DISCLAIMER: pokemon and all of its trademarked products and characters are owned by Nintendo, Game Freak and their affiliates, not me. If they were owned by me, I’d be filthy rich, and certainly wouldn’t have to resort to doing all the house work for the occasional FullMetal Alchemist or Kenshin DVD. (I know I really should save my money, but dammit, anime is so addictive!)
Bleed Like Me.
“I will take the gag off, on one condition. Do not scream. The moment you do, the gag will go back on, and you will travel to Indigo in a suitcase. A rather large suitcase,” he added, taking into account the fifty-or-so kilos of maddened, bound and gagged red-head stretched out in front of him.
Misty said nothing, sending him a look that should’ve left his charred and smoking shadow on the wall opposite.
“Once again, do not scream.”
The Travellers Lodge they were in had only thin walls, and Ash knew that the sound would carry, bringing with it unnecessary distractions.
True, they would provide a meal for a hungry, and therefore irritable, Pikachu, but he would be hard-pressed to maintain the fragile hold he had on his hunger if he watched the pokemon feed.
Carefully, and mindfully of the fact that she might try to bite him, he removed the gag.
Misty took a deep breath, and instantly his hand clapped over her mouth, forcing it closed.
“Not. One. Sound. Understood?”
The girl nodded.
He removed his hand.
For a moment, there was silence, before he spoke.
“Good. It seems that y-”
“You bastard! I hope you burn in- mmph!”
Again, Ash’s hand clapped over her mouth.
“I did warn you.” Ash sighed. “Pikachu, get me-”
The frantic muffled cries from the girl indicated that she had no wish to travel in a suitcase, no matter how large it was, and was re-considering his offer.
Pikachu eyed the pair curiously, as Ash removed his hand again.
Misty was silent, mindful of the fact that Ash –or at least the bastard in front of her- would probably make good on his threat.
“Good. I will not, however, untie you. To do so would be idiocy.”
Misty’s eyes narrowed. This definitely wasn’t Ash. For one thing, the Ketchum boy had a sense of morality and chivalry. This ass-hole wouldn’t know chivalry if it pushed him into a puddle. And Ash certainly wasn’t one to think things through, which is what had led them to the damn tunnel in the first place. This guy, on the other hand, looked as though thinking was his number-one, all time favourite hobby.
Aside from killing people of course.
Hesitantly, the girl spoke, voice low, words quick in case he tried to gag her again.
“If you’re not Ash, then who-” she cut herself off, expecting the gag, and closing her eyes tight.
“Am I? You are not the first to ask that, although I have to say you are the first in many years who did not die before the end of that sentence.”
Misty opened her eyes, noting that he had moved and perched on the edge of the only couch in the room. She remained stretched out on the table, but he had flopped onto the couch with an easy, muscular grace; the grace one would associate with a large, feral Persian.
“Well?” she asked, impatient, her eyes scanning the room for Marill. What had the bastard done with her-
“Marill is fine, and currently being entertained by Pikachu.”
She turned her head –about the only movement she could make- and saw that her Marill was sleeping peacefully, Pikachu curled up on the floor near her, but a watchful eye still on her pokemon.
“And as for your question, I do not have a name as such; no one has called me by anything other than a description for some years now. You may continue to call me Ash, if you prefer.” He added, forestalling her next question.
She turned her head back to him, anger mingled with the terror in her eyes.
“What do you want with me?”
Ash smiled, but there was nothing pleasant about it.
“Who said I wanted you? I was told to... acquire you, and that is what I have done. My... employer... will be very pleased.”
“What does he want with me?” she asked, unable to keep the angry, impatient tone out of her voice.
“She wants to sacrifice you to her gods, cutting you open and letting you bleed to death on her altar, and then tossing your remains to her followers, so that they can gorge themselves on your entrails.”
Misty fell silent.
“If you think this is a sick, twisted joke, manoeuvred by your good friend Brock, think again. You know what I am. As you have no doubt judged by my actions, I am intent on taking you to my employer, handing you over to her, and watching the resulting blood-bath.”
This was not entirely true; he had no intention whatsoever of letting her die, but it was better that she fear him.
Misty was still silent, and although her gaze was bright with anger, her normally milky complexion had turned ashen-grey.
Finally she spoke.
“You’re not Ash Ketchum. He’d never do something like that.”
The man in front of her smiled lazily.
It was only a while later that she realised he hadn’t specified which statement he was agreeing with.
Misty was getting edgy.
They had spent some time in this Traveller’s Lodge –whether in hours or minutes, she couldn’t tell- and so far, nothing had happened. No one had come in, and tried to save her from the fact she was trussed up like a Christmas-Pidgey, but then no-one had come in and tried to eat her either.
carried her some distance from the tunnel; she supposed they must be heading
After all, the whole forest was dotted with these small houses, all equipped with furniture, clean water and various other things to ensure trainers had someplace safe to care for their pokemon, even if the whole forest was overrun with bandits.
Still, none of them had bothered to attack her, carried as she was on Ash’s shoulder.
She supposed that bandits, while blood-thirsty, evil and having the same morals as a snake-pokemon, knew better than to attack a feeder.
And now, here they were. She was still on the table, Marill was still unconscious, and Ash appeared to be... asleep...
If I’m lucky, he’ll stay like that. Maybe I can try to...
She began to wriggle, and eventually managed to roll herself to the edge of the table. She teetered on the edge for a moment before gravity took over and she fell off the table with a heavy thump.
Ash opened one eye.
“There is nothing you can do on the floor that you could not have done on the table. I am of a mind to leave you there, although I do realise you will probably continue to stare at me until I lift you back onto the table again.”
He sat up, bent down to her level and lifted her up.
With one hand, and no apparent amount of effort either.
Misty landed back on the table with a thump, wondering how in the name of everything holy he had been able to lift her so very, very easily.
Misty knew she was petite; but she was no feather-pillow either.
She figured she had to way some twenty or so kilos less than he did, and so, there was no possible way he could have lifted a dead weight that weighed more than half of his total mass.
Nonetheless, he had done so.
As though he was reading her thoughts, Ash spoke.
“I can lift you so easily because I am not human. Because of what I am, my physical structure, strength and stamina vary to yours greatly. I can do many things that you cannot.”
He laid himself back down again, adjusting his black clothing around him, and flipping the collar of his coat upwards so that his face was partially obscured and shaded.
In spite of the situation she was in, Misty felt curiosity.
When she next spoke, she knew her voice held the curious inflection of a child, but didn’t care.
“What do you mean? How can you do things I can’t? Sure, you’re stronger but...” she let her voice trail off hopefully, hoping he’d give her some clue as to his strengths and –if she was lucky- his weaknesses.
Who knows? Maybe there’s something he can’t do that I can! And if I know what it is, I might be able to use it against him, or any of the other ones I come across...
She was unable to keep the momentary flash of anger off her face, and Pikachu –who had been watching her, amused, for quite some time now- hissed a warning in Pikanese.
“Give me some credit, Misty. I am not a fool. I dare say that Ash Ketchum would have easily fallen for such a trick –obvious as it was- but I will not. Now be quiet, I am tired. We have a long trip ahead of us, and since we will be travelling at nightfall, I suggest you get some rest. I do not wish to hand a tired hors d’ouvers to my mistress now, do I?”
“What if I keep talking? If I start screaming again, someone might hear me and then-”
“I will let them come here, and Pikachu will have them for dinner.”
Pikachu grinned, white teeth flashing in dirty fur.
He lowered the collar, and rolled his head towards her.
“Do not think to bother me with your incessant chatter. If you continue to bother me, I will gag you again. I removed the gag so that you could breathe easier, not talk. Pikachu,” he added, his last comment not directed at her, “wake me in four hours. The sun will have set by then.”
It was a three-day walk to Viridian from Viridian forest, and from there an even longer trip to Indigo. At least, it was for a travelling human. She had no doubt that he would travel faster.
She swallowed, the sudden anger which had taken hold of her so recently washing out, leaving her empty.
Her remaining life-span could be counted in terms of days.
She hovered for a moment on the edge of despair before something nudged her back to sanity.
That hard, steel core of her –the part of her that wished for nothing more than his head on a platter of some kind- wouldn’t let her give up.
He’ll have weaknesses. Find them, exploit them, and escape. You’re not done yet.
Her reassuring internal voice still whispering in her ears, Misty drifted off into an uneasy, jumpy sleep.
Pikachu continued to watch her, aware for tricks of any kind, but it soon appeared that she, like his trainer, was merely sleeping.
The forest was ominous and gloomy during the day, but in the twilight hours, it was something out of a horror film.
Imaginary spectres flitted from violet shadow to violet shadow.
The wind whispered through leaves, singing funeral dirges in shrieks and moans.
The background chatter of wild pokemon cut off also, leaving any wary travellers alone in a world of haunting silence, broken only by the soft footfall of other travellers, and the unrelenting wind.
It was so eerie it set Misty’s teeth on edge.
Positioned where she was –once again, slung over Ash’s shoulder- she could only see behind them, and watch the approaching darkness as the sun sank even further into the ground.
Ash seemed unperturbed by her weight, his footsteps faster and of greater range than any human could hope to achieve.
Abruptly, he stopped, head snapping to his left. Misty was still, wondering what the hell was going on, but Ash didn’t seem ready to enlighten her.
He ignored her, silencing her with a look. Stealthily, he bent down and laid her on the ground.
“Hush,” he whispered, still bent over her, but eyes searching, searching. “Do not make a sound.”
He stood again, and the small bundle of Marill –who was still, worryingly, unconscious- was laid at Misty’s feet by an alert Pikachu.
Ash stood, eyes closed, and for a moment, was stiller than a statue.
“Pikachu,” he murmured, eyes still closed, and lips barely moving, “Can you feel that?”
The small pokemon nodded, dark eyes gleaming with some internal light as his head swivelled unerringly to a small patch of forest, which to Misty, looked no different to the rest.
“Pika...” he whispered, and slinking close to the ground, edged slowly towards the shrubs, obscured by the short grass –which was still long enough to cover the small electric pokemon- and moving so slowly not a ripple passed through the sinuous strands waving above him.
Ash continued to stand still, eyes still closed, and to Misty’s surprise and faint horror, she realised he was not breathing.
Ash, who’d slowed his heart to the point where the feeder that had followed them could not sense his heart beat, held his breath as Pikachu approached him. The feeder’s attention was focused on Misty, who was a living, breathing, and most importantly captive piece of meat.
Ash, who was no longer breathing, and barely alive even if he was standing, had faded from the feeders attention, as had Pikachu.
This was important.
Only when Pikachu attacked did he open his eyes and spring into movement.
Misty, once again, found herself up and over his shoulders before she even knew what had happened, the air around her crackling with static electricity as Pikachu launched a silent attack.
Misty was stunned.
Where a patch of grass, plants, vines and assorted trees had been mere seconds before was now a charred patch of vegetation, and an unconscious feeder –this one male, and similar enough in appearance to the one she had killed in Vermillion to be related- smoking and blackened on the ground.
Ash sighed, and let Misty slump to the ground again.
Pikachu sat on the feeder’s chest, eyeing him with greed.
“Feed, Pikachu. But make it quick.”
Pikachu nodded, and a sudden golden blur caught Misty’s eye as the small pokemon slashed the throat of the feeder, and supped greedily from the fountain of dark blood that spayed forth.
A few droplets were propelled far enough from the high-pressure stream to splatter Misty’s face, and she barely suppressed a scream.
Marill, to both Misty and Ash’s surprise awoke, the syrupy scent of fresh blood thick in her nostrils. The small pokemon struggled against her ropes for a moment, then snapped them, trotting over to the body.
Pikachu, annoyed at having his feed disturbed, snarled at the aqua-mouse pokemon with a bloody muzzle, before being swiped across the face by Marill, who nudged him out of the way and began to lap at the pooling blood, the fountain from the neck spurting irregularly and gradually jerking to a halt.
Pikachu, annoyed, growled, and started chewing at the man’s wrist; creating another, smaller, fount to drink from.
Misty swallowed, and felt a wave of nausea sweep over her as both pokemon, once done drinking, began to feed on the flesh, tearing open the stomach to get at the rapidly-cooling entrails.
Both pokemon seemed to have reached an agreement, and shared the liver quite happily, unaware of their captive audience.
“I think I’m gonna be sick,” murmured Misty through green-tinged lips.
“This from the woman who killed a feeder with her bare hands? I am surprised at you. I thought you would have been able to stomach such a small thing.”
Ash cast her a curious look, insofar as one was possible for those dark, mad eyes to convey.
“Marill was not a feeder the last I saw you. Has she drunk feeder blood?” he asked, knowing the answer before she spoke.
“I...I guess. She must’ve got a mouthful when she bit that feeder-woman.”
Ash nodded, turning back to the grim spectacle in front of him. The feeder had been stripped of all nutrients relatively quickly, exposing bones where Pikachu had cracked the rib-cage to allow both himself and Marill access to the heart. Both pokemon had now finished their visceral feast, and were grooming one another, licking congealed blood from each other’s fur.
“I will not re-tie your pokemon. She and Pikachu seem to have reached an impasse. She will not attack either him or me while we are travelling and your safety depends on my intervention. Once I have delivered you, I assume she will attack.”
The blue pokemon eyed him warily, evidently agreeing with him.
“Very well. Pikachu, you are finished?”
Pikachu nodded, licking his chops to gather the last droplets of his feast.
“Then we shall move on.”
Ash lifted Misty up again, Marill and Pikachu trotting after him as he continued down the path.
Misty thought back to Ash’s words. They were almost half-way through the forest already, and that was their first attack, an attack which had been dispatched immediately and effectively.
If Misty were on her own, she would be dead by now.
She had long ceased to struggle, realising that to do so would only bring pain, and resulting in her being gagged again.
As long as she was captive, she was safe –admittedly, only until she was delivered like some sort of meals-on-wheels service- as Ash was reluctant to hand over damaged produce.
Perhaps for now it was better to lie acquiescent, and attempt an escape when they had reached their destination.
Resolved, Misty slipped back into a doze, lulled by the rhythm of Ash’s movements. Soon, she slept, lost in a dream where angels dipped their hands in gore and stained their feathers red.
The Lady was growing impatient. All of her spies had failed to return to her and report. From what she knew of the shadow –and she knew quite a lot, having been the one responsible for his turning- they were all dead.
This did not faze her.
She knew he would complete his given task. He could not disobey her.
This was not wishful thinking. He literally could not disobey her, bound to her by the virtue of it being her blood that turned him, changed him into a feeder. Her blood had given him the virus, which was purely scientific. The mythological aspect was that he was bound to her, her orders bypassing his will and rendering his own thoughts on the matter completely useless.
If she commanded him to disembowel himself, he would have no option but to do so. If he consciously refused, his body would fulfil the orders without the consultation of his brain.
What was it like, she often wondered, to watch your own body disobey you?
This bond would have affected her and the feeder who turned her, had she not been turned in a different method.
She sighed wistfully then, thinking back to her long-dead mate.
Long-dead, and killed by her hands. She had been amazed that he had not expected it, even if they were bound in the feeder equivalent of marriage. Murders most commonly killed those who were close to them, spouses being highest on the list of potential murder victims.
He had died at her hands, and she cherished the look in his eye then, the fleeting confusion giving way to anger and then defeat.
She had not loved him; but she had allowed him to bind them together for her own reasons, reasons that she did not totally understand, in the mad, sparking, fire-work factory that was her mind.
She blinked, recalling herself to the present and her throne upon which she sat.
His death had been over a hundred years ago, and two hundred years after they were bound.
Such a long time ago. But then, this whole sorry escapade will be over soon with the completion of the rite.
This brought a smile to her face, even as she sat in the gloom of her squalid night-club, and surveyed the cruel orgy that was her court.
Just beautiful, she thought, and beckoned for a new pet –a beautiful, dark-haired boy- to be brought forth.
As he was tortured and abused in front of her, she thought back to the shadow, reflecting on how magnificent he had been, and how that this boy –whilst beautiful- could no more match the shadow’s exquisite display than he could hope to escape the slow, painful, degrading death being forced upon him.
She savoured the defeat in his eyes –the right nothing but a reddened socket oozing blood and pus, and the left streaked with Spinarak-web scars- like a human would fine wine.
Ash stopped at sunrise on the second day of their travelling; concealing himself, Misty and the two pokemon in a dense, green alcove, thickly overhung by vines.
Misty had woken again, and watched him as he made what appeared to be a nest out of leaves and vines. Once his structure –vaguely oval in shape, and held by vines and sticks, padded with green leaves and stolen Pidgey-plumage- was completed, he curled himself into it, both pokemon nuzzling into the hollow of his stomach. Within minutes, he was asleep.
He seemed to have forgotten Misty, who lay where she was, trussed up and in the hollow of a tree’s roots.
She watched him for a while –at least an hour- until she was certain he was asleep. Then, when she was sure he wouldn’t wake, she began her search for some sort of object that could help her escape.
If Misty had had a weapon of some kind, she could’ve escaped, using something –anything- sharp to wear away at her bonds, but unfortunately, she was unarmed.
And the small matter of her hands being tied behind her back was a hindrance to any escape plan she might have made.
Nearby, she could hear rushing water.
We must be near a river. If I can get to it, I can get in and follow the current. But then, I won’t be able to swim. Curse that damn stupid bastard! Why’d he have to be so damn effective at this?
Her hands, tied behind her back, moved over the lush, grassed ground, hoping against hope that she would find something, anything to use as some sort of cutting instrument.
Rocks, sticks, shard of a broken bottle, leaf mould...
Wait a second... go back to the third one.
Misty’s hands found the thin shard –it was more of a sliver really- of glass by pricking her fingertips. Ignoring the thin trickle of sticky blood that coated her finger tips, she twisted her hands, hoping to slash the rope that bound her wrists without slashing the soft skin underneath it.
Keeping an eye on the sleeping feeder, she wriggled blood-slicked fingers, and managed to saw away at the rope. Even as she felt it fraying, Ash twitched in his sleep.
She felt her blood dribble down her fingertips and patter onto the leaf-litter.
Pikachu’s ears pricked, and his nose twitched.
Ash rolled over, and though his face was calm, locked in the repose of sleep, she knew he was waking.
Her sawing became more frantic, and even as the rope was held on the thin, frayed point of snapping, he woke.
Misty, startled by his sudden, lurching, upright jolt, dropped her impromptu knife, and cursed inwardly.
Even so, the rope was worn enough to be snapped with a single motion of her hands.
Ash blinked, and to her surprise, sniffed the air. Then he sighed.
“Either you have managed to cut the ropes, and cut yourself in the process, or you have decided to try self-harm. You are bleeding. I can smell it.” The last words came out as a hiss through gritted teeth.
The barely-repressed hunger in his eyes was frightening.
Pikachu whined softly, and took a tentative step towards her, before being batted away by a snarling Marill.
Ash snarled at the pokemon also, white teeth bared like toothsome daggers.
Pikachu, chastened, stayed inside the nest.
Marill, triumphant, batted the larger mouse-pokemon once, and laid down beside him.
Misty held her breath, watching him even as she worked frantically at her bonds.
Ash seemed to be too busy trying to control himself. His eyes changed even as she watched them, pupils retracting, changing, making his eyes merely dark rather than the pools of luminous darkness they had been mere moments before.
Misty shuddered again, and strained at the ropes.
If I can get my hands free, maybe I can get out of here before he snaps...
Ash shook himself, sat upright, and ran a hand over his face.
The ropes on Misty’s hands split and parted with barely a sound, but he jerked his head upwards.
“You have cut your ropes. I am sure I checked you for weapons...”
Misty said nothing, trying and failing to avoid that inscrutable gaze. It seemed to her that the three or so metres that separated them was not enough.
“No matter. Cutting your ropes has been for naught. You will not escape, because I will not let you escape. All the same, it is a long trip to Indigo, and being bound and tied must become quite tedious.”
He thought for a moment, regarding her with eyes black as ink.
“Yes, I think I will let you walk. Do not attempt to escape me.”
As he stood and walked over to her, removing a pocket knife from the folds of his clothing and flicking it open, she eyed him warily.
He didn’t say what would happen if I tried to escape. Does he think he’s that good that I won’t be able to? He may be stronger, faster and more powerful than me, but I bet my pokéballs I’m smarter. Maybe I can’t just sneak off, but I’ll think of something.
Ash sawed at the ropes binding her feet and legs, seemingly not noticing the hot blood that coated her hands.
“You said I shouldn’t try to escape you. Why not? What are you gonna do, kill me?” the acid in her voice had no affect on him, and his face was as calm as ever when he looked up.
“No. I am telling you not to attempt escape because you will not succeed, especially in your current state. Your hands are coated with your own blood. I can smell blood over four kilometres away. As can every feeder in this gods-forsaken forest. Do you want to end your life now, and as someone’s snack, or do you want to continue to live until an escape opportunity presents itself?”
If Misty didn’t know better, she would have thought he was suggesting she try to escape...
“If you’re so certain I won’t escape, why suggest I do so?”
The look he gave her was carefully blank.
“I suggested nothing of the sort. There is no possible way you could escape me now. Later is a different matter.” He added, almost as an afterthought.
Misty’s eyes narrowed.
Finished ridding her of her ropes, he stood and walked back to his nest, not seeming to pay her any mind. Misty continued to watch him for a while, certain there was more to her sudden freedom and his words than he had expressed.
“Pikachu, watch her.”
Silently, the dirty-furred pokemon slid out of the nest, and sat watching her.
He can’t be Ash. Ash Ketchum couldn’t plot his way out of a paper bag. It can’t be him. It can’t be.
Whether he was Ash Ketchum or not, the man previously but no longer holding her captive slipped easily into slumber, leaving only his Pikachu to guard her.
Later, when Misty took a tentative step towards the forest path, the dozing pokemon snarled so violently and viciously that she realised that the Pikachu was certainly much more threatening than the sleeping man, even if he was a feeder.
Sighing, she sat down on a log, realising that if she were to escape, it wouldn’t be now. Marill was curled in the warm hollow of the feeder’s body, and although the feeder slept, the Pikachu’s beady eyes watched every move she made, full of the promise of violence if she dared take one step away from the grove.
“-tal murder of a young woman in
“Wasn’t Misty going to Vermillion?” asked May worriedly. “What if she-”
“May, Misty’s a big girl. She can take care of herself. She’ll be fine. And that won’t have been her. Misty’s not stupid enough to let herself get into a position like that.” Brock smiled down at the worried young woman. “Look, if it makes you feel better, you can call her. Knowing Misty, she’ll be in the middle of something, but I’m sure she’ll take time to reassure you.”
May shook her head.
“Nah. You’re right. Misty’s a tough girl. Whatever she comes across, she’ll make it through.”
Misty was finding that this escape thing was a lot harder than it seemed. So far, the Pikachu wasn’t keen on letting her out of its sight, and when Ash –or whoever the hell he was- had woken up, he’d made sure she hadn’t ventured out of the small grove.
In fact, since he had opened his eyes that afternoon, all he had done was watch her.
She was sure he was planning something, even if she didn’t know what it was.
And that it had something to do with her.
In a way, she was right.
As Ash watched the young woman organise herself something to eat out of her backpack, he mused on how to make it easy for her to escape the certain death that awaited her.
His leader certainly would kill her, although she would most likely make her suffer prettily while her doom approached. Perhaps he could use the time this would gain him to some advantage...
Lazily he watched her as she lit a small fire, using the driest possible sticks to avoid smoke.
Her ginger hair slid to cover her face as she bent down, and she hastily brushed it behind one ear. Her tongue protruded slightly, resting on one lip as she concentrated on lighting the fire within the small circle of stones.
As though she felt his gaze she looked up, sent him a gaze that should’ve been lethal, and turned back to her makeshift oven.
She really was rather beautiful, although he had no designs on her.
All desire had died that night when he had discovered the darker side of the nature of man.
As far as he was concerned, her body held no attraction for him, nor did her beautiful face.
Misty didn’t know this, and the fearful glances she sent him –even as she managed to cook a small packet of some sort of pasta- were evidence of this.
“I do not intend to harm you in any way more than is necessary.”
She flinched at the sound of his voice. If he had been someone else, he would have found it amusing.
Using a fork to scrape her meagre meal into a bowl of some kind, she refused to meet his gaze.
“I don’t know that. For all I know, you could be planning to use me as some kind of snack.”
Ash rolled his eyes.
“My leader would kill me. I am not exaggerating. She really would. You are her sacrifice, and therefore of more worth than I am, or a thousand others like me.”
Ash looked down at his hands, inspecting the blood clotted beneath his fingernails, ignoring the fear in her blue gaze.
You used to have more spine than this. You used to be fearless. Did my death affect you so badly? Are you such a coward that you are frightened of me? I cannot harm you, no matter what my threats claim otherwise. The sooner we get to Indigo, the better. You will escape and can return to whatever shell of a life you occupied before I pulled you into that alley.
Even as he thought the words, he knew they were lies.
The feeders were massing. Whatever rite the Lady and all of the other court-leaders had planned, it would not end in a sing-song and a communal hug.
The humans would never be safe again, as long as his kind existed.
My kind. No matter what, I am still one of them. I am still a feeder, no matter how I wish otherwise.
As though sensing his melancholy thoughts, Pikachu turned to him, dark eyes sad.
The small pokémon’s life had been changed that night, not just his own. Pikachu had soon found that no matter how much he had struggled against the change, he was still a feeder.
And it was his fault.
If he hadn’t been so hell-bent on taking that short-cut, perhaps he would still be human, and Pikachu still the same pokemon he once was, and Misty would still be the same, quick-tempered, courageous girl she had always been...
Ash gave himself a small shake, ignoring her speculative glances.
Now was no time for dwelling on the past.
There was nothing that could be done about the feeders.
There were far too many of them. Only a suicidal fool would attempt to kill them all...
“As soon as I get away, I’m going to kill you. I’m going to hunt you down, and I will kill you, slowly and painfully.”
Her voice was thick with malice when she spoke, and fury chased away the fear in her eyes.
“And then I’m going to hunt down every single one of your little friends, and then they will die too. I won’t stop till there’s none of you left.”
Ash took in the hatred in her voice, the anger in her eyes, and the determination in the set of her mouth.
“You will be Kanto’s first feeder-slayer, is that it?” The amusement in his voice was an affectation to enrage her, make her more determined to do what she had pledged. “I wish you luck. I truly do. Hopefully you will not be devoured by the first feeder you stumble across.”
Misty said nothing, still glaring at him, even as she finished her paltry dinner.
I hope she succeeds. I hope she does. I hope I am the first to die.
For some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to an end.
It was not that he lacked the courage; he feared nothing.
It was not that he had no method of suicide; there were more ways to die than could possibly be counted, and every second he existed brought about many, many more.
It was not that he did not wish to leave his pokemon alone; he knew that Pikachu would follow him every where, even into death.
It was that whenever he tried, his body refused to die.
If he placed the gun in his mouth, his finger refused to pull the trigger. His lips refused to allow poison entry, and no matter how hard he tried, his body would not lie acquiescent on the rail-road.
It was almost as though his body wouldn’t let him try to end his pain.
Whether it was due to the bonds placed upon him by his Lady, or from some other, unknown condition, the only death that would befall upon him would be at someone else’s hands.
Ignorant of his inner musings, Misty finished her meal and spoke.
Her gaze caught his, and her blue eyes were harder than diamond as her words rang across the clearing, quiet as they were.
“You will die at my hand, and no one else’s. My hand alone. I promise you that.”
If it hadn’t been entirely out of character, Ash would’ve smiled.
Pikachu scratched lazily at an itch in his fur. He had been given the task of watching over the ginger-haired woman that his trainer had captured as she bathed.
Pikachu had little to no interest in the appearance of human beings, which was why he had been given the task.
She could hardly complain about him watching her, as she would be likely to do if Ash had been the one to do so, in order to prevent an escape attempt.
Even as he sat on the river bank, a whisp of apple-fragranced soap scent tickled his sensitive nose and made him sneeze.
The woman’s Marill glared at him, then laid back down amongst her trainers things, head resting on Misty’s back-pack.
Ash had removed any and all things that she might use as a weapon of some kind.
The soft patter of lather falling onto rock, and gentle hum of the water were the only sounds audible to human ears, but Pikachu could hear many more.
The scrape of cloth over skin as she washed herself.
The sigh of her breathing –steady and slow- and the whisper of eyelashes brushing against cheeks.
He could even hear the blood rushing through her, gurgling through the kilometres of veins and arteries and capillaries inside of her body.
Humans are so very, very fragile. Paper-thin skin, bones that break in a single bite and soft, wet organs that puncture and tear so easily. They call themselves the lords of creation. What advantage do they have over us that gives them such confidence?
The final splatter of water as she rinsed, and the scrape of towel over flesh told Pikachu she was finished bathing, if not dressed.
He closed his eyes.
The afternoon sun, although fading fast, was quite warm...
Misty scowled at the sleeping pokemon.
Even if he was only a pokemon, and did not care in the least about her current state of undress, she certainly did. Best to dress quick, then.
Even as the small pokemon shut his eyes, dozing in the warm sun that glinted off his clotted fur, she clothed herself, and reflected upon the fact that here was an escape opportunity that she might use...
A small snore from the electric-mouse told her he was asleep, and she was unguarded.
Marill, sensing a change in her trainer’s demeanour, trotted over to the sleeping Pikachu.
Misty –caught half-way into placing her back pack on her shoulders- froze.
Her pokemon was now something else, something that Misty wasn’t entirely sure of.
What if Marill wakes him up? She could as easily be a traitor as my friend... after all, she is a feeder now.
The small blue pokemon watched the sleeping one, before blurring into a sudden, violent bolt.
The sickening crack as Pikachu’s head collided with the rock underneath him rang out across the glade. A pool of dark blood spread out from shadows of the unconscious pokémon’s floppy ears, dribbling down grooves in the rock, and staining the clear water of the river an obscene red.
“Rill,” murmured her pokemon quietly.
Misty didn’t need to be told twice.
The sound of Pikachu’s skull colliding with stone had not finished echoing through the forest before Ash was on the move.
He knew that Misty –fool that she was- would attempt escape, although he didn’t think that Pikachu had been hurt due to her instructions.
The smell of feeder blood –thick, cloying, bitter yet with the sickly scent of rotting sugar- rolled across the air, staining the breaths he drew in.
He could taste the blood in the air.
Hunger pangs –not as vicious as those that had caused his collapse a few days ago, but vicious none the less- clawed in his stomach, but he ignored them.
He could smell her too; smell her soap, sweat and anxiety.
He could her hear, crashing through the plant life around them, making no attempt to disguise herself, but running in a mad dash for freedom.
He had better catch her before she made her way to a less-crowded path through the undergrowth.
Misty was a fast runner when she had to be, and he doubted that even at his physical prime he would be able to best her. Meet her speed certainly, but if she had a good enough head start...
The faint sound of her Marill chasing after her –paws scraping softly against the leaves and twigs that crowded the ground- and the rough, ragged sound of her breathing told him where they were, even as they disappeared amongst the violet shadows in the depths of the forest.
He could smell the blood on Marill’s paws.
Feeder-pokemon had no sense of loyalty to either their own kind or pokemon themselves.
Ordinary pokemon were meals, and feeder-pokemon were delicacies.
It was not unknown for a newly turned trainer to watch all six of his or her pokemon attack themselves and feast on their fellow team-mates, and the strongest, most powerful pokemon would emerge victorious, gorging itself on the remains of its fellows.
Feeder-pokemon rarely attacked their trainers, unless their trainers were human.
He still remembered watching Rattata feast on the brains and face of a young trainer foolish enough to allow his pokémon to be infected by the feeder virus.
The rat-pokemon had picked his skull clean, leaving nothing but red-tinged bone, polished by their lapping tongues as they sought a final droplet of blood or brain fluid.
He’d buried the body, out of pity for a young trainer that had died so violently.
six of his Rattata had fled, making their way into
Another home of the feeders.
The jerking crack of a tree-branch broken, and the whistle it made as it flew towards him parted him from his morbid thoughts, and brought him sharply back to earth.
He collided roughly with the ground as the thrown tree branch –at least as thick as his arm- clipped his chin and sent him flying backwards.
Misty, panting, watched him fall, and continued running.
Marill screeched triumphantly, and ice daggers peppered the tree he had been standing in front of moments before her attack.
Ash followed the fleeing Misty into a clearing that loomed out of the thick woods, littered with half-buried boulders.
His hand went to one of the many knives he had secreted on his person, and the whine it made as it flew stung Misty’s ears.
The knife blade itself stung her skin thudding into a tree she ran past, snagging her shirt and pulling her up short.
Misty screamed, but it wasn’t from the hurt of the shallow cut, which flashed with pain as she jerked the knife out of her clothing.
Ash knew that scream; he’d heard it often enough in the alleys of the Indigo Wharfs.
It was a wordless scream, a cry that went back to man’s earliest ancestors, who communicated not with words, but bloody, violent, messages.
As men progress to greater things, they forget that in their long distant past, they killed creatures weaker and stronger than them with bare, bloody hands and ate their flesh raw.
Another knife thrown in Marill’s direction –whipping into the small pokémon’s midriff and pinning it to a tree- was the only action he managed to make before she launched herself at him, still shrieking that wordless cry, aiming his knife at his throat.
He caught her arms, and she kicked him, lashing out with dainty feet and landing damn powerful blows in his stomach.
His breath exploded from him, but he didn’t stop, throwing her to the ground.
She practically bounced; leaping at him, knife aiming for the most vulnerable target she could see: his eyes.
Ash managed to jerk his head out of the way, but the tip gouged his forehead, hot blood spilling down his brows, pattering onto his cheek.
She screamed again; but it wasn’t an intelligible sound.
If it was anything, it was a lament that she couldn’t cause more pain.
Again, she leapt at him, taking him by surprise with a kick to the groin even as he caught her hands.
He had no breath left to groan, and ignored the pain as he knocked her down again, pinning her to the ground.
Even pinned as she was -his knees on her legs and his arms holding hers- she still struggled, thrashing beneath him like an Ekans on speed.
Her hair fanned out behind her head, and her torn shirt slid down over a milk-white shoulder, exposing new bruises and scratches. An old graze, almost healed but still flushed pink, huddled in the hollow where her neck joined her shoulder.
Behind them, Marill groaned and wriggled against the blade that had nailed here to the tree.
Misty writhed and arched her body, trying to free herself to attend to her injured pokemon.
Marill screeched, and clawed at the thing in her stomach, wrenching the blade out with blood-soaked paws, and fell to the ground.
Misty’s screams turned to sobs, even as she fought him.
“Stop it,” he hissed, transferring his grip and holding both arms with one hand. Sitting on her legs, he raised himself up, drawing her up with him.
“You’ve killed her!” she screeched, tears pouring down her cheeks even as her eyes glittered with rage.
“Be quiet. I have not. Marill would not die from such a cheap shot. Feeders are a lot tougher than you think.”
This was true.
Marill was unconscious; grievously hurt by the injury she had been dealt, but not dead. To truly kill a feeder –whether man or beast- the skull has to be cracked or the head torn off. Feeders can survive almost anything, but not decapitation.
Misty rolled her head to the bleeding pokemon, still sobbing, but her sobs died on her lips as the torn flesh knitted together, and protruding ribs retreated back into the body.
“You see? Now, stop this foolishness. You cannot escape me. You will have to accept that. You cannot escape me.”
The strange emphasis on the last word made her turn back to him, her eyes searching for some sign in his mad, dark ones.
She saw nothing but darkness.
“Pika.” whispered a voice, and Pikachu blurred into the shadows around them, seemingly none the worse for wear after Marill’s attack.
His ears were clotted with blood though, but that was all.
The small pokémon’s beady eyes fixed themselves on her as Ash eased his weight off her legs.
“I am going to stand up. You are not going to scream, attempt to kill me, or make an escape, because you will fail in all three attempts. Understand?”
He eased himself off her, and she continued to lie there, out of breath, and horrified at the bloody gouge on his forehead that knit together even as he spoke.
She did, brushing away tears.
“I understand your wish to escape. After all, no human wants to die. But, the simple fact of the manner is you cannot escape me. I will track you down to the ends of the earth. I will follow you through forest, desert and sea. I will not stop. I cannot stop.” The last three words slipped out before he could clamp his lips down on them, and he kicked himself inwardly.
She did not need to know that he was doing this only because he was ordered to.
If he had his own choice, she would be far, far away from him, and he would be in a grave of some kind, buried beneath cross-roads, with a stake planted in his heart.
“You cannot? What do you mean by that?”
He ignored her question as though it had never been asked, and continued.
“I will deliver you to my leader. You can accompany me, perhaps not of your own free will, but at least unbound and on your own two feet. It is always better to walk to the gallows with your head held high, rather than to be dragged kicking and screaming.”
She said nothing, considering his last words.
“You will come with me. There is no way around it. However, you can choose whether you do so with dignity, or as my prisoner.”
“Fine. It’s not like I have a choice. I promise you though, I will escape you, and your leader, whoever the hell she is, and I will kill you both.”
The dying light caught her eyes oddly, and for a moment, he thought he saw the sheen of a feeder’s madness in them.
But then, the sun sank into the trees, and darkness fell, collapsing upon them like a thick, warm blanket.
Somewhere, a Hoot-Hoot greeted the rising moon.
Pikachu trotted over to the unconscious Marill, and flipped her onto his back. He felt no anger at her attempt to kill him; he would have done the same in her position after all.
The walk back to the grove passed in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.
Misty considered the words he had said and not said, and knew that he was implying something.
It’s as though he’s telling me I can’t escape now, because he’s my captor, but when I’m held by someone else...
Her mind made, she decided to follow him for now –if only because she would be dragged if she did not- and determine her course of action later.
Ash considered her anger, and the madness he saw in her eyes.
The first signs of the feeder madness. She is infected, and she does not know it. That graze on her neck was old, older than the ones on her shoulders. At least a week old. When I spilt my blood in Indigo, she had that graze, I am sure of it. My blood has made her mad.
She would not turn, not yet and not unless certain conditions were met, but she would be changed.
Not a feeder, but perhaps not entirely human either.
Pikachu considered the violence he had been met with recently, and the strange scents that flooded the air.
Rich earth and congealing blood.
Those fool man-feeders. They will trigger things they cannot control. The world is dissolving into a feeding frenzy.
It was pure luck –whether good or bad- that had seen him become a predator rather than prey.
Marill considered nothing at all, being unconscious; her body still healing from her brush with death, but twitched and whined in her sleep, nightmares crowding her dreams.
Ash broke the reflective silence with words that filled Misty with a sense of quiet dread.
Whether or not he was the Ash Ketchum she once knew, he still intended to let her be sacrificed and eaten. And she still intended to kill him.
The madness that had clouded her mind since her infection –something she was still unaware of- sank its smoky tendrils further into her mind, changing her personality irrevocably.
The sickness itself would not last very much longer; only a few more days at the most. Even so, such a brief illness was enough to corrupt her senses with insanity and irrational anger.
The long-term changes had not yet begun to affect her, but Ash knew she was altering in ways yet to be seen.
Whether this would be positive or negative depended on her strength of will.
I was the first to die. Now it is her turn. Misty Waterflower, I knew you well. You will be sorely missed.
“Well, the sooner we get to there, the sooner I can kick your sorry ass and leave. Move it.”
She glared at him, and he sighed.
Misty wrinkled her nose at the smell of artificial coconut. It only served to remind her of her ditzy sisters, and was not the most pleasant of smells.
Slathered in sunblock, Ash ignored the crumble of the rocks beneath his feet as he managed to reach the top of the huge tunnel. Behind him, Pikachu sniffed.
“I know I smell. You do not need to remind me. I also know that every feeder within ten kilometres can scent me. But, I would rather be scented than burnt. No one will attack us.”
Partially because they realise to do so would be suicide, but mainly because no feeder is fool enough to venture out in such a dead wasteland.
The roof of the tunnel was empty and deserted.
No plant-life grew, no pokemon aside from the occasional sleeping rock-pokemon were to be found.
He reached behind him, caught Misty’s hand as she scrabbled for a hold. She said nothing as he pulled her up, her Marill leaping up after her.
“We have to go north. If we do not stop, we will be there by nightfall.”
Misty nodded, not meeting his gaze, but taking in her barren surrounds.
Even the gods of earth and stone and hot desert sun wouldn’t venture here.
Misty ignored the suggestion. It was what she had been doing for the past few days anyway.
The sun overhead sizzled against Ash’s skin as they walked, but he ignored it. His black clothing was soon saturated in his sweat, but he ignored that also.
The first thing I shall do once I am in Indigo is have a shower. A cold one.
Pikachu stretched limbs stiff from walking, and leapt over a narrow sky-light that sent raw sunlight spiralling through the hole, and into the dark tunnel below them.
She did not begrudge either the Pikachu or the feeder their tasks; they were merely doing what they had to, but the sooner they were delivered to this feeder-woman, the sooner Marill could crack her bones and lap at the marrow.
A hot silence settled over the group, stifling and uncomfortable, rather like a blanket worn in summer.
The Lady smiled.
Such a smile –much more reminiscent of a slit throat than any expression of pleasure- told her pets that something was going to happen.
Crowded in front of her, clad in lace, velvet, blood and chains, they cowered away from the gaze she settled upon them as though it were a whip.
“Do not fear. Your suffering –amusing, and pretty though it is- will soon draw to an end. You are the first to die on the altar. You should feel honoured.”
The youngest of them, but the oldest in terms of cruelty seen and endured, licked bloody and split lips before speaking in a voice harsh as raw sunlight.
“Your gods may devour our flesh, but they will never have our souls.”
The others crowded around the girl, younger than them by many years, but older in terms of faith and courage, giving and receiving support.
The Lady snarled, baring wickedly sharp teeth.
“You dare talk to me? Oh, you will be the first- no, the last. I will bathe you in your compatriot’s blood.”
The little girl –brown eyes defiant- ignored her threat.
“Your soul will burn in the lowest of hells.”
The Lady scoffed.
Feeders didn’t believe in souls.
“Take them to the cavern. Chain them to the altar. They will die later.”
Dark figures emerged from the cloying shadows, and the pets –man, woman and child- where dragged away.
The Lady frowned. The defiance in that girl’s eyes had been none to her liking. It seemed to her that meat held much too much defiance these days. It was as though their spirits were no longer broken...
They were only small offerings; nothing more than an appetizer, really.
The woman the shadow was bringing would be a different matter...
The Lady smiled.
A sacrifice of mortal blood and passion, when willingly given, was much, much more potent.
And she had no doubt that this woman, once in her clutches, would die for her.
The dark buildings of the Insula loomed in Misty’s vision, even as the sky was dotted with dim stars. She could hear the faint roar of the traffic even at this distance.
Ash didn’t seem too pleased that the city was so close, but then it was hard to tell what expression had briefly flashed across that blank face.
Pikachu reared up on his hind legs and sniffed the air excitedly.
Even since he had turned, the cities had replaced the fields and plains of the world around him as his favourite places.
The cities held much more prey, for a start.
Ash, who was feeling more than a little ill, ignored the excitement of his partner.
It had been days since his collapse, and he still hadn’t fed. He knew Pikachu thought he was a fool, and he knew it would eventually kill him, but he cared about neither of those points.
If his death was hastened by his self-neglect, than so be it.
Hunger clawed in his stomach, and sent waves of pain through him, making his knees buckle. He swayed momentarily, then straightened himself.
Misty didn’t seem to notice; her gaze was to intent on the view of the city which grew ever nearer with every step she took.
Her supposed ‘impending death’ approached also, but she knew that she’d come out of that city alive.
She wasn’t going to let herself die at the hands of the creatures she had sworn to exterminate.
For the past few days of their journey, she had not attempted to escape, knowing the pointlessness of such an attempt, but she by no means felt any sense of camaderie for her unwanted companion.
As far as she was concerned, he would die at her hands.
She had heard of the condition ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, where prisoners grew attached to their captors and vice versa, but she had no such compulsions.
As far as she was concerned, Marill could feast on his corpse.
The only thing that worried her was the slight headache she had experienced for a little while now. It wasn’t truly painful; more slightly irritating, but it had not stopped, even if it hadn’t grown worse.
She wondered what it was from.
The rocky earth beneath them gradually sloped downwards and was replaced with gravel, and then eventually grass.
Still impressive, even if the paint was peeling.
Misty laughed at the sign welcoming visitors.
More like the home of monsters.
It was bitter laughter, and she knew it.
Ash ignored her, leading her along the crowded twisting paths.
Whether it was the madness in his eyes, the gleam of Pikachu’s fangs, or the thick cloying scent of artificial coconut, the crowds parted for them, and no one attempted to steal any of their belongings.
Misty, much more aware of the feeders in the crowd now, spotted hundreds, thousands of them among the swarming masses, as opposed to the dozen or so she had seen in Vermillion.
Marill growled softly, and Misty’s hands twitched.
What she wouldn’t give for a weapon...
“Stop that. You will not attack any of them. To do so would draw attention to us, and alert the Lady of my presence and yours earlier than I wish to.”
Misty rolled her eyes.
Ash shook his head, and continued to lead her away from the centre of the city and into the shadowy streets that lead to the wharfs and the centre of feeder occupation.
Indigo Wharfs were not mentioned at all in any tourist guides of any kind, on the basis that any tourist who wishes to visit them is assumed to be insane, or suicidal, or both.
The masses of crooked alleyways and winding streets are the remnants of a time where cities were dark, crowded, packed with nooks and crannies and danger of all kinds, as opposed to now where cities are neon-lit, crowded, and full of shops and danger of all kinds.
The wharfs are split into segments: Near-shore, which is still used for commercial purposes, even if those commercial purposes are somewhat shady and not to be looked at closely under a bright light; South-shore, which is the exclusive property of Indigo’s ‘people of the night’, i.e. corrupt policemen, prostitutes and their pimps, drug dealers, murderers and so forth; and finally Northwards, which once was a small, pleasant suburb. It’s only flaw was that an underground fault connected to the labyrinthine tunnels infected with diseased Zubat opened and flooded the area with infection.
The first feeders had fed here.
Now, it belonged to them, and feeders crowded here during the daylight hours, hiding in subterranean night-clubs, abandoned warehouses and even the deserted suburb itself.
This was the place where mothers forbid their children to enter, where strange fires burnt at night and even the monsters travelled in pairs for safety.
It wasn’t hell on earth; but if you didn’t look too closely, you couldn’t tell the difference.
The street Ash had led her down was almost deserted; only a few adventurous youths –no doubt drunk- had filtered through the buildings.
Misty looked around, taking in the crumbling buildings and the distant screams.
Either the teens in front of them didn’t notice, or they didn’t care.
Ahead, a distant thrumming noise became music as they drew closer.
It wasn’t particularly good music, but the beat was strong and repetitive, and seemed to get under your skin and into your blood.
Beside her, Ash gritted his teeth.
“She is luring them in. She needs more sacrifices.”
Misty didn’t understand what Ash was talking about until they reached their destination; the only spot of light in the cloying darkness of the decrepit buildings around them.
It was night-club, old and shabby, black paint cracked and peeling, and the neon sign flickering and sparking dangerously. The door was open, attended by a black-suited mountain of a man –no doubt a feeder from the gleam of tooth in the darkness- and obstructed by a thick, corded velvet rope.
The youths in front of them giggled as they approached, and due to some internal signal, the bouncer unhooked the rope and ushered them inside.
The red light that spilled from the door seemed to swallow them up, and Misty shivered.
“Welcome to ‘The Circus’,” hissed Ash in her ear, quoting the name of the night-club as he held them back from the entrance, hiding them in the shadows. “Welcome to the feeder court. Once I present you to the Lady, my task is completed. If you are still able to, I suggest you run.”
He drew her to the entrance, and the guard didn’t even look at Ash as he unhooked the rope.
Ash, Pikachu and Marill stepped through but Misty hesitated.
The doorway, lit as it was by that bloody light, brought to mind an entrance to hell on earth as opposed to a night-club.
But then, she could hesitate no longer, as Ash pulled her through the doorway, and into the belly of the beast.
END PART THREE
AUTHOR’S NOTES: I already tried updating this before, and for some reason, it didn’t work.
Before I go on, I’d like to thank the twenty-or-so people who voted for me in the BIC awards! Thankyou very muchly! :)
As for this section of the fic... well, I know there was a lot of travelling. Sorry (*insert sheepish face*) but I had to get it out of the way. Misty fighting Ash was my favourite part.
Aside from that, they’ve arrived in Indigo, and the Lady’s nightclub, which sets the scene for more mischief and mayhem.
As my exams are fast approaching, I won’t be able to update for a while, but until I do, I hope this is enough to whet any of my reader’s appetites.
Oh yes, for you Americans, happy Halloween.
May your nights be filled with spooks, and your goodie-bags full of candy!