Another one! .0.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Unearthed
Idiot had told me that the forest’s name had apparently changed when we had suddenly encountered a change in the style. The morning had taken us into the part I had seen from a distance and to its reaches, where the trees were patterned differently, in an interesting and pleasant arrangement, and I found it quite peaceful to walk through. We were nearing the end, however, and the style would soon change. My thoughts didn’t remain on the idea for long though; as I clearly knew, it seemed that most good things were not built to last.
I had resisted the urge to speak with the houndoom at all times since our fight, and it seemed avoidance was becoming a large issue between us. He clearly had no problem with communication between us, but I was simply reluctant to open my mouth at him, unless in a growl or a string of muttered insults he usually didn’t hear.
Regardless, we weren’t exactly friends, and that made it considerably painful to travel with him. I really would have liked to journey with somebody who I actually liked, and it was unfair that I apparently had no choice but to be stuck with him.
“Look.” I turned to him at last, ceasing my walking. He looked up in response, hardly an implication of mischief engraved in his face. “I don’t like having you around. We’ve established that. It just...might be nice if we could get along.”
He cocked the fur of his eyebrow, and that gesture alone, a smug expression to follow, made me clench my jaw in annoyance. “That could be instantly possible.” At the statement I gave a tiny frown of curiosity and then nodded to myself, glad we were in agreement. “If you tried
to be nice, maybe.”
I threw him a glare. “Maybe I could be if I found it possible to like
“What’s not to like?” he asked, placing himself behind me and sitting on his haunches, spine straight. He reached a foreleg out a little ways and modelled his other front leg in a similar fashion, holding still. I bit my bottom lip, trying to conceal the laughter that would have bubbled from my mouth had it not been that infernal houndoom displaying such ridiculousness. It was obviously intended; his face was a permanent neutral expression with a hint of mock seriousness.
I pretended to be unfazed and flicked my head with clear disregard, moving my legs again as I walked away. “That’s right,” I said as I passed him, “beg for my approval.”
“Begging?” I heard him ask, and to the surprised comment, I allowed my lips to bend up into a sly smile. “This isn’t begging.” The notion of his pride becoming wounded was of utmost amusement, as was his reaction to my meaningless remark. I heard the soft thud of his paws touch the ground, accompanied by the sound of dried leaves separating. He paused before bounding toward me and stopping by my side. “Do you seriously think that was begging? Because it wasn’t,” he added, as if keen for clarification. I didn’t respond at this, however, and merely kept walking, internally smug as I tried not to let it show on the outside. “This
is begging.” To my surprise, the dark and fire type snaked from my left and rolled out in front of me, curling his paws in and poking out his bottom lip while eying me with a sadness that was difficult to take seriously.
I jerked with the laughter I forced down, reluctant to embrace it while he looked. As amusing as I found the gesture, and after realising he hadn’t taken my remark to heart at all, instead deciding to play on it, I knew that making him believe it was funny would only encourage him—and that was not what I needed.
I walked around him, padding on as I heard him shuffle and reapproach. “Come on, Flair. I know you thought that was funny. You looked like you were trying to keep fifty bees locked inside your mouth; let ‘em out. Have a bit of fun.”
I inhaled deeply, quelling any remaining laughter, and turned to him. “You think I should have a bit of fun, do you?”
The houndoom gave a shrug-like dip of the head in agreement “I think you need to loosen up a bit, yeah. You’re tense. You look like you couldn’t enjoy yourself even if you were confined to an empty theme park with fully operational rides.”
I turned to him curiously, surprised he knew what such a thing was. For a wild pokémon living in the absence of a trainer, I would have thought such knowledge was not available. However, I avoided touching on the subject simply because I wasn’t curious enough. “Being given an entire theme park, unless it brought back my trainer, would be useless to me.” I reasoned after the statement, adding, “Well, I’d have my fun first, and then
I’d deem it useless. I mean, I’d have to employ human or able-bodied pokémon to do repairs, to run the ticket booth, operate the rides –” I paused to throw a glare of obviousness his way “– they don’t work on their own. To clean up the vomit, maintenance... That’s too much work for one flareon.”
“Well, don’t look to me for upkeep. I’d do my own and that’s it,” he explained heartily.
“Have no fear,” I clarified plainly, raising my brow at him, “I wouldn’t want you on my theme park staff unless you were the only other pokémon alive.”
want me?” he inquired, clearly trying to slip thought the loophole in my idea.
“Actually,” I began after considering, “no. I mean, what’s the point in having
a theme park all to yourself if you’re the only one there? It would be meaningless to run it ‘cause there’d be nobody there to run it for
“Well, there are still two
left,” corrected the dual type, and I shrugged, shaking my head.
“It’s too much effort to manage for just a single customer, though.” I stepped on a rock, momentarily elevating myself before stepping off it.
“You’d be allowed to go on it as well.” He flashed me a grin.
I glanced to him with a scoff and a brow pressing down on my eyes accompanied by a knowing smile. “I
am the customer. You’re just a worker.”
He chuckled at the comment, bopping his head side to side in recognition of defeat. “I don’t deter from the point—you don’t let yourself have enough fun.”
“I have plenty
of fun. Fun is easy to have.” I felt myself growing a little impatient at this point, and I shrugged my shoulders, removing my eyes from his face to instead search the memories lingering in my mind. “Like when...” I continue to shake my head in little movements, relatively blank. “Like, um...”
“When I had to save you from those enraged sandslash?” he questioned, his overbearing annoyingness returning.
I pinched his eyes with a glare. “Yeah
, I’d forgotten how much fun that
was,” I responded with evident sarcasm, adopting a lowered condescending tone conveying striking obviousness. “Like... Well, I...”
“Maybe when you almost fell into that raging river. Before I saved you, of course. It was a long drop.”
“Oh, shut up,” I growled, still unable to detect a moment over the past few weeks, the separation with my trainer. The notation sort of surprised me. Sure, it was true that I had been in some bleak situations, but surely there had been some
moments of enjoyment. “Well, I...guess I had more fun with Master than anything...”
“You had a trainer?” he asked, nearly as if it was a statement and not a query.
Silence ran cold between us, and it was a while before I could look at him. “I did...do...” Before fumbling and tripping over my sentence, I stopped to take a moment to think. “I have a human, yes, and will return to her after...things.”
“Things?” he pressed, keeping his distance.
“How can you return to someone after ‘things’?” he wondered, volume low as he presumably tried to solve such a ‘riddle.’
“If you had a brain, you could use it to figure it out.” I gave an agitated huff. “You should consider getting one. I’m sure you can find a contractor around here somewhere,” I sneered. “Or around some human laboratory. I would caution you not to go there if I cared, but, oh, I don’t.” I stopped, dark eyes meeting his. He looked surprised at the harsh remark, and I snorted before continuing. “Why are you still here?”
“You keep asking me, and I’ll keep giving you the same answer,” he shrugged, pacing beside me. “I’m bored. You’re alone and vulnerable.”
?” I questioned, a little bit offended. Vulnerability had never been something I was overly prone to. I was rather tough on the outside, and was fine with protecting myself. It was not a challenge, provided my opponent wasn’t four times my size and doused in water or some kind of thick armour. As I glanced around, moving my eyes without my head, I came to the conclusion that pokémon fitting that description were not accustomed to calling these sorts of woods their home. “I don’t think that’s your reason.”
“Well, for one, I have knowledge of this area. It’s vaguely mapped out in my mind, unlike you, a pokémon not even from around
“Tell me,” I began, flicking to him as we continued to walk, “what exactly were
you doing at Boon’s colony? What possessed you
to make Zhol and I have to stay
there?” I felt like rolling my eyes at the memory of that ridiculous quarrel between two colonies which was easily solved with some brainpower on my sneasel friend’s part.
“I come and go,” he replied, but gave nothing more after that. I decided not to press; any chance to have him silent was one I planned to take.
The walk continued for a time until we ascended a rise that, at its top, overlooked a region becoming snowier as it stretched into the distance. With a sudden jolt, I noticed that we were close to the mountain range. The lands before the base of the great mountains were interesting; some were caved paths between masses of rigid rock, and other parts were regular glades that were surrounded by winter trees. The mountain itself looked somewhat intricate, as I could see from even a distance.
I had never been up a mountain before, and I wasn’t sure what I thought of the prospect. Somewhat frightened, although that would never reach the houndoom’s ears, but simultaneously exciting. I amused myself at the knowledge that the same factor created two coexisting feelings of relative difference in my mind.
“Well this terrain looks...challenging,” I concluded without particular emotion. I hadn’t yet assigned a singular one to form the reaction to what I could see. There was still a lot to cross before we got to the mountain, and at that knowledge I sighed.
“Crossing those fields there will be easy,” he told me, gesturing to the regular tree-less land before the small quarry of rocks shot up from the ground, and further on, changed shape to create some type of maze. “But those rocks... I would chance missing them.”
Past the short-lasted quarry, many of the rocks melded with ones surrounding them, and created a thick expanse impossible to squeeze between. From what I could see, the walls of rock, extending for leagues in all directions but forward, which was a small amount shorter before it reached other lands our side of the mountain’s base, did not look climbable. The only choice was to take the paths through them, which I could see were slicing through in clear paths, but at the same time, looked complicated to follow and dangerous if threatened by rockfalls. The thought returned me to the hunting trip I had been on, and could nearly feel the rapid heartbeat in my chest urging me to rush forward, on high alert for anything that could have fallen upon me and squashed my spine.
The bandages Aemara had wrapped around my leg had mostly slipped off, and only a single one remained on my back ankle, because of travel, but the memory of the small wounds was still present, and made them pulse with reawakening.
“It doesn’t look like we can do that,” I grumbled, waiting a moment before tearing my gaze from the scenery below toward the houndoom. “Hey.”
His eyes flashed to me and he drew his head back, shaking it as he went. “Well don’t ask me! You don’t want my help, remember?”
I felt my belly push out a rather forced breath of air. “If you know
a way to cross without having to get through that bit first, then tell me.”
“I might. I might not,” he said, his upper body descending into a stretch. His tail, still elevated by his butt, waved around childishly.
I gave an audible sigh riddled with annoyance and flicked my
tail with agitation, the effect much less than that it could have been had it been full, and regrettably less than the dark type’s. “You’re useless,” I growled, taking off down the slope. As I went, he followed humbly, and I wasn’t sure if he was just going along with what I had chosen, or if he planned on breaking off and taking this shortcut he may or may not have had. If he did, I had reason to believe he would tell me.
It took him a moment, but when he was by my side again, he looked at me, failing to get a response. “I don’t believe your pride would get in the way of your self-respect,” he assumed.
“Pride is self-respect,” I responded, and I could tell he wasn’t going to take that for an answer.
“Pride is reputation. Self-respect is knowing that you will waste time and make yourself look the fool for letting your pride obstruct your better judgement. And therefore you choose it before your pride.” He had a good point, but I was unwilling to let him win.
I knew why he was doing this and telling me such things. It was his aim to make me turn away from that dignity which always shot him down and prevented me from listening to him for a reasonable purpose, and give in to him, even if the result helped me more in the end. I wasn’t a stranger to the idea, but I wasn’t entirely fond of it either. I looked up at the path before me, noting the quarry. It didn’t seem too
bad...mostly hindering and time consuming. There were also small lakes of ice before even the quarry, and it didn’t appear that there was another way to go in order to avoid them. Even if they were frozen, I hated lakes. I had learned that as a permanent fact after Izante had forced me into one—the whole reason I got into this mess.
Another gruff sigh rumbled in my throat before I came to a gradual stop and clenched my jaws, unable to open them for at least ten seconds while he waited with raised brows and eyelids half closed. “If you have another way, spill it.”
“It’s also much faster,” he informed, and for a moment I thought I must have missed his answer. “They’ll be somewhere between here and the expanse of rock. To catch up to them, it’ll only take this shortcut.”
of a shortcut is it, exactly?” I demanded, glaring around in an effort to catch sight of it.
A grin licked his chops. “I’ll show you.”
He began again off to the left, pursuing the entrance to this so called “shortcut.” I didn’t want to have to doubt him until I saw it for myself, but something told me that it was the safest way to go. Besides, there was no harm in taking a shortcut. I tried to wonder what he could instead be leading me to, and figured there wasn’t much around this part that would cause terrible consequences. I followed him, and it wasn’t long before we came to a dip in the earth, probably about the size of an average room on the Rockets’ ship.
He dropped down into the ditch, as it was only around two metres to the bottom, and steadied himself as he turned around and waited for me to descend. I didn’t make it down so quickly, however, and instead I tried to edge my way down carefully, my senses alert and my muscles fairly tense. I inched my top half down, trying to ground myself by pressing on the wall only slightly angled, but as soon as my back legs left the surface level and began to clamber at the wall, as the top half of my body was doing, I lost all grip. I skidded along the gravelly wall for a moment, becoming dislodged shortly after and tumbling to the ground.
I released bottled air as I landed on my right side, the earth forcing it from my chest. It took not a second later for breath to return, and once it did, I got to my feet and noted the houndoom holding a bemused expression. “Shut up,” I grumbled, looking around to my right, as that was the direction we needed to go, and where the ditch’s length stretched to before stopping.
I frowned, seeing nothing but the curved wall that came back around me on both sides, curling again to meet some distance behind me. It was as if somebody had captured a humungous kadabra and asked them to use their spoon to dig out a dip in the earth. I shuddered to think how huge that psychic type would have to have been, but dismissed it as soon as I realised I was forming ridiculous stories in my mind.
“So what now, genius?” I growled, spinning around to find him at the other end, behind me, where a gaping opening sat wide-mouthed before us.
“You have a habit of calling me Idiot, and now it’s Genius? Make up your mind, Flair,” he teased, jerking his head at the entrance to what looked like a tunnel.
“It’s headed the wrong way,” I objected flatly, turning to him with expectation for an answer after looking in the opposite direction, to my right, where we realistically needed to go.
“Yeah, that’s the funny thing. You see, there’s this new thing that tunnels do called turning
. It means that the tunnels bend to change direction
. It’s just so weird!” he blabbed, his tone painfully patronising.
“Ya know, there’s also this weird thing called ‘you’re a jerk’
!” I hissed, feeling a sudden urge to throw something heavy at his face. I began to proceed into the tunnel when I stopped myself, my suspended paw not yet with the permission to enter. I peered partway into the underground path, unable to see anything – not even the floor – due to an absence of light. With a wondering thought, I turned around and placed my clouded eyes where I wanted them. “Tell me, genius
, how exactly are we supposed to see?”
“See?” he questioned with a bit of a laugh, coming up beside me. “You’re going to provide a flame, that’s how.”
“...Right. While you do what? Oh, hmm, let’s see...nothing? Sounds about right. You get to waltz through there without a care in the world, while I provide the light. Do you know how draining that gets?” a second after the question, I felt somewhat stupid, as he was a fire type. Of course
he knew. He saw this in my reconsidering expression and looked to be once again amused, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. “Alright, come on. This is a bet. Fair game of fire breather. Loser has to provide the light.”
His trademark greasy grin wormed its way onto his face. “You’re on, Flair.”
Continued in the next post...