Snowcrystal looked at him in surprise. She would have thought that he’d have been one of the ones who wanted to stay-after all, he was Stormblade’s friend, and it was obvious that Stormblade wouldn’t be traveling.
“I…I’m going too,” Rosie said quietly. “You helped rescue me from that cage…and though I didn’t realize it at the time…you…you probably saved my life, seeing as how that was a poacher’s trap. I know I might slow you down, but my leg’s almost better now. It hardly hurts. I don’t think it will be much of a problem anymore.”
Snowcrystal looked at Rosie gratefully, but her eyes wandered to the ninetales’ leg. It wasn’t hard to see that the leg hadn’t healed properly-Rosie would probably have a limp the rest of her life. However, Rosie was right-it had to be close to healing now, and the ninetales hadn’t had much of a hard time keeping up lately. And if Rosie thought she could do it, Snowcrystal didn’t doubt her. “Thanks…you two,” she told them gratefully, both stunned and touched by their willingness to follow her.
“And I am going, as I’ve already mentioned,” Nightshade added, giving Spark and Rosie a proud glance.
“I am going too,” said another pokémon, and Snowcrystal was shocked to see that it was Thunder. “I still need a good place to live. I will not find that here.”
“I really think you should stay, honestly,” Snowcrystal told her, deciding that now was no time to lie or tell a half-truth. “You shouldn’t be traveling at all. You’re injured, you’re sick, you have infected wounds, and you’re far too thin to be-”
Thunder gave her a murderous glare. “I…will not…stay here!” she growled.
“It’s all right Thunder,” Spark told her with a smile. “We know you’d miss us.”
Thunder gave Spark a look that made Snowcrystal feel uncomfortably like the scyther really wouldn’t
have missed them; it was a look of annoyance rather than one of angry denial.
“If Thunder is going, I want to go as well,” Redclaw told the group. “I’m the one best able to show her how to hunt, and well…” He looked nervously at Thunder, who showed no reaction or even any indication that she had heard him.
“I’ll go with you as well,” Wildflame announced, an unreadable expression in her eyes. Was it excitement? Hope? Longing?
Snowcrystal glanced at Nightshade. “Who’s going to stay with Stormblade?” she asked.
“I think he should stay with the swarm…” Redclaw began. “They’re his own kind…and maybe we can convince them to accept him…”
“Could Nightshade teach them the healing herbs?” Rosie asked.
Snowcrystal thought all this over in her head. She hadn’t expected everyone to want to keep going, and now that they all did, she wasn’t sure how she could leave Stormblade behind. Yet…they needed to keep going…and he couldn’t make such a long and fast-paced journey. “We need to talk to him later,” she told the others. “Then…then we can decide what he should do.” She didn’t want to think about having to leave him, but if she talked to one of the other scyther…maybe Darkfang…
Snowcrystal was jolted from her thoughts by the sound of Blazefang and Wildflame’s bickering. Puzzled, she looked over in their direction, at about the same time that the other pokémon did.
“Blazefang…you’ve got to come with us,” Wildflame was saying, not even making an effort to keep her voice down. “You don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“They don’t want me around, and I don’t want to be around them
!” Blazefang shouted, giving the group around him a petrifying glare.
“I’m sure they’re willing to work with you if you just give them a chance,” Wildflame replied, although the look on Rosie’s face as she glared at Blazefang said otherwise. “I want to help them find Articuno…” she added, sounding to Snowcrystal as if she felt awkward admitting that to Blazefang.
Blazefang’s eyes widened in understanding, and he turned away. “Go ahead,” he muttered. “Find him! I don’t care…”
Wildflame simply sighed, and Rosie grinned and muttered, “we won’t miss you.”
“Please…Blazefang…” Wildflame begged, “we could help Snowcrystal work it out with Articuno…for the pa-I mean…your pack…”
Snowcrystal felt confused-did Wildflame really still care so deeply about a former pack mate who had driven her away after she evolved? Deciding that whatever had gone on in the houndour pack was none of her business, she didn’t mention it out loud.
“Fine…” Blazefang muttered after a moment. “But…I won’t be going as far as Articuno. If you find him and can help the pack, then good. But as soon as we know whether or not he can help, I’m going back to my home.”
Snowcrystal was glad that, for whatever reason, Wildflame seemed much happier, though she couldn’t help wondering if letting Blazefang keep tagging along was a good idea at all, even if he was technically no longer their enemy. And from the looks of the others around her, she could tell that these thoughts were not hers alone.
Snowcrystal was very careful as she walked through the forest trees, following Darkfang’s scent. Before everyone talked to Stormblade, she wanted to talk to him-out of all the scyther, he seemed the most likely to understand. Maybe he could even gather herbs for Stormblade while they were gone-if the scyther let him stay, that is.
It surprisingly wasn’t hard to track Darkfang, and she found him in a clearing, where he had killed and was nearly done eating some sort of prey pokémon that Snowcrystal could no longer identify.
“Darkfang?” she asked quietly.
“What?” he replied, looking up at her. From the look on his face, Snowcrystal realized that he hadn’t noticed her until she’d spoken up, probably because of the scent of the prey. “I already told you all I knew…”
“It’s not that,” Snowcrystal said quickly. “It’s just…we’re leaving soon…”
“You are?” he responded, only seeming mildly interested. “Well, make sure you catch some prey before you leave or else the other scyther will think you were just here to take prey from us and leave.”
“Oh…okay,” Snowcrystal replied, realizing that the promise they had made had entirely slipped her mind. She hoped that the others had at least caught something for the scyther swarm so far. “Well, what I wanted to ask you,” she continued after a moment’s hesitation, “well…you see, we can’t take Stormblade with us…he’s the scyther we brought here injured. I was wondering if you could ask the other scyther to let him stay here.” She waited for him to respond, suddenly realizing that he might not like the idea of asking his swarm to take in an injured outsider who would not only be completely dependent upon them, but would also be unable to hunt or serve the other scyther in any way.
Darkfang looked thoughtful before replying. “I…I wouldn’t mind him staying here,” he began slowly, “but…the rest of the swarm…they would. Or at least…most of them would. I don’t know if they’d want an extra scyther to take care of.” He paused and glanced thoughtfully in the direction of the swarm. “Did he say that he wanted to stay here and not come with you?”
“Uh…no,” Snowcrystal replied. Even though she thought that Stormblade really didn’t have a choice, she hadn’t even asked him yet. She had gone to Darkfang first so that she could at least know that Stormblade joining the swarm could be a possibility before she talked to him about it.
“Then you might as well talk to him first before I try asking them,” Darkfang replied, sounding annoyed. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly a scyther others look up to. It’ll be a lot of work trying to convince them.”
Snowcrystal took a deep breath and sighed. “All right. Look, Darkfang…do you know what we might face on the way to that mountain? How far is it?”
“From the edge of the forest? A couple days’ journey, I would think. There are mostly plains and rocky fields, and there’s a big lake you’ll pass on the way. I don’t know what you’ll find after passing the mountain, however. I’ve never been that far.”
“Okay, thanks,” Snowcrystal told him. Then she thought about something. “How come you left the old forest?” she asked. “The one that…that burned down…”
Darkfang seemed surprised by the odd question, but he merely shrugged. “It was close to a human city and the Leader was worried,” he explained. “Though I really didn’t understand what they were afraid of-it was a human who found me after the fight where I lost my arm-if it weren’t for him, I would have died. I had no idea what they wanted with me at the time, but after being taken to one of their buildings I soon realized that they just wanted to help. I didn’t like being out of the forest, but it wasn’t too bad. The humans did something to make it not hurt so much, and they gave me meat that tasted nice.”
Snowcrystal felt puzzled that he was telling her this, and puzzled at simply what
he was telling her. She didn’t exactly have the best outlook on humans, though she knew from what Spark had told her that some of them were nice. Maybe there were more humans out there who were nice than she had thought there was. “Didn’t you try to tell them…how they helped you?” she asked Darkfang.
A sad look appeared in Darkfang’s eyes and he shook his head. “No,” he replied slowly. “I pretty much lost the respect of a lot of the other scyther after the humans set me free. With only one blade, I couldn’t duel anymore…and well, everyone knows I can’t fight back…”
A sudden thought struck Snowcrystal. “If you don’t like it here…” she began, “why don’t you come with us? You saw Articuno, so we could use your help, and-”
Darkfang shook his head. “No,” he told her firmly. “I do like it here. I…don’t think I could ever leave the swarm. There are still a lot of scyther who care about me. Of course I’m going to stay with them.”
“All right,” Snowcrystal sighed. Really, she shouldn’t have expected that Darkfang would want to leave with them, after all. “But could you…” She paused. This was the other reason she had needed to come to Darkfang before talking to Stormblade. “Could you ask the other scyther if we could all come to where Stormblade is…just to talk to him? We promise…we won’t stay long.”
Darkfang looked hesitant, but then he slowly nodded. “Okay,” he replied. “I don’t think they would have too much of a problem with that.”
It seemed a surprisingly short time before Snowcrystal and her friends had all gathered together, being led by Darkfang and a few other scyther to where Stormblade was. No one seemed to mind as much that the travelers were going near them now that they had heard they would soon be leaving-and there wasn’t much of a threat they could pose in the midst of such a great number of scyther anyway. The only one they had left behind was Thunder, who had seemed like she wanted to be alone anyway, and there was no way it would be a good idea to bring her in the midst of all those strangers.
None of the scyther seemed surprised when they entered the big clearing-or at least, Snowcrystal didn’t notice any of them acting surprised. She was mainly focusing on what they were going to tell Stormblade, and she felt that she wanted to be the one to do it. Once they reached the place where Stormblade was resting, the scyther leading them ran off, and Darkfang hesitated a moment before following them.
“Stormblade?” Snowcrystal asked, walking up to him as the others sat down, waiting to hear Snowcrystal explain. The growlithe walked up to Stormblade’s still form, and wondered for a moment if he was asleep. A moment later, however, and his eyes opened and he looked up at her.
“What…is it?” he asked, his voice scarcely more than a whisper. Snowcrystal thought he looked too exhausted to talk-she was surprised he had spoken at all.
Blazefang, who had come along only because being left alone in the forest with Thunder hadn’t appealed to him in the least, snorted with impatience and gave Snowcrystal an annoyed look. “Just get on with it,” he mumbled.
Rosie glared daggers at him, reminding him swiftly that he was the reason Stormblade was in this state. Blazefang didn’t respond and stared at his paws in sullen silence.
Snowcrystal just sighed and looked at Stormblade again. Stormblade, who seemed too weak to even lift his head, looked back at her. “Stormblade…” she began, “we’ve all decided…well, you see…we’ve finally found a clue to where Articuno is, so…” She waited for some kind of response from Stormblade, but his expression, aside from pain, just remained blank. “We’re going to leave, very soon…and we know you can’t travel anymore. We want to ask the scyther if you can stay with them here…” Her voice trailed off as she heard loud voices drifting toward them, and leaped back as two small scyther-one of them the dark green one she recognized from before-darted close to them in the middle of what looked like a play-battle.
Redclaw growled as he stood up to avoid them, looking as if he would have batted them lightly with his paw if he weren’t afraid of the other scyther getting angry at him for it. The scyther didn’t even notice him and when they came to a stop they were very close to Snowcrystal.
She turned to face them. “Look, could you please leave? We’re trying to…”
“See? That’s that scyther,” the dark green female told her friend, who looked about the same age as she was. Obviously she hadn’t heard Snowcrystal or didn’t care. “I wonder what happened to make him like that.” Her friend nodded, staring wide-eyed at him.
Snowcrystal felt angry that not only were they talking right in front of Stormblade-who was watching them-but they seemed to act as if he couldn’t hear them at all. Snowcrystal could tell that some of her friends were annoyed as well, but they all knew that showing aggression to very young scyther wasn’t a good idea with all the adults around.
“Do you think he got in a fight?” the small female was asking.
“Maybe,” the other one replied. “He must have been strong if he hasn’t died yet. He’s really big too…if he didn’t have those wounds and wasn’t so thin, he could probably be a leader.”
Snowcrystal noticed that at this statement, not only did Stormblade visibly flinch, but he looked genuinely hurt by the statement. Snowcrystal narrowed her eyes. “Get away from him!” she shouted at the two scyther, who looked at her in surprise, along with the rest of her friends.
“What?” one of the scyther muttered, surprised. “This is our territory! You can’t-”
“I said to leave him alone!” Snowcrystal growled. The two scyther glared at her and walked away. Now that she realized it, she wondered just how many scyther had tried to bother Stormblade, or talk about him while he could hear. It made her wonder if she really should have left him for so long after all.
“Be careful, Snowcrystal,” Redclaw whispered, watching the two scyther who were now staring at them angrily from a little ways away. “We don’t want to seem hostile.”
“I know, but I couldn’t just let them talk about Stormblade like that when he obviously didn’t want to hear it…” she muttered angrily.
Snowcrystal turned, surprised at hearing Stormblade’s voice, a bit stronger than it had been before. He was giving her a more determined look than before, one that made him look stronger than he had been. But why did it feel so…wrong?
“I...I want to leave,” he stated. “Take me out of the forest and away from here.”
“What?” she gasped. “Why? Is it because of what those scyther said? I really, really don’t think you should listen-”
“No...it's not about that,” Stormblade replied, his voice beginning to sound weak again. “Please, I don't want to be here. Take me away from here. Find some sort of resting place for me and leave me there.”
Snowcrystal stared at him in shock. “What?”
Stormblade held his gaze, his blue eyes locked onto hers. “I can't travel with you anymore,” he began again, “I'm holding you back. I just want to be somewhere alone...when I...when I…well…”
Snowcrystal shook her head. “We’re not going to leave
Rosie stepped forward to stand by Snowcrystal. “Listen to her, Stormblade,” she said firmly. “We’re not going to just leave you in some random place. Don’t you get it? We leave you, and you will DIE. You can’t survive alone!”
“I know that,” Stormblade replied.
“Do you want
to die?” Rosie growled.
“I just want you to take me somewhere where I can be alone,” Stormblade said in response. “And leave me there. That’s all I want…please do it.”
Snowcrystal wasn’t sure if Stormblade was even talking sense. She would have liked to tell him to stop it, tell him that he shouldn't talk that way and that he was just being selfish…if she didn’t know that everything he was saying and everything he meant behind those words wasn't completely, and painfully, true. She held Stormblade’s gaze, and the pleading look in his eyes made her feel torn about what to do. If this was what he wanted, she should help, but how could she ever leave him behind alone?
“We’re not going to leave you, Stormblade,” Redclaw told him, stepping forward. “Nightshade can teach some of the scyther here the herbs…I’m sure they could…”
“No…” Stormblade said weakly. “I don’t want to be here.”
(Continued in next post...)