Thunder wanted nothing more than to show that lapras that she wasn’t the weak pokémon it seemed to think she was, but now that she thought about it, she needed to get away from the river to find a way out of the cave. And after all, if the lapras tried to trick her, she would be riding on her back, and very capable of giving her a slash to the neck if she was threatened. “Fine!” the scyther spat reluctantly. “Take me to a place where I can leave the river and find my own way out!”
As the lapras moved closer, the milotic hissed a warning. “Careful River,” she warned in a smooth but wary voice. “That pokémon is dangerous.”
“All she wants is to get out,” River told her. “I don’t think she belongs in this cave.” She then turned to Thunder again, trying to smile. “Well, come on!”
A few moments later and Thunder was crouched down on the lapras’s spiny gray shell as the water pokémon sped through the water, guided by the light of her lanturn friend from up ahead. Mystic swam gracefully behind them, and Thunder glanced warily back at her every few seconds. Her scythes were by her sides, but her whole body was tensed, ready to attack the lapras’s neck or head at any sign that these pokémon were about to try and harm her. Every so often River would ask her questions; “What is your name?...What are you doing here?...How did you get those wounds?”
She ignored all of them. She wanted to get away from these pokémon, and get away as soon as possible. The journey, though it felt like hours to the injured scyther, really only lasted a few minutes. Though when the water pokémon stopped, Thunder noticed the cavern she had ended up in was colder, and she could not help shivering. River swam calmly up to the riverbank.
“There. You’re safe here,” she told Thunder in what the scyther thought was a too-sweet voice.
Without hesitation the scyther leaped off her back and onto the rocky ground, holding back a cry at the pain that surged up her leg. Instinctively she put her scythe to the ground to steady herself, but that only sent pain scorching through her newly injured shoulder.
Seeing this, River looked concerned. “You’re hurt bad, aren’t you?” the lapras asked, squinting through the semi-darkness.
“No!” Thunder growled. “Leave me alone…”
“She’s obviously not an inhabitant of this cave,” Mystic told River with a disapproving glance at the scyther, while her lanturn friend nodded.
“Do you remember the way out?” River asked the milotic. “Maybe you could help her!”
“I only know of one way out,” Mystic replied. “And it would not help her. One can only get there by swimming underwater, and she wouldn’t be able to hold her breath that long. Now River and Whirlpool, come, the savage creature wants to be left alone.”
The milotic and lanturn swiftly turned and vanished, leaving the cave almost dark-the only lighting coming from some dimly glowing pale green and blue crystals, gently lighting the area around them with their faintly pulsating glow. Thunder couldn’t tell if River was still there, and really, she didn’t care. When she finally chanced a glance back, there was no sign of the lapras. With a sigh she lay down, telling herself that no random stranger pokémon would have reason to help her without anything in return. She had been right to tell them to leave.
Quietly she lay down, ignoring the pain from her wounds. She decided she would rest a while, then find her way out of the cave. She felt exhausted. Maybe, she thought, she’d even be able to sleep for a while…
Thunder’s attempts to sleep were suddenly interrupted by a large splash as River surfaced from the water again. The scyther stood up, watching the lapras set a dead goldeen by the edge of the river.
River looked at Thunder uncertainly, watching the scyther who was staring at her angrily. The lapras had not known what species of pokémon Thunder was or what she ate, but judging by the fact that the stranger had two fangs jutting down from her mouth, she assumed she had to be a carnivore. “I brought you some food…” she told Thunder hesitantly. “I’ll just leave it here if you want it.” She quickly turned and left, not wanting to startle the scyther any longer.
Thunder did not move even after the lapras left. She waited for a long while, wondering if it was some sort of trap, before she couldn’t take her hunger anymore and she warily limped to the edge of the river and picked up the small water pokémon and brought it back to safety. It didn’t take her long to finish eating it, and after she was done, she stood up, looking for a tunnel to walk into. She felt surprisingly stronger. Without a backward glance, she turned and limped into the nearest tunnel, glad to leave the river behind. From a distance, River watched her sadly, before turning and diving back into the water.
Snowcrystal couldn’t stop herself from shivering, though not with cold, but with fear. The tunnel was dark and damp and the rocks below her feet were slicked wet with frigid water. Further along, she had found the going easier as there were several large boulders by the riverside to climb, but the further she went, the more worried she became. There was no sign of Thunder anywhere…no scent or any other indication that the injured scyther had made it out of the water. Though Snowcrystal wasn’t usually bothered by cold-she found the chilly rock tunnel threatening and oppressive. She didn’t know how well a thin, weak and hurt scyther could stand up to cold. She wanted to turn back, but she couldn’t face her friends while having to tell them she didn’t know where Thunder was. Taking a deep breath, she kept going.
Thunder’s newfound strength hadn’t lasted long. She hadn’t gone far, and already she felt the exhaustion and dizziness she had experienced before returning. Nevertheless, she forced herself to take one shaky step after another, ignoring the drops of blood that fell to the ground from her shoulder and whichever of her other wounds happened to be bleeding at the time. She felt weakened, completely drained of energy as if she had just come out of one of Master’s arena battles. She wanted nothing more than to lay down and rest…
And why couldn’t she?
Slightly unnerved at the fact that the realization that there wasn’t anyone to force her to keep going hadn’t come until now, she looked around quickly, spotting a sheltered corner in the small cavern she was standing in. With a lurching, painful stride she made her way over to it. By the time she reached the sheltered spot, her strength left her completely, and she crumpled in a senseless heap beside the still gray walls.
Snowcrystal stood peering over a steep ledge, watching the river flow swiftly downwards into another tunnel. Carefully she jumped down from the rock formations jutting from the cave wall and landed carefully on the stone riverside below. The space between the water and the cave wall was wider here, and she could see tunnels veering off to the sides. As she was about to follow the river, she faintly noticed a familiar scent. Thunder!
Turning around, she followed the scent carefully into one of the tunnels. It struck her as strange that she hadn’t noticed it by the river, but she realized that Thunder could have found a way out elsewhere and wandered through the tunnels for a while. With the scent getting stronger, Snowcrystal dashed forward, and almost stumbled upon the limp form of the scyther who now lay against the wall. Shocked, Snowcrystal approached her carefully, wondering if she had gotten hurt worse. She nudged the side of Thunder’s head, and when the scyther didn’t respond, the growlithe whined softly, curling up beside her and feeling both greatly relieved and deeply worried at the same time. She decided to stay there and wait until Thunder was strong enough to make the journey back to the others.
Snowcrystal hadn’t waited long when Thunder started to stir, her eyes opening slowly as she looked around. Upon seeing Snowcrystal the scyther jerked away from her. “What are you doing here?” was all Thunder could manage to say, though her voice sounded strained and weak.
Snowcrystal quickly stood up and backed away to give Thunder some space. “I went looking for you,” she told her calmly. “Rosie and Stormblade are waiting…do you think…do you think you could fly back to where we were once you’re feeling better?”
“I feel fine,” Thunder lied, getting unsteadily to her feet.
“I don’t think so,” Snowcrystal told her. “You need to rest.”
“We can rest when we get back to the others,” Thunder replied quickly.
“You’ll never make it in your condition!” Snowcrystal told her, annoyed. “Just rest for a little-everyone needs to rest sometimes.”
“I know that!” Thunder shouted irritably, though surprisingly, she sat down without further argument. “But I won’t stay here for long,” she told Snowcrystal firmly.
Snowcrystal sighed in relief, glad that she’d gotten Thunder to listen to her at least for a little while. She only hoped that the scyther would be strong enough to fly back to the others; after all, she looked as if she could pass out again at any minute. It was no secret that Thunder’s wounds were severely weakening her, and the energy she used to hide that weakness was gradually failing.
Snowcrystal waited longer than she thought Thunder wanted to, but the scyther said nothing and Snowcrystal wondered if she was secretly glad of the chance to rest more. She noticed with unease that Thunder had injured her shoulder-the one that the bullet had struck. She began to wonder just how long they should wait after all.
However, her decision was made for her as Thunder suddenly stood up, spreading her tattered wings. “Ok, let’s go!” the scyther told Snowcrystal quickly, and then limped to the edge of the river and flew unsteadily above it, looking as if she could barely manage to keep from falling into the water.
Snowcrystal followed uncertainly, stepping on the wet stone ledges again as she followed Thunder, silently willing her not to loose strength and fall into the river again. Luckily, Thunder managed to make it to the rocky ledge near where they had first reached the river surprisingly quickly. Exhausted, the scyther turned to lick her injured wing.
Rosie’s excited shout nearly made Thunder jump, and she turned her head to give the ninetales a loathing glance. Rosie however, didn’t notice. “Stormblade! It’s Thunder! Snowcrystal found her!”
Snowcrystal’s fluffy white body appeared as she jumped onto a rock closer to the river’s edge where Thunder was. Stormblade peered down from the rock he was standing on and looked at Thunder with first relief, then concern. “Thunder? You’re alive! What happen-”
He was interrupted as Rosie shoved him gently aside. “You don’t want her yelling at you again do you?” she asked him, looking annoyed. “You’re probably just making it worse.”
However Stormblade barely noticed. After Thunder managed to stagger painfully along the rocks and into the small tunnel Stormblade limped closer to her, only to be pushed aside roughly as she walked past.
Snowcrystal appeared next, watching the scyther with a worried expression. “Let’s all rest now,” she told to the others, hoping Thunder wouldn’t think she was deciding that just for her. “We can try to get some sleep, then we can keep going.”
“Sounds good to me,” Rosie yawned, lying down by the wall of the cave and curling her nine tails around her.
Without another glance at the others, Thunder lay down as well. She did not expect to fall asleep, though while she would never admit it, she felt as if she couldn’t take another step. Her wounds felt as painful as if she had just gotten them. Trying to push any thoughts of pain or exhaustion to the back of her mind, she closed her eyes.
“You know, you don’t have to hide everything all the time. Hiding just makes things worse.”
Furious, Thunder opened her eyes to see Stormblade standing there, leaning on his scythes for support, like he usually did. “Leave me alone!” Thunder growled, her eyes narrowing.
Stormblade didn’t seem surprised at her reaction, but he didn’t leave. “I just want you to know that I will do whatever I can to help you…”
“Go away,” Thunder muttered angrily.
“Look, when we get out of this cave…” Stormblade began, “I…I might know of some herbs that could-”
“You’re not helping.”
“Will you just leave me alone?” Thunder shouted, making Snowcrystal and Rosie look up. “Right now all you’re doing is preventing me from resting. And what could you do to help me anyways? You can’t even take care of yourself. You’re completely helpless…
Stormblade looked down at the floor to avoid meeting Thunder’s gaze. “I’m sorry,” he told her, backing away. “I’ll leave you alone. But…remember, if you ever need any-”
“Just go away!” Thunder growled back, turning away from Stormblade as he hobbled back to the others. To her relief, no one tried to say anything to her. Good. She didn’t want to think about it anymore.
A while later, Thunder awoke feeling confused; she barely even realized that she had fallen asleep. Even though she still felt terribly weak, she didn’t feel quite so bad now. She turned her head, noticing Snowcrystal standing above her. “What it is it?” she muttered in annoyance, but she didn’t quite feel like yelling anymore.
Snowcrystal was smiling, which surprised Thunder. “Some golbat are here,” the growlithe told her happily. “They can take us to the others…and they know a way out!”
Outside the cave, the tall grass swayed slightly with the night breeze. A group of pokémon walked by, their paws hardly making a sound as they warily glanced around them. One of them, a lucario, shivered as he stared at the dark, dank entrance to the massive cave.
“Still no sign of that Blazefang houndour,” he muttered irritably. “How long does Cyclone expect us to wait here?”
“As long as it takes,” another, a persian replied. “Now shut up!”
“I say we leave this place,” the lucario muttered. “I’ve seen what Cyclone does to some of his followers. He’s not the type of pokémon I want to be serving under. No one’s around-let’s desert ‘im.”
“And run into one of the other groups?” a ponyta replied. “They’re all over the place waiting for that houndour to show himself! Do you
want to be reported to Cyclone and be dealt with by Solus?”
The lucario muttered something incoherently and focused his gaze drowsily on the cave entrance again. “Well I sure hope we don’t have to stay here much longer. When’s the other group going to take our place?”
“Morning,” the persian replied. “Now keep still and watch for any sign of movement. One of us will find the houndour…sooner or later.” The three pokémon moved into the shelter of the bushes, lying in wait by the cave exit, just like the several other groups were waiting by the many places where one of the cave’s tunnels reached the surface.
(To be continued...)