Chapter 30: Gracia’s Crusade
Fan fiction inspired by Pokemon, Pokemon Conquest
Rating: Young Adult
My officers had assembled in the Nixtorm castle’s war council room. Among them were Hanzo, Ina, Gracia, and Amy, along with their pokémon.
Local warriors and ninjas had been posted around the castle, in case of any spy intrusions or assassination attempts. I have gotten used to this kind of environment.
“Glad you can make it, Sir,” said Ina. “Allow us to explain this as quickly as we can.”
I nodded as Hanzo laid out a map of the Eastern Kingdoms, about 180 centimeters in length one way and 140 centimeters in the other. He then marked the map with different colored blocks, indicating our forces and our enemies’ forces.
“As you can see, we are currently in control of the five northernmost kingdoms in Ransei. With the recent attack on Avia, our defenses have been allocated to that kingdom much more than the others.”
“Based on our knowledge, we can best concentrate our efforts in Avia and Spectra for now,” said Ina, “but that would mean leaving the kingdoms Nixtorm, Dragnor, and Valora vulnerable.”
Ina moved a significant number of markers from those kingdoms and placed them in the Spectra and Avia kingdoms.
“So what are the chances of those kingdoms being attacked?” I asked.
“Chances of invasion in those three kingdoms are slim,” said Hanzo, “since any army that tries to march into them will have to cross through Avia and Spectra first. However, the people of those regions may not be pleased when their best warriors are forced to leave.”
“In other words,” said Ina, “we can’t afford to undergo this defensive strategy any longer, Lord Shuichi. We will have to go on the attack soon.”
I scratched my chin and readjusted my glasses as I pondered my options. We may have been the Resistance in these eastern kingdoms, but our tactics can no longer rely on morale and diplomacy. We had to adopt a military strategy, which these officers have more experience with than I do.
“What are the chances of us taking control of another kingdom with our resources now?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough resources for a full-scale attack,” said Ina. “Even if we sent our best warriors and pokémon into neighboring Cragspur or Illusio, our losses may be greater, even if we were to win.”
“And besides, the morale of our warriors and their pokémon have dropped lately,” said Gracia. “Asking them to risk their lives once more may be an even greater burden.”
Our council paused as we thought about the situation some more. Then Hanzo spoke up.
“There is another way, perhaps,” he said. “I received a report from an old friend of mine in Viperia, earlier this morning.”
Hanzo unraveled a scroll containing his most recent intelligence. His Gengar crossed his arms and put on a pouting face. I smiled.
“I guess your Gengar isn’t very fond of this old friend of yours, Hanzo?” I asked.
Ina, who had sat to my right, leaned over and whispered to me.
“That’s because Hanzo’s old friend is the pokémon Spiritomb. She and the Gengar, shall we say, weren’t always in good spirits with each other.”
Gracia and her Gothorita laughed as they overheard our conversation. Ina sighed.
“It wasn’t that funny.”
“So Hanzo linked with a Spiritomb, too?” asked Amy.
“He did,” said Ina. “In fact, he regards her to this day as his most reliable partner.”
“Then why isn’t she with him now?” I asked. “Did Gengar have something to do with this?”
“Hanzo’s Spiritomb was never meant for warrior battles, as she always favored local pokémon over humans,” said Ina. “However, she also liked living in the city, so she and Hanzo have an agreement that she will be his eyes and ears when he’s not around. Spiritomb is the perfect sensory pokémon.”
“Amazing,” I said as I nodded my head.
“Gengar on the other hand wasn’t very good at such matters,” said Ina. “While other ghost pokémon work best hidden in the darkness, Hanzo’s Gengar was more aggressive, relishing in the idea of combat. I’m sure you have fought him numerous times in your training, right Lord Shuichi?”
“Don’t remind me,” I said sourly.
“Much to Hanzo’s dismay, he also discovered through a priest that his perfect link as a warrior was with the Gengar species. That’s why he had decided to keep this one by his side for combat. Those two don’t always see eye to eye, but there’s no denying they make perfect partners.”
“Yeah, much like Roku and me.”
“If you guys are finished with meaningless small talk, I will continue my explanation,” interrupted Hanzo, slightly angrier than usual, despite never acting out his true emotions.
The rest of us sat upright and listened to him as Gengar sat patiently on the floor.
“It seems that Viperia has undergone a drastic change in its administration recently,” said Hanzo. “According to Spiritomb, their warlord was killed by another named Fujitaka.”
Gracia cringed as she heard the name. Was this man familiar to her?
“The entire kingdom is very uneasy about this change,” continued Hanzo. “Both people and pokémon there have always had more affinity to poison types like you, Lord Shuichi. However, thanks to Lord Fujitaka’s regime, the land has also become a haven for ice types; and the land itself is covered in snow, much like it is here in Nixtorm.”
Gracia curled up into a fetal position while Gothorita nudged her.
“So with the political unrest from the people, we may have a chance at attacking them swiftly,” said Ina. “If we can win, our victory will certainly boost our army’s morale.”
“And if it’s a poison kingdom, you might have a chance to link with some more pokémon partners,” said Amy.
I didn’t like the idea of war, but perhaps this opening was the one we needed most. It’s like Ina and Hanzo have been saying; we can’t be on the defensive forever.
“It’s settled then,” I said. “Prepare for an invasion on Viperia.”
“I don’t think it’ll be that easy,” Gracia finally spoke up.
The officers and I returned our focus to the situation at hand.
“Fujitaka and Daddy were bitter rivals,” said Gracia. “Even though Daddy was Lord Nobunaga’s retainer, Fujitaka would never let him have the upper hand. Can you believe it? They tried to call a truce by forcing me to marry that man’s son!”
“That’s terrible, Gracia,” I said without thinking first.
“That’s how it is, unfortunately,” said Ina. “It’s how things work out sometimes in Ransei.”
“But it was all a trick,” said Gracia in a softer voice. “Our marriage was only a chance for Fujitaka to cover up his real plan. And once my daddy let his guard down, he killed him. Fujitaka killed him!”
Gracia screamed as she cried while Amy stood by to comfort her. Hanzo looked down at his report without flinching and continued.
“Regardless, Lord Fujitaka is not a man to be taken lightly. Spiritomb has also informed me of another crucial detail. Lord Fujitaka has linked with Articuno.”
All of our eyes widened as we looked at Hanzo attentively. Gracia fell silent.
“Articuno?” said Ina. “But that’s Lord Mitsuhide’s pokémon. How did he manage to link with him?”
“Spiritomb’s marks on this scroll are difficult to decipher from here on,” said Hanzo. “But my guess is that after we were able to drive him out of Nixtorm, he has been searching for his rival’s pokémon, as well as a way to link with it himself. That will be our greatest struggle.”
“And why is that?” I asked.
Hanzo crossed his arms after he disposed of Spiritomb’s documents in a nearby brazier.
“Even if Viperia’s people and pokémon all somehow were able to rise against Lord Fujitaka, that Articuno fought alongside Lord Mitsuhide, Gracia’s father. Before the ceasefire, he and Articuno managed to take down an entire battalion by themselves to prove their loyalty to Lord Nobunaga. That Articuno can hold its own, even at a type disadvantage. It will not be easy fighting Articuno alone, let alone with an army.”
We all fell silent as we carefully thought about our plan some more. As the small fire from our lamps flickered in the cold, drafty castle, my thoughts too, were wavering in whether or not we could pull this off. The other members of the council also looked worried. It seemed impossible for us to regain our morale, but then Gracia unexpectedly spoke up.
“I’ll do it,” she said. “I’ll lead the campaign into Viperia, with the help of Gothorita.”
We all looked up from our pause and turned to our youngest member. Ina smiled with a surprised look.
“Well Gracia, this is the first time I’ve ever seen you volunteer for something like this,” she said.
“You don’t have to try so hard,” said Amy as she rubbed Gracia’s back.
“No, I mean it,” Gracia said courageously. “Gothorita and I have gotten much stronger now in these past few months. And besides, I can’t be strong like Daddy by just standing in the background.”
Amy moved aside as Gracia stood up.
“It’s like you said, Amy. Even if you cry your whole life, things will never get better unless you make it happen.”
Incredible. Amy said that to her? I know that she has been grieving all these years over the loss of our childhood friend, Nathan, but I never noticed how much of a change she had to make. Was I really just a replacement for him? Or was it something she decided on for herself, because she wanted us to both move forward?
“I have a feeling that Articuno has been fighting against his will for that man. I will take him back. I will free him of that link! Have some faith in me, Shuichi. I’m ready to go right now!”
As we all stood up, we agreed to let Gracia lead the campaign on Viperia. I couldn’t help but worry that these next few days would be very difficult for the Resistance. If Articuno is as powerful as my officers had described, even Amy’s Luxray and Rhyperior won’t stand a chance against him. And I don’t have any pokémon with a significant type advantage against him either. Was Gracia out of her mind?
“Oh, and one more thing, Shuichi,” said Gracia as she faced me, walking out of the war council room. “Articuno isn’t as dangerous as these two make him sound. He’s actually quite gentle.”
Gracia smiled brightly as I scratched my head.
“What makes you so sure of that?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” she said. “Because I’m Daddy’s daughter!”