White Heart Black Bones [PG-14]
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March 2nd, 2012 (2:40 PM). Edited March 3rd, 2012 by OpenDoorLeia.
The Will of One
PART TWO START
“Ladies and gentlemen of Unova, my name is Ghetsis. I have come here to talk to you about Pokémon liberation.”
With a starting line so simple yet moot, the crowd’s growing interest was immediately snared.
“Pokémon are sentient beings, it is an inarguable fact. Both humans and Pokémon have co-existed together for as long as time can recall. We have worked together and forged bonds together, but I ask you… is this really the truth?”
A tumultuous noise grew from the people around me, buzzing from their gaping lips like static.
What was this man saying
? The collective of their words formed this final thought. I watched the heralder as he spoke, with words echoing across the townscape. I seemed so captivated by his figure and his voice. I watched every movement he made, and eagerly clung to every word he said. The more I watched him, the less he seemed like a man…
His crimson eyes scoured the throng’s questioning yet attentive features; he seemed to regard them all as slabs of meat. This orator… what was he speaking? Was he questioning our ideals, our truths?
“Pokémon are subjected to our selfish commands and are forced to battle each other against their own will and desire. They are pushed around and degraded… while in reality we claim them as our partners. Can anyone dispute what I am saying?”
The people turned to each other in confusion, sharing looks of question and worry. Every set of eyes pretended to understand what was happening, but they were just empty holes fused to empty heads; they feigned both knowledge and comprehension. I was exactly the same as them; a being who only watched events unfurl, ignorant of their consequence. I can’t help but wonder how those people would have reacted if they knew the future this man’s words would bring about…
The preacher suddenly raised his arms against a slate-gray sky, parting the robe he wore.
“In order for us, as people, to learn from these spectacular beings known as Pokémon, we are presented with a task.
What is that task you may ask? The answer is very simple…”
The man paused for a moment before opening his arms in a vast, sweeping gesture. “
We must liberate Pokémon!”
The crowd began to drone with noise again. “Liberate…?” Cheren questioned from beside me; his voice was almost drowned out by the chattering bodies that surrounded us. “I don’t like the way that sounds…” he mused skeptically, holding his chin with his thumb and index finger.
If Pokémon were to be liberated… wouldn’t that mean separating them from people? That’s not right. That’s unthinkable. Nothing benign could beget this act. The idea unnerved me more than I let show. I had just received my first Pokémon a mere few days ago, and now there were people around with the intent of severing our bonds? I hated it, and in a way I felt cheated. As far as I was concerned there was no way that this man could be right.
“In order for both people and Pokémon to be clearly seen as our equivalents, we must liberate them. Then, and only then will we be able to stand eye-to-eye with each other, and following that a new world of opportunities shall present itself to us. I conclude my speech here, ladies and gentlemen. We sincerely appreciate the time and attention you have given us this day.”
With that closing thought, the man named Ghetsis stepped down from his podium and was swallowed up by his entourage of soldiers and led away from town. The crowd of bodies that surrounded my friend and I continued to prattle on about what they had heard.
“Who’s ever heard of such a ridiculous idea?!”
“As if that’s even possible!”
“But… what if that man is right…?”
“What do you think Touko?” I looked up towards my raven-haired companion who wore a familiar look of indifference on his face. When I didn’t form an immediate response, Cheren continued on, “What that man was saying… Pokémon liberation… When you spruce it up with flowery dialect like that, anything can sound good… though I can’t help but think that this ‘
has some sort of ulterior motive.” My friend almost seemed to glower at the dispersing crowd as they wandered back into their houses and into the streets.
“Yeah, but…” I suddenly found my voice only to be silenced a moment later. Something had caught my eye over the emptying town square. A lean boy was standing in a shroud of shadows given off by the overcast sky, and made even more powerful by the brim of his hat. Even after all the townsfolk had left, he was the only person that remained. It made me wonder why. What did he want, and why was he looking at me with such burning eyes? The intensity of his look kept my words withheld, and I shuddered.
“Who is that person?” Cheren spoke my mind as he too noticed the boy. I didn’t answer because almost as if on cue the mysterious figure approached.
The man came to a stop right in front of me. I stared up at him while nervousness grew in the pit of my stomach. There was something very
about this boy, so much so that I felt a vague repulsion towards him. But human beings can often be afraid of things they don’t understand, and this boy who stood a few heads above mine was an enigma to say the least. I craned my neck to make eye contact with him in the hopes my nervousness would vanish once I got a better look at his face. I felt anything but soothed as I was met with a pair of analytic gray eyes, staring me down as if sizing up some sort of prey. I could only look at the boy in this soundless moment, though Cheren offered a different approach by trying to push the imposing boy back with an unfriendly stare.
I did feel fairly taken out of my comfort zone because of how odd this guy was, but I also felt kind of intrigued by him in a way. Why had he bothered to approach the both of us after such a milestone event had occurred? Did he wish to speak his truths as well? My curiosity prompted me to arouse conversation, since it didn’t look like anyone else was going to, and the awkward silence was already driving me mad.
The man lifted the brim of his hat a notch and suddenly launched his words at me, “Just now your Pokémon it was saying…”
“Hold on,” Cheren put his hands up haltingly, “slow down will you? You talk way too fast. And what do you mean about Pokémon… talking? That’s an odd thing to say…”
The strange boy almost seemed to glower at Cheren under his verdant bangs, “I see… So you can’t hear it either? That’s quite unfortunate,” he addressed me again, “my name is N.”
Cheren looked a little ruffled by this guy, who could only be described as different, but he didn’t let that affect his manners. “My name is Cheren and this is my friend Touko,” he sent a small gesture my way, “we’ve just started on our journey to complete the Pokédex.”
N’s eyes blazed at the mere mention of the Pokédex. “I see. But in order to do that you’re going to confine countless Pokémon in those capsules. I am also a trainer but I can’t help but wonder… are Pokémon really happy this way?” he began to proceed closer and I could already feel Cheren become on edge, but I simply continued to stare this boy down.
After hearing N talk, the way he spoke with such emotion, he seemed to be on the side of the mysterious Team Plasma who wanted to set Pokémon free. And in addition to that, he claimed that he could hear the voice of my Pokémon? I didn’t believe him and I was willing to challenge his boast.
“You can hear the voices of Pokémon!!?” Both boys jumped in surprise. I was even startled by my own voice, which was much louder than it should have been. I lowered it accordingly, slightly abashed by their looks, and continued, “I’ve never heard anything like that before. Maybe if we had a battle you could tell me what my Pokémon was saying.”
N stared me down in contemplation.
“Touko,” Cheren inched up beside me and whispered into my ear. “You sure this is a good idea? This guy seems a little…”
I had to cut him off, “Well he says he can understand what my Pokémon are saying.” I plucked Hyle from my belt, “Wouldn’t he be able to tell me if my Pokémon want to be set free?” I was still upset about what Team Plasma had said and I was torn. I didn’t want to give up my Pokémon who I loved so dearly. If I fought this man who said he could hear the voices of Pokémon… and I beat him… perhaps that meant that Team Plasma was wrong. Because I really didn’t want them to be right.
N stepped back in order to make room for our battle. “You’re just as hot-headed as ever,” Cheren grumbled before backing off.
N drew a Pokéball from his belt, “Then. Shall we begin?”
The first battle that I ever had with N was short and sweet. It was decided in only a few moves and it wasn’t long before his Purrloin was incapacitated. I couldn’t help but notice that during the whole battle N wore the most astounded look on his face. He was in shock and it wasn’t because he was losing. I soon realized that he really could hear what my Tepig was saying to me. And when the battle had been decided he was only able to say, “… I was not aware that Pokémon could say such things…”
Even if he heard it back then, even if N realized that my Pokémon were happy by my side, he continued to pursue his ideals and his truths. He wanted to enter a future built for Pokémon and Pokémon alone, and if that meant expunging humans from that equation that would be perfectly fine with him. But ignorance made the both of us weak, and when Ghetsis pulled the rug from under our feet we toppled—we were knocked down because both of our futures were wrong. We failed, and as a result Unova was molded into something else.
What is going on beyond the windows which I gaze?
I don’t know because the world is too far down for me to see. Even if my eyes were made of steel I could not see through the smoke, through the sadness and through the blood. I knew that the world below the heavens was burning, but I did not know in which ways.
But I reentered that world, and I wasn’t alone when I did it, and that small blessing made the following events… just a little less painful.
Blood in the sky
turn your back on the castle of corruption
“N!” I huffed, doubling over. “Slow down will you?” N turned around, staring at me obliviously as I hunched, hands on my knees, desperately trying to catch my breath.
“What’s the matter Touko?”
I frowned, unable to believe he had the gall to ask that, “My legs feel like blocks of concrete is what’s wrong!” I tried to steady my breathing. “Let’s take… a break…”
N walked over with a strange look of worry and pity clouding his features. “… We can’t stop now,” he almost stated, casting a weary glance to the sky which was only partially shaded by the entwining forest branches. “Ghetsis has most likely sent his soldiers to either capture or terminate us… I wouldn’t like either one of those options to become a reality…”
I flopped down on my rear and leant against a great oak, “I know… but how about just five minutes,” I grinned innocently.
I must have won him over with that cheesy smile because he immediately sighed in defeat, “Alright then,” and took a seat beside me.
The two of us sat in the woodland that sprawled below Team Plasma’s castle. Apart from the faint breeze howling through the trees, an unnerving silence surrounded us. It was strange, considering it was a forest and all; it should have been full of life. But we saw no Pokémon in this place; no Lillipup’s scampering about; no Patrat gathering nuts for winter. There was nothing. The wind was our only company, and it met us in a cold caress.
The emptiness was a little bit painful, so in an attempt to block it from my mind I had thought back to the conversation N and I had that same morning. I remembered it well. When the night had ended and the dawn had come, N and I began our trek away from Team Plasma’s castle. Our bodies were sore from the recent escape, and I was worried if N was well enough to handle all the walking, but he insisted so off we went.
Before the two of us set out, we had debated shortly on our next plan of action. I thought about heading to Opelucid City. I figured it would be a good place to start, considering that it’s the closest city from the castle and all. It would be a good place to gather information on the current state of affairs and to see what kind of changes Team Plasma had made to the region while I was locked away. I knew they wanted to separate humans and Pokémon, but to what extent had they taken that idea?
We can’t do that.
” N said.
I could only blink at him, “
While your reasoning makes sense, I fear that it would be too predictable to head for Opelucid now.
” N explained while we snacked on what remained of our rations, “
Since it’s the closest city from the castle, it is likely to be loaded with soldiers and the like, not only that but there’s a good chance they’ll be expecting us. Let me assure you, going to Opelucid would be the equivalent of a death sentence.
That was a clear deterrent. I would have hated to go there only to be recaptured again. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
Good points. So then… where do you think is a good place to start…?”
I tried to get an internal list of possibilities going, but I didn’t get too far when N spoke again.
How about your hometown Touko?”
I could only stare at him, since his suggestion came as a bit of a surprise.“
It is the farthest town from the imperial castle… if I’m not mistaken. And there’s a fair chance that your family and friends may be there too. I know you’re strong Touko, but it would be beneficial for us to join up with some allies. Neither one of us knows very much about how this world has changed… we need to know more if we wish to throw Team Plasma from their position of power.”
I wondered if heading to Nuvema, my birth town, was just as predictable but N told me that the pros outweighed the cons in this situation. So we headed out. After packing our supplies and sealing up our Pokémon we dove into the forest beyond.
We had been stomping around on tired legs for what I would guess was a few hours into morning, and the complaining of my joints warranted a little break, at least for a few minutes. Though I was the picture of exhaustion, N seemed unfazed by our constant hiking through the rugged terrain.
What kind of superhuman is he
…? I couldn’t help but wonder.
“N…” I broke the silence, keeping my eyes set on the ground.
He didn’t respond immediately, “What is it Touko?”
“When are…” I gnawed lip nervously, “uhm… when are we… going to be flying…?”
Before he could answer I continued to blubber on, “I mean, because we’re going to have to get to Nuvema town somehow right? I mean, we can’t just hike all the way there. What am I saying, that’s impossible with the state my legs are in. But maybe we could pull it off, you know, and it like, could be safer too. I uh…” N grabbed my hand tightly in his own and stared at me with dead seriousness. My voice was lost.
“Touko…” he said solemnly before his expression suddenly softened. “You’re afraid of flying aren’t you?”
A rush of colour came to my cheeks, “Yes. It’s the stupid heights.” I hung my head in shame.
“I don’t think you need to feel bad about it…” he said carefully. “Everyone is afraid of something… aren’t they…” a not so subtle hint of sadness was heard in his voice. I flashed a look of confusion his way but decided not to pry.
I kept on-topic instead. “But how are we supposed to get there if I can’t fly?”
N smiled, “I believe you can do it Touko. Rhoden believes in you to.” Impossibly, his smile became wider, “And I’ll be here for you. So you don’t need to worry. Okay?”
Somehow, his kindness and faith put me at ease. Though it takes a lot more than gentle words to drive out a fear, N did a good job at settling me down until we reached a clearing in the forest. I was still anxious; my throat was dry and I couldn’t stop shaking. My heartbeat thrummed through my head as a flock of butterflies fluttered madly in my stomach. I was scared. I knew that, but after I realized it, I accepted it in a way. I told myself that no matter how nervous or scared I was, I couldn’t let the fear get the better of me. Flying was something that I was going to have to do. I couldn’t turn by back, because I’d already run away long enough. If I’d escaped Team Plasma’s castle, then I could certainly do this.
I plucked Rhoden from my belt and called him forth.
“Rhoden,” I stared at my great eagle with slight distress. He simply stared back, “We’re going to be flying.” He cocked in head to the side in surprise.
“I know!” I wailed.
“We have to hurry,” N said, looking over the forest uneasily to where Team Plasma’s stronghold loomed over the sky. Even though we had put a fair amount of distance between ourselves and the castle, it could still be seen over the horizon. The sight was ominous as it stood there like a colossal ghost, turning the forests and mountains that surrounded it into twigs and molehills. It leered from its position in the sky, and it watched as we left it behind. But I had a feeling that no matter how far away from it we ran, we’d still be able to see its towers in the sky. It would always be watching, and waiting for us to return.
“Okay.” I said, removing my eyes from the sight and facing Rhoden uneasily. “Okay. Okay. I can do this…Okay.” Rhoden knelt down and I stumbled onto his back clumsily. N followed suit, mounting my Braviary gracefully and sitting behind me.
“Are you ready Touko?” he asked, wrapping his arms around my waist.
I clung onto Rhoden’s plumage tightly, but not so tight as to hurt him. “Y-yeah… I’m…” I swallowed hard, “I’m ready.”
“Okay.” N responded, but I can’t imagine that he was convinced.
I sucked in a deep breath, closed my eyes and focused on finding my center. I composed myself before the liftoff.
I’ll be okay. Rhoden won’t let me fall. I know that I can do this…
I thought back to the moment when I decided to escape Team Plasma’s castle. The very instant it happened. The feelings I held when I forced back the sadness and fear and stepped out those windows. The desires I had to save the people and Pokémon in this world.
I can do this…
I can do this…
I won’t turn back…
I won’t run away…
I opened my eyes and looked up.
I won’t give up.
“Rhoden, use Fly.” My Braviary kicked off the ground, beating his massive wings and taking us above the treetops in a matter of seconds.
My eyes automatically slammed shut, “Ahh- ah n-not above the treetops!! Not above the trees!!” I wailed out, leaning down closer to Rhoden’s sturdy body as we gained altitude. I could have sworn that I heard my Pokémon give an irritated sigh as he halted his upward climb and held his course stationary above the disappearing treetops. Rhoden was happy to be free, just like I was, and I’m sure that all he wanted to do was breach the very limits of the sky with his newfound wings. But with the fear I was feeling, that wasn’t going to be happening.
“Touko, calm down it’s alright,” I could just barely hear N’s voice through the howling wind, “take a look.”
I opened my eye a fraction to see the barren land passing below us, and I realized that it wasn’t so bad. We weren’t as high up as I thought we’d be. I mean, I had been looking out the windows of N’s room for so long that this height really seemed like small potatoes. Rhoden had kept with my demands and glided just above the treeline. My heart was still thumping; my white-knuckled hands were still strangling Rhoden’s feathers, but I was okay.
I hissed out a quivering sigh. “I-I guess,” My head spun around in all directions. “I guess it’s not so bad.” I followed that remark with a nervous laugh.
“We’ll be okay. Rhoden would never do anything to hurt you Touko,” N was saying, and my Braviary squawked in agreement. I felt N rest his chin on my shoulder, which sent a jolt of nervousness through my gut. “We’ll probably reach Nuvema town by midday tomorrow.”
“Yeah…” I said, looking over the horizon. I wondered what was waiting for me back in my home town. Was my mother still there? What had happened to Cheren and Bianca? What about the Professor? I had been absent from the world for such a long time that I wasn’t sure how much had changed. I tried to prepare myself for any outcome, but even that was impossible. I could only wait until we arrived back home.
We had been flying in silence for quite a while. I had grown used to the heights and the feeling of N’s arms around me, so I wasn’t as terrified as before. But if Rhoden tried to elevate too far above the treeline he was sure to hear about it. I didn’t enjoy keeping Rhoden so grounded, and seeing him cast longing glances towards the sky really depressed me, but I wasn’t sure that I could handle being up that high. So we kept flying low.
I soon discovered that late fall was no time to be flying around; it was nothing less than freezing up there. The iciness of the wind tore through my clothes and pinched into my skin. And besides the goose pimples that coated me, my nose felt like an icicle and I even heard N fire off a few sneezes, which sounded like an air horn and scared me out of my skin. But we simply had to grin and bear it since walking wasn’t much of an option.
We also avoided coming in contact with the main traveling routes during our flight. N advised that if we drew too near to the towns and routes there was a high chance that we would be spotted by Plasma operatives, and that was a risk we really didn’t want to take. So we kept our distance from the populated areas and didn’t come into contact with a single soul of either human or Pokémon. That was until the following evening.
I could assume that we had flown further south than Opelucid city but there was no sure way to tell; all I could see below were bony deciduous trees and the peaks of the shaggy evergreens going by. The sun was setting over the mountainous horizon, splaying a collective of fiery colours over the sky: an inferno of red which melded right down to a deep purple above our heads. I let out a yawn, causing puffs of air to drift from my mouth and N let out a little shiver. We were going to have to land once the night set in, so at least we could get a little sleep, and spare ourselves from contracting hypothermia in the frigid sky. But before I could even ask where we should descend, I felt N shift behind me as if he was turning around.
“Touko…” the edge in his voice set me off. Something was wrong. “I hate to distress you…” he said carefully, “but we’re being followed.” My hands clenched tighter on Rhoden’s feathers; there was no possible way he could have said that without distressing me.
“Who is it?” I asked, keeping my eyes fixed on the descending sun.
“It’s the Team Plasma Aerial Division,” N cursed. “I was hoping we wouldn’t run into them. We’re not even half way there…”
“Do you think we can outrun them?” I tried to keep myself steady and calm; the last thing I needed was to panic.
“They’re known for their persistence,” he responded. “They’ll follow us to the ends of the earth if they have too.”
“Rhoden. Stop,” Rhoden came to a halt with a thrum of massive wings, leaving us suspended in the icy orange sky. We turned around to face our pursuers and came to see many black dots which speckled the darkening violet sky, and they grew in size as they approached. I let out a shuddering breath, staring them down and trying to sum up a number, and trying to keep myself from losing my head in the process.
“How many do you think there are?” I asked. I wasn’t pleased that a crack of fear had distorted my voice.
N paused for a moment, “It looks like there are about twelve.”
I grit my teeth. This was definitely not good. We couldn’t turn tail and run because that wouldn’t solve anything. They’d just continue to pursue us until we were brought down and captured. The figures drew closer and closer and I managed to pick out a few details. Many of the soldiers were riding atop Unfezant and Tranquill, each Pokémon was reined, hooded and wore a garb emblazoned with the Team Plasma coat of arms.
“That’s the leader,” N said, pointing to a dark, vulture-esque Pokémon which leered at us near the back of the flock. Even from this distance I could see the piercing eyes of a Mandibuzz. The rider of the sinister Pokémon was clothed in blacks and dark browns: a colour scheme which matched his Pokémon to a T. The rider’s face was obscured by a beak-like helm which gleamed in the falling sunlight. They were getting close.
I took in a deep breath and swallowed my fears. “Alright.” There was no other option. We were going to have to fight these guys. The mere thought terrified me considering I had hardly even flown before, let alone had to partake in an aerial battle. Fate seemed to be frowning on me now, but after all I’d gone through to break out of Team Plasma’s blasted castle, I wasn’t about to get chained up again. And that feeling alone pushed down the terror.
“Rhoden… are you ready for this?” I asked as the riders drew near. My Braviary beat his massive wings threateningly: screeching eagerly. I should have known he wouldn’t back down. “Good. We’re going to take these guys out!”
N tightened his grip around my waist once my words disappeared into the air.
A trinity of Tranquil shot a Quick Attack at us: boxing us in from the front and both left and right sides. There was no way to evade but to go up.
“Rhoden dodge it!” My Braviary shot into the sky and I suppressed a scream as the wind beat against my body. We arced over our adversaries and towards the cirrus clouds above. I forced my eyes open to see if the three Tranquil had collided with each other after we had fled. I didn’t have a chance to look before N shouted my name. I looked forward to find a duo of Unfezant heading straight for us with dark talons extended.
I cursed, reacting a little too late, “Rhoden, Dodge!!” Rhoden weaned to the side, evading the first attack as the Unfezant blew by—narrowly missing us. The second Unfezant was coming in fast and we didn’t have enough time to dodge. Rhoden avoided a fatal blow with his sharp senses, jerking out of the way at the last moment, but the Plasma Unfezant managed to take a hit at his wing. We teetered as a flurry of feathers broke from my Pokémon’s body: drifting away in the faint breeze.
“Rhoden? Are you okay?!” He squawked a response.
“He’s alright,” N translated.
. “Rhoden! Dive down!” My Braviary took a nosedive towards the trees below. We rushed past another couple of Unfezant on the way and they immediately made to pursue.
I clung onto Rhoden with all my strength as we barreled down with Plasma soldiers following right on our tail. Before we plunged into the forest below, Rhoden curved upward, straightening his trajectory so we wouldn’t collide into the hollow branches. Our pursuers weren’t so lucky. I heard the crash and snap of many branches and bones as our enemies fell into the forest.
I was almost laughing out of pure fear and exhilaration. I couldn’t believe this was happening or that we were pulling this off. I couldn’t rejoice long as a dual-pair of Tranquill came up beside us. I choked on a gasp. They’d caught up to us already? Even more surprising was that they were able to match Rhoden’s speed. My reaction was delayed and I couldn’t call out an attack.
“Touko!!” N shouted, trying to pull me back into reality.
I cursed as the pair of enemies began to lash out at us with their claws and beaks.
“Rhoden! Up!!” In response my Braviary sped towards the clouds, and I immediately regretted my decision. I could feel the altitude pressing against me: the tempest of wind ferociously pummeling my clothes and hair and howling through my ears. I almost felt like I was going to slip off my Pokémon’s back and tumble to my death, but N and I managed to hang on.
Upon breaking the surface of the cloud-line Rhoden stopped his upward arc and flew forward. Nearly a second later, before I even had time to get a breath, three Tranquill and one Unfezant appeared from under the blanket of clouds. Rhoden was immobilized, waiting for my orders and trying as best he could to fend off our attackers with his massive talons. I was too paralyzed by fear to speak—my throat felt frozen. And besides that, I could hardly get a word out with all the wings beating against my body and the claws tearing at my skin.
“Rho—…” I tried to choke out against the resistance, “RHODEN USE CRUSH CLAW!!!” I screamed as loud as I could. Rhoden extended his talons and brought them down with force against a very unfortunate Tranquill below. I heard the fragile bones in its wings snap as my Braviary clenched it in his claws.
“Finish it with Peck!” Rhoden drove his beak deep into our enemy’s skull and he fell below the clouds in a lifeless hunk. I could almost see N cringing behind me. I didn’t mean to be so violent, but it was the only way to deal with our enemies. It was either kill or be killed in these skies.
I ordered my avian Pokémon to use Crush Claw against the remainder of opponents, and Rhoden was merciless. He snapped their necks, gouged their eyes and smashed his skull into their chests. They were dealt with, leaving only gray feathers dancing over the air.
I expected more enemies to emerge out of the clouds and swarm us but none came.
“Where are they…?” I wheezed, but my attention was drawn by a black shadow which broke the cloud-line and headed right for us. I managed to see it quickly enough to evade, “Rho-Rhoden! Dodge!” He weaned out of the way just in time as a massive Mandibuzz flew past.
My Pokémon halted, turning around slowly to face our enemy who was hovering a few yards away.
“Pretty valiant fighting so far!” The leader boomed in a frighteningly loud voice; I have no idea how it carried so far over the roaring winds of the atmosphere. “Sorry to say that I’m going to shoot you out of the sky!” I swore I saw him sneering beneath his beak-like helm, and in response his Mandibuzz cawed deviously, “It all ends today!”
I returned the sneer, trembling like mad but feeling more confident then I looked. “We’re not going to let this punk beat us, are we Rhoden?” He screeched menacingly in response. I didn’t need N to translate that. Rhoden was saying ‘
let’s do it
!’ and I didn’t wait another second.
We both sped towards each other at breakneck speeds. By our trajectories it looked like we were about to collide, but we changed course at the last second.
“Use Dark Pulse!!” The Plasma leader shouted on the pass. A dark wave of energy reverberated off the buzzard, striking us hard and throwing Rhoden off course. I nearly slipped off Rhoden’s back as we teetered at a frightening angle, but N was there to catch and steady me, saving me from a nauseating fall. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to thank him. The Mandibuzz was taking advantage of our distress and coming at us with another attack.
“Rhoden! Use Slash!” But my voice was drowned out by the Plasma leader’s next attack.
Mandibuzz’s body seemed to fade for a moment before a heavy force struck my eagle in the stomach. Our opponents had used Faint Attack. They followed up with a Fury Attack, not even giving us a moment to recuperate. The Mandibuzz’s ebony beak struck into Rhoden’s hide with force, drawing blood. As we were hailed, I couldn’t find my voice to speak or to shout out an attack. N seemed just as distressed as I since he was squeezing my waist so tightly I thought my organs were gonna explode. The Mandibuzz drew back, and I thought for a fleeting moment that we’d have a chance to launch a rebuttal, but I was wrong.
Mandibuzz shot at us with such speed and force that it seemed almost invisible for a second. It had used Brave Bird, plowing into Rhoden’s abdomen so hard that N and I were bucked off his back and cast towards the earth below.
The last thing I felt was the soft tips of Rhoden’s feathers against my skin before I was falling weightless through the sky. I was going to die. But even that thought could hardly register itself in my slowly crumbling mind. But you know what the weird thing is? I wasn’t scared. The gales of the atmosphere eviscerated me and the jagged branches below delighted in finishing the job, but I didn’t feel afraid. I simply thought that the burning sky, with the veins of clouds streaking across the expanse, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life. Rhoden, the Mandibuzz and every other vicious fighter on that plain became amorphous blotches that melded into the ocean of colour above.
I was crying. I could tell by the blurred world and the watery drops which slowly drifted from the corners of my eyes. Time itself seemed to grind to a halt.
A sudden voice shattered this strange, ethereal world of pre-death. Someone was calling my name. Somehow through the hurricane of wind which blew past my body, I recognized N’s voice echoing towards me. My eyes forced their way open and I turned my head to the side to see N falling near me. He reached his hand out desperately in my direction… and I realized that he was trying to save me. It was funny. N seemed to think that if he caught hold of me then he could halt our fall and prevent our death. I reached my hand out to him in response, trying as hard as I could to grab hold, just to feel his skin against mine before we hit the unforgiving earth. The winds did all they could to keep us apart but we soon found each other’s hands a moment later, and N pulled me into his embrace. We fell together. I remembered being happy because I thought dying in this boy’s arms wouldn’t be such a bad way to go out, you know?
But it wasn’t over yet—it was far from it. The second I entered N’s arms and felt the heat of his body merge with mine, and the pound of his heart resound in my ears, desire sparked. The numbness that encased me was abruptly driven out with force, and I was filled head-to-toe with a searing desire.
I’m not going to let us die.
“RHODEN!!!” I shouted against the deafening wind. “USE SUPER POWER!!!”
My voice carried into the sky where Rhoden was falling. His eyes flashed open and he turned to the Mandibuzz, rushed at it and plowed into its gut with titanic force. The vulture doubled over, spewing blood as it tumbled back.
After dealing with the leader, Rhoden belted downward, faster then I’d ever seen him go before. But as I saw him shooting towards us in the fall, I couldn’t help but look down to see the bony branches of the forest only a couple yards away. He wasn’t going to make it!
Rhoden could see that too and somehow, and with another great heave of his wings, managed to gain the final push that he needed. He zoomed past us, his image distorted by speed, and caught us on his back. And he came not a second too soon. I heard the branches below tear and snap as my Pokémon’s legs ripped through the foliage. N and I scrambled onto Rhoden’s back. Feeling the warmth and sturdiness of my Pokémon’s body beneath settled me and quelled the fear. If my Pokémon had not been powered up by that last attack, N and I would be mince meat right about now.
“Let’s go!” I shouted to my Braviary. After hearing that I was okay, Rhoden sped forward, fleeing the battle area, getting as far away from our enemies as we could manage. We had taken out their leader, and glancing back I could see the riders were in disarray. They circled around their captain who, judging by his subordinate’s actions, had fallen into the branches below. I wasn’t sure if he was dead or not, but now was the perfect time to escape, and with Rhoden heavily wounded as he was, we couldn’t afford to stick around a fight a losing battle. Thankfully, none of our opponents followed as we disappeared into the darkening sky, and the first stars of night began to spark in the cosmos overhead.
I don’t know where it was that we landed, but after getting as far away from the battle as we could manage, Rhoden landed ungracefully into a small clearing in a brush of evergreens. We stood frozen under the sparkling night sky as I tried to settle my thrumming heart and rid the violent tingling from my body.
“Touko…?” N broke the silence with a winded and shaky voice. “A-are you o-okay?”
I responded by sliding off of my Pokémon’s back and crashing onto the muddy earth. I could hear N gasp as he scrambled off of Rhoden and squatted down beside me. He grabbed firm hold of my shoulders and brushed the hair and dirt from my face, “Touko?”
He looked so worried and distraught, but I couldn’t take him seriously do in part to his hair which was sticking out all over the place, which made him look like he’d been zapped with electricity or something. More surprising then that was the fact that he still had his hat on, which was what shocked me more than anything. How on earth had he managed to keep hold of the bloody thing? His clothes were torn, and he was bleeding a bit, but I figured I looked just has haggard, if not even more so then he did.
So out of all the things I could have done at that moment… I decided to laugh. Well, it wasn’t so much a decision as an involuntary rise of insanity. I threw my face into N’s shoulder and I started weeping and cackling like some sort of maniac. N didn’t respond to my uh, rather crazy antics at first, probably in the process of thinking that I’d become mentally unwell. But after a few moments… he started laughing too.
“I can’t… b-believe that we…” I choked a few audible words out. “I can’t believe that we beat them…!”
He stroked my back with soothing rhythm, grinning like an idiot into my hair, giving out broken chuckles as a response. I guess laughter really is contagious. Rhoden, who I’m sure by this point thought we’d gone mad, nudged me gently with his beak. I pulled my face out of N’s shoulder and stared at my Pokémon who was so incredibly haggard, yet still looked so valiant. I threw my arms around Rhoden then, weeping with both pride and relief, burying my face into his torn plumage.
I kept blubbering into my Pokémon’s chest. He was extremely tolerant for some reason and let me go on for a while as I choked out some intelligible praise, eventually though, N had to pry me off so we could tend to our wounds. Marie was handed with the task of patching up Rhoden’s damage; we figured it best to conserve our minimal supply of potions anyway. N and I on the other hand tried our best to mend our wounds. None of our slashes were too deep or fatal for any serious medical attention. So we dressed ourselves up with stray clothes and such from my pack and set up camp for the night.
“What do you mean we can’t light a fire?” I crossed my arms over my chest as I regarded my friend with slight anger in the failing light.
“I don’t want to risk it,” N answered simply, taking yet another nervous glance towards the night sky, “we may have taken care of the Aerial Division… but I can’t help but think that our efforts yield temporary results. Besides… it looks like it’s going to rain.” He jabbed a finger towards the stars which were being slowly eaten up by cloud cover.
I felt my arms drop, “So, I guess we’re freezing to death then?”
N put up his hands, “Please don’t be bitter about this Touko. I’m not too thrilled with the idea either. But we must do this to survive. We can’t afford to be captured.”
I blew out a sigh, causing plumes of steam to drift from my lips. N was making his argument pretty inarguable. I suppose I was just going to have to go with it, even if I did turn into a frozen mummy by the morning. Anything would be better than getting recaptured.
N caught my attention when he drew a Pokéball from his belt. I didn’t even have time to ask what he was doing before he released Laika. The Zoroark took in a huge breath of air through her nose before blowing it out with a shake of her mane; her way of stretching I suppose.
“The temperatures will likely plummet tonight,” he scratched his Pokémon gently on her jowls, “we can huddle beside Laika.”
I pointed a shaking finger questioningly, “You mean… together?” Was I simply imagining the heat gathering on my cheeks?
“Yes,” N agreed, “it’s an ideal way for us to conserve body heat and maintain our regular body temperature against the wind! Laika can also use her ability to conceal us from any soldiers.”
…That’s what he was thinking of?
N noticed the face I was making, “What’s the matter?”
I blinked, catching myself, “Oh! Nothing, nothing at all. Really!”
Once N and I finished our meager dinner of bread crumbs and apples, we huddled together and Laika wreathed herself around our bodies, just as the wind started to pick up.
“You don’t think there’ll be a storm tonight… do you?” I muffled into his shoulder, trying to rid the blush from my cheeks. It was hard enough trying to keep my voice steady, because my shivering and nervousness really delighted in setting it off and making me look a bit stupid in the process. It’s just that… we were a bit too close for comfort…
“It seems possible,” he took a look back up to the sky, which had now been completely covered in clouds. “But please try to get as much sleep as you can Touko. The body works best when it’s well rested.” N held me closer with a gentle squeeze of his arms and I felt my heart quicken. Whether he was trying to contain the body heat we generated… or just wanted us to be closer together, I’ll never know. I don’t even want to know!!
But by the way the night was going, my body was going to be anything but well rested when the morning came around. A storm did brew, and I could hardly get a wink’s sleep through the blustering winds and the icy sting of rain which fell down. There were moments where I felt myself drift off into fragments of unconsciousness, and the rain was generous and only decided to sprinkle down on occasions. The tree we rested under was an evergreen, with very broad, thick branches that worked kind of like an umbrella, and probably saved the three of us from catching sick.
It was a relief to see the sky brighten in the morning hours once the storm had finally let up. I took my chance to get some decent sleep before we would have to get moving. But even then my attempts at slumber were quashed.
N suddenly tightened his grip on me, jolting me from my half-slumber and shoving me right into his chest. I could hardly even breath, “N…” I muffled into his shirt, “what the hell…?”
“Be quiet!” I jumped at the sharpness in his voice. I squirmed slightly until I was able to peek out of N’s embrace. Only then did I see that his tone was justified. There were Plasma soldiers making their way through the brush only a couple feet away. My hands automatically clenched down onto N’s shirt, bunching the fabric. My heart was thrumming noisily in my ear as I tried to keep my breathing silent. The soldiers drew closer, not looking directly at us, but they scoured the bushes and trees always keeping one eye skyward as they patrolled. Laika’s illusory powers, it seemed, were keeping us hidden for now. I could feel her fur bristle anxiously against my skin as she tried to keep us concealed.
The duo of soldiers were talking, saying something about the direction in which the escaped prisoners had went, but most of their words fell before reaching my ears. My heart rate skyrocketed when one of them looked our way. He stared directly at our position for a few agonizingly slow seconds before approaching. I nearly lost it. My guard tightened with fear and anxiety. I planned on reaching for my Pokémon if this guy were to take another step forward, but luck seemed to be on my side as it were.
“Hey!!” The second grunt suddenly cried. “There they are! I see them!”
His partner, the one who was approaching, suddenly stopped and turned around, “What? Where!?”
“They’re in the sky!” The grunt shouted from behind in the brush somewhere; I couldn’t see him with my face smushed into N’s chest. “They’re flying off westward! Towards Nimbasa it looks like!”
N loosened his death grip on me as the other visible grunt reunited with his partner. The both of them called out their Tranquill, boarded them and headed off into the sky.
I sucked in a deep breath, since now I was able to.
“Whew. That was a close one,” N stated, watching the area where the grunts once stood.
“Yeah. Thanks. You nearly strangled me to death,” I said, giving him a very displeased scowl.
N shrunk back from my look, “Oh. I, uhh, apologize.”
“Okay,” I forgave him (partially), giving his shoulder a pat, “was that Laika’s illusion just now?” I tried to get a look at the Zoroark’s face and wasn’t surprised to see her grinning. “You made those guards think they saw us right?”
“Correct,” N said for his Pokémon, “hopefully it will throw them off our trail for a while, and we can make it to Nuvema Town without further disturbances.”
“Alright,” I pulled myself up out of N’s arms, shifting my weight onto my numb legs and trying to shake the dampness off my clothes. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom, and we’ll get going once I come back, okay?” N didn’t respond but I figured he heard me.
Once business was taken care of, I walked back into the clearing in which we spent the night to see that both N and Laika were gone. I stared blankly at the area for a moment, as if they would suddenly meld from the branches and into view.
A thought occurred to me, “Alright guys. Jokes over. I know you’re hiding behind that illusion…”
Still… nothing moved. My heart started to quicken as I hurriedly called N’s name. Had those Plasma grunts returned only to capture them both? “N?!”
Up here Touko!
A frown creased my face, and I followed the voice with my eyes. “N?” I spotted him waving from the top of a colossal evergreen and my jaw hit the ground.
“Oh my god. What are you doing up there!?” I gasped, craning my neck to try and get a better view. He answered something back but it was lost in the wind. “I can’t hear you!!”
N scaled down the tree with ease a moment later, touching down gracefully. “I said that I was giving the skies a glance over before we took off,” he said casually.
That wasn’t the issue here. “How the hell did you get all the way up there!?” I glanced up again as a reminder to how high he was. “What was that—like, eighty feet?! What if you fell?! Not to mention you climbed down that thing like a freaking Pansage!!” I was convinced N was a superhuman.
“Umm, yeah,” his cheeks coloured as if he was mistaking my shock for praise, “I used to climb trees like this all the time when I was younger. You can find lots of interesting Pokémon up in the trees…” His smile seemed to fade, “But there aren’t any around here…”
I placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, hoping to console him, “We’re going to change that, okay?” I plucked Rhoden from my belt, “let’s get going before anymore soldiers show up.”
He smiled, perhaps showing me that he felt better, and both of us prepared ourselves for flight.
I boarded onto Rhoden, flinging myself onto his back. A motion more graceful than my first attempt, but so fast that I almost fell off the other side. Once I found myself steady, I felt N climb on behind me and wrap his arms gently around my waist.
“Will you be okay?” he asked me. N was probably worried if I had been mentally scarred from that dogfight the other day.
I looked up to where the peaks of the gathering trees circled around us and gave way to the sky. I wouldn’t know until we lifted off, “…Rhoden. Use Fly.”
My Braviary beat his navy wings with quick succession, elevating us higher and higher until we had breached the treeline and the wind rippled past our bodies. My heart beat accelerated as I looked down towards the sprawling landscape below, but something about the fear felt less terrifying and more exhilarating.
“Rhoden…” I called to my avian Pokémon. He turned his head slightly to give me a questioning glance. “You can… go higher if you want too!” I could see my eagle’s eyes light up in question. I nodded with a smile, and he hesitated only a short second before taking us higher. The land below suddenly shrunk; the details became more minute and all melded together to from one large block of forest.
“Touko?” N shouted against the wind. “Is it okay for you to be up this high?” I think he seemed to notice how tightly I was clenching my Pokémon’s feathers.
“It’s okay!” I shouted out, watching as the world went by beneath us, all under one bright sun. I started a laughter that was distorted slightly with fear. “This is fun!” But I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
It was just… being this high up seemed more beautiful then frightening now.
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