Chapter 23: Between War and Lust
Rye’s eyes startled me. The gaping red voids seemed to endlessly drag me under, but I couldn’t be sure. As soon as they’d come, the crimson colour dissipated, leaving Rye’s usual stunning, emerald eyes in their place. I’d caught him as soon as he’d fallen back, taking most of his weight off me by resting him against the ground. Just like I’d seen Quoll doing a few times, I stroked a paw soothingly across his right arm as he lay on my side.
A deep, long sigh escaped my mouth. My tears were dry now, but that didn’t let me escape the horror of what I’d experienced. For a moment there, Rye was technically dead
. That scared me more than I’d have liked. I’d seen death a lot lately, so I was unsure why this one would have had such a large effect on me. It was because he was my friend, I was almost certain. To have one of my friends die…it would be like a piece of me was torn away. And there was no possibility of me letting that happen.
Despite the recent trauma, I was pleased to see that Rye’s breathing had now become even and the scars that had plagued his back had disappeared. I knew now that my healing had worked. Thankyou,
I murmured within my mind. I was almost sure that I felt a gentle whisper in response.
Twisting my head towards the horizon, I gazed at the trees. No doubt Jarre would be back soon. I wondered what was taking him so long. Moving slightly to go and check, I was startled when Rye’s eyes began to flutter open. I held my breath and waited. The truth was that I had no idea what I was going to say. Hey, welcome back from the dead?
No, that was something Jarre would say, and I was sure he’d get a beating for it, too.
The Elekid opened his eyes slowly and blinked. When I opened my mouth to speak, no sound came out. After all this time, I was still transfixed by the intensity of Rye’s eyes. The Elekid must have noticed my speech impairment, for he spoke first. “Zanna? Am I…”
I shook my head, Rye’s words bringing me back to reality. “You’re alive,” I whispered, “alive and well. I managed to find a way to heal you.” I smiled grimly, though I could see he wasn’t fooled. Surely Rye had noticed my dried tears by now. Whether he did or not, he didn’t say. He merely sat up weakly and placed a paw behind his head, groaning.
“I must have been unconscious for quite a while. I feel all stiff.”
“Oh, you’ll soon get over that,” I grinned. “But you’re right. You were unconscious for over a week now. I was beginning to worry that you might not wake up.” I stared at the ground and fixed my gaze to an oddly-shaped leaf.
Rye had been listening intently and thinking, too. He was probably so confused by all of this. When I glanced up, he had his eyes closed and head tilted to one side. “Thankyou for healing me,” he said calmly. “I really don’t know how to repay you.” Rye opened his eyes and offered me a small smile. “You don’t know how much it means to me to be back again.”
I could tell he was going to say something else, but at that moment Jarre and company decided to join us. Rye shuffled a few paces back and leant against the trunk of a tree, eyeing the newcomers. Jarre hastened to reach my side as the others stared at Rye in awe.
“Wow, you’d think he was dead.” Jarre muttered. I made to swat him in the head but checked myself as Codan glanced in my direction.
“Zanna, what happened here?”
Everyone turned to me expectantly, making me cringe backwards from all the attention. “I, well…er…”
“She healed me,” Rye broke in suddenly. I turned to him with a grateful glance. Rye’s expression didn’t change as he looked from me to the others.
Jarre filled in the rest. “Zanna was given a healing power. See, she was unconscious, but actually met another Light Pokemon, who made it so that she could heal.” When he finished, I thought that everyone just looked more confused.
“I’ll fill you in later,” I managed to say.
Everyone then bustled about Rye, checking to make sure he was alright. Jarre, however, stayed put by my side, watching with loathing.
Lani nuzzled Rye, Quoll chattered excitedly to meet him for the first time, Kraal and Marilai exchanged more nods and glances with him than actual words and Codan seemed to be having a long chat with him. All the while Rye politely responded, even if he was still a bit weary. The Elekid gave a slight bow as Codan left, leaving only him, Jarre and me in the clearing.
I could see that neither Elekid nor Torchic was willing to talk to each other. Jarre gave a glare towards Rye which the Elekid returned, but that was about the extent of their communication. I waited for one to speak; there was no way that I was getting involved. Finally I heard Rye sigh as he stood up.
“I’m going for a walk. Tell Codan I haven’t gone far, please, Zanna.” He gave a curt nod to Jarre and me before vanishing into the mass of trees.
Jarre gave a rough snort. “He’s ungrateful, that’s what he is.” I sighed and stood up to walk back to camp. “What?” Jarre stared after me. “What did I say?”
The night came quicker than I expected, but I welcomed it. The day had been nothing but restless. Codan and Lani had both been involved in a debate over where to go next, Quoll was busy adding adjustments to our leaf tents, Kraal and Marilai had taken refuge in a deserted part of the clearing and Rye hadn’t returned from his early walk until late evening. We were all now just getting relaxed around a small campfire.
Everyone was stunned when I’d told them my tale, even though I left out a few parts. All the while I noticed Rye’s gaze flicker between me and the flames of the fire, almost as if he knew there was something I purposely didn’t tell them. He hadn’t seen fit to re-establish our link and I was too much of a coward to ask him about it. But as far as I was concerned, it was his choice to make.
Once I’d finished talking, everyone chattered about excitedly. Only Rye and I were the two who didn’t join in. I took a curious glance towards the Elekid. If I didn’t know better, I’d have said he was thinking. But thinking about what? Before I could ponder further, Rye looked up and met my gaze. I hurried to look down, but he beat me. His eyes automatically shifted and rooted themselves to the trunk of a tree. That’s odd,
I thought. He’s never avoided me like that before
. I narrowed an eye in confusion.
“Zanna, about Altair, did he tell you exactly what happened?” It was Codan who had addressed me.
I leant over awkwardly. “Huh? Oh, no. We didn’t get that far, he…” I trailed off as I felt my face begin to colour. Thankfully it was too dark for anyone to see.
For a moment everything went quiet. I looked up for something to take my mind off Altair and saw Rye staring at me again. Ever so slowly, so I could barely even tell he was moving, he motioned towards the forest with a nod of his head. I frowned. Did he want me to follow him in there?
I made a slight motion with my paw and pointed towards the trees. Rye’s mouth curved up a little and he nodded. I cleared my throat. “Er…I’m going to go check the trees. I think I heard a noise.” I pushed off from the ground and saw a movement just beyond my eyesight. Rye had slapped his forehead. Well let’s see you do better,
I thought sourly.
The Elekid stood up, yawning brusquely. “I might as well get an early night. I’m not used to being up so often, yet.” He politely said goodnight to each in turn, if a little roughly at Jarre, before striding off towards the tents.
“Show off…” I muttered, already at the base of the trees. No sooner had I entered the foliage than I felt a strong paw pull me aside. The Elekid put a claw to his mouth when I went to speak.
“Be more discreet next time, won’t you?” Then he grinned slightly and raised an eyebrow. “You’re a bad actress.”
I frowned and ignored him. “So what did you want?”
Rye leant against a tree casually and raised a paw to his head. “I’ve been thinking about what you said – about the temple,” he answered my curious expression. “It seems like a good opportunity for me to explore it, but…” He trailed off and turned towards me.
“But?” I prodded, waiting with my paws on my hips. This time Rye didn’t smile, though a small spark twinkled in his emerald eyes. He lowered his paw and took a step towards me so we were less than a metre apart. Though he was a fair bit taller than me, I wasn’t intimidated. Rye saw this and quirked an eyebrow before he continued.
“But since you and the temple seem to be connected, I thought you might like to come with me. Purely for mission purposes,” he added quickly, turning his gaze towards the dark moon.
Strange…I knew Rye was usually reserved, but he’d never been this jumpy before. The thought clouded my mind as I looked up at him. “So you’re saying that you’d like me to accompany you on a mission to the temple? Just us, then?”
A slight grin touched the corners of the Elekid’s mouth. “I was thinking that might be more efficient, if you don’t mind.”
I shook my head. “Not at all. When do we start?” A gentle silence passed between us as Rye turned his gaze towards the rising moon that was etched clearly within the night sky.
“Tonight,” he affirmed. “But I need to take care of something beforehand. Do you mind waiting?”
“Hmm…” I cocked my head to the side. “How long would I have to wait for?”
I caught a flash of white from Rye’s teeth as he backed away into the trees. “Don’t worry; I won’t keep you waiting long. All the same though, don’t wait up.” He winked an eye before leaping agilely onto a branch, racing northwards, leaving me to my own thoughts.
Only Arceus would have known how conflicted they were.
I’d decided to take an early night. If I was going to the temple, I’d need my rest. How was I supposed to know that I’d be having nightmares? I thought that since Rye had awoken, they’d be better now. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth if I’d tried.
I was subconsciously aware that my body was tossing itself restlessly. Deoxys’ face was a sinister shadow in front of mine, sneering with hatred. A new scene then enveloped me where he drove a tentacle through Altair’s heart, soon followed by Jarre and then Rye. By the end of the ordeal, I was nothing more than a sobbing fur ball.
Deoxys had me in his clutches, driving me towards him with glee. It was only then that a new form interrupted. This one was new to me; I hadn’t seen it before, yet I knew it was pure evil. A black Pokemon, cloaked in shadows, grinned maliciously.
“When I’m done with you, you will only wish you were dead…I will remember you…your fate will be sealed within your deepest nightmares!”
A high pitched wail ensued and as I screamed, clawing at my eardrums, something else closer beckoned to me.
A sharp hiss sounded from above me as my eyes snapped open. I was aware of my heavy breathing and the icy sweat that laced my body.
The dimmed yellow figure of an Elekid stood over me, holding my shoulders as he shook me gently. He cautiously waited for a few minutes until my breathing had returned to normal. I sighed and shrugged off his paws. Rye backed away but kept within a few metres just to make sure. “Are you alright? You seemed to be having…a bad dream.”
“A nightmare is more like it,” I whispered, shuddering. “I was – I was scared…” I swallowed through the lump in my throat and sat up, resting against the leafy wall of the tent. I hadn’t really admitted to anyone that I was scared before, but the truth had just hit me. I was up against the entire world
. What could one lone Pikachu expect to accomplish? Winning against all odds would be a miracle.
Closing my eyes briefly, I took a deep breath and pushed away all of the sinister thoughts that clouded my mind. I saw Rye’s wary gaze as I glanced up, brows furrowed with concern. “If you’d prefer, you can just stay here for the night. I don’t want to drag you out like this.”
I shook my head slowly. “No, the fresh air will do me good. Anyway, you’ll look after me, right?” Rye stared at me for a moment longer before nodding. “Then we have nothing to worry about.” I allowed a smile to consume my face, though it was forced.
The Elekid waited with unlimited patience as I collected myself. He watched like a hawk and shifted at my every move. Though I wasn’t about to say it, he unnerved me. It was almost as if he believed I would drop dead at any moment. Ignoring my inner thoughts, I strode up to Rye and folded my paws. “Ready?”
“Are you?” he questioned in a sharp tone. “If you get hurt, I’m not going to be held responsible.”
“Relax!” I shot back, annoyed now. “I’m not a child! Why does everyone keep treating me like one?!” I glared at the shocked Elekid. I could tell he’d withdrawn again.
Rye made no comment as he leapt out my window, just waited as I followed. He walked brusquely into the forest, staring up at the moon every so often. It was like this that we drove onwards, silence encasing us. Only when a ray of moonlight illuminated the Elekid did I stop and give an inward gasp. What I had failed to see before stood out clearly now.
His emerald eyes were glazed with red, almost hollow, and his black stipes let off a dark aura. Even as I glanced up at his face – which he’d turned when I’d stopped – the smile he gave was one of contempt.
My feet wouldn’t move at my command; my will was disrupted. Rye’s eyes narrowed in a slight glare. I blinked my own, stunned, as I remembered what Quoll had said. “He will not turn until the poison reaches his heart. Only then will the change be permanent.”
The lump in my throat rose again as I held my breath. Was it possible…was it possible that some
of the poison had reached his heart? Not enough to make the change permanent, only temporary? If so, what triggered me could set him off: a heightened state of emotion.
I must have made him angry,
I realised. I clenched my paws. “It’s all my fault!” My legs buckled underneath me as my eyes filled with tears. I could never do anything right! Why is it that others have to suffer because of me?!
A transparent tear fell to the ground and was swallowed instantly. I didn’t look up as footsteps came towards me almost soundlessly. A moment later, Rye had lowered himself to his knees, eyeing me.
“It’s not what you think…” he murmured.
My teeth automatically gritted. “Don’t lie! I know some of the poison reached you! How long have you known?! You’re dark
now, Rye. Do you know what that means?! You’re a…a threat!”
My voice broke on the last word and I gave up speaking altogether.
Rye flinched as if I’d hit him, but retained his calm composure. “I have only known a short while. It’s true that some poison got through when I let my guard down, but not enough for me to become a threat. I’m safe,
Zanna. And you know I would never hurt you, right?”
I stared into Rye’s emerald, dimmed eyes. They wavered slightly, but held his promise. “I know,” I whispered. “It’s just…” I sighed and returned my gaze to the ground. If he becomes a threat, he’ll be forced to leave…I don’t want that
. More tears flowed freely down my face.
Why was it that I could cry so easily? Jarre had a couple of times, but Rye…he’d never shown the slightest emotion from what I’d seen. Sniffing, I straightened up and hastily wiped my eyes. A paw rested on my shoulder then, light but firm.
“I’m sorry, Zanna. I didn’t want you to find out like this, or at all…”
A shaky laugh escaped my mouth. “Why should I have friends anyway? They’ll all be tormented because of me. Look…I’ve
done this to you. I just wish…I just wish I could be brave enough to fight. How it all depends on me.”
Rye grated his teeth and stared back solemnly. “Not everything depends on you alone. You have Jarre, Codan, Lani and me. You should never have to do anything by yourself. Believe me, I know.” He smiled lightly, eyes dancing just like I’d seen them in the Records Room.
Without even thinking, I embraced him, burying my head into the soft fur of his shoulder. “I’m sorry!”
Rye, I think, was rather taken aback. He remained motionless for quite some time, completely still in the shadows of the trees. I knew he’d never been one for showing emotions, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t. I was now oblivious to the cool night air. It wasn’t until some time later that I felt the Elekid relax, arms returning my gesture. Until then, I hadn’t noticed that he’d also been holding his breath. The rhythm soothed me now as he held me firmly; a sign of support.
To be honest, I would have fallen asleep had I not remembered the mission. I needed to go back, too. The answers I sought would only be in there. Relinquishing my grip on Rye, my feet found solid ground and hoisted myself up. The Elekid was with me in seconds, calmly re-assessing the area. “Thanks for you help,” I murmured awkwardly.
Rye said nothing as we moved off again, but the smile that stretched across his face was worth more than a thousand words.
To be continued in next post...