical eyes regarding me with amusement. "Because I'm the one that's behind all of it."

It was like someone had punched me in the gut. "Bu-wha-why?" I stumbled through my words. It made no sense! Everything I'd heard about the Elite Four painted them in the light that they looked out for the good of everyone!

Really, I should have realised that no one is above corruption.

He bore a fanged grin at me. "Do I need a reason?" He snorted to himself, and I felt myself glaring up at him. If I could have, then and there I would have strangled him with my shoelaces. "Do you think I'm some sort of comic book villain who's going to explain everything to you, just to give you that insight before you die?"

I shrugged. I knew I needed to get my hands on my gun, but couldn't make an obvious move for it. Instead I began to try and pry myself up the wall with fear I didn't need to fake. "You're an Elite!" I protested, indignantly. "You're meant to look after people, aren't you?"

He shrugged once more. "Maybe I am. But you see, there are certain needs that have to be fulfilled... it just so happens that picking off travellers in forests is the easiest way."

My mind raced with the possibilities. For one, horrible moment, I thought he was suggesting he was going to rape me, and my mind flooded with horrible imagery. Then I remembered the ariados, and looked at it, still stood a foot away from me, looking eager to eat me, yet restrained by some invisible force.

It was like everything clicked into place at once. "You're evolved to insects, aren't you?" I guessed. "You're not just a specialist... you've adapted."

He seemed shocked for a moment. But as quickly as it flashed through him, it vanished. "I suppose I am," he said, and clicked his fingers. The ariados lunged at me, though stopped inches from my face as he clicked again. Once more I felt its horrible, stinking breath in my nose, and tried not to gag in the long moments before it scuttled back once more.

"But I'm more than adapted," he furthered, pacing around the opening of the pit. "The Elite Four of each region are some of the most in-tune with their specialist natures. I just so happen to be one with the insects of the world," he explained, glancing up at the tree lines. I shuddered, remembering the many wurmple that inhabited them, and theorised it was only him keeping them back, much like the ariados in the pit with me. "But like insects, I need to feed off others to live. I can still eat normal, human food, but it just so happens that consuming the blood and flesh of other living creatures provides me with so much more energy."

I understood the dark look in his eyes instantly. "You're addicted," I said, gravely.

"Some would say that," he conceded with a shrug. He looked back down at me, smiled, and for the first time I noticed he had fangs. "But whoever says it just doesn't understand. I am only as addicted to nourishment from flesh and blood as any normal human is to water and oxygen."

My mind was a blur with thoughts of escape. Nothing I could think up would let me escape quick enough, or let me escape unharmed. I needed to stall him. Thankfully, my panic and shock made my mouth work of its own accord. "S-someone's going to find out," I said, pulling at the dirt wall behind me. "When you don't give them any proof about the disappearances, they're going to realise you're behind this."

He laughed. He actually laughed at me. "They won't live to tell anyone," he said darkly. I stuttered for words once more, and he crouched down above the pit, staring at the wall behind me. "Even if they do manage to get away, it'll be their word against that of an Elite – it goes unspoken that our word is law."

My jaw had dropped once more. It just couldn't be happening! What sort of sick world was it where even the people who were meant to protect trainers would just pick them off for food? Surely the governments had to realise an insect specialist would have those sort of urges? Unless they didn't know, and the fact had been hidden from them for as long as the adapted themselves had known.

Or they did know, and merely overlooked it.

I wasn't sure which of those scenarios I preferred. I stared up at him, hands and jaw shaking and whispered, "There'll be someone strong enough to take you down."

He laughed at me once more. "I doubt that," he said, confidently. "The Elite never turn on one of their own. All of our crimes are condoned – who cares if a few hundred trainers die when we stop thousands more dying with our strength? I can commune with the insects: from as high up as pokémon to as low as the tiny little ants that live underground. Each and every one of them can be bent to my will."

I couldn't help myself. "You're crazy!"

"Perhaps," he conceded. "Or perhaps I understand the needs of the natural world better than any normal human." He stood and swung his arms by his side, still staring at the spot behind me. "It's not like anyone's strong enough to stop me. Just ask that champion there."

I blinked and turned my head. Instantly I screamed as I saw a decomposing head sticking out of the dirt. I jumped back, and in doing so managed to tear down a bit of the wall. All the dirt fell down at once, and I found myself with a decaying, dried out corpse in my lap.

Although dirty, his clothes were still intact. Instantly obvious on his cloak was an emblem of four swords, meeting at top and bottom and forming a diamond. Inside there was a small message, identifying it as Blake Rogers. The green background was symbolic of the Johto league, coupled with the Johto emblem of a rainbow wing laced together with a silver wing.

I looked between the corpse and his murderer, my jaw in a permanent state of shock. "It's completely dried out," I said, alarmed. Underneath the pile of dirt, I slowly started to move my hand towards my gun. Thankfully my movements were covered well enough to make sure he wouldn't notice. "Like all the body fluids have been drained."

The Elite member shrugged. "He happened to find out what was really going on here. I wasn't going to let him just go and tell someone about it." He picked up a rock and threw it lazily at the collapsed portion of the wall behind me. "Look closely enough and you may even find the remains of his team there. There's even what's left of a gyarados!" he gloated, laughing in maniacal amusement.

I felt myself wince. If he had managed to take down one of those draconic beasts with only a few insects, I knew I was screwed. Despair flooded me at the same time I clasped my hand around my gun, and I flipped the safety off as quietly as I could.

The Sinnohian looked at me. "And you're going to be joining them."

He clicked his fingers.

The ariados lunged.

I pulled free my gun and fired.

My ears rung in screaming protest at the loud sound in such a close space, and I heard the Elite scream even as I was showered in blood and gore both. I scrunched open my eyes, squinting past the blood on my face and saw the ariados, now completely headless, thrashing for a moment before it stilled.

I stared up at the Elite and met his eyes for a moment. I saw him go to click his fingers again and pulled the trigger as quickly as I could. He was faster. He leapt to the side, and my bullet only just grazed his arm instead of hitting his heart.

I heard him cry out in pained alarm, but paid it no attention. Instantly I began to excavate the dirt wall, hoping to bury myself and cover my escape. Frantically I ploughed through, dislodging the withered remains of an espeon and a meganium before I found myself staring at the colossal, dead maw of a gyarados. I winced reflexively, afraid that even in death, its mouth was still far larger than my whole body.

I dove into the remaining dirt in a frenzy. Above me, I heard the Elite member cough, groan and shout out a command.

My blood froze on the spot. I made my decision instantly, and taking a deep breath, I climbed into the remains of the giant sea serpent's mouth. It smelt truly horrible – a damp, decomposing smell mixed with something I hoped never to identify.

Only once I reached the end of the dead creature's mouth did I realise how stupid my plan was. The pokémon's throat was nowhere near large enough for myself to fit into – I'd effectively trapped myself.

I began to hyperventilate, then gag on the sickly smell within the creature. I needed to think, fast as I could. I knew the Elite was behind me, no doubt getting more bug pokémon to come and bring my demise. I had perhaps a few minutes to get an escape, otherwise I was going to end up as insect food.

I breathed. I needed to think. I forced myself to take a breath, and tried to think as clearly as I could. Despite everything, I couldn't manage to think past the buzzing noise.

My breath caught in my throat. Buzzing noise?

"Fuck!"I cursed aloud, panicking completely. I was a complete idiot! I'd crawled into a decomposing gyarados! Among everything that ate decaying flesh, the main things were insects!

Insects, which the Elite just so happened to be able to control.

"Shit, shit, shit!" I cursed, panicking. I was going to die in a large, dead, decomposing gyarados! I took a breath and made myself calm down. I could get out of the situation, I just needed to make sure I was able to think past the haze of panic. I grabbed Loki's ball and called him out, effectively deafening myself further. I didn't wait for him to look around and become excited in the new surroundings. "Dig us out of here!" I screamed at him, and grabbed the knife from my belt. I hacked my way through some of the dead pokémon's throat, thankful that its decomposition meant its flesh was softer and easier to cut through. "We need to get out of here!"

Loki seemed to understand. He leapt forwards and dove into the creature's body with animalistic frenzy. I paid no attention to the fact he was gorging himself on food even as he managed to hack and slash an opening large enough for me to climb through. We managed to get further through it, and I found myself having to crawl on my hands and knees through soggy, decomposing gyarados organs.

And suddenly, it began to move.

My eyes widened and I whipped my head round instantly. What I saw made my fear increase by tenfold. Ants, flies and other insects were eating their way through the gyarados, consuming everything on their path to us both. No doubt I'd end up being eaten alive within a few minutes.

There were so many of them, they ate a foot of flesh in under a minute.

"Hurry!" I screamed at Loki. He glanced at me, then to the insects behind us, and I saw his face drop in alarm. He dove at the flesh with renewed speed, not bothering to eat as he attempted to claw his way out of the serpent's corpse.

I cursed myself even as I tried to hack my way out. I should have climbed on the ariados' corpse and climbed out of the pit! Even if the wurmple were up there, I could have taken my chances with them, rather than being trapped within a dead gyarados!

The bugs were getting closer. I could hear their wings beating and their jaws clicking in ravenous hunger, consuming everything in their path. Flesh was being torn from bone behind me, and I could hear every bit of it as I tried in vain to get out of the creature's body.

"Move, move, move!" I shouted at Loki, seeing him beginning to claw dirt. The gyarados' body was that long it damn well reached the edge of the hill, and I only had to crawl a few feet to escape into the light!

Unfortunately, the bugs were eating faster than ever. I crawled as quickly as I could after Loki, panting and cursing all the while. My hands slipped in liquids I'd never cared to discern, and I was forced to breathe in smells that I never thought I would have to endure.

The insects were getting closer. I could feel them breezing around the back of my legs. They were eating more and more. I shuffled forwards, just about able to get out and screamed as I felt blistering pain assault my leg. I shuffled past it, trying to shake off as many of them as I could. Loki danced back and grabbed me, pulling with all his little might to get me out of the pokémon and into the dirt. Amazingly he helped, and I found that we tumbled out, breaking through the dirt and into the wide open. We carried on rolling and landed with a loud splash in the stream, and I surfaced, spluttering and gasping for breath. My leg burnt, and I could see faint trails of blood circling around us in the water. I winced, knowing it would attract something soon. I grabbed Loki and helped him stay aloft, whilst keeping him away from my blood.

I managed to pull us onto the banks and flopped down, exhausted. I looked back up and caught the briefest flash of dirty green hair and felt all hope drain out of me completely. He turned and disappeared from my sight, and I knew I had to keep moving.

He was hunting me through the forest, like some sort of sick game. And the reward for winning was getting to live.

I had to escape him, and survive to complete my journey. But at the same time, I had to make sure he wasn't able to carry on his homicidal rampage.

Which left me with the problem: how do you kill an Elite on their home turf?

I'd lost track of the time as I made way through the rest of the forest. I had no idea where I was, let alone the time or how I was going to get out of there. I'd managed to bandage up my leg, and thankfully saw that it was only a flesh wound. Still, I prayed that it wouldn't become infected and leave me having to hop my way to complete my journey.

When Xander saw it though, he instantly gave me what I can only assume was an angered look. He then glanced up and shot me in the face with a blast of water powerful enough to make me stagger back a step or two. He glared at me a moment more, then croaked and nudged his head softly against my uninjured leg.

I understood instantly. He was annoyed with me first for recalling him when we were in danger, and for getting injured without him there to protect me. He may have thought that I might have actually died, and it would have only been my own stupidity to blame for it.

I didn't have the heart to tell him off for attacking me. Instead I crouched down and rubbed his chin gently, eliciting a small sound that sounded like a warped purr.

It made me realise something; my pokémon both cared for me, and would do anything to protect me – even if half the time Loki also wanted to try and eat me. Yet, I didn't even have the courtesy to explain everything to them. They were my only true allies in the world, and I needed to make sure I treated them with the respect they deserved.

I glanced around, making sure it was safe enough to stop for a short while. I had no idea where the Elite was, or whether or not he'd found me yet. I'd left bloody bandages in a random direction, and made sure I doubled back and went another way from any blood drops I had left behind. He had the whole forest to his advantage; every insect, no matter how big or how small, could talk to him and tell him what they knew. I couldn't afford to give him any help in finding me.

I looked at Xander, then over at Loki. They both stood motionless, waiting for me to move again, though I could tell they were both alert. They knew to be on the lookout for any bugs, and knew to try and kill it as quickly as possible. I was just thankful the trip in the stream had washed me clean of the ariados blood and the decomposition of the gyarados.

I also discovered that my bag was amazingly waterproof, and that nothing had permeated it. Then again, it was lined with leather made from water pokémons' skin, which no doubt helped it to resist water.

I tossed my bag on the floor in front of me and sat down lightly on it. Both my pokémon looked at me in interest, and I offered them a small smile. "I've got a few things to tell you," I admitted. I received no verbal response, and wasn't even sure they could completely understand me, but I had already begun to feel somewhat lighter. I took a breath and told them, "I'm from the future."

Xander croaked. Loki burst out laughing.

I scowled at them both. So they understood something of what I'd said, and just how ridiculous it truly sounded. Regardless, I couldn't hold it against either of them. If the roles were reversed, I would have laughed at someone who claimed to be from the future.

"It's true," I told them, snapping them from their disbelief. "I'm from a world eighty years from now." They both wore looks of what I assumed to be humoured disbelief, and I found myself wanting to laugh at myself for admitting it out loud. "The world I'm from is completely fucked up," I whispered, and knew my tone expressed how true it actually was. "There's a virus that plagued everyone – pokémon and human alike. It started off pretty bad: it would reduce all a person's base instincts except for the need to eat. They still needed to sleep, but they became such light sleepers that anything would wake them up. It made them always hungry, and somehow managed to increase their speed and strength.

"I think someone was probably playing around with pokémon and human genetics," I said, more to myself than the pokémon. "Most likely they managed to make the pokérus able to travel across species. But it went completely wrong, and fucked up everything and everyone. The infected went round killing everyone that was still living. There's about two-hundred and fifty thousand people left alive in my time, and I'd say at least fifty times that are alive but infected. No one lives in the towns anymore, the best anyone has are small camps manned by soldiers like me, in order to protect everyone from any infected pokémon or people." I could remember everything about it as clear as day. "But there's no such concept as humanity now. Every group of people is just out for themselves – they'll sell out anyone, kill anyone and do anything just to make sure they survive."

I looked away from my pokémon and up to the tree lines above us, thankfully seeing no silk pods. "Apparently the virus evolved in some far away region. I never heard how bad it was, but I know it was bad enough to make them blow it off the face of the earth. Sinnoh got destroyed by a volcano eruption, and Johto and Kanto damn near destroyed each other. They fought together at first, but then something changed. I think Johto wanted to keep the infected alive to see if they could cure them, but Kanto wanted to just kill them all. They argued for ages, and eventually fell into war because of it."

I looked back at my pokémon and noticed with some small sense of pride that they were hanging on my every word. "Hoenn's probably the last place still standing, if only because there's so many islands around it that stop the infected going across. But the water pokémon can still become infected. If an infected person bleeds into the seas, then there's going to be a lot of pokémon that turn.

"It's one of the many theories that went around as to why our planet fell into such a state, and it's the one I believe the most." I shuffled awkwardly on my bag and rubbed the back of my neck. "I mean, one trainer surely couldn't have made everything go so badly, could they?" I shook my head at my own question. "I know the virus spread across counties, and it's what I believe managed to bring down everything. I reckon someone was using it in underground clubs as a steroid for their pokémon, and then it broke out from there, going across people, and then over the world." I stared skywards, sighed and looked back to my pokémon. "I'm telling you this, because I want you to help me stopping it from ever happening. You might not believe me about it, but-" I looked Loki dead in the eyes, "-if we don't stop it, you're going to live through it all. There's about nine months until everything changes, supposedly." I bit my lip and thought out loud, "I'm not totally sure on why it's such a small deadline, but it comes from a celebi – supposedly. I don't know much about them, but if one tells me the events start by the end of this year, I'm going to believe it."

I looked at them both, aware it was probably the most I'd ever talked to them in one sitting. No doubt they didn't understand well over half of what I said, but I still felt better about explaining it to them. "Believe me or don't, I don't care either way," I told them. "But the fact is, I'm going to stop it from happening, and I want you guys on side to help me."

I smiled as they both made small, positive noises. My pokémon were on side for my task, it seemed. It made me feel so much more relieved than I ever thought it would have. Movement above caught my interest from the peripherals of my vision, and I found my head snap up in alarm.

I squinted, wondering just what it was I had seen, and just what was hovering above me now. I found myself staring at the black and yellow patterned wings of a beautifly, and for a moment simply considered it flying there, watching after it as it floated above us all.

Then realisation hit me like a truck.

"It's watching us," I whispered, nodding upwards for my pokémon. I glanced back at the flying bug, and for a moment caught its eyes. Even with the distance between us, I could see the same sort of dark hunger in its eyes that I'd seen in the Elite's.

"Shit!" I yelped, jumping to my feet. He'd damn well sent a pokémon to scout us out! Nowhere was safe within the damned forest!

Xander croaked and I turned to him just in time to narrowly miss a blast of water that nearly took my face off. I was about to scold him until I felt it hit something behind me, and heard a strange, screeching hiss like nails on a chalk board. I turned around...

... and found myself staring into the face of a scizor.

"Holy fuck!" I screamed, leaping backwards instinctively. It growled at me, wings beating on its back and making a buzzing sound. One thing was for certain about the creature; behind the water droplets hanging from its face, it looked furious.

I knew I wouldn't be able to shoot it – their bodies were as tough as steel. At best, I'd just manage to piss it off more. The only weak points I could think of were its wings, eyes and the inside of its mouth. I knew it was slower than the scyther it evolved from, but it was still far faster than I could ever hope to be.

"Loki, sic'im!" I screamed, backing away at the same time. I heard Loki growl moments before he leapt at the scizor in a flurry of teeth and claws. Though for all the good it did, he may as well have thrown blades of grass at it. Every attack came off uselessly, and the scizor didn't even seem to register the sableye's presence as it stalked forwards, prolonging my eventual death.

I cursed. The Elite must have made sure his pokémon weren't to kill me. No doubt since I'd managed to shoot him in the arm, he would want to see me die before his eyes. It wasn't much to look forward to, but it was something I could exploit. I wouldn't be killed until the Elite was close enough to see.

Though that didn't stop them from killing my pokémon, or maiming me enough to cripple me.

"Loki, keep distracting it!" I barked, backing away from the hulking insect. "Xander, keep blasting at it – aim for its wings and eyes!"

The scizor flailed as my pokémon worked as a team. Loki managed to keep distracting it with small little digs here and there – more often than not going for its eyes. Every time the bug turned around, Xander would attack it with all the force he could muster. Even still, I could see they weren't actually managing to damage the creature – more annoy it. It flailed its pincers manically, arcing them through the air with deadly, clubbed precision. Once or twice Loki nearly had his skull imprinted into the ground, though every time he just managed to find a shadow to hide and escape in.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the same ability. When Loki vanished from view, the scizor carried on with its strike regardless. It met the top of my left arm with deadly force, and I cried out as I was sent sprawling into the grass some distance away. I rolled over, grunting in pain as I reached up and tested my arm gently. It hurt like hell to touch, but nothing felt broke. My luck was that instead of a broken arm, I was going to have a bruise the entire length of it.

I looked up for a moment and noted with grim realisation that the beautifly had vanished. No doubt to go and report to the Elite. I grunted as I rolled back over and pressed my hands to the floor, pushing myself up as painfully as I could. I could still hear my pokémon battling, and knew that I couldn't just leave them to deal with the murderous scizor.

By some miracle, they were still managing to keep it on its toes. None of them seemed to be injured, though I could tell my pokémon were sagging. I didn't know what could be done to defeat it. In fact, I realised there was nothing I could do to defeat it. I could have got close to pry open some of its carapace with my knife, but that would have left me completely exposed. I needed to distract it long enough to run.

Then I remembered Loki's training drills. He could confuse the scizor, and hopefully that would be enough for it to attack something other than us! "Loki!" I cried out, already reaching into my bag for an object I distinctly remembered discovering in there once before. "When you get the chance, confuse it! Until then, keep distracting it!"

I heard him hiss, and assumed it was a confirmation. I continued to search in vain for my prize. I knew there was a weapon good enough in my bag! I remembered being amazed that there was a baseball bat in my bag, it had to be good enough!

I pulled it out with eagerness and glanced at it a moment. Aluminium. I cursed. No good. It would just crumple on impact. But I only needed to distract the scizor long enough for Loki to confuse it.

Xander croaked in alarm, and I noticed he managed to spray a few bubbles at the scizor. They popped in its eyes, making it scream in pain as it jumped backwards, pincers flailing in every direction. I crept closer towards it, bat ready to be swung. It turned its back to me, and I swung as hard as I could.

But the bug whirled on me with blinding speed and caught it instantly! I managed to offer the creature a sheepish smile, and all I got was its beady yellow eyes narrow on me in unrivalled anger. "Loki, now!" I screamed, even as the bug lifted up the bat and me, and threw me over its shoulder without any effort.

My back hit the trunk of a tree, hard. Meanwhile the scizor lifted the bat above its head and snapped it in to with a pinch of its claws. Its bravado earned Loki enough time to attack, and he leapt into the bug's face, cackling manically as the strange, eerie light flashed from his eyes and into the scizor's. It screeched in alarm as Loki jumped away, and began to start attacking unseen opponents.

I had to take my chance! I snatched up Xander's poké ball and recalled him in a flash, running as fast as I could away from the beast. Loki kept up with me all the while, and I remembering wondering just whether I was having a good effect on him or not as we raced through the forest, trying in vain to survive for a few more minutes.

Everything was a mess. I was meant to have been out of the woods at least a few days before, and would have been if I didn't stop to train my pokémon. On the other hand, if I hadn't, I probably wouldn't have survived the continual near-death situations. I couldn't say for sure either way, and knew I just had to make best of the situation I was in.

"The insects are after us," I whispered to Loki. He looked at me like I was mad, and I elaborated, "The Elite can make any insect in the forest bend to his will. We've got to escape, yet at the same time, we've got to make sure he can't do this to anyone else." I glanced around, taking note of the sparser amount of trees and increase in amount of strange flowers and bushes. "We need somewhere to hide for a bit."

He looked up at me a moment and then at our surroundings. I knew his eyesight was far greater than mine, and just hoped he knew and understood what the concept of hiding was. He suddenly let out a series of grunts, excitedly pointing towards the west. I looked at him, then to the west, but couldn't make out what he was pointing to. I weighed up my options and realised my best chances of surviving were just to follow him. I nodded and let him lead me.

He made me follow him through a series of large growths of plants I'd never managed to see before. They were all hues of colours, and I wondered just where they came from. They didn't seem to be native to Hoenn, and I knew they couldn't have grown naturally within the forest without any help.

Loki made a series of excited noises and pointed to a log cabin situated in the middle of a small clearing. The trees circled the house, giving it a natural border, and a series of the strange, foreign flowers framed a small pathway that lead up to the cabin's door.

I considered it a moment. On the one hand, it could belong to a complete stranger who lived within the woods, and wouldn't appreciate me barging into their home. On the other, it could be the home of the strange Elite stalking me, and it would mean walking into near-certain death.

It was a risk I had to take. If it was his place, I could lay a trap for him. I raced forwards and hammered on the door a number of times. I heard a small amount of shuffling within, and gathered that there was someone inside.

I screamed that I was coming in moments before I barged into the room and no doubt alarmed whoever lived within. Panting for breath, I slammed the door behind me and leant my back against it, breathing shallow and fast.

"I-I'm sorry," I panted, aware I hadn't seen the owner of the cabin. Beside me Loki chattered, scouring around the room. "I'm being hunted by someone. H-he's been killing travellers in the forest."

I heard more shuffling, and was amazed by the figure that stood in the doorway opposite me. It was almost a metre and a half tall, and covered in dark brown skin. There was a lighter brown mask that framed its eyes, and a long nose stuck out from beneath them. A small leaf grew from its head, and its hands and feet were both long and clawed. Strangely, it had thin, wispy white fur beginning to grow from its chest and head both, and its eyes were a bright, haunting yellow, with dark-set black eyes. Small bladed leaves were growing from its knuckles, and it rasped a few incomprehensible syllables at me.

I stared at it. It looked like a mixture of a nuzleaf and shiftry both. It meant it had to be extremely old, or in the presence of a leaf stone, as it looked like it was halfway between forms. It had to have a trainer, I theorised. No pokémon could have built a cabin in the middle of the woods and occupy it on its own.

I looked at it a moment. "Do you have a trainer?" I asked, moving away slightly from the door. The pokémon looked at me with its distrusting yellow eyes, and I saw Loki shuffle closer to it, sniffing the air around it experimentally. "I need some help," I explained, hoping in some way the pokémon could understand me. "I'm being hunted. Do you have a trainer?" I repeated. A moment's panic flared through me, and I prayed in every way I could think of that my train of thought was horribly wrong. "You don't happen to know a human with green hair, do you?"

It looked at me, beady eyes narrowing on me. Maybe it understood, maybe it didn't. But I could tell that it didn't, in any way, shape or form trust me.

At least, I thought as much until it grunted at me. I wondered what it meant for a moment, until it nodded to a small wooden table I hadn't seen before. It seemed to be made from old wood, and was flayed in various places from use. There was a table near it large enough to fit four people, and I knew the cabin had to be someone's home. It nodded once more to the table, pointing at a small wooden stall.

Loki understood immediately. He leapt up happily onto a stall, jumping like an excited child eagerly awaiting a treat. I sat down with a much more reserved state of mind. I didn't trust the pokémon, and wondered just why it was offering me a seat. Was it a trap? Was it just making sure I was comfortable? Was it merely acting as a good host as it's trainer had taught it? I thought a great number of questions as I sat down, wary of what may happen.

It grunted a few more syllables to me, regardless of my lack of understanding towards it. I saw it move away, out of the room, and heard a variety of noises that sounded like glasses clacking and fluid being poured into cups.

Was it making us a drink? Just who trained their pokémon to act as a host and pour drinks in their absence?

It grunted a syllable or two more as it returned into the room, carrying two steaming clay mugs of a strange liquid. It placed them down before us, and sat down opposite, strange yellow eyes fixed on us both.

I stared at it in interest, slightly unnerved by the fact it was staring at us both. I grabbed the steaming mug it had offered us, and felt my stomach knot in tight anticipation at the amount of light that flared within its eyes.

I placed my hand over Loki's cup before he could drink it. Granted he was still struggling to work out how to pick it up properly, but I didn't want to risk him being able to drink anything from it.

Instead I lifted my own cup up and sniffed at it warily. It smelt like... herbs... mint and... almonds?

Arsenic!

"Holy shit!" I exclaimed, and threw the mug across the room. "You're trying to poison us?" I accused it, staring it straight in its shocked, angry yellow eyes.

It hissed something that made Loki leap on the table, ears pressed flat against his skull in anger. He hissed back at the creature, and I knew something was going to kick off.

The thing had tried to poison us.

It had to be working with the Elite.

I needed to make sure it couldn't hurt anyone, or anyone else if it already had.

"Get it," I whispered to Loki.

He attacked immediately. I barely caught his movement as he kicked his own cup of poisoned herbal tea at the creature, effectively blinding it and scalding its face in one movement. It reared back, crying out in alarm as it pressed both leafy hands into its face. As quickly as Loki could try to attack it, it reared back and smacked him effortlessly into a nearby wall. The nuzleaf hissed and growled moments before it vanished into the very air itself. I only just managed to leap backwards as I felt a gust of wind breeze past me, and found the creature's fist where my gut had been moments before.

Loki hissed and leapt at it again, slashing wildly at the back of its head. The creature whirled round and punched him in the face even as its other hand grabbed one of the wooden stools in a telekinetic grip. It reared up with a golden lit and smacked into Loki's side, and I couldn't help but wince at the cracking sound of the stool.

Loki was horribly outclassed. I knew that much. If he carried on this fight fairly, we'd both be dead in no time flat. And the sounds would alert the Elite to my position.

"Get it's nose!" I hissed at Loki. I knew nuzleaf were weakened considerably if their noses were damaged, and it hurt them that badly it would wreck their concentration to attack.

Loki pulled himself up, shaking in pain and anger both. He snarled at the nuzleaf and got its attention just before he leapt at its face, hissing and screeching all the while. I saw brown flesh and thick red blood fly everywhere as Loki shredded into the pokémon's face, gripping fistfuls of white hair and ripping it out even as he raked its nose with his bottom claws.

I watched it with some awe. Loki was obeying my commands perfectly, and I was amazed at how vicious he could be when he wanted to. The nuzleaf couldn't even manage to pull off a counterattack, even as it fell over backwards with Loki still attached to its face.

The pokémon was still strong, and I wasn't sure how long it would take to bring it down. I needed to make sure it couldn't harm anyone else in the forest.

Though I realised then, there was another way to make sure it couldn't harm anyone.

"Loki, don't kill it!" I ordered, even as I dove into my pack. He looked at me briefly, and I just caught sight of the nuzleaf's bloody and raked face. Somehow the ghost had managed to miss damaging either of its eyes, and I knew that the creature would be able to survive. He caught sight of the poké ball in my hand and seemed to understand instantly. He reared back and poked his fingers into the nuzleaf's eyes, making it scream in pain at the sudden blindness.

I gripped the poké ball in my hand, and knew I wouldn't be able to aim perfectly by a throw. I raced towards it and slammed the ball onto its nose, taking satisfaction in the screech I gained from it moments before it warped into bright red energy.

Loki fell to the floor as the ball rattled in my hands with enough force to make me drop it. It cluttered to the floor, and I found my breath catch as it shook more viciously then any I'd ever seen before.

And suddenly, it stopped.

I stared at it a moment, completely in awe of what had happened. Loki looked between me and the ball, a wide grin on his face. He picked it up and handed it to me, giving me a look that clearly read 'did I do good?'

I smiled at him, thanked and congratulated him, promising to give him a treat later. I placed the ball onto my bandolier and looked around the room. With the nuzleaf in a poké ball, I knew it would be relatively safe to explore the house. I nodded for Loki to follow me, in the hopes that we could find something to deal with the Elite hunting us down. No doubt he'd heard all the commotion and would soon be on our tail. I needed something to put him down for good, and something that wouldn't mean I would have to ruin a surprise attack.

I made way further into the cabin. It seemed to be made of only four rooms; the main one the fight broke out in, a small bathroom, a room that seemed to have been used as a living room and kitchen both, and a small bedroom facing a large growth of flowers underneath

I was just about to return and give up when Loki jumped up and pointed towards the rug adorning the floor. I looked at him with a raised brow before he gave up trying to convince me and simply pulled the rug backwards.

I stared. There was a trap door hidden beneath it!

It was such a cliché plot of a horror movie. I stared at it, wondering what sorts of horrors could await me beneath. My minded flooded me with horrible images of people hidden below there, crying out and starving for food, all victims of the nuzleaf's attacks.

The fact that I'd caught it meant it didn't have a trainer. For the first time I truly started to believe it was actually a wild pokémon, and was merely killing people of its own regard. If it was doing that, I started to wonder just what had actually happened to the owner of the cabin.

I had to find out what was beneath the cabin. I pulled my gun free and fished in my pack for my torch, and clicked it on, hiding the light with the hand holding my gun. "Open it," I whispered to Loki, and nodded towards the trap door.

He looked at me once and then back to the door, and with eager interest pulled it open.

Instantly I smelt formaldehyde and death.

The smell seemed to excite Loki, and I made sure to point out to him he wasn't to go crazy down there. He nodded, albeit reluctantly, and took a few steps down the old stone stairs. I briefly wondered why there were stone stairs underneath a wooden cabin, though realised it was probably built over something used a long time ago for whatever reason.

I took a few steps into the cellar, gun primed and ready, and wondered just whether or not it was a wise to keep the nuzleaf alive. I saw multiple people down there, all with the same shocked expression, all with the very same glazed over eyes.

It was a collection of corpses.

There had to be at least thirty of them down there, each and every one not much older than me. There wasn't any discrimination between race or gender, it was only that they were human. I saw multiple broken and rusted poké balls down there, and realised that they'd probably been killed too.

I'd captured a mass murderer.

I shined my light around the dingy basement and felt my breath catch at the sheer volumes it spoke about my newest pokémon. I found someone hunched in the corner, wearing the remains of clothes that had to be well over a hundred years old by that time. He had to have been the original owner of the cabin.

I knew nuzleaf couldn't live anywhere near that long. Someone had to have killed him long ago, and taken over the cabin as their own. They had to have captured the nuzleaf and trained it to carry on their legacy. Maybe the nuzleaf even betrayed them and turned them into one of the sick statues beneath the cabin.

And yet, despite all the horrors, I found a few ideas blossoming in my brain. I lifted the torch up to glance around the horrors, looking for some sort of light switch within. I found one after a moment's search and flicked it on, basking us in amber light.

And screamed as I found another corpse dangling from the wooden beams above. Unlike the others, this one seemed to have been flayed at some point. It was like a waxwork exhibit, where the flesh beneath the skin had been displayed as some sick sort of art work.

I breathed a shaky, panicked breath and turned to Loki. He looked up at me with wide, curious eyes, no doubt concerned about everything he saw down in the basement. His face seemed to say just what I was thinking; 'should you have caught it?'

I looked around once more. Sure the nuzleaf was a mass-murderer, but at the same time, I knew it was a creature of darkness. They weren't above murdering anything or anyone, and I knew on some, perhaps twisted level, that I held respect for it's knowledge of how to use poisons to kill people.

Maybe it was a murderer, but it was intelligent. I knew I could use that intelligence somehow. I knew I wasn't exactly the most guilt-free trainer out there, and knew I should have been thrown in prison for my crimes in this world and my own.

So what more could owning a serial killer of a pokémon hurt?

I released Xander and let him adjust to the horrific settings for a moment. After I managed to explain things to him, he looked at me in surprise and confusion both, though gave me a slow, confident nod. They'd help me subdue and try to control our new somewhat dangerous ally.

I knew I probably didn't have much time before the Elite found us, but was confident that in the basement, our scents would be hidden beneath the formaldehyde. I grabbed my pokédex and decided that I should find out as much about the creature as I could. I scanned the nuzleaf's poké ball, and made sense of all the information I could.

The first thing it told me was what I already knew; the nuzleaf was still in almost perfect health. After all that fighting, it seemed that Loki truly had done next to nothing to it. I put the thought away and took confidence in the fact that I could always shoot the pokémon if the worst came to the worst.

The second was that the nuzleaf was older than I had first thought. Apparently it was almost twelve years old. I cursed at the thought. I knew I was making progress with Loki if only because of his young age. It was common knowledge that the older a pokémon got, the tougher it was to train. And to add insult to injury, my new homicidal pokémon just happened to be old, and dark in nature.

I finally pulled up the information that it was a female. I stared at it a moment, and then thought back to the pokémon. I was certain human female serial killers were rare enough, yet alone one that was a pokémon. At least it gave me some variety in my team.

Though I do remember worrying, at the time, if female pokémon also went through an equivalent of the time of the month. I shuddered, and tried not to think about it.

I pushed the thoughts away and enlarged her poké ball. I stared at it a moment, considering whether or not it was a good idea to release her in her basement of horrors, before I decided to throw caution to the wind. The poké ball exploded in a flash of light and a blast of noise, and I knew then that the Elite had to have heard that.

The nuzleaf appeared between us, sweeping her harsh yellow eyes over all of us. I knew she was stronger than all of us, and she knew it too. I caught the briefest flash of menace in her eyes and recalled her as quickly as I could. Xander and Loki both looked at me in surprise, though I winked at them both. I had a plan.

I released her once more, and noticed that this time she took a moment to analyse us all, biding her time for her attack.

I wasn't going to let her have that chance.

"I know you can understand me," I told her, confident my plan would work. I made sure to keep my gun trained on her chest regardless, certain I could clip her shoulder before she attacked. "And I know you're not happy about being a trainer pokémon. Maybe your last trainer ended up here," I said, gesturing with a free hand to her workshop of horrors.

"But I don't plan to end up like them," I told her darkly. "I'm your trainer now, and you've got two options: you can either work with me, or you can work for me."

I saw her eyes narrow in offence, and placed a smug grin on my face as I held up her poké ball. "There's a security mechanism on these," I bluffed to her, hoping she wouldn't have some inside knowledge to the contrary. "Since it's registered to you, your brain waves are linked to the ball. There's a switch that I can press if you ever put me into grave danger. One flick of a button, and it will kill you instantly." Her eyes widened in alarm, though nothing else about her moved. I fought the urge to smirk. She'd bought the story.

"Even if you manage to kill me, it will know. Kill me, and you'll just kill yourself too." She dropped her arms to her side and looked defeated. I knew I'd won. I placed my gun away and instead held up the poké ball as a constant source of a threat. To me, it felt anything but safe, but I knew that somehow she'd started to find the poké ball more threatening.

I pulled a few healing items from my bag and approached her slowly. "I'm going to heal all the wounds on your face," I explained to her. "It's going to sting a little, but it will make them heal faster than they would naturally." She watched me a moment, then nodded slowly. I made my way towards her and spread the salve over one hand, and began to rub it into her face as gently as I could.

I caught her wince beneath me, and saw from the corner of my eye both Xander and Loki tense and prepare to attack. When the nuzleaf didn't move anymore, and instead relaxed, they both stopped their planned assault. All the while the nuzleaf continued to watch me with hate in her eyes. I knew she didn't want to be a trainer pokémon, and knew that she didn't appreciate being blackmailed into it.

Yet, I was confident I could provide her with something no other trainer could.

"I'm sure you know about trainers," I said to her as I took a step back. She looked at me with a cool expression, and the wisps of white hair danced with the small movements of her face. "I'm not like them," I explained to her. "You can ask Loki if you like," I told her, gesturing to the sableye. "I'm not going to stop you killing," I said, and saw her eyes light up in surprise. "But I'm not going to let you do it all the time. As long as you don't kill anything I tell you not to, and you don't go around killing everything and anything, I'll turn a blind eye to it."

I didn't know the creature at all, but even then I could tell her face clearly said 'oh really?'

I nodded and looked her dead in the eyes. "I'll prove my point to you," I explained to her, and nodded upwards, towards the cabin. "There's a trainer stalking me through these woods – the one with green hair I told you about. He's been killing travellers and feeding on them, as well as feeding them to his bugs." I smirked at the piece of information I knew would sway her. Pokémon like nuzleaf, which had attributes of grass pokémon, as well as those of darkness had horrible weaknesses to bugs. I knew it was because insects could destroy the chlorophyll that made up the cells of grass pokémon, though could never really attest why pokémon of darkness were weak to it.

It didn't matter much, seeing as it fell in my favour.

"He's an insect specialist," I told her, and noticed her eyes darken. "He's adapted to bug pokémon, and can command them to do his every will. He's using them to pick off people and pokémon both in the forest. I want you to kill him," I said darkly.

She looked at me with what I realised was interest. She seemed torn between wanting to complete it, and being offended that I was ordering her to do it.

But I knew if she truly had a great knowledge of poisons as I thought she did, she'd like my idea. I folded my arms and met her eyes. "I don't want you to use arsenic again. I want to know: do you have any caladium plants growing here?"

The look in her eyes told me everything I needed to know. It was a mixture of respect and intrigue, and I knew I'd found my way to ensure the Elite didn't kill anyone else, and assert some control over the nuzleaf.

Some necessary evils were much more illegal than others.

I found myself hiding in the small bathroom. The bleaches hidden within masked my scent once I'd poured them in the bath and the toilet. I knew it would probably leave me with a headache, though knew it was a small sacrifice to make.

I didn't have either of my pokémon with me, and knew that neither of them would be able to keep as still as I. Xander didn't seem to like my plan, though seemed to understand my reasons behind it. I think he decided that it could have been dealt with more humanely, but understood that collectively, we were too weak to be able to do the deed any other way.

Loki however just seemed to be eager and excited towards the plan, and I wondered whether it was merely through thoughts of revenge, or just of killing someone.

I couldn't risk either of them out with me. I knew I could easily defend myself in such close quarters if need be, and that anything that happened outside would alert me to what I should do.

I knew if something went wrong, and the nuzleaf died, I could quickly escape out the window. As harsh as it was, I knew that I had no bond with the nuzleaf, and her death wouldn't have meant anything to me.

My breathing stopped as I heard the door to the cabin crash open. I heard my nuzleaf grumble something at the noise, and heard her shuffle around as if nothing were out of the ordinary.

I had to hand it to her: she was a fantastic actor.

I pressed myself as close as I could to the door, trying to catch anything from the conversations I could. I heard the Elite walk in and begin interrogating the nuzleaf, questioning it on my whereabouts. I heard her make a series of replies, though couldn't understand their meaning. It made me realise the biggest flaw in my plan; she could betray me, and I'd never know. Though I was confident my bluff convinced her she couldn't kill me without dying herself, and took comfort in the thought.

I heard the Elite hiss a few curses, and realised she must have made it clear she hadn't seen me or my pokémon. I recognised a few of her tones as those she'd used earlier on me and Loki, and realised she was getting him to sit down at the table. I heard him agree and go along with it, and laugh out loud that it would make a change for him to have something to drink that wasn't blood or decomposing bodily parts.

I winced and fought the urge to be sick at the thought.

Instead I focused on hearing what the nuzleaf was doing outside. I heard the familiar clicks of clay mugs, and heard water boiling and being poured into the cups. It took a moment more for me to hear her walk back into the room, and another for me to hear the man greet her with a happy cheer. He chatted away to her, asking her about whether she had a trainer or not, and other such nonsensical questions.

I heard something being slurped, and realised it was the nuzleaf, as he continued talking. I smiled to myself. I'd explained to her that she was too obvious before; she needed to have a drink of her own and drink it, and also not focus as much on her victims when they drunk the laced drinks. It made her plans too palpable; I was confident with my advice she would succeed in convincing someone she meant them no harm.

I heard the man stop talking for a moment, and felt my heart soar in confidence. Was it wrong I took such pleasure in the thoughts of his death? Probably. But he had hunted me and my pokémon through the forest, and tried to make sure my death was slow and painful because I'd tried to defend myself. I knew I was a great many things, and knew I wasn't above revenge.

I heard a clay mug shatter, and something crash in the opposite room. I waited a moment more and heard a soft knock at the door. It was my cue. I cracked it open a notch and found the nuzleaf staring at me with grim pleasure and respect in her yellow eyes. I nodded and followed her into the room, where I leant against the doorframe and stared at the Elite.

He convulsed on the floor, clutching at his neck and scraping at his tongue in fear.

"Caladium," I said aloud, and caught his attention. His eyes snapped to me, and I caught the briefest flash of fear and acknowledgement in them. He continued to struggle, though kept his gaze on me as if to make me feel bad for what I was doing to him.

It didn't affect me. I'd looked people dead in the face before I'd blown their brains out. I played them all over every night in my dreams, and he would only be the latest in a long line.

I folded my arms and matched his gaze. "Known as elephant ear," I continued to explain. "Every part of it is poisonous, and can lead to pain, irritation and tissues swelling. It's only non-fatal if you don't ingest it. If you do however, it will make your tongue, mouth and throat all swell up, and your breathing will be blocked."

I stared at him with a bitter smile, and saw the nuzleaf lean against the opposite side of the doorframe. As sick as it was, I was impressed by her cold demeanour in such a situation, and her ability to make it seem like she was a close pokémon of mine.

"It takes about four minutes for the brain to die from oxygen deprivation," I told him, and saw the fear double in his eyes. He knew he was going to die, and knew it was going to take at least a few minutes more. "I couldn't let you carry on killing people. I told you someone would stop you," I said with a grim note of humour. "But it just so happens it's me. I would have made it quick," I admitted with a dramatic shrug. "But you never did for your victims, did you? You made wurmple bind them in silky cocoons, and most likely had them stung so they would be poisoned and have to suffocate, all at once.

"That I could have overlooked," I divulged. "But you hunted down me and my pokémon, and tried to prolong our deaths because I'd fought back." My eyes glanced over at his wounded arm, and I saw that he hadn't attempted in the slightest to treat it. I met his eyes again and saw the unbridled anger they contained.

"You taunted me whilst an ariados salivated over me, chased me through the forest, and then got your scizor to try and injure me enough to stop me fleeing." I walked towards him and crouched down beside his face, still meeting his gaze. "You've gotten exactly what you deserved."

His eyes began to water, and his lips began to turn blue. It would be only a few seconds more, and I knew he wouldn't be with the living anymore. I saw the anger from his eyes fade, like I knew it would, and instead was replaced with a pleading, desperate look. Like everyone who was about to die, there was a flash of fear towards it, and a silent plea to let them live just a little while longer.

I placed a hand on his convulsing shoulder, and offered him all the peace I could. "But I forgive you."

And the light left his eyes.

I stared a moment more at him. The smell of fresh shit and piss reached my nose, and I backed away from him. It was the unsavoury aspect of death; whenever anything died, all of its bowels were loosed. No matter how different people were in life, they were always the same in death.

I pressed my fingers to his eyelids and closed them shut gently. I stood and turned to the nuzleaf, offering her a small nod.

"We should move him," I told her. "He needs to be found, and people don't need to see your basement of horrors." She looked at me, bewildered, and I offered her a small smile. "He was a member of the Elite Four. People look up to them, people looked up to him enough to trust him to try to find out what was really happening in the forest. They looked up to him as a hero, and they need that image maintained." I met her eyes with a deathly serious look. "People can't know what he really got up to in here. If they find out the people they look to for protection go around killing them in secret, there'll be massive uproar."

She looked at me with a curious expression. I wasn't sure how much of it she understood until she nodded. She walked up behind him and grabbed the bottoms of his legs, and I followed her lead and picked him up by the shoulders after I checked his wallet and pulled a few bills free. It wasn't like he was going to use them after all. We carried him to a small clearing where there were multiple caladium plants growing all around. If anything, it would look like a tragic accident had befallen him; that in his hunger he'd managed to eat a plant that shouldn't have been native to Hoenn anyway. I briefly debated letting free his pokémon, then realised they would most likely try to attack me on sight with their trainer dead. It was safer to leave them all hidden within their balls, and risk the fact that one or two may still have been out of them.

It was how it needed to be. I couldn't risk people being killed, and I couldn't risk people revolting against their governments because of things they shouldn't know. I didn't know if they would find out the real reasons or not, but was pleased that I'd somehow managed to maintain some good out of it all.

I looked to my nuzleaf and placed a hand on her shoulder. She flinched at first, though seemed to relax into the touch moments later. I followed her line of sight and found her staring at the cabin she once lived in. It was her home, and she knew she'd be leaving it for the foreseeable future, if not forever. I let her have a moment to contemplate it before I softly squeezed her shoulder.

"You know the way out of these woods?" I asked her as gently as I could. She looked at me with what I can only believe was bemusement before she nodded and began walking towards the south.

I saw the woods opening up around us as I followed her, and felt the weight of everything that happened in the forest fall onto my already heavy shoulders. He would become just another face in a cloud of dreams, and just another memory that I would be forced to relieve.

I looked to my new pokémon and considered us both. We were both killers and obviously had no problems taking a life. I wondered then how bad things were that it came to creatures like us to save the world from certain destruction.

Murderers tasked with the fate of the world. That can't have been the celebi's original intention. It wanted to create the perfect world.

Pity there was no such thing.

 
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