“You refuse to enlighten me with the truth,” Shard snarled, following slightly bent with his scythes out in front, “but you owe them
an explanation.” Stopping only metres before me, the bug and flying type rotated his spiky head to the left, and his eyes followed the two sienna pokémon take their place beside him. His eyes were wandering and I could tell he wasn’t going to stay; he ushered the teddiursa with the flat sides of his scythes away from her mother and led her to the play pen before she squeezed through a space between the wooden beams.
Realising my place again with the pokémon I had been wary of since my first encounter with her, my claws hid behind rocks and grains of soil willing to unearth. However, the slight breeze was enough to blow the grains away, stripping them bare and sending yet another shiver racing through my body. I hid my embarrassing tail and tried luring my pride to my chest, puffing it bravely and repeating internally that I could hold my ground.
The ursaring’s solid expression was of pure disdain. A frown was carved tactlessly into her features, and her stance spoke of potential brutality and ruthless rage. I nearly jumped as she spoke. “Where is my mate?” she growled without bothering to hide her forwardness. I could basically confirm by her behaviour that she and Shard had been conversing.
My brain turned and I held my lip between my teeth. “I—I told you,” I stammered, swallowing and trying my hardest to keep eye contact. “He fled the ship.”
“Lakane doesn’t flee
from things,” she snapped, stomping her right foot. I knew immediately that she was going to get the truth out of me one way or another. She had no intentions of playing me softly, and it seemed that even Shard was willing to turn a blind eye to whatever the ursaring may bestow upon me. Half of me understood his motives, but the other part loathed his sorry hide for calling my bluff.
“Or maybe he helped
the other pokémon off the ship,” I reasoned, finding that as a more appropriate explanation.
Wynore fell silent as she contemplated her words carefully. She took a breath. “I truly hope he is alive,” she spat, hardly allowing her sincerity to seep between the gaps of her euphemistic threat. “We have a cub to raise. I look after an entire kindergarten of young. Lakane was Habib’s bodyguard!” she boomed, and my eyes widened in a heartbeat. I caught sight of Shardclaw who, in the distance, seemed to respond to the last sentence. In a panic, I knew I had to reply.
“His death has noth—” I froze. A horrific feeling suddenly swamped my heart.
Death. I said death.
‘She was talking as if he was dead! I completely let it slip—’
However, I saw her mighty paw come down to her side after swatting a fly obscuring her vision. My eyes dropped to its limp body which quickly became lost in the infrequent grass. It was then that I realised she hadn’t heard me. I felt my breath test the air, prodding it as my eyes remained shaky but glued to Wynore’s, and my theory was confirmed. To ensure confidentiality, I flung my head about, and thankfully I spotted no nearby pokémon. I turned back to her and repeated slightly differently, “His disappearance
has nothing to do with me. I only helped him fight!”
“Tell me, flareon,” Wynore rumbled, her looming figure forcing me to crane my neck and scuttle frantically back a few paces. Her expression had morphed into a grief-stricken and livid one, and I could clearly read that she was both guilty and moral in her decision to blame me. “How many pokémon did you kill because of this ship incident?”
I was taken aback by the comment. Personally I hadn’t thought of them as deaths, but, rather, necessities. I didn’t really have a word for them. “I didn’t count,” I growled. “And for your information, I only killed when it was imperative.”
“Nidorino, nidorina,” she retorted, comparing my definition with another similar one. Essentially she questioned my definition of justice. “How many of those pokémon had trainers? Homes? Families
My face lost its formation and my jaw was suddenly loose. My ears drooped and my mind returned to the many incidents whose severity was ambiguous. “W-well... I only killed Rocket pokémon. They had the choice to join us or—”
“You KILLED them!” she roared, forming some kind of invisible sphere between her two palms as she held her clawed weapons suspended at her belly.
“Killed...” I whispered, feeling my head rattle from side to side. “No...no... I protected the innocents and slayed the evil.”
“You murdered humans too,” she accused, her face clouding over with hatred.
“N-no!” I held my teeth before admitting, “Y...yes...”
“All vine whip users—throw the humans off board, along with any pokémon that try to oppose us!”
I halted, witnessing a Rocket man being tossed over the side a few metres up ahead. He yelled all the way down, being silenced by a splash. The wind whipped around our small group, almost chilling me.
I barely noticed as I crept closer, taking in the deep claw gashes that ran slashed across the human’s neck. His metal gun sat alone and separated from his hand. Cerise blood stained his uniform, and a dense pool soaking his black hair and hat had formed from the wound’s leakage.
“It was kill or be killed!” I shouted, a new sense of guilt laying itself onto what already plagued my mind. My head restarted its shaking. “I...I had to! And I had to destroy the ship afterwards...”
Her glare drilled itself through the barriers my skull was supposed to maintain, twisting parts of my brain and constricting my heart with the unravelled structures.
“You had to do nothing
“You destroyed the ship?” a voice spiked, and I jumped to find the infamous scyther join our ever so joyous conversation.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, capturing more space as I stepped backwards, losing my grip on sanity.
“Did you let everyone escape?” he pressed, following my movements as he too towered over my frail form. “Or did you leave some on board?”
“STOP!” I screamed, binding my eyes and clenching my jaws.
“I knew I never should have trusted you!” the scyther roared, his wings beating furiously. “Fire types can’t be trusted! You’re all the same; your fire is deadly, and your spirit is no different.”
“Lakane is dead because of you!” Wynore raged, chancing a swipe and scooping the space a hair away from my tuft.
“All those other pokémon...those humans,” Shardclaw highlighted, stabbing me with each word. His voice was tainted with the disgust of a million pokémon.
“You killed him!” she screeched, landing a hit as her great paw beat the side of my face. With devastating force, I was thrown metres before rolling to a halt. Stones pricked me as sticks stabbed my wounds; blades of grass cut my eyes and the soil forced itself into my mouth.
My paws seized as my legs started their violent vibration, my jaws so tightly interlocked that I could have shattered my teeth. A stream of tears stained my face, pooling beneath me as my bandages lay limply hanging from my flesh. I was suddenly overwhelmed with an emotion combining grief and guilt, slaughtering my only hope for redemption.
“Tell us,” Shard demanded scathingly, baring his deadly set of fangs.
My nose continued to fizz as my eyes bled their painful liquid, and I blubbered with uncontrollable consistency. The never-ending abyss I had fallen hopelessly into was not going to end upon my request. “I...I...can’t.”
A weight flattened itself along my back with impetuous force, and I jerked as my breath suddenly left me.
“Confession will release you,” Shard tempted, appearing inches from my left.
“Tell us what happened to Lakane!” Wynore thundered, increasing the measure of power applied to her leg.
However, I couldn’t respond. Beside my anguish and inability to unchain my secret, it had become impossible to gather the air to push out a response. I began to relive the horrid events that had occurred only that morning, and I knew my body was incapable of yet another torture session involving a lack in oxygen inhalation.
My problem was fixed as the ursaring released her hold on me, although I felt no more luxury as she scrunched her claws around my mane and lifted me from the ground. My legs wiped the ground before hanging without a stone of support, and I pierced the air with a squeal of discomfort. Naked fear contaminated my conscience, launching spears of serious self doubt into the depths of my mind. I wanted to tell them... I didn’t want to lie! Master had always told me lying was a misdeed that nobody should ever have to do commit... However, I was on trial for much more than just lying.
“You murdered pokémon who got in your way... You didn’t think of their needs or their reasons for fighting.” The scyther circled me, halting smoothly once he reached each side of the ursaring’s body. Never faltering or losing a grasp of his temper, he kept his imprinted glare of scorn and suspicion as his interrogation continued. I was no different to that togepi. “Did you even give them a chance?!”
“ANSWER ME!” the ursaring raged, thrusting my wilted body to the ground.
The wind was knocked from my chest, and the continuous tears wove between every strand of fur as my pain increased. Finally I snapped, scrambling from the threatening monsters and shrieking, “OKAY! I ADMIT IT!” They fell silent, holding their sneers until I spoke again. “I...” On the verge of spilling the secret of Luck’s death, I attempted to contain it. However, my ability to do so was waning, and it was only a matter of time before I exposed the truth and stripped myself of any dignity I may still have stowed between the cracks of my heart. Cramming my trust in the jaws of words, I whimpered, “I killed...many pokémon.” I had prolonged my confession once more.
Shard’s anger nearly overtook him as he raised his scythes and boomed, “That’s not what you were going to admit!”
His seriousness frightened me to my core as he looked ready to bring them down, when suddenly a blur knocked him clean off his feet. Our combined shock was enough to influence the mightiest of pokémon; for a moment I had myself convinced that one of the togepi’s deadly accomplices had returned to seek vengeance, but as soon as the scyther and the blur rolled to a stop, I gasped. Shard was unwilling to raise his blades to the pokémon pinning him down, and his anger was temporarily shelved. Nothing but shock seemed to occupy his mind. Wynore’s reaction hardly differed.
“Zhol!” cried someone from behind me. I rotated my head to view a worried raticate holding her paws to her face before scurrying past me and to her friend’s aide. I barely knew what to make of the situation.
“Answers!” the sneasel roared through anger and confusion. I wasn’t in a position to view her face, but rather the back of her, as she sat warningly on the scyther’s chest.
Shard’s face returned to a less severe version of what he beat me with, and it was clear the he feigned innocence. “You should be resting,” he responded with a mix of concern and frustration.
“What were you doing to her?” she growled, arching her back as her face neared Shard’s. I found myself blinking out my tears and exhaling a great breath of relief. Her concern for my welfare was utterly flattering, especially in such a situation. At the same time, however, when she found out of my misdeeds, it was clear that I would be framed as the villain and even she would accuse me of my lack in responsibility and honesty.
“Zhol,” Shard began gravely, lowering his tone as his eyes flicked from me to her again. “You can’t trust this pokémon. She’s—”
,” she hissed coldly, her pressing tone striking me as extremely outraged, “what
were you doing to Dusty?!”
“She lied to us!” Wynore stepped in, curling her claws to somehow emphasise her point. “She lied to the whole colony.”
Zhol’s position didn’t dissipate as she continued to listen. I could only picture her doubting face. That alone was enough to make me want to flee and never return. She had faith in me, and that was about to be shattered.
Shard snorted but didn’t make an attempt to resist Zhol’s actions. “We believe that she is hiding something.” He passed me his frightening stare, but I quickly rejected it as I searched the back of Zhol’s head for some sort of comfort. I needed her eyes. “She may not even be who she says she is.”
who she is,” Zhol uttered bluntly, holding her position before removing her strong claws from the section of arm connecting Shard’s scythe with his shoulder. Silently she shuffled off him and rose to her uninjured foot, moving her head half way to meet eyes with Wynore. She found Gigin for support and turned slowly around, meeting my gaze for but a moment before murmuring for me to follow her back to the clinic.
Shame glazing my entire face, I heaved myself up and followed sluggishly behind.
My head hung from my shoulders as the darkened streaks of fur marking my face told of my recent emotions. My eyes occasionally wandered the clinic’s interior to spot Zhol, Aemara and Gigin soundly making amends to Zhol’s injuries. I had forgotten that she was half lame, and because of her kind-hearted actions only minutes before, she had stressed her wound to the point of its reopening. It was clear that Gigin had been propping her up on her way to where we resided, and as soon as her eyes fell upon the situation, she took matters into her own claws and zipped to my presumed rescue. I had cost yet another pokémon their futile effort; I was positively cursed, and yet I would still be blamed.
“Your bandages,” began Aemara softly, her delicacy almost strange compared with my previous encounter with the colony’s pokémon. She hovered towards me, but as she decreased our distance to that of a few paces, I cringed, withdrawing into myself and turning my head from her. She stopped, her body beginning to sway as it caught up with her mind. I fixed my gaze on a grain of dirt coloured differently to those around it, drawing my paws in as my tail attempted to wrap itself around them. Half a tail was hardly substantial.
I sensed her backing away once she ended her period of stillness, and floated back to Zhol. I heard shuffling and a soft click, and could only imagine that she had lay a foot on the ground after climbing from an elevated bed. She approached unevenly, leaning against the raticate. “Come on.”
I waited for them to leave and after a moment’s hesitation, I picked myself up and trudged after them. I caught sight of a few pokémon as I made my way to Zhol’s home, noticing their intrusive stares. It was as if Shard and Wynore had already spread news about my untrustworthiness, and all the pokémon of the colony were growing to condemn and even hate me. I had betrayed them all during the late hours of the previous night, and not one of them deserved treatment installing false hope into their hearts.
After we entered Zhol’s house, the sneasel requested that Gigin left. She did so with no more than a nod, and repeated the same action to me before scuttling from the rectangular hut. I could hear the bustling of Den Row as I sat silently, eying my paws as I waited for the moment Zhol would interrupt and begin accusing me. I played with the insides of my lips using my fangs, searching for tissue I could tear off and chew without creating a wound.
“What did you tell them?”
I felt my jaws slide together and my eyelids meet, my ears stiff and my nose quivering. I was reluctant to answer; saying the wrong thing would surely result in disaster. Zhol was the only friend I properly had in this colony, and I didn’t want to foil our friendship so early. I had already lost my best friend. Losing her as well was a frightening thought. ‘The least you can do is answer her,’
I growled inwardly, knowing full well that I owed her that. “I told them...” Ashamed and bitter, I muttered, looking up, “That Luck went missing.”
To my surprise, she didn’t comment immediately. Instead she seemed to shift through reasons why that would be my choice of words, and ended with a scowl. “That was wrong.” She let her head wander in agitation before returning it. “You only prolong their suffering. They have to know the truth.”
“I couldn’t!” I barked defensively, suddenly displaying stress. My breathing rate increased, and my front paws became separate. “I couldn’t tell them about him. He’s their family. If I found out my family was dead, I’d...” Images of my master flashed behind one eye and moved to the next just as fast.
“You wouldn’t want to be kept from the truth, either,” she retorted. I knew she was disappointed. That was one of the worst feelings I could have added to my list. She must have thought I was a cruel fool.
“But, I...” I lost my words. I wasn’t sure
how I felt. I knew I was guilty, ashamed and greatly saddened! Yet I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to break it to the colony or not.
More seriously, she lowered her tone. “It isn’t your right to keep the colony in the dark.”
Suddenly my mind returned to Shard, and my paws tinkered with desperation. I became restless as my gaze wouldn’t hold and my face began to twitch with confusion. I began to scamper into the corner and steadied myself so I wouldn’t continuously shake. “I know!” I shouted, feeling the tears beginning to well once more. I felt as if I was brewing a fire storm that was likely to explode any moment, my eyes blurring and my nose undergoing an odd sensation. “I know... But, I... I didn’t know what to do, Zhol...”
After moments of immobility, the dark and ice type edged towards me, finishing her movement as soon as she must have felt she was close enough. I wept silently once again, and I could tell Zhol wasn’t sure how to comfort me. Feeling the steely but somehow comforting touch of her claws on my shoulder, I flinched, only to relax. Her words were simple and didn’t go unquestioned. “Tell them the truth.”
My stare met hers, my teary eyes choosing the centre of her pupils. I managed a weak, misleading smile that quickly formed a wailing opening, and I slid my head onto her shoulder, raising my right paw to rest on her other. “I’m just so confused,” I whined, drawing a breath between blubbering. “She was my best friend, and she just...left. And now these pokémon have to deal with the loss of their friend...” I tilted my neck, half lying my head on its side as it straightened from her shoulder. “Why is this happening?”
The only response my friend instigated was a left claw resting on the back of my mane and the placement of her head on my shoulder for balance. I sensed her temper quell and her understanding increase, and for that I was thankful. Nobody could ever completely replace Izante, but Zhol was immodestly filling her place.
“Tell me,” squawked an enraged bird-like pokémon, her crest rising and her puffy wings fluffing up all the more. Receiving no answer, she fired a dragonbreath onto the togepi strapped to a log, and the normal type screeched in discomfort as the odd flames seared what skin wasn’t obscured by shell. His fixed feet hardly moved, and his arms, in a similar state, were of equal uselessness.
“I told you,” he sneered, “that I’ll only speak to the flareon.”
“We know where you’re from,” she huffed, altering her emotional appearance by a tone. “It’s a hideout in the mountains.”
The togepi released a dark chuckle and mumbled, “You’ll never find it alive.”
Tarla let a grin peck the edge of her beak. “And you just ratted out your comrades.”