I felt my nose scrunch as my cheeks elevated, pushing up against my eyes in a face of reluctant compliance. I released it with an exhalation and grunted in surrender before uttering, “Fine... I won’t hound you for answers.”
The glaceon waited a moment before turning to me with some mild degree of disbelief. Her brow shaped her eyes with a frown of question, and I raised mine, giving a light nod. She looked mutedly thankful and relieved. I could tell that another minute of thinking she would have to spill the beans at my request would have pulled uncomfortably on vines she wanted suspended in secret, which I did not want to be responsible for. She did not ask questions, but merely gave me the tiniest of joyless smiles and returned her attention to the path.
I sighed in disappointment; it was true that I wanted to know, to learn of their shared past, but rightfully it wasn’t mine to know. In fact, she had no obligation to me whatsoever, and I had acted as if she owed me the world. ‘Well...I did save her life on one occasion,’
I thought in consideration, but, remembering back to the incident with Sed, Tooloo and that Mr. Mime, I reiterated to myself that she had come to my rescue. If I recalled correctly – for the incident, due to my state at the time, was a muddled mess – Splash had retaliated first. It occurred to me that I had forgotten to thank him deciding that sometime I would.
“So...” Looking to her again, I held her gaze for a moment to check she was paying attention. “We even?”
She didn’t smile, but she was complacent with the notion. She gave a brusque nod. On the contrary, I smiled.
“I told you it was a foolish idea to cross through here,” Tarla grumbled, perched upon a rock wall. She peered down into a break in the rock, a collection of three pokémon making their way through the channel no faster than snails. The path was wide enough for the krinar and kirlia to fit side-by-side, but Derino would certainly have had trouble beside another. He waddled gruffly between the two giant slabs of rock, clearly agitated as he had to sometimes turn so his belly and back were against the rock. The others did the same, although they had a considerably less difficult time doing so.
“Yeah, well, sometimes we need more convincing than we think we need!” shouted Etire, and Tarla only scoffed. It was like him to shift the blame.
“Mm, because of course, it’s my duty to look after you when you purposely disregard my warning.” She scowled. “How was it not clear to those glazed-over eyes of yours that this way was treacherous?”
“What other way was there? I saw none,” retorted the krinar. He dragged the kirlia out the way of a falling rock and watched it shatter.
Tarla sneered at the very thought; she was partly glad that they hadn’t agreed upon going the other way, but at the cost of time, she knew. “Underground.”
“I’m afraid I have trouble seeing in the gloom,” the kirlia replied delicately, her words drifting gently through the air to meet the flying and dragon type.
“We all do,” Tarla clarified, her voice an unpolished stone in comparison.
“Quit your arguing,” a voice of a forth pokémon grumbled from up ahead. “We can’t change the path we’re on. We already chose this, so use yer initiative and apply it to your surroundings now.”
Tarla and Etire sighed, understanding he was correct, but obviously unwilling to believe so. The kirlia waited until Etire moved before following.
They wandered on for another while, and by the looks of things, Tarla assumed it would take them all day to weave between the right cracks and navigate their way out of the rocky maze—however, with her to guide, they would be able to make it through in at least half the time, and decided that they could be out by a few hours past midday. She constantly glared up at the sun, checking to ensure that she wasn’t going to miscalculate. There was no place she couldn’t see from above; her ability of flight proved to be a very helpful one.
A few times, they had been unsure about following her lead, and she had to fly partway into the distance to double check it was the correct path, but even then they were hesitant. When it happened again, they had come to a fork. The left was fairly straight, whereas the right path veered off at a sharp diagonal angle, rather than following the path forward. The trio below insisted that the right path to follow was the left one, as it trailed toward the right direction. Derino was adamant that the path to the right would lead them astray, and the frustration Tarla felt for the normal type welled time and again. The krinar was not much better—both were stubborn.
“Rantana,” she called to the kirlia, fluttering down before the fork to address her personally. “If you’re having trouble believing me, use your psychic abilities to confirm the truth.”
The cream pokémon watched her with calm but innocent eyes. “I do not doubt your judgement.” Tarla kept staring, unsure exactly what her answer was. “I have no reason to confirm your words because I already believe them true.”
“Rentana,” Etire began, on her left as he snatched her attention. Tarla frowned. “Everybody makes mistakes. It’s normal that Tarla does, especially.”
“Shut your little mouth, you twerp,” hissed the altaria, her feathers looking to rise as she puffed herself up.
“What? Aren’t I allowed to express my opinion?” he wondered aloud, his disapproving glance agitating her as it usually tended to do.
“Not when I can see the end of the path
meeting up with the rest
of the paths that lead to the correct location.”
“And how long does the right path take if it bends and later rejoins with the “rest of the paths”?” he questioned, stance relaxed but easily mouldable.
The altaria seemed to contemplate her pride and reason as she moved her beak. She held the words back for as long as she could, well aware that her answer could define the final choice. “The turn takes up a lot of time that the left path doesn’t,” she quickly spilled, and he gave a smug smile and crossed his arms, as if he had won. “But
the left path comes to a dead end. You can’t cross
through there, so all that “saved time” gets you nowhere!”
“I can if I break through the wall,” he answered, far too sure of himself. He spoke casually, as if the words meant hardly anything. Tarla knew that he was going to have a positively difficult time doing something like that. Although she ached to see him try so she could jeer when he failed, she did not wish for these colony members to stray off track and waste time. It was also her pride at stake, which she was going to keep either way—unless, of course, the krinar somehow managed to pierce the wall.
She sneered and looked to Rentana, who gave a tiny apologetic shrug. Derino crossed over behind Tarla to the path on the left. His ignorance inflated, as it often did, and he blundered blindly down the path. Tarla’s cheeks rose in disbelief; she was almost disgusted.
“Where are you going? I told you
to go the other way!” she yelled, clearly impatient as he continued.
“My eyes do not deceive me,” he barked, angling his head up so his words would be most likely to rush to the place he targeted.
“Your eyes aren’t the ones surveying the ground from the skies!” The granbull merely raised a thick purple paw, dismissing her claims and anything else she tried to get across. “But that’s not the right path,” she exclaimed again, and turned furiously to the krinar as he snorted in amusement.
“Nah, you’re correct,” he began, starting off after Derino. “It’s not the right
path.” Rentana followed slowly, looking tired. When the krinar was a few steps in, he turned around to finish his sentence, smirking. “It’s the left path.”
In a fury, the altaria fired a dragonbreath down the channel, momentarily heedless of the possibility that she could have instead hit the kirlia. When it reached not even her, Tarla bit down, the pressure of her beak marginally unsettling. She took off, beating the air with powerful strokes and rose in a considerably short time. Her anger swirled in her mind, and she wondered why in the world she came if her own party members, the pokémon obliged to trust and listen to her, couldn’t even believe her words. Etire was too cocky, Derino too stubborn and Rentana too flimsy. The combination was fatal when pitted against one who opposed their views.
Hissing in response to the aggravating situation, she powered forward, racing past her fellow colony pokémon in the blink of an eye to verify that the end of the path led to where she knew it did. A dead end. She wanted to once again analyse it for herself, and she knew that if she did, maybe she could convince them. After all, she was the one looking at it from above, and obviously knew more about the situation and the settings than the others; however, that hadn’t stopped them from overruling her judgement before. Nevertheless, it was worth a try, even if she didn’t believe that they would come to listen at all. ‘Aemara would have listened to me,’
she thought bitterly, resting her thoughts on her closest friend to seek some kind of comfort.
She began to miss her company after a number of days without seeing her, and she found herself wishing she could have come. The ghost and ice type could have levitated over the smaller rock ledges to rise higher and eventually cross across the top of the rock. She not only would have been a faster traveller, but also more efficient and wouldn’t waste time or effort derailing because she, in light of better judgement, was not foolish enough to imagine she had more knowledge than Tarla of the correct direction.
Her eyes fell upon the mountain ahead once more, unsure if its closeness was a good or a negative thing. It was both, she guessed, in their own ways. As well as all the hurt she felt from the banishment, she also treasured wonderful memories of a mountain very close by that helped provide her with refuge and a new people to start life over in the company of.
She cast an eye down on the rock below, watching it slowly trudge by as she approached the end of the path in which the party was soon to walk. Upon arrival, she fluttered her wings and descended, dropping to the edge of the rock wall to peer ahead. The trail came to an opening, sort of like a roofless room that was barred by rock walls. A small path branched off to the side of the area, but only continued for a few metres before it, too, was blocked off by rock. She found herself remembering that she was right, and that Etire and his cocky attitude were wrong. Him and Derino—the two males were useless when it came to listening to others, and in Etire’s case, especially to females. The only female he listened properly to was Rentana, but even then it was only because they were mated and he valued her opinion.
“His extensive self-assurance is his undoing,” she muttered to herself, sure that one day his attitude would get him in serious trouble. It was the same with Derino’s stubbornness. She suddenly felt grateful that Hunter, his son, was not without external influences. Any chance to take after his father was best tempered by others.
The party of three arrived within the following ten minutes, and as they came closer, the granbull’s face remained hardened and unchangeable, while the krinar was still overflowing with confidence, even when his eyes ran the height of the wall. He seemed unsure of himself for but a moment before returning to his confident state, and she raised a feathered brow, wondering if he had doubted himself at first.
She didn’t speak as they spilled into the area and ran their proud gazes along the wall. The two males wandered partway down the path to the side before meeting a dead end, despite being able to clearly see without taking the short cut into the rock, and pressed limbs against the walls to test their durability. Etire avoided Tarla’s supercilious gaze as he continued prodding the wall, moving out of the small path and testing the other sides.
“Will you just admit it already?” Tarla persisted, bemused by their useless attempts. “You didn’t listen to me and I was right. In effect, that means you were wrong
.” The ralts evolution just glared at her, not intent on having his precious pride wounded, it seemed. His eyes were marginally concerned and growing with frustration.
“I told you that we can break through,” the krinar protested whist trying to convince himself, running a clawed hand down the surface of the rock. Tiny crumbs of stone broke off as he went, pattering on the earthen floor. He was doubting the possibility, but refused to give up before he started.
The altaria scoffed, half in annoyance and half in amusement, and ruffled her feathers before settling comfortably down, watching as he once again tested the rock with short slams of his fists and legs, and did something similar three more following times, as if contemplating. “Praising the wall won’t help you break through it,” she teased, and he stopped stroking it, obviously aware of his actions and how they were similar to stroking a young child’s head when they did well after completing a task.
“It’s called testing the surface I’m going to smash.”
“Testing?” she jeered again, a single eye on him as he looked up with a haughty frown. “You’ve been testing it for quite a few turns now, haven’t you? I think the rock has been using iron defence each time you attack with a stroke.”
“Look who the funny one is now,” he growled with the tiniest bit of accompanying mockery.
Tarla shrugged, quite enjoying what she got to do to him. “I have a talent for it.” The altaria stretched out a fluffy wing and began to preen a few of her cloudy feathers. “Faltering is the first sign of failure,” she told him half-attentively. “I think you should reschedule a time with the rock. Clearly you’re too busy procrastinating to actually make a move. I think the rock won the battle.”
Instead of exploding with anger, the krinar stood, absorbing her words as he inhaled, and exhaled with a small smile of acknowledged defeat. He shook his head to himself and focused back to the rock, heedless of the kirlia behind him.
Derino was marching back and forth, attempting to find some fault in the rock’s composition for a way to break through. Tarla understood that it wasn’t so much pride for the normal type, but simply an inability to acknowledge that he was wrong. He would keep looking for an opening simply because he was oblivious to the fact that the way he chose could have been incorrect.
A good ten minutes passed, and in that time the dragon type managed to keep her beak shut for the most part. She watched between preening as the two pokémon below her, as the kirlia also stood watching, searched for weak points in the rock. It was unlikely that they would encounter any, she knew, but they looked anyway.
“It seems you have a little issue,” the altaria called softly from the cliff, stopping her task to look at the krinar. Derino was hardly paying attention. Etire enquired with his eyes what she was talking about. “Someone told you to go one way, and you went another! Preposterous that she was right and you were wrong, isn’t it? It’s astounding that the great Etire was...wrong!” She cocked her head back and grinned greasily, more than happy to be in her position. The feeling of annoyance and wasting time hardly entered her mind as she revelled in the power she held. “And your plan doesn’t seem to be working.”
“Oh, come on,” he whined, clearly unsatisfied with defeat. “Can it, would you? You’ve milked this situation as if it was a bloated miltank. You don’t have to keep rubbing it in.”
“I’m sorry. I thought I heard someone whining. Was that you?”
The psychic and fighting type drove a hand to his forehead and stared with drooped shoulders at the wall in front of him. For the first time, he admitted its density and began to doubt his ability to break through. He took a look at the altaria above and shook his head in defiance, reluctant to allow her the satisfaction of a complete victory. He knew he had calculated wrongly and made a foolish decision, but his regret was not strong enough to overcome his pride.
He focused his energy, breathing in as he tried to imagine a sudden outbreak of punches and kicks on his behalf. He tensed his claws, pressing them together as he tried to build up strength. He had no idea if his technique would work or how effective it would be, but he stood with a mind narrowed to focus on his task. He had to focus solely on the wall before him to leave a proper mark. He would have to block everything out and round up all his attention, then place it in front of where he stood so he was able to carry out the desired combination of movements. He again inhaled and exhaled, moving his shoulder joins around in rolls before opening his eyes.
It was then that he saw Tarla and her arrogant grin.
“No,” he hissed to himself, tearing away from her and shaking his head. ‘This is not working,’
he told himself agitatedly, hesitant to admit such a thing to himself. He needed to be focused in order for anything to work, and telling himself that he wasn’t was defining a path to failure.
Without bothering to try again, he rotated his body quickly so he was side-on, took a firm step and extended his arm quickly like a spring before it rammed into the wall. Small fragments broke off and crumbled to the ground, a small dent in the wall. At first, for a split second, he was happy. However, he realised again how tiny the mark was, especially in the vastness of the wall. And then again as he thought of its width. Etire sighed, nearly ready to give up before he even started.
“Well, go on,” Tarla teased, baiting him. “I’m waiting for the wall to suddenly collapse
.” She emphasised her last word with a heavy implication that it was ridiculous as she stood up to shake, then proceeded to sit, her fluffy wings spilling over the edge.
Continued in the next post...