With a frustrated sigh, I whirled around, unsure of what to do next. I took a step forward, tripping on a small rock and planting my face into the dirt. Grumbling, I swished around to see what could be so strong as to make me fall, but I never got the chance as I slipped on a patch of stray mud and tumbled backwards. I expected to stop within a second of beginning, but the hill on that side – where nobody happened to be at the bottom of – dropped rapidly and before I knew it, I was on a roll—literally!
“Waaaah!” I screamed, unable to navigate my way down or view my path. Sharp twigs and protruding rocks stabbed me as I continued, and it was less than comfortable.
All of a sudden, my stop was softened...and I had no idea why. I had slowed near the foot of the small hill, but I halted altogether as I clonked into what definitely didn’t feel like a boulder or a tree. Dazed, I hoisted myself up, only to find I was facing the hill. Curious, I turned around and saw...and saw nothing but more ground. I blinked repeatedly, confused. To my left shrubs and taller plants grew, but nothing that would have cushioned my fall like it did, and nothing in the right spot! Causing my thoughts to stray, my ears flickered. I padded forward several metres before the sound become louder, and on the other side of tall grass I overlooked a river. It was a reasonable drop downwards, and I instantly found myself to be...extremely lucky to have been stopped when I was, because at the rate I was going I could have rolled off the edge and been carried all the way to the nearest ocean. The thought lingered until a rustle from those bushes caught me off guard. I leaped away from the short cliff and faced the plantation suspiciously, my eyes fixed on them and my stance became that of a defensive one.
“Who’s...who’s there?” I wondered, my voice low despite my wishes against a battle at this hour. I waited in angst for another noise, but I didn’t hear another one until it was my own voice. “If...you were the one who saved me...”
“Hey, you!” called someone from atop the hill.
“Ahh!” I screeched, nearly suffering a heart attack.
“What do you think you’re doing down there?” It was a random I didn’t know, and she looked grumpy.
“You gave me a—”
“There’s work to do! So come back,” she demanded, not looking about to give up her post until I followed her order.
Cautiously I strode past the clump of greenery and eyed it, ready to spot any trace of movement. However, the first rustle must have been my imagination because not another breath was heard from that direction. And even if there was someone there, my eyesight wasn’t powerful enough to spot them in the darkness.
After slogging up the hill and being told by the bibarel to run along and find another task, I was instructed to be the director of the placement of the logs for the dam along with whoever else wasn’t moving and swimming with the branches and trunks. It was tiring and not overly calming, and frankly I wanted to slap those pokémon silly. They were painfully bad listeners, even though I could admit they were hard workers, so it made it all the more frustrating to tell them what to do.
But at last it was done...and I felt free. Free to go and free to sl—
“Now for the second dam,” mentioned one of the bidoof who had been directing with me and began waddling away. I stood with perplexity written all over my face before it clicked.
‘The second one,’
I thought with contempt, my eye twitching. ‘Just...another few hours of work... Just...just some more hours...’
In a fit of anger, I released a stream of fire on a nearby log, barely caring as I left and it blazed away.
Exhaling, the pokémon who nearly had himself revealed backed out from the shrubs. “...Lucky I was here... She would have fallen head over heels for that river down there.” He nearly chuckled at his own joke as he peered over the cliff, his thin tail flickering to show his dislike for the gushing...stuff. “She’s thankful,” he muttered, turning left to face the direction in which he knew the flareon was headed. Nearly as quickly as he came, the pokémon loped away, having a feeling that the eevee evolution wouldn’t need his assistance another time that night. ‘Until next time...Flair.’
Stirring and stretching my limbs, I felt grogginess beginning to bathe me. My mouth grew into a gaping hole and I exhaled shortly after. What a good sleep I’d had! We worked all night...and till an hour or two before the Sun would have risen – which I was furious about – but it meant that I had slept like a slakoth. I waited a few moments before recalling where I was and what I needed to do, and it became clear fairly quickly. Deciding I should get up, I hauled myself to my feet and glanced about as I tried to identify something – anything – in the blackness. A muddy smell fogged my nostrils, and I cringed, thinking some cleaner air would have been nice. I noticed an opening to the left of the far side of the room and attempted to avoid tails and heads as I weaved between several pokémon. Once I appeared before the hole, I slipped through to come into an enclosed room where the entrance to the dome led me outside into the morning air. It still smelled of mud, but looking upwards, I—
My eyes widened. The Sun was positioned in the centre of the sky—no, it was further west! “Oh no!” I raced back inside, hoping that Zhol would appear before me. However, I was engulfed in darkness and couldn’t see a thing. I panicked, trying to catch her scent. “...Zhol,” I whispered, “Zhol!” I heard movement, but after waiting several seconds I thought it must not have been her. I scowled, scampering back outside. In all honesty, I had no idea where to look. I thought to stick with the scent idea, but thinking again, I found it to be a futile means of finding her. There were far too many scents intermingled in the surrounding area.
“Dusty!” I heard, and my relief returned, my ears flicking up.
“Saved by the sneasel,” I chuckled, sighing. She appeared outside one of the lodges and dashed beside me. “Hey, Zhol! I didn’t know which hut they put you in.”
She nodded, looking somewhat impatient. “I’ve spoken to Boon about our...”
She flashed an amused smile. “Duty relief. We’re allowed to go.”
“Yes!” I chirped, bouncing on the spot. I grinned at her, and she nodded once. I sprinted away from the collection of homes, my excitement giving me an extra energy boost. “Good riddance!” I called once tilting my head skyward. I heard Zhol as she materialised beside me, and my happiness showed as I ‘woohoo’ed my way down a slope.
“Hey, Zhol,” I began, panting after being on the move for an hour or so. We had stopped by a stream and the sneasel was slurping up water she cradled in her paws. She stopped, giving them a flick to shake the remaining droplets free from her skin. I slumped off the tree stump I had climbed on top of and stood at the stream’s edge. “You know yesterday how you said that we’d reach your home by the next afternoon?”
“Yes,” she answered as I lapped up the cool liquid.
“...Well, because we slept in, do you think that’s now an inaccurate estimate?”
Zhol puffed out a long breath, searching for the mountains in the near distance. “I do.”
“In that case...how long do you think it’ll take to get there? Nighttime, perhaps?” I wondered, trying to calculate judging by what she had said the day before and keeping in mind how early she thought we would have woken.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “Late.” She took my spot on the stump.
I went back to drinking, but when I had stopped I turned to her again. “You know... I saw Azure yesterday.” But to my remark my friend only frowned. “...Oh, right,” I chuckled, not having realised until then. She hadn’t been present for any of my encounters with the ice type. “You don’t know who she is... Well, she’s a glaceon that was on the ship.” Zhol seemed to flinch nearly undetectably at the mention of the ship, but other than that there was no physical reaction. “She... I met her as...a consequence
of being friends with Raiys. She has something against me, but...I sense something unsettling about her. I don’t know what...maybe it’s just that I don’t like her.”
“That may be it,” Zhol guessed, and I nodded without meeting her gaze.
Just as we had predicted, the two of us arrived on her colony’s land after midnight. I didn’t get a good look at the community, but I was excited to do so in the morning. And since it was so late, all I wanted to do was snooze. Zhol had disappeared, probably after telling me where she was going and where I could stay, but I couldn’t remember... I was too tired! So, drowsily I hobbled along the outskirts of the premises until I wandered in, hardly paying attention to my course. I made my way to some sort of sweet-smelling cave and brushed past a slimy boulder until I collapsed, burying myself in the soft squishiness below me. I became comfortable almost instantly, and the whisper-like cooing hoothoot lulled me to sleep, the peaceful hum of insects helping.