The water and normal type cocked her head and stared past me. She must have spotted the sneasel in the distance, and as I turned around to see her myself, the pokémon spoke again, recapturing my attention. “She’s the look-out now.” I was marginally confused, but before I could question her statement, she interrupted. “She was assigned as the new look-out for the war to spot the enemy.”
“W-what?!” I spat, taken aback. “...War? What war
? What do you mean by ‘war’?!” I began shaking my head in denial. “I didn’t sign up to be a soldier! I thought this was only a stupid feud!” Images of what happened on the ship leaked into my mind, the blood staining my brain’s walls and those pain-filled cries echoing from one side of my head to the other. I blinked, trying to rid my mind of the image.
“War is what we refer to battle as,” mentioned the bibarel. I slid my fretting to the side, meeting her gaze with near-disgust.
“...You refer to battle...as war
?” I hissed, my face tinted with disdain. “Do you know...what war’s really like? What war is
? You use the term as if it means nothing but a pointless tussle!”
The pokémon seemed to not know exactly what I was talking about, and calling something so minor ‘war’ was probably normal for her...as misinformed as that was. She stayed silent for a few moments before saying, “Come on,” and began to lead me away.
“Huh?” And when I realised she was trying to separate me from Zhol, I stood my ground. “No! Where—where do you even want to take me?”
“Leave the look-out by herself and follow.”
“Why? And what gives you the authority to boss me around?”
“Flareon, all outsiders are to stay in an allocated area until they can go after the w—...battle.” I was slightly encouraged by her term replacement, but it didn’t alter my state of mind. I was in a foreign place with strange pokémon who forced me into helping them when I did not volunteer, and I had no idea what the end result of the whole experience would be or what to expect. So defying orders was fairly high on my agenda and as part of my defence, as well.
I looked away reluctantly. “...But why? ...Why can’t I stay with Zhol? ...Why do I have to stay in a hut until the battle?”
The pokémon stared at me with a hint of sympathy. “It is so you don’t do anything you aren’t permitted to beforehand.”
“Like what?” I snapped, capturing her attention. I secretly knew taking my anger out on this random colony member wasn’t going to achieve anything, but it wasn’t fair. “You don’t even have a right to keep me here. I could leave now.”
“Flareon, please... If we don’t get back, the battle plan may be sabotaged.”
I scoffed. “What battle plan?” I shook my head. “Aren’t we just gonna storm ‘em when they get here or something?”
“...Come on,” she urged, beginning to throw her glance in assorted directions. “You want to be prepared for when they attack...and so do I.” She stood firm, her mind nearly as made up as mine.
As stubborn as I felt, and although I was convinced my paws that had been planted into the ground were not going to move unless I got my own way, I began to contemplate my decisions. I didn’t want to dwell on them too much, as I knew those two shoulder flareon would pop up. One of my thoughts whispered about the fact that that the faster I followed the bibarel and got to the hut, the sooner I would learn how to kick the enemies’ butt. But on the other paw, I didn’t want to be parted with my only friend.
“Flareon...” The bibarel looked me in the eyes. “Let’s go.” She whirled around after bounding a few metres forward, glancing over her shoulder to make sure I was tailing her. I gritted my teeth...and ripped my paws from the ground, the scent of dirt and the rushing currents surrounding me suffocating as I sprinted after the bibarel. As much as I didn’t want to leave Zhol...I knew she would be fine on her own.
We arrived at the den after half a minute of running. To my relief it was not another underwater entrance one, so all I had to do was waltz in as opposed to getting myself completely drenched in order to be inside a place I hardly wanted to be. I still hadn’t dried from the previous encounter with the awful river, and I certainly didn’t want the process to begin again.
The bibarel led me through a small hole on the far right of a mud wall we encountered as soon as we came in. It opened into the main room. Pokémon filled the entire hut, chatting and going over plans while others itched for the battle to begin. The place was lit up by fire at the end of the room. Since I didn’t light it, my guess was that they had another pokémon able to control fire or it had been lit long ago and was kept alive by constant fuel. A musky smell occupied the air, and I felt a tad uncomfortable having it waft up my nostrils. In the midst of searching for somewhere to sit down to wait, I suddenly stopped. I blinked.
There was a face.
One that had stuck with me through our capture...through arguments and battles for freedom...and against each other that the contempt we shared. That intense dislike that sparked between us from the moment I laid eyes on her.
?” I stared with a blank expression that could easily have been mistaken for a light frown. She looked terribly dumbfounded and returned my stare as if she was surprised to see me...to see me alive. Her bottom jaw separated from the top one slowly, and I was sure she was about to say something. I didn’t know what she could possibly say at such a time, but I wasn’t about to find out.
I heard scuttling from behind, and even though I felt so distracted by the glaceon, I whirled around to view someone I was glad to see. On the contrary, she hardly looked interested in having a little chit-chat.
I barely had any idea what was happening as the soldiers of the colony formed in a long line, some sitting in water. The enemy clan turned out to be another bunch of bibarel and bidoof, and they lived downstream from this one. They appeared steaming mad, and all were in fits of rage as they faced us in their line. I watched as their leader and this colony’s leader were talking it out in the section between the two colonies. They discussed an issue I couldn’t quite grasp, standing tall on their hind legs.
“You’re selfish—selfish, I tell you!” yelped the opposing side’s leader, growing madder and madder by the moment.
“Am not! You’re selfish,” retorted this side’s leader.
“It’s your fault! You’re at fault here because you live upstream.”
“If you didn’t live down there then there would be no problem! We need water too,” the dual type huffed.
“See, see—selfish! We can live wherever we want.”
Noticing they were not getting anywhere, I tapped the bidoof beside me with my front paw. “What are they talking about?” I whispered, shaking my head as I watched their pathetic argument. She seemed to be too enthralled in their babbling, so I rolled my eyes and stepped forward. The second I did so, claws gripped my back left leg. I whipped my head back to find Zhol. I tilted my head, wondering what she had to say.
“Bibarel are known for their goofiness...but also their tempers. Among other things.”
I nodded and she let go. I turned and progressed towards them, and as I did, all eyes fell onto me. I tried to ignore the many stares as I approached this colony’s leader. “Hey,” I began in order to get their attention, interrupting their conversation. Their gazes drew to mine, and I shrugged.
“...Who is this?” questioned the other leader.
“Dusty,” I answered.
The two bibarel exchanged looks. “What does she want?”
“I want to know, um, what you’re fighting about.” I threw my head over my shoulder to spot Zhol, who looked alert. She stared at me expectantly and I span back to the two pokémon. “Uhh, uhh... Because...I could help?” I continued, spinning back ‘round to check if I had done the right thing or not. Zhol became less tense, and I sighed. I would have thought bibarel were supposed to only be known for being laid-back, not for their attitudes as well.
“You don’t know?” questioned the other bibarel.
“Would I be asking if I didn’t?” I mumbled, and after he asked what I said, I stuttered, “Uhh—no, I don’t.”
“For years our colonies have been at war,” – I cringed at the term – “because of our disagreement.” The two pokémon laid disdainful eyes upon one another and I was certain they would start up another argument soon.
“Well...what’s the disagreement?” I queried. At first the army pokémon who were able to hear us clearly looked from face to face as if they were unsure themselves, and then the two leaders seemed to chuckle. I raised an eyebrow and glanced about. “Am I...missing something?”
“The disagreement is...” began the leader who had held me hostage. “It’s, uh...about...the dam.”
“The dam...yeah...” I waited for them to proceed. “What about it?”
“Well...years ago, the dam...was built...a dam was built between our territories,” explained the other leader.
,” I pressed, not understanding the oh-so-great
problem that sprouted from a dam.
The leader from the colony behind me then spoke. “Our land slopes down...and downwards lives them
,” he sneered. “And they have a problem with our dam.”
“The problem!” intervened the opposing normal and water type. “The problem is that when that dam is up...my colony gets no water.”
“Oh, that’s tauros cr—”
“IT’S the problem, Boon,” growled the other bibarel.
“Right...” I mused, going over it in my head. “So...” I stepped between them. “You’re willing to sacrifice your time and, more importantly, lives
over this...this...petty dilemma?”
“Petty dilemma?!” spat both bidoof evolutions, and I puffed my chest and tail to show that I wouldn’t be overthrown or challenged by either of them.
“Well, this stupid indecision, then. Why can’t you—”
too stubborn!” shouted both pokémon simultaneously, and I felt like folding down my ears and gluing them to the fur on the sides of my head.
“Well then, be un
stubborn and work this out before anyone gets hurt, or worse!” I demanded, taking turns to look both pokémon in the eye. They were completely against the idea...I could tell. But what was the point in fighting when they could have just sorted everything out? I didn’t understand how it could have been that hard
. “You may not think it’s my place, but you,” – I glared at Boon – “forced me to help with the battle between the two colonies, so how about you listen?”
The two bibarel flashed glowers at each other and at me. However, they seemed to calm down a notch. “Fine. But only if he apologises,” reasoned the other pokémon, and Boon raised his voice and the two were quick to begin arguing again.
I rolled my eyes and clenched my jaws, unsure of what to do. “Guys,” I started, but their attention was on each other. I twirled around as a reflex, as if to ask someone to help. I laid my sights on Zhol and widened my eyes, jerking my head towards the pair of water and normal types. “A little help?”
In the blink of an eye Zhol had appeared beside me, and soon stood between the bibarel. They seemed somewhat offended and again the other bibarel questioned her identity. “Zhol,” the sneasel quickly replied.
“Look, will you guys just quit it and sort this out instead?” I intervened. “Don’t let this turn into a physical fight.”
Zhol stepped back, stopping on my right. “Please,” she started, the two falling silent. “...It’s in the best interest of bother of your colonies.”
At this the dual types blinked in unison. They made no move to speak as they considered it. “She’s right,” I admitted.
“...Yes,” agreed Boon’s right-hand bidoof. “They are right.” She turned to Boon as all other colony members listened in. “If talking doesn’t work, we’ll do it how it’s always been,” suggested the smaller pokémon, and the two leaders nodded.
“What? N—” I began, but Zhol held up an arm. She turned her head to catch me with one eye, and I gave in.
The many bidoof and bibarel in the armies conversed quietly, wondering what their leaders would choose. Some I heard thought the new plan was a better idea, but others were more interested in a battle. Luckily it wasn’t up to them.
“...Very well,” Boon decided, his threatening tone disappearing. He and the other bibarel dropped to all-fours. “Tu and I will have a private meeting with this flareon—”
“And Zhol,” I added.
“...Yes. And the decision will be made then.”
“Wait...” I began, meeting Boon’s gaze. “Do we get to go after that?”
He asked himself before saying, “Only if it’s resolved.”
At that I gaped, beginning to growl. Zhol tried calming me down with her piercing eyes, but I wouldn’t back down. It was completely unjust to keep us with them when we had nothing to do with their situation. If they made the choice to brawl instead of talk, why was that our problem? If it was up to us, we’d have them figure it out by using words, because such a stupid reason to spend energy and shed tears was...well...stupid! But rather than taking this any further, I made up my mind. If they were too stubborn to resolve the issue peacefully, I was going to escape. With or without Zhol.
An hour later we – Tu, Boon, Zhol and I, as well as the leaders’ side-kicks – sat in an isolated lodge on the edge of one colony’s land. I found it challenging not to fall asleep, since it had to be almost midnight and it had been a day packed with travelling, and since the room was dim it hardly prevented tiredness. We were seated on long logs that, if two more were present opposite the ones already there, would make a diamond shape.
“So, what is it you were thinking, flareon?” wondered Tu, repeating himself after I asked him to.
“Oh, um... Well, so...this whole thing’s about the dam...” I looked to Boon. “When you guys build it, Tu’s colony pays the price because they don’t get a good flow?”
“Yep,” Tu confirmed, but Boon only sighed.
“Well, in my opinion, you shouldn’t have the dam.”
“Uh-huh! Uh-huh,” supported Tu. The other bibarel was staggered.
“But we can’t do that! The dam has to stay,” the pokémon protested, his voice raised. His assistant held the same opinion, and Zhol looked to be against the idea as well.
“Why do you need it?” I asked, not sure of what it even did.
“Without the dam, our
water levels drop because our land is on a slope. So we have to have it!”
“And when you do have one up...Tu’s territory suffers the consequences,” I muttered, finding the situation to be an inconvenient one. “Well, that’s annoying.”
“Have you...tried to make a deal before?” Zhol questioned, possibly thinking up a solution.
“We were never interested,” Boon’s bidoof answered, “because they
tear the dam down after we spend all night making it.”
“You...you do?” I faced Tu.
“That was after
you refused to negotiate!” Tu yelped in his defence.
“Alright, okay!” I shouted, feeling the tension rise. “Well...looks like we need to figure something out.”
“Indeed,” Zhol nodded. “I suggest...” We all turned to her as she gazed at the floor. “Perhaps if two dams were put up it would solve the problems.”
I tilted my head. “...Go on. I think you’re onto something.” She nodded.
“One would be between the colonies, and the second would be after Tu’s.” She slid off the log she was on (the one diagonally across from the one Tu, Tu’s bidoof and I) and drew a wonky square in the dirt with one of her powerful claws. A few centimetres after it she drew a small line, and then repeated the two shapes. “This square represents the first colony, and,” – she directed out attention to the second square – “this square is the second colony. If the dams are between the two and after Tu’s, the water will stay in place and neither colony will have shortages.” She circled each part as she spoke, and sense began to squeeze past the impossible walls – or dams – in the bibarel’s minds. “The dam after the second colony will be built first, so the water can build up, and after that the second dam will be built to fill the first colony’s space. When too much water builds up or you simply want a fresh supply, remove the dams and later you can put them back into place.”
All five of us nodded, impressed by Zhol’s smarts. “...Nice going,” I mentioned, and she gave me a weak smile. “...Cool!” I grinned as I dropped from the log. “So it’s all good? Good!” I triumphantly fluffed up, happy to finally have this worked out...even though it hadn’t been too long. But who knows how much longer we would have had to stay had Zhol not have come up with such a brilliant idea? ‘Sleep time, sleep time!’
I cheered inside my head, and the thought of freedom teased me as I imagined sleeping at the foot of a tree again once away from all this!
As I danced a little jig, Boon and Tu nodded to each other. “Your dam, then mine,” Boon checked, and the other pokémon concurred. “Let us...get to work.”
“Huh?” I slurred, stretching. “Work?”
Stares piled on top of me. “Yes, the dams. They must be built.”
“Mm, great,” I mumbled. “When?” My eyelids felt heavy, and hopefully I could get a few hours of rest before they made me do anything.
“...Half an hour, maybe?” suggested Tu. Boon was content with that.
“HALF—half an hour
?!” I spluttered, choking on my own yawn. “But, but—it’s nighttime! I am so ditching you.”
“Dusty,” Zhol whispered, her back to them. “Bibarel and bidoof can be nocturnal or diurnal. I think this colony is nocturnal.”
“Well, flareon can’t be! The only thing we’re hard at work doing during the night is sleeping!” I howled. After the statement was made, I realised that it was perfectly normal for any flareon to be nocturnal as well, but ignored that fact and stuck to my words. “Besides...how can they not be woken up by the Sun?” Although straight after the question I felt stupid, as I noticed the only source of light there could be in one of the domes was fire. “Maybe...maybe light’s not a problem, but still! If they expect me to do anything starting from in half an hour’s time...they’re dreamin’!”
“Roll it down!” a bidoof called to me, and vengefully I gave a giant log a forceful push with two front legs. It tumbled down the hillside until a team of the beaver pokémon stopped it (looking kinda funny since they were so small compared to the log). I had been at it for ages now, and it was always a few minutes before they asked me to do it again. Several times I had come close to dozing off, but not long after I was caught in the act and woken up. But those bidoof and bibarel would never understand...they were nocturnal! They were used to busying themselves this time of the day...or night. I wasn’t.
“Okay!” chanted a nearby water and normal type, gleefully grinning at me. “Log movement is complete!” He looked about to pass on some sort of congratulatory gesture – such as a pat on the back – but his actions weren’t going to commence after he noted the fiery glare I thrust in his direction. Instead he chuckled sheepishly and plodded down the hill in order to see how else he could be of assistance to...someone else.
Continued in next post...