*aromatisse noise*

Seen 9 Hours Ago
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
169 posts
13.1 Years
Chapter 12 – In Bloom

The detour west had brought Syr and the rest of his party closer to Rustboro than they’d originally planned to go. In the morning, when they’d been seeking a place to camp, its south end would’ve been visible on the horizon—would have, if it hadn’t been for the fact that it had been more or less destroyed more than a decade prior.

The sight hadn’t surprised Syr. He’d known for years what had happened there. Though the plague had apparently put most of its victims to sleep before snuffing them out entirely, humanity’s end had not been entirely peaceful. They’d passed out in their cars. In their planes. He’d heard some of the crashes from the woods south of Mauville, had felt the distant impacts rattle the earth.

An especially large craft had gone down in Rustboro. In the end, the city’s survivors had not only elected against rebuilding at the crash site in any sense but had also chosen to raze what was left, leaving the barren site as a memorial to those lost there, humans and pokémon alike.

There had been pokémon casualties elsewhere, of course. Their death toll had certainly been lower than that of the humans, but still high enough to make some pokémon fear that the world was ending for all of its peoples. The only thing that separated the pokémon survivors from their dead (or from most of them, at least), was having been in the right places when the Extinction had hit.

If Syr had been in the wrong place…

Those thoughts were no kinder to him than they’d ever been. He shivered as he tried to get his mind on a different subject. It helped, but only slightly, that there was now a stone wall between him and the view to the west. It wasn’t a cave, exactly; more of an outcropping, really. A wall and a half with a ceiling. It was the best shelter they could find in the area.

Syr turned toward Ren, or toward his scent and silhouette, at least. The human was fidgeting with something, passing it back and forth between his hands. One of the other pokémon’s capture balls, Syr guessed, judging by the sound it made against Ren’s palms.

Karo sat nearby, as well, facing northward and slowly rocking back on forth on his short legs, ready to block at any moment. Enemy territory was still too close for comfort, and for the time being, the three of them were alone, waiting for the twins to return from the hunt.

Or from scavenging. God knew it was a lot harder to find anything living in those woods now.

The human stopped rolling the ball around and sighed to himself, shaking his head at some unvoiced thought. Reminiscing about his brief, horrific time inside a similar device, perhaps. Ren hadn’t really had a chance to go into detail about exactly what he’d experienced in there (though Syr wasn’t so sure the human would’ve been ready to talk about it anyway), but judging from the way the failed capture had looked, Syr had a nasty feeling that it had been painful. Terrifying.

He gave Ren a pitying frown, wondering what, if anything, he ought to say. “How are you feeling?” he finally asked.

Ren just sort of grunted at first. “Dizzy,” he said soon after.

Syr gave a sympathetic hum in response. “Because of the ball?” he supposed out loud.

“Or because he skipped breakfast,” Karo said.

“No, I didn’t,” Ren responded.

Syr tried to recall if he’d seen Ren actually eat anything in the past couple of hours, but couldn’t. He bumped the human’s pack with his snout. “Maybe you could use something anyway.”

Another grunt, but apparently Ren agreed; he took his mask back off, then swung his pack around and reached in. He kept digging through it for a few moments before letting out another sigh and simply shaking its contents out into the grass for easier access.

Syr found himself looking over the supplies as Ren felt around through them. The pile probably wasn’t really much smaller than it’d been before they’d left Convergence in the first place. But looking at it now, with their destination so close at hand, he felt doubt creep into his perception of it.

“Do we still have enough medicine?” he asked.

Ren paused in the middle of popping a packet open. Dried fruit, from the smell of it. His head turned ever so slightly in Karo’s direction. “Probably,” he said. “We’re almost there, assuming the koffing haven’t strayed too far from where you last saw them. And it sure doesn’t seem like they have.

“Once we’re in there… well. Hopefully we won’t need to be in there for long. If we can just get to this weapon of theirs...”

“We can wreck it,” Karo finished, sounding almost gleeful about the prospect. Ren nodded in confirmation.

“...And the koffing?” Syr asked. Getting to the deranics’ weapon was important. At this point, there really was no higher priority. He wasn’t about to argue otherwise. But he hadn’t forgotten why he’d proposed this mission in the first place. He still hoped that whatever else they had to do, whatever else came first… when all was said and done, at least some of Faurur’s people would be free. “What do we do about them? About helping them,” he clarified quickly.

“Whatever we can,” Ren said. He paused for a long drink of water and a shake of his canteen afterward to gauge how much was left. “I think… if we disable the weapon, if we can take the deranics down or force them to surrender, that might convince the koffing that they’re not worth serving any longer. If they no longer see the deranics as godlike, they might be more willing to desert them.”

“They might be,” Syr echoed, “but… I don’t know. It didn’t seem to take much to impress them in the first place.” At least, that’s how Faurur had made it seem. “The lights crossed the sky, and that was that. That’s all it took. They just… knew those were their gods.”

Ren took another mouthful of his breakfast, or snack, or whatever it was, chewing in silent thought for a short time. “They just knew,” he said finally. “Without meeting them.”

“Right,” Syr said.

“And did they know the name of their gods?” Ren asked. “Without meeting them?”

Syr’s frown deepened. “Yeah. They did.” The very first time he’d heard the deranics spoken of by name was mere minutes after the streaks in the sky had vanished.

“Well that doesn’t seem weird at all,” Karo remarked.

“What did they do to them?” Syr wondered aloud. “Did they just… beam the information into their heads? Why weren’t we affected?”

“Different brains,” Ren said. “Their brains were compatible with the signal. Yours, I guess, were not.” Another swig from the canteen. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that little introduction wasn’t all they transmitted.” He lifted his hooded head. “Your friends could very well have been brainwashed.”

Syr absorbed that silently. Then he hung his head. “I never doubted that they were victims in all this,” he said. “I just thought… all this time, I just thought they’d been lied to, and that was it. If you’re right, then they didn’t even get a choice about what to believe. They didn’t get to think it over. They just got taken. Taken all over again…”

He lifted his head again. “We have to save them,” he said. “Otherwise… God, otherwise everything she and I did, everything we gave up… it’s all for nothing.”

“I think we can,” Ren said. “I honestly think we can. I think they must have something or another still broadcasting that signal to this day. If we take that out, they’ll lose even more of their firepower.”

A little spark of hope lit up in Syr at those words, so swiftly it surprised him. For the first time since they’d set out, he could actually, properly imagine what a successful outcome in all this might look like. Devices whose shapes he could only guess bursting into sparks and smoke and flame. The sky above darkening with the emissions of countless rejoicing koffing. Vague, wormlike creatures cowering in surrender or lying twisted in pools of—

He shook his head briskly, rippling from neck to tail in a full-body shudder. He tried to steer his thoughts back toward the happier, less gory aspects of actually succeeding in their efforts, only to lose the threads when he saw Ren suddenly shoot to his feet.

Syr whipped around to follow the human’s line of sight, or where he presumed it to be. He went stock still at what he saw, his eyes widening in surprise. The twins were headed their way. Maybe they’d finished feeding. Maybe they hadn’t. It was entirely possible that they’d been distracted by the things they now carried.

The shapes were slightly murky in the darkness, but it looked as though Acheron had picked up something like a branch. There was a rustling noise as it swung in his grasp, suggesting leaves, and it gave off a very faint fruity scent. Demi’s cargo was silent, but less ambiguous all the same. The size, the shape, and the smell left no room for guessing. She’d caught a weezing.

“Urgh…” Ren said softly. Syr looked back just long enough to see the human leaning against Karo, his hooded head buried in one hand; he’d apparently stood up too quickly.

“You need to sit back down,” Demi told him as she and her brother stopped just outside the shelter, at which Ren readily did as she suggested.

“You didn’t have to go all the way back for that weezing,” he said.

“You’re right, and we didn’t,” Acheron said. “He came to us. Or tried to.”

“Subtle as a blimp,” Demi said, “luckily for us.” She gave the weezing a little shake. He dangled from one of her right hands by his larger mouth. He was drooling something dark and glistening.

“Be careful,” Syr warned. “Almost everything that comes out of them is toxic. Or wait, do you still have—”

“Safeguard? Yeah,” Acheron said. “But I figured I ought to grab these regardless.” He plunged the branch into the soil as if he were planting it, and at this distance Syr could see that it wasn’t a branch at all. The kwazai had simply uprooted an entire pecha plant.

There’s pechas for some of us, at least, but… Syr cast another concerned glance back toward Ren. He was the only member of the party who had neither the immunity of a poison-type nor the option of simply washing away poison with a little fruit juice. All he could do was hope to avoid getting poisoned in the first place.

Karo will protect him, Syr reminded himself. He can protect all of us. Including himself. There was a tiny little twinge of guilt as he realized that he’d actually managed to let himself forget that the nosepass was a gym leader’s pokémon, same as the kwazai.
“We figured you wanted to talk to him,” Acheron said, “seeing as you tried to catch him.”

“You figured right.” Ren took a moment to finish off the fruit packet, then fished some more food out of the pile.

“You gonna wake him now?” Karo asked.

“We probably have enough revives,” Demi said.

“Hmm,” Ren responded at first; then, “Give him a few minutes. Hopefully he’ll wake up on his own—you went easy on him, right?” he asked, facing Demi as he spoke.

“I kept the beam on him long enough to knock him out. Not a second longer.”

“Good,” Ren said. “Okay, then he might come around in a timely fashion. Again, we’ll give him a chance. If that fails, then we revive.”

As it turned out, it didn’t take long at all for the weezing to stir. He shuddered in place and vented a few acrid puffs of exhaust.

“Hnrrrrrn… why?” he asked as he rose shakily. His voices were especially hoarse and quiet; Syr was helplessly reminded of how Faurur had sounded the last time she’d spoken to him.

The weezing turned and rose a bit higher to meet Demi eye to eye, wobbling all the while. “Why did you attack me? I only wanted to talk.”

“You attacked me first,” Syr reminded him.

“I was still hungry,” the weezing said simply. “But then I thought, maybe I know you.” He descended and moved closer to Syr. “You’re Syr, aren’t you?”

“Yes…” Syr answered.

“She used to talk about you. A lot.” The weezing backed up again, still a bit unsteady in the air. “She liked you. She missed you, I think.”

Syr felt an ache in his chest at that. She had only managed to reunite with him at the end of her life, but how long had she been trying?

Would she have had to wait so long if he’d stuck around?

“That’s why I looked for you,” the weezing went on. “To apologize.” He swelled with a deep breath, then let it out in a puff of smoke. “I’m sorry,” he said to Syr.

Syr shook his head. “It’s…” He trailed off and shook his head again with a sigh. He couldn’t pretend it was fine well enough to say that it was. “Just… if you try to eat me again,” he said, “if you try to kill any of us, you could get hurt very badly. Very badly,” he stressed. He wanted to believe the others wouldn’t kill the weezing. But he was certain that any of them would rather do so than watch any of their teammates die. “Keep that in mind, all right?”

“They’ll hurt me anyway,” the weezing said.

“No they won’t,” Ren spoke up; his muffled voice told that the mask was back on. He stood back up; Karo shuffled into place to support him as fast as he could manage.

The weezing turned slightly to regard Ren. Do you know what he is? Syr wondered. If this weezing had been one of the koffing that he and Faurur had rescued from the poacher, then he’d had experience with humans before. A bad experience, at that.

Are you afraid of him?

“Now, listen,” Ren said. “They could’ve left you back there in the woods. They brought you here for a reason.”

“Yeah. We’ve got questions for you, weezing,” Karo said.

“Ongzi,” the weezing corrected him. “Ongzi ursh-Ungem.”

“Ongzi,” Ren said. “We need you to tell us about the deranics.”

“They are holy,” Ongzi said.

“They’re killers,” Ren responded, and stood up a little straighter, no longer leaning on Karo. “Look… I know you’re not going to want to hear this. And I’ll understand if you don’t believe it. But the fact of the matter is that they’re lying to you, one way or another. They might be controlling your minds, making you think they’re here for some benevolent reason when in reality they’ve murdered billions of people since they arrived.” He was visibly shaking now. “Humanity is extinct because of them.”

“What? That’s what you think? No,” Ongzi said. “Humans were killed by someone else. By enemies of the deranics.”

“Enemies.” Acheron folded his arms. “And who might those be?”

“The deranics don’t speak their names,” Ongzi answered.

“Snrk. How convenient,” Karo said.

“Ongzi,” Ren said again. “We need you to be honest with us, all right? There are a lot of lives at stake here, maybe even yours. And no,” he added quickly, “no, that’s not a threat. We’re not going to kill you. We don’t want to hurt you any more than we already have. We didn’t want to have to hurt you in the first place, and I’m sorry we had to. We’re here to help you and the rest of your people.”

“…My people don’t need your help,” Ongzi said. “My people have the holy ones.”

“You really believe that, don’t you,” Syr said pityingly.

“Of course I do. Why shouldn’t I? And why…” he asked Ren, “why should I believe you? Of course you lie. You are a lie. The deranics told us that there are no humans left.”

Ren sighed. Whether it was frustration at Ongzi’s refusal to believe him about the deranics or relief at the weezing’s refusal to believe he was human, Syr couldn’t say. “All right. Okay. Believe what you will about that. We’ll move on to the next question. Do you know about their weapon? If they have enemies, surely they’ve come up with some way to defend against them.”

Ongzi kept silent at first. “Maybe,” he conceded. “But I don’t know anything about that.”

“You’re sure about that?” Demi asked.

“Yes. I’m sure,” Ongzi said. “I’m telling you the truth. I haven’t seen anything like that. Maybe they keep a weapon in the small burrows. The places we don’t fit.”

One word in particular stood out for Syr. “Burrows… they’re underground, aren’t they?”

More silence. “…You still think they’re killers, don’t you,” Ongzi finally said.

“They are,” Ren insisted, as gently as he could manage. He still shook a little as he spoke. “And not only of humanity but also all those people in the forest. Don’t you think it’s a little strange that… that…”

“Ren…?” Demi said worriedly, for the human had begun panting. The ends of her tails gave a restless flick.

“Sit back down,” Acheron urged him.

“The enemies,” Ongzi was saying meanwhile, “it had to have been the enemies…”

“Where,” Ren said, half-gasping. He was seated again, and Demi was holding him in place with a free hand. “W-we need to know—”

Ren?” Demi interrupted.

“Where… where is—”

Ren went abruptly silent. So did everything else. All at once, all Syr could hear was a strange, shrill whine, a noise that came from everywhere and nowhere all at once. The human went rigid as a board, and both kwazai were laying hands upon him and shouting silently.
Then Ren threw his head back, and an unseen force flung Syr onto his back like a rag doll.

He lay there gasping for a short while, unable to think through the throbbing pain in his head at first. It worsened as he lifted himself up, leaving him heaving uselessly for a moment. The shrill noise was gone now, but there were little spots of light burning in the back of his eyes, which lingered briefly even after he’d opened them.

Once those cleared, Syr righted himself with a groan. He gingerly turned his head toward Ren and found him standing at his full height, apparently steady on his feet. Both kwazai stood very close to him, as did Karo, but none of them appeared to be supporting him.

“I’m fine,” Ren told them. “I’m… I’m genuinely fine. I feel better than I’ve felt in days. What the hell…” He shook his head. “What’s going on with me? What did I just do?”

“Something psychic,” Syr said, his voice hushed with awe and lingering disbelief. If he hadn’t been on the receiving end of the phenomenon himself, there’d have been much more of the latter. But he knew what he’d felt. The particular, primal discomfort that element caused was unmistakable.

“The closest thing I can compare it to would be a confusion attack,” Demi said. “A weak one, thankfully for you and the weezing, but… yeah. That was the real thing, Ren.”

“Okay,” Ren said. “Okay. So what does that mean for me?” He swallowed audibly. “What am I?”

“Human,” Acheron answered, but there was the slightest hint of uncertainty in his tone. “As far as I can tell.” He sent a questioning look Demi’s way.

“I’m getting the same picture,” she said. “You’re human… but it looks like you’re also a psychic-type. Which isn’t exactly unprecedented.”

“I know,” Ren said. He flexed his hands in front of himself. “And I know… I know that sometimes psychic awakenings take their sweet time to happen, but…” The human put a hand under his hood, at which it fell back with a soft whispering of cloth. He shook his head again, for longer this time. “I can still barely believe it…”

“I think we’re all surprised,” Syr said, still fairly awestruck. “To say the least.”

“Syr…” There was a soft shuffling as Ren turned on the spot. “I’m so sorry,” he said earnestly. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“It’s all right,” Syr said, and he meant it. “You didn’t really hurt me; it was just… sort of a push. She’s right; it was weak.”

“Still…” The human shook his head again. “I don’t know. I can’t guarantee it won’t happen again. Or that it won’t be so weak next time. If… well, maybe this is a stupid question. I’d understand if you’re willing to take that risk, all things considered. But if you’d honestly rather not, I’d understand that, too.”

Syr felt a stirring of guilt at the suggestion. No. No, I can’t do that. I can’t run away. Not again. “I’ll stay,” he said quickly. “If something happens, we have medicine, right?” He… he probably can’t hurt you worse than that, he told himself. The human’s abilities were only just awakening. He could barely pull off a simple confusion attack. Anything worse might be outside his capability altogether, at least for a while.

“I… I will not stay.”

Heads and tails turned toward the pair of voices that had just spoken in unison. Ongzi, it seemed, was only just getting up. He rose very slowly and shakily, and only got himself about two feet off the ground before apparently giving up.

“I don’t want to spend any more time with you,” he went on. “I don’t want to answer any more questions. And…” He inhaled deeply, swelling dramatically, before letting the breath back out on a sigh. “I’m sorry. I can’t let you go there. I’m sorry, Syr. I’m sorry, Faurur.” He inflated again, emitting a blinding glow—

— which cut out in an instant as its source fell unconscious to the grass below. A gentler, more colorful light shone around Demi’s outstretched hand for a moment more before dissipating.

“I had really hoped he wouldn’t try that,” she said.

Syr stared at the fallen weezing. He was grateful that the explosion had been thwarted, but he worried for their would-be attacker all the same. “Is he okay?”

“He’s okay,” Demi assured him. “I promise you. He’ll wake up just fine after a while.”

“And we won’t be here when he does,” Ren said. He turned southward. “Underground,” he said, apparently thinking aloud. “Around where you saw those streaks go, I’d imagine. I guess you’ll be leading the way from here on out,” he told Syr.

“I guess so,” Syr said. He scanned the southern horizon. It was hard to make out much of anything at this hour. “It’d be easier to do during the day, but…” But there was no telling, after all, how long it would be before the deranics fired again. “I can get us back to where I used to live. If we start digging westward from there…”

“That’s our plan, then.” Ren dropped into a crouch and began scooping everything back into the pack. Once he’d gathered everything and straightened himself back up, he recalled Karo.

“Give them directions,” the human said, as Demi picked him up. Acheron scooped Syr up at roughly the same time.

“Okay. South for now,” Syr said. The kwazai took off immediately, leaving Ongzi behind.

Syr looked back over Acheron’s shoulder as they departed the scene, trusting that Demi was truthful about Ongzi’s condition but hoping he’d be all right regardless. It seemed as though the weezing was still under the deranics’ sway for the time being… but hopefully, hopefully, that wouldn’t be the case for much longer. Only once he was free would Ongzi well and truly be all right.

We’ll fight for you, Syr promised as he turned back toward their destination. I promise, we’ll fight for you. We won’t run.

I won’t run…