“We should get going,” she mentioned, and I blinked at her, a little dumbfounded.
“Why?” I glanced to the rock I had slept on. “We barely slept!”
The sneasel closed her eyes and took a moment to breathe. “We are not well tolerated in this area. I would advise that we keep moving so we don’t overstay the little welcome we have.”
“Alright...” I grew a look of exhaustion as she walked in front of me, her right side in my face before she took off. “W-wait! Slow down, will ya?” I had to catch up, so I began sprinting after her. But, being so early in the morning, I couldn’t quite get a grip on a proper speed and my limbs failed to move properly after a stiff sleep. “But wait! What about my sleep? I get cranky if I don’t get enough sleep!” However, she didn’t seem to care much for that. “Hey—will you wait up?” I growled, slowing down to a stop with a grouchy expression. “Fine,” I said under my breath, huffing a wisp of fire. “Stupid nocturnal...partly.” I eyed a spot of grass at the base of a common tree since rocks were less than abundant and strode over to it with slow steps. I was tired and hungry. ...And annoyed. ‘Why can’t she just agree for once and listen to me?’
But as soon as I sat down, a sudden hoot made me jump. I froze in the instant and began feeling...a little lonely.
I skimmed the leaves visually, trying to filter out any pokémon that would explain the sounds, but all I captured was rustling clumps of canopy and the noise of fluttering wings. My breathing’s pace increased, and I began swallowing frequently. My fur fluffed and I became completely still while my ears awaited the next sound. Suspicious hooting and chuckling rang in the small space I had created around me, and I finally regretted having not followed that darn sneasel. I also came to realise that only then, when I was alone, I started to be freaked out by this common and harmless audio...
I squeaked as something sharp poked the back of my leg, and I leapt forward and spun around. However, I identified the predator as...a stick. “Great. Now the twigs are preying on me...”
“Eep!” I seemed to shrink as I tried not to listen to the taunting pokémon around me, but I knew I couldn’t stay frozen and cowering for long. “...Okay, alright,” I sighed quietly, “I’m coming already...” I bravely uncurled and turned around, unable to see far into the dark distance—meaning I couldn’t see Zhol. I didn’t hear her footsteps, either, which made me bite my lip. “D’aw,” I whined, finding the courage to bolt through the darkness the same way Zhol vanished. ‘Funny,’
I mentioned to myself. ‘You can stand up to a possessed garchomp several times your height, but you can’t confront the darkness on your own with a straight face? Hah!’
I travelled for only a few minutes, zooming through the scenery with multiple thoughts on my mind. “Zhol!” I exclaimed, targeting the dark silhouette standing on what looked like the end of the path. My paws trampled hundreds of twigs and leaves as I continued to run, and the ice and dark type whirled around, slipping a claw to her lips vertically. I was aware of the rushing current I could hear a short ways away, and since she was standing on the edge of a padded (because of the thick blanket of foliage) cliff, I assumed that there was a wide river resting far below.
She seemed to be annoyed with me, and at a guess I assumed it was because I hadn’t been able to keep up and chose to remain behind. But it wasn’t my fault! She shouldn’t have run off on me when I was still tired.
I exhaustedly padded towards her once my pace faded into a tired hobble, and every breath was a pant. “Thanks...for waiting...” I managed to sarcastically say before collapsing onto the forest’s floor in front of her, several multi-shaped leaves rising and floating back down again. I could have drifted off within mere minutes had Zhol let me, but she signalled silently for me to stand beside her. I rolled my eyes and slipped out a sigh backed with agitation, stepping next to her.
“I wasn’t smart to leave you by yourself,” she admitted straight off, and I flattened my mouth.
“True, true,” I said while nodding, my eyelids only half open.
She turned back to what was in front of her, and only then did I see it. A river as wide as I had imagined was running downstream in a rightward direction down below, and in a few places it snaked into different ways. The land that continued stretched into the distance was on the same level as the river—therefore making the cliff we were standing on the highest ground for many kilometres. Of course, there were cloud-reaching mountains in the distance that looked like they would take weeks more to reach that were far taller than the land we had been travelling on, but that didn’t count.
Off to our left was the same cliff that we were on which extended until it curved around and kept going in the direction we had been heading, and I could see that not too far away it began sloping down and probably stopped doing so as it reached the rest of the land’s level. The cliff had created a waterfall which fell to keep the river from stopping, bouncing and rolling off the giant stones jutting from the cliff face. One of the ways the river after the waterfall turned off in was in the direction we were headed, toward the mountains, and it basically followed the land that began slanting a few metres away from it. I might have been able to pick out more detail had it been lighter, but it was bright enough (courtesy of the glimmering stars which stroked the world with their shining touch) to make out the path ahead.
“That’s lovely and all,” I began, turning my head to the left, “but...can we sleep now, please? I’ll promise to admire it properly in the morning and give you a melodramatic reaction.”
Zhol took a breath, running her claws laxly down a tree’s trunk her right paw was on and met my gaze as she faced me. She was about to comment, but nodded instead, holding back a smile I knew would have come if she hadn’t been as aware of it.
“Score!” I whispered, slumping down immediately and curling up.
The sneasel turned and wandered to a tree a few metres back with a rather wide trunk and I watched as she, her back to me and on the other side of the tree, took a seat and crossed her arms. It was smart to be on watch; she was facing the forest where the more likely source of predators would come... Plus, bigger trunks meant more width which led to more comfort. It also looked like a great place for me to curl up at, and...the water nearby began to get to me. And although I could still hear it after I got to my legs and wearily walked paces back, I was happier to be right next to my travelling buddy. And besides, it was further away from the liquid. I rested my head on my paws and wrapped my fluffy tail around my side. [/i]‘...Zhol nearly smiled. That’s both a good and rare sight.’[/i] I relaxed myself, happy to be allowed more sleep. But the thought of the dark and ice pokémon wanting to rise and shine early made me groan on the inside. That could wait till it actually happened.
I woke to a start as a leaf split in two. My ears flew directly up and I shot to my paws. A pokémon’s eyes darted to mine, and I sleepily squinted. ‘Just a pidgey,’
I thought. [/i]‘Wait... Breakfast!’[/i] I bolted towards it under the direction of my stomach as they took to the air after cooing uncomfortably. “Come back! I just wanna eat you!” I taunted. I found it very convenient that the bird pokémon didn’t fly through the roof-like leaves protecting me from the sun’s rays, but along an obvious path of straight ahead. Luckily the way we were moving wasn’t the way to the edge of the cliff, but in the direction it ran—towards the waterfall. I almost began drooling as I neared it, and I could feel my teeth about to nip its wings, but I could tell the flying type was petrified.
At first a spot appeared wherever my eyes looked, but rapidly my vision began to darken. I was alarmed and immediately tumbled over my paws, collecting droppings and dirt as I rolled. I shrieked, confused as I could no longer see. ‘A pokémon attack?!’
I suspected, but my thoughts temporarily disbanded as I skidded to a stop in a strange position, my body aching of scratches from stones. Something had reopened my leg muscle wound by the feel of it, but I was unable to confirm since I was blinded! “Z-Zhol!” I called awkwardly, staying completely still in fear of something happening. Although it didn’t hurt, my head felt like it was spinning and being squeezed. I blinked several times, panting heavily...and the blackness slowly leaked from my head. I blinked three more times, finding that by the end of the period my sight was almost completely clear. I waited a moment before slowly untangling myself. My head cautiously patrolled my surroundings, but nothing was out of the ordinary. I could no longer hear the pidgey’s flapping wings, but food was off my mind. Sensing everything was fine, I lifted myself up, looking around another time.
“Dusty!” a frantic voice hissed, and I whipped my head around as a speedy sneasel entered from behind me.
“Z-Zhol! Stop!” I ordered, and I noticed her concerned expression as she abruptly followed my request, a fair distance between us. She obviously wanted answers, as anyone would, but I took a few seconds to keep talking. “There’s...” I continued, glancing around again. “There’s something out here.” Zhol’s head cocked to one side, and I imitated her as she tossed her gaze about to confirm my words. She scented the air as I watched her for a response, but once she finished she returned her eyes to me.
“I smell forest, you and me, and river,” she said. “Bird scents linger, and several other pokémon’s, but that is all besides other natural wild smells. Can you not smell for yourself?” she asked with wonder to her tone.
“Yeah, but...” I hastily trotted over to her, suspiciously checking all directions as I went. “I was blinded!” I whispered in a serious manner, her response multiple blinks. “Something fogged my vision with darkness!”
She didn’t need long to have a change of expression, and the perplexity in her face subsided. “Tell me what you did,” she asked. I understood why; if I made too much noise or something I could have woken up a grumpy forest resident. One who could have felt an obligation to punish me.
“Well, I woke up to a pidgey nearby which made me jump. At first I didn’t care, but then I thought that it might have been a good menu item and so I chased after it, but not long into my run, black colouring suddenly crept into my view and I couldn’t see! ...And then I fell over.” I remembered my injury and turned my head over my left shoulder to see its damage. The scab had been removed, so it was bleeding and it hurt. I looked back to her as she crossed her arms and spoke again.
“You...got up the moment after you woke up and began running?” she confirmed, and I paused, then nodded. “Was it painful?”
“Yes!” I replied straight away, and she grew a light frown. However, it vanished after she heard my next comment. “Well...not that much since it was only stones and sticks, but...” I met her eyes again, and realised she was asking about the sight thing. “Oh—the blindness didn’t hurt, but my head went all weird...but that didn’t hurt either. Just felt strange.”
Zhol sighed, beginning to walk past me in the same direction I had been chasing the pidgey—the way we needed to go. I shouted after her, asking her what her she thought it was and where she was going, and she stopped to turn her head as I caught up. “Blood.”
“...Blood?” I wondered.
“Yes. As you lie, your blood pools in certain places in your body and doesn’t circulate as effectively as if you’re standing, so when you get up too quickly after being in a lying position for long enough, the blood rushes to your head, causing dizziness and blackened vision,” she explained. I nodded, taking it all in.
“So...it wasn’t a pokémon attacking me?”
Zhol probably wondered why I had thought that in the first place, but she shook her head. “Be more careful next time. Okay?” She waited a moment and then continued ahead. I followed, leaping twice to catch up.
“Well, come to think of it, it’s happened to me a few times before. I never really got a chance to ask anyone about it.” Interested, I wanted to know more. “But, Zhol—it doesn’t happen often.”
She sighed, probably presumed we were done with the topic, and said, “It’s due to low blood pressure. And since you haven’t eaten properly in more than two days, that would also be a cause.”
“Uurgh, don’t remind me,” I complained, feeling my stomach whine at me. I told it to shut up.
I heard several screeches and other bird-like calls waver as they weaved through the air, filling all ears listening in nearby. Accompanying it was the soft swaying of the leaves and the rushing current of the river—all natural sounds. Unlike when we were on the ship; the audio there was the humming of the vessel’s engine, the mournful cries of pokémon distraught or dying, the crashing waves keeping the ship afloat and the noise of pure fear. Cold, hard fear. A fear that I had never sensed or witnessed before...
The ongoing current nearby recaptured my attention. I widened my eyes. “...HOLY MILTANK!” I yelped, bounding across to the cliff’s face and looking out at the scenery first before staring down. The water sparkled under the sunlight and the view spanning for kilometres was fantastic. The assorted trees danced as their branches reached for the high flying bird pokémon, the clouds watching down from the turquoise sky. It was truly a sight to behold. “ZHOL! This is magical... I can’t believe a place like this exists!” I was half serious and half acting, as I promised her a proper reaction when I woke up, but it was true that this place looked better when it was light.
Zhol nodded, leaning against a trunk with her arms crossed. Even though she wasn’t a happy and bouncy pokémon, she was appreciative of things worthwhile. Not that the two were obviously connected, but it was nice to see her in a situation that she was content about. And seeing her reaction, I wondered if she lived in a place like where we were and what we could see. It was either that or, being a sneasel, she lived in a frosty area cold and ice type-like and rarely got to see sights such as this one.
Reminding me of something I had been meaning to ask her regarding her living environment, once we were back on track I cleared my throat. “Hey, Zhol,” I began, not waiting for a reply, “you never told me what your colony was like.” She kept her eyes on our path as we stepped around holes and the occasional branch, seeming to think. Specifying, I continued, “Like...what kind of pokémon are part of it? Species, I mean. Is it mixed? Or...”
She craned her neck, swaying her arms subtly as her claws met and then parted. “The Usster Colony is a clan of pokémon from around the lands... Some came there for specific reasons and for others, it was random.”
“How did you
wind up living with them? Don’t sneasel usually reside in icy plains...or something?”
From the moment I asked the question I knew I had chosen the wrong questions. Zhol’s fists curled and tensed and her legs froze. Her face turned to that of a hurt and sorrowful expression—one I didn’t often see from not only her, but anyone. She kept her glare fixed on a twig as I first thought to meet her eyes but quickly decided that would prove troublesome, so instead I stayed where I was, a step ahead of her, my gaze at the ground as well. The sneasel took a breath but didn’t remove her stare. “Dusty...have I been fair and willing to talk to you whenever you asked something?”
I broke from where I was looking to change locations, but she didn’t rise to meet me. “Uh-uh...yeah?”
“Then it should be reasonable to say I can’t talk on behalf of this one particular matter,” she uttered, a tinge of hostility to her words. I feared it was directed at me and lowered my tone.
“O...okay. Y-uhh...” I was unsure of what to say, but Zhol stepped forward and continued walking, so it was clear that all I had to do was follow. “Hey...Zhol,” I started. I expected her to stop, but she kept going. “...Sorry. I didn’t know it was...something you’d—”
“Dusty.” She halted, this time allowing me to grab her eyes. “...It’s alright.” She shuffled through the leaves as I stayed on the spot for a moment and frowned.
‘...It... It is?’
Eventually we reached the end of the cliff before it turned to our right. The waterfall’s before-river had a rapid flow prior to tumbling off the edge, creating the very plentiful cascade. It was loud and threatening—I don’t know how so many pokémon could think that the sound was soothing. A beautiful sight? It spat on me and beckoned for me to fall and have my head hammered in under the might of its crushing weight. Refreshing? To jump in there would wreck my coat as well as extinguish any brewing fire. ‘I’ll never understand the fascination with water...’
We crossed it with a few precautions by using rocks lodged in the bottom of the water as stepping stones. I almost slipped at one point and accidentally dipped my tail into it, so the end of it was wet. Yay. But after that it was pretty simple: we moved on down the slope accompanying one of the rivers that branched off from the main one and continued to follow it through more forest.
That part of the forest was much less dry than where we had previously been, and moss was rather copious and grew almost everywhere it could. We saw more pokémon—a few more water types like goldeen and remoraid in the waters and spotted a cluster of combee buzzing about an enormous oak tree with probably enough space for a giant hive. Pachirisu were common amongst large tree and were often able to be spotted in groups of three before scurrying out of sight again. Other insect-like pokémon such as caterpie and weedle popped up in places as well, often using the same method as the pachirisu. It wasn’t very welcoming that nobody was there to even give us a warm ‘hello’. Sneasel and flareon never normally eat bug types! So why would either of us? And catching a pachirisu was another matter entirely and by the looks of their speed and flexibility, I would surely lose them in a chase that wouldn’t last long.
Neither of us really said anything for the next few hours. The same thing repeated itself as we trekked closer to the mountains, and we both (Zhol rather reluctantly) ate a few berries we happened to pass. Water was freely available, being only metres away from us the whole time, which, although unnerving, was quite convenient.
A day had passed before we managed to snag some fish from a small pond we crossed paths with, and I was finally satisfied as I had a decent-sized one to myself. We had also covered significant ground since the day before at the waterfall, and I was confident Zhol knew where she was going. ...And hopefully she was too.
Continued in next post...