Well...this is certainly the quickest I've written an entire chapter. XDDD Ten days?
Sorry if there are massive paragraphs. They don't look that massive in my Word doc, but they kinda do on here. XD
Chapter Twenty Four: Past and Present
Tarla was not exactly expecting such a surprise when she woke, a face staring at her with not enough of a distance between them for comfort to be an inclusive factor. She stirred, leaping upright in a matter of milliseconds, and fluttered her wings about, caught off guard.
She looked around, realising she was on the same mountain as presumably five minutes before, and a figure stood over her, a curious face peering back. It was a cobalt colour, with a large pink nose slapped in the middle. Two eyes looked at her, filled with wonder and a hint of sympathy. She at first wondered what on earth this pokémon had to be sympathetic for until she remembered: she was at the mouth of the cave when something had knocked her down, and she must have dropped, landing on the ground and knocking herself out. Her wings had been too stiff to carry her in any direction in order to save herself, and she was aware of that before going over, and was thankful that nothing drastic happened. She was glad to have been stopped by the ground early into her fall; if it was a steeper drop, the chances of her surviving would have been significantly altered. Staring up at this creature again, after averting her eyes, the swablu analysed their face once more.
“Hi,” the pokémon began, in a rather casual and cheery voice. She got the feeling it would have been cheerier had the situation been positive. “Sorry about knocking you off the cliff and all.” The pokémon’s face grew sheepish as the apology washed over her face.
“Why...did you?” Tarla questioned, not game enough to bring her attitude to the fore.
The pokémon extended her dark wings, skin-like and easy to fold, and then settled. “Sometimes there are threats around these parts, and I need to protect myself.”
The swablu, figuring this pokémon was of little threat, waited a moment before rocking herself off her back to stand on her small feet. She wrapped her wings nicely around her body as she looked back to the pokémon. “I’m a swablu,” she stated flatly. “I’m, like, a foot tall.” In comparison, the opposing creature was more than twice her height.
“I...I know, but after you fired that dragonbreath down the narrow passage, I freaked out and erupted from my nest with an aim to drive you out. If you were an axew or something, then you wouldn’t be able to get up here, but if by some chance you did, knocking you off would give you a very hard time trying to get back up again.”
“Right...” the flying and normal type responded, finding the story somewhat reasonable but still irritating. She clamped her beak around the base of several of her feathers and slid, sliding the snow off. She tried to shake the rest from her body, but there was still a considerable amount wedged between several of her feathers. “And in the event that I wasn’t an ‘axew’?”
“Then I apologise and invite you back up to my cave,” the pokémon offered, extending a wing upwards, gesturing to the cave a number of metres from the ground.
The swablu’s eyes clouded with suspicion as a gust of wind blew her feathers in a single direction, chilling her skin. “You don’t know that I’m not a threat.”
The pokémon with wings turned back to her, a look of bemusement on her face. She waited a moment, gave a partly condescending chuckle, and said, “Um...” She looked her up and down. “Like you said, you’re a foot tall.”
A frown slipped onto Tarla’s face, and she growled to herself as the cave-dweller crouched for a split second before launching into the air, flapping her wings in quite a different fashion to what Tarla was used to before landing on the cave’s ledge and entering.
She needed to consider things. It was a question of whether or not she could trust this other pokémon, as well as it being the other way around. The guest must trust the host as the host must trust the guest. It occurred to her, however, that trust would have to be formed quickly, as the winds did not cease and once again ruffled her many blue feathers. She was nearly blown over by a particularly powerful gale, and decided not to take further chances. The cave would have to suffice.
Fluttering upward, struggling to right herself as she began to make her way to the ledge, she struggled with an extra amount of effort before finding the right moment to plunge into the mouth from the side. Any longer and she was sure she would have been captured by the winds and taken for a joyride consisting of everything but joy.
Once inside, the swablu shook off, beginning to preen her feathers again. She watched as the other pokémon clung to the ceiling nearby, hanging upside down. At first she was shocked, and wondered if such behaviour was usual for somebody of this pokémon’s species. As a matter of fact, she was quite unaware of what this pokémon even was.
“I...my name is Tarla,” she informed. Usually she would have demanded the other pokemon’s name first, but she was in little position to show ungratefulness.
The one hanging from the ceiling gave a pleased grunt of acknowledgement and remained here she was. Her wings encased her body as best they could, acting as a sort of shield from any breezes that could have invaded. Tarla was a little uncomfortable, watching from the corner of her eye as the other pokémon remained still with a content smile. She was silent.
She stopped cleaning herself to frown, eying the pokémon from where she stood. “And...you are...?”
“The name’s Kori,” the pokémon said simply, angling her head before dropping down. Her claws clung to the cave floor and she rolled her neck to survey the ceiling, her guest’s gaze following. “I live in this cave.”
“Right...well, I’m a swablu.” She was about to reveal where she usually resided, but thought against it, figuring that this ‘Kori’ would come to know if the time was ever right.
“I know,” she responded with a light smile. “I see your kind around here on occasion.”
The comment surprised her, for she was unaware that there were more flocks within such a close vicinity to hers. Yet it made sense; it wasn’t as if she knew where every flock was, and nor could she know. “I don’t see your kind up where I live.” She stopped, jammed by her own words. It felt wrong, but she went back to correct herself no louder than a mutter. “Where I...used to live.”
“That’s because my kind usually reside in caves.” She demonstrated by hooking herself to the cave ceiling once again.
“Swoobat,” she answered happily, perched perfectly upside-down.
I had decided not to dwell on the fire and dark type’s ambiguous words. I was uninterested in figuring him out, and when I did, I had little doubt that his meaning would be nonsense anyway. One can always afford to be spared nonsense. He was not worth the trouble, really. I didn’t know why I would have any reason to have to listen to him, or even acknowledge that he was speaking. It sounded harsh, but it was true—he did nothing to deserve my attention.
We had settled down under a tree and amongst a small collection of bushes for the night. I wanted to get a decent two hours of sleep before we set off at dawn again, but already I was extremely tired. We had gone for most of the night, and now it was evidently growing to be too much of a burden. My legs were aching and my eyelids were hardly capable of remaining parted; despite a random trail of thoughts, my brain was evidently becoming dysfunctional. I couldn’t register half of what the houndoom was doing as we had walked for a time after I noticed that it was becoming near impossible for me to carry on. It was disappointing, the fact that I couldn’t keep walking through the night as I had planned, but I reconsidered, realising that travelling without sleep was less than ideal. Usually I got a measured amount, but the night before we had left for this journey, the hours hadn’t been plentiful, and I realised that a mere two hours was not going to go over well when we needed to travel again. On top of that, I was completely unsure how we would only be asleep for two hours, but it was my preference. I really relied on the dawn to wake us, even if that was foolish to any degree. Unbeknownst to the houndoom, I was used to being foolish.
After I had fallen asleep, my dreams swirled in confusing patterns and danced through my mind, showing me separate incidents repeated and alternative ways those incidents could have happened. Ever since I had learned of Izante, I had been subject to frequent dreams about her, or containing her... Waking always gave me a sense of irrevocability, of a strict barrier cutting off any previous links with the past I still may have held onto. I would wake from a pleasant dream of our time together, or from a discovery that everything had been a misunderstanding, and she was, in fact, a friend again.
I wasn’t even sure if I wanted
to be her friend after all this... She had a heavy level of betrayal slapped across her forehead, and I wasn’t sure if I could trust her again...despite the trust I unfalteringly had for her prior to this. The entire thing had been one painful realisation: trust should not come as easy as it does. And when it is treated as just another simple feeling or assumption, the fool employing it is only setting herself up for injury, both physical and emotional.
When I awoke, it was to the sound of chirping birds and the feel of a gentle breeze. Well, that and a massive tail in front of my face, the arrow-like tip, for some very bizarre reason, running through my tuft. After my mind finally clicked, I leapt backwards, scrambling as my legs momentarily failed to follow proper instruction. Either that or I simply forgot how to control them for a time. “AHH! What are you doing
?” I yelped, feelings of violation caused by his unwarranted touch lighting in my head. ‘Who strokes their tails through other’s fur?!’
With a smug snort of amusement, he returned his tail tip to his ankles. He began to stalk off, his head lazily low and his body reasonably level. “Up. Come on. We have ground to cover.” As he paced away, his shoulders constantly forming rises on his upper back, and then disappeared, rotating with the other. His tail waved nonchalantly from left to right.
I emitted another growl; quite frankly, I was getting sick of having to feel such constant negativity flowing through my veins. Each time he even spoke
I found myself frowning, annoyed, and figured that the sole reason was that he was an irritating pokémon. Not only was he haughty and condescending, but he also liked to undermine me as a pure joke, dancing around things instead of answering me directly. I found it difficult to understand how anybody would be able to tolerate him, let alone be fond of him.
As I stood, my legs shook, and I was momentarily surprised. I blinked out the heavy feeling in my eyes, closing them for a moment and feeling some brief sense of peace before I heard a grunt from ahead. Looking his way, I snarled as I once again noticed his bemused look. It was one of status: he clearly believed himself above me, and I was not going to tolerate that.
“WHY are you so damn cocky?” I snapped, vaguely startled as I found I had to work to maintain my balance and consciously use the strength of my legs to support my weight. He was paused, so I took advantage of the delay and caught up to him.
“Why are you so damn angry?” was his response, and to it I interlocked my jaws, narrowing my eyes.
“Because you are the most frustrating pokémon I’ve ever had to deal with.” I would have thought such an answer was plainly obvious, but I suppose that those who annoy often don’t realise...otherwise they might not be so annoying.
“Why?” he asked with playful curiosity. “I’m helping you, aren’t I?”
,” I hissed disdainfully, and he wasn’t. In no way had he provided one solution to a problem we encountered.
He pushed out a sigh and I could see, from the corner of my eye (as I refused to face him) the nod of his head and an accepting smile of a pokémon only just figuring something out and having the gall to admit it. At least, that’s what I thought he was doing. Until he began shaking his head. Now THAT was a sure sign of condescension. Apparently there was some crucial component of this equation I was missing. According to him, ignorance or pure, innocent lack of information was amusing. Not that I expected any more dignity from a pokémon like him.
The hours wore on, and we were finally coming into a section of the forest I was finding that I quite enjoyed; it was rather pretty. The trees seemed to bend in toward me as I passed at a leisurely pace, my tiredness catching up with me, while the houndoom padded on fairly steadier than I up ahead. He was reasonably fast, but didn’t rush, as he walked faster than me. I could tell he was keeping a pace of purpose; he didn’t want to move too much faster than me, and he was probably also not keen to allow me to catch up. I got the impression that males like him preferred to be in the lead, to have the females strung along behind them, and the notion made me sick. I couldn’t imagine following somebody my whole life, let alone some controlling male. It wasn’t my style, and I intended to let him know.
“You know, I really don’t
enjoy having you around,” I grunted toxically, and he continued in front of me, his shoulders again sharing the spotlight as one protruded and then dipped down, allowing the other to create a lump of bone on his upper back.
“I don’t enjoy your bullying, Flair,” he muttered, angling his snout toward me.
“It’s not bullying,” I scoffed. “It’s called the truth
. You annoy me, so I tell you. Get how it works?”
“I can’t help it if you’re angry all the time,” he shrugged. His tone, feigning carelessness, irritated me, surprisingly
“I-I’m not a—” I cut myself off as my mind paused to think. With a shocking realisation, I realised that he was right. My tempter was fierce, but usually I could control it. He was barely doing a thing to annoy me, and yet I...was acting as if he did something unforgivable. I mean, sure, he was
annoying, but it wasn’t anything to really get my fire in a helix about. Even so, I was not about to admit something like that to him... If he wanted me to play nice, he needed to put in some sort of effort as well. I cleared my throat. “I’m angry because—”
Suddenly my mind emptied. My eyes grew and my legs seized up, and I felt myself begin to shake. My eyes were fixed on him as they continued to remain open, the sting of not blinking prodding at my eyes like small pine needles. My mouth parted a fraction, and I felt my ears remain completely erect upon my skull. It was if the entire forest silenced to listen.
“H...how...” My lip trembled, jerking as I made an effort to control it. My toes felt cold. “D-do you...know..” I could hardly finish my sentence as he stopped up ahead, turning with his legs planted and his face stern. There was still room for expression and looseness, but for the most part it was solid.
“...Flair, come on. We have to keep mov—”
“HOW do you know
?” I hissed, seriousness seeping into my words. I felt as if I was in a staring contest with him. He was relatively calm, but I couldn’t tell if he regretted revealing such information. The details were obviously still hidden, but I was keen to pry them from his jaws. “Tell me...how
?” I pressed, bringing a paw forward as my voice dropped. My mind whizzed with several thoughts, and once more I felt another part of me begin to tremble.
The houndoom narrowed his eyes, exhaling a little before taking a seat. The sight of him resting came as a surprise to me; I was uncomfortable with the fact that he had stopped. I was standing still, and yet that did not seem to register as something of a bother.
When nothing spilled from his mouth, my throat began to rumble with a warning. Still the houndoom stared at me, not intent on commenting. I felt my breathing hasten as I drilled my pointed gaze into his skull, but the effect seemed to have no hold on him. He just sat, heedless of my angered demeanour growing with intensity by the second, and stared.
The trembling, although still happening, became much less of an issue as my leg muscles tensed and I lunged forward with a roar, a stream of fire licking my teeth and ripping from my maw. He looked momentarily shocked before bringing up a front paw to shield his face. I continued the stream while leaping until I crashed into him and we tumbled again onto the forest floor, pricked with sticks and pointed stones once more.
We rolled for a short time before he stopped and I flopped off beside him, leaping to my paws as I stared back at him, agitated and extremely wary. If he knew such private information about me, then what in the world had he been doing? Spying on me? It occurred to me that he could have been acquaintances with Izante.
“Do you KNOW her?” In my rage, it took me a moment to realise that even if he did know her, there was little chance he could have found out...unless the fearow she had climbed onto on the ship had taken her to land to meet the houndoom at an organised specific location. Although somewhat of a stretch, it was possible. “Are you trying to kill me? Is that
it? Revenge for what I did to all those pokémon on the ship? How I spoiled
the precious Team Rocket’s plan to ravage all their prisoners and turn them into monsters like Sed?!” I glowered at him as he slowly worked his paws to the ground and lifted himself. “I saved
them! And...and Izante
was the one trying to make them her captives. Slaves of those humans! I don’t regret a single thing that I did on that ship. Nothing
,” I hissed. “So gimme your best
shot. Then we’ll see which one of us is superior!”
Lowering my top half, back legs and rump still in the air, I felt my forelegs press against the soil, the fur presumably collecting dirt and leaves. My mane felt as if it was thickening, and I braced myself for any oncoming attack. At the same time, I boiled inside. I boiled with all that was happening: this houndoom’s presence, the mention of Izante, his hidden knowledge—even the fact that Izante herself was a traitorous coward, and now it was discovered that this houndoom could have been as well.
“I can’t...take...any more betrayals.”
My jaw tightened, nose twitching as I felt my eyes buzz and a glaze of salt liquid became existent over my eyeballs. I shook more intensely, feeling the rising temperature in my belly. I could nearly taste the flames as I held it down, summoning a different power easiest to harness when my emotions were at their peak; I was utterly infuriated, upset and confused as I glared, forcing the horrible thoughts to the front of my mind. I could not ignore this. It had to be dealt with, and I didn’t want to think about consequences. My assault would provide an outcome, that of which I was intentionally not focusing on.
Continued in next post...