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Old February 5th, 2012 (12:16 PM).
apenpaap apenpaap is offline
    Join Date: Oct 2011
    Gender: Male
    Posts: 79
    Originally Posted by destinedjagold View Post
    Them being together again. It was really heartwarming. <3
    Excellent. If anything, heartwarmingness was needed after the recent troubles.

    Chapter Forty-Five: The Ancient and Most Noble House of Equinox
    Octa was looking cheerful for the first time in days. He had been gloomy and depressed ever since Boreas had left without saying whether he'd ever come back. Toxica had tried to cheer him up and make up for the leaving of his best friend by spending a lot of time with him and talking to him a lot, but it seemed she just wasn't a replacement for Boreas. Octa remained gloomy, though she could understand why: she missed Boreas too and hoped he'd come back soon.
    But when Black had seen the road to Crimson breeders and told his pokémon he'd see if they could rest there for the night, Octa's mood had changed radically. The prospect of getting to meet his family again for the first time in a year clearly brightened his mood. He was chatting amicably with Toxica when a Servine jumped out of the bushes they'd passed by, Leaf Blade drawn.
    Halt, miscreants! How dare you intrude upon land possessed by the most noble house of Equinox?!”
    Toxica yelped in fear and surprise. Lucius growled threateningly, while Selene on his shoulder was clearly more interested in one of the moons in the sky. Black hadn't noticed the Servine, though, as he was a bit ahead. Octa drew his own Leaf Blade and crossed it with the other Servine's. “Ha, miscreants?!” he replied in grandiose voice, “you shall pay for that, you surreptitious serpent! You're naught but a petty bandit, attacking weary travellers like us!”
    The attacker trusted forward, but Octa dodged the blade with an elegant twist that made Toxica's heart do little jumps in her chest. Octa, using his opponent's temporary disorientation, trusted his own blade to his enemy's abdomen, only to have it parried swiftly. “How dare you, sir,” the opponent asked, “to insult a Servine of noble blood by referring to him as a bandit! Forsooth, I shall have you know I have cut men to pieces for insults less than that.”
    Octa parried his strike and immediately reposed with a swift flash of his own blade, giving the other Servine a shallow cut. On the arm. Octa grinned. “My little sister is quicker with the blade than you, sir.”
    The other Servine grinned too. “Of course she is, she's faster than anyone in the family.” Both sheeted their swords and suddenly hugged each other. “Octa, it's jolly amazing to see you again!”
    Toxica looked at their hug, dumbstruck with surprise. “Marcus, how I've missed you!” Octa laughed.
    What the hell's going on?” Lucius asked with annoyance.
    Octa disengaged from his hug with the other Servine. “Marcus, let me introduce you to my companions. These are Toxica, Selene, and Lucius. There's also Black, our trainer, who I believe hasn't noticed you holding us up yet, and Boreas, a Glaceon who is not with us at the moment. My friends and Lucius, this is my brother, Marcus Aurelius the second of the house of Equinox.”
    Good morrow,” Marcus greeted each of them. Now that Toxica looked at him, he did look remarkably similar to Octa, but his face was broader, his voice higher in pitch, and he had light blue eyes rather than Octa's camel brown eyes. Though Toxica found him less handsome than Octa, he was still considerably attractive to her and she found herself worrying whether her flower still looked good after its recovery from the cuts it had received in battle against Ryoku.
    Toxica extended her hand. “Hi. Fancy meeting Octa's brother.”
    To her surprise Marcus didn't just shake her hand, but he knelt and kissed it. “A pleasure to meet you, milady Toxica. I invite you, as well as your friends, to join us in our ancestral home.”
    Toxica felt like her brain was boiling and her heart trying to jump out of her mouth. She stammered incoherently for a bit as Octa's almost equally handsome brother got up and released her hand. “You only mentioned your friends' first names, Octa, what are their houses?”
    I'm afraid they do not belong to any houses,” Octa grinned apologetically.
    Commoners? Oh dear. Great-aunt Galaxia shan't like that, you know.”
    I know, I was considering inventing some houses for them to silence her potential misgivings.”
    Heh, don't bother. The old hag knows every house, even of different species of pokémon, and shall see through your lies at once.”
    Octa's brow furrowed. “My dear brother, our great-aunt may not be the most pleasant creature on the planet, but that is no reason to talk about her like that.”
    My apologies. 'Tis easy to speak ill of another if said person thoroughly irritated one that very morning.”
    Octa nodded. “Fine, I accept your apology. Now let us go on, Black is probably quite a way ahead already and might start worrying about us.”

    Toxica had never before seen pokémon live in a home that was larger, richer, and more decorated than their human owners'. Crimson breeders' central house, where the owners lived, was a rather plain wooden building with a permanently dirty floor and few, and pastoral, decorations inside. It had a pleasant charm about it that made you think a pleasant little houses in the mountains, but Octa's ancestral house was by comparison a palace. It was much larger, made mostly of stone, even of marble and granite in places. Its high, arched entrance was supported by lavish columns and statues of various Snivies, Servines, and Serperiors. After welcoming them into their house, Octa reunited with various members of his family, all at least as graceful and elegant as him, with oddly ritualised yet affectionate greetings. Then Octa introduced them all to his family one by one, and soon Toxica was struggling to remember the loads and loads of different forms of courtesy and address Octa and Marcus had quickly run her though as they walked the final bit to their home...
    Address everyone except my father and me as “sir” or “milady”. Address my father as “Lord Publius Cornelius”. As my friend, there is no need to address me as “sir”.”
    Unless Great-Aunt Galaxia is in the room.”
    Indeed. Don't speak unless spoken to to any of my family members. If you need to ask anything of them, ask me instead.”
    Unless Great-Aunt Galaxia is in the room, in which case, don't ask it at all.”
    Indeed. When encountering a member of my family, bow deferentially to them. Never touch anyone, nor make eye contact with them. Treat every member of the family, including myself, with the highest respect and as an utter superior.”
    Especially when Great-Aunt Galaxia is in the room.”
    Indeed. This also includes Marcus here. Though he is not currently standing on ceremony, I want you to treat him properly too when we are in my ancestral home, for he is of the house of Equinox as well.”
    Especially when Great-Aunt Galaxia is in the room.”
    Indeed. At dinner, use the cutlery provided to you properly; fork in your left hand, front paw, or wing; knife in your right. Only use a spoon for food it's specifically meant for, use a knife otherwise. Never speak with food or drink in your mouth, even when spoken to, and observe the proper ways to eat from me. Don't ask for a second plate or a refill unless asked. Don't spill food or drink, don't make digestive noises.”
    Especially when-”
    Will you please stop saying that? I believe the message is quite clear. Now, my great-aunt Galaxia can be rather troublesome. Her beliefs with regard to class are rather outdated, therefore she shall look onto you as servants as best. Be extra deferential and proper around her, and obey her every command. When inside, you can still treat me as a friend, but be more deferential. You can use the nickname 'Octa' when addressing me, but not when Great-Aunt Galaxia is in the room; use my full name or call me “sir” if she is.”
    Toxica tried to remember the names of everyone she bowed to greet, but the long names featuring lots of c's, q's, and x'es quickly became one blur in her mind, especially since they were all the same species and had the same haughty bearing. She recognised many of Octa's features in his family, ranging from his face to his voice and mannerisms. After the introductions, Toxica found herself admitted into the house, and quite unsure of what to do. Almost two dozen Snivies, Servines, and Serperiors were home at the moment, and all of them wanted to speak to Octa and considered her and the others as if they were his pets at best. Since Lucius was a jerk and she didn't feel like dealing with Selene's particular brand of insanity right now, she pretty much sat on a chair clearly not meant for her species in a corner and just listened to Octa retell his adventures to his family. She really wished Boreas was here now, because though he could be quite annoying and she didn't get much time to talk to Octa with him around, he was also a pretty nice and funny person, and much more on her level than Lucius or Toxica, or even Octa, was. If Boreas was here, she thought, he'd probably be whispering some witty remarks now to make her giggle.
    As Octa told his tale to his family, she looked around the room. It was lavishly, though not quite baroquely, decorated with loads of statues and paintings and beautiful marble. Most of the art depicted what clearly were members of the House of Equinox, recognisable by their pentafurcated tails and backleaves, curly collars, non-absent front legs, and faces similar to Octa's that seemed to be shared in the entire family, doing something heroic. A beautiful painting of Vigintus, Octa's ancestor who had belonged to Sir Edward Slateport, discovering Hoenn; the famous human sea captain himself only a minor detail in the painting's background, was especially drawing her attention. If Octa would look that amazing after evolving to a Serperior, she could barely wait.
    It was a bit odd, now that she thought of it, that all Octa's family members seemed to have front legs even as Serperiors. She was pretty sure Serperiors normally had no legs at all, but Octa's family still had their front legs. Then again, she supposed it was quite useful as she looked at a painting of an ancestor wielding a Leaf Blade in one of them, duelling an evil-looking human wielding a metal blade. She remembered when she was an Oddish and had no front legs herself. While it never seemed that much of a problem at the time, having hands to do things with was a massive improvement and she couldn't even think how she would manage anything without them now.
    She became aware of a piercing, withering stare fixated on her. An old Serperior, her tail and back-leaves curled and yellow with the autumn of age, was staring at her with a disgusted scowl that most people reserve for the insects you occasionally find instead of the nut when you open a pistachio. Though she had forgotten most of the names of Octa's family members, she did remember Great-Aunt Galaxia. She remembered what Octa and Marcus had said about her and resisted the urge to stare back or gesture to ask her what her problem was.
    She tried to listen to Octa's stories or to marvel at the amazing room again, but Galaxia's stare was like two ice-cold daggers being stuck further and further into her flesh. Even cocking her head so that her flower covered her face didn't feel like it shielded her from that stare, perfected through dozens of generations. She knew Octa could stare like that too, but his stare was not nearly as piercing as Galaxia's. The house of Equinox had spent generations practising that stare to get fellow pokémon, and even their human trainers, to do whatever it was they needed, even at great personal risk, as long as it made them stop that stare. Even great men like Sir Edward Slateport had not been able to resist giving in to their companion's stare, and currently Toxica was having to fight her urge to listen to that stare and get out of the house to instead stay with the humans were Black was staying for the night. Her flower instinctively gave of pollen and a nasty smell and she sweated sap under that stare's pressure. She angrily decided to stare back, so she made eye-contact. It felt almost as if she was trying to win a staring contest against the Sun, except the discomfort was mental, not physical. Her eyes began watering and blinking within two seconds and she had to look away, completely unable to continue challenging Galaxia's stare.
    She was about to give in and run away from the house when Octa, knowingly or not, saved her by talking specifically to Galaxia, forcing her attention away from Toxica. She breathed out, the stare's terrible pressure taking off her, and stooped a bit in the chair, delighted to be freed of it.

    Toxica lay in the lavish bed she had been given for the night. The fact that this simple guest room was far more beautiful and richer than any other room she'd ever slept in was quite telling. The bed had a gilded frame with fake plants and even birds on it and the mattress was amazingly soft and warm. Several small artworks, mainly of family members as usual, were hung up on one wall, while the other three were covered in bookcases from floor to ceiling. It was amazing how many books were in this house; this was not at all the only room with walls fully covered in bookcases. Now at least she knew how Octa'd got his extensive knowledge of so many topics.
    Things had actually gone surprisingly well. Though dinner began formal and Toxica had despaired thinking that no-one would say a word to her, her neighbours soon loosened up. She had got into a conversation with Octa's mother Claudia, his sister Livia, and their uncle Brittanicus. He was not technically Octa's uncle, he explained, but the husband of Octa's actual uncle, who had died several years earlier while exploring Mt. Silver's deep caverns with his trainer, and the family had since treated Brittanicus as their own son. His mother was a friendly, though slightly condescending Serperior named Claudia Marcella, and had come from a different family of Serperiors before being betrothed to Lord Publius Cornelius. Octa's sister Livia's wit was even sharper than her brother's, and she made several jokes that made Toxica giggle uncontrollably and Claudia frown and stare at her daughter.
    Apparently, Team Plasma had even attacked Crimson breeders while Octa was gone, stating that their breeding of pokémon and selling them like inanimate objects was unethical. The entire family Equinox had helped their breeders defend against the attackers, fortunately without suffering any casualties. After some encouragement by Livia, Brittanicus had quite an amazing story to tell of his role in the battle, as he had led several pokémon in a flanking manoeuvre that had practically been the only reason they had won the battle at all, especially without casualties. Livia assured Toxica Brittanicus had still been very modest and downplayed the whole matter.
    All in all, they made surprisingly good conversational partners, and Livia had even shown her around the mansion after dinner. The room that made the greatest impression on Toxica was a big room where an extensive family tree was beautifully painted on the walls. The intricate, green and purple tree wasn't oriented vertically as Toxica would've expected, but horizontally, from left to right; wrapping around two corners and making it almost halfway around the room before ending. It was a good thing it was drawn this way, as there would never have been enough room for the entire family if it had been a vertical tree. It was impressively detailed, showing all thirty-five generations of Octa's family, starting at the right of the door with Equinox I and his five children and running intricately through every generation before ending almost opposite the door with Octa, Livia, Marcus, and their brother Gaius, who wasn't at home, as well as a whole lot of cousins. Every generation except the current one had a small portrait of them painted by their name. Livia explained that this was because they hadn't evolved to Serperiors yet, so their portraits would be made later when they did. Toxica remembered quite a few of the names in the tree from Octa's stories, and Livia soon showed herself to be of the same stock as she began telling about various ancestors as well. Toxica had repaid her kindness by telling her about the adventures she'd had with Octa.
    Now she lay in the bed comfortably, though it was clearly not meant for a Vileplume. It was far longer than wide, of course, to let a serpentine Serperior sleep on it comfortably, and even folded up her flower still made a bulge that the bed clearly wasn't designed to accommodate. But it could be much worse, she reflected, as the bed's softness didn't make it much of a problem. Before falling asleep, she shuddered again as she remembered Galaxia's powerful stare.

    Since Black wasn't planning to leave until the afternoon, Toxica spent most of the morning with Livia, her new friend. Apparently breakfast was the only meal of the day not taken together, so Toxica just had a casual breakfast with Octa and his sister. They were soon cheerfully laughing about various stories the siblings had to tell about each other.
    ...And seeing all those Leppas hanging off the tree's lowest branches, Octa and I somehow got the idea of a Leppa fight, throwing them at each other from a distance. So then I took an amazing, bright-scarlet Leppa, tossed it right at Octa, who was distracted by a Butterfree flying over...”
    Octa winced at the memory. “It hit me right in the side of the head; it was incredibly hard. Honestly, my dear sister, you must have fired that apple out of a cannon instead of throwing it, for I can distinctly remember the impact nearly cracking my six-week-old skull.”
    Livia and Toxica laughed, while Octa tried to hide his own laughter. “Well, you weren't quite so verbose in your reaction back then,” Livia giggled. “It was more like an indistinct scream of rage and pain as you ran at me, wielding that same Leppa like an axe.”
    Octa blushed with embarrassment. “Well, I was only six weeks old, and my little harpy of a sister had just given me the worst pain I'd felt yet in my brief life...”
    Anyway, he couldn't catch up to me as I ran off, still holding a few Leppas, so he soon turned around angrily and returned to the mansion, when I felt one of the apples I was holding to be very soft, and decided to throw it at him as a teasing gesture of good-will...”
    Octa winced even more. “The horribly spoilt thing exploded as it hit the back of my head, showering me in liquid rotten Leppa gone softer than a Tamato.”
    Livia laughed. “Hey, at least that one didn't hurt you.”
    Not physically, no,” Octa spoke. “I still have deep emotional scarring related to spoilt Leppa dripping down my neck.”
    After breakfast Toxica spent some time with Octa and Livia, before there mother Claudia surprised her by taking her apart. “You are attracted to my son,” she stated, surprising Toxica.
    Her first thought was to deny it, but she knew there was little point. It had not been a question, but a statement, so Claudia had clearly seen it, and lying would only insult her. “Um. Well, yes... A bit, milady...”
    More than a bit. You quite obviously very smitten by him; 'tis hard to miss.”
    Oh. Am I that transparent, milady?”
    Quite, yes. Has Octa ever talked to you about this matter?”
    Well... No. I've never really admitted it to him...”
    That's strange. This should be as easy to recognise to him as 'tis to me, so he should have told you to avoid damaging your feelings over the long run.”
    Tell me what?” Toxica asked with a growing sense of dread.
    That it is impossible for him to reciprocate your feelings, even if he did feel the same way for you. Our family is kept pure-blooded and noble, so that our descendants can claim the same birth that we can. He shan't choose a Vileplume without a house as his mate, for he shall choose the mate his family, ergo us, choose for him.”
    Toxica felt crushed.
    I understand this sounds harsh and cruel to you now, but 'tis far more cruel to rob his descendants of their nobility. Octa knows this and shall never allow himself to fraternise with anyone we do not pick as his mate. It has been our way for thirty-five generations, and so it shall be for hundreds more. I am surprised he never told you this to spare your feelings...”
    B-but...” Toxica stammered. “What about your husband's brother, milady? I mean, surely the family can't have chosen Brittanicus as his mate, 'cause they can't have kids together for obvious reasons...”
    Ah, but my husband made a big exception in the case of his brother Tiberius. You see, first of all, Tiberius had done his duty to the family already, choosing the mate chosen for him and procreating with her, despite not being attracted to females. When she and my husband's father died shortly after each other, the family, after much insistence of my husband, it's new leader, decided to choose Brittanicus, whom my brother had always loved, as my brother's second mate as a service to him. However, Tiberius' duty to the family had already been done, and there was no risk of contaminating the bloodline from the union with Brittanicus. Aside from the most obvious reason, Brittanicus is also a Serperior of noble blood himself. I'm afraid that even if you were to wait for Octa's mate to die, you could never be chosen as his second mate, for a union with you would risk contaminating the bloodline with your lower-class and Vileplume blood. I apologise, but 'tis our way. And I also apologise for my son's behaviour, not telling you this sooner, when you would not have wasted so much emotion on him.”
    Toxica's eyes filled with tears. Claudia was right: the arranged mating of Octa's family might be cruel, but for him not to tell her anything about it was even worse. She had spent a whole year fawning over him, thinking she had a chance. Claudia talked on, trying to give her some solace, but Toxica didn't listen and could only think about Octa. He was a cold-hearted, haughty, overly arrogant bastard, she thought. A miserable upper-class twit, and if he'd told her about this she wouldn't have wasted so many emotions for such a long time on him.
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