Neglecting the thought and moving on, I sighed as my hole failed to expand once I hit hard earth. ‘What is this?!’
I growled, eyes narrowing. As I moved on to another spot, it then occurred to me that perhaps ground prey was a good idea. ‘I could probably find a newt around here somewhere...’
But before I could begin considering it, my ears unexpectedly twitched. I pulled my paws from the ground. Another noise sounded. With curiosity my prime thought, I very carefully slinked back to the bushes I had come from. I spotted Izante’s figure off to my far right, standing before a cluster of trees. I discovered another pokémon, but they were obscured by the bushes. I wanted to creep closer, but I was in no way inclined to expose myself to this odd situation. But could barely make out Izante’s voice...let alone her company’s... I strained my ears, shutting my eyes as if to focus my sight’s energy on their chatting. The other voice was whispering, but I could tell it was female. Izante’s voice was also hushed, overrun by the river’s rushing and the insects’ buzzing. Although...I could make out a few sounds.
“He...qu.....” I think it was Izante. “W...”
The other one kept quiet long enough for me to assume they changed the topic. “Do....ow.” There was a pause before the other pokémon continued. “A... you ...lo...”
Izante shuffled her paws, and I drew myself close to the tree beside me, staying silent until I felt her gaze flick back to that of her company’s. “No.”
“W... s... have...th...sk. Th...ins...w... b... rel... to...s...”
“...D...st...d. I ...ve t... ...o.” Replacing herself by the rocks where she stood before, I swore, scuttling back to where I had been digging. Thin twig-like branches hung low to the ground, inviting me through them as I sought out my spot. I arrived, diving into the clay. I rolled all four paws into it, staining them all the more. I wiped my muzzle in a pile of mud and managed to flick up pawfuls of earth in the direction behind me, listening to the faint patter as it met the ground. Shortly after, rustling of bushes and another voice turned me around.
“Are you having any luck?” the leafeon asked, only making eye contact between her sections of looking away.
“It’s not luck,” I corrected, twisting back to my ‘hole’. “It’s whether my skills are high enough for me to recover a worm or not.” I emphasised the word ‘worm’ just for fun, and I heard her approach me. “...Care to help?”
She moaned, clearly not inclined. “...Do I have to?”
I flicked a mud-stained snout at her, a sarcastic expression etched into my face. “I’m not going to do all your dirty work. So...yep!”
She heaved a sigh, acting similar to a mother espeon when her eevee won’t do as she says. Regardless, she dug in, darkening her naturally brown paws. Within no time, we came up with a few tiny grubs and those weird little jumpy bugs, but no worms.
“That’s strange...and annoying,” I commented, hauling myself out of the ground. “Must just be looking in the wrong—” Izante on the ground kneeling before a tree caught my attention. “Uhh...what are you doing?” But the response I got was a twitch of a tail and a muffled bunch of words which weren’t even directed at me. The grass type continued mumbling, her face level with the tree’s base on the ground. I stared at her behind, eyes squashed with confusion and a frown. “Izante, what ar—”
“Shh!” she hissed curtly. I blinked repeatedly, not sure what to do next. So I watched her. Her tail caught my eye as it swept the ground, rolling pieces of dirt and crumpled leaves. The swaying became faster, and soon my friend was up on all fours, her head craning to a papery branch far up above; it must have been around two rhyperior high!
What startled me was what happened next! After speaking the words ‘like a rocket’, Izante shot up into the sky, firing herself onto a peeling branch at least a metre off the ground. The tree’s limb bounced, and she crouched herself again only to then spring higher. “Izante!” I called, having no idea what she was doing. All was soon revealed when the leafeon landed on the branch she was previously dedicated about reaching and dug her head into a nest. I heard cheeping, and felt sorry for the prey, and then plodding as Izante landed branch by branch to the ground. She strode over to me, plopping the two baby pidgey on the ground. ‘They’re all too young to defend themselves...’
I thought sadly, my jaws fitting around one’s head. I bit through the tendons, its chirping turning to silence immediately. Izante did the same.
I had gone fishing with my tail afterwards, Izante having found some worms. I managed to lure one using the bait, and my leafeon friend leapt into the river and snatched it up. We would have caught another one had she not let it slip, but the one we snagged was large enough for us both. “Hey...Izante,” I started, my brain still turning. We had been sitting by the rushing river, but I insisted that we moved into the brush a little more so that I wasn’t taunted by the rushing flow of sickening water. We were back at the digging spot. “How did...how did you, uh...” I wasn’t comfortable finishing my sentence, and instead shifted my gaze to the tree.
At first she didn’t get where I was at, but after another gestural nod to the birch, she muttered, “Oh,” carrying the word on a little with acknowledgment. “I, uh...” As if to change the subject, she pulled her half of the salmon corpse toward her with a paw, sniffing it. “Is it edible?”
I frowned. “Of course it’s edible.” She sniffed it again, licked it and eventually stole a bite before coming back for more. “But...” She pretended not to be interested, munching on her fish. “That’s dumb... Why ‘like a rocket’?” To that she nearly choked, coughing, and following the mistake was half of the salmon’s spine. “Don’t eat the carcass!” I yelled as a reaction, but then figured it to be an accident. She didn’t meet my glare, but instead eyed what remained of the fish. “Why not ‘like a spoink’?” Clearly not wanting to be disturbed, she stayed seated, the two of us silent and frozen in our different poses. Crickets and cicadas were, again, the only sound besides the nearby stream. Izante was sitting, her front legs appearing long as they supported her front. She was looking away, fur shaggy over her eyes.
My two shoulder flareon who I spoke rarely to both appeared again. The red one sighed. “...Great. You insulted her. Now she’s not gonna answer.”
The light flareon repeated the sighing motion and murmured, “Neither have done anything wrong.” To that the red flareon exposed her tongue and squeezed her eyes, but the other and I ignored her.
Izante eventually got up and began to leave, what she didn’t eat of her salmon lying before me. I quickly slid a mouthful off, leaving the bones. “We should head back,” she suggested, moving her head only slightly while my eyes fell to her rump. “Our masters will be getting back soon.” She disappeared through the bushes, and I heard her leap over the river as I gathered myself. I was about to scamper after her when I remembered the two mouthfuls of deceased marine animal that would go to waste if I left it. I speedily snatched the salmon piece in my mouth and sped after her.
“Hey! Wai’ u’!”
He put his second hand to the trigger, daring to press on it. I cringed, trying to recall more memories with Izante. However, one was all fate allowed me.
His cheeks compressed, rising to make room for his mouth. I guessed that he knew I was the one running the operation, otherwise he would have already fired. I was breathing heavily, remembering the bullet my muscles caught. It stung, but somehow didn’t seem to bother me as much as the deafening roar that pulsed through my body, my eyes forcing themselves shut. My toes stiffened, separating. My ears bent downwards, hoping to drown out some of the sound. This was it. The blood slipped in and out of my brain, flushing through the rest of my body. It screamed inside my head like a staraptor about to close in on its prey and slashed at my mind like a vigoroth whose claws were far from blunt. I began to ride the wave of death, feeling its cold embrace as it washed me downstream...
“Dusty,” a deep voice lulled. I stirred a little, feeling large arms cradling me. My eyelids made way for my pupils, which looked fuzzily at the darkened brown and yellow face staring down at me. ...But that didn’t make sense. I was dead, wasn’t I? “You were unconscious,” he stated solemnly. “It was lucky I had been there.”
The form morphed into none other than Luck, my large and reliable ursaring friend. “...R-really? So, I’m not dead?” I moaned through a presumably unwell face.
“Haha,” he chuckled, setting me upright onto my paws, “no. I hope you’re not disappointed.” He pointed to a corpse about fifteen metres away and looked stern. “I slayed the human. You fainted – assuming it was from fright – just before I stepped in. I saw you collapse and thought he may have fired the lethal shot. I was glad to have been proven wrong.” I listened to all of this, trying to absorb the information. My mind wandered; I considered the possibility of this human not shooting me and felt the need to search my body for gunshot wounds. I then snapped back into reality, crouching as pokémon attacks were cast to my left and right. I was surprised not to have been attacked then and there.
I observed the carcass after creeping up to it unsteadily, firing a toxic on my way at a bronze raticate who came too close while preparing her buck-teeth’s strike. She screeched and scurried away, running into another predator that knocked her overboard with a single blow. I barely noticed as I crept closer, taking in the deep claw gashes that ran slashed across the human’s neck. His metal gun sat alone and separated from his hand. Cerise blood stained his uniform, and a dense pool soaking his black hair and hat had formed from the wound’s leakage. I let a frown lick the corners of my face. ‘Looks like it’s kill or be killed.’
“Do we have a report on the sides?” I questioned Luck, limping with him and two others, not making eye contact while on the watch.
“What do you mean?”
“Do we know if someone’s winning or not? How many of us have been...killed?”
“That haunter’s got the information, I believe. He has lain low to note the observations,” Luck explained, probably not looking at me either.
“He’s really proved himself, hasn’t he?” I grinned, obviously happy with the ghost type. He had provided me with great information, along with the awesome powers he had shown in being able to release pokémon when nobody else could...apart from the blast seeds, of course.
“Yes, I agree,” Luck nodded.
“Dusty.” I turned my head. “I just wanted to thank you for before. I couldn’t fight them all off.” Chance bowed his head while we were travelling, concealing ourselves in the shadows on one side of the ship. The thin railing lining the sea vessel would apparently help prevent people falling into the ocean. But then again, people
, not pokémon.
Crates passed by slowly as we made our ways while scrutinising the battles through gaps between the wooden prisons. Following me was Luck, Chance and Hakumei. I suspected that the little pink being I saw with Chance before had also tagged along, but I couldn’t be sure—until I asked.
“Ohh, no worries,” I sighed. “Hey, Chance? Was there someone—” I halted, witnessing a Rocket man being tossed over the side a few metres up ahead. He yelled all the way down, being silenced by a splash. The wind whipped around our small group, almost chilling me. I barely had time to process this before distraction fell upon me again.
“Oh,” a familiar tone rang, “Dusty.” He was panting, blood probably from humans grazed across his face and cream side—however, it wasn’t fresh and there was barely any.
“Raiys!” I beamed, “It-it’s good to see that you’re...alive!”
“Heh, same with you.” His gaze shifted to my paws. “Getting into it?”
“Yes, uh...” I subtly tried to wipe off the blood I had stepped in. I noticed his paws were blood-free. I assumed it was a good thing that I was facing the wrong way for him to see my bullet wounds. At least, the one in my upper left hind leg. “So, what’s your number?”
Raiys cleared his throat. “Twenty-three.” Before I could widen my eyes, he had bounced away, coming down onto the back of an arbok not too far away.
I was silent for a few seconds, thoughts busily carrying themselves around in my mind. I wasn’t sure what to do next, but a call for my name once again changed my course. “D-Dusty!” A darkened frame zipped up to my nose after pushing through the small group of pokémon standing behind me.
“Yes?” I answered in a simple, wondering voice while blinking twice.
“You need to see something!” The urgency in Zhol’s voice almost startled me. She was also very rushed, and didn’t wait for me to ask before continuing. “There’s another crate of pokémon down below in the cargo hold on another floor.”
“WHAT?!” I blurted, my legs instantly spreading and my mane and tail bristling. “Well, I need to get them out!” I turned to my surrounding comrades. “I want you guys to get an overview of the battle,” I mentioned. “I want you to help anyone in danger and drive the humans off the ship. If we can, we should hijack it. We could steer it back to land and rescue everyone who hasn’t escaped yet.” I almost bounded away, but Luck stuck one of his massive paws out to stop me. I followed it up his body to his face.
“You can’t run. There’s a bullet in your leg.” Although I tried to deny it, he was right. “Please, let me pull it out for you.”
“What?! Uhh—” I wanted to tell him ‘no’, but I knew it was best. He hesitated before I sighed, rolled my eyes and silently granted him permission. The great bear-like pokémon bent down, his thick and terrifying claws withdrawing each time they touched my skin as if being burned, but I knew it was because he was trying his best not to hurt me.
“Sorry,” he apologised, sincere truth in both his eyes and voice. His claws finally found their place, and one of them poked into my wound hole. I grunted, forcing shut my eyes and automatically tensing my leg. Luck pulled his paw away. “My claw is too thick,” he sighed. “It won’t fit properly.”
“...May I try?” an almost-dopey voice asked. For a moment, thoughts like a flock of pidgey streamed in one ear and out the other as I tried to work out whose voice the sound belonged to. My question soon answered itself as Chance revealed a pink pokémon who came out from cowering secretively. His ears were curled back onto his head; he was rather plump and stood on four stumpy legs all ending with white hoof-like nails; his long, white-tipped tail was suspended over his body.
‘Oh! That was the pokémon Chance was trying to protect before!’
My mind flashed images for only me to see as I recalled the few pieces of the pokémon I previously spotted.
Everybody watched him as he – very leisurely – made his way to me. “You helped us before,” he stated slowly—the complete opposite to the rate of Zhol’s speech and actions. “I will help you in return.” It was hard to estimate his age—I could tell he wasn’t a child, but neither an adult. He was in the middle, perhaps?
“O-okay.” But when I looked down at his useless paws, I wanted to question him about how he was going to do it. The pokémon stared at me, and I had to blink to avoid fuzziness clouding my vision. When I looked back at him, I noticed the dramatic colour change in his eyes and the fact that he had changed his focus to the bullet wound. Radiating from his eyeballs was mysterious red colouring. That same redness was glowing from the bullet that appeared before me in a matter of seconds. “Woah...”
The bullet clinked against the floor as it landed, snapping me from my confusion-induced trance. ‘He used his mind, not his paws.’
I beamed, happy to see the bloody human ammunition out of me. “Thank you!” I wasted no time in nudging the slowpoke’s tan muzzle before turning to Zhol and flying away with her.
“Through here,” the sneasel directed, pointing a claw at a minuscule opening in the ship’s floor. “You can smell them.”
I bent down, daring a sniff with my nose. My nostrils widened, inhaling with the sound of breathing. ‘Materials—metal, meat—for food, and—ah huh!’
I recognised the last smell as a pokémon’s scent. It was so familiar, yet...somehow it didn’t feel one hundred percent ‘okay’. ‘Maybe they’re just sick. Or the food is interfering with their scent.’
I doubted the latter, but it could have been that way. “Good work,” I complimented, and Zhol nodded briefly, blinking at the same time. “We have to get them out—come on!” I sprang off, hearing the patter of pawsteps racing after me. She reached me in no time.
“Just you and me?”
“Either of us can break the lock. We don’t need more pokémon.” She agreed, her legs slowing for me. “We’re tough,” I added, noticing her subtle toothy smile. I smiled back, and we continued on in the direction I was headed.
We needed to travel to the other end of the ship, where the humans’ ‘hang out place’ was, where the Rockets served each other food. Further on, in the last few metres of the ship, was the captain in a small cabin, surrounded by three body guards, gripping his huge wheel. To access his company, the Rockets would walk from their food-eating area through a way in the wood and up a small flight of steps. However, I knew that none of it was relevant. Access to the captain’s cabin was only step one of the operation to gain control over the vessel, and it hardly needed planning.
We crept past battles raging to our right, and the crates gradually passed us by while sticking to the outside of the ship where the wind blew our faces and the waves licked the ship’s sides. In a hurry, Zhol’s arms flew behind her and my tail soared through the rippling breeze.
I nearly had a heart attack when a loud bang caught me off guard, throwing me into Zhol, who was on my left and beside the ship’s railing. She squawked before our tumble commenced, and we halted in a crumpled mess with limbs in different directions. I growled inwardly. A fat frown ruffled its feathers, shook its behind, and plonked itself onto my brow, joining the sarcastic eyes. ‘Great,’
I thought sourly. I heaved myself up, straining my ankles as Zhol slipped off my back. She shook her head, putting a paw to it while her other arm propped her up from behind. “Sorry,” I muttered, then decided to investigate the murmuring going on a few metres away between two crates. I stepped over a random body, peering ‘round the crate’s corner. I immediately retreated to avoid detection as soon as I recognised the chatting beings as two Team Rocket men. One was slumped against the crate I wasn’t touching, and the one on my side was facing the other way, looking down the end of the narrow ‘alley’ as he spied fights.
The one against the wooden wall was also standing, his eyes closed as if he was relieved and/or tired. He let out a sigh, and his acquaintance turned to him. They were both gruff and not yet middle-aged, I guessed. The one leaning had short, thick, black hair under his hat, and he had a dense moustache sitting between his nose and mouth. The rest of his facial hair consisted of tiny little spikes dotting his chin.
Continued in next post...