Chapter Nine: The Cliff of Will
With each blow that came, the Rangers tried their best to hold back the door. They were piled up against it, bracing their shoulders against the shuddering wood. Each one knew it was hopeless; there was just no way they could hold it off for long. But each one wouldn’t go down without a fight.
One young face looked around the building that was once a library, hoping his leaders were coming up with a plan of some sort. It was dark within, but he cold faintly pick out the form of five individuals huddled together at the far wall.
“We can’t hold on!” he shouted at them. “We have to do something now!”
As if to accentuate his point, the door shuddered again.
The group didn’t answer, knowing full well that there was nothing else they could do. All was hopeless and they had come to accept this. Their younger Rangers, however, were not.
“NOW!” the boy Ranger exclaimed, growing frustrated.
“There is nothing, Weston,” One of the five, a woman, snapped back. “Don’t you see it? We’re trapped!”
“No,” denied a girl Ranger who stood by Weston’s side. “Don’t say that! We can think of something.”
“Like what?” the woman exasperated. Without waiting for a response, she separated herself from the group to hide in the shadow of a dusty shelf.
The door suddenly lurched, knocking several Rangers off their feet. A sharp purple horn protruded from a new hole, and outside one could hear a fierce roar.
“N-nidoking?” Weston gaped at the horn that was only inches from his face.
The horn slowly retracted, then was followed by another attack. Shakily, the Rangers continued to brace the door, only now these stout young hearts began to realize the hopelessness of their battle. They had no Pokémon to help them. Their stylers strangely become defective before the battle. Before they could do anything about it, half of the town had been conquered.
“Weston,” the girl whispered to him in a faltering voice.
“Yes, Emma?” he replied, wincing as the door shuddered again.
“What’s going to happen to us?”
“I . . . don’t know,” he admitted, and then the door flew open.
Aislyn started from her saddle, having dozed off moments before. Dewy had strayed a little from their small path, but she quickly righted him. Her companions didn’t seem to notice; Troy and Gunuru was in the lead while Frostpaw trotted behind her. Each seemed to be lost in their own thoughts. A few good hours had passed since she had left her home, but under the cover of the trees it was hard to tell what time of day it was. Yawning, she stretched and looked around. The trunks of the cottonwoods were covered in thick, bushy vines that made it seem like the trees were wearing green skirts. Birdsong echoed between their numbers, along with the cries of various Pokémon. Now and again a Rattata or Sentret would scurry across the undergrowth near them, paying little attention to the travelers.
It was not long before Aislyn saw that the trees began to thin and more grass filled in between their gaps. Soon the forest opened out to a small grassy meadow that looked out upon a vast blue ocean. The shore here rose in a rocky cliff that seemed almost vertical. As far as Aislyn could see, there was no way to climb down to the gritty beach below. Yet she was content to gaze out at the massive water, to smell the salty spray, and to hear the crash of the waves.
“We have made good time today,” Troy announced, dismounting his Doduo. “We should make it to Kanto by tomorrow night. For right now, we shall take a quick break.”
“Ugh, finally!” Thyme collapse on a moss-covered rock, over exaggerating. “I haven’t traveled this much since Palkia and Dialga started a feud! Phew!”
“Then it’s about time you got up and about,” Gunuru chuckled as he dismounted. Aislyn smiled as the Celebi made a face, then proceeded to dismount as well. Her legs felt stiff and sore from riding all day, and she regretted that she hadn’t been on such a ride for a long time. Well, there would be time to grow more use to it, she sighed, but it would be painful.
As Gunuru started preparing a late lunch, Aislyn left their temporary camp to look out over the cliff. It had been a long time since she had seen the ocean, yet from this point it seemed so much different from her distant memories. Here it was larger, harsher, and all the more beautiful.
“These are called the Cliffs of Will,” a voice interrupted her thoughts; a telepathic voice. She turned to see Troy gazing out at the sea as well.
“Its beautiful,” she quietly commented as a moist breeze blew her white-blond hair across her face.
Troy nodded in agreement, but then he ventured to ask, “What do you think?”
“Of what?” asked she, looking confused.
“On the first day I met you, you said that you’ve always wanted travel around the world and see new things. It seems to me that you’re having that chance now.”
“Oh yeah,” she understood as she recalled that day. It had seemed to have happened so long ago, though it couldn’t have been more than a few days. She stopped and pondered over Troy‘s question, but answered, “I’m not sure what to think right now. Its strange to say that I’m going to travel around the world to find these artifact things. Maybe it just hasn’t sunk it yet, since I’m still close to home. Yet, I am both scared and thrilled to be on this quest! I just never thought that I‘d get to have an adventure.”
Troy nodded and then looked back to the sea. Suddenly, he sighed, to Aislyn‘s bafflement. “I only wish that this mission was not so perilous. Things might seem pleasant now, but it will get ugly from here. We still have to pass through the Gates of Kanto, which is a rugged range of mountains that protect the region’s northern borders. It’d be easier taking the road, but I dare not disobey Lady Silver’s orders. Then there’s still the threat of Darkrai’s hunters and his many spies.”
Aislyn frowned and looked away, wondering why Troy was acting so pessimistic. It wasn’t like him at all, unless this was what Troy really was like. No, there had to be something else that was bothering him. But what could that be? What could worry a Knight? If anything, Darkrai should be afraid.
As if reading her thoughts, the Gallade began apologizing. “I am sorry, Aislyn. I should not be that way. This should be a special time for you. After all, you’re living your dream. Why darken it with storms of worry? The important thing is what is happening presently. Come, let us eat some lunch.”
For a moment, he seemed to become his old self. Yet the moment was fleeting. As he turned back around, the newer him fell upon him like a shadow. Aislyn stole one last glance at the sea before following the Gallade back to their lunch.
The company continued to hike on under the cover of the cottonwoods as the daylight began to fade. Occasionally they would catch glimpses of the ocean dancing in the light of the descending sun. Troy, however, didn‘t dare linger in open spaces for too long. He didn’t want to catch the attention of unfriendly eyes. Aislyn’s other companions were just as wary, though she hadn’t seen or heard anything of their pursuers. In her heart she began to wonder if they really were being chased. Weren’t they just being overcautious? They had probably given them the slip, hadn’t they?
Yet as the night crept closer, the Knights grew more and more alert. Aislyn watched as they would jump at the slightest noises or stare at the woods with unease. Even Gunuru looked overly solemn, to her surprise. Troy was constantly turning around in the saddle to look behind them, his face like a stone. But every sound had a trivial answer, like a tiny animal or Pokémon scurrying around in the undergrowth.
Thyme was just as quiet as they were. Before it had grown dark, the Celebi chatted animatedly about comical moments he had or some eye-opening wonders he’d seen. Now he shivered in the saddle, his face pale and eyes wide.
Before long Troy stopped his Doduo at a small clearing and announced, “We will rest here for the night.”
Gladly, Aislyn and Gunuru dismounted their birds and the crew set about setting up their camp. Troy went to start a fire while their Medicham friend set out bed-rolls and dinner. Frostpaw set about clearing their little meadow of debris and leveling it out for their comfort. Aislyn was surprised at their sufficiency. Without exchanging a word, her companions worked harmoniously like a well-oiled machine. It was if they shared a mind, but with three bodies. She stood off on the side-lines, wanting to help in some way. Clearing her throat, she volunteered to gather some wood for the fire.
“Don‘t worry,” Troy shook his head as he gathered tinder together. “We’ll get to it.”
“But I want to help,” she pressed, not wanting to be put out.
“It is most kind of you to ask,” he argued, though with chivalry, “and it is greatly appreciated. But it is unacceptable for a young girl to be wandering around the forest alone. Therefore I ask that you not worry about it.”
“I can take care of myself. It’s not like I’m helpless or something.”
“Please, Aislyn,” the Gallade sighed, striking a flint. “It would be safer if someone went with you.”
“I’ll take Thyme, then,” the teen glanced over to the Celebi, who was standing by innocently.
“Yeah, I’ll go with her,” Thyme smiled, having only heard the last statement of the conversation.
Troy looked between them, then sighed. Aislyn could be hard-headed, and he had learned that she couldn’t be swayed in an argument. “Very well,” he agreed, though he didn’t sound all convinced.
“Great,” Thyme spun around in a small circle, then turned to Aislyn. “Where are we going?”
“Just follow me,” she laughed, grabbing his small papery hand.
(End of Chapter)