It had been days since I had been near a forest, and the change of atmosphere – smell, sounds, scenery and even the texture of the undergrowth – were all fantastic! I loved forests. I wasn’t sure what Zhol was thinking—she’d been rather grouchy since the start of the day and I hadn’t had a proper chance to talk to her. We had been on the move for a few hours, stopping every once in a while and thankfully coming across rivers we could drown ourselves in (figuratively), and then continuing. It was such an overwhelming relief when we found our first batch of water. Zhol smiled for the first time in the day, and I was so happy that I almost felt like swimming in it! However, such a concept was ruled immediately out.
We had spent a good half an hour by it, and I couldn’t stop lapping up the cool, fresh water that felt so good washing over my tongue and flowing down my throat. I must have swallowed a few mouthfuls of seawater while I was unconscious, because otherwise I don’t know how I would have survived...or, at least, I don’t know how I wasn’t unbearably thirsty the previous night. Being a fire type certainly didn’t help when water was scarce...like on the ship. Koi had been generous enough to share his...body fluid...with me and the others on the three-day trip in the human transportation vehicle, and aside from that I think they gave us a few mouthfuls. I was not surprised to find that some of the pokémon in the cages on the ship...had died even before they were freed...simply because they were dehydrated. It was mainly young pokémon...
“You know what?” I began while Zhol and I raced through shrubs and trees. “Those Rockets killed so many pokémon that day...” I trailed off as a firm frown began to plaster itself onto my face. “Malnutrition and dehydration was one cause, and then how many of us were lost on the battle against imprisonment...” Our paws thudded against the ground as we went, kicking up dirt and crunching leaves. Zhol could run much faster – I could tell – but she was running my pace on purpose. Her arms were flying behind her as she raced, and it was simply amazing how rapidly her legs switched places with each other to propel her forward. I had always loved speed, and being able to run the speed of a sneasel sounded exciting...
I kept my eyes up ahead as I weaved between trees and jumped over burrows and stumps, and avoided ekans if I happened to spot any hidden under the foliage, waiting for prey to wander by. Luckily I was too big.
“I’m glad I was there, though,” I admitted, narrowing my eyes as I extended my four legs while clearing a log. “Fighting for others in need...it just seems like the right thing to do.” I could sense Zhol considering my statement, and I could only imagine that she agreed. After all, what kind of pokémon would think otherwise?
A man in a black uniform paced himself as he made his way down a corridor, a collection of three pokémon following him. His black hat that consistently slipped forward on account of how it was too large for his smaller head fell over his eyes yet again as he glanced down at his fidgeting fingers. Everyone had been deliberately laughing at him for being chosen to see the boss... They constantly mentioned the dangers of angering the boss, or even having to deal with him when his temper dictated his thoughts, and the newly-joined Team Rocket minion was not looking forward to facing him.
He kept up his pace until reaching the boss’ door, which he stopped before and took several deep breaths. He muttered reassuring words to himself under his breath, his eyes closed, and looked as if he was counting things on his fingers. He finally mustered the courage to take another step, but hesitated before turning the knob on the closed door. Once he entered, he swallowed hard, ushering the three assorted pokémon into the room and directed them to the desk situated near the back of the small room. He cowardly followed.
Behind the plain desk sat a tall black chair that widened out at the top. On the desk was a phone, along with stationery, papers and blueprints, and a white mug with various stains. The desk itself had probably been one of great value when it was new, but the varnish had been scraped off in places and dirtied with marks. Around the room were a few things: a bookshelf (that looked as if it hadn’t been sorted through in a while) to the left, several cabinets to the right, and a screen fixed to the back wall—the one he and his boss were both facing.
“B-boss?” started the young man, “I’ve brought th-the three el-eligible pokémon...sir.” The chair didn’t move, and as the screen on the wall flashed with different images, the man waiting assumed that he was busy. Fearing he didn’t hear him, he spoke again. “...Boss?”
The screen’s image shrunk to nothing as a tink sounded. The man held his breath as he realised he may have upset his superior, and he waited in angst with a straightened back to be acknowledged. The chair creaked slowly around, and a man with smooth, dark hair and a shady face showed himself to his follower. He was wearing a suit with a black tie, and his eyes were barely visible under the shadow clouding his face. He placed his elbows on the desk, his five fingers meeting with each other as they straightened. The Rocket grunt seemed to shake almost noticeably as he stared past his boss with vertical arms. The boss seemed not to move his head as his hidden eyes scanned over the pokémon choices, and a gruff sigh escaped his lips. He inhaled, and the minion prepared himself.
“Who chose these?” he questioned, his voice low and serious. The man stuttered.
“Uh—uh, the Beta Admin, sir.”
“Is that a fact or an assumption?”
“I didn’t choose him to pick a mere YOUNGLING!” he raged, getting to his feet and tossing an arm to the right. His other hand slammed against the solidness below him as he yelled his last word. The young Rocket breathed uneasily as he continued to stand as straight as he could, fear surging through him. He tried his best not to fall backwards.
“I-it’s a very good fighter, s—”
“How could one of THOSE be a GOOD FIGHTER?!” he exclaimed, flecks of his saliva spraying onto the desk’s surface.
The Rocket cringed, his eyes closed. “They were all tested,” he informed, fighting the instincts that told him to flee. “It’s only young, but there’s something amiss with its—its...with how it grew.” The boss appeared to stop his heavy breathing, his teeth becoming unclenched and his arms lowering to his side. He stood tall and broad as his minion continued. “It was...trained very hard by its trainer...and has the mental c-capacity of an adult po-pokémon.” The boss maintained his frown, not easily convinced. “His trainer was killed on—on the 700-T, and another trainer brought him back, s-so now he doesn’t belongs to any, anyone...e-except you, sir.”
To this the Rocket’s superior ran a hand across his stubble. He lifted an eyebrow in disbelief. “Demonstrate.”
Not ten seconds later, a stout pokémon was brought in held inside a cage. It had its hands wrapped around the cage’s bars, and its angry eyes showed its fury. It was thrashing about in the cage, unable to free itself, and seemed barely tame if tame at all. The Rocket carrying it didn’t stop to shock it with a Rocket taser he pulled from his pocket, a device that emitted an electrical shock current to be sent throughout the subject’s body, thereafter incapacitating them. They were specially designed for Team Rocket’s use: silver hand-held weapons with a button in the centre of the top. They were small and convenient to carry in pockets, and were constructed of mainly metal-like plastics and bamboo, and could not be recognised by a metal detector. It was a powerful tool that was easy to store, carry and use.
The purple pokémon’s body locked up in a seizure, and it shook uncontrollably afterward on the floor of the cage, its limbs having given in. The cage was set in the middle of the room and the door was opened. The man holding the cage lifted it up, tilting the pokémon out and onto the floor, still paralysed.
One of the three pokémon who were brought in by the timid Rocket member was told to approach the newly-placed pokémon, and he complied without thinking twice. His one-foot tall body gave his opponent the impression that he was weak and helpless, but the small, rounded pokémon had a menacing grin. His opponent finally got to his feet, still feeling the lasting pain from the electric surge, and stared at the pokémon a third of his size.
The pokémon appearing to still be half in his shell took a deep breath, his eyes altered by the frown accompanying the grin he wore. He analysed the normal type before him. He was mostly bluey-purple, with the exception of his closed mouth that would usually be open, which was maize-coloured. A duo of round twitching ears extended from the sides of his head. Four blunt teeth were revealed as the loudred opened his mouth. He appeared overtaken by rage, and he let out a deep rumble from within his throat—the one that was connected directly to his torso. He stamped his feet repeatedly, sneering at the minor threat which he had a difficult time finding intimidation for.
However, the first of three specifically chosen pokémon barely had to ready himself. The six cream spikes standing erect on his head did not waver with effects of timidness.
“Metronome,” commanded the boss out of concern, the pokémon leisurely swayed his tiny cream paws, neutral sparks dancing between them. A gust of wind erupted from the two limbs, and a miniature tornado was sent spinning horizontally forward. It swept past the loudred as he braced himself in the centre, the sharp wind currents buffeting him and scraping at his skin. The attack was cut off, and the normal type lunged toward the smaller pokémon, his feet out in front. He came down onto the togepi, but the younger pokémon seemed anything but fazed.
“You’re willing to fight for them?” spat the loudred, his stomp attack having hit his opposition head-on. The togepi only smiled, his unusual blood-red eyes coming into effect and washing over the loudred’s astounded face.
“Metronome again,” the boss said, both arms outstretched as he braced himself against the desk’s surface.
The togepi’s arms waggled back and forth under the pressure of another pokémon on top of him and magnificent light flashed, illuminating the whole room and causing everyone looking to shriek and protect their eyes—including the loudred, who stumbled backwards and held his two paws to his eyes. Again the egg-like pokémon leisurely moved his paws, and this time he was shot forward and he slammed into his advisory, streaks of light in his wake.
The swift move was one unable to be evaded, and due to the blindness the loudred’s eyes currently withstood, he was condemned to miss his following attacks and was hit by his enemy’s. He attempted to lunge, but his legs weaved and a thud rang out as his face was planted into the carpet. He seemed to get all the more frustrated, but had no time to express it as the togepi instantaneously became encased with sharp rocks suddenly summoned, and they flung forward onto the loudred, the pokémon reacting with a sharp cry of pain. The togepi didn’t seem to sympathise with his foe, and instead swung his paws back and forth. This time, a wicked sphere of cerulean energy formed between them, and it crackled as white colour mixed in. The sphere acquired ebony tinges before it grew to be nearly the size of the pokémon wielding it, and with a grunt, the tiny pokémon jerked backwards as he released the ball. The loudred was witnessed getting to his feet and having not a second to bellow in fright before an aura sphere pounded into him. The boss’ eyes were wide as light exploded and the unconscious pokémon stayed airborne until it whammed into the front of the desk.
A heinous smirk slithered onto the boss’ face, his eyes becoming darker once more. For now, he was pleasantly glad to have been initially wrong about the chosen pokémon...
I had been lucky to avoid discovering Zhol’s temper. Angering the sneasel seemed like the worst mistake I could make—even though I could only guess how scornful she would act. She had been withdrawn and quiet ever since I had woken, and I still hadn’t figured out why.
Her prey-catching skills were very sharp, and she was particularly good with catching fish. I knew that humans use a long line of fine, tough plastic attached to some sort of flexible pole as well as simple spears (which were only really used when their technology hadn’t begun to bloom). I learned that Zhol didn’t need a spear—her claws were so sharp that she could pierce a solid rock if she really tried. And all she had to do to capture prey was focus, aim and plunge her fist into the rushing river. I had taken a seat on the bank to watch, not even thinking about venturing into the water or even onto the steppingstones Zhol squatted on to score our food. I was also glad to have had her sharing the fish with me—a lot of pokémon would probably keep it all for themselves on account of how they caught it, which, although practical, could also be seen as selfish. Especially when with another whose skills for hunting were unsharpened. Nevertheless, Master had always encouraged me to catch my own meals. Although...Izante usually did the majority of the hunting. This was, after sitting next to the river and simply watching my sneasel friend catch dinner, specifically why Zhol instructed me to collect (by what means I wasn’t sure) any berries that happened to be growing anywhere in the area. So, compliantly, I had wandered off.
I hummed quietly to myself while scanning shrubbery for any signs of juicy fruit I could possibly lug back, but spied nothing useful. The forest we were venturing through was a repeated scene as far as the eye could see, and for an hour I had been looking for fruit without success. The underlay was composed mostly of dry pine needles – which had turned a copper colour – along with other extremely tall trees’ leaves which happened to drop. The trees themselves stretched up for ages before they stopped, giving the impression that they were still growing. Their branches obscured any patch of sky, and as a result the forest was constantly darker than a normal day would be. It was also colder, but being a fire type, I didn’t feel it as much as other pokémon may have been able to.
I proceeded forwards, coming to a stop when I scented something. It was extremely faint, but as I lifted my muzzle and put my nose to work, I caught a whiff of another type of plantation. Excited, I raced up the growing hilly forest, passing tree after tree as the scent began to strengthen. Once atop the slope, I needed not to glance about for long before laying eyes on a row of berry bushes at the foot of the small hill. The forest still stretched on for kilometres each way, looking the same, although there was a row of shrubs lining the hill’s bottom that went off left and right.
The path was thicker beyond the bushes of fruit, and shrubs were more abundant. It was a better environment for stalking prey due to more coverage and the opportunity for hiding behind just about every plant and tree. If I happened to spy a bird pokémon or something along the lines of small, vulnerable prey, I might just have had a chance to snag it. It would most likely boost Zhol’s mood, and I would feel more useful. But if I was unable to find food with meat, I would have to return to my friend with what the bushes provided, which, although less desirable, was my original intent anyway.
I wasn’t sure if sneasel generally ate berries. I wasn’t too fond of them myself, but I did enjoy some sweetness on my tastebuds once in a while, and they were that satisfying that I would certainly eat them or any other fruit if there was nothing else available.
I only had to run about twenty metres before tumbling into a bush growing nose-sized red berries, and I got to my paws and shook off so I could encase one in my mouth before tugging it off the stalk it was connected to. I bit down – regretting it as soon as I discovered the pip – and chewed the flesh, ejecting the hard centre. The odd flavour filled my mouth, making me raise my cheek muscles in response to its sourness. I decided the particular one I was testing was unripe, but I finished it regardless and swallowed. My eyes squinted and I stuck out my tongue, shaking my head speedily, while widening my mouth. “Eulegh.”
Once the odd taste passed I began searching for a better piece of fruit to taste. I moved on to a bush to my right, padding slowly and assessing the plant’s berry from where I stood. I made a noise of acknowledgement and happily slipped my fangs into the fruit’s skin. I didn’t expect it to be so soft and passive, but apparently it was. I tugged on it, hoping to rip it off the branch it was attached to, but it proved to be an annoying task. The first attempt ended with a bite of the berry in my mouth, the sweetness rushing over my tongue, and I chewed and swallowed, satisfied with the taste if not pleased by it.
The berry itself was shaped like two spheres stuck together—the bottom one larger. At its top was where it connected to the short branch, and the leaves surrounding the stalk attached to the berry were frayed. It was a rich, pinky-purple colour from what I could tell and it was about as tall as my head—but only about half the width. I had taken a chunk from its bottom, and the rest of the berry was still resting in the bush. I moved my mouth to the other side of my face as my brow burrowed, and tried again. This time I bit the thick stalk, and thankfully the fruit dropped and thudded against the earth. It acquired dirt and broken leaves on its exposed flesh wound, but I barely noticed as I snipped another two berries from their stalks and they dinted themselves upon meeting the ground.
The sudden feeling of being watched swept over me like a harmless surf attack. My fur stiffened and I whirled around immediately to catch whatever was spying on me. Peculiar shuffling and fluttering sounded nearby, and something materialised before me, a battle-ready cry being blurted beforehand. I jumped backwards as a frightened reflex before my eyes could focus and, being as clumsy as I was, I stumbled as my paws caught on each other. Being on an angle, I happened to topple into the bushes I had just been pruning and became mangled in the thin twig-branches and leaves.
Continued in next post...