Chapter Seventeen: A Tour
“Do you know him?” wondered a raticate. Her huge teeth were concealed inside her mouth as she eyed me curiously.
I stared into nothingness, looking at her, but...seeing straight through her. “...Yes,” I stated after silence, unhappy and my displeasure on display. I clenched my teeth, both reluctant and disbelieving. This was going to break my heart.
I saw the scyther who was a tiny bit darker green than usual move from the corner of my eye, and it looked as if he was about to say something, but he stopped himself as another pokémon spoke up. “Where was he?” asked the bellossom, and I barely made an effort to look at her to reply.
“On...um... On—on a ship.”
“Mummy...” began a rattata between the raticate who had spoken before and a male raticate, “what’s a ship?” The female normal type glanced down at her young one, but she gave him a look of uncertainty and unknowing.
“The ship,” began the scyther, Shard, “is a human transport.” He caught the eyes of many pokémon, including mine, and seemed comfortable with it.
Having had time or...whatever I needed to assess his detail properly since I’d seen him, I almost gasped. I hadn’t seen the left side of his body until I stared at it presently, scanning the many burn marks and faded scars that were scattered along his abdomen and thorax, as well as on his shoulder. It nearly shocked me; seeing such disturbing injuries made me think about what kind of fight he must have been involved in. It wasn’t often that I saw pokémon with long-residing injuries, so it made me wonder how he got them.
“It is a place for storage and a human’s way to carry whatever is being stored across a body of water.” He stood tall and knowledgeable as he spoke, obviously knowing what he was talking about. But while he spoke, I tilted my head. If all these other pokémon didn’t know, how come he did?
“Ooh. Why were you on that thing?” queried the heracross with a soft look, and I took a breath.
“...It was involuntary,” I mentioned quietly. My mind wound back as I eyed the ground. “All the pokémon on that ship were captured.”
A cluster of gasps rang throughout the group of pokémon, just as I had expected, and they exchanged concerned glances. Whispers floated between each of them, and I could hear scepticism trailing through some sentences.
“So you escaped,” stated the altaria bluntly, raising an eyebrow. It was as if she didn’t believe me.
I pierced her eyes with my serious expression. “Yes
,” I answered, a solid quality to my tone.
“Well...what happened?” questioned a rather surprised and seemingly impatient sunflora.
I turned to him, twisting my head to a titled position. But before I could reply (if I was going to), a familiar face materialised at the end of the crowd. I nearly relaxed when I noticed who it was. “Leave her be,” she instructed, pokémon parting as she brushed along the path. “Upfront questions like this take time to be answered.”
“Zhol,” I whispered, grateful to be staring straight at her.
“Well, welcome back!” exclaimed a male raticate, scurrying forward and nodding as his eyes connected with that of the sneasel’s. His friendliness was warming, but the chill of my knowledge was not to be overcome.
Zhol bobbed her head, muttering, “Thanks,” and addressed me with her glance. I attempted a smile, but my muscles refused to be pulled, leaving my expression unchanged. The half dark type appeared before Habib, greeting the giant lickitung and his mate, who was beside Larse, with a curt bow. “We will give you a full report later.”
“Okay,” Habib agreed, looking less than expectant of the comment.
“Right now, Dusty needs some space.” She flashed a smile at me as I sighed inwardly with relief.
“Wait... What about Luck?” asked the scyther with a stern expression. I had to wonder how close he was to my ursaring friend, because he seemed keen to find out about him.
,” persisted Zhol, her eyes widening as she said so. She tapped me with her hefty claws and signalled for me to follow her, and I rained one last look on the large group of pokémon gathered in front of me before turning and walking with the sneasel in the opposite direction.
“Th...thanks,” I muttered, managing half a smile of appreciation. “It’s hard...y’ know?”
“Mm,” nodded the sneasel understandingly, taking me past the end of a street of huts, the large lake and a home similarly built to one of the bidoof/bibarel’s lodges that was half in the water and half on land. I didn’t think much of it, as I was focused on Zhol.
“Where are we going?” I wondered, my ears folding back.
“I want to show you something,” explained the sneasel, stepping from Usster soil and through the gates of the forest. I followed across the border and padded beside her, noting the thick rocky wall to my right that surrounded the north and west sides of the land. Since the wall didn’t complete its half-lap around the premises, we were able to have just exited through the west.
We walked in silence for roughly a minute, the forest staying the same. Some things that stayed far from ‘the same’ were my thoughts. They whizzed, bounced and zipped around inside, prodding me and provoking the miserable feeling so abundant now that I was faced with a serious dilemma. Did I
have to be the one to reveal the truth to everyone? Was it my
burden to bear until dropping the bomb on everybody? And as unfair as it seemed, I reminded myself that there was nothing that seemed just in the past two or so weeks. It’d been one large boot up the backside.
“Dusty?” wondered Zhol, plucking me from my internal debate and placing me out in the open. I tuned in with a look. “I can listen...if you want me to.”
I smiled on the inside. “...Thanks, Zhol.” I was happy to see her smile back.
We proceeded forward, the calm but continuous pace repeating itself. I craned my neck at giant trees looming like guardians over their vast sanctuary, their limbs blocking paths but creating opportunities for homes and shelter at the same time. The flapping of wings sounded nearby, and my eyes followed a spearow who perched upon the edge of a nest in a forked branch. A worm dropped from her mouth and into the tiny beak belonging to one of her chicks.
Suddenly my mind leaped back in time to the spot near that tall birch tree Izante had so easily bounded up. I remembered her ability to spring so very high, and balancing on those branches was something no leafeon could easily accomplish. She’d never done such a thing before me prior to that one moment...and somehow it bugged me. And those bizarre words she’d uttered—the thing that she said right before she jumped up those branches...
“Like a rocket...” I snapped my head to Zhol. “Like a rocket; like a rocket
!” I babbled, capturing her gaze. Her eyes were as round as oran berries. “A rocket! You know... Rocket? Team
Rocket? She was chanting!”
Zhol’s eyebrows climbed up her face, her mouth a small triangle below her nose. Clearly she had no idea what I was talking about. She kept quiet until she realised I was going to keep my eyes fixed on hers.
“Look,” I began, twirling around and leaping into a tree, thudding with a solid impact. With a groan I fell on my butt. “Ouch... That didn’t work...” I spun ‘round and weaved between tree trunks until I found one with branches somewhat close to the ground. I threw my glance over my shoulder to ensure Zhol was still in my space, and sure enough, she came to be behind me in moments. With a waggle of my tail-end and a spring in my step, I leapt, clambering clumsily onto a decently-sized branch. My front paws tried desperately to attain some form of grip as my back legs did the same, but they slipped uselessly. In the next heartbeat, I lay on my back, an upside down Zhol glaring with concern and perplexity. The shot of pain up my spine intensified as I rolled onto my paws again, standing up. “See?”
Her look was only magnified. “That you...fell?” she guessed.
“Exactly,” I sighed, sitting in front of her. “Normal trainers don’t train their pokémon in the art of tree climbing.” I hooked my bottom lip around my teeth, taking a second to think. I shook my head repetitively. “...Do you know what this means?” The sneasel shook her head slowly. “It means that she learnt that from someone other than her master. Someone like Team Rocket.” I wandered off in thought, Zhol trailing. “I bet Team Rocket has some sort of ability training the pokémon have to go through to make them stronger—otherwise there’d be no difference between them and ordinary trainer or wild pokémon.” I searched my mind for more examples, stumbling across a single simple one. “It must be how that Mr. Mime held up that barrier and light screen attack for so long! And it was really strong!” I whirled around. “Remember? Back on the ship? Zhol?”
“Y-yes,” she answered uncomfortably, and I could see that she was wondering where I was headed with all of this. “Dusty, what...”
I felt about to talk, but my teeth clicked together...and my jaws relaxed into a motionless state. I slumped my body against a tree, narrowly avoiding a splinter as I slid down to be seated. “She is
a Rocket pokémon... I know she is...” My stare was aimless until it locked onto a flake of bark half buried in the taupe soil.
I barely noticed as Zhol came down to my level in a crouch. “...Who?” she asked in a simple tone, her eyes fixed on me.
My eyes swivelled after waiting for the right moment. An expression contorted with misery and disappointment radiated from my face before finding the dark and ice type’s gaze. “...Izante.”
A series of wing-beats echoed around, two pairs of talons seeping into the ground with a doomp
. A dark bird-like pokémon shook himself off, glancing about. The curved feather bunch on his head swayed as the wind blew through his grey and white tail feathers. His orange and brown beak pointed towards his company, his frustration clouding his face of jagged white. His smallish eyes of brown and charcoal surveyed the area, spotting a swaying leaf and a fallen log. The undergrowth was plentiful and constantly flew and settled shortly after. A pidgey on watch hopped into her nest, a mouse scuttled for shelter under an arch of thick bark, and other than that, a few crickets hummed in the near distance. A warm light latched onto the staravia’s left wing from above and another breeze charged through to cause ruffling feathers. “Where on Earth are they?” huffed the flying type in a gruff voice. “They do understand we have other charges, I hope.”
“I think they’re new,” commented the second pokémon, her tone much softer. However, an indifferent edge to it was present. “They should be here soon.” She waddled with her coral-red legs to a branch a wing’s stretch above her head, tilting her sepia neck. The feathers bordering the tops of her eyes and resting on her head, which were the same colour as her legs, hung more freely as they dangled due to their unusual angle, and a curled pink beak directed orange eyes to an empty home of bent twigs. “Pidgey,” stated the flying type, a short-feathered bird pokémon showing herself after a moment of hesitation. She side-stepped from behind the cluster of leaves she was previously peeking through and bounced onto her nest’s edge, puffing up protectively. “Have you seen a small group of pokémon pass through here?” she asked in a mellow manner. Her deep pink and yellow fan of a tail swayed gently while her yellow-tinted cream underside rose and fell subtly, all signs of a threat absent.
In seeing this, the flying type flattened her coat slightly and eyed the bird duo. After another session of analysis, the pidgey stepped into her nest and made herself comfortable. “Why, no. No, I have not.”
“Damn it!” cursed the starling pokémon, pounding the air with his wings.
The startled pidgey retreated into herself suddenly, squeaking with unsureness.
“Stop it!” chirped the pidgeotto, her stern expression slicing into the staravia’s behaviour and temporarily removing any trace of choleric attitude. She returned her glance to a member of her pre-evolutionary species. “Pay him no attention,” she requested, noticing the pidgey had no positive reaction. “Thank you.” She glided in the opposite direction, her partner following, and once they were no longer within earshot of the pidgey, the pidgeotto landed, whipping around to end up face to face with the male bird pokémon. “You fool!” she screeched. “What’s the good of scaring off the locals when we’re not supposed to bother them? He can’t build a successful empire when no pokémon will want to oblige! If they all think like that pidgey, they will know him as irrational and frightening, and likely disagree with him!”
The staravia just snorted. “Let them cower! Who cares?”
does,” hissed the bird pokémon, her voice hushed and her watchful eye frantic as if she expected someone to leap at her and tear her to pieces.
“Hey, you,” an ominous voice rang, giving the flying duo a start. They glanced about, unable to detect anything with their eyes. The pidgeotto swallowed, sensing something nearby but still seeing nothing out of the ordinary.
The staravia and his partner were not expecting a togepi to step out of thin air and appear before them. A malicious grin crept onto his face, and he hopped to the side as his illuminated red irises glowed with excitement. Next an ivysaur hobbled from where the egg pokémon came, his timid expression not fully confident. He shook off, loose leaves falling from his body. His gait formed into a limp, blood creeping from where one of his claws was attached on his hind leg.
The last to become visible was a Mr. Mime, who side-stepped from behind his seemingly invisible wall. The navy blue hair sprouting from either side of his head was frayed and messy, and his glove-like hands were stained with brown and maroon. “Are you the messengers?” he questioned, a creepy tint to his tone.
“Y-yes,” confirmed the pidgeotto, her partner a bit too shocked to reply. “Wh—what’s your position?”
“Standing,” the togepi answered amusedly.
The staravia gathered himself and sneered with narrowed eyes at the small cream pokémon. “Get serious and cut the games.”
“That’s my job,” the Mr. Mime intervened, a neutral look about his face. “We’re in pursuit.” He looked down at the two pokémon beside him. “How far do you think, boys?”
“Um,” began the grass type, “three days...behind? I think?” he guessed, and received a generous nod of approval from the Mr. Mime. The dark-coloured bird pokémon didn’t look as impressed.
“Can you give a precise
answer?” he growled, exhaling impatiently. But when the green pokémon didn’t say anything, he added, “Well? Ivysaur?”
“No-one cares about your name in this biz, kid,” the grouch of a pokémon informed. “Now, can you give me an accurate position or not?”
“You could use a smile or two once in a while,” interrupted the tall white and pink pokémon, something off about his general vibe.
The staravia was moderately confused at the remark and merely drew his head back in slight disgust. “...What?” he mumbled to his partner, and she shrugged, clearly unfazed by it.
The ivysaur glanced helplessly to the pidgeotto and then back to the barrier pokémon beside him. “Th...three days,” he decided on his own. “If...if we hurry, we can catch up soon.”
“Good,” the female flying type nodded, extending a wing out in front of her colleague. “We will report back to headquarters with your status.” She made a head gesture before taking to the skies with the staravia, their multicoloured tails soaring with the wind as they used the current to their advantage.
“...Messengers are so stupid,” commented the foot-tall normal type. He chuckled and took a seat to rest his sore feet.
“Funny,” grinned the Mr. Mime toothily, his creepy gaze meeting that of the togepi’s, “I’ve never liked them either.”
The togepi smirked, rolling backwards and into a stalk strong enough to prop him up. “At least we’ll get what we came for soon.” He gave an open yawn. “I’m looking forward to it.”
I had barely talked for a few minutes before a call echoed, a name bouncing between tree trunks. “Zhol!” We both flung ourselves up and waited until a tall figure invaded my vision. “You need to—”
As if having forgotten Zhol had walked off with me about five minutes before, the scyther shot understated daggers into my eyes. “Ouch,” I mumbled to myself, surprised with how harsh this pokémon was. He was probably suspicious of me, though, because I was new and unknown. I experienced a moment of reasoning before shrugging.
“Habib would like to see you,” he continued, keeping his scythes suspended at his waist. I hadn’t seen scyther very often, so I wasn’t sure where they normally held their sword-like arms, but where they were on this dude sure did look defensive to me.
The sneasel turned to me, tilting her head. “Yeah, I’ll come,” I decided, and she perked up before striding in the direction of the colony. I noticed Shard hesitate a moment longer before zipping in front. With a sidewards mouth, I pulled myself towards Zhol and followed her through the bracken. “Does this mean you won’t get to show me whatever it was you...wanted to show me?”
“It’s fine,” she replied quickly. “I’ll show you to it later.”
Within no time we were back at the entrance to the colony’s grounds, and I waited a few minutes as Zhol vanished through the near doorway of Habib’s home. I had been unsure whether or not I really wanted to re-enter the colony’s land. ‘I have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go,’
I admitted to myself hopelessly, knowing that initiating a search for my trainer at this point was useless for multiple reasons. But another Luck question and I decided that I’d disappear again. I just don’t know how I would take it. It was so tough
to lose a friend. And even tougher to have to break the news to a bunch of pokémon who were closely acquainted with the same pokémon, and who, on top of that, knew him for a much broader duration of time... It was bad enough watching him fall to the deathly depths below the ship’s edge, and having to retell the information to someone who would react in a manner similar to how I reacted just made it so unfair. I knew it was my responsibility to reveal the horrible news. I just didn’t want
it to be.
“Flareon!” demanded a somewhat gravelly but annoyingly-pitched voice. My gaze presented me with a stout pokémon whose head was masked nearly entirely by a skull. The object he clutched within his paw that was directed in a straight line right at me was also a bone, and I began to wonder how
cubone get to obtain their precious external body parts. “Come here.” I didn’t fancy taking orders from a little squirt such as himself, and what bugged me even more was the fact that he seemed to believe he had disturbingly high authority. I trotted reluctantly in his direction, the only real reason I obeyed being that Zhol took her place beside him as they conversed, and when I arrived, I snatched their last few words about some sort of ‘tour’. “Hi, Zhol.” I turned to the cubone only when he cleared his throat. “Oh...hi
Continued in the next post...