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Melting Gelid Roses

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Quietly, a blue beetle in light bronze armor waited at an outpost in a tundra under the starry night. He slid his hand up his long horn, which extended up from his forehead. A heavy gust blew and he dropped his arm to his chest as he shivered. After a minute, he beat his wings a bit as his yellow eyes glanced over to the left side of the hut. Grass grew a little better on this side, and appeared greener the further one got away from the place. He turned back and peered through the hut's window, staring at the stone towers behind it. It was an old place, fairly battered from battles that occurred years ago.

"Hey, you!" hissed a voice.

The beetle whirled around to the right side of the hut and watched a red and white penguin in silver approach him. Behind him, the land had less grass, almost none further along. In the distance, ice and snow could be seen encasing the rocks and soil.

"It's Heracross, right?" the penguin asked as he waddled under the open hut, clutching his sack-like tail.

With a blink, the beetle nodded. "Delibird, I take it?"

"That's me," smiled Delibird and proudly pat his chest armor. "Pretty warm out here, huh?"

"W-Warm?" questioned Heracross. "You're joking, right? It's freezing!"

"Nah, this is nothing compared to home," laughed Delibird.

Another gust of wind blew, which breezed right past Delibird as he raised his head to feel the rushing air.

"Right, the f-frigid empire itself," shivered Heracross.

"You make that sound like a bad thing," huffed Delibird. "Not everywhere can be as warm as your little flowerbed of a kingdom."

"Well, colored me spoiled rotten, then," shrugged Heracross. "Anyway, we didn't come here just to discuss climate differences, did we?"

Delibird shook his head. "I wish it were only that," he murmured. "So will you." He unrolled his tail enough to reach inside of it and pulled out a light blue music box. On the lid was a white circle with a blue rose in the middle of it.

Heracross glanced at it and then gave Delibird a quizzical look. "Um…a box?"

"A music box."

"…Is that it?"

"Not even close," Delibird muttered as he opened the box. Strangely, no music sounded from it.

Still confused, Heracross stared at the box. "…A music box without any…music?"

"They told me that wouldn't be enough," sighed Delibird. He pulled a bend spoon from inside of it.

"It's a Twisted Spoon," deadpanned Heracross. "Those aren't exactly the rarest items on the planet."

"No," agreed Delibird. "Neither is this," he pulled out a sparkling fuchsia gem. "This, however," he mentioned as he pulled up a small crystal blue orb, "is not normal."

"An orb?"

"Don't you see a pattern?" inquired Delibird. "A soundless music box, a Twisted Spoon, a Psychic Gem, and a crystal ball. Those, along with these," he pulled out two marbles, "are not a normal find."

"You'd call this proof of the prophet?" questioned Heracross.

"Of course!" cried Delibird. "What else would they be?"

"Theoretically, a bunch of junk or keepsakes," offered Heracross.

"Valid assumption," relented Delibird, "but look closer at—"

Unexpectedly, a faint voice came from within the box, and whispered, "You…are…of me."

With widened eyes, Heracross gazed at the music box.

"Uh, I wasn't going to mention it," Delibird's quaking hands shook the box, "but that happens randomly."

"Some ominous voice bizarrely rings out from that box, yet you think that isn't worth discussing?" snapped Heracross.

"Considering how infrequent it was, I assumed you'd think I was mad," admitted Delibird. "And before that, you probably thought that anyway."

"Perhaps a bit," confessed Heracross. "Now, however, I can see that what your empire has found is actually fruitful."

"You do realize that because of this," Delibird lifted the box up, "we are on the verge of a great discovery?"

"More like the onset of war," sighed Heracross. "I'll need to notify my king immediately."

"Ah, tell him not to forget the deal he made with my emperor," reminded Delibird.

"Yes, of course," nodded Heracross. "Unless you have any more secrets to share, I'd best be on my way back. I'd imagine we have much to prepare for."

"Indeed," concurred Delibird. "Take care."

The two parted ways, with Delibird walking back to the frozen lands and Heracross flying through the grassier plains. As soon as the air grew warmer, Heracross flew higher and above the trees, enough to evade most branches and make his journey home quicker.

Nevertheless, the sun had already risen by the time he arrived at the stone castle amid large grassy fields and several routes, with one leading toward town, a path to the river, and another coming from the forest, like Heracross.

The weight of his wings began to wear him down and the beetle dropped back to the ground. Heracross lumbered the rest of the path back to the castle, making his way through the columns of the courtyard, where several knights practiced sparring with one another. A blue sea lion in samurai armor that stood on his hind legs oversaw them, but turned once he saw Heracross.

"Is everything all right?" the sea lion asked him, peering out from his shell helmet.

"To be…honest, I don't…think so, Samurott," panted Heracross, as he continued past the samurai and trudged straight into the castle.

Inside, his feet nearly slipped on the cool marble tiles and he reached out to a verd antique column. Maintaining his balance, Heracross sighed and straightened himself up again. He glanced at the brown desks and tables along the walls, some decorated with violets and callas in golden vases.

With a parting glance at the purple tapestries of former monarchs and the green banners of legends that built the kingdom, blue beetle made his way past the center of the room, moving beyond the two grand staircases and right along a long purple rug. Still exhausted, he stumbled again, but managed to keep his balance and didn't fall on the rug's woven golden petal designs.

"How am I not dead yet?" Heracross mumbled to himself and he took a minute to catch his breath.

Again, he righted himself up and made his way to large and sturdy green doors. He opened them and walked into the throne room. His eyes glazed along the bright marble tiles on the floor, over to the portraits on the distant walls, past the banners that were hung along the widespread columns of this room.

The dark purple rug led over to the pair of golden thrones with dark cushions that matched the rug, with one that currently housed the large and spiky, rabbit-rhino looking, bright purple king himself. He rose and his large and dark green cape draped over his white uniform, decorated with various badges and sashes. Near him stood a gray, rhino-like creature that wore a similar uniform, sans the elegant cape and short of a few sashes. Heracross bowed once he made it to the center of the room, and again as he neared the throne.

"Milord Nidoking," he greeted as he bowed down before his king. "General Rhydon, sir," he added before he rose again.

"Welcome back, Sir Heracross," Nidoking nodded. In a more concerned voice, he asked, "Would you prefer to rest for a little while? You look more than a bit weary."

"Sire, he went and came a long way for you, on very urgent messages and orders," argued General Rhydon. "He can rest when his report is concluded."

"There's no need to run the poor knight ragged, General," contended the king.

"With all due respect, Your Grace…" interrupted Heracross, "the general is right. I should get on with this before anything else."

Nidoking's eyes refocused on Heracross. "Very well, go on."

"Their messenger shared a soundless music box," reported Heracross. "However, inside it came a faint, whispering voice."

"So, the rumors were true, then?" asked Nidoking.

"While the validity is questionable, sir, the voice from the music box was certainly not from either of us," insisted Heracross. "Furthermore, we were the only two near it, and quite possibly the only two around the area."

"This doesn't necessarily confirm anything," mused Rhydon aloud.

"There have been reports that buzzed around the Iceberg Empire about the white mystic that appears and vanishes around the borders of cities," recalled Heracross. "The mysterious fellow was reported to carry a small blue box, as well as using telekinesis to levitate a Twisted Spoon around him."

"Ah, so a mysterious figure is sighted around the empire," shrugged Rhydon. "Should we be expected to send our own over there over something so commonplace?"

"Along with that," continued Heracross. "The white mystic carried a crystal ball that a few claimed to have heard faint whispers from." Nidoking's eyes widened slightly as Rhydon raised an eyebrow. "Sires, the messenger showed me all three of those items tonight, along with several more within the box. Furthermore, the mystic that carried them around had an uncanny ability to know when and where the guards would be when they tried to capture the elusive figure." The three sat momentarily in silence. "Your Majesty," Heracross spoke up again, "if you care to have my input, I believe this is worth looking into."

A heavy sigh escaped Nidoking and he frowned. "You both realize that, given the furthered confirmation from the empire's rumors, that we very much face the reality of impending war, yes?"

"It would appear that way," murmured Rhydon.

"Oh, the messenger also mentioned that you had a deal with the emperor, sir," remembered Heracross. "Does that…what does it mean, sire?"

"Deal…ah, yes," nodded Nidoking, More sarcastically, bitterly, he added, "Of course he would pile on kind reminders over good news, naturally."

"Sir?"

"Thank you, Heracross," Nidoking waved the knight off. "Go, please, rest now. You've been awake for long enough."

Heracross glanced to Rhydon, who nodded. With another bow, he turned back and marched from the throne room.

Only a second after the doors closed, Nidoking slumped back down onto his throne. Rhydon stepped closer and grabbed his hand.

"Don't do that, please," begged Rhydon with a nervous chuckle. "I'd think you'd come down with something and go mad if anything happened to you."

"How sweet of you to tell me so," smiled Nidoking. He let out another sigh and shook his head as his beam faded. "But what do I do now? We all knew that peace wouldn't last, it never does, but…this will certainly bring the four kingdoms to a head. It only takes one major disagreement, one big conflict, and then…" The king rubbed his free hand over his mouth.

"This is life, sire," murmured Rhydon softly. "When we agree on matters, we create friendships. When we care deeply for one another, we fall in love. And when we disagree one too many times, the road leads to war." He sighed. "Conflict is unavoidable, Nidoking."

They remained in silence when the king could not answer the general immediately.

"You still suspect foul play from one of them?" asked Rhydon. "On this matter, no, but on her…?"

"She was young," muttered Nidoking. "At least, she wasn't old. Illnesses are powerful and wicked by nature, but that…" He shook his head. "I'm sorry, I promised I wouldn't get so caught up over this, and yet here I am—"

"Sire, you don't need to apologize to me," asserted Rhydon. "Not over her."

Nidoking's eyes lowered, though a smirk slid onto his face. He gripped Rhydon's hand, shook it, and playfully demanded, "And you don't get to call me that. Not after everything we've been through." They laughed quietly together and the king exhaled. More curiously, he asked, "When are you going to speak plainly to me?"

"Never, most likely," admitted Rhydon. "In fact, you should be happy that I use your name alternatively, nowadays. I remember back when I couldn't even utter it without putting a title before it."

"Your Majesty Nidoking, Lord Nidoking, Great King Nidoking," mocked the king and stuck out his tongue at the general's scowl.

"I was young!" protested Rhydon. "Young and nervous of everything."

"So, what are you now? An old fart?" teased Nidoking.

"Well, I wouldn't call myself young any more," sighed Rhydon.

"Old fart it is," laughed Nidoking.

"Perhaps," relented Rhydon.

"Oh, come off it," Nidoking stopped laughing and gripped Rhydon's hand again. "You don't have enough wrinkles to be called old yet, and you know it."

"Not as many as you," joked the general.

"Ah, now you're full of wit, eh?" chuckled Nidoking.

"Just enough to handle you," laughed Rhydon.

"Just the right amount, then," smiled Nidoking. They laughed a bit more before they grew quiet again. "Thank you," the king broke the silence. "How do you always know how to fix me?"

"Well, for one, you're not broken," explained Rhydon. "For another, I've served you for quite some time. If I didn't learn how to pick you up, I'd be very poor at my job."

"Serve, work, job, is that all we are?" questioned Nidoking.

"No, but I won't forget my rank," confessed Rhydon. "Nor yours, try as you might."

The king grunted. "Maybe it's just that I know how to look past such trivial things. Maybe you're not looking at the bigger picture."

"I don't know what you're talking about," chuckled Rhydon. "I've gawked at it for years, and right now, I'm holding the damn thing up."

"Clever and full of wit just for me," scoffed Nidoking lightly. More seriously, he gazed into Rhydon's red eyes. "Still…"

"Now you come off it," the general straightened up and guided Nidoking up with him. "War doesn't start overnight. But, in a few nights, a grand ball certainly does."

"Yes, it does," beamed Nidoking as the general gently pulled him from the throne room. "It'll be a nice farewell to happy times."

"Come now, it's just a parting goodbye," insisted Rhydon as he led Nidoking through the main hall. "Peace, war, peace again. It's not the greatest circle, but it is true that the moon sets and the sun rises."

"Don't damn the night, I prefer it," mockingly groaned Nidoking as they walked outside. "War and night are two different things."

"So, what should I compare it to?" inquired Rhydon. "Winter?"

They paused as the two studied the knights gathered around the courtyard. They were broken off into pairs and sparred using various weapons against one another, combined with their natural abilities.

"Things die in war, as some things do during the winter," assessed Nidoking. "It's a justified one, but considering that we're trying to warm up to the empire, I believe that we should refrain from that analogy."

A stream of fire rocketed across the courtyard while a red and black knight rolled across the ground. He stopped and checked to see if any flames had caught to his armor.

"What's the matter, Bisharp?" called a yellow and blue ratel with light chest armor and a collar of fire around the back of its neck. "I thought you could handle your weaknesses?"

"Better than you can yours, Typhlosion," snapped Bisharp as he kicked up a heavy cloud of dirt.

Typhlosion coughed and let his fire die down as Bisharp leapt at him, swinging his short sword swiftly at his opponent.

Even with the dust cloud around him, Typhlosion lifted his lance and blocked the slices from Bisharp.

"Not bad," murmured Nidoking to Rhydon, as they continued to survey the field.

"They've made a good amount of progress," touted Rhydon.

Still, Nidoking frowned as he looked over the courtyard. "Where is Chesnaught?"

"Ah, well, I'd imagine he's out and about," wagered Rhydon. "Like the others, I've run him ragged with my latest training regiments, and I let a few knights off on different days. Today is his day off."

"That's rotten luck," murmured Nidoking. "I'm about to spoil it some."

General Rhydon shrugged. "It could be worse. You could spoil it and I could force him back for more training."

"True," gave in Nidoking. "And Escavalier is over there," he pointed to the heavily armored knight with red and white lances for arms. It jabbed at a red mantis with large claws, as he made an attempt at grabbing the rapid lances. "So, where are the two ninjas?"

"Accelgor should be with the mages back inside," Rhydon answered. "Greninja is either with them or—"

"With Chesnaught," sighed Nidoking. "What was that about things being worse?"

"You could always choose another knight," offered Rhydon.

Nidoking shook his head. "Even if he's not well suited for the conditions, Chesnaught is still the best option. He's kinder, and friendly. If anything turns south, he's also quite capable in a fight."

"So are the others," countered Rhydon.

"Perhaps, but I trust Chesnaught more," admitted Nidoking.

"And there's your bias talking," scolded Rhydon.

"Guilty," shrugged the king. "But tell me, who would you pick?"

The general tightened his lips for a moment. "…Chesnaught," he confessed.

"Thought so," Nidoking smirked. "It might be good for them."

"Them?" repeated Rhydon. "I thought you were choosing three knights."

"Uh, well," nervously chuckled Nidoking. "Oh, come on, Rhydon. You know I'm a sucker for love."

"Ensures a knight and his wife are together, supports the earl with his conundrums, and becomes best friends with the latest couple," observed Rhydon. Flatly, he continued, "No, Nidoking, you have no regards to romance whatsoever."

"Ha," the king nudged the general and wrapped his arm around Rhydon's back. Once more, he sighed. "Does today need to move forward? Can't we just let it stay like this?"

"If we were to do that, there would be unfavorable consequences," darkly murmured Rhydon.

"Naturally," huffed Nidoking. "Right then, I'll send Delphox after them. He'll get them to return quickly."

Rhydon nodded as Nidoking hugged him before he made his way back into the castle. The general's smile faded as he marched forward to the courtyard, relieved Samurott, and began to make his rounds to assist the knights.