The others had stopped further away than Snowcrystal had expected; she imagined that in their weakened and tired state that only sheer terror had driven them on. She wasn’t used to seeing the group split up like that out of fear...even Redclaw had run, when he hadn’t even thought of doing such a thing while they were on Articuno’s mountain. The group was now resting among several large, dry bushes, and when Snowcrystal, Spark and Alex arrived, everyone looked up at them with fearful expressions.
“You’re all right!” Rosie gasped in surprise and relief. “Do you know what to do about Nightshade? What are we going to-”
“We’ll have to wait.” Redclaw’s voice had gained its usual calm, but though there was relief in his eyes at the sight of the three arriving pokémon, he seemed reluctant to bring attention to himself and couldn’t seem to bring himself to look at them. “There’s nothing we can do about Nightshade right now. We’ll have to wait until the human leaves.”
“What did you just run away for?” Spark growled, causing most of the pokémon to look at him in surprise. “Nightshade’s back there; don’t you remember? And all you did was run without even trying, leaving the rest of us to face all those…”
Redclaw’s furious gaze snapped toward Spark. “Did you see what happened to Thunder?” the arcanine roared, resulting in an even greater look of surprise from everyone around him. “Didn’t you see that he still had her poké ball? He may have abandoned me but he must still have the poké ball. I don’t care what any of you think of me for running, but I would rather die than be one of his pokémon again.” He gave Spark a glare that rivaled any evil look Thunder had given any of them. Spark lowered his gaze and slowly backed away, not replying.
No one spoke up again.
Snowcrystal sat by herself for a long time, listening to the howling winds and then watching the sky grow darker as night settled in, half worried about Nightshade and Thunder, and half worried that Thunder’s trainer was coming after them. Though no one taking their duty as lookout saw him anywhere near where they were, it wasn’t enough to put her mind at ease. The way he had looked at her, like she was some sort of rare prize to own rather than a living thing still deeply unnerved her.
In the early night, Snowcrystal took her turn as a lookout for the group, hoping that the task would give her something to focus on rather than the events that had taken place that day. She wanted anything else to think about, and she didn’t feel like talking to anybody else. As she gazed out over the land they had just passed through, warily looking for any movement, something caught her eye and made her freeze.
Near the canyon edge, but much closer to them than Snowcrystal thought anyone should have gotten without her noticing, was the shape of a human. Her whole body tensed, and she was about to cry out to the others, when she realized that this human, even if she could only see its outline in the fading light, was very different looking than Thunder’s Master. He wasn’t quite as tall, and he was thinner, and he was standing, barely visible against the dark rocks, and looking down into the canyon. And there was someone beside him, a pokémon.
She hadn’t noticed the pokémon at first; he had been standing in the shadows, but when he moved, Snowcrystal recognized the shape instantly. It was a scizor. Scytheclaw?
She wondered. Is that Scytheclaw?
She continued to watch the pokémon and human shapes, but they didn’t seem to be moving much. She had no idea what Scytheclaw would be doing around a human, but she wasn’t about to go closer and find out. She wanted to alert the others, but she kept quiet for now. After all, she didn’t want them to panic if there was no real danger; this human was obviously a different one and didn’t seem interested or aware of them at all.
Something moved from behind the human and scizor. It was another pokémon, but Snowcrystal couldn’t quite tell what species it was. The human turned away from the canyon and stepped toward this second pokémon. Suddenly more worried, Snowcrystal turned to look at the others in her group. Seeing that they already looked tense and worried enough, Snowcrystal wasn’t sure she wanted to alert them of the strange human unless it actually did something threatening. She glanced back to where the human was.
It was gone. And so were the pokémon. Blinking in surprise, Snowcrystal studied the canyon edge. There was no way they could have climbed down and out of sight in the second she had taken to glance away; it was as if they had never been there at all. She stared at the spot for quite a while before she finally managed to look away and focus again on watching for Thunder’s trainer. There was no sign of the strange human anywhere else either. Reluctantly, she admitted that she must have been imagining things.
In the middle of the night, Redclaw, Alex, and Spark returned with Nightshade, who, thankfully, had not been injured worse since being left near the human. Spark had not spoken to Redclaw since his outburst, but Alex had convinced him to go along and help. Redclaw had not gone back until Alex and Wildflame, who snuck off back to the area they had left Nightshade at, had confirmed that the human was no longer there, and that his scent had led back into the canyon. Snowcrystal still wasn’t convinced that Thunder’s trainer wasn’t following them, or that he hadn’t just gone back into the canyon a while for rest and food for his pokémon. At least they mentioned nothing about any other humans, so the strange human was not around, if it even existed. Seeing Nightshade being carried in carefully on Redclaw’s back, she tried not to dwell on her worries for now when there were more pressing matters to think about at the moment.
Redclaw lay down slowly and Alex and Spark carefully pushed Nightshade off his back and onto the ground. The heracross’s eyes flickered open for a second and then closed again. Though his wounds were no longer bleeding, they looked deep. Snowcrystal then realized why she hadn’t been worried about Thunder much. She couldn’t…not after what she’d done.
Rosie hesitantly approached Nightshade’s still form. “Nightshade? Can you get up?”
“No,” he replied, his eyes opening slowly and his voice sounding much weaker than usual. “Not now. I need to rest.” His eyes closed again.
“Leave him alone,” Wildflame told Rosie, pushing her away slightly. Rosie didn’t protest.
Everyone else just watched in silence until Blazefang spoke. “Well, what are we going to do now? We can’t go back in the canyon if that human is lurking about. And now that Nightshade’s the new Stormblade, how are we going to get to the human’s city anytime soon?”
Snowcrystal glared at Blazefang, angry that he had called Nightshade ‘the new Stormblade’, but he just shrugged at her.
Surprisingly, it was Nightshade who spoke next. He made no effort to push himself upright, and though Snowcrystal was pretty sure he could if he wanted to, she realized he probably knew that it could make his injuries worse. The heracross’s gaze was fixed on Blazefang as he spoke. “My wounds are not as bad as Stormblade’s were,” he rasped. “I just need a few days…then I’ll be able to travel again.”
“And by ‘travel’ you mean ride on Redclaw’s back?” said Blazefang.
“If that’s what it takes.”
“But we don’t have
a few days!” Blazefang snarled back. “What if that human comes back? How are we ever going to get to that city if-”
“Blazefang,” Redclaw began, “there’s nothing we can do about that now. After what happened, we all need a rest. We can decide what to do tomorrow, but we won’t be leaving in the morning unless we absolutely have to.”
Blazefang exchanged a glance with Wildflame, but neither dark type said anything.
“What about Thunder?” Alex asked, voicing the question that Snowcrystal assumed had been on everyone’s mind.
“What about her?” Rosie muttered back.
“Aren’t we…going to try and get her back?” Alex looked around the group, confused.
No one said anything.
“You mean, you’re just going to leave her with that trainer?”
“Why not?” Blazefang muttered. “It’s what she deserves. Besides, she wouldn’t put her life or freedom on the line for any of us, so why should we do it for her?”
think she deserves to belong to a trainer like that?” Snowcrystal asked, giving Blazefang a seething look. Sure, she was angry at Thunder too…no, more than angry, but certainly that didn’t mean she deserved to have her trainer put her through any number of horrible things again? “I know that what Thunder did was horrible, but I don’t think anyone deserves that.”
“Naive and innocent as always, huh?” Blazefang replied.
“Look, Snowcrystal, Alex…” Wildflame began, “we can’t try and bring Thunder back. That human’s pokémon are stronger than us, and if they’re anything like Thunder, they can handle a lot more damage from attacks too. Not to mention that he has pokéballs, and if any of us fainted or got badly hurt, we could end up like her.”
Redclaw nodded in agreement. “I’m sorry…but it’s not worth it.”
Not worth it?
Snowcrystal thought, after you showed us all how horrible you felt everything about that trainer was? You know more than anyone else how awful that human is!
Though she wanted to say these things out loud, she didn’t.
“Thunder had no reason to attack Nightshade,” Redclaw continued as if he could tell what she was thinking. “I hate to say it, but I think her time with Master made her almost as bad as he is.”
A sudden memory surfaced in Snowcrystal’s mind; a cave floor covered in sticky mud, Thunder rushing in to help Stormblade and then her pulling him to safety… She found it hard to believe that Thunder was as bad a pokémon as some of the others thought she was. She may have done many bad things, but there was good in her somewhere. She glanced over at Rosie; after all, the ninetales had seen Thunder rescue Stormblade as well.
Rosie noticed her looking and looked back, catching her gaze and turning to the others. “Wildflame’s right,” she said, and Snowcrystal’s hopes dropped. “It’s too risky, and that human’s pokémon are too strong. Thunder may have been part of our group and followed us around, but can any of you really call her your friend? She was mean, rude, vicious, horrible, and as you all just saw today, downright sadistic
. Sorry to anyone who wanted her back, but she’s not worth risking anything for.”
Snowcrystal realized that Rosie probably didn’t even remember the incident at the cave right now, and if she did, she didn’t care. Deep down she knew that Wildflame was right, and that they couldn’t risk confronting that human and his pokémon. She didn’t want her friends to get hurt. But at the same time, the thought of whatever vague horrors Nightshade and Redclaw had hinted to her about Thunder’s past filled her with dread. Thunder had probably been sentenced to a fate worse than death, and none of them could do anything about it.
In the midst of her thoughts she realized that Rosie was still talking. The ninetales’ eyes were still cold and angry. “…and as far as I’m concerned,” she said calmly, “that trainer can do whatever he wants with her.”
Though Snowcrystal wasn’t sure if everyone agreed, no one spoke up to argue.
(To be continued...)
The next chapter will be quite a bit more 'happy' (not for all the characters, however, but most of them). The next chapter is the one I've been wanting to write for a while, so I'll get started on that really soon after I write the next Mind Whisperer chapter. Yay, inspiration!