DISCLAIMER: pokemon and all of its trademarked products and characters are owned by Nintendo, Game Freak and their affiliates, not me. I do not own them. Never have. Never will (insert crying face).
Bleed Like Me.
Feeders, like pokemon and humans alike, have strict hierarchies.
In the pokemon world, the most powerful pokemon –the predators- are on the top of the heap.
In the human world, this is also true, although power is associated with the amount of money one has, rather than the ability to kill.
In the feeder world, the chain of command is structured somewhat differently.
To be on top, you not only must be able to kill with your bare hands, or as the case may be, bare teeth; you have to control a significant number of feeders and humans weaker than you.
In short, you have to lead a court.
A court is the term for a gathering of feeders, usually lead by a Lord or Lady, and can be up to a hundred members.
On top is the leader, followed by his or her guards, then those feeders that have proven themselves of some worth to him or her, then the ‘common’ feeders, who are only permitted to enter the court in order to complete menial tasks, then the hunting-feeders –who are responsible for the leader’s meals- and the favoured pets.
After that, the prisoners and the slaves.
The interesting thing is that feeders, much like humans, strive to be held in favour by the leader, and would gladly kill those around them to be held in a good light.
Unlike the human world, where the death of a competitor at the hands of another usually results in jail, or at least prosecution and a stern rebuke, this is encouraged.
If any feeder is fool enough to let themselves be killed, they did not deserve their position in the court.
Leaders tend to encourage this kind of thinking, and it is not uncommon for a public challenge to be held, with the losing party to be fed to the pokemon of the winning feeder.
While it can be thought that feeders’ within a court have free-will –much like their human relatives, who strive to climb political ladders- this assumption is incorrect.
Feeders exist as an extension of their leader; held in thrall by bonds of blood, and by the incredible influence a feeder can hold over a weaker mind.
Combine this with the fact that feeders have no real weaknesses -aside from a tendency to sunburn very quickly in pure sunlight, a fear of fire, and the inability to enter dwellings without being invited in- and it is easy to understand why humans are doomed.
Thick, silken smoke clung to the air, hovering above the masses who danced, oblivious to the horror around them.
Red lights flashed intermittently, casting eldritch shadows on the walls.
The music seemed to be nothing more than a synthesised heartbeat, laid over with electronic sounds, and the screeching whine of an electric violin.
The crowds smelt of sweat, blood, lust and fear.
Moving through the throng of undulating dancers like a sharp knife through flesh, Ash lead Misty to an alcove, their pokemon following, and snapping at the ankles of those unfortunate enough to step on them.
Misty kept her head down, trying not to make eye contact, and especially trying not to notice the feeders, who would occasionally drag a human from the crowd, and lead them to the cloying shadows of the abandoned booths.
At one end, there was a bar, manned by a female feeder.
Misty was sure that if a Bloody Mary was ordered here, no metaphor was intended.
The alcove ahead of them was the largest, and lit by flickering light from the televisions bracketed to the walls.
In the shadows, eyes gleamed.
A sudden jerk from Ash, and she found herself in a deserted side alcove, his hand clapped over her mouth, her body pulled against his, and his breath warm on her neck as he hissed words in her ear.
“She knows I am here, the guard would have told her, but she has not seen you yet. I cannot help but hand you to her, but I would warn you: do not look at her eyes. If you do so, it will be your doom. Take no account of her silken tone, and try not to listen to the words she speaks. If she gains a hold on you, I cannot help you.”
He spun away again, thrusting them back into the undulating crowds.
Misty was unsure of whether to trust him, but one mitigating factor assured her of his sincerity.
The fear in his voice.
He was afraid; he who was clearly the most dangerous being she had ever met, he who had nothing to be afraid of. Wasn’t he a master of the darkness?
He led her to the raised platform, and she focused her eyes on her feet.
She didn’t dare look to see where the muffled screams and moans came from.
Marill trotted beside her, occasionally brushing against her leg, as if she knew Misty needed comfort.
Ash didn’t look at her, but kept his eyes steadily on the approaching podium.
He sank to his knees when he stopped, touching his head to the ground at the foot of the podium, which was littered with cigarette butts.
“Kneel,” he hissed, and Misty did so, eyes closed and refusing to look upon the seated figure on a throne of twisted metal, laced with wire and rusted steel.
She knelt there, it seemed for hours, when in reality it was only minutes before the figure seated on the throne spoke.
“Shadow, you have surpassed yourself. She is most definitely what I seek. Stand up, girl.”
Misty refused to stand, ignoring the silken tone of the woman’s voice, cajoling and wheedling her to stand.
Ash didn’t stand either, but continue to remain prostrate. She risked opening her eyes and glanced sideways at him.
His eyes were screwed tightly shut, and his breathing sounded odd. Tense.
A smoky chuckle from the figure above her.
“You seem to have contracted my shadow’s rebellious streak. Perhaps it is contagious.” She laughed lightly, and the unseen feeders –hidden in the shadows around and behind her quickly added their chorus of mirth to hers.
She thought their laughter sounded forced though.
Ash jerked upright, startling Misty and the woman on the throne.
“If it pleases you, my Lady,” he murmured, “I would prepare her for the rite. She is not fit to be seen by your eyes as yet. It was a long trip from Vermillion.”
The Lady sighed, and blew out the smoke from her cigarette in a long, sinuous stream.
Tendrils of smoke fluttered above Misty, and her Marill snorted in disgust.
“Shadow of mine, I am not a fool. I know perfectly well why you seek to delay me.”
Misty swallowed. Judging by the desperation in Ash’s voice he sought to free her, although this puzzled Misty. If he had worked so hard to capture her, and deliver her here, which is what he said he would do, why was he trying so hard to return her freedom?
“You, my most rebellious of subjects, seek to free her in order to spite me, no?”
Ash froze. Her statement was far too close to the truth of the matter for comfort.
The Lady laughed.
Misty, not exactly understanding what was going on, risked a glance upwards at Ash, who looked as though he were a statue, carved features hidden in the shadows around them.
“Shadow, you are my vassal. Do not think that any thought of yours is spared my scrutiny. I know that you loathe my control over you, and seek to abuse my trust whenever possible. Still, your previous suggestion has some merit.”
Misty looked down again, not understanding where this conversation was going.
“I do not understand, Lady.” said Ash finally, after a long pause in which his mind raced.
“You suggested that you should prepare her for the rite, and mentioned that she is somewhat dishevelled in appearance, which is true enough. I think that I shall leave the task of grooming her to you.”
Ash’s throat tightened. Thoughts of rebellion and how he might free her raced through his mind, outstripping all other needs or urges.
I hope that this works. If she gives her to me, even if it is only for a few hours, I might be able to free her.
Another voice, one that had not spoken for many, many years since that night in the dungeon, whispered its opinion; its quiet words echoed through his mind.
And if you do free her, then what? She will die. The world is not what it once was. You know if she takes one step outside alone in this city, she will die.
Better death while free than
death in captivity.
The Lady leaned forward, and instinctively Ash’s eyes fell, not meeting hers, proof of the fact that no matter how insane an animal becomes, it always has some small instinct for preservation.
“You have your orders, my shadow. If you succeed in your task, perhaps I shall reward you.”
The feeders clustered near her throne chittered angrily.
“Hush,” whispered the Lady, and they fell silent, glowing eyes fixed on Ash, who dared to look up again once more.
“I would warn you though,” she added, voice deathly quiet “You cannot keep her, my shadow. She is not yours; she is mine, to be used for the rite. You cannot drain her, or wound her in such a way that will damage her pretty face, or in such a way that she will not heal in time for the rite. Whatever else you do to her is up to you.”
Misty inhaled sharply.
I’m being given to him like I was some sort of toy! That sick, twisted, psycho, blood-sucking bitch!
A slender hand reached forwards, and jerked Misty’s head upwards with a strength one would not expect in such a thin wrist.
Misty, helpless to resist, found herself eye to eye with the woman on the throne, and impossibly lost within those mad, burning eyes.
In the Lady’s gaze, Misty saw many things.
She saw the true madness of a creature gone beyond casual cruelty and plunged into the depths of malicious insanity.
Here was a creature that killed, not for necessity or sport, not the sheer thrill of it; a creature that killed because it could.
Those burning eyes -the eyes that should be found within the sockets of a demon, not the gentle, motherly face of a young woman- seemed to sear her, peel away her shield of humanity and leave her naked and alone in some dark, vicious place.
That impossibly hot gaze bored into her, brushed aside her mind’s fragile defences and rifled through innermost memories, tasting and delving into places so private, even Misty didn’t know they existed.
Those cold, sad places where she had battened down all of her grief.
Places locked by the strength of the sudden, feral anger that had taken her over.
And then she saw something else.
What she had taken to be the fires of madness bathed her in a warm glow.
The woman’s voice –speaking words she either could not understand or hear- whispered into her mind like a skein of silk, and strangled her free will like an Arbok.
All thought, sense and reasoning was obliterated.
All she knew was that she desperately wanted to please this woman; this woman who spoke to her in the voice like honey, and whose caressing hand upon her cheek was like the touch of a holy seraphim, descending to comfort a mere mortal in her time of need.
Oh, I would do anything to please her, whispered her thoughts, anything she desired. Anything at all.
The steel core of her, the core that had arisen from her infection with feeder blood, rebutted this, although its voice was weak and querulous to the overpowering sigh of the other mind controlling hers.
No, I wouldn’t.
Misty shivered, and closed her eyes. For a moment, she was no longer under this creature’s control.
But then, her eyes opened again, and once more she was shackled and chained by that magnetic, irresistible glance.
As soon as the Lady caught Misty’s gaze, he knew she was doomed.
No mortal could resist the mind of a feeder once that feeder was hell-bent upon taking them over.
The Lady did not often control the minds of humans; she considered it below herself to trifle with meagre meat, and she preferred her pets to at least attempt to fight back, if not succeed.
However, it was obvious that she had decided that Misty would be too much of a handful if she obtained her own will.
Capturing her mind would dominate her spirit, and make her malleable. Whatever suggestion the Lady made, Misty would follow.
It was similar to the bonds placed upon him, although he did have some lee-way. The Lady had to be very careful in her choice of words. He would only do what directly ordered.
Misty, on the other hand, was controlled. Absolutely and totally.
Even if the Lady were to remove her influence, there would forever be a flaw in Misty’s mind that would make her susceptible to feeder dominance.
Ash pitied her.
He knew the infection in her blood -whilst not enough to turn her- had already changed her in ways she would detest and loathe if she knew, and knew this flaw within her would make her the veritable plaything of any feeder that sought to control her.
She was doomed.
Even if he did manage to free her before the rite, and even if she survived the escape attempt, she would forever after be vulnerable.
Whatever hardness she had shown was surely a mere side effect of her infection, and would deteriorate as soon as her body removed the feeder cells, leaving her soft and weak.
Perhaps, it would be best if he killed her now, and released her from the Lady’s imprisonment.
You know you cannot. She is Misty. You cannot harm her. You simply cannot.
he did not understand the reasoning behind this, whatever feelings he had once
held for the
There were bonds in the world far more powerful than those of feeder-dominance.
“To your feet, my girl,” murmured the Lady, and Misty rose.
The sight of her blue eyes –once hot with anger and sharp with pain, now blank and thoughtless- sent a shiver of a sigh through him.
She was already lost; entranced by the Lady, and there was nothing he could do.
Misty stood slowly, her expression vacant. She seemed to Ash like a clockwork doll, recently unwound, but awaiting its masters bidding.
“Shadow, I expect you to organise her bathing, then procure some more appropriate clothing for her. The tomboy look is all well and good, but not for the rite. Something ceremonial, I should think, possibly silk or satin. And blue. To match her eyes.”
Ash rose and bowed stiffly, ignoring the quiet malice in the Lady’s eyes.
“And shadow, take my handmaidens with you. You have little to no experience with the grooming of women, and my girls will help you. Do not think to attack them, however. They may have polished and manicured nails, but they are still sharp.”
Three girls stepped from the shadows around her throne, all of them beautiful.
All of them dead.
No matter how vivacious their appearance, their eyes were flat and lifeless- pools of blue and green and red ink upon parchment.
One of them giggled, but the sound was rough and edgy, as though it were a laugh of desperation.
Pikachu shuddered as he looked them over.
“Pika chu pika ka chu,” he whispered to Ash.
They have hell in their eyes.
Ash nodded, and swept into a courtly bow.
“Walk with me ladies,” he murmured, and the girls giggled – a strangely rough, eerie sound- simultaneously, flicking out fans, and making their way through a small walkway that emerged from the shadows of an alcove.
“Follow me, Misty.” said Ash, and the girl turned and walked to follow him.
Behind him, the nightclub throbbed and spun, thick with dancers both feeder and human.
The Circus differed much in its construction from that of a typical nightclub.
Where typical nightclubs were often large, empty structures, with the occasional side alcove that might be used as bathrooms or a bar, The Circus was a nest of passages and alcoves, and had huge, underground levels.
The humans that danced with the feeders did not know this, and many of them would not, but those few who would be lured below would rapidly find out what these underground levels held.
Unfortunately, they would not survive to tell tales.
Aside from the dungeon that Ash was very well acquainted with, and the empty cages where the pets were kept, three other chambers could be found.
The first was the Lady’s room, where she and her feeder attendants slept. Instead of a bed, a four-poster frame had been converted into a massive nest, covered with silk and satin.
The sheets were red, but whether this was because they were originally so, or because of some other, distasteful reason no one knew.
The second chamber, and much smaller than the Lady’s nest-room, was the shrine. A small, lacquered altar stained dark with liquids foul and unnameable.
Dark, lacquered chains dangled from the alter top, and deep grooves ran down the surface.
It was obvious that this altar had once been used for human sacrifice, and that judging by the congealed blood in the grooves, still was.
The last chamber was roughly twice the size of the Lady’s nest-room, and most of that space was taken up by an enormous bath.
Fully half the size of an Olympic swimming pool, and filled with warm, scented water at all times, the bath was tiled in red and black. A frieze of Milotic crowded the walls, but the Milotic were stained dark from steam.
The room was lit by dim, red candles.
This was unusual.
Most feeder rooms were lit by electric light, or not at all.
Fire was considered the most dangerous thing a feeder could ever know, and most avoided it accordingly.
Thick, cloying scent clung to the air.
Ash wrinkled his nose as he stood in the carved and ornamented doorway.
This far underground, the noise of the nightclub could no longer be heard, and the only sound was that of the water lapping against the tub.
Marill trotted forth, sniffing warily.
Hesitantly, she lapped at the water at the edge of the tub, and spat it out.
Thick with aromatic oils and soap, it tasted foul.
No doubt the water had never been fully changed, merely topped up when the level dropped somewhat.
The three hand-maidens, if you could call them that, stepped around Ash and began to prepare trays of oils and perfumes. One of them glanced pointedly at Ash with dead eyes, and took Misty by the hand. Misty allowed herself to be led, making no protest.
The women stripped her down to nothing, and Ash watched dispassionately as she was taken into the tub.
The women followed her, thin wet clothing clinging to nubile bodies, and Ash knew that these were not just the Lady’s attendants, but her bed-mates too.
The Lady always had degenerate tastes. She probably captured them when they were young girls, and kept them as her slaves until they grew enough to appeal to her.
Pikachu snorted and sneezed. The scented air was tickling his sensitive nose.
Marill, not wanting to be separated from Misty, leapt into the pool with barely a splash, oils rippling over her slick fur, and leaving trails of rainbow luminescence.
In the alcoves at the corners of the room, the candles sparked and sizzled, thick perfume in the air causing their flames to glow cobalt blue.
A blue exactly the same as Misty’s open eyes as she was dunked under water, and emerged, ginger hair darkened to bloody red and clinging to her neck.
He did not like the imagery that presented.
Misty’s thoughts struggled to hold their shape in the swamp of her mind.
The small, steel core of her was horrified at the lack of control she held over her body.
Many times she tried to speak, but the words simply would not come, or rose so slowly through the thick morass of the trance the Lady had put her in, that she could not force her lips to form them.
Even as she was dunked under water, and the oily slush bubbled past her eyes, she could do nothing.
The three women lifted her out, and all of them were very strong for all their slender daintiness.
She tried to make eye contact, and even when she managed to glance at one of them, it was only a brief flicker before her eyes fell.
A brief flicker had been enough, though.
She had seen the eyes of the blonde –a beautiful emerald green- but for all the life in them, they could have been but glass beads.
The black-haired girl was no different, red eyes pools of dead blood in the shadows of her face.
She didn’t even try with the brunette, knowing that those blue eyes would be as flat as cardboard.
Distantly, she heard the Pikachu snort, and tried –gods, how she tried- to turn her head. Unfortunately, she was unable to, and could not see anything aside from the square foot of water in front of her on which she was forced to focus on.
Behind her, and entirely unseen by Misty, one of the girls signalled to the watching Ash.
“Misty, lean your head back.” He murmured, and Misty heard, and felt her neck lean backwards without her permission to do so.
Inwardly, she seethed as oil was poured over her, clinging to her hair, dribbling down her neck, dripping down her back and shoulders, and trickling between her breasts.
If Misty had been able to speak, she would have screeched in rage.
In the water around her, Marill nuzzled her feet, as if to assure her someone was there for her.
If she had been able to control her actions, she would have lashed out as one of the girls led her from the tub, and began to massage the oil into cold, bare skin.
Cold, even though the water was the temperature of warm blood.
Goosebumps rippled over her as she was drenched in perfume, and she blinked instinctively when it stung her eyes.
A comb appeared out of no-where, and began to tug through her hair, and Misty tried to yelp in pain when it snagged on knots.
Perhaps a flicker of expression appeared in her eyes, or perhaps her lips trembled with the effort to speak, but Ash noticed that she was in pain.
“You are hurting her, ladies. You may be the Lady’s favourites, but hurt her again, and you will find yourself in the dungeons.”
All three girls nodded, and the hands that combed and kneaded where gentler.
Misty tried to shiver but could not.
The brunette gestured to Ash again, and he asked –or ordered- her to raise her head.
Perhaps it was coincidence her eyes met Ash’s, or perhaps not.
The blankness in her eyes disappeared, to be momentarily replaced with a flash or fear and fury –a dangerous and potent combination.
She is still fighting, thought Ash in something that came close to awe; she is still fighting her influence. Maybe, just maybe, she might manage to cast the trance off, and if she does, she is stronger than I thought she was.
The girls finished their grooming, and stood beside the statue-like Misty, whose eyes occasionally flashed with emotion, a sign that she still struggled.
But then, realised Ash, she was never one to give up easily.
One of them gestured at Ash again.
“I will obtain her some clothing. Until I return, you are to keep her body warm. Wrap her in a towel, and dry her off. Do not harm her. If I come back, and you have damaged her in someway –and believe me I will know- you will pay for her pain with your lives.”
One of the girls screeched at him, blank eyes narrowed.
Obviously, Ash had spoiled her fun.
Pikachu snarled, as did Marill, and the girl stopped.
He could see the shock in Misty’s eyes as she realised the girls did not speak because they could not.
The Lady had cut out their tongues many, many years ago; perhaps to render them unable to tell of her abuse, or perhaps because she thought it would be amusing.
Either way, the trio were mute.
Misty felt fear whip through her so fast it would have left her reeling, had she been able to move.
She would rather go through anything than be left alone here, alone with these three, silent women; women whose eyes were dead, and had nothing but bloody stumps where pink tongues should have been.
Marill slithered out of the water, and nuzzled against Misty’s legs, smearing the oil that still drizzled down her.
One of the girls draped a blanket over her shoulders, and the others watched Ash.
He did not take his eyes off of her until he left the room.
Ash regretted having to leave her; the Lady’s attendants would only do what he said as long as they feared him, and absence of a thing feared fostered courage.
Sooner or later, they would gather their nerve, and she would be injured.
Pikachu snorted again, unable to get the thick scent of those disgusting feeder perfumes out of his nose.
The hallways they slipped through were dark, no lights clinging to the walls, and certainly no candles.
The path they took was also deserted, and wound so thickly through the carious other halls and alleys Pikachu grew dizzy.
Eventually they emerged.
It was near dawn now; grey light glimmered at the corner of the sky.
Ash smiled grimly.
This early in the morning, no feeders besides himself were likely to be out and about. Perhaps if he was quick in his task, he could get back before it was too light, and try to sneak her out of there...
Even as he thought it, he knew his plan would fail.
If anyone pursued them, and called out for her to stop, she would.
And that was assuming that he would be able to escape in the first place. He had been ordered to prepare her, and he would not be free of this latest command until it was completed, and no doubt then another order would be given, leaving him bound once more.
If the Lady left a long enough gap between orders, he might be able to escape, but he was always her favourite servant.
Pikachu, aware of the danger the pair were in if they continued to stand in front of the exit to the nightclub, nudged Ash’s leg.
Ash nodded, and the pair slunk into what little protection the alley ways offered.
Many times had he been assigned to a task similar to this; he knew where vast quantities of fabric, particularly silk and lace, could be found. Fabric stolen from a wedding warehouse; only in this case, it would be used for no wedding dress, and only a shroud.
Seated on the edge of a chaise longuè, Misty stared blankly at the wall, only because she could not actually move her head.
If she had a choice, she would have long since fled from this room.
A woman –if you could still call the creature that- was seated behind her, doing something uncomfortable to her hair.
Another seemed to be giving her a pedicure, yet another a manicure.
The excess oil on her body had been blotted off, but her skin was still slightly greasy, and shimmered whenever the candles that glowed dimly sparked.
She was still naked, and this frightened her the most of all the things that frightened her.
Admittedly, a blanket was draped over her, but it was too little covering in her opinion.
Even if no one besides her actually seemed to care –sure as hell Ash didn’t appear to- she felt very, very vulnerable.
Marill nuzzled her foot, and snarled at the woman painting her toenails.
Misty wanted to flee, escape, run and keep running away from the women with hell in their eyes, away from him with his dark ones, those eyes so curiously blank.
She had seen nothing in his eyes, nothing at all.
Nothing to suggest she was in danger, nothing to suggest she was safe.
What does the blankness in his eyes conceal? What is he thinking that he would not let it show?
She was still unsure as to his true identity; there were many things about him that reminded her so strongly of him it hurt; and yet, at the same time, he was so different to anything or anyone she had ever known to still be an alien to her.
Even if it was proved beyond a doubt that he was not Ash Ketchum, there would always be the lingering suspicion in her mind.
The same was true of the opposite.
Finished with her hair, the attendant behind her began to paint something on her bare skin, and Misty shivered from the sudden cold as the blanket was peeled off her.
This small movement flooded her with relief.
I’m gaining control! Maybe it’s wearing off!
What Misty suspected was essentially true. Away from the Lady, her control would gradually wear off, but if Misty were to return to her presence, she would once more be ensnared.
This slight allowance of movement was only a small victory, but a victory none the less.
Still, it would not avail her, for she was still a prisoner.
The steel voice in her mind sent a shiver of delicious anticipation through her.
She was powerless now, that was true enough.
But every minute she spent away from the Lady, every second of time would build her strength.
Misty’s eyes narrowed, and Marill grinned maliciously.
The warehouse door, while locked, did nothing to halt Ash’s intrusion.
He’d simply torn the handle off the door, pushed his hand through the gap, and unlocked it form the inside.
As he stepped inside, he dropped the handle on the floor, and looked around.
He had been in here some few times, and every time he came, it sent a chill through him.
For some reason, the place was always littered with faceless mannequins.
Every other detail of their bodies was perfect, but their faces were as blank as a wall.
Some were clad in the latest designs, some in traditional garb.
Some were half-naked, their dresses only partly finished.
Others still were bare, and the dim light cast shadows over their convexities and concavities.
He could face death with nothing but a vicious smirk, he could stare down the hundreds of feeders who thought his place in the Lady’s court was something they wished to hold, he could do so many things that would scare others shitless.
However... this room, littered with blank, empty torsos, sent chills down his spine.
He moved through forests of mannequins separate to Pikachu, who searched also.
Ash sought skeins of silk, of satin and of lace.
Pikachu sought something else.
He knew that his partner, while an honourable feeder, and an efficient hunter, knew nothing of fashion.
Not to say that Pikachu knew a lot, but he’d read fashion magazines.
Well, gnawed them anyway, during those long, daylight hours while Ash slept.
And he knew that this warehouse was the home of the leading fashion designer on the KanJoh continent.
He searched through the towering mannequins –while they appeared smaller than Ash, they were huge to Pikachu- and sought a particular dress he had seen in the summer fashion special.
She wanted blue. And silk. And something ceremonial. I think I know what She wants.
He stopped at the base of the particular mannequin he searched for –the one stood upon a dais, and illuminated by a shaft of warm morning light that poured in through a sky light- and whistled once.
Ash came running.
Lucius Sanguine stopped in the
driveway of his workshop. Although this was the premier suburb in
Once more, as it had been last time, the lock on the door had simply been punched out.
Beside it, the hidden security camera had been torn off the wall, and the security box disabled.
He could tell it had been disabled, partially because the security box was lying some distance away, wires and delicate gears scattered over the driveway, but mostly because of the blackened hole where it should have been, and the lazy sparks of electricity that traced down the wall.
Apart from this, the door was open.
He could hear movement inside.
Lucius stepped forward, glass from the box crunching under his feet. No matter how much he paid for his security, one of them always managed to get in.
He supposed it was his fault.
If I didn’t design such beautiful clothes, their leader wouldn’t want them.
The lights were off, but the dim morning light provided natural illumination, although shadows stretched and blurred on the walls.
Another shadow moved, and Lucius found himself pinned against a wall, a hand around his throat, and a view of sharp, white teeth.
At his ankles, a small pokemon snarled.
“Oh.” Said the voice of his captive, and the tight grip around his neck was released. “Lucius? You should know better than to come to work early.”
Lucius shivered as he looked up at the feeder.
Those white teeth were once more tucked away, and the person towering above him looked at him blankly.
“My apologies. May I ask why you have stolen my fabric this time?”
There was a moment of silence which stretched just slightly too long, during which the feeder stared at him with eyes as dark as ink.
“Not fabric, Lucius,” was the final answer as the feeder steeped out the door, “Not fabric. I would purchase a better security system if I were you.”
“That’s the third time you’ve said that this month!” shouted back Lucius, but the shadow and his pokemon were already gone.
The plastic clothes-sleeve that covered the dress moved gently in the slight wind that had picked up.
Pikachu let out a small mewling of pleasure as it ruffled his fur, and sent his ears floating gently on the light breeze.
Ash grimaced as dark, unkempt hair blew into his vision, and flicked his head back.
Pikachu snickered, thinking his trainer resembled a shampoo advertisement.
Ash scowled, and the small pokemon fell silent, sniggers muffled by his paws.
He rested briefly on a rooftop, letting the warmth of the sunlight wash over him.
The sunlight here was too weak, and too polluted to do any damage, but it was still warm.
Pikachu smiled, even if Ash did not.
The dress that rested on his lap was certainly beautiful –even he could recognise that- but it was still a dress that she would die in.
Perhaps he could kill her first? Shoot her, or tear her throat out, and make her die quickly, and to some extent mercifully?
Stupid. I could no more do that than I could fly.
A cloud moved over the weak sun, and once more shadow descended upon him.
“Pikachu, we must move.”
Dress over his shoulder, he leapt from rooftop to rooftop, making his way to the dark tunnel that would carry him into the depths of the earth, and eventually hell.
Painted, preened and made pretty, Misty was still naked.
She could feel the paint drying on her skin, and its reddish swirls reminded her of nothing more than blood.
Her hair had been tied up in some elaborate style, and her skin shimmered with the faint traces of oil from the bathing pool.
The three attendants stood in front of her, effectively shielding her from sight, as dozens of feeders came through the bathing chamber, stripped off, bathed, exited and dressed, this time using scraps of velvet and lace, rather than dirty cotton.
She shivered again.
All of the feeders she saw, every single one of them, looked at her with hunger in their eyes.
“We will be leaving soon, which is why there is a mass migration to the bathroom.”
Misty almost jumped, and managed to turn herself towards Ash, her three attendants hissing in sudden fear.
She blinked at him, still unable to speak, but he seemed to understand what she asked.
“The Lady would have them clean. They will attend a rite; and not just any rite, but the rite, so they must be clean.”
He laid what appeared to be a plastic-coated dress on the chaise-longuè, and gestured towards it.
Her attendants, seeming to understand, began to strip the plastic off.
“You have bathed, and they have bathed” -he swept his hand around the room, and the last trickles of feeders fled, still dripping oil in their finery- “and now I must bathe. Your attendants will dress you, and make you ready.”
Misty shivered as the dress was lowered over her head, gently and as to make sure it did not catch on her hair, and for a moment her sight was obscured.
A gentle rustle of fabric filled the room, and when she could see, he was already in the bathing pool, clothes little more than a pile of rags dumped on the tiles.
Pikachu, still grimacing, managed to convince himself that getting in the heavily-perfumed water was a good idea.
He did so, slipping on the edge of the tiles, and falling in with a loud splash.
Marill, still seated on the lounge as she had been whilst watching the bathing feeders, sniggered.
“Leave,” said Ash, and although his head was the only thing above water, the other feeders could hear him quite easily.
There was a peculiar resonance to his words that brooked no disagreement.
The feeders –all three of them terrified- fled.
Taking a deep breath, he ducked beneath the oil-slicked water, and submerged himself in a bloody world filled with no sound, and warm as blood.
This is what he had often imagined the womb would have been like.
No sound, nothing but a dim red light, and warmth all around you.
Of course, in the womb, there would have been the illusion of safety.
Here, there was none.
His head broke the surface, dark hair slicked back, and he swam to the stairs, intending on dressing himself in scraps of velvet and lace, much like his fellow court-members had done mere minutes before.
Pikachu, dog-paddling as fast as he could behind him, snorted and clambered up the slick steps before Ash had even managed to find a foothold.
He trotted onto the wet tiles, and shook himself; splattering oil and warm water everywhere.
Ash resisted the urge to laugh.
The tiles were cold and slippery under his feet, and the sudden lack of warmth from the pool was felt keenly.
The air below ground had a distinct chill to it.
As he clothed himself in fragments of finery, Misty’s breath came as a sharp intake.
He’d forgotten that she was watching him...
Or did I? I know who I am, she does not. If she saw the scars on me, she would know I do not lie as to who I am. But then, to see the scars, she would also see my markings, and the old scars, ones I obtained long, long ago when I was still innocent and believed the world could be healed by defeating an evil man. It is a pity that I never realised that all men are evil in their own way...
She’d never seen so much scarred flesh in one place.
As he stepped out, muscles had rippled under bare, oiled skin, and although he was terribly thin, it was easy to see he was stronger than she had thought.
Although he was certainly strong, what had made her gasp had not been the lean muscles that bunched and moved under torn skin.
No, it was the tapestry of scar tissue –winding up his thighs, spreading over his back, curling down his arms, splashing onto his chest- that had startled her.
Criss-cross patterns on his chest suggested he had been attacked with knives or claws.
Burn marks on his abdomen, lower-arms and groin suggested he had been splattered with hot oil.
Teeth marks on his neck and calves suggested he had been savaged, and brutally at that.
A brand mark, obscene and darkly scarred, rested on the swell of a hip before his left buttock.
Other scars, multitudes of them, and some unrecognisable in their origin, worked their way over him, and all of them were old.
Some very old, old enough to have been brought on by the rigors of an unusual childhood...
Hang on a minute...
On his left upper thigh, terribly close to the dark shadows of his groin, were parallel scars as might be caused by a Slash-attack by a large Persian.
Had been caused by a large Persian.
“Ash! You idiot! Run!”
He ran, slipping over sheer rock slick with the rain that pounded down. She ran in front, following the others that sped through the dark, bitter night.
Behind him, cat’s-eyes gleamed, and an animalistic roar split the night.
Ahead of him, she slipped, thumping in shale, and screaming in pain.
A sudden burst of blood splashed over the rocks, and she wiped her gashed forehead as she struggled to stand.
She slipped, and fell again.
The roars grew closer.
He stopped, pulled her up –“No you idiot! Leave me! Go!”- and shoved her in the direction of the road.
She ran, managing to escape the approaching claws with a sudden, desperate, speed.
He, however, did not. He’d lost too much time in stopping to help her. He slipped on the shale, and fell, tumbling roughly down the hillside.
He slid to a stop, looking up into the eyes of the feral Persian above him, and into the jagged, yellow teeth.
A splatter of drool slid down his cheek.
Pikachu scampered hurriedly over wet rock, and Misty turned back to notice he was not following.
She screamed at him, and ran back.
“Misty, are you crazy?!” called out Max, but she ignored him.
Ash swallowed, and the Persian snarled. Closing his eyes, he prepared for the worst.
White hot pain, blood streaming down his legs, and he screamed.
The Persian laughed in its own way.
Pikachu narrowed his eyes.
“Pi... Ka... CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!”
Lightning split the dark night.
The Persian fled, and he fainted.
“You were fool enough to stop and help me, and the Persian attacked you. Pikachu attacked it, but you’d already been hurt. Brock had to bandage you up, and when we reached the next town -with you on crutches- you had to be sown up. You, in your foolish charity, wounded yourself for me. I never questioned why.”
Her voice was thick with anger, and she blinked when she realised the words were hers spoken.
Ash raised an eyebrow, and continued to dress, scars rapidly obscured by silk and velvet.
“You lied to me.”
The words came out thickly, strangled in a hiss of rage.
“Of course. You do not think I would risk your welfare by exposing knowledge of our prior involvement to the Lady? I want you to live.”
Her rage spluttered to a halt.
Ash shrugged the question off.
“All that matters is that you survived then, and you will survive now. I will free you, by force if necessary. To achieve this, it would be best if you did not recognise me. Unfortunately, you do. That is a slight problem.”
Finished dressing, he tied the mass of his black hair back with a ribbon of some sort.
“You are dressed, and I am dressed. Shortly the court will be leaving for the site of the rite. You have less than a day to live, unless I can help you escape. Will you cooperate, or would you rather die in a dark hole under the ground?”
The tone of his voice had not changed throughout the whole conversation, and his eyes remained as blank as ever.
Misty, on the other hand, was lost on a sea of nostalgic emotion.
This can’t be Ash! It can’t be! He used to be so different... he used to be someone else...
As though he had read her thoughts, Ash spoke.
“People change, Mist. They change in ways you cannot hope to comprehend. You thought I died in that tunnel, that I died that night. In reality, it took me over a week to die, and I was in agony every step of the way. The scars you see are those from that long, painful week. I lost myself in order to remain sane. I am not Ash Ketchum. If I was him, I would not be here now.”
The use of her old nickname proved he was the Ash she had lost long ago.
“And, neither would you. Could Ash Ketchum stare down a feeder in an alleyway? I think not. If you cooperate, you can escape, and then you can resume your hunting of us. I would ask you one favour, though.”
“What?” whispered Misty, still reeling in shock.
“I would that you kill me, as you have sworn to do. I wish to die, and since I cannot perform the deed myself, I cannot think of a better way to leave this earth than at your hands.”
Misty blinked in shock.
His eyes, instead of being blank, were dark with horrendous sorrow.
“Please.” He murmured, and his voice was scarcely loud enough for her to hear. “I am dying already, dying so agonisingly slowly that every second is an eternity. I would ask that you end my mockery of an existence, and send me to whatever hell lies beyond this mortal life. Please.”
She looked away then, focusing on anything but the desperate sadness in those eyes.
Pikachu looked up at her, and whined softly.
“All right,” she found herself murmuring, and was shocked at her promise.
“Thankyou.” Whispered Ash. He turned from her, and headed towards the door, his façade of disinterested arrogance slipping over his raw misery.
“Come with me. We must depart. You do not wish to be late for your appointment with the Lady. Such a thing would not only be terribly rude, it would also be fatal.”
She followed his gesture, and existed the room, Pikachu and Marill following.
Ash sighed, and stepped quickly after her.
At least that with my death, some good will come out of this sorry escapade.
The Lady smiled.
“My shadow... I see that you have done an excellent job. Indeed, your mortal friend looks good enough to eat.”
The feeders hidden in the shadows of her throne laughed uproariously.
Ash said nothing, but sank into a low bow.
Misty struggled to remain upright as her knees buckled, and she too bowed.
Once more, she could feel the overwhelming cloak of the Lady’s mind over hers, and struggled against it.
It was useless; to fight would be akin to swimming through treacle.
Still, she fought –desperately, hopelessly-, and lost.
Her body was once more under the Lady’s control. However, this said nothing of Misty’s mind, which was very much her own.
Marill could scent the change in her trainer, and knew in a way that no man-creature –whether feeder or otherwise- could ever hope to replicate, that her trainer’s flesh might belong to the Lady, but her soul did not.
“I am glad you are pleased.” Murmured Ash, the vibrations of his voice echoing off the silent walls.
The Lady turned her head towards Misty, whose eyes were glazed with the effort of maintaining what precious little control she had.
“Well, my dear girl, it seems you shall soon find yourself a guest of our most honourable proceedings. I ask that you take the role I offer you, and play the sacrifice. Do you understand, and more importantly, do you accept?”
Misty felt her lips mouth words that were not her own, in an odd, breathy sigh of a voice.
“Yes,” she whispered, “nothing would please me more.”
The Lady’s hand stroked Misty’s elegantly coiffed hair, and Misty would’ve shivered if she could.
“Beautiful,” breathed the Lady, and sighed happily.
“Very well. My court, we shall move. Prepare my chair,” she added, nodding at a page dressed in leather and chains.
“And shadow mine, you will watch her. Do not aid her to escape. Do not even converse with her until we arrive.”
Ash stood and bowed stiffly.
“If only you had hope, shadow,” murmured the Lady as the members of her court busied themselves about her, “if only you could hope that I would allow you to help her.”
Ash said nothing, fixing his gaze on a point three feet above and two inches to the left of the Lady.
“But as you well know, shadow mine, hope is merely a human construction to prevent insanity in the face of defeat. It has no affect upon a situation, especially one such as yours.”
Ash said nothing, face as blank as the walls around him.
“Take her away.”
Ash nodded, and took Misty’s unprotesting hand, leading her into the shadows.
The tunnels beneath The Circus were dark, wet and stank of death.
Pikachu wrinkled his nose in distaste.
Beside him, Marill whined softly, and shied closer.
Feeder, she may be. Pokemon, too. However, that did not stop her from fearing this dark.
Not the dark. This dark.
Normal dark was merely an absence of light, and her eyes could see where humans could not.
This dark was alive, and thick with obscene shadows, whispers and haunting sensations.
This dark was composed of the ghosts of the court’s victims: feeder and human alike.
In the shadows, Marill heard their screams –muffled, wet and eerie- ring out.
Either the feeders around them did not hear them, or simply did not care, for not one noticed.
The litter that four feeder males carried bobbed in front of them, and Ash walked beside it.
Misty had the so-called privilege of riding within its curtained depths, seated by the Lady.
Who knew what terrors she faced now seated as she was in that cushioned coffin?
In the dark, no one could see the lapse in his impassive countenance.
If there were gods, I would be praying now. Let her survive, he pleaded, with what or whom he did not know; let her live so that I might die.
As though someone –or something- had heard his plea, light flared at the end of the tunnel.
They had travelled for some time now, whether hours or days he could not tell, and Ash grew weary of guarding the thin sheet of fabric that separated the perfumed space of the litter from the outside world.
He did not know why he was assigned to guard the Lady; perhaps she merely wished him to be close in order to prevent an escape attempt.
Whether this was true or not, he was trapped in this accursed tunnel, and the sooner they exited, the better.
The light they approached was revealed to be a flaming mannequin, tied to a stake, intending to be used as a welcome to any feeders, and a warning to humans.
As they reached the tunnel exit –which flared into a cavern so wide, Ash could not see the roof- and the scent of burning flesh assaulted them, Ash realised that this burning figure was no dress-makers model.
He shuddered with disgust.
We truly are monsters. We truly are. Gods, hear me: if you exist, smite me now. Purge me from the earth, along with all my kind. Please.
The gods did not answer.
The faint scent of scorched flesh seeped through the thin curtain of the litter, and Misty felt as though she was going to be ill.
Seated as she was, and in such close proximity, she would not be able to, but this did not stop her mind from thinking so.
She sat where she was, perched on numerous silk cushions, all stained a bloody red –either by accident or intent, but certainly from violence- to match the curtains. Unable to move, she murmured prayers inside her mind as she sought peace for the poor soul tied to the burning stake, the shadow of which that flitted over them as they passed it.
The steel core of her, the part which was so rapidly overtaking her, thought only of the feeder blood that she would shed to atone for that single, human death.
The centre of the vast cavern –some ten kilometres from point to point- was filled with feeders.
Millions of them, squashed together like sardines in a can, although sardines certainly were not as vicious.
Raised on a dais ringed by fallen stalactites, a single altar rested. This altar was remarkably akin to the one in the Lady’s possession, but certainly larger.
While hers was equipped only for the sacrifice of children and pokemon, this could accommodate a full-grown human.
And, unlike hers, this one was clean, black lacquer unstained by scarlet blood, chains new and rust-free.
The Lady parted the curtains, and turned Misty’s head towards the altar.
Misty tried to swallow, throat suddenly dry, but could not.
“My girl, you see your destiny.”
The lady scratched her fingernails gently down Misty’s face, red lines appearing.
They stung, and Misty knew they were infected.
The weaker part of her –the part that could loosely be termed her humanity- had long fallen useless, lulled into a hypnotic trance by the power of the Lady’s gaze, but her steel core –the part she thought of as the hunter within her- was not.
And it was this part that narrowed her eyes as she faced the altar.
I will not die here. I will not. I will escape, I will kill them all, and he will die. I owe him that much.
Unbidden, tears sprang to her eyes, and her softer side marvelled that she could feel such in the mire of her trance.
Her harder side sought only vengeance.
Outside the litter, Marill sniffed the air.
Feeder sweat, blood, fear, anger, lust- all of these comprised a powerful cocktail.
One scent stood out though.
Pure, unadulterated sorrow.
One feeder here sought to free her trainer, mind clicking over with possibilities even as his body refused to obey him.
Pikachu jerked his head towards his trainer, who stood stiffly beside the litter as it was lowered to the ground.
He seeks only death. She is the only one who he would die by. To die, he must save her, the pokemon told her, both conversing softly and stealthily in their own language.
Marill agreed with this, but one question bothered her.
What will become of you?
Pikachu said nothing for a long while, watching the Zubat near the ceiling swarm in patterns of thick, coalesced shadow.
I will follow my trainer, as I have always done.
Marill nodded. All was as it should be.
Feeder he may be, but at heart he was pokemon.
The two small pokemon sat quietly on their haunches, awaiting the chance to free the red-haired human.
“Shadow, attend me.”
The Lady’s voice cut through Ash’s reverie, ripping his plans to shreds.
He could not plot whilst in her presence, and whilst under her orders.
He held out his hand, and the Lady clasped it with her own, gloved one. She feigned the need for his assistance as she exited the litter, but Ash felt the strength in her hands.
She wished to appear weak, hoping to fool the other lords and ladies that were arriving from every available entrance into underestimating her. She had been given the honour of finding a suitable sacrifice by the shamans, perhaps now she sought more honour by being pronounced the leading court-master.
Stepping lightly onto stone and dust, she swept towards the dais with nary a backward glance, leaving Ash to help Misty from the litter.
“I cannot help you. She has ordered me not to aid your escape. There is nothing I can do,” he hissed in her ear as he helped her out, “I can only speak to you now because that ban has been lifted, and shortly it will be placed upon me once again.”
Misty shivered, glad to be once more in control of her own flesh.
Something of the desperation in his voice drew her thoughts back to the Lady’s orders.
“And shadow mine, you will watch her. Do not aid her to escape. Do not even converse with her until we arrive.” Do not aid me... she said nothing about not letting me escape... if I can manage it, he’ll be able to let me go... but how? I can’t do anything if he thinks he must prevent me from escaping! I have to tell him!
She tried to point this out, but her body still remained in trance, and her lips refused to form the words.
The Lady was still too close.
“What you do, you may have to do on your own.” He murmured, breath hissing into her ear. Abruptly, he jerked back as he let her feet touch the ground.
No-one seemed to have notice their brief conversation.
Unknown to them, seeming to be unnoticed was not enough. A small shadow slipped up to the dais, and whispered softly n the Lady’s ear.
The Lady scowled.
He led her through the crowd, to the beckoning Lady, who stood on the dais with the other lords and ladies, and all of them watched Misty with hunger in their eyes.
Behind Ash, Marill and Pikachu trotted unseen towards the gathering, winding their way through the murderous crowd.
At the edge of the altar stood a dark-robed figure, whether young or old, male of female, no one could tell.
It was this figure that took Misty’s hand from Ash, and led her away.
Ash tried to clutch at her fingers, but his own body betrayed him.
Her fingernails scraped his flesh as she was led away, and blood pattered onto the stony ground.
Misty tried to look back at him, but could not, managing only a brief glance before her head snapped around.
Ash sighed, breath hissing between his lips in an expression of despair.
I cannot save her. In the hands of a shaman, she is already dead.
The feeders that massed screeched approval as Misty was seated on the edge of the altar, blue dress fanning oven eldritch carvings, momentarily hiding their evil from sight.
The shaman raised a gnarled hand, with skin as old and as dry as parchment, and gradually the feeders fell silent.
“A pact will be made. With the spill of willing mortal blood, our gods will be summoned, and our end will come. Do you accept this mortal’s life as a prayer for the end of other lives?”
The voice was as that of decay, and in its hushed and cracked inflection, Ash heard the sigh of wind through a tomb.
The feeders around him –male, female, old, young, pokemon or otherwise- roared in agreement, and his ears rang from the horrible sound.
Pikachu moaned, and Marill snarled, hackles rising.
No-one beside him noticed.
The lords and ladies of the feeder gentry smiled horribly, and his lady laid Misty down on the altar, forcing her hands into shackles.
She struggled, regaining control for a brief, furious moment before it was once again smothered by the power of the minds of the lords and ladies around her, others adding their strength to the Lady’s own.
Only the common feeders thought that this sacrifice was willing.
Ash, rooted to the spot, called out in desperation, not expecting to be able to speak. She’d forbidden him from letting Misty escape, and distracting the guards surely fell under that command...
Judging by the frantic words that burst past his lips, it did not.
“NO! LET HER GO!”
All heads swivelled to him, including hers, and in her brief glance he saw understanding.
The Lady stared at him, anger flaring in her imperious eyes, and Ash backed away.
If I make myself a target, she might be able to escape. It is a slim chance, but it is my only option. If I am taken, they will focus their attention back on her, and she will die soon after. I had better give them a show to provoke their interest!
Pikachu, as though he could hear his thoughts, howled at the roof, frightening the masses of Zubat.
Soon, the air was filled with flying, screeching, biting creatures, and the feeders below ran, plunging the cavern into chaos.
More than one was trampled in the stampede towards the exits.
Ash managed to make his way to the dais, slipping through the thick crowd like a greased Ekans.
The gentry panicked, trying to maintain control, and more than one mind wrenched free from their grasp.
Misty felt their control lift as surely as she would feel a bucket of cold water splash down her neck.
Shivering in fear, she scrabbled at the shackles. Luckily, they hadn’t been fastened properly, and the lacquered bands came free under her fingers.
She could see Ash running towards her, and the gentry running into the panicked throng.
Above them, the Zubat swooped, clawing at the eyes of the frantic feeders.
Obviously, they held no loyalty for the feeders, even if they did stem from the same common ancestor.
Bright light flared, and the Zubat were no longer afraid.
They were enraged.
More people screamed, and the stalactites above them trembled.
More than one fell, spearing a feeder on its way down.
Soon the cavern floor was slick with blood.
The feeders were fleeing, hundreds crushing themselves into tunnels barely wide enough to hold dozens.
Some of them died, but more escaped.
She scrabbled at the half-fastened ankle shackles, fingers slick with sweat.
Bent down, she didn’t notice the figure behind her, and her head jerked sharply and painfully back as they grabbed a handful of her hair, dragging her off the altar and onto the floor.
“Your companion’s trick has been for nothing, human. You will still be our sacrifice!”
A knife rested on the soft white flesh of her throat, and Misty tried not to swallow, tried not to breathe, anything that would make the blade that rested so lightly on her skin move.
The hand in her hair tugged again, and hot rage flooded through her, wiping away fear.
As the figure started to chant, hot rage passed into cold fury, and she head butted backwards, slamming into the stomach of the shaman.
The figure gasped, and the knife slipped from his fingers.
She grabbed it, and without stopping to think, slammed it into the figure’s throat.
The black hood fell away, revealing a man old enough to be her ancestor, and with a kind, patriarchal face.
However, the malice in those eyes burned with a fury centuries younger.
He gasped like a speared Goldeen, hands clawing at his throat.
She twisted the knife, jerking it along his throat, and severing his head.
No blood sprayed forth, but dripped slowly to the ground.
The head –blank eyes still blinking- thumped next to her feet.
The body, hands still clutching at the throat, tumbled down soon after.
She tossed the knife away, accidentally spearing a fleeing guard.
She looked around slowly, took in the nearly deserted cavern, the fighting amongst feeders for an exit, and the swarming Zubat.
Now would be a good time to leave. But... where’s Marill?
A chirrup by her feet, and there her pokemon was, blue fur splattered with blood that Misty knew was not Marill’s.
She couldn’t see Ash anywhere, but the trembling stalactites on the roof told her if she didn’t leave now, she’d leave in a body bag.
She started to run, bare feet slipping on pools of blood.
She didn’t stop until she heard the Lady’s voice.
Ash had not meant to be captured.
He had only meant to escape, find her, and drag her out of the cave.
Unfortunately, such a thought fell under aiding her, and he’d found his body resisted his efforts to move.
No matter how hard he struggled, he’d only managed to move a metre, and that was when a stalactite fell, spearing the feeder next to him.
The Lady had found him in no time, and had reined him in.
Her mind had swarmed his, obliterating all thought, and driving him to his knees in pain.
Pikachu had screamed, and the Lady threw him like a soft toy to thump against the wall.
Marill was no where to be found, and he supposed he was grateful for that small relief.
He couldn’t see Misty anywhere.
The Lady’s hand circled his throat like an iron band, and lifted him to his feet.
She spoke, and the words bored through his brain.
“Sacrifice! Hand yourself in, or he will die! He may not care for you, but you care for him!”
Misty, do not allow yourself to be fooled! Flee! I will die anyway! I would not have my death if it results in yours!
Perhaps she heard him, perhaps she did not.
Either way, Misty did not emerge.
Ash closed his eyes, even as the Lady continued to shout.
She was safe.
That was all that mattered.
Misty certainly had heard the Lady, but it was not truly her who had deciphered the words.
Since killing the shaman, something strange had come over her.
She no longer felt any attachment to Ash, or any sense of gratitude towards his efforts to save her life.
In fact, all she felt was a calculated rage against feeders in general, and he was one of them.
It was obvious now that the chain reaction started by the feeder blood in her veins was complete.
Humans generally had two reactions to feeder blood: they died slowly and painfully as their bodies were over taken by enemy cells, or their body repelled the cellular invaders, causing incredible pain, but leaving them ultimately human.
In Misty’s case, something impossible had happened.
The enemy cells and her own cells had reached an impasse.
The feeder cells –Ash’s cells- had been smoothly integrated into her body, affecting the logical parts of her brain, and replacing those neurons associated with violent action. Others had intermingled with the myofibril in her muscles, strengthening her, and others still existed along side the erythrocytes in her arteries and veins.
Shreds of her humanity had been stripped away, no longer leaving her temporarily schizophrenic as she had been moments before, but changing her irrevocably.
She was now capable of more –and, perversely, less- than the old Misty had been.
The old Misty would have tried to save Ash.
This one recognised the foolishness of such an action, and exited the cavern quick-smart.
The Lady’s threat fell to nought.
The Lady, upon realising that Misty was not going to show, cursed and threw Ash to the ground.
Ash, whose brain was dying through lack of oxygen, gasped for air like a beached Magikarp.
Pikachu lay still and silent by the wall.
Tears flooded Ash’s eyes as he gasped for breath.
The Lady cursed, and flung a knife at Ash’s feet.
“The rite is a shambles, and it is because of you. I order you to kill yourself; slowly and painfully.”
Ash’s hands trembled, and to his horror, reached for the knife.
“Enjoy your stay in hell, mine shadow.”
The Lady fled, stepping on the hands of those feeders foolish enough to reach for help.
This was no comfort to Ash, who held the knife in sweaty fingers, before driving it into his stomach.
He gasped in pain, and Pikachu’s ears twitched.
The knife was drawn out, and plunged into his chest, puncturing a lung.
Blood splashed down his shirt.
Pikachu’s feet twitched, and he wrinkled his nose.
One slitted eye opened slightly.
Ash moaned as he twisted the knife, unable to control his murderous hands.
Even now his grip became weaker, fingers trembling.
The knife was jerked out, and slid from bloody fingers, landing on the rock beneath him, and skittering away from him.
Ash slumped sideways, landing on Pikachu’s tail.
Pikachu, jolted awake, panicked when he saw Ash bleeding.
Ash’s hands reached for the knife, and Pikachu –still feeling slightly the worse for wear- ran for it, scooping it out of Ash’s shaking hands.
Ash moaned again, and blood welled in his mouth.
His head hit the rock.
Curiously, Ash felt the pain recede. For a moment he thought that his body was healing him, but then realised the reduced pain came from a loss of sensation.
He tried to breathe, spitting out blood that quickly welled.
Pikachu, panicking, Thunder-Shocked Ash, hoping to jolt him back to life.
It didn’t work.
Gurgling, Ash drowned in his own blood, gasping for air that just wouldn’t come, even as the blood poured from his mouth.
It took him ten minutes to die, and by then, Pikachu was already running.
The Lady ran.
She knew that even if the shadow died –which he would, an order from her could no more be disobeyed than the brain’s orders to breathe- the Pikachu would not.
He would be injured, certainly, but feeder-pokemon were certainly stronger than their human counterparts.
She kept running, stumbling over bodies that littered the caverns, and slipping in pools of blood.
The occasional Zubat screeched as she ran past, baring bloody fangs that suggested it had fed recently.
She ignored them.
She was the strongest feeder alive; nothing, feeder or human or pokemon, could harm her.
Unfortunately, she didn’t take into account a mix of both.
“Pika,” whispered as soft voice, and she whipped around, seeing nothing in the darkness.
While the cavern had been light by torches, here there was absolute darkness.
She shrieked as something brushed past her leg, and berated herself for squealing like a human school-girl.
It was only a body. That is all. Get a hold of yourself. You haven’t screamed like this for centuries!
Something else brushed past her leg.
Against the common sense that urged her to keep running, she paused.
Nothing could be heard, except for the rasping scrape of her breathing and the faint sizzle of electricity...
Wait a minute...
Light flared in the tunnel, and she screeched, hiding her eyes as it bored through her pupils.
When she could see, she backed away in horror.
Not from the carnage around her; simple dead bodies and blood troubled her not, even if they were mostly headless, or pools of jam-like sludge, mashed into the stone by stampeding feeders.
No, the object of her sudden terror was the small pokemon, seated on the remains of a feeder, snarling at her.
He leapt off it, and began to walk towards her, with measured, even steps.
She backed away, before realising she was a coward.
She stepped forward then, hands raised like claws. Indeed, her fingers resembled the talons of a swooping Pidgeot.
Pikachu grinned, and the light in the tunnel blinked out.
Soon after, another life was snuffed out like a candle, but not before Pikachu had made her scream every step of the way.
Job done, he trotted towards the exit of the tunnel.
Ash might be dead now, but the Lady’s orders had dissolved upon her death, and he’d wake up any moment now.
Pikachu wanted to be there with the medics when that happened.
The warm morning air ruffled Marill’s fur, carrying the scent of Bellossom from the hills.
Marill smiled, scratching the dried blood from her fur.
Misty, seated on the edge of the cliff they rested on, scanned the ground spread out below her.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
For a moment, she thought she saw Pikachu, running through rippling grass, but she dismissed it.
just a wild Pikachu. We are near
A small twinge of sorrow ached briefly, but soon faded.
He wanted death; he got it.
She stood, heading for a stream she’d seen in the distance.
She wanted to wash the feeder blood of her skin.
Marill trotted after her, sniffing casually at the air, as though searching for a particular scent.
She’d lost her pack, she was covered in blood, she was sore and aching from the small battles she’d had on the way out of the cavern, and she was tired. She had not a cent on her, and the only clothing she had was the beautiful, but ridiculously heavy dress draped over her.
On the upside, she also had a knife she’d taken from the body of a feeder near the entrance.
Boy, had he been surprised to see her.
Nevertheless, she felt more alive than she had ever been.
“Marill, the world is our Cloyster. What shall we do?”
Marill nodded, and made a suggestion, bloodlust sparking in her eyes.
Misty grinned maliciously.
She liked the way Marill thought...
“Dear gods... look at this place? What happened here?”
Jake covered his nose with his sleeve, trying not to breathe in the putrid scent of the decaying bodies around them.
His partner, Luke, wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“Looks like some sort of mass-murder... maybe it’s one of those suicide cults?”
He swept the beam of his torch over the dead bodies, just in time to see the Pikachu run towards another body, one that appeared remarkably whole...
“Ugh, this one’s been speared by a stalactite... hey, that one’s moving!”
Jake swept his torch over to where his partner was running, and gasped in amazement.
He dropped the torch and started to run.
“He’s been stabbed in the abdomen, once in the chest, might’ve punctured the left lung...” Luke murmured, dropping to one knee, fishing a medic pack out of his knapsack.
The body was moving, that was true, and it wasn’t just the standard twitches of a dying body. No, this one was alive.
Jake punched numbers into his phone, and rang for an ambulance.
“Nurse Joy says she can get one of those new copters here in less than five minutes. We’ve just got to keep him alive until then.”
Luke nodded, and started wrapping gauze patches around the man’s chest.
“Jake, you better write this down...” he called out, moving onto the deep wound in the man’s chest, “male victim, dark hair, light tan complexion, aged between 20 and 25, dark eyes-” he lifted an eyelid, and peered at the dark, dilated pupil “- I think, stabbed twice, still alive but barely.”
His partner grunted, jotting it all down in a notebook.
The sound of rotor blades informed them that Jenny had got here faster than expected.
The Pikachu leapt onto the man’s chest when he was raised onto a stretcher.
“Must’ve been his trainer... poor little guy.”
Pikachu said nothing to this, but closed his eyes and curled up on Ash’s chest. It took almost four hours for a feeder to be declared medically dead, even if they were decapitated. Ash still had his head, and even now his cells would be repairing themselves. All he needed was a week of rest, and he’d be fine.
Whether he stayed find depended on Misty’s reaction once she found out he was still alive.
Ash twitched again, and the nurses aboard the copter attached him to a heart monitor.
Faint green lines indicated he was alive, but only just.
Till he awoke, Pikachu could do nothing to help him.
It was all up to Ash, now.
He tucked his head under Ash’s chin and slept.
Misty looked up as the chopper flew over her.
Half-submerged in the river, she stopped bathing to look on at the flying metal machine.
For some reason, the sight of that craft sent chills down her spine...
She dismissed the thought and slipped under, gliding along, hair streaming out behind her.
Feeders all over Kanto hid.
At least those that were alive, hid.
The rite had not gone to plan; they were all in danger now.
All of the chaos in the cavern had been caused by that one feeder.
Murderous eyes narrowed in shadows of alleys, of caves, of deserted buildings, of slums, and of some of the world’s most important corporations.
That feeder would pay...
Yes, I know it’s a cliff-hanger of sorts. Don’t panic, there will be a sequel. Once I’ve finished MW&TA. Till then, you’ll have to bide your time. My apologies to anyone who really liked this story, and is disappointed it’s finished, and my apologies to those who didn’t and who thought it was crap, and are now angry there will be a sequel.
To all those who reviewed me: thanks. You’re support makes it worthwhile.
To all those who voted for me to win the BIC award for this: thanks again.
To all those who read my work: thanks a lot. Really. It’s nice to have an audience :)
To my friend: don’t complain. You’re lucky I’m writing a sequel at all, and if you whinge that Misty didn’t die, I won’t write for ages, so there :P
Anyways, this has taken me a while to write, but hopefully I’ll have more time on the holidays, and MW&TA will be finished before you know it!
Cheers, and Merry Christmas!