Present Day: October 29th, 1725
The Dividing War
“You Kanto scum!” cried a voice hoarse with exhaustion and thirst.
“Scum?!” came an equally harsh, cracked retort. “You Johtonians are as blind as ever!”
Only the two soldiers heard the exchange above the thrumming of bullets and the clang of metal that ravaged the once peaceful settlement of Cherrygrove, Johto. Most, if not all, of the abandoned, wooden cabins were either burning or beginning to give off foul-smelling, silver smoke, and it was clear they were going to end up like the charred and trampled remains of the settlement’s flora. Whatever official or government buildings that were still standing were used as temporary headquarters or watch posts, though that didn’t mean they didn’t sport crumbling walls or collapsed halls.
Mark Antony Colfax heavily sighed from on top of his Rapidash mount, the grip on his reins tightening. The sergeant hated to admit it, but things were not going well for the Johto side. Where were the hearty soldiers he had trained ? Where were those eager and loyal Johtonians from his trusty Regiment 66 that were willing to do anything and everything for their region? It seemed that his soldiers had grown tired and lazy during the two years of constant fighting. Mark Antony closed his amber eyes and jumped off the white, one-horned mare. The flared bottom of his high-collared, silver uniform fluttered like a proud flag, and by the glint of his unsheathed sword, the dirty row of buttons that led from his collar to his yellow waist sash glittered like gold. Beneath the fringe of his spiky, chestnut hair, Mark Antony scanned what laid in front of him. If the constant haze of smoke that had settled over the battlefield bothered him, he didn’t show it. Instead, a wry grin made its way across his handsome features.
“Hawkeye,” he addressed his horse Pokémon, “charge in there with a Fire Spin.”
With her brimming, orange and red mane and tail of fire now seething with a low hiss, Hawkeye galloped forward. Before the Kantonians behind the targeted, wooden shack could reload their rifles, the Rapidash’s fire shackles around her hooves flared to join the rest of the writhing storm of scorching ruby. Mark Antony watched the collapsing pile of wood burst into flames and heard the horrified yells for only a second before he raised his sword high in the air.
“Regiment, fallback!” The twenty-five-year-old’s voice rang and penetrated the whizzing gunfire like a knife. With a turn of the heel, he ran towards the direction of their headquarters, the kicked up dirt furthered dirtying his leather boots and gray pants; the golden stripe down each pants leg was hardly visible beneath the grime. In a flash of white and dimming scarlet, Hawkeye rode up towards her master. Mark Antony swiftly regained his seat on the saddle and turned the Fire Horse Pokémon around to make sure his troops were retreating.
They were, but their runs were slow. Those who had Pokémon mounts were at the rear of the retreat, making sure no Kantonians decided to follow them to take down a few more soldiers. Much to their relief, the opposing side was also retreating to their headquarters: the abandoned hospital on the other side of the small town. Their red and blue uniforms, as bloodied and torn as the Johtonians’, were soon out of sight. An angry Mark Antony watched them go and had the irresistible urge to rip his faded green headband and throw it on the floor. Here they were, already counting all the soldiers in need of medical attention and worrying about their diminishing first aid supplies, and the Kantonians had a hospital to go back to! It made his blood boil as hot as his mount’s mane.
“Come on, Regiment!” he cried while turning Hawkeye to the front. “Back to the base!”
Two years ago, Mark Antony would have been answered by tired groans, but the regiment had learned by now that any complaints would only further fuel their sergeant’s ire. Mark Antony got only half-hearted nods in response instead, not that he noticed. His hardened eyes were set on the two-story building in the distance, its spiral that grew from the dome ceiling amazingly intact. On it, bronze miniatures of Ho-Oh and Lugia intertwined and looked down at the faded white building and the dug watch posts that surrounded it. To his relief, the soldiers on watch were alert and uninjured, and they raised their heads when the Pokémon beside them perked their ears at the approaching army. Leaving the base in the hands of a few watchmen and their Pokémon was risky, but it had turned out fine in the end. Still, he was going to leave more men behind. Cassius Bradley, the Kanto Regiment 12’s lieutenant, was crafty. If he left the base so vulnerable a second time…
“Sergeant Colfax?” came a voice to his right.
Corporal Edward Cox pulled up beside him on his own Rapidash mount, green-gray eyes troubled beneath his locks of messy, dirty-blonde hair. His uniform of a silver jacket and pants were in better shape than Mark Antony’s, although the sash that had been around his waist was gone; Edward had resorted to carrying the sheath of his sword in one hand. Mark Antony turned towards the thirty-year-old man.
“Do you intend on continuing to the settlement of New Bark?”
Mark Antony considered the carefully-voiced words for a moment before replying, “I don’t yet. We need to talk it over.”
Edward let a small frown overtake his features. “Do you think we can take it?”
The young sergeant looked over the walking troops. “I used to think we could defeat Cassius’ regiment in a night,” he answered, the hint of a growl rising in his throat. “But I don’t know what to expect from them anymore.”
“They’re human, Mark Antony,” Edward told him, looking at the same troops but with empathy in his gaze. None of the privates could hear their conversation over the chats among themselves. Relieved chuckling and thankful prayers that they still lived to fight another day hummed in unison with muffled footsteps of boot against mud. The corporal’s stare drifted towards the slate-gray clouds above them, idly wondering if the incoming rain would douse the fires they left behind. “And so are you.”
“So because we’re human we need to have our expectations lowered?” The chestnut-haired man fixed Edward, the only person of a lower ranking that could get away with speaking to him in such a manner, with a leveled gaze. “You’re expecting us to lose against Cassius’ regiment?”
“Oh no,” the man said with a chuckle, which startled the mare he was riding. “I fully expect us to win. Cassius is much too arrogant for his own good, and his soldiers are no better.”
Mark Antony smiled a bit and laughed. “Haven’t you always said that I’m the arrogant one?”
Edward returned the grin. “Yes, I have.” He then became sober. “Which is why I fear you’ll push these soldiers too far too soon.”
Amber eyes narrowed in irritation. “We’ll decide on a plan of action once we get to base.”
Edward sighed as he watched Mark Antony pass; he knew his superior had already made his decision.
The regiment was now gathered in the once grand foyer of the town hall, their mounts tied up outside and receiving some well-deserved rest. Inside, those who weren’t huddled against the walls to be tended for their injuries or outside on their watch posts were waiting for their sergeant and corporal to speak. They leaned over the railings on the second story, their body weights threatening to send the rusted bars to the floor, while others decided to lean against the granite pillars that supported the second story and the dome roof. All of their faces were as serious as the visages of the mayors painted in the faded and ruined portraits on the walls and floor. By now, they didn’t expect any words of praise, and the encouraging remarks Mark Antony would shout were always a bit intimidating, especially with the wild look he would gain in his eyes.
“Regiment,” Mark Antony started from where he was in the middle of the foyer, a desk set in front of him and Edward stationed at his right. The twenty-five-year-old paused and looked down at the map he had spread over the wobbling desk. Worn until the edges fluttered at the slightest touch and the drawings and notes on the parchment were recognizable only to the writer, Mark Antony analyzed it once more, eyebrows creased, before he continued. “Tonight did not go as planned.” He briefly glared at the dirt-washed carpet on the floor, its once glorious ruby now a pathetic shade of gray. It was not like him to state the obvious, but the bitter taste of defeat was still fresh in his mouth. Edward was watching him from the corner of a worried green eye.
Although it isn’t the sergeant I’m worried about,
he dryly thought with a glance at the soldiers. Even those who were being bandaged shared a look of dread.
“The Kanto regiment was better prepared, better organized, while we were scrambling like ants. In Johto! Cassius’ regiment was supposed to fall tonight, but we fell short.” Mark Antony’s cold glare swept the room. “Are you all really loyal to Johto?”
“Of course we are!” a voice shouted. A private from the second floor leaned even closer to the center, half of his body precariously dangling over the rail. The man regained his composure after his companions muttered to him to behave. Though his face was in shadow, his rigid stance and balled fists showed his anger. When he spoke, his voice was as strained as his whitening knuckles. “We fight for Johto! We fight for our people!”
When Mark Antony said nothing to his disrespectful private, more and more similar shouts rang out. All made the walls of the building shake with the men’s pride. Even those who could not get up from where they laid injured on the floor banged their fists or clapped their hands in support. Edward narrowed his eyes in annoyance, something that went unnoticed by the now excited regiment, and was about to shout for them all to get at attention until he caught sight of his sergeant’s steadily reddening face.
“Idiots,” the amber-eyed man muttered under his breath. He then faced his regiment again and shouted as he slammed his fist against the desk, “YOU IDIOTS!”
The yells stopped only for Mark Antony’s booming voice to overthrow the silence.
“Patriotism?” he scoffed at them. “Over the past year, the Kanto forces have taken over our border and majors towns like Blackthorn and New Bark. We have been behind their tails and doing nothing to hinder them for all this time, and yet you all stand here, shouting about loyalty and pride? Instead of spreading your cockiness about, learn to focus in the battlefield! Learn to steel your nerves in the heat of the fight! If not, leave this regiment and face those citizens left homeless after Kanto’s ruthless takeovers!” He gritted his teeth, his face receding to its normal peach color as he regained his cool temperament. Was he cold when he spoke to his privates? Yes; he knew it from day one, but he never thought the day would come when he would lose his professional poise.
“Our goal had been to take down the Kanto regiment tonight. We failed, which is why in a few hours, we will attack again while they are recuperating at their hospital base. First, a handful of you will go with me and Corporal Cox to scope out the area, and then all those who are able-bodied will go and carry out the attack once the signal for an all clear is sent.” Mark Antony raised a hand to silence the already rising protests and finished with, “Those who will go scouting will be informed in an hour after I and the corporal discuss the matter. You are all dismissed.”
Without another word, Mark Antony snatched the map from the desk, turned his heel, and walked down the hall to the right and entered his office, Edward trailing behind him.
“They’re right, you know,” the corporal told the sergeant, taking a seat on the beaten sofa that took up the right wall of the small office. Behind a scarred nose, Edward looked at the younger man taking a seat behind a desk. To his trained gaze, Mark Antony looked as worn as the peeling cream wallpaper and the scuffed hardwood floor of the room.
“Right about what?” the distracted man dryly asked, spreading his map again but this time studying it so deeply his brows became one fine line of concentration.
“They’re right that this is a suicide mission,” Edward elaborated, although he suspected he didn’t need to. As distant as Mark Antony acted, he knew the sergeant was well aware of what his men thought.
“In what way is this a suicide mission?” Mark Antony asked, still not looking up from the map and his tracing fingers. “Our men are capable enough to carry this out. They just need to be pushed and reminded that this could very well decide whether Kanto will gain control of Johto.” Now, he did look up, his mouth set as fine as his eyebrows. “And if I’m not mistaken, weren’t we supposed to discuss our candidates for the scouting mission?”
Edward took no notice of the question, though he did mentally smile; it seemed that Mark Antony realized that this was a continuation of their previous conversation. Instead, he fished out a cigarette from one pocket, a lighter from another, and began to smoke. With the freshly lit joint now dangling from one side of his mouth, he said, “You know fully well that there are not many men left without injuries. With lack of medical supplies and food, by tomorrow, they won’t be able to lift their weapons without shaking. They’re capable of carrying out this mission, but for how long? Long enough to defeat Cassius’ regiment before their surprise wears off?”
Mark Antony intertwined his fingers and met Edward’s eyes. Those sounded more like facts than questions to him. “We trained our regiment hard, all for tonight. Even if they’re not in top condition, we can’t just wait and fight another day. With Cassius, if we let him go, I don’t think they’ll be
“But it’s not just Cassius, is it, Mark Antony?” Again, his question was more of a statement. Edward tapped off some of the cigarette’s ashes as he watched the officer’s eyes narrow into dangerous slits, his fingers tensing into claws that dug into his skin.
“Of course it’s not just Cassius,” he replied tartly. “It’s all of those Kantonian forces, all of Kanto itself, that needs to be stopped. They invaded our land, believing that Johto hid Sinnoh refugees from their last petty scuffle with them. They started driving out citizens from their homes to search despite us insisting we had no refugees on our lands. They were the ones that forced us to attack them, and then they have the audacity to blame the destruction of our towns on our refusal to cooperate?” He scoffed at the acid-filled retelling of the past two years of war, then spat, “May Arceus curse them.”
With a sigh that expelled a cloud of smoke, the corporal straightened, his cigarette now held between two of his fingers. This time, he chose not to say anything. Mark Antony must have cruelly laughed at the privates’ pride in their region because his own was so strong that it put theirs to shame. Edward had no doubt that it was this overpowering feeling of regionality that had propelled Mark Antony to the top and made him this intelligent, if intimidating, man. His decisions had always carried some risk.
But nothing like this.
Then again, what did he expect in this crucial period in the war?
“I know what you’re thinking, Edward,” came the voice that startled the older man from his reverie. “I can see it in that distant gaze of yours.”
Mark Antony, for the first time in a long while, wore a smile free of arrogance and cockiness. The grin was sad in the way the young officer softened his eyes as he recalled a memory that already seemed like decades ago.
“You’re wondering how one of the army’s drummer boys became this cold-hearted sergeant at such a young age. What could cause a man to become so emotionally detached in such a short amount of time?” Edward averted his friend’s gaze. To be frank, the sudden change in Mark Antony’s usual steel eyes unnerved him. Still, he heard the man’s words as clear as day.
“I saw, even at that young age, how Kanto was waiting for us to slip up and give them the opportunity to snoop in our business and meddle for a chance to gain control. That scuffle they helped us with against Hoenn in 1607? After it was over, their embassy here grew larger, both in government officials and in stationed military. What happened when some of our plans for military weapons were stolen by the pirates of the Orange Islands in 1700? Kanto helped us get them back but kept a copy of them as payment for their help. They were manipulators then, and they will continue to threaten our land of Johto if they are not stopped.”
With that said, Mark Antony stood up and made for the door. “Now come, we made our decision as to who will accompany us on our scouting mission.”
It wasn’t until his superior opened the door that Edward blinked and spoke up. “We
? I didn’t decide anything.”
All the slightly frazzled blonde received was a smug grin.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t have talked so much, huh?”
A/N: ("regionality" is a made-up word from "nationality". Just thought it would seem silly to put nationality when the land masses are considered regions.)
I know, a pretty short chapter, but I accomplished what I wanted to in this chapter. Really, it's more of an introduction to a new character than anything. I was going to add a bit of Chapter Five, but I wanted the focus of this chapter to be Mark Antony, not what happens later. And yes! Finally, Mark Antony arrives! Been waiting to write his chapter since I finished outlining the story back in September.
Sorry if there are a lot mistakes in this chapter. Been nasally congested since Saturday, and I wanted this up before I went to visit my sister for a week soon (probably tomorrow). Like always, I hope anybody reading enjoys this new chapter! ^.^
What is in store for the next chapter? Why Jirachi comes back, but she's not in the best of shape. With Mark Antony's help, she makes a history-altering decision.