Chapter 2: Blood on the Air
The orange sun hung close to the mountainous horizon, the clouds around it bright pinks and yellows. The landscape was painted with the fading oranges and purples of dusk, the grass glinting with yellow light as it waved, almost creating a sparkling effect across the vast grasslands outside his hometown. It was a beautiful sunset and beautiful dusk; it was quite the pity that the only human for miles that would’ve been able to appreciate it was blind.
Ian made his way slowly through the grasses, unaware of the beauty of the setting sun. The only concept he had of the time was the coolness on the air around him and the aching in his muscles from walking all day. He had gone out into the grasslands expecting there to be an overabundance of Pokémon, and among them would be one he could catch and call his own. Of course, with the recent pokerus outbreak and the large trainer involvement to bring down the infected numbers, the grassland Pokémon had become wary both of each other and humans. Wild pokemon tended to stay away from the road in general and Ian would’ve felt like he had been traveling in a desert wasteland if it had not been for the grass tangling and hindering his cane whenever he accidentally wandered too close to the edge of the little dirt road. He had heard a few pidgey but with nothing to battle them or keep them where they were, they had flown away at the first sign of his approach. He couldn’t exactly chase after them and risk losing his way in the huge expanse of grasses.
Perhaps leaving without obtaining a Pokémon first had been a bad idea. Ian wasn’t sure how to catch a Pokémon when he had none of his own, as all of the Pokémon guides he had read assumed you had a Pokémon of your own to battle the wild one. Ian was tired, his feet hurt from walking, and his arm was equally sore from pushing and fighting his cane through the thick grass. The backpack that he thought he had packed so economically and light felt like it weighed a ton after the hours of walking. Ian had been expecting this, but expecting it and doing it were two different things. He figured he’d maybe call it a day soon and camp for the night.
Ian was so focused on his thoughts that he didn’t hear the sounds of distant hooves pounding against the dirt until they were nearly upon him. To be fair, the faint thudding of the hooves on earth had become furiously close in a matter of seconds.
That excuse didn’t help Ian when the rapidash let a sharp scream of rage and reared at him, brandishing its sharp hooves menacingly. Startled, Ian raised his arms above his head defensively and stumbled backwards, falling to the ground. The flaming unicorn screamed harshly. Its mane was fiercely ablaze, Ian barely able to stand the heat at his short distance away, and white rimmed its dark, yet burning pupils. Its teeth were bared and it lashed out with its dark hooves.
Ian startled and flinched back from the sound, expecting some attack to follow, but none came, and instead he heard a startled “Dash!” from the horse and a heavy thud a few feet away from him. Slowly he lowered his arms, trying to figure out what had happened. He could hear the Pokémon’s labored breathing close to the ground. It had fallen.
Slowly Ian lifted himself up and onto his knees, and then slowly began crawling towards the rapidash. The heat from the beast washed over his face as he inched closer to where it had fallen. In its agitated state the rapidash caught a few blades of grass on fire and the smoke irritated Ian’s useless eyes so he closed them, before they started watering too badly. He could hear the rapidash begin to struggle on the ground as he neared, so he slowly set his cane down on the ground and made soothing sounds.
“Shhhh, shhh there, I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to give you a hand, and check you out… I can’t really do that with my eyes you see,” Ian gave a smile that he hoped was kind and inviting, although he never was that good at figuring out the subtleties of his expressions. The rapidash gave no indication that it had heard or understood, and it struggled for a few more moments before suddenly coming to rest. Ian could hear its hooves hit the ground and felt a sudden comparative coolness as its fire dimmed down.
The rapidash’s labored breathing quickened a bit as Ian inched closer and if he could see he would’ve noted its fiery eyes were following him as he came closer. Ian ended up sliding between its front and back legs, kneeling by its chest. If the horse decided to kick him now he would be trapped between its legs. Luckily it didn’t struggle anymore, whether it was through trust or exhaustion wasn’t clear, but either way Ian was safe for the time being.
Ian slowly and gently lowered his hands until they lightly touched the unicorn’s side. He almost immediately recoiled from the touch. The horse gave a sharp snort of surprise.
His hands had come back covered in blood.
Ian shuddered slightly and collected himself, forcing the sudden nauseous fluttering in his stomach back down into stillness. He should’ve smelled the iron sooner, and it was definitely disturbing to feel that unmistakable, slick-but-sticky feeling coating his entire hands. The shock of feeling blood slowly drained from Ian’s system and he wiped his hands on the grass around him. The Pokémon must be seriously injured to have that much blood coating it, perhaps he could help. He didn’t have any potions or berries on him, but he did have a small first aid kit in his pack. It wasn’t big and it was supposed to be for humans, but it couldn’t hurt and it might help if the horse wasn’t too injured. Slowly he placed his hands back down on the horse’s side, not wincing when they were immediately covered in blood again, and began softly probing for the source of the rapidash’s layers of blood.
If Ian could see he wouldn’t have needed to probe for wounds to have given up all hope on the horse. A pool of its own blood was beginning to form, even with the dirt beneath it soaking some of it up. Its body was riddled with deep bite and scratch wounds, one perilously close to its neck bleeding an exceptional amount. Hardly any of its once white fur was left un-dyed by the crimson tide. It had fallen over because its back legs gave out when it had been preparing its frantic stomp attack on Ian. As he ran his hands softly over the horse’s hindquarters Ian was stunned that it had even managed to charge at him, let alone rear up on its legs. The back legs had received the worst of the damage, chewed practically to shreds. Whatever the unfortunate beast had been battling hadn’t wanted it to get away… these wounds were brutal. Ian kept his breathing calm and even, kept his head still and emotions calm. He had long ago learned that panicking when one didn’t have enough information rarely ended well, to stay relaxed to keep functioning in difficult situations.
Ian had run his hands very softly down one leg and then moved on to the other concerned. The rapidash put up no fight, apparently too drained from the blood loss to put up even weak protest. Ian’s fingers met with something hard, he trailed his hand down a bit more before realizing what it was he had brushed his hands over. Ian felt a lurch in his stomach; he had just touched the rapidash’s bone.
“Eurrrgh.” Ian felt a wave of queasiness roll through him, and suddenly the smell of blood coming from the horse stood out as clear as day and he had to get away from it. He stood up swiftly but shakily and stumbled away from the horse. He bent down and rubbed his hands frantically on the grass again, trying as hard as he could to get the crimson blood off of them. His cool demeanor shattered, or at least cracked a bit, Ian turned back towards the horned brute. There was a pokeball in his hand.
“Listen, I don’t know any other way to help you like you are. You’re really injured and you can’t-“
Ian was cut off by a terrific clap of thunder that rocketed through the landscape like a physical force. Ian was startled but it acted like an electric shock to the prone rapidash on the ground. It began shrieking and struggling on the ground frantically. It had been breathing weakly before but some new strength surged through it and it gasped mightily before somehow managing to surge to its feet. Despite its broken leg, it managed to begin running (limping) away and even with its wounds it moved faster than blind Ian blundering through the grasses after it.
“Darn it,” Ian suppressed the urge to curse as the wounded creature’s hoof beats ever so slowly rang fainter and fainter in his ears. The rustling of the grass helped muddle them but Ian began to realize he didn’t need any guidance to follow the horse.
It was heading for the lightning strike.
Ian silently prayed the rapidash wouldn’t faint before he reached it to help as he abandoned using his cane to chase his way through the grasses.