Chapter Twelve: Lessons
The cottonwood forest had been tranquilly quiet as if it rested with the rest of the night. Crickets were chirping their hearts out while a lonely Noctowl mourned to the stars. None of them would have expected the sudden flash of light and raucous ruckus that erupted as two individuals appeared out of thin air without warning. Aislyn fell to the ground, landing painfully on the bundle of sticks she had abandoned before her tiny adventure. Thyme watched her, hiding back a fit of laughter.
“I’d like to see you try gravity sometime,” she snapped at him, growing grumpy from time-travel. “I’d bet you’d enjoy it.”
“Naw, its overrated,” he just teased.
She ignored his comment and stiffly stood up. As she scanned the calm woods around them, she asked doubtfully, “Are you sure we’re back in time?”
“Just moments after we vanished,” he confirmed, folding his arms behind his head as if he could care less. Aislyn peered passed the shadowy shapes of the tree trunks then finally allowed a long sigh.
“I’m glad that’s over. Guess we’d better get back to camp.”
“Got your box?”
“Of course,” she held it up for him to see. The white wood seemed to glow in the low light of the quarter moon, bringing out the shapes of the carved creatures.
“Then lets go. This place gives me the creeps,” he shuddered as he looked over his shoulder. Here we go again
, Aislyn sighed. She almost missed being out in the sun at Birth Island where Thyme couldn‘t be overly paranoid.
“So what spooked you, anyway?” she asked as she bent over to pick up the firewood, recalling what had happened moments before their little escapade. He just grinned and pointed over her shoulder. The blush on his face would have been invisible in the darkness if it hadn‘t been for his incandescent glow. Aislyn’s eyebrow arched when she turned to see a white pelt standing out from the darkness.
“Welcome back,” the flat voice of Lady Frostpaw came from it. She was laying on the ground, front limbs crossed in a patient position. A curious glint was in her eye that Aislyn had never noticed before. Could it be that she was amused by them?
“It was Frostpaw?” Aislyn whispered to Thyme, annoyed by his over-reaction, but the Celebi just scratched his head, shame-faced. Clearing her throat, Aislyn forced a weak laugh and answered uncertainly, “Good to be back?”
Frostpaw stood up, her lithe body outlined by the weak moonlight. “I didn’t mean to scare you, Thyme. I didn’t know you were so . . . timid.”
“I’m not timid!” he objected, but jumped as the Noctowl took off from his perch nearby.
The Absol slowly blinked, saying in a composed tone, “Calm down, everything’s fine. I came to catch up with you two, only to see you disappear into thin air. May I ask where you went off to?”
Aislyn looked at Thyme, who suddenly looked ill at ease. Thinking fast, she simply answered, “It’s a long story.”
Frostpaw studied them long and hard, but to their relief she let the subject drop. “Perhaps later, then. At least it wasn’t a complete fiasco or else I would have seen it coming. Should we return to the others now?”
Next to her, Aislyn heard Thyme breathe out a tiny sigh. Birth Island was a secret, he had said, and Aislyn was determined to keep it that way. She’d hide it even if it meant lying to the Knights, though she wouldn‘t enjoy it. Taking up her things, Aislyn and her Celebi friend followed the Absol under the quite eaves of the woody realm, leaving behind their unexpected adventure. It was remarkable to think that only a few minutes before, Aislyn was stranded on a tropical island. The memory of it already seemed surreal to her now, being surrounded by the night‘s nippy air.
Ahead of their path, Aislyn could see a warm, yellow glow like a light at the end of the tunnel. Troy had succeeded in lighting a campfire, she concluded as she increased her pace. Soon she could warm herself up by its burning embers and finally relax for a moment. She felt so weary and sore from the day’s journey. When they finally broke away from the underbrush, Aislyn could finally see their little camp. The flames flickered wildly by a set of bedrolls and, to her surprise, a tiny tent. She stopped halfway, wondering where it had come from.
“There you are,” Gunuru merrily greeted them from the fireside, a delicious aroma coming from the stew he was stirring up. He was a unexpectedly wonderful cook for a Pokémon. Aislyn found her mouth watering as she smelled whatever it was he was making. Cream of corn, perhaps? Her mom had given them a few cans of ordinary soup, but Gunuru had packed plenty of spices and ingredients with him. As he tossed in a few dried leaves, the Medicham joked, “Just in time for dinner! You must have smelled it coming!”
“We were beginning to wonder if maybe you were lost,” Troy appeared from behind the tent with a small smile on his face.
Aislyn looked from him to the tent, not believing her eyes. She had expected to sleep right under the stars like the rest of them in a simple sleeping bag. Double checking, she dared to ask, “Is that for me?”
“Of course, m’lady,” Troy’s smile grew wider.
“But,” she frowned, “you didn’t have to. I could just sleep outside, too.”
“I don’t think so,” the Gallade walked over to take the thick bundle of sticks from her.
“A lady deserves to have some luxury on a quest,” Lady Frostpaw added, moving past her towards the fire.
“And what kind of Pokémon would we be to let you sleep on the cold, hard ground?” Gunuru chuckled as he sampled a bit of his soup.
Aislyn blushed, finding it hard to say any words. Part of her was grateful for a tent, but another part was a bit upset. She hadn’t asked for special treatment. What she had expected was to be regarded equally and share the yoke, even if that meant sleeping on the cold, hard ground. That was how she had been raised. But, of course, the Knights were ever-so cordial. I should have expected this
, she sighed to herself, but politely said aloud, “Thank you.”
“No, thank you. We were needing some firewood,” Troy tossed some of her sticks into the fire before, she noted, tossing the rest of them into a bigger pile of branches she wasn‘t meant to see.
, she rolled her eyes when no one was looking her way.
“Hey, don’t I get a tent?” Thyme made a fuss, puffing out his small chest in indignation.
Troy cocked a brow. “Weren’t you saying back on the road that you enjoyed camping out under the sky?”
“Um, maybe?” he paused as he tried to recall.
“I do believe that the soup is being ready!” Gunuru interrupted, waving his spoon in the air.
“Great, I’m starving!” cheered Thyme, suddenly forgetting all about the tent.
Aislyn and her crew gathered about their humble fire to get a bowl of the piping-hot stew in new spirits. Warmth was quickly spreading into their hearts both from the flickering flames and Gunuru‘s gourmet soup. Though it was a simple meal, Aislyn felt as if she were eating it straight from a five-star restaurant. Even Frostpaw gladly lapped some up from a dish and seemed cheerier than normal. Gunuru shared a humorous story that earned a good belly laugh from everyone. Looking around them, Aislyn could tell that the Knights and Thyme were relaxed and even content, forgetting their potential danger for a moment in time. It felt good, she smiled, to forget our worries for a while. When was the last time she enjoyed a healthy campfire like this? Memories were coming back to her of family camp-outs and smores while she gazed dreamily into their fire.
As their stomachs filled and the stew pot emptied, Aislyn felt a sudden weariness wash over her like a blanket. Conversation had cooled off, and it seemed that it was time for bed. Troy, however, set aside his bowl to clear his throat.
“Aislyn,” he said as a serious expression overcame his face. “Do you remember what Sir Zhang said before we left Colossus’s temple?”
She frowned as she tried to remember. “He said lots of things. Why?”
“One thing he wanted was for us to teach you about Aura and the ways of the Knights.” He glanced away, searching around the ground for something. The young teen watched as the Gallade located a good-sized pebble and took it into his hand. “I believe that now would be a good time for a quick lesson. I told you briefly before what Aura was: the energy that each living thing emanates. It reacts to our emotions and physical health, but with enough training one can have it react to will. An individual with enough potential can learn to use it to extend their sense, seeing, smelling, and touching the world in a whole new perspective. Or they can learn to use the energy to build up an attack or defense. Every Pokémon Knight of the Aura has learned the move known as Aura Sphere, which is a compact concentration of their energy into one place that even those without our talents can see it. Aura Sphere is a powerful and effective attack, and even humans have learned it. However, they seldom use it because the cost is much greater for them. Instead, they have learned to use the Aura Sphere technique to create a shield of sorts. It will block any form of attack, and afterwards it can be absorbed back into their being with little waste. Gunuru?”
The Medicham nodded with a jolly smile and stood up. As soon as he brought his hands together, a ball of blue light began to build up between the palms. Once the energy built up enough, Gunuru threw his hands to his sides. The ball of energy expanded as the distance between his palms increased, and soon a wall of light separated this Knight from the others.
“We are calling this, Aura Shield,” his muffled voice called from behind it. Chuckling at Aislyn’s wonderment, Gunuru brought his hands back up and crossed them over his chest. The Aura Shield enveloped him in a glowing film as it seeped back into his person like water into earth.
“Thank you,” Troy bowed his head, then turned back to his wide-eyed pupil. “Eventually, you can learn to do this. But first things first; we must slowly awaken your powers.”
“What do you mean by that?” she tilted her head slightly, enthralled by what she was learning. That demonstration of Gunuru’s was amazing, but what was even more excited to her was the fact that Troy said she could do it. She! Aislyn Bright! Who would have ever thought that she could be capable of doing something cool like that?
Troy smiled, pleased to have an attentive student. He lifted his hand up, and the pebble within it began to levitate from his psychic power. “Many individuals who have great potential for Aura can live their whole life without knowing it. They would live completely normal lives if their power was not awakened. You see, this power grows slowly as one become more aware of the Aura they posses. Right now, you could try all you could to manipulate your Aura but it would not do anything for you at all. This is comparable to a young Pokémon. It can’t learn powerful moves right off from the bat; it must gradually become stronger and learn more about itself.”
The pebble spun fast circles above his palm before leaving Troy’s side to drift lazily around Aislyn.
“You must learn to recognize your gift, how to call on it, and how to use it though trial and error,” he continued, though his eyes concentrated on the rock. “And this is how we’re going to begin to awaken your gift. I want you to catch this pebble.”
Aislyn looked at him funny with an expression that read, Are you serious? Is that all?
“Okay . . .,” she said uncertainly while reaching out her hand. As soon as she was about to touch it the rock shied away, flying behind her back. She looked back at Troy quizzically, only to see a spark of amusement in his eye.
“Catch the pebble,” he prompted again just as the pebble drifted past her shoulder and in front of her face. She looked at him suspiciously, then quickly jerked her hand forward. Just as before, the pebble deftly dodge her strike and disappeared behind her. What the heck?
, she thought as she cast a suspicious glance at her teacher. Is this some sort of a joke? Is he trying to make fun of me?
The Gallade seemed impassive and was merely concentrating on the floating rock. She raised an eyebrow when the pebble came floating across her line of sight again. This time around, she tried to trick him with a false start followed by quick strike. Troy, however, saw right through her and the rock avoided capture once again.
“How am I suppose to catch it?” she protested with a frown, vexed and perplexed.
“You’ll find a way,” The Gallade just smiled.
“This is going to be a long night,” Aislyn heard Thyme joke behind her back. She sighed, knowing that the Celebi was probably right.
Try as she might, Aislyn just couldn’t catch the pebble that night. It seemed to her that Troy was always one step ahead, but she wouldn’t give up. She held on to thinking that this whole game was just a test for her, however frustrating. Eventually, the pebble retreated to the Gallade’s hand.
“That is enough for tonight,” he stood up. “You need some rest now. We got a long journey ahead of us tomorrow. We’ll practice again tomorrow night.”
Aislyn was about to protest, but her words turned into a yawn. Finally she realized just how tired she was. Without any objection the girl retreated to her tent, though she hesitated before slipping in. There was something she wanted to know.
“How long will it take before I can do all that?” she asked, lifting up the flap to the tent.
Troy was getting into his bedroll, but understood her question. “It always depends on the individual. For some, it could take years. I think, though, that you’re plenty open-minded, though, so it could be a matter of weeks. Now go to sleep. You’re going to need your strength for tomorrow.”
Aislyn yawned again before disappearing into the darkness of the tent. Without bothering to change, she slipped into her sleeping bag and immediately fell asleep. Outside, Gunuru was humming a slow lullaby as he stood watch. His Absol companion curled up beside the fire, appearing to be asleep. Meanwhile, their Celebi friend hung from a hammock of leaves and branches in a tree. Troy looked between all of them, then to the stars above.
“You need not to be worrying,” Gunuru’s telepathic voice spoke to him, though the Medicham kept his eyes on the fire.
“How can I not?” Troy answered with a sigh, closing his eyes from the world. “So much hangs in the balance, Gunuru. If we fail . . .”
“We won’t,” came Frostpaw’s firm mind-voice. Troy peeked over at her with one eye, having known all the long that she was feigning sleep. She remained still, however, with her snow-white fur gently rising as she breathed.
“How can you be so sure?” he looked away.
Gunuru shrugged, answering, “We just know it. How can we do our task if we think otherwise?”
“That is true. I just wish I could be as confident.” Looking over at the tent, he added, “I just can’t figure it out. Of all people, why would Cresselia choose a young girl? She’s putting Aislyn’s life in danger. I worry for her safety.”
“She has a strong heart,” Frostpaw answered bluntly in her monotone voice.
“Yes,” Gunuru agreed, probing the fire with a stick. “She may be facing great trials, but I am getting the impression that she’ll be able to overcome whatever she faces. That must be why Cresselia has chosen her.”
“We’ll be there to help,” Frostpaw added.
“Troy, you must believe this as well.”
The Gallade turned his back to the fire as he pulled his cloak up closer to his face, which he was using as an extra blanket. “I do,” he quietly answered before closing his eyes for the night.
But you fear failure
, Frostpaw kept to herself. You always have, but now the stakes are higher than ever
. Yes, she could feel the burden they carried. The lives of hundreds of souls rested on their shoulders, as well as the life as one soul who was destined to save them all.