New chapter! I had fun writing this one. There isn't much action in it, it's more of a transitional/characterization chapter. I hope you enjoy it anyway though.
The Path of Destiny
Chapter 42- Moving On
Snowcrystal darted through brambles and leaves, following Darkfang’s scent to the best of her ability. The problem was, she was moving so fast that it was hard to focus on the scent as she fought to keep up with him. Growling as a thorn stabbed her paw pad, Snowcrystal stumbled, but steadied herself without looking at the thorn and ran on. She heard less sounds of moving leaves and branches coming from up ahead, meaning that Darkfang had probably slowed down. Gritting her teeth, she forced her paws to run faster.
She emerged into a small clearing covered in bushes, and it didn’t take her long to spot Darkfang nearby. He had stopped and he looked out of breath. She hurried to catch up to him.
“What do you want?” he growled, whirling around to look at her. She was surprised by the look of ferocity in his previously calm eyes.
Snowcrystal flinched, fighting the urge to back off. “I…I just want to know where you saw Articuno…the ice bird…flying to. You see-”
“Why would you want to know that?” Darkfang replied, no longer seeming hostile, only genuinely puzzled. “It left long ago. I don’t think you’ll be able to see it again.”
Snowcrystal thought to herself, but didn’t say it out loud. “Can you just…tell me where you saw it? Where it was going?”
“The mountain,” Darkfang replied.
Snowcrystal was caught off guard-she hadn’t expected such a quick and direct answer. Before she could ask what mountain Darkfang was talking about, the scyther pointed the tip of his one blade through the trees.
“It lies in that direction,” he explained. “The mountain’s easy to see once you emerge on the other side of the forest. The bird was heading toward it…or past it, I’m not sure. But that’s all I know.”
“A mountain…” she mused, staring off into the trees. “But why would…” She broke off, turning to look at Darkfang again. “Thank you,” she told him. “I think you’ve really helped me…”
Darkfang looked puzzled, but he had no chance to respond as a sudden array of battle cries and a shriek of pain sliced through the air. Both pokémon paused for a moment and then turned and ran toward the noise-Darkfang because the voice crying out in pain was a scyther voice-and Snowcrystal out of a strange curiosity to find out what was happening. The two emerged near a shallow stream, where two of the swarm scyther-Snowcrystal assumed they were guards-were fighting another one that she recognized. Thunder.
It was easy to see that two swarm scyther had the upper claw-Thunder, although looking better now than she had the day before, was much weaker and it seemed as if she was having a hard time staying on her feet.
“Wait, stop!” Snowcrystal cried as she ran toward them.
The fighting scyther didn’t seem to have heard her, because the moment after she called out, Thunder tried to slice into the bigger scyther’s shoulder, but was blocked by one of his blades and knocked backwards off her feet and into the dirt.
“That’s enough!” Darkfang shouted, and both guard scyther looked at him in surprise.
Snowcrystal thought that they would want an explanation. “She’s one of us,” she said quietly, not sure whether these scyther were for or against them staying here in the first place. “She didn’t know we were staying here for the time being…she…”
The two guard scyther looked at each other, and glanced down at Thunder. Snowcrystal did as well, and was shocked to see that Thunder hadn’t tried to get up-she was half lifting herself with her scythes, but was still on the ground. Glaring and snarling-but still on the ground.
Not sure what the other scyther would do to Thunder if she didn’t leave or if she attacked, Snowcrystal dared to take a few steps closer to the scyther. “Thunder…follow me. I’ll show you where the others are.”
Thunder turned and glared at her. “I’m not going to listen to you! You’re not on my side!” she snarled.
Thunder didn’t answer and merely lunged at the closest guard scyther from where she was on the ground. He moved out of her range effortlessly.
Snowcrystal had no idea what Thunder had meant by her reply, but she had sounded rather strange…even for her. Snowcrystal decided to assume that it was just Thunder being tired and sick so she could put the thought out of her mind. She noticed Darkfang glaring at Thunder and waited for her to try to attack him, but luckily, before another fight could break out, Nightshade appeared by the stream and put himself in front of the two guard scyther.
“She’s with us,” he explained. “I-”
“She’s not allowed on our territory,” one of the scyther told him.
“Why?” Nightshade asked calmly. “Your leader told us we could stay on your territory if we hunted for you.”
“She’s an enemy to our swarm,” the scyther replied.
“Enemy?” Nightshade replied. “No, she’s just-”
“She told us so.”
At this, even Nightshade looked surprised. “She…told you?” He turned to Thunder, who gave the guard scyther another hateful stare and nodded. Looking thoroughly confused about how to handle the situation now, he turned to the three scyther standing nearby. “I’m sure she has no reason to be an enemy to you…I’ll take her to where the others are…with your permission of course, and not near the swarm. I’ll make sure she doesn’t attack any of the scyther here again.”
To Snowcrystal’s surprise, the scyther guard nodded. “Fine,” he replied. “It’s not like she’s an ‘enemy’ we should be scared of.” Snowcrystal noticed that he had been the one Thunder had injured-his leg was cut, though not very deeply, and she assumed that scyther must be used to these sorts of injuries anyway from practice fights with one another.
“All right…follow me,” Nightshade told Thunder, who, to her surprise, had gotten to her feet. Without a word, she limped into the bushes ahead of Nightshade, who hesitated a moment before following.
Snowcrystal watched Darkfang run into the bushes again and turned to follow Nightshade. There was something she needed to tell him. As she ran after the heracross, she noticed that he had caught up with Thunder, who didn’t look particularly annoyed to have him around, at least not more than usual. Snowcrystal was glad to know that they weren’t far from the rest of the group-Thunder didn’t look like she should be traveling right now at all.
They reached the others faster than Snowcrystal would have thought, and all of them seemed surprised (and in Blazefang’s case, disgusted) to see that Thunder had returned.
“Where were you?” Wildflame asked, and Snowcrystal didn’t think the houndoom was surprised when she didn’t get an answer.
Thunder merely just gave the group an odd look and then walked away, further into the bushes.
“Where are you going?” Redclaw asked, making his way toward her. “You’re not leaving, are you?”
“I’m not leaving,” Thunder replied in a dull voice. “I just don’t want to be around you.”
As Redclaw went to check that she did not go too far, Snowcrystal wondered if she should tell the group what Darkfang had said about Articuno. Yet something stopped her-some strange feeling in the back of her mind told her that she should talk to Nightshade first, and Nightshade alone. Turning to him, she whispered quietly that she wanted to talk to him-he nodded and they headed deeper into the forest together.
Once they reached a nice, peaceful spot where another section of the stream flowed past them lazily and the scyther scent was stronger and more recent-therefore there were no prey pokémon around-the two of them sat down at the water’s edge. Nightshade looked down at Snowcrystal. “What was it you wanted to tell me?”
“It’s about Articuno,” she said quickly. “Darkfang…that scyther…said he saw him…heading toward a mountain that’s just beyond this forest…I…I think maybe he might have stopped there, and if not…at least it’s some sort of a clue about which way he went.”
“Are you sure about what Darkfang said?” he asked, sounding surprised. Snowcrystal nodded, and he gave her a half-smile. “I’m glad you have finally found a clue. At least now, we know something of where to look.”
Snowcrystal realized that he was trying to hide the fact that he wasn’t very optimistic about getting to Articuno, and to tell the truth, she wasn’t either. “I have to try, though,” she whispered. “The others…back at my own mountain…need me. I wonder how they’re doing now…” Glancing at her crystal amulet, which was now scratched and filthy, she thought about the growlithe who had given it to her, and why. She couldn’t turn back now…not when she had finally found a glimmer of hope. “We’ll have to talk to the others…and decide what to do,” she said at last.
Snowcrystal realized that what would probably happen was that she and a few others would have to continue the journey, and the rest would be left behind. She hated the idea of the group splitting up, and she wanted to drive that thought from her mind for the time being. Turning to Nightshade, she decided to ask him a question. “How did you get Thunder to listen to you?” she asked. “I mean, she never listens to anyone…and you got her to give up that fight…”
Nightshade seemed surprised by the question, but didn’t seem to mind answering. “She trusts me…a bit…or at least gives me as much trust as she’ll allow.”
“Why?” Snowcrystal asked, genuinely puzzled.
“I’m not sure,” Nightshade admitted. “Most of the time she doesn’t even want to be around me, except when she wants to talk about something.”
“She talks to you?” Snowcrystal blurted out in surprise. Thunder had never struck her as a pokémon who would want to talk their problems out with someone, or even one who would actually see any benefit in doing so. She couldn’t picture Thunder sitting next to someone and telling them about her problems-that just wasn’t her.
“Yes,” Nightshade replied. “She told me about the things her master did…and she apparently told Stormblade some of it too, though she regretted it.”
“Was she…sad?” Snowcrystal asked, still finding the idea incredibly alien.
“Yes,” Nightshade sighed. “She didn’t show it…it’s not easy at all to tell with her, but she was.”
Snowcrystal was still confused over the whole thing, but at least now she could drive the image of Thunder huddled near another pokémon and talking about her past while crying from her head-that had just simply seemed too bizarre to be able to happen. “What exactly did she tell you?” she asked curiously.
“A lot of things,” Nightshade replied. “About some of the things her master did. I really don’t think I should repeat them to you, to be honest.”
Snowcrystal wasn’t sure she minded-she didn’t think she wanted to know. “Why did she tell you all that?” she asked, still thoroughly confused. She could hardly believe this was Thunder they were talking about.
Nightshade looked thoughtful. “Well, I told her…a while ago…that she could always talk to me if she wanted to. I never expected her to actually want to do it, but I was wrong. She wanted to, so whenever we were alone I would let her talk to me. She mostly talks to me about how she wants to kill her master. She seems to like it, though...or at least…it makes her less angry, if only a little. I don’t think she ever realized that talking to me might be helping her…I think she just wanted someone to listen. She tells me that she hates everyone in our traveling group, but I don’t know if she means it. I don’t think she thinks of me as a friend, but she told me she didn’t hate me.”
Maybe, Snowcrystal thought, that was Thunder’s version of a compliment. She had no idea what would lead Thunder to hate the first pokémon who had shown kindness to her…in probably a long time…after all that had happened to her, but at the same time it didn’t surprise her. Thunder typically acted like she didn’t enjoy their company, even if most of the others were nice to her. It also didn’t surprise her that killing her master would be a common conversation topic if Thunder were the one doing the talking. “I still don’t get it though…why does she trust you?”
“I really don’t know…” Nightshade replied. “I have to be careful what I say around her…it’s hard to tell what makes her mad, and I don’t want her to stop trusting me. I don’t try to force her to do anything…or get mad when she doesn’t do what she should, like rest or stop trying to hunt. I also don’t usually comment on the things she tells me about her master…I don’t think she’d want me to most of the time.”
Snowcrystal was still genuinely puzzled by this, but she started to think back to Thunder’s most recent actions, which weren’t quite as puzzling, but still odd. “I don’t get it…” she whispered. “Why did she fight those scyther? And why did she tell them she was their enemy? Did she know them before she got captured or something?”
“No,” Nightshade replied, shaking his head. “She didn’t. She got amnesia when she was very young, and never got the memories back, so she couldn’t have remembered them. I don't think they were her swarm anyway, and I don't know why she told them she was their enemy…but I have an idea. I don’t think she likes being around other scyther.”
“She doesn’t like much, does she?” Snowcrystal muttered.
“I don’t think she ever got a chance to find out what she does like,” Nightshade added thoughtfully.
“Maybe…” Snowcrystal replied. She wondered why Thunder had never really had much of a problem around Stormblade-or at least, the problems had only stemmed from Stormblade trying to help her when she didn’t want it. Then again, she had
attacked him the moment he stepped near the place where she was chained back at the old city. Was that why she had run off in the morning? She didn’t like other scyther? Maybe she had noticed that there were scyther living here…but yet why did she come to fight those guards? Knowing that she wasn’t going to find answers to those questions, Snowcrystal let them slide out of her mind for the time being. Looking at Nightshade, she asked, “did Thunder ever ask you to tell her anything?”
Nightshade looked surprised at the question. He then turned away from Snowcrystal and looked at the stream. “No,” he answered. “I told her things sometimes, but I don’t know if she cared. It seemed to make her more willing to trust me, though.”
Nightshade’s voice faded into silence and Snowcrystal sighed, closing her eyes and letting the sound of the bubbling stream nearby fill her mind. Somehow, this conversation had only made her feel more sad about the journey that lay ahead of them, though she wasn’t quite sure why. “Maybe we should talk to the others…” she whispered. “I’m going to have to go look for Articuno as soon as I can, and I don’t have long to rest.”
“I’m coming with you, you know that, right?”
“You? But you’re injured! I don’t think you should travel while…”
“It won’t be the first time,” Nightshade replied with a small smile. “And you don’t need to worry. The wounds are already healing.”
“What about Thunder?” Snowcrystal asked.
“Thunder needs someone to teach her how to hunt when she is well enough,” Nightshade answered. “I can’t help her with that. Redclaw can, and I have a strong feeling that he’d want to stay behind with Stormblade.”
“Oh…” Snowcrystal replied, still not liking the thought of the group splitting up. She hated the idea that she would be too far away to know what was happening to Stormblade…and to all of the friends she would leave behind. “Do you think we should tell the others now?”
Nightshade nodded. “Yes…” He stood up. “I’ll get Rosie and bring her to where everyone else is. We…we can talk to Stormblade later.”
Snowcrystal nodded, and watched as Nightshade headed in the direction of their resting place by the swarm before turning to look at the lake and then following him slowly.
Gathered together under the trees, the entire group of travelers, minus Stormblade, listened as Snowcrystal told them everything Darkfang had said. Rosie, Wildflame and Spark had seemed shocked and excited, Redclaw had looked happy for her, and Blazefang had seemed, oddly, horrified. Snowcrystal didn’t dwell on it-after all, his pack had abandoned him, so any hopes he had of winning Articuno over to the houndour side were over. Thunder, not surprisingly, seemed completely indifferent to the news.
“So…are you going to go look for him now?” Rosie asked, a hint of sadness and worry in her voice. Snowcrystal knew why.
“Of course,” she replied. “I…I have to. And I’m going to have to leave very soon. That’s why…I wanted to ask you…which of you wanted to come with me.” There. She had said it. And now it was time to see the group split up at last.
Silence met her statement, as everyone seemed to be thinking this over. If they hadn’t realized what this had been coming to, they did now. After a moment longer, Spark was the first one to speak up. “Snowcrystal,” he began. “We pretty much started this journey together, and we’re going to finish it…together. I’m going with you.”
(Continued in next post...)