Chapter 2 – Just a Little Favor
With a large amount of food in tow, Esaax scanned the cafeteria for the mystery visitor but found no sign of him. So he opted to stop at a table, set his tray down, and let this “friend” come to him.
It wasn’t long before his eyes picked out an arbok who was just making his entrance. The arbok spotted Esaax in the same instant and rushed to greet him without hesitation, failing to notice both the skiploom whom he ran over in the process and the sound of her cursing him out in her squeaky voice immediately afterward.
“Syr?! What in the world are you doing way out here?” Esaax rose and gave his old friend a massive hug as the arbok came to a stop beside the table. A bowl of oatmeal seemed to fall out of thin air, spilling all over Syr’s chest. Esaax had been balancing it on his head and had forgotten about it. “Oops…”
“That’s okay,” Syr said through gritted teeth, shaking off the hot oatmeal (which thankfully didn’t land on anyone else).
“Oh man, I haven’t seen you in years
,” Esaax said before taking his seat once more and then devouring an entire watmel berry in one bite. “Thought I’d never see you again—what are you even doing all the way out here?” he asked again.
“I live here now,” the arbok replied. “I found a pretty decent place. In fact, you can stay there for a while if you’d like. Would you?”
“Don’t really have anywhere else to go, so yeah, sure. Hey, I’ll even move in with you. Wouldn’t want you to be all alone, after all…”
“But I’m not alone. I adopted a son.”
Esaax hadn’t seen that one coming. He nearly choked on a brownie. “Okay… so I’m gonna be sharing a house with a giant, venomous serpent and
his bitey little snakeling?” he said jokingly, an eyebrow raised and a smirk on his face.
Syr gave him an odd look. “He’s not a snakeling, he’s a snorunt. His name is Jeneth, but we just call him Jen. And yes, he knows bite, but he doesn’t just randomly use that on people.”
“Snorunt? This is the wrong climate for those.”
“Tell his kind that. Supposedly, a bunch of glalie decided to settle in these parts, though I can’t imagine why they would’ve wanted to, and most of the people I know say that they’ve seen at least one around. I still haven’t, and I hope I never do.” He shuddered. “Brrr
. I get the creeps just thinking about them…”
“Huh. So where is this Jen?”
“Waiting in the car.”
“You left a baby
outside in a car
“He’s not a baby, he’s a young man,” Syr said.
“Whatever. You still shouldn’t have left an ice-type out there under the sun.”
“He’s in the shade, Esaax. It’s his
car; he drives it, and he gets to decide where to park it.”
A snorunt driving a car. No, nothing weird about
Esaax decided to turn away from the topic of Jen and back to his gluttony.
“You still haven’t explained how someone your size could possibly need to eat a third of his own weight every day,” Syr said teasingly.
“You still haven’t explained how someone your
size can only need to eat once a month,” Esaax retorted. “But who cares? What I really wanna know about is—” Esaax saw Teresa heading their way. “Whoops, looks like we’ll have to talk about it later.” He shoved the remainder of his breakfast down his throat at once and waved at the chansey.
“What’s going on?” Syr asked.
“Retaliatory empathy test. It’s just this exercise to make sure that some of my more… uh, complicated systems are working all right. It’s kind of neat—wanna watch?”
“You can do more than just watch,” said a voice from beside Syr.
Syr had not bothered to look and see whom Esaax had waved at; as such, Teresa’s unexpected voice nearly scared him right out of his skin. “Waaugh!” he shouted.
“Daria could seriously use a break,” Teresa told Esaax, unfazed by the arbok’s outburst. “You could participate in her place,” she then added to Syr.
Syr gained a somewhat worried expression, still unsure of just what the chansey and wobbuffet were talking about, let alone if it was anything of which he should want to have any part.
“Please?” Esaax pleaded in his cheesiest mock-begging tone. “It’ll be fun, I promise. Please
Syr sighed. “Well…”
* * *
Next thing Syr knew, they’d brought him into a very large and entirely empty room. It didn’t look at all equipped for any sort of medical testing. “I still don’t get it,” he admitted to Teresa. “What is it that we’re going to be doing here, exactly?”
“We need to make sure his retaliatory abilities are in good shape. To do this, they must be triggered. That’s where you’ll come in,” the chansey said.
Syr was now almost certain that he knew what was being asked of him and strongly hoped that he was wrong. Reluctantly, he reached for confirmation. “Esaax, what do I have to do to trigger these… reflexes?”
Syr had dearly wished to be wrong about that… “Oh no, no, no, no, no. No
. Come on, you honestly can’t expect me to… I mean, seriously…” The arbok began looking frantically about for an escape route. He nearly tied himself into a knot doing so. “Please, don’t make me do this. Please
Snapping Syr out of it with a good pound to his head, Teresa lowered her voice to a very serious tone for his “ears” only. “It will smart, yes. But it’s crucial that we do this. It’s to make sure his tail’s all right. He’s sustained some kind of trauma to it before, and very serious complications can arise from a tail injury in his species—and has once before, in his case. We do not
want him going into crisis again
—do you know what that is?”
Syr shook his head.
“Autoempathic crisis is a vicious cycle caused by damage to a wobbuffet’s tail—or more specifically, to the pseudobrain in the tail, which is the source of their ability to use retaliatory attacks,” Teresa began to explain. “In crisis, the pseudobrain fails to distinguish pain with an internal cause from pain caused by an attacking enemy. It retaliates, involuntarily, by inflicting twice the pain on its source as usual—but with the source being the wobbuffet itself, it only creates a new, greater pain that it then must also counter. The cycle continues repeating, doubling the pain again and again, until the agony reaches a level that the wobbuffet’s body just can’t bear any longer.
“I was there when he suffered his last crisis—it was awful
. The convulsions, the screaming… God, how he screamed…” she whispered, sounding lost in the memory for a moment. “He was almost too far gone by the time we managed to stabilize him, and the dosage of painkillers it took to break the cycle nearly killed him in and of itself.”
“My God…” Syr said almost voicelessly, both amazed and alarmed. “You know… just for the record, I think the ‘trauma’ to his tail you mentioned was someone stepping on it,” he said, not naming that someone out of respect for the dearly departed. “On more than one occasion, actually.”
“Yikes,” Teresa said, grimacing. “Well, anyway… the damage to his retaliatory empathy centers can never be fully repaired. He’ll never be entirely out of the woods. We may be forced to… well, to remove his poor tail if it gets out of hand again. So hopefully you see why it’s important that we be made aware of any continuing problems he might have—we need to be able to take care of them before
they get a chance to blow up in his face again. Will you help us?”
“Of course,” Syr said. “Still, I don’t really want to hurt him…”
“Just one acid and one bite,” Teresa said. “One special attack and one physical attack so that we can gauge both responses.”
“You’re not testing his destiny bond?”
“Luckily for you, no.”
“Okay… okay, I can do that.” Syr turned toward Esaax and slithered somewhat closer to him, still nervous but knowing that he had to go through with this for Esaax’s sake. He called upon his acid technique, careful as he did so to keep the corrosive fluid relatively weak so as not to hurt his friend—and by extension, himself—more than was necessary. The acid swiftly filled his mouth, and he spat it in a forceful spray toward Esaax.
Esaax was ready. His tail rose, its oculons collecting a vast spectrum of data about his opponent and any incoming attacks. Focusing hard, he opened the pathways to his retaliatory empathy centers. Doing this so consciously and deliberately was difficult for any wobbuffet, but years of practice had finally allowed him to master this ability. A bright pink aura flared around him as the acid hit its mark and seared the skin of his left arm, sending an amplified echo of the pain that the poison-type attack had caused back unto the arbok.
Syr shouted in pain and recoiled as he suffered the effects of Esaax’s mirror coat, surprised by its force—it seemed that he hadn’t succeeded in weakening his acid attack quite as much as he’d intended. “Sorry…” he said, at which Esaax made a dismissive gesture despite the pain that was visible in his expression.
“Very good,” Teresa said to Esaax. “Now this time, try to suppress it. Hit him a little harder, Syr,” she added, earning a rather uneasy look from the arbok.
This time, Esaax braced himself. His efforts to develop his abilities had enhanced them to a point where it took very little to set them off. As he took Syr’s second acid attack in the other arm, he had to fight hard to suppress his body’s urge to retaliate. Luckily for Syr, Esaax succeeded.
“Excellent! Syr, change attacks,” Teresa commanded.
Syr lunged forward in a bite attack, his fangs taking on the violet-black glow of dark-type energy as they connected with Esaax’s side—he made a very conscious effort not to let his teeth sink in too deeply, however, still intent on causing both Esaax and himself as little pain as possible. An orange flash heralded what was nonetheless a very strong counter attack dealt in response, and the arbok was sent reeling back with a scream.
“What the…” Syr’s voice faltered as he struggled somewhat to pick himself back up off of the ground, panting slightly. “What was that
all about?!” he demanded once he caught his breath, looking quite shaken.
“You just hit a psychic pokémon with a dark attack. Figure it out,” Teresa replied. “Now bite him again.”
Syr made a sound very much like that of a scared baby growlithe, with the puppy eyes to match.
“He’ll hold that back this time. You ought to be fine,” Teresa assured him.
Trembling, Syr approached the wobbuffet again, stopped in front of him, and gave one of his forearms a very weak little nibble, with a negligible amount of dark energy accompanying the attack.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” Esaax said.
Syr bit him harder—barely
“Come on, that one didn’t count, either!”
“Do it, Syr,” Teresa said rather sternly.
“I don’t want
to!” Syr cried.
!” Teresa ordered.
“Okay, okay!” In his haste, Syr’s jaws snapped shut on their target so hard that both the sound of the strike itself and the cry of pain that the bite attack elicited from Esaax echoed in the room for several seconds. The arbok quickly let go of Esaax and cringed, but there was no orange flash and no painful retaliation.
There was, however, an irregular semicircle of deep punctures around Esaax’s chest and left shoulder. The wobbuffet panted as he stared, quite astonished, at the wounds. Syr stared at the damage as well, looking equally surprised and fairly apologetic.
Teresa managed to smile proudly at Esaax. “Congratulations,” she said. “If your tail can resist that, it can probably resist anything.” A frown swiftly found its place on her face once more as she watched the rivulets of cobalt-colored blood now trickling from Esaax’s wounds. “Looks like the prize you’ve just won for passing your test is a healthy dose of hyper potion…”
Next time: Before Esaax can step out into his future, he must first take a little trip back into his past, courtesy of a regression therapist with a most unusual method. See you then!
- Sike Saner