Several of the rhyhorn panicked, jerking their heads in such a motion to propel the geodude in front of them forward, possibly to fling them to safety, flying surprisingly far as they soared over Tarla and Derino and smashed into the ground on the other side. The tunnelling dugtrio and diglett didn’t seem to falter as there was a loud crack and the ground beneath them simply fell, the impact obviously enough to shatter the earth. Tarla and Derino widened their eyes but had no time to move as several tunnelling ground types popped up around them before they all sunk with the rest of the surrounding land. The ground separated like a bough heavy with plump aipom climbing branches, and simply broke away, falling to pieces.
The altaria cried out in dismay, trying to launch into the sky but felt only the drop under her feet as she fell helplessly down, the krinar flopping with her as he tumbled through the air, still unconscious. Rocks grazed her and forced themselves to clamp around her wings when they cracked before they separated in the freefall, the pain jolting from her wings to the rest of her body. She grimaced and tried to regain her bearings, but had no such luck as she slammed into the ground, several large boulders falling on and around her. Thankfully they were small ones that landed on her body, being lighter and falling slower, but she still groaned as they rained on her head and scraped her neck.
Derino had experienced much the same thing, his grip unfalteringly around Rentana as he shielded her body from any stray debris, trying his hardest to land on his feet, but in the confusion, ending on his back. He dropped the kirlia onto his front so she slumped uselessly, nearly obstructing his vision as he held out his arms in a crossed fashion, preventing most rocks from landing on them while he suffered the effects of being winded. Some still pattered down after the larger ones had passed, but most were tiny and harmless.
After the crumbling rocks had subsided, the altaria moaned, feeling aches in many places as her breath caught in her throat. It took her a moment to breathe again, and once she did, she shot to her feet, glancing frantically around at first to identify where she had landed. She quickly realised that most of the crowd had fallen with them and were also on the ground, a little dazed from the fall and the impact. However, being partly rock types, she knew they wouldn’t be hindered for long.
As Etire began to stir, Derino glared over to him, as if momentarily disappointed that he had been overcome and defeated during battle. It didn’t last long as he too noticed the quickly recovering enemy pokémon. Not a moment later, Rentana awoke, her heavy eyelids giving way to tired pupils that surveyed the area with a quick analysis. It took her a second to remember her mate, and once she did, she leapt a few paces away, where he lay near Tarla.
The altaria narrowed her eyes, jerking her head in a gesture to suggest that the granbull fall in beside them. “Rentana, shield!”
The kirlia stroked the krinar’s face with a back-turned hand before getting to her toes and placing herself in the middle of the group, quickly erecting a surrounding shield generated by her ability to protect usually just herself. She had to remain standing, her arms apart while she held the shield up, the strain hitting her with more force than she had expected.
Etire hobbled to her side, his concern topping his thoughts as he struggled to stay standing. He gave her a confident nod and then looked at the other two. When he raised his voice and spoke, he was surprised by its frailty. “What’s going on?”
“We’re under attack,” Tarla responded, half paying him attention and half focusing on the disjointed mob around them.
The krinar looked around, cringing as he realised that many wounds on his body were pulsing with ache, and some were bleeding. He could clearly see that they were outmatched, and as he jumped once they began to hammer and ram into the protective force-field, he felt a shudder run through the length of his body. He knew Rentana couldn’t physically hold the barrier for long. He swallowed, realising even that hurt a little. “...Uh oh.”
We had been travelling for quite some time. The others had been relatively silent and it bugged me. I wished that I had someone to keep me company, because it seemed as if the two quadrupeds were either too caught up in their private affairs and unwilling to share with me; they had some kind of unspoken argument bouncing between their eyes which I was, of course, also excluded from. Splash wasn’t one for conversation, I had discovered, and although the prospect didn’t surprise me, it didn’t stop me from wishing he was a little more talkative.
We passed through another narrow passage that would allow two to walk side-by-side down. However, none of us were interested in pairing up, so we just walked single file. I was at the rear of the line, too concerned about their secrets and my boredom to be worried about what might, would or could be following. I only checked upon remembering to; otherwise, I didn’t pay attention to it.
“So, uh...” I began, projecting my voice to the pokémon in front of me. “This path leads to the outside world in time for us to intercept the party?”
The houndoom, his head hanging as he trudged on, briefly gave me a glance, with a somewhat identifiable expression. “It does,” he answered, and turned back, clearly not intent on engaging in a lengthy conversation.
“Well, do you...have a map?” I asked with a cringe, understanding how ridiculous that sounded.
He gave a chuckle in the form of a puff through his nostrils, somewhat condescending. He turned his head again and looked at me lightly. “No.”
I had expected him to come up with something better than that, but clearly his mood prevented him from saying anything remotely cheeky or witty. For some reason I wanted it to happen though; he was acting weird. “Okay, spill the beans.” He threw a face with a knotted brow toward me, the look on his face suddenly more wary. I didn’t heed his intended warning and continued, “What is with you and the ice type? Would you stop hiding everything already? I think I deserve to know.” He looked to want to protest but before he could, I added, “Or
, if you don’t want to tell me for whatever stupid reason, why don’t you at least have a normal conversation with me about something else
? Don’t you think it’s a little selfish to keep everything to yourself and leave me outta the loop without even bothering to compensate?”
“You’re talkin’ a whole lotta gibberish, Flair,” he responded somewhat defensively, and although I didn’t know what he meant, I simply assumed he believed that he didn’t owe me conversation of any kind. I moved up beside him, probably making him a little uncomfortable in the narrow walkway but not exactly caring myself.
“That’s another thing. Why
the nickname? You know my name and you’ve used it, so tell me, why do you still call me ‘Flair’?”
He threw his marginally agitated expression in front of him first, as if to test if the glaceon could hear, and then back to me. He gave a short sigh. He seemed to lean in close, and I frowned, wondering what he planned to say. I angled my head in interest so his muzzle was right by my ear. He waited a moment and then uttered, “Because I feel like it.”
At his remark I rolled my head around with open jaws, hoping to catch some of his flesh in my teeth. I rumbled with a growl and he flicked his tail, having pulled away at the right time. I narrowed my eyes and murmured, “Useless,” and we kept walking.
It hadn’t been long when the path widened and we came to a much more open passage, similar to how it was when Azure and Splash had caught up to us a short while ago, and suddenly, something strange pulsed through the tunnel from another direction. My ears pricked as I came to a halt behind Azure and Splash, who had stopped as well. The glaceon was alert as her ears stood atop her head, and the quagsire merely stood casually. I doubted he had done anything but follow Azure’s movements.
As far as I could make out, it sounded like a series of smashes, yelps from other pokémon and shattering of rock. I nearly expected a tremble beneath my toes, but felt nothing but an odd fire start within me. There had definitely been something unusual nearby. It almost sounded like something had burst through a wall or the floor of the tunnel, but I was completely unsure. I had never heard anything like it, and I wasn’t about to make assumptions. I had to see what it was.
“Come on,” I commanded brusquely, taking off down the tunnel. The noises and other similar commotion continued, so it was easy to simply follow my ears. I came to an abrupt stop after running partway down the passage, turning back a few paces and darting down a side path, curving with the tunnel as I raced on.
“Wait!” I heard Zaion call, and I grinned smugly on the inside, happy to have disobeyed him. “Flair, that’s the wrong way!”
I didn’t bother to give him the satisfaction of an answer and kept going, extending my limbs in front and behind me in an effort to outrun him and possibly lose him, although I knew I had no idea what I would be encountering, so any bait – uh, I mean, company – would be appreciated, especially if it was a fight I was entering. The fact that it could
be a battle only occurred to me when the sounds I heard before had grown relatively loud, indicating that whatever I was hearing was at the end of the tunnel I was following. Paired with that realisation was the thought that whatever it was had to have been strong enough to break through
a wall, meaning that it had to have been powerful. That’s how it had sounded, anyway.
I suddenly regretted leaving the others behind. It was always a forte of mine to be rash, and combined with stubbornness and any form of revenge, even if it was merely expressed in the form of inconveniencing my victim, it was common that I found myself in dangerous predicaments.
One time I distinctively remembered an incident where Izante’s master had woken to a chilly breeze in the middle of winter on a day when we were camping outside, and Izante had been in her poké ball the entire night. I was out, however, not as prone to feeling the cold, and he blamed me for a burnt hole in the side of the tent. I had been rather offended when he blamed me, as I had not committed the act and therefore denied responsibility for the crime, and Master had been persuaded to side with him. It had hurt me greatly, and out of anger for them both, once they went back to sleep, I slipped out the same hole and eventually found myself in a fight with three humans who thought I was wild.
I had worked my butt off trying to fend them off, and they had clearly been without strong morals, as they wore me down to a tired lump of fur, and had discussed the possibility of taking me to a “release specialist,” which I knew was only a euphemism for a human that severed the connection a pokémon had with a poké ball and simultaneously a trainer, and unbound the pokémon, voluntary or not. I had come dangerously close to being abducted before my master and Izante’s had found me, bordering on unconsciousness as the humans prepared to transport me. Luckily the fight had been fairly short and my master’s other pokémon had wiped out their opponents without trouble, but the fact still remained: I had fled in an emotional rage and gotten myself into a pickle, all to presumably “punish” my trainer for not believing me.
I presently forgot the past and spilled into a room that was quite large and populated with pokémon, which surprised me considering we hadn’t seen many yet, as well as an abnormally enormous amount of light. I shielded my eyes from the gushing brightness which poured in from above through a gaping gap in the ceiling. My brow rippled with perplexity and I recoiled in surprise; that was certainly not a regular occurrence, and neither was it natural.
I didn’t know what else to absorb next; there was a considerable amount of rock and ground type pokémon, each looking fiercer than the last, but none directly swayed me with a breeze of fear. The group as a whole was visibly daunting, but I was glad that each pokémon had their back turned, figuratively speaking, apparently entirely focused on pokémon that didn’t match the rest.
In the centre of the wide spotlight was a group of four huddled pokémon, and with alarm and confusion I identified them as the party members we were searching for. I certainly knew Tarla’s face, as well as her species, but the others were unknown to me. I remembered the granbull from my first day at the colony, as he was one of the pokémon who opened the door to Habib’s home, but the kirlia and her lookalike counterpart were unknown to me. I only assumed they were pokémon belonging to the names that Cubbs or Mynk shared with me while I was being shown through the colony grounds—names which I had forgotten. None of them seemed to notice me as I stood, mostly concealed, watching from a distance.
A barrier placed around them looked to be held up by the kirlia, her arms raised and her face tight with concentration and knowledge of the possibility that she could let the protective covering down at any given moment if she was to falter. A question ran in my head and I wondered why there was a shield at all. It seemed to have little effect, and was only draining the kirlia’s strength. ‘They’re not preparing for escape,’ I determined, ‘and they’re not charging up attacks. So what’s the tactic?’
Taking me by surprise, the ground types began ramming themselves into the transparent green shield, and I gave a frown, realising that the purpose of the shield was probably just general protection; they looked to be out of ideas and low on defence mechanisms, probably as they recovered from what could have been a fall from above, judging by the plentiful debris and the unnatural look of the opening above them. The shield was also one of their only chances to think of something – or more like anything – that could help them. I looked upon the scene with mixed feelings. I knew for a fact that I would have jumped immediately in to help, but a long time ago, I had discovered fire couldn’t burn rock.
Just as I hoped someone would arrive, the pattering of paws reached my ears, followed by the appearance of my houndoom travelling companion, and then of Azure and Splash, who had trailed closely behind in pursuit. “Woah, what happened here?” the fire and dark type questioned with genuine surprise, his eyes absorbing the scene before him.
Continued in the next post...