Chapter 109 = Pursuit
Disclaimer: All characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
3rd of Jallora, CD 2156; Londimay
“We’re looking for a red anthro Yoshi.” Darkmark said flatly to the guard at the entrance to the city they had tracked Mikhail’s footprints to. “He has silver hair and is wearing armour and has an ornate sword. Have you seen him?”
The human guard cast his gaze over the group from underneath his helmet, leaning on his spear. ‘Strange’ didn’t even really begin to describe the scene: a Dragon Yoshi, who had supposedly fled the inhabited lands; a priest of the Yoshian religion wearing one of their signature black scarves; a young bard twirling a flute around on the fingers of his left hand; two vampires who had an unerring habit of licking their fangs every so often; and a crossbreed between two almost extinct sub-races looking around sullenly. The idea of a Yoshi dressed in armour worn by commanders of the human military suddenly didn’t seem so far-fetched.
“Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. Why should I tell you?”
Darkmark wasn’t readily in the mood to argue, and with a sigh grabbed a random handful of coins from his saddlebags and handed them over.
Pausing to count them, the guard snorted. “That’s it? Hmph… better than nothing. Yeah, I saw him. Stood out like a sore thumb. Claimed he was an officer or something, apparently.”
“I knew it…” Élloré muttered behind Darkmark.
“We had a good laugh at that, but he had the uniform for it. Demanded to be taken to some ‘research institute’ or something. No idea what he was talking about.” The guard continued, bringing up his hands to make elaborate gestures. “After a while he gave up and left. Dunno where he went after that, ’cept thattaway.” He finished, with a jerk of his thumb.
“Thanks.” Darkmark mumbled, and entered the city. The roads were wide to allow for merchant carts to go through, stalls set up all over the place. Notably more desirable than Sansata, the city was fairly clean and the inhabitants more civilized, everyone they saw taking a moment to stare at the odd group going through the city. Pausing every so often to ask bystanders if they had or had not seen him, they lost their lead at a square in the city with an ornate fountain.
“Alright, we’re going to have to split up. If you don’t find him in the next hour, come back here.” Darkmark said, turning to those behind him. “Skafria, go with Vachez. Tsi-Lau, take Élloré. That leaves…”
Salína nodded. “I’ll go with you.”
“I want you where I can see you.” The brown Yoshi said flatly. “Don’t let him get away this time.”
She looked hurt, but Darkmark beckoned to her and headed off away from the square with her in tow, scanning down each side street and alley, moving ahead at a jog.
Elsewhere, a tired Mikhail had almost found his target. For a little while before he had been sent to Corvan, he had been brought to the research institute in Londimay. It was officially a secret, placed in the trade center for easy access to materials. The researchers used to come to the castle to study him, taking measurements, performing tests, but once they had deemed him old enough to leave the castle he had been taken to the center instead. They seemed to learn a lot from him, and he was happy to help…
But it was they who told me the most about the Yoshies…
Almost exhausted, he moved along at a leisurely pace. He really needed sleep, and his mind was in chaos. I couldn’t do it… I couldn’t kill one measly little Yoshi… but she’s beautiful… no! Don’t think like that! But she trusted me… not like the others… is she an exception? I’m so confused…
“Hold it.” Darkmark said, doing a double take as he looked down a side street. “I think I saw him go down that alley…”
Running ahead, Darkmark went to the alley in question and peeked around the corner, just in time to see a red tail and an armoured foot vanish into a building, slamming the door behind him. Quickly following, Salína in tow, Darkmark found himself confronted with a heavy metal door, no doubt locked on the other side.
“Damn it.” He muttered, taking his hand off his sword. He raised his hand, and flicked a bolt of psionic energy at the door, which disappeared in a flash of light, leaving the door unscathed. Evidently it was magically protected.
“Brilliant.” Darkark mused bitterly. “Now what do I do?”
At the foot of the stairs, a familiar face greeted the runaway anthro, among the few guards and researchers present. The room was just an entryway, with a reception desk of sorts and a few guards armed with swords and wearing plate armour.
“Mikhail! You’re alive!”
“Of course.” Mikhail replied, lifting the visor of his helmet. “They took me prisoner when Corvan fell. My men deserted me at the first sign of trouble, and they poured in through the entrance and surrounded me.”
“Prisoner?” The researcher was dressed inconspicuously, looking more like some kind of a scholar, a pair of glasses perched on the end of his nose.
“But I escaped, of course.” Mikhail boasted, gesturing to himself. “Their army is right outside the city.”
“I heard their leader was killed, what are they-”
“He was.” Mikhail replied quickly, cutting the researcher off. “But they have a new one. They’re calling him a Saviour or something, he’s a brown Yoshi with these big dragon-like wings…”
“This is fascinating.” Came the reply, as the researcher led Mikhail inside. “You’ll have to tell me everything you can about them, so we can let the capital know…”
He began to recount his exploits from the fall of Corvan, such as they were. When Mikhail told him about the Dragon Slayer attack, the researcher took an immediate interest. “Ah yes, we provided the scroll for that spell. Glad to hear it worked.”
“Exceptionally. Their spells and arrows didn’t have the slightest effect.”
“And yet the Yoshies won?”
“With great casualties… but there are these two vampires. Apparently they can only be hurt by silver, but the regular men don’t have silver swords, and there was no sign of the captain.”
“Is that who this so-called ‘Saviour’ is?”
“No, they’re completely different. He’s very powerful. He’s casting spells of some kind, but he’s not using magic… no chanting or anything. I don’t think it’s Chi, though. You had me fight a couple of Chi users, and I know what that energy felt like…”
“That only leaves Psionics.”
“Don’t be a fool.” Mikhail snapped. “You of all people ought to know, you killed the last of them a long time ago for being such a great threat.”
“We did… but maybe a few slipped through our fingers…”
“Well, whatever he is, he’s leading them now. I don’t know if they’ll bother following me. Except this one…”
Dropping his voice to a conspiratorial tone, Mikhail leaned forward, eyeing the guards who were trying to listen in on the conversation. “There’s… there’s one, she’s… she’s just like me. Almost… she has wings. But she’s got hair, and clothes, and stands like I do.”
“Another anthro…” Came the reply, the researcher pushing his glasses up his nose as he turned away. “My my, they just keep surfacing today.”
Mikhail half-closed one eye in a questioning look. “Who is?”
Stuck outside, Darkmark paced back and front in forth of the door. The lock was made of better stuff than he could break or pick with his poor attempt, and the door jamb was metal too, so he couldn’t just cut around the hinges. He was so close! And yet here he was…
“Salína, do you have any ideas?”
Leaning against a nearby wall and staring at the door, she paused. “Just one.”
With that, she calmly walked up to the door and knocked on it a few times, looking over to Darkmark. Curiously, he waited for a moment, and then a panel in the door slid open, a guard peering outwards.
He didn’t get any further, as Salína punched him square in the face, sending him reeling backwards and falling down the stairs, as she reached in through the open plate in the door and opened the lock from the other side, standing back and looking to Darkmark.
“Impressive.” He admitted. “I forgive your mistake of letting him free in the first place. Alright, let’s go…”
“Survivors? What do you mean?”
“People who shouldn’t have survived, but did.” The researched murmured, stepping behind the guards slowly. “A psionics user being one of them, the leader of a guard force who was defeated… and another anthro.”
“What are you-”
The researcher faced him, peering through his glasses at Mikhail. “The Dragon Slayers were supposed to have killed them off. The last of them, gotten them all, like they did nineteen years ago…”
Mikhail shook his head in disbelief. “Nineteen years ago? That’s when I was born…”
Before he could finish connecting the dots, suddenly, a body fell down from the stairway, sprawling out on the floor, quickly followed by Darkmark and Salína, the former pointing his sword around the room and shouting, “Nobody move!”
“Just as I suspected… you were a failure.” The researcher spat at Mikhail, moving back against the nearest wall as the guards drew their weapons, four of them in total roughly surrounding Mikhail. “We took one egg, and raised it here, hoping you’d prove useful, an insight into their minds… well, you’re no longer of any use. You lost a city and allowed yourself to be captured. You’ve betrayed us and joined the enemy.”
“We got what we needed from you… and now you’re going to die. Guards, kill them all.”
“You bastards!” Mikhail swore, pulling his sword out and turning slowly to face each of the guards in turn. “I’ll kill all of you!”
Leaping out with a stab, he narrowly missed one of the guards, but dashed around behind him quickly as the guard’s heavy armour encumbered his movements, and stabbed through his unprotected back, where the plate armour didn’t protect him, skewering his chest. Moving forward to help, the guard nearest to the stairs was cut down by Darkmark, another impaled by Salína from behind has he attempted to attack Mikhail the same way. As they fell to the floor, Mikhail reeled from a blow against his chest plate and staggered back, raising his sword to parry the incoming strike. Dodging to the side, he jumped swiftly past and stabbed the final guard in the back, pulling out his sword in a gush of blood.
As the researcher tried to flee into the next room, Salína thrust out with her pike. Missing her target, she caught the edge of his overcoat, the pike embedding itself in the door and pinning him to it long enough for Mikhail to catch up and tear him free, slamming him up against the nearest wall with a fierce grip on the lapels.
“You…” he growled, a fierce look in his eyes, “Are going to start talking. Now.”
“Traitor…” the researcher replied, shaking as he was held helplessly. “You’re useless… I knew it was a mistake to bother with you…”
With the other two just watching, Mikhail kept pressing. “You said they tried to kill the anthros.”
“Yes, you fool! The Dragon Slayers have been picking off the sub-races for years… yours included. You were never abandoned. They found an egg and brought it back for us, at our request. And then we wasted years raising you… trying to make you into one of us. Hah! We thought we had you, but the first time it really counted… well, look what happened. You lost, got captured, and betrayed us…”
“Shut up!” Mikhail shouted, slamming him against the wall again. “You… you used me! All this time, I thought you cared… you just wanted me to probe my mind then die for your country like anyone else!”
“Pity you didn’t… you’d’ve been of some use to the army. We’d been planning to breed you, but it looks like you saved us wasting our time even more.”
Dropping him, Mikhail placed his sword at the researcher’s throat, breathing heavily. “Choose your answer carefully if you want to live. Was I really abandoned… or did you kill my parents?”
“Oh, -I- didn’t kill them. But whoever did should have finished the job!”
With a cry of rage, he slashed through the defenceless researcher’s neck, splattering blood on the wall. Choking on his last breath, the human fell to the ground, his glasses shattering as they fell from his nose. Mikhail just stood there and stared down at him, hands trembling as he sheathed his sword.
Slowly, he turned to Darkmark, glaring a little. “I didn’t need your help.”
“Oh, thanks!” he replied with a roll of his eyes.
“You came here to capture me.”
“Yes.” Darkmark said flatly. “We’re taking you back… but are we going to need ropes this time?”
Silence pervaded for a time, until Mikhail sighed and turned away. “I want to speak to Salína. Alone.”
“So you can attack her again?”
Turning back, Mikhail held out his sword in its scabbard to Darkmark, allowing him to cautiously take it from his hold. “If I hurt her, you can run me through.”
Taken aback, Darkmark nonetheless walked back up the stairs, leaving the two of them alone.
“My life has been a lie.” He quietly mused, trying to avoid looking into her eyes. “All this time… I wasn’t abandoned, they killed my parents, and I… I was helping them… you’re… you’re not evil, but… I guess I am. Heh.”
“Don’t say that!” She chided. She took his nose in one hand and lifted it, forcing him to look at her. “You may have done some bad things…”
“Understatement. I almost did worse. I’ve tortured, I’ve killed…” He gestured to the bodies around him, “I’ve been working with the enemies of… of my real people… who I really belong with. I was going to rape somebody, and… I betrayed your trust, your fleeting moment of trust.”
“I forgive you! And if you give them a chance, so will the others! You haven’t, though… you shut yourself up, and refused to talk. We couldn’t forgive you even if we tried, because you never gave us the chance. Mikhail, you’re not evil… you’ve been misguided. Come with me… when this war is over, I’ll show you what you’ve missed. I can take you to my home and you can meet other anthros, if you’d like.”
“I would… but I’ve done so much wrong, I wouldn’t deserve it.”
“Maybe not now… but if you atone for what you’ve done, if you try to make things right, it’ll be okay. Please… join us.”
He sighed for a moment before answering. “Alright… I’ll go with you. But, for now, it’s not for you Yoshies, it’s… it’s for revenge… and… so I can stay close to you, Salína.”
“Hey.” He cut her off, and gave a smile. “You want to know about me, right? Let’s head back before someone comes and notices this bloodbath… tomorrow I’ll tell you whatever I can.”
Stunned by actually seeing him smile, she could only nod slowly, following him as he headed up the stairs.
I knew it… he’s a good person on the inside.
Nobody is born evil… not even the humans. I wish this war didn’t have to happen… maybe some day we can all live peacefully together again…
To be continued…