*aromatisse noise*

Seen 11 Hours Ago
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
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13.1 Years
Chapter 4 – Bound to Happen

Jen gazed out the window, idly watching the passing cars as well as the people in the park beyond. He hoped, as he’d done more than once since waking, for something more interesting to make an appearance out there, something that might help take his mind off his father’s current whereabouts, if only for a while.

He’d tried not to worry too much about Syr in the time since the arbok had left for the south, but it was proving much too difficult. After all, his father was going up against the killers of an entire species.

The possible killers, Jen told himself yet again, hoping as before to make Syr’s task seem rather less insurmountable. Less dangerous. I really shouldn’t jump to conclusions, he added this time around. His father and the human and all the rest of them had seemed convinced that the deranics had pulled the figurative trigger, but for that matter, Jen had been convinced that Anomaly was nothing but an ordinary gardevoir.

Jen winced. His latest effort to calm his worries had just backfired. Now he had another concern on the brain: the fact that the same creature who’d abused his trust, tried to murder him, and destroyed his home was technically accompanying Syr on his mission. There was nothing between the nullshade and the arbok but a metal sphere and the strange process that converted people into portable energy.

Unconsciously, he lifted a claw to his mouth, gnawing at it as he wondered how inescapable those things really were. Anomaly’s prison was one of the stronger models, according to Ren. But he knew firsthand how powerful that creature was, and how ruthless…


The unexpected noise startled Jen, causing him to accidentally nick his tongue with that claw. He hissed at the pain and stared confusedly at his hand for a moment, vaguely wondering when it had gotten anywhere near his face.

He turned toward the speaker and found Babs heading for the kitchen. “Did you fix it?” he asked as he followed her in.

“I wish, but no. I’m just remembering to take a break and eat for once,” Babs responded. She swung the cupboard wide open and pulled out a half-empty bag of tiny, dead insects. “…Want any?” she asked as she removed the clip that held it shut.

Jen almost declined her offer, but then reconsidered. He wasn’t particularly hungry, but it was a snack he hadn’t tried before. A potential distraction from the things on his mind, however small. “Sure,” he said, and slithered closer. He let Babs shake a few bugs out into his hand, prodded and examined them for a moment, then froze the lot of them and put them in his mouth.

“…Huh. They’re not bad, I guess,” he remarked a couple of moments later.

Babs chuckled. “Of course they’re not. And they’re loaded with energy, too. Which I’m gonna need, if that tube continues being such a stubborn little—”

* * *

“Waaaake up. C’mon, sleepyscales.”

It wasn’t the first time Syr had heard the light, breathy voice in the past few minutes. But this time, he realized that the voice was coming from outside his current surroundings. From outside his dream.

He felt someone poking at him with what had to be at least seven fingers at once and finally finished waking up, lifting his head and releasing an enormous yawn that all but turned his face inside-out. His jaws popped back into place, and he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with his tail so that he could assess the current situation.

Still in the forest, just as before. The wind had died down a little more, and more of the day’s last light was filtering through the leaves than there’d been the past couple of evenings. It felt a bit warmer, too. Syr nodded in approval to no one in particular. If things really were clearing up, perhaps they wouldn’t get stuck hiding from another thunderstorm.

The puddle was still at his side, though smaller than before. He lapped at it some more; it wasn’t as cold this time, and more sediment had accumulated in it. Ren had his canteen out again, and Syr didn’t doubt for a second that the human’s water supply was tastier. Still, he held his tongue. Filter or no filter, no human could handle potentially contaminated water better than a poison-type could. Syr figured that if anyone ought to be rolling those particular dice, it was him.

Acheron was back in the ball, meanwhile, and Demi had taken his place in the clearing. “I’ll be back in a few,” she said, then strode off out of sight.

“Still not joining her, huh?”

Syr stopped staring off in the direction Demi had gone and met Ren’s gaze. “Oh… No, I’m not hungry,” he reminded him automatically. “I just ate last week.”

“I know.” Back into the pack the canteen went. “You’re still not entirely comfortable with them, are you.”

Syr was too embarrassed to answer at first. “Yeah,” he finally admitted. “I’m trying, though. I’m trying to see Demi and Acheron when I look at them and not… you know. I know they’re not going to hurt me. I know they had nothing to do with anything that happened last week. It just…”

“Happened last week,” Ren said quietly. “Literally just a few days ago.” He stood and approached the arbok, stepping in the puddle beside him but apparently not noticing. He put a hand against Syr’s back. “For both of us. What I’m getting at is… I’m not taking it personally that you’re still getting used to the twins. Neither are they. We get it.”

Of course. Of course they got it. Loss was at their tails as much as it was at his own—even moreso for Ren, who’d lost his entire race. Whose species would die out with him. And even though none of them had witnessed their personal tragedies like Syr had… God knew they could certainly imagine them. And sometimes imagining was a lot worse than knowing.

Something rustled in the distant branches, growing louder by the moment. Syr had very little time to wonder about it before a small group of mankey and vigoroth launched themselves into the clearing from above, claws and fists already glowing on a collision course with—

—Demi, who’d burst back out of the woods and thrown herself into the attackers’ path before they could connect with their intended targets. An orange aura exploded off her skin, forcefully repelling the horde; a couple of them smacked audibly into the trees.

A mankey who’d avoided Demi’s counter trap rolled out of the way of those who didn’t, diving past the kwazai to charge at Ren. Syr lunged to catch the fighting-type, only to overshoot as an invisible force field caught the mankey short. He faceplanted into the damp soil, half-wondering exactly when Ren had found the time to let Karo out.

Syr started to get up, but he flattened himself against the ground once more at the sound of a reflux beam roaring through the air. Something landed on his back in nearly the same instant, knocking the breath out of him and slashing at his hood. Syr twisted himself about on instinct, his coils wrapping around his attacker: a vigoroth, he discovered. Once he could actually see the thing, the fangs went in. He tightened his grip as the venom went to work; within seconds, the vigoroth passed out.

Around that point, things became somewhat quieter. A quick look around told Syr that most of the attackers were down for the count, lying at the twins’ muddy, bloody feet. The mankey who’d crashed into Karo’s block field was the only one still awake, sprawled and groaning and cursing in front of the nosepass. Ren was crouching next to Karo, clutching him tightly.

“All right. Shift the field over to that mankey,” the human said. “Don’t let her get up, but make sure she can still talk.”

Karo did as instructed. The mankey’s eyes went wide. “Augh, no! Let go of me!” she screeched.

“What, so you can put a crack in my nose? Not happening.” Karo leaned toward her, staring down his nose. He let a couple of sparks crackle over it as he chuckled ominously.

“No, you’ve got some explaining to do,” Ren told the mankey. “What was that all about?” he demanded, indicating the fallen pokémon with a wave.

“Oh, like it even matters what I say to you.” She rolled her eyes. “Stupid-ass human…”

“It matters,” Ren said, earning a highly bemused look from the fighting-type, “because I’m sure you’d like to get this over with as soon as possible. Demi?”

At his prompt, Demi stepped up and lowered one of her hands onto the mankey’s large, fuzzy head. Acheron joined her for good measure, bringing his head as close to their captive’s eye level as he could and growling deep within his throat. A dark gray aura briefly pulsed around him: shadow tag. Even if Karo lost hold of the block, the mankey wasn’t going anywhere.

“A-ah… I’m not scared of you,” the mankey said, and she couldn’t have sounded less convincing if she’d tried. “We knew you wouldn’t be alone. She said you had pokémon—”

“She?” Ren cocked his head. “Wouldn’t happen to be a kecleon, now would she?”

The mankey gave him no response other than a wild stare, sweat dampening her fur. Demi gave her a little squeeze. “Ack! Okay, yes, you typeless piece of crap, yes she was a kecleon. Said someone was running good people out of their homes around here—”

“That was not her home,” Karo said, half-snorting.

The mankey glared up at Karo. “Running good people out of their homes,” she repeated, “and scaring the locals. She wanted you out of the area. We all want you out of here.” Her eyes darted to meet Syr’s. “So why don’t you just go back south with the rest of the snakes and leave us alone?”

Snakes? Syr could practically feel his trains of thought grind to a halt in unison, but his mind jolted back to work just as quickly. Suddenly all he could think of was the last time he’d seen snakes in the south…

“We didn’t come from the south,” Acheron told the mankey. “And we’re not here to cause any trouble. We’re just passing through.”

The mankey scoffed. Her eyes traveled from Syr back to Ren and narrowed. “I don’t believe you,” she said simply, coldly.

“Okay,” Ren said, rubbing at his temple, “okay. Demi?” he said again.

At this, Demi let loose a psybeam right in the mankey’s face. The fighting-type’s eyes rolled back, and she was out like a light.

“Bound to happen sooner or later,” Ren muttered to himself.

Syr didn’t follow at first, but then the rest of his mind began filtering back up through the stirred memories. No, he realized, he didn’t need any clarification at all. He’d heard the sorts of things coming out of the mankey’s unseen mouth.

Now that the last of the attackers had gone quiet, his own injuries were vying for his attention once more. His back stung now more than ever. “Ren? Could you…”

But Ren was already pulling max potions out of his backpack. He tossed one each to Demi and Acheron, then approached Karo with another pair of them tucked under his arm. “Need any?” he asked.

“Nah. But I’d sure like to get out of this mud.” Karo grumbled wordlessly at the mushy ground for a moment before disappearing into the ball once more.

“You?” Ren asked Syr as he returned the great ball to his belt.

“Yeah.” Syr turned his back to the human. Soon after, he felt the spray of medicine against his back. He hissed as the pain flared hotter for a moment, then relaxed as the wounds closed and it faded out completely.

“Let’s get going,” Demi said, crushing her empty potion bottle before stashing it back into the pack. “Before those three wake up.”

Syr hadn’t had time to count the attackers, but he could have sworn there’d been at least six. He tried not to dwell too much on what had happened to the other three.

“Agreed,” Ren said, hesitating very briefly before recalling Acheron. He let Demi put the arbok’s leash back on, then grabbed up their supplies.

Soon, they were southbound once more. But Syr’s thoughts had a head start on them all. The distant past felt far less distant, and the fields and faces he’d abandoned were as clear in his mind’s eye as if they lay right in front of him.

Before, Syr could only wonder if the ekans he’d helped save had stayed where he’d left them. Now he was all too certain that they had.