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EVERYONE: A Mini Legend: al-Bahar the Beacon

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When an instructor at a private school in a faraway Middle Eastern region goes to complain about a disruption to his class, he finds himself drawn into a deadly attack. Faruq al-Bahar will need to reach within to save a student's Pokemon, and several others.

This was written for a forum activity elsewhere. The idea was you got a 3x3 bingo card and had to write drabbles to fill them in. I misinterpreted due to tiredness and was about 850 when I realized, but I figured I could do a one-shot that was a full blackout from the start. Not my best work admittedly since I wrote it all in the span of a few days, but decided that even I had a bunch of time left for polish/expand it would just be more words. Plus, coming up and writing something fast was a fun little experiment and test. So hopefully it manages to be at least a little entertaining. It may or may not star a relative of a character in the Nori Carino series.

Expect mild terrorism, not particularly graphic violence, trolling the usual suspects, and rap music here. Nothing serious.

##########

A group of onlookers had gathered to watch a battle in the town square of the dust-swept city of Sahradaw. Adding to the intrigue was how the two trainers were both well-known, albeit for different reasons.

A young man in his early 20s strutted forth. He was dressed in baggy orange clothing and gaudy jewelry, most prominently an oversized silver chain draped around his neck. He held a microphone in his left hand, though the sound system that powered it had been turned off. Nonetheless, his voice was enough to be heard loud and clear. “Me 'n Arctibax 'bout to lay down the tracks. Our rhymes be tight, but we good in a fight. Best ready yo' 'self foo, 'cause we gonna teach you.”

The crowd applauded politely, and the older man could only sigh heavily and cross his arms. He wore a loose white abaya robe and a traditional kaffiyeh which covered his ragged black hair. This rapper was an absolute buffoon. Who holds a loud concert near a schoolhouse in the middle of the afternoon? It was disrupting his class. There had been some approval, as the mosque he was performing in front of appeared to be sponsoring it. But it was the first any of those at the school had heard of it. And politely asking him to turn it down a little had turned into an argument followed by a battle.

At least it was going to be quick. The man eyed the metallic bipedal feline before him. She gave a confident nod, tapping the chunk of Metal Coat she wore on her sharp and stout body. He had attached it as part of the day's lesson, which not only regarded held items, but also proper capitalization when it came to terms related to Pokemon. The item that boosted Steel-type damage would be useful here.

“All right,” said the peace officer who was monitoring the concert. They were licensed to serve as judges for official battles in the region. “This is a sanctioned match between Faruq al-Bahar and ‘Daydream’ Kareem Chamas. The rules are as follows. One Pokemon per side. A time limit of five minutes. The use of Potions and other manual items is prohibited. Start and stop when I say so. Keep it under control.” He motioned to the sidearm he carried, making the threat of not adhering clear. “Under Allah's watch, begin the battle.”

“Now Bax, let's get 'em pinned!” the rapper bopped to an invisible beat. “Blow that cat an Icy Wind!”

The teacher crossed his arms. “Iron Head, Batal.”

At first, Kareem stood with a wicked grin and his hands on his hips. His attitude changed in the span of two seconds. His expression turned to a frown as Batal forced through the chilling headwind, and he started screaming while clutching his head when the Perrserker made contact.

It was devastating. Type advantage, held item, and her Steely Spirit (in both ability and soul). She sent the icy dragon careening across the dirt. Faruq was surprised, and admittedly mildly impressed, when he managed to hobble up. It was not over with one blow, but another should decide it.

“Not bad, but we got tricks!” taunted the rapper, ignorant if not foolish. He pointed with two fingers. “So go break some bricks!”

“Don't allow it. Metal Claw.”

The two Pokemon charged at each other. As they met, Batal wound up to swipe, only to be smacked on the forehead by her opponent. The Icy Wind had slowed her just enough to make a difference. The lucky critical hit caught her off guard, and she held her koban in pain. But before she did that, she struck.

One Pokemon was stunned, but the other was out. “The battle is over! The victor is Faruq al-Bahar!” the peace officer shouted.

The rapper's lip curled and his eyelids twitched. “Whatever. Bax, come back.” He brought his Pokemon back with a sweep of his arm and a light stamp. There was a bitter edge to his words. “Now listen here, 'cause I got a gripe. You just won 'cause you had the right type.”

“Sore loser!” shouted a young female voice. Faruq recognized it immediately. Alarms went off in his mind. He did not necessarily disagree with her assessment, but it was her presence that concerned him.

He motioned for the peace officer to handle the situation with the rapper, said thanks to Batal before recalling her, and swiftly went to find his student. It was simple, given she was the tiniest person at the front of the crowd. She wore simple beige rags with a large sun hat over her olive hair. She held a small handheld butterfly net while cradling a small black caterpillar-like Pokemon in her arms.

“Layla,” he called, gently yet firmly. “What are you doing here?”

“The other kids got worried, so I came to check on you!” She giggled, hugging her Pokemon a little tighter. “You're the best trainer ever, Mr. Bahar! I wanna be just like you! The best!”

“Layla,” he repeated. The praise brought a warmth to his cheeks, but it did not change the situation. “It is not safe for little girls to wander the streets alone.”

“It's okay! I got Scatterbug with me!” She proudly held out her friend out with pride. The tiny bug nodded and stuck out his proboscis. They were confident in themselves, at least.

“We'll talk more later,” he said, turning Layla around. “Go back to the schoolhouse and tell everyone I'll only be a few more minutes.”

“Aww,” she pouted, more for show than in defiance. “Okay, Mr. Bahar. Oh!” She retrieved a small star-shaped charm. It appeared to be built from a string of Holamb wool, many colored beads, a block of wood, and a can or two of Soda Pop as encasing. “Here, I made this in crafts!”

He idly took it and slid it into his breast pocket. “Go along.” He flicked his wrist. “I need to talk with the officer here.”

She walked away with a bounce in her step. The teacher kept watch to make sure she was heading straight back. Layla was something of an outcast in the class. Her family was only moderately wealthy with no political or community sway, and she didn't have rare Pokemon, particularly good looks, or special powers. For all intents and purposes, she was an average (if outgoing) girl. Yet when the other students weren't jealous of her, they secretly admired her. She was only a seven-year-old, yet Faruq felt she showed more potential with Pokemon than anyone else in his class. She was also more mature than a lot of adults, that rapper included.

He turned around. The rapper was talking to his crew and having them adjust the sound system. Good. The peace officer waved and walked over to him.

“Good battling, al-Bahar.”

“Thank you.”

“Was that your daughter?”

He shook his head. “One of my students. But I admit, some of them feel like surrogate children.” He glanced at the private schoolhouse on the hill. It was a modern building with a domed roof, heavily inspired by the traditional architecture of their region. It was surrounded by a gate, and in-between sat a garden with many kinds of flowers and a pool. “It's part of my job to look out for them, after all.”

The peace officer began to open his mouth, when a thunderous explosion pierced the air and shook the ground. The two men braced themselves as a secondary blast followed by the sound of structural collapse rang out.

“The mosque!” shouted the officer, jaw agape.

People screamed and scattered. He heard a familiar wail. “Layla!” Without a second thought, Faruq bolted off, disregarding the protests from behind him.

He whispered a prayer of thanks to God when he found her two blocks away. But she was running the wrong way! Worse, a middle-aged couple unwittingly knocked her to the ground in their desperate flight.

“Layla!” he said, getting a burst of speed. He stepped in front of her, preventing any careless individuals from trampling her.

“I'm fine!” she insisted, scrambling to her feet while hyperventilating. “Scatterbug got scared and ran off!”

“Never mind, go take shelter in the school!”

“No!” She stomped a foot and clenched her fists. “I'm not going till I find Scatterbug!”

She went to take off again. Faruq was swifter and grabbed her by the shirt. “Let go!” she yelled, trying to squirm away so hard that her hat fell off. “I can't leave him!”

He understood her anguish, but he could not allow her to go through with her plan. “It's too dangerous! You could get killed. Or worse, kidnapped. Who knows what kind of monster did this?”

Layla froze. She looked at what remained of the temple, smoke and fire pouring from the rubble and threatening to spread to nearby buildings. People screaming, fleeing for their lives. Pokemon, wild and trained, were doing the same. Others were trying to maintain order.

“I…no!” She clung to his leg, frightened and conflicted. “I'm scared. What should I do?”

He knelt down. “It's okay to be scared. I'm going to help people out, and try to find Scatterbug. Hurry back.”

“I…can't. My legs…” He checked her over again. Was she paralyzed by fear? Had she sprained an ankle? Or both?

“You're crazy, man!” came the voice of ‘Daydream’ Kareem. Faruq glared up at the rapper. “We gotta shake, before we get baked.”

“But my Pokemon…” squeaked Layla, sniveling as she tried to catch every breath of air that she could.

Kareem gritted his teeth. He glanced from Layla to the school in the distance. One thing was now clear to Faruq al-Bahar. This rapper was a buffoon, but he was no coward. Otherwise, he wouldn't have run over to help.

“Can I count on you to get her to safety?” he asked, taking Layla's hat and putting it back on her head.

The rapper scooped her up. “What're you doing?”

Faruq retrieved another Poke Ball. “Finding her Pokemon.” It was his job to look after his students. Including their Pokemon.

A nod. “You armed?”

“I have my Pokemon.”

The rapper snorted. “Take this.” He passed him a small switchblade. “You never know.”

“Fine.” He pocketed it and said, “You're a good man. You're good at those rhymes of yours, too.”

A snort. “My beats are bad, man. A'right, hold on tight, little lady.”

That was ridiculous slang. Bad as a synonym for good? Kareem got going, and Faruq sent out his Otisilt. “Saqr!” he called to the striped brown bird. “Find Layla's Scatterbug!”

With a shriek, Saqr spread his huge wings and soared to the heavens. It did not take him long; he flew to the bombing site and began circling above it. Faruq would have gone there to help in the aftermath anyway. He went to the ruins of the mosque.

The scene was grisly. Bodies of people and their Pokemon were strewn about or buried under the rubble. The Bug-type was safe. He was trying to free a man with a gray beard and ceremonial robes using nothing but a thread of String Shot. It appeared to be the Imam.

The first thing Faruq did was pull off the stone that was pinning the man's leg. Then he grabbed the Scatterbug right after. “What happened?!” he asked.

The Imam was alive, but hurt. “Bombs…we had a concert…” His eyes widened. “Behind you!”

Faruq turned right as the gunshot rang out. Had he been a second slower, he would've gotten it in the back of the head. Instead, the bullet pierced his shoulder. He dropped Scatterbug as a searing pain shot through his limbs, clutching at the spot where he was struck.

But Saqr was still above them. He dove for the shooter, who shouted obscenities in Arabic. A brief scuffle ensued. The Otisilt managed to wrest the pistol from the attacker's hands and flew away with it.

It was easy to speculate that this was an attack by an extremist sect, likely one with very slightly different views on God. That was why Faruq was somewhat shocked to see a lone woman in a ceremonial mask. She had almost no hair and wore a form-concealing cloak, complete with niqaab. But she was disarmed.

Fueled by adrenaline, perhaps sheer willpower, he ran toward her. Only to freeze in his tracks as she drew a scimitar. With a wail and a wave, the blade ignited. A sumajahid! Warriors and practitioners of Pokemon-related arts. They were rare, especially with the advent of gunpowder, but by no means uncommon in the modern era.

She raised her weapon and shouted an incantation. A dome of fire encased the remains of the temple. Help was too late to arrive. Faruq saw officers and bystanders trying to get through the thick wall of flame with their Pokemon's water and dirt, but to no avail. Saqr was similarly locked out, screeching at the dome as he fired Mud Shots at it.

A blast of sticky silk flew toward the bomber. She countered this with one motion, a sword thrust. It ignited the web and sent it back toward the shooter. Scatterbug tried to stop, but couldn't do so in time. Faruq acted quickly and threw himself at the String Shot. He broke the web and got set ablaze, thankfully smothering it as soon as he fell to the ground.

The bomber growled lowly, “Take out a Pokemon and you die.” While she locked her murderous eyes on the Imam, Faruq knew better. She planned to kill as many people and Pokemon as she could, while being fully prepared to die herself.

A Pokemon was out of the question. She could react to any of them before they materialized. But he couldn't falter, let alone be afraid. Until help could find a way in, he was the only one able to do anything. So he had to draw on all the strength he could, despite his bullet wound and the burns. Faruq involuntarily rolled onto his side and felt something in his pocket press against his hip. Yes, the knife! It was his only chance. The only chance to save Scatterbug, the Imam, and any of the other survivors.

He slowly moved his good arm to the weapon, which unfortunately was not his dominant one. The woman walked past him toward her target, muttering about infidels. In one motion, he staggered up, flipped out the blade, and lunged.

The bomber turned at that moment. Not expecting a weapon, she took it right through the chest. She wheezed, mortally wounded, but she had enough strength to shove Faruq to the ground. The flames sputtered out, both those on her blade and the dome that encased the mosque. Police and Pokemon started to descend on her. But she had enough strength and time for one last spiteful strike.

“For Allah!” the bomber shouted. Faruq shut his eyes tight as she plunged her blade toward his heart, his consciousness fading as it slammed into him.

#####

Death was an ordeal everyone had to contend with eventually. When Faruq al-Bahar left the schoolhouse that day looking to stop a disturbance, he was not expecting his time to come. But it seemingly had. If this was it, he was proud of how he had gone out.

The darkness in which he had been drifting for the longest period of time finally gave way to shapes. It felt like a dream, although one he couldn't recall with any clarity afterward. All he remembered was being stopped by something and hearing voices. He was unsure if they were his ancestors, a higher power, or something else entirely. They spoke to him, and although he could not understand their words, he somehow knew their meaning: it was not his time yet.

The next thing he was cognizant of, he was lying down in a room. Plain white with sterile lighting. The bed was not his own. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust.

“You've returned to us.”

Faruq rolled his head. The doctor, in a standard white uniform, was younger than he had expected. Maybe in his early 30s at most. He had a buzz cut, and had trimmed his beard to a simple goatee.

“What happened?” he groaned.

“Well, you've been unconscious for two days. You've suffered a small caliber gunshot wound to the right shoulder and first-degree burns on your chest.”

“No…” He struggled to put his thoughts together. “Before I blacked out…stabbed.”

The doctor walked over to his desk. He brought back a sorry trinket, mangled beyond recognition, dangling it by the string on his left index finger. “It seems this took the brunt of it.”

“Layla's charm…” Faruq let out a laugh in one short breath. He knew himself, and he was likely going to run to the mosque to help look for survivors anyway. Her presence and innocent little gift had saved his life.

Without so much as a warning, the girl herself burst into the room. Dressed in her usual bug-catcher attire. “I knew I heard him talking!”

Her father was close behind, dressed in a fine brown suit. “Layla, slow down!” He futilely reached out to grab her.

Faruq glanced at the doctor, who only shrugged. He postulated they had been visiting. Maybe they were made to wait outside for a while. He appreciated the sentiment.

“You're not just a great teacher and a strong trainer, you're a hero!” She threw her arms around him, or at least made the attempt. It was difficult given her short stature and the way Faruq was lying. “You're just the best ever, Mr. Bahar! Way better than the other teachers! Oh! And Scatterbug evolved! Wanna see?”

Her father stepped in. “Sweetie, Mr. Bahar is in a lot of pain. He needs to rest.”

He had to laugh a little. His students had called him many things, but ‘the best ever’ was a new one. He liked it. “It's good to see you two.”

“Whaaaat?!” Layla saw the doctor still holding what remained of the charm. “What happened to this?! No, don't worry! I can fix it!” She snatched it up and ran to a corner of the room.

He chuckled. Full of enthusiasm, one to jump into things without thinking. If only she could temper that habit. He turned to her father with a smile. “Mr. Meer.”

“Thanks for saving her Pokemon. I can't tell you how much it means to us.” The man scratched at his thin olive beard. “I have some bad news for you, though.”

Faruq tried to push himself into a sitting position, only to flinch as a stabbing sensation shot through his right arm. The bandages indicated that the doctors had already performed surgery, but he still had some recovery to do. After a moment to compose himself, he did so with his left and upper body strength. “Yeah?”

“This is just from Layla, but she said they replaced you at the school. She said it was, well, I think she was trying to say permanent.” The man lowered his head. “I imagine you'll be getting your dismissal papers shortly.”

He snorted. “Figures.” The winds never blow where the vessel wishes.

“Sorry.”

“It's fine.” He supposed it was a matter of ruthless practicality. A private school couldn't cancel lessons because one of their staff had been injured. They had parents to please, and there was no shortage of willing instructors when it came to Pokemon. But there would be other opportunities for him given his talent. “I'll manage.”

Mr. Meer opened his mouth. He said nothing initially, only rubbing the back of his head and glancing at his daughter. After a moment, he cleared his throat and spoke up, “I want to speak with you about Layla's education.”

“You want me to continue as her tutor?” he guessed.

A nod. “And her guardianship, should anything happen to me.”

Faruq blinked slowly. Why would he be worried about that? He couldn't think of a reason. “We'll talk about it when I'm discharged.”

“I appreciate it.” He started toward the door. “I'll let you get back to recovering. Come on, Layla.”

“Oh, okay.” She scampered over to her father and did a jumping wave. “Bye, Mr. Bahar!”

“Bye, Layla.”

As they left, the doctor did the same, dimming the lights on the way out and leaving him alone with his thoughts. He was disappointed to lose his job, but another offer had fallen into his lap. It would depend on the logistics and money, of course. He did enjoy teaching Layla. It would be a waste not to pass on his knowledge. There was also the offer of guardianship. Things to think about with a clearer mind.

But there was one thing Faruq could presently conclude. His eyes had been opened; probably the eyes of many others as well. There were some organized attacks by Teams and other criminal (or worse) groups, but a random bombing was not a good sign for their region. Or was that sumajahid not a solo act, but part of something bigger?

He could only hope that the future brought good tidings. Whatever it dared bring, however, Faruq al-Bahar would face it.

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The themes on the card were Bug Catcher, Steely Spirit, Arctibax, Scatterbug, Bad Beats, the Power That's Inside, Distant Region, the Best There Ever Was, and...the Monomyth, which was responsible for this being as long as it is. It's a hyper condensed version of it, but no one can agree what exactly it is aside from a few base points, so I hit some and played around with others.
 
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