"You two, how about you become my subordinates?"
"What?!", Gary had the strongest reaction from all three of them and he wasn't sure if he heard Atiqo's statement right.
"Arthur, you surely aren't trying what I am thinking you're trying to do, please don't!", he tried dissuading him heavily.
But Hazel and Chestnut reacted even quicker than him and shouted loudly:
"Yes, young master, YES! I Hazel swear utmost loyalty to you! I will go through fire and lava and my body shall become thy sword to destroy all enemies attempting to harm you!"
"Yes, please take me in! And ehh, what ever Haze just said counts for me as well!", Chestnut couldn't quite remember it but was intent on band-wagoning on Hazel's lead.
Hazel was sure that this could be their only chance at escaping from entering Roots Underground! And he would do everything, EVERYTHING to not end up there! Licking someone's boots? Serving a child, a wanna-be adult? Sure! As long as there was a faint chance to not get sentenced to that abyss, every alternative sounded like heaven!
What about the dead Houndour? Hazel would kill hundreds of Houndours as well as his own Zubat to get a ticket out of hell! There was no honor or dignity in the world that could make him choose death over life!
Gary was shocked speechless from Hazel's quick surrender and personality shift. But more than that he was worried about Arthur's insane decision, did he hurt his head or something like?
Taking in the attackers as servants that wanted to kill you just a couple of minutes ago???
He turned towards 'Arthur' and grabbed him by his shoulder and looked him deep into the eyes:
"Arthur, this is no joking matter. Do you even realize how funny this sounds? You are surely just joking around, right??? Right?!"
Atiqo put Gary's hands aside and answered him with a serious look:
"No Gary, I am not joking, not this time. This is my decision after genuine considerations."
"I know it must look irresponsible and completely stupid to you right? I get that. I haven't forgiven them for attacking me and Sniebel *sigh*... and I don't have Stockholm-Syndrom, ok? Haha, no, I just realized that these guys weren't after me, they were after the money! And as long as the person behind them is still out there looking to harm me there will be more people to come!
If it hadn't been them, somebody else would have taken on the job and maybe ... even succeeded!
The enemy must have considerable influence in the underworld or be rich enough to hire these mercenaries ..."
"Mercenaries?!", Gary's eyes contracted sharply and looked back at the two defeated criminals,
"You two ... you are really mercenaries?!"
Hazel raised his head first and reported immediately:
"Yes master Oak! Hazel Grant, 2-Star mercenary at your services!"
"I-I am just called Chestnut, 1-Star mercenary in probation, also at your s-s-services!", Chestnut had problems pronouncing the words correctly, maybe it was even his first time saying them outloud.
Gary was dumbfounded, he had thought these two were just some random thugs from the streets, now they turned out be actual mercenaries!
"Arthur, how did you know?"
Atiqo shuddered slightly hearing both of the perpetrators confirm their status. He wasn't sure about what 1-Star or 2-Star meant, but these guys were really professionals!
"I, eh, I mostly guessed."
"You, ... just guessed?"
"The Zubat and that Houndour, they worked too well with each other. The teamwork was great and they seemed very experienced, too experienced for some random people from the streets. And considering that they tried to kill me, I can't imagine any sort of employer to hire random criminals without qualifications to get the job done. I mean the risk for any sort of evidence to be left behind and be traced back and further lead to more investigations ... so it was very highly likely for him to hire professionals instead.", Atiqo briefly explained his assumptions.
Gary looked at him with amazement in his eyes. Was this him entering puberty??? Gary still remembered Arthur running away after finding out his talent wasn't good enough to learn the 'Breathing methods', but that kid then and the person in front of him were like completely different people! Who could calmly analyze the opponent's abilities and deduce their background so accurately???
Well, he himself was surely able to do so but, Arthur? Wasn't he still just a 12 year old with no experience as a Pokemon Trainer whatsoever? His current attitude was exactly the opposite of the image Gary had built up in his mind until now.
However Atiqo ignored Gary's weird stares and questioned the two people:
"Tell me, what was your goal coming here?"
"It was, ehh ... the first objective was to just hurt the young master a little hehe, just a little ... enough to get you hospitalized for some years ...", Hazel smiled awkwardly at Atiqo, he didn't want to offend the kid who was his only lifeline at the moment, but explaining to that same person how they had been supposed to finished him off was ... very difficult.
"But the client emphasized how much more money we could gain by just ...", his smile turned into a tearbreaking grimace and he forced himself to continue speaking,
killing you off. Ha ha ha ...", Hazel decided to change tactics and save a little bit of false face,
"Of course I vehemently dissuaded him to do so! Killing children and making them disappear from this world, it's not as easy as it sounds! And then ... he raised the money onto an even higher level ... hehe urgh. We would get bonuses if we finished you off and didn't leave any traces behind but ... eh ...", Hazel looked around at the damaged area and the many marks from their battle.
It was obvious that they had messed up their job, leaving a lot of evidence behind hinting that something had happened here.
"... we didn't expect for young master to be such a talented and challenging Pokemon Master, haha ha.", finally Hazel found a chance to turn the situation around and flatter Atiqo as much as possible,
"We tried our best to restrict young master, but you were so great, smart and ehh innovative in your tactics! It was impossible for us do our job right, I am extremely joyful to able to serve such a great and promising ..."
"That's enough!", Atiqo had enough of his bootlicking,
"What about the client, who is he and what relation does he have with me?", Atiqo himself wasn't sure about this. From Arthur's memories, there wasn't a person he knew that could have been after his life. He was just a young boy, putting mortal enemies aside, that body of his didn't even have hair on his balls yet probably!
"This we don't know young master.", but as Gary threw some fierce looks at him, Hazel felt the necessity to elaborate this more or his small body might get punched again,
"It's just that we didn't see his face at all, we couldn't really guess what kind of background he had, hahaha ...", he looked at Gary with panic, not sure if that answer was satisfying enough, but considering that he wasn't punched yet it was a good sign.
"You're taking orders from people you don't even know?", Atiqo was puzzled.
"Y-yes young master, that's how the Mercenary Guild usually operates, to keep the utmost secrecy in favour of the Client's private data, if (s)he wishes so at least."
"But, we could meet him up again! We were supposed to take our rewards from a pre-arranged location once the job had been confirmed done. If we were to meet up with him for real, I could surely find our more about his background!"
"No, this idea is dangerous, and not for me actually. For one we don't know the person's influential strength, and if you came up, found out his identity and that person realized later on that you didn't manage to kill me after all ... well, I can imagine it won't be my life that that person will be after next!", Atiqo dismissed the plan instantly und explained the flaws.
"Hiirrrrkhh! W-what does young master mean exactly?"
"Does the Mercenary Guild, or whatever it's called, allow assaults or even assassination attempts against minors and children? I think that's highly unlikely otherwise the Guild would have long been closed down by local authorities, right Gary?"
"I, ehh ...", Gary was still speechless from 'Arthur's performance and needed a second longer to ponder,
"Yes, yes, you're right! As far as I know there should be some regulations within the Code of Honor from the Guild to forbid any actions involving children, hmm, so that means ..."
"Yes, this whole operation was done illegally under the mantle of the Mercenary Guild! That person wasn't intending to play by the rules from the beginning on... If I were him, I would even pin down the blame on you guys after you managed to kill me off.
Now that you failed and if we assume you found out the secret identity of your employer, you two would turn into a liability he needs to get rid off as soon as possible! You could leak out the information, ruin that person's public image and also lead him into the radar of the police ...", Atiqo concluded his analysis.
As Hazel listened more and more, his face took on a paler colour level with every second that passed by! So it was really a trap! He knew it, the whole mission was set up to make them act as the masterminds and scapegoats in the end!
His back was drenched in cold sweat and his heart was close to standing still! Horror! He felt ultimate horror because they had escaped death yet again on such a close note! Even if they succeeded with everything, Roots Underground would still have ended being their cursed destination!
Chestnut didn't get anything and watched them talk with creased eyebrows, but seeing his partner getting more and more anxious, he became frightened as well.
"Then what do we do now?", Hazel asked desperately.
"Easy, you just void the contract or whatever you signed I dunno. You can tell him you decided otherwise and don't want the job anymore."
"But then, won't he just sent someone else after you ..."
"He wouldn't dare to!", Gary interrupted him with an angry tone,
"Don't worry Arthur. I just need to have a word with the people in the guild and I sure as hell won't let anything happen to you again! Hey, how did you even get the mission assigned to you? What about your contract?", he asked them.
Usually there would be a detailled report about the request or mission sent by the client that each mercenary could look into and use as a basis to either accept or decline a mission. But how on earth did a mission go through the system that endangered a child? That was a serious dereliction of duty on the side of the guild!
"Well, ehh, it was Chestnut who pulled the job, not me ..."
Everyone's eyes turned to that conspicious looking tall hoodlum. But feeling all those stares directed at him, Chestnut suddenly began stuttering:
"I-I-I was jus' there, hav'n a snack in a bar and t-t-then some dude in a mantle came by and t-t-told me he had a job offer ..."
"Oh, so that's how it went ...", Gary understood the situation now. It was possible to also accept missions directly by clients either in person or indirectly through the internet or telephone for example. The Mercenery Guild had Hubs specially built for meet-ups and networking opportunities between potential employers and employees.
However, that still wasn't a viable reason for not making a contract! Every member of the guild was obligated to report and document all jobs taken outside the guild's sphere of influence and let them get authorized by someone, and even then the guild demanded a certain percentage of the mission's payment - all this had to be mentioned in a formal contract.
"Did you even look at the contract properly?"
Hazel pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and hesitatingly handed it over to Gary.
Gary took it unpolitely and quickly skimmed over the details ...
"That's it!", he exclaimed victoriously and showed the paper to 'Arthur'.
"Here ... the person who approved this mission was someone named 'Wormtail'! People in the guild sometimes take on nicknames to hide their identity, but this bastard must know something about this, he's definitely involved somehow!"
"Gary, how do you know so much abou the Mercenary Guild?", Atiqo asked confused.
"Hehe, what do you think? Of course because I am signed up as a Merc myelf! Hahaha, even though I'm currently quite inactive and busy with lab-projects.", his answer shocked Atiqo greatly.
"W-what, y-you are also a mercenary?!", weren't they supposed to be the bad guy's?!
"Relax, it's not as bad as you think it is. It's a lucrative business if you know the right people and have the necessary skills to take on missions. The Mercenary Guild isn't inherently evil, there is also the Pokemon Trainer Association which is like the official counterpart to the guild.
The main difference is that the guild is less restrictive towards the member than the association, but in the end they have both the same goal, connecting supply and demand!
It's just that for the greater part the guild is more attractive towards ...", his eyes swept disgusted over the two delinquents,
"criminal scum and shady people with no good background. They basically take anyone who can throw a Pokeball and command Pokemon to get a job done. That's all the qualification they need and expect from a mercenary."
"Huh? Then why is it even allowed to exist?", Atiqo asked bewildered. Why could there exist such a thing when it was obviously a congregation of dubios people?
"Sighh, things aren't that easy Arthur. The truth is that the world is severly lacking in properly qualified personal or Trainers. Reforms to change things only took place in the last decade and to accomodate the current shortages ... well, this is why the Mercenary Guild is a grey-area kind of topic ...
And it's also easier to control evil if you know where it is but that's a whole different subject.
"What? Lacking ... Trainers?", several questions arose in Atiqo's mind but now didn't look like the right opportunity to ask.
Suddenly a huge wave of exhaustion pounded Atiqo's body, his mind was quickly loosing the strength to stay awake and when his knees suddenly slumped down, he also lost control over his consciousness and fell back into a deep slumber ...
"ARTHUR!", Gary shouted anxiously and rushed towards his side. He could support the boy's body before he would have fallen down with his face flat on earth.
Gary checked the boy's condition and shockingly realized how his pulse had grown weaker, and his face turned into a sickened pale colour. Blood flowed out from his nose in a small yet unending stream and the situation grew more grave with every moment passing by.
Gary, as experienced as he was, didn't fall into a panic but instead grabbed a hold of a PokeBall hanging on his side on one of his chains.
He released the Pokemon and the blinding light revealed a huge Pokemon with wide-spread brown wings, a long neck and a long, pointed, pink beak with a decorative red coxcomb on top of its head.
"Fearow!", Hazel and Chestnut shouted out fearfully. Such a mighty Fearow with a powerful aura, they didn't dare to stand nearby and risk getting eaten!
"Yes ... before I forget the two of you ...", he quickly propped up 'Arthur' on one side and turned his attention back to the two fear-stricken mercs.
But this time he didn't put on a light-hearted or happy expression on his face. He wasn't angry looking either, but instead the vibe he gave off was ... menacing!
He took a couple of steps towards them, and with every step Hazel's and Chestnut's heartbeat thumbed louder and louder until he stood right in front of them, face to face! Pure intimidation! That's the signal they got from him!
Then all of sudden and before the two could even react, Gary grabbed them both by their throats and held them (actually only Hazel) up a couple of centimeters above ground until Hazel was about the same height as Chestnut (who was too tall and still stood there frozen).
They both struggled to break free from Gary's grip but no matter how much strength they mustered up, it wasn't possible!
"Maybe you can deceive Arthur because he is too young to understand how the real world works, but I can assure you two that I won't make the same mistake!", he declared adamantly.
"Lkswcdnky!", they tried to say something or at least plead or whatever, with their throats tied up it wasn't possible for them to get anything coherent out, so they remained in their painful suffocating positions hanging. At the same time their faces took on more reddish colours and blood gathered up in their heads.
"This is a trick I learned from a shepherd in the saharan desert ...", Gary's eyes took on a ghostly eerie green colour and at the same time that colourful energy wandered from his eyes, over his arms and hands into the criminal's necks!
The mysterious energy seeped into their skins and disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared into the void.
Gary let go of the two, and both landed on their butts, their hands clinging onto their necks as if they weren't sure they got really freed. They gasped for oxygen with all the power they could pull from their lungs and breathed it in as if it was the most addictive drug on earth!
While they were busy grasping air for their survival, they realized both a mysterious connection had appeared that started from their neck-area and ended somewhere around ... the location Gary was standing at!
Gary left the two dumbfounded guys with a few words of advice before taking Arthur's body and climbing onto the Fearow.
"Wherever you are, as long as that mark is still left on your bodies, I promise you, I will be able to come and find you scum!"
That declaration triggered a shivering response in both of them, they looked at each other's necks but couldn't anything special there.
But as the Fearow beat its wing up and down and flew into the distance ... the connection both felt ... was still as clear as before!
HP easter egg lol Once a traitor always a traitor
Please enjoy and leave a comment behind :)
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