Ignoring Ivan’s inquiries, Mark Antony jumped on a boulder, held his club in his jaws, and then flung himself forward to grasp any available nooks his tiny claws could find. His very breath left him when he looked down and found the world below him small. Rocks tumbled down as he tightened his grip, willing himself to think of this as just any other mission. Nonetheless, his steely resolve was broken when he felt his stubby tail move and felt the claws he had instead of fingers. Who was he kidding? This was nothing like hiding in the bushes to ambush some Kantonians or running through a battlefield with his trusty sword in hand. Everything he did now, everything he experienced, was through a whole different perspective he was sure he could handle.
After he managed to hold himself with one paw and retrieve his club with the other, he turned to the Kantonian below him. “CU! Cubone!” Ivan ran back as Mark Antony leapt again and hit a boulder with a mighty hit of his bone club. Rubble exploded in his face, catapulting him backwards with a ringing in his ears. Something at the back of his mind told him to reach out behind him, and Mark Antony yelped when he caught hold of a small ledge.
~ “Damn!” ~
were the words that left his mouth. Mark Antony then grinned a bit. ~ “Such explosive power makes me homesick.” ~
The dust cloud settled to reveal Ivan unharmed at the foot of the mountainside and a pile of rubble in the boulder’s place. Mark Antony looked up and saw nobody had come down from the house to inspect the cause of the noise. He shrugged from where he hung at the side of the mountain. He personally didn’t care if he carved holes in this Kantonian landscape.
Soon after that thought, another boulder fell at his power, and then another, and another. Every time the Rock Smash sent him back, there was something that always allowed him to Rock Climb back to safety. It was eerie, if the twenty-five-year-old thought about it, at how easily he used Cubone’s mind to benefit him. Was this how it felt to be a true Pokémon? Did these creatures effortlessly performed their attacks because their bodies were accustomed to the familiar movements? Was he becoming accustomed to this body more quickly than he thought?
~ “How disturbing,” ~
Mark Antony thought when he landed on the ground and found that he had successfully cleared a path straight to the house. ~ “I might become more of a Pokémon than a human by the time this ends.” ~
The thought that he was no longer a human but a human’s soul
came to him when he sat on the ground, emitting a giant exhausted breath that rattled his helmet. With his arms like lead and the rest of his body just protesting his every twitch, Mark Antony could do nothing as Ivan picked him up.
“Wow, Den, I never knew you had it in you.” Ivan lovingly hugged the Cubone closer, much to Mark Antony’s annoyance. However, his cries of protest were just mumbles the human wouldn’t have understood anyway, and his attempts to free himself were lazy swings of his club.
~ “If you trained your Pokémon more, then I wouldn’t have collapsed of exhaustion!” ~
Mark Antony yelled, but his words fell on deaf ears. Ivan was practically sprinting up the mountain side, almost falling when his boots treaded upon the piles of rubble.
“Mr. Walker!” Ivan managed to lift himself up onto the ledge with a hand and a jump. “Mr. Walker! It’s me, Ivan! I think I know what’s causing you trouble!”
~ “And what may that be?” ~
his guardian inquired with a sarcastic raised of an imaginary eyebrow. Ivan turned to him with a smile brimming with confidence.
“Do you think Mr. Walker will be surprised that I can sometimes see the ghosts that cause all of this? He knows I can sense when something bad is going to happen, but this is something that can actually help us figure out what is going on.”
Ivan continued towards the house while Mark Antony could have hit himself
with his bone club. Couldn’t a minute pass without this kid getting himself deeper into trouble? Seeing what he wasn’t supposed to see surely wasn’t a good sign. He himself had seen a Legendary fall from the sky, and though he didn’t regret saving Jirachi, look where that had gotten him!
Shaking his head, the soul straightened for a better look at Mr. Walker’s property.
Mark Antony gazed at the house, and his heart quickened at the sight of blood splatters decorating walls and foggy windows. Pieces of broken wood led the way to the livestock pen like a trail of poisoned bread crumbs. Ivan dropped him at the sight of it, and Mark Antony was quick to scurry towards the scene before his legs could give out and Ivan regained the ability to shut his mouth and assess the situation. He trudged through a small patch of flowers that were wilting to the point of kissing the ground, and he spared a glance at the pile of shingles that littered the ledge. It seemed that even this house that laid on the outskirts of the town was not spared from the decay.
“D…Den?” Ivan stammered, all of his child-like excitement vanishing in a breath of fear. The thirteen-year-old took a few steps towards the collapsed area of the fence and managed to trip on a board clawed to splinters. From his knees, he saw the dead Doduo on the ground. Every brown body was barely identifiable from each other. They were all opened carcasses that spilled sanguine blood and ripped organs. Their beige and black necks were twisted, snapped, or otherwise thrown aside. Ivan looked away, but his eyes landed on a mound of blood-drenched feathers.
~ “This is not the time to lose your nerve, Ivan!” ~
Mark Antony barked. A twinge of guilt bloomed in his chest when he saw the boy’s pale face turn a sickly shade of green. The boy had never seen something so brutal. His mind had set eyes on scattered innards, of pools of blood that made the very sky gain a shade of scarlet. Though Mark Antony could not smell a thing, he imagined Ivan was suffocating with the odor of warm meat.
Deciding that getting mad at the kid was only going to make the guilt grow -- why he even felt guilty in the first place, he did not know -- Mark Antony walked towards the mangled birds for a closer look. When he passed the fourth chunk of meat, he concluded that whatever killed the flock of Doduo was not after prey. In fact, when he stood over a Doduo that had its side slashed open and its black neck wrung, the ripped patches of meat were all accounted for.
~ “Is this really the work of ghouls?” ~
he asked the air that was pungent with the smell of death. No matter which way he turned, there were no blood tracks or evidence of a skirmish. Every Doduo had wide, frozen eyes of terror, and it only lend to the idea that they never knew what had killed them in the first place. It was as though they had been shaken in the air until whatever child had picked them up threw them aside like toys.
Mark Antony subconsciously touched his neck with a paw. Maybe it wasn't a ghost but a Pokémon with cruel powers and an unfeeling heart...
"Hey! Get away from there!"
The Cubone jumped a foot into the air and whirled around, club held out in front of him. Mark Antony relaxed slightly when it was only a middle-aged man standing before him. The stranger, garbed in a gray, long-sleeved shirt and threadbare pants stained with the blood of his flock, led a slightly-relieved Ivan away from the scene. Mark Antony was about to ignore him and investigate the bodies more when the man looked back at him with narrowed, brown eyes. Half-expecting the broad-shouldered farmer to come and drag him by the skull, the guardian begrudgingly followed the pair.
“You’re alright, Mr. Walker,” Ivan said at length. Despite his blanched face, the boy craned his head to see the bloodied corpses, but Walker turned him away. His bushy brows furrowed, and if his hands were free, he would have run one through his graying, chestnut hair in worry.
“This is not what I wanted you to see,” Walker admitted, the guilty tone that weaved his words making even Mark Antony cringe. He shouldn’t have been at the back of his house worrying about his silly, dying crops. He should have been there when Ivan reached his house to drive the kid away, away from the horrors that made him question his sanity.
“Wh…what did that?” Ivan’s words were a whisper, but the same determination from before was coming to prevail the fear that had left him breathless. There was also an odd glint in his eyes that told of something only he knew. Mark Antony actually pushed the Kantonian so he couldn’t run back and see the corpses. Ivan wouldn’t be able to stay out of trouble if he fainted after all.
Actually… No, he dashed the idea away. Death would probably clobber him with his own scythe if he thought more about it.
When Ivan reached for the door, Walker steered him to the steps instead and made him sit.
“Ivan, you shouldn’t have come,” the man began. “You shouldn’t have, not at all.”
“But, Mr. Walker!” Ivan cried, not even questioning why they weren’t inside the house. “You said weird things were happening in your property, just like in town. You’re my friend, Mr. Walker! You were the one who taught me to read and write when Father couldn’t afford to send me to school. You were the one who gave me Den so he could help Momma cultivate our plot. I had to come and help!”
Walker buried his face in his hands, suddenly looking every year of his fifty-three years. “Ivan, it’s too dangerous here. I shouldn’t have said anything about it.” He waved towards the house behind them with very troubled eyes. “Things inside my house come to life and fly around. It’s not safe.” Mark Antony saw Walker clutch his arm, his frown crinkling deeper into the folds of his sunburned skin. The gash could still be felt.
“I gave you this Cubone not only to help your mother but so he could protect you and your family,” Walker continued. His voice was firmer, and he began to stand up with Ivan in tow. “Den here was the Pokémon of a very prominent, Kantonian soldier: my son. He gave him to me once he got back from Johto, and now he’s yours.” He turned to Mark Antony. “Take him back home. Make sure he gets there in one piece.”
~ “With pleasure,” ~
the Ground-type responded, not even perturbed that the Pokémon he inhabited was once in the possession of a Kantonian soldier. This was his chance to end this ludicrous mission. With a triumphant grin that threatened to split his face in half, he pushed Ivan towards the cleared path they had taken.
“But, Mr. Walker!” Ivan yelled over his shoulder. “I can help; I know I can! We can go into town and say that ghosts did this!”
“Ghosts…?” Walker echoed in question. His mind ran over everything he didn’t
find among the carcasses of his Doduo, and he couldn’t even begin to explain the instances of when the objects in his house had come to life. Walker glanced at the mountains that served as a tunnel to the cities in the south. Spontaneous rock slides kept the townspeople from going through.
“Yeah, ghosts!” Ivan responded. Mark Antony stopped pushing the kid when Walker fell into silence and his charge’s voice fluctuated between certainty and uncertainty. Ivan turned around, his face contorted into many different expressions. “Every time something new happened in town, something that couldn’t be explained, I saw shadows in the corners of my vision. Every day now, I get cold, and I feel watched.”
His bottom lip quivered slightly when he recalled the chills that had racked his spine, his entire body, earlier that very day. He had tried to shrug it away then, but now that he was confessing what he saw and felt, a thorn of fear was growing within his heart. As though he could rip it away, Ivan clutched his vest.
"Back there, in the pen," his words left his lips again. "I saw shadows surrounding the Doduo, and I could even hear that they were angry!"
"Ivan..." The farmer walked towards the kid, his eyes wide with concern and newfound terror. "You cannot get yourself involved in this! I will go and inform the council of my problems, whether they're ghouls or not."
Ivan angrily stared up at the man's face as though he was the phantom that had claimed the lives of the Pokémon. Even when his shoulders were clasped by Walker, his chin was stubbornly thrust forward. "You won't go; I can see it in your eyes!"
"Ivan, please, go," Walker nearly begged. All the harshness his voice had carried was gone, but it seemed the green-eyed boy was oblivious to the man's plea. Mark Antony recognized the pride and loyalty on his charge's face; his own expression, after all, had often mirrored Ivan's. But the kid was crazy, raving mad, if he thought that he alone could put a stop to this.
When Mark Antony tried to push Ivan along, the boy suddenly jumped over him and ran back towards the pen. Both he and Walker turned around as one and cursed.
~ "Ivan!" ~
Mark Antony ran after him. He tripped once, twice, but he didn't care. For some reason, his heart was thudding madly in his chest. For some reason, Ivan's dead body flashed in his mind and made him sick to his stomach.
For some reason, he found himself wishing he was back in his normal form to take Ivan in his arms.
Do I actually
care about whether this kid lives or dies?
came the mental question. When there was a beat of silence, another thought weaved itself into his mind. He reminds me of myself...
"Stop terrorizing Mr. Walker's place! Get away from here!"
~ "Damn it!" ~
Mark Antony cursed upon hearing Ivan's commands echo around him. He slid into view and saw Ivan standing directly in the center of the carnage. He faced the sky but had grown silent with terror and the repeating thought of, What am I doing?
Outstretched arms shook in their sockets. His chest nearly fell still with his shallow breathing.
Then Mark Antony began to see the shadows Ivan had been haunted by all along.
They crawled from the corpses like creatures of the night. Their forms morphed from the shadows the mountainsides cast. Once the air grew thick with their anger and frustration, however, their wispy forms evaporated to leave behind nothing but their overbearing presence.
Without thinking twice, Mark Antony leaped in front of Ivan and emitted an animalistic growl from deep within his throat. Every Pokémon instinct in his mind swelled to the surface. The scales upon his body tingled with the supernatural energy that swirled around them and forced the pair to take deep, steadying breaths. Ivan took a step back, his mouth moving silently. A prayer? More demands? Mark Antony couldn’t tell.
The air was now so dense with malice that even the human Walker felt it chill his bones. With trembling knees, he forced himself to walk towards Ivan’s paralyzed form. Mark Antony felt a shift in the air’s energy, and both him and Ivan turned around. While the human could say nothing, the Cubone waved his bone club, shouting in his Pokémon tongue for the farmer to stay away. Walker was deaf to the evil whispers that swirled with the wind. He grabbed the stock-still Ivan in his arms and tried to drag him back to the safety of the yard.
“Leave the boy alone!” he bellowed, his eyes frantically searching his surroundings for a sign of the shadows Ivan could see. “You’ll never get what you want!” In his muddled thoughts, Walker believed with every fiber of his being that these ghouls were after Ivan and nothing else. “Go home! Go away! Go ba-!”
He was cut short by an invisible hand crushing his windpipe. Ivan struggled when both he and the immobilized Walker were lifted into the air. His own breaths were getting harder and harder to get out, and each attempt at breathing filled him with horror. Ivan looked down at Mark Antony with petrified eyes. Though he himself began feeling a force crushing his chest, the guardian had enough strength to jump up and pull the kid out of Walker’s frozen grip. Both of them fell on the ground, and Mark Antony dragged a stumbling Ivan away.
~ “Forget about him!” ~
he told Ivan when the human saw an unconscious Walker drop to the ground. The man’s chest was rising and falling with difficulty. His throat was beginning to gain claw-shaped bruises that spread to his face and chest like poison.
“Den, I see them!” he yelled as they exited the pen and began to run down the path Mark Antony had cleared for them. “They’re not just shadows anymore! They have shapes! And faces, too!”
~ “Death, if you’re here right now,” ~
Mark Antony addressed the cloudy sky. ~ I’m pretty sure Ivan’s sixth sense has manifested into something bigger.” ~
“Den, we have to tell someone!” The soul was relieved that Ivan was sane enough this time around to run away rather than go back for Walker. Ivan glanced at the house but then quickly looked away before his newly-heightened sixth sense made him see something too terrifying for his frazzled mind to handle.
But who will believe a kid?
Mark Antony wondered exasperatedly. Even
I find this situation hard to wrap my mind around.
He at least knew now that Ivan really was in danger.
A/N: Short chapter is short, but hey, it'll pick up in the next chapter.
For some reason, this chapter was both hard and easy to write. Maybe it was because of some of the changes I did in this chapter. I had planned for something a little bit different. However, though, this works better. I'm surprised I got a chapter in before school ended. Hopefully, I'll get Chapter Nine before I finish school June 3rd.
About four more chapters until Book One is finished. Oh man, I changed quite a bit of Book Two, and now I need to fit in new characters and other things. It's for the better, but I won't like going back and revising chapter outlines, even if it is by a bit. I should probably do that before I get started on Chapter Nine.
Ahaha! See? Cubone in the special chapter was a bit of foreshadowing. There's one other Pokémon in the special chapter that foreshadows a Pokémon later in the fan fic (which will become an important character). I'll leave you to guess which one it is. :P
Oh yes, the last page of this chapter marked my 100th page of My Guardian Angel
, not including the Special Chapter. Damn it, it feels good to have gotten his far. 8) It's one more thing that inspires me to continue on writing.