A million thoughts buzzed within my head that night, more of them questions than anything. I hardly remember wandering back to my tent at all, memories clouded to a point where it was just a grey haze. It was through this haze that I now sifted, clutching onto the most precious of moments so I could almost feel Rye’s warm breath against me.
He wasn’t one to linger. As soon as we’d parted he’d strode off, leaving nothing but a backwards glance in his wake and me all the more confused. His constant mood swings had left me with very little encouragement to go by; one moment he wanted me and the next it was like I didn’t exist. This morning was much of the latter.
I sat around the small campfire being one of the few already awake. Rye sat opposite me, paws crossed, mouth set in a firm line. Not once did he glance in my direction no matter how hard I tried to catch his eye. I’d given up now because my subtle attempts were coming to the point where even a blind creature would know what I was doing. Jarre, who was sitting next to me, looked up curiously every time I moved. His gaze hardly left either me or the campfire except to glare at Rye who returned it just as fiercely.
I let a small sigh escape my mouth. This was getting out of control. I didn’t know what their problem was, or if I should just ask, but I was surprised I was still sitting so comfortably enough around them both. My inner conscious had jumped up screaming, bailing out a long time ago. It was the smart one
, I thought to myself sourly.
I looked up again as Rye tried to stifle a yawn but with little success. Surely he must have seen my movement, yet as soon as he’d composed himself, he went straight back to staring at the flames. I quirked an eyebrow in frustration, sliding my teeth gently against each other. If he doesn’t look at me soon…oh!
An idea had sparked in my head. Swaying gently from side to side, I imagined seeing the horrible remains of one of Jarre’s lost victims. The thought instantly brought bile to my mouth and my head began swimming. Feeling just a bit fainter than I should have, I slumped to the ground with a thud. Luckily it was fairly soft as it had begun to snow last night while I’d been asleep, leaving a thin layer of puffy white ice around the clearing. Jarre instantly rushed over in concern.
“Zanna! Are you okay? You look pale.” He chattered hastily. Raising a paw to my head, I checked my peripheral vision for any sign of movement. Nothing.
I sighed. “Just feeling a bit faint, that’s all. I might go and lie down.” I dropped my voice to a low mutter and cursed at the Elekid who was now nothing but a statue on a snow-covered log.
Dragging my body and willing my feet to move, I escaped the clearing before stopping rather abruptly. Opening my mouth slightly, I let my warm breath create steam in the air before I casually fell forward landing face-first in the snow. So it was going to be one of those
days. “Great,” I muttered, spitting out a cluster of flakes that had seemed fit to settle in my mouth. Though the snow was cold, I didn’t feel like moving. Instead I just tilted my head to the side, eyeing a nearby tree covered with berries. No sooner had I relaxed than my thoughts came flooding back with renewed vigour.
“Urgh!” I pressed both my paws over my ears to drown out the buzzing, knowing it was hopeless because the noise came from inside me. “Why does this always happen to me
??!” I whined. Surely no one else had such bad luck.
“Because you’re a danger magnet, of course.”
I sat bolt upright in an instant. I wasn’t expecting my question to be answered, probably because I’d heard no one approach. The voice held humour, but also concern. I had no idea what it was for, though. The sour look on my face obviously annoyed Rye more than he’d let on. “What do you
want?” I snapped, crossing my arms sharply. “I thought I was supposed to be invisible?”
I caught the apologetic look on the Elekid’s face as he grimaced. “I’m sorry about that. It’s just that with everything so…complicated…” – he paused – “I thought it might be better if we don’t talk so much; at least in public.” I frowned at his strange logic.
“Oh, right…” That’s right, I forgot
. Codan had said that being in love hindered your rescues and clouded your vision. It was the golden rule, and I’d not only crossed it, but reversed and did it again. A worried expression crossed my face as I groaned and stuffed it back in the snow. Rye chuckled gently to himself, not quite a laugh, so it didn’t have the same bell-like ring to it. When I looked up again he’d settled himself against a tree eyeing me curiously. The rule stuck out in my mind then and before I could stop myself, asked the question. “Are we?”
“Are we what?” Rye’s puzzled look only made things much harder for me to explain, and I wasn’t good at this sort of thing.
“The rule,” I said, changing tactic. “Are we…” I trailed off peering helplessly up at the Elekid before hurriedly looking at the ground. Maybe it was too cold for him to see me blush. Understanding appeared on his face when I took a brave glance, though he, too, turned away.
“I…I’m not sure.” His voice sounded pained and I wondered why. Why was he always like this? I sat upright again, crossing my legs in the snow while drawing in the ground with a paw.
“It seems hard for you,” I hedged. “Do you regret what happened, or–”
“No!” he cut me off brusquely. Then his tone lightened. “I don’t regret it, it’s just that…I’m not used to this. I can’t expect you to understand, Zanna, but my past kind of prevents me from feeling much emotion. See, something bad happened when I was little and ever since then I’ve cut myself off from my feelings, drawing on numbness instead.” He paused and looked at me to judge my expression. I pitied him, I did, and he could see that. “Please don’t, it’s all right. So…just saying that I haven’t felt anything in a few years, how would you feel if something like last night happened?”
His voice had lowered to a whisper now and I realised that the shield he usually had over him was gone. At this point in time, he was more open than he’d ever been. I took a moment to think it through, still drawing circles in the snow.
“Confused,” I finally admitted. “Confused at why I was feeling things again. But that’s just a guess,” I added quickly. “I really don’t know what it’s like for you. Every time I want to help, you seem to retreat. Then it’s back to square one.” I offered a small smile as he stared at me curiously.
“You’re more observant than I thought. Hmm. But it doesn’t matter.” He shook his head swiftly. “I just need some time to figure things out.”
“Time is exactly what we don’t
have,” I emphasised. “We’re meant to be heading for the missionary soon, remember?” I glanced up again to see Rye’s face change into a tense position.
“No, you can’t go there, I’ve told you!”
“But you didn’t tell me why
,” I pressed. “I want you to give me a good reason why not. This could be the only chance we have to overthrow Deoxys. I don’t want to mess it up.” My ears drooped of their own accord as I pictured the space Pokemon’s face clearly within my mind.
Rye was staring at me again, this time with concern. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked as if he was struggling with something. “You can’t go, because…of my father.” He closed his eyes in pain as I saw fangs protrude ever so slightly at the corners of his mouth.
“Your father?” This was a turn in the conversation I had not foreseen. It just occurred to me then that I’d never once asked Rye about his past or his family. Suddenly the thought seemed to unnerve me.
“My father,” Rye continued, “is the main cause of things that go wrong within my life.” He turned to me then, suddenly more rigid than he was a moment before, mouth pressed into a hard line. “What I tell you must never be repeated amongst anyone. Do you promise?” A wild look had appeared within his eyes and I quickly nodded before he could have a panic attack.
His tense muscles instantly relaxed as he strode over, bending down to sit opposite me in the snow. “The formality you heard Windtalon use last night, ‘Lord Rye’,” – he repeated her words – “is not technically true. I’m not a lord as such, just the son of the Commander at the Wingardom Missionary. My father also happens to be in charge of part of the Marble City, which is why he and I are often referred to as ‘lords’, you see?”
I studied his face carefully as he spoke, watching as the hint of a smile began to form. “So you’re not royalty?” I confirmed.
He shook his head. “No more than you are.” He took a moment to pause. “Although you could
be considered royalty, being a Light Pokemon,” he explained.
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. But you were saying?” I grinned up at him in encouragement and to my surprise he smiled back.
“Well, I’m a lieutenant at the Missionary. My job – what I do – is to try to keeps tabs on Deoxys and his followers by any means possible. So far I haven’t done such a good job and this makes my father displeased.” His mouth returned to a firm line.
“Is that bad?” I questioned. “For him to be angry?”
Rye made a small nod. “He’s not in the right frame of mind when he gets angry,” Rye shuddered. “And that makes him a very formidable foe. When I was little” – here he broke off to collect himself – “I disobeyed my father’s command to stay out of the Forbidden Room. I foolishly led my best and only friend, Kryal, down there with me. Kryal’s sister tried to warn us, but we took no heed or her words.” He closed his eyes again in pain. “We were fools. The moment I stepped into that room I knew something wasn’t right.”
I licked my lips before I spoke, but even so, my words came out as a mere whisper. “What did you find?”
Rye gritted his teeth and clenched his paws at the memory. “I had failed to sense it, though I clearly should have. What else was the Experiment Room used for?” I peered up in confusion. “My father,” Rye continued, “the man whom I had trusted so wholly was nothing more than a monster. I found out that he was making an army of Dark Pokemon.” His voice ended on a bitter note, so bitter that he seemed to spit it out rather than say it. I barely noticed I’d flinched back, but nothing escaped the Elekid’s eyes. Rye looked up with remorse and shame painted clearly on his face. “I swear I had nothing to do with it. When my father found out that I knew, he threatened me by any means to keep the secret safe. That’s why he murdered his advisor – one of my closest friends – and
my best friend. Kryal was lost to me then, as was my future.”
I wanted to comfort him so much that I was at a loss how. My erratic thoughts had become even more jumbled, if that were possible. To have his very own father murder the only loved ones he had…No wonder he can’t express how he feels
, I thought in anguish. The only way he could protect himself was to seal his heart away
. “Are you afraid now?” I asked in a trembling voice.
“Afraid of what?” he asked curiously.
I began to fidget nervously. “I understand that you had to harden yourself to make sure you were never hurt again, right?” I watched as he nodded slowly. “Now you seem to be letting more of you guard down. That could be potentially dangerous for you. Are you afraid to be hurt again?” I kept my eyes glued to my paw which began to trace the snow again. It made me feel uncomfortable to talk so openly about him.
“It pains me everyday,” I heard him whisper. “But what would be worse is not knowing all the good things I could feel. That’s the price we have to pay to feel happiness. We need to take the good with the bad and somehow struggle through it.”
It made sense. My eyes drifted back up to meet his and I was surprised to find him smiling. He even let out a small chuckle as he fell backwards in the snow to make an angel. I giggled almost silently at how carefree he was now. Opening up to me seemed to have worked wonders. I just continued to stare at him as he made an angel imprint hastily in the snow. When I didn’t join in he sat upright and frowned. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” I murmured quickly. “You just seem so happy…It’s a change from your usual reserved nature.” I grinned with joy.
Rye’s eyes lit up. “It was a challenge, I’ll admit. But you helped with that.” I couldn’t help it when the blood spread to my face again. But it was still a shock when Rye hesitantly lifted a paw and brushed it against the side of my face. I froze beneath his touch, both in surprise and afraid of doing something irrational. He held his paw for a moment beneath my chin before lowering it, sighing. “Thank you, Zanna.”
“My pleasure,” I managed to utter in a daze. Rye laughed gently and took my paw that was still tracing circles in the snow. He turned it over in his own; the size difference was fairly large. Curiosity got the better of me as I began to trace again, this time on his palm. It never ceased to amaze me how soft his fur was. A cool breeze blew past and I shivered. Rye almost immediately dropped my paw and looked at the sky.
“The weather’s changing,” he muttered. “And it’s getting lighter. The others will be up soon.” I noticed he threw a wistful glance in my direction. It took me longer to realise what he meant.
“You’ll have to ignore me again.” The thought sent me spiralling into a sudden depression.
“Hey, now,” Rye noticed the subtle change and took my paw again, smiling. “I’m always here when you need me, and we still have time.” He raised an eyebrow slyly.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend it.” I grinned. Then, thinking of a good idea, I scooped up a pawful of snow behind my back and swiftly flung it into his face before he knew what had hit him. Raising a paw to my mouth, I laughed, eyeing the surprised expression set in stone on his face. I stopped a moment later though, when his face didn’t change.
“Rye?” I murmured softly. “Are you alright?” Nothing. “Er…I’m sorry if I upset you.” My brow furrowed as he shook the snow off his face, seeming to glare at me. I cringed back instantly, afraid I’d gone too far. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Something white whizzed towards me and hit me full-force in the face. “Ah!” As soon as the shock had settled, I scowled at him and lunged.
Rye’s now laughing figure flew backwards as I collided with him, sending us both tumbling back into a tree. This caused more snow to fall and cover us until we were as white as a cloud. He easily had me pinned on the ground as if I were no more powerful than a feather. I squirmed uncomfortably. “Hey, that’s cheating!”
“Not for me it isn’t.” As I met his gaze, it reminded me of something.
“This is how we first met,” I whispered, glancing at my pinned-down arms. “Apart from the location, obviously.”
Rye blinked, surprised. “So it is. It seems so long ago, but really…it’s only been a few weeks.” He sighed and released me. “How fast things change.”
I frowned, slowly sitting upright. “You seem sad,” I noted. “Why?”
He shook his head. “Sad, maybe, but not for me. I’m sad for you
.” This surprised me.
“Don’t be! I’m happy right now, why would that make you sad? Honestly, I can’t keep up with your sudden mood changes.” I stared into his eyes as they clouded, seeming more distant; sad. I wasn’t about to admit it, but they unnerved me. A slight chill raced down my spine. I was still anxious as Rye bent towards me, pressing his forehead against mine so I could feel his warm breath, sweet and comforting.
“I’m worried,” he whispered almost inaudibly, “for your future.” This stunned me and I had to blink twice as he withdrew from me, rising fluently and casting me a look of sorrow as the soft pad of his footsteps carried him away.
I sat almost statue-like in the snow, the smell of his breath still bathing me. Afraid…for my future?
Then I knew what he meant. I could still beat Deoxys, it was possible, but I could also fail. My impending doom suddenly seemed much closer than I’d thought. However it turned out, this was a battle in which I would lose something for certain. But his words had carried a double meaning, I was sure. The darkness inside him was rising. If I became too close to him, what would happen if he had to be torn away? The shiver that coursed through me was better than any response I could conjure up.
And I loathed it.
Continued in next post...