The rhyhorn considered her words, but even if she was sceptical, Tarla knew that she was not inclined to attack them after she believed their words back in the cavern. She watched her draw a breath. “It is said that they have a settlement in the mountains, yes, but I have not heard from them in a number of weeks. Months, even.”
Tarla’s brow dropped. “What do you mean, heard from them?”
“I use the term lightly and perhaps inaccurately,” she sneered. She then averted her gaze before continuing. “I cannot begin to explain what they have put my herd through. My father, Tynor, was a great pokémon capable of many things. He was...killed during the largest battle our herd has ever been a part of. The likes of a ruthless torterra was simply too much for his bulk to handle.” She trailed off, her face rather stripped of emotion as she stared at rock lining the walls. “Before then, there were regular attacks on Rumblerock, our home and the name of these parts. Members were killed without reason.” She glared at the dragon and flying type, and she shivered, suddenly understanding the full blow these pokémon had taken under the cruel fist of the Rokonts. “My father wanted to put a stop to the unwarranted violence. He made an attack on their base, leaving me behind in order to keep me from harm. Consequently I do not know the location of this hideout. He and a number of the herd returned, but not without permanent scars, both physically and emotionally. Over half the soldiers he took were either killed or knocked unconscious, probably later to be taken prisoner.
“They returned for revenge, or, as my father had uttered to me as the onslaught began outside our den, they had come to seal our fates
.” The words washed down Tarla’s back, erecting many small bumps in response. “...He was killed that day, along with countless friends and foes alike. The day was...an epic tragedy. The opposition withdrew merely to spite us and demonstrate their power...without the need to wipe us all out. Perhaps we were no longer a thorn in their paws, but merely a petal to be crushed at any chosen time.” The rhyhorn’s face remained as if she had betrayed no information, but the words spoken clearly opposed that.
Tarla was shocked and continued to look at her, a face of sympathy reflecting her thoughts. She flashed to Azure, who seemed relatively expressionless, and wasn’t sure what she was thinking.
“Do you understand our reaction to your presence? Was it not understandable that we suspected malicious intent after experiencing similar things with a sinister group you could have easily been a part of?” she scoffed, allowing her brows to shape a sort of disgust. “Rokont parties are composed of assorted pokémon to cover all weaknesses and strengths. How do you think we would have reacted, given the assumption, which, as you can see, was entirely legitimised?”
The two shared a quick glance before returning their eyes. “It is entirely understandable,” Tarla reassured. “...Deepest apologies.”
Thunderquake only shook her head and snorted, averting her gaze. “Save them for someone who needs them.”
Azure threw a look which could be accompanied by a scoff, indicating the ungratefulness of the rock and ground type, but Tarla only let her sympathy drain away. “You said...that these areas are called Rumblerock.”
“Yes,” she began immediately, “we are in Rumblerock Pass.”
“Does that mean...this land is your territory?”
“No. My herd does not own the entire province of Rumblerock, but occupy a mere section of it. The extent was larger before...before my father was murdered.” She heaved a sigh and turned around again. “You ask if I know the way out. Yes and no. My herd and I have a rough idea of a general direction, but not a specific path.”
“These rhyhorn are your herd? Not...the traitors?” wondered Azure, glancing at the few in the room but remembering the larger number in the passage they had crossed through. Thunderquake nodded. “Why are half of them giving us those looks? They’re on your side, aren’t they?”
“Is a free mind a foreign concept to you?” she queried, her eyes accusatory as she eyed the glaceon over.
“N...no,” she began, a little taken aback. “I just...thought...”
“Many of them understand you are not Rokonts. Many of them still blame you for what you have caused. I am one of those many, but I will not refuse to aid you.”
“Thank you,” Tarla said, giving a small nod. “It is appreciated.”
“It is not from the goodness of my heart,” the rhyhorn added, dipping her head and turning it on its side a little, her expression stern, as if to warn them that they had no warrant to believe they had been spared out of understanding. “If we do not help you, you will wander around this pass for a time much longer than we wish for you to stay. The closer you are the us, the more harm you can do.” She narrowed her eyes a small amount. “Understand this.”
“We understand,” Tarla responded, nodding compliantly, as if expecting no more and no less. “Even so, any help you provide us with is still greatly appreciated. Whatever the reason you choose to help.”
“Yes, well,” began the pokémon, turning herself around again, “just ensure you don’t attract more danger before we can be rid of you.”
Azure looked at Tarla, a little exhausted, and both shrugged to one another. They could see that the leader of the herd was quite justified, but at the same time, neither of them was looking forward to their treatment on the road out of Rumblerock Pass.
My grogginess revealed the world to me as how it had been before I fell unconscious. Immediately the beat of my wound pulsed in my ears and my brain pounded in protest against the injury. I groaned at the pain, extremely uncomfortable as I tried to shift. I realised with minor horror that I was pressing against the wound, and made an effort to roll over. I knew that it had probably acquired dirt and probably a number of other nasty things that weren’t going to help in the time that I had gained it to where I was now, but that quickly escaped part of my notice as hurried chatter sounded nearby. I could hear the quiet murmuring of a pokémon, and whoever they were, they were nearby.
My head shooting up, I surveyed the area, only to spot a shadow in another passage a little ways down, where a tunnel veered off. The figure was causing her – by the sounds of it – shadow to appear and then disappear, and I came to the conclusion that she was pacing. It certainly wasn’t the figure of a rhyhorn, or any of the other ground types, so I forced out a breath of air and took another, hoping it was one of the colony members.
“H-hey,” I called, surprised at the weakness in my voice. I coughed unsteadily and felt my breath catch a few times, trying to gain a steadier flow before I tried again. “Hey!”
The shadow stopped and I could only see the head. Obviously the pokémon was surprised by my calling, and had immediately come to a halt at the sound of my voice. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing.
“Hello?” I coughed again. “I...I need help...!”
Slowly the shadow grew until a figure rounded the corner with it, her footsteps light and slow as she came into view. I was a little surprised how defensive she looked, but all wonder vanished as I noticed how battered she was. Her white skirt, which fanned out in separate sections to create an image that reminded me a little of an ivory flower, was dirtied and a little torn, while her legs were scattered with a few cuts. Her eyes looked positively worn, but what surprised me the most as the fact that she...was frightened. When I thought about it, the prospect wasn’t peculiar at all, but the look in her eyes nearly frightened me. She looked...almost mad with fear and loss.
“You’re the flareon,” she stated, her voice shaky and small. “You got that injury.”
I looked at her and cringed, trying not to show any pain as my body began aching from the odd position I had formed on the cavern floor. “And you are...?”
She continued to look at me, her head jolting in tiny, tiny movements in different directions, almost as if she were showing odd signs of coldness. “Rentana.”
The kirlia twitched continuously, and for a moment I was sure she was about to burst into tears. Her blinking made me wonder if she had something in her eyes, but I figured that it could have been anything. “Are you...alright?”
“No,” she told me immediately, the wavering in her voice a sure sign that she had diagnosed herself accurately. She tilted her head upwards but kept her eyes on me, as if she was restraining tears, and continued to watch me. “My mate was lost.”
I gave a small frown, turning myself in a way that corrected my posture. “What...do you mean?” I asked slowly, sure that she couldn’t have meant that he had died.
“We were separated,” she said shakily. “I...was...separated from him. He is... I don’t know...where he is.”
I was a little shocked by her response, unable to fathom how such a thing could possibly put her in such a state. “But you...know we’ll meet up with him later, right? Along with all the others, once we get to the surface?”
“If I pray,” she began, swallowing her saliva as she focused somewhere else in the room, “maybe...maybe we’ll return to one another.”
My face twisted with some form of misunderstanding and confusion, and I stared at her with clouded eyes. I was rather confused how she was such a wreck, for the simple reason that she had been separated from someone. I nearly snorted in amusement; not even I had broken down so heavily when I had been separated from those I treasured, and I considered myself quite emotional.
I cringed, feeling another thump of pain from my wound. It made me tense and I remembered that it probably had dirt slip into it in the confusion of the steelix attack. With a small jolt, I realised that the granbull, whatever his name had been, was still fighting it...or, at least, that’s what I assumed. The gigantic creature was frighteningly huge, and the fact that he was trapped in the same room as it was positively petrifying. With a sudden sickening feeling, I realised...he may not come out of that cavern. That may have been his last battle. His last breath. The odd thing was, he saved me at his expense, a pokémon he didn’t even know. For all he knew, I could have been the one to doom Luck.
Turning to the kirlia in a small burst of anger, I shouted, “Pull yourself together!” Silence followed my order, and Rentana kept her eyes planted on mine, wavering with some sort of accompanying fear. All her fear was beginning to frustrate me; if she was capable of lasting on her own, then I would understand, but she seemed highly distracted and emotionally lost without this krinar. For a moment I wondered if she was under an attract spell or something. It wasn’t uncommon for pokémon to know how to execute. “You can’t base your entire emotional wellbeing on this guy. He’s not your lifeblood.”
Her eyes, firstly full of apprehension and soon transforming into muted rage, were beginning to eat at me. I was uncomfortable under her glare. “He is everything to me!” she hissed, her posture suddenly not slumping.
At first I was a little shocked, but when I realised what I had done, I cleared my throat and tried again. “He’s just a male. You don’t need
a male to survive, you know.”
“I need him
to survive!” She seemed to writhe with frustration, as if I was missing something crucial.
“No—you need your heart and your head to survive. This guy needs his as well, not yours.”
“We are different,” she growled, referring to me and her.
“Yes. You’re not the same pokémon, the same being
, so why would you physically need him to live?” I questioned, still confused by the notion. As far as I knew, there would be no reason why a mated pokémon couldn’t simultaneously be their own individual. I certainly had no intention of ‘melding’ myself with whoever I ended up mated with. Paired with that thought was the known possibility that I didn’t even need
a mate to survive. So unless my trainer wanted it, and in which case I would need to be pretty close to the male, I would have no reason to bear pups. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to; I just had no particular interest in it for now. I would have preferred to continue travelling with my trainer than anything. I forgot my momentary tangent and focused again on the kirlia. “Come on. Stop thinking about him for a while.”
We stared at one another for a short while longer, contemplation mingled with pain layering her face as she slumped and downcast her crestfallen expression. “I...” she breathed, unable to finish what she had intended to tell me as she continued to rest her eyes upon the cavern floor.
Once I hobbled a few paces past her, I stopped, the wound in my side searing. I pretended to stop only out of concern, which was half the reason anyway, and turned my glance toward her bent body. “Come on,” I repeated, softer this time. “We need to get moving.” When that did nothing, I added, “...The sooner we escape here, the sooner you find your mate again.” She responded to that, of course, rising and righting herself on her tip-toes. She still faced the other way, however. “What was his name again...?”
“Etire,” she responded immediately, finally turning to meet me. When I saw her face, I was a little surprised. It was as if she had put on some kind of mask. She had concealed the emotion she previously showed, only to display a face of focused neutrality. I was a small amount concerned when I realised that I couldn’t, in fact, make out any sort of emotion at all. She had completely sealed it off.
Making a small noise of acknowledgement, I turned back, pausing before I completely faced the direction leading out of the cave. Taking another step was surprisingly difficult, and I nearly buckled over at the shock of the sudden pain the wound caused. With an inward groan, I concluded that it was probably going to start bleeding again—if it even stopped, that was. I could feel dried, crusty blood on my belly and understood that there would probably be more by the time we stopped to rest again.
Exiting the cavern, the next room opened up into a small expanse of seemingly nothing, which quickly led us into the next one, which was similar but far larger. The room stretched on for an impressive time until another section joined up at the end. There was no small passage this time; the end of the room opened immediately up to another, the likes of which I couldn’t properly see from so far away. Based on the fact that I couldn’t make much out, I figured that it must have sloped upwards and past the opening, which wasn’t as large as the room’s width and which hung down a bit, blocking my view of the next room.
Figuring there was no way to find out but to continue, I took a hesitant step into the wide-open room. I was a little confused by the cavern’s appearance, however, as the ceiling was lowered to create some kind of enclosed space. It was long and wide, but the confines of the room regarding height were not at all generous. I could comfortable stand and lift my ears without problem, but I knew that any pokémon twice my height would have had trouble standing upright.
Curiously I continued, head lowered in as my leg jerked in its awkward limp each step, and surveyed the surrounding area. I was almost expecting predators to leap out from nowhere, and as I continued, the almost inaudible sound of the kirlia’s feet on rock following, I heard an unfamiliar groan. Wildly I whipped my head about, turning around, until I spotted a stray rhyhorn in the corner of the room which I hadn’t noticed while passing through the entrance. The pokémon was waking, so I saw no sense in lowering my voice.
“RENTANA!” I shouted in shock, feeling my leg muscles tense, which involuntarily agitated my wound. “There’s—look! It’s a rhyhorn. What do we do
?” I hissed, understanding that my condition was hardly one fit for battle, and hers, although weakened in a different way, was not a large amount better. As well as mentally, I knew she was physically worn as well. The shield she had erected and held earlier must have cost her a lot of her energy.
She looked to me casually, her eyes calm but a light frown of disapproval on her face. “Pull yourself together,” she smirked sourly, and I recoiled a little, somewhat amused by the words which ricocheted back to strike me in the face, but also surprised. I hadn’t expected her to be any kind of cheeky, and on top of that, I was left to assume that she had used them against me because the rhyhorn wasn’t a threat. However, I was yet unsure.
“Not the enemy,” she assured, turning to him and approaching on light feet. “Up,” she commanded, and he looked at her, a little wary before leaping to his hefty feet. His rocky armour clunked together as he did so, and with eyes of fear and alarm, he watched me unsteadily. “We won’t attack you,” she confirmed, and he continued to stare, completely sceptical of her claim.
“No longer fighting the opposition,” she interjected, and I raised an eyebrow in response. She was seemingly keen to interrupt those who were talking.
“Wait,” I began, realising what she meant, “is he not part of Jaskore – or whatever his name is – ...his followers?”
The rhyhorn threw me a stern glare. “I am not,” he growled. “I was just...wary. And...” He raised his gaze to Rentana, his eyes displaying sure signs of minor guilt and a little embarrassment. However, it was all shone through a stony face.
“Oh...” I began, nearly snorting in minor amusement. “You, uh...had a fall-in.”
“I freaked out,” the rhyhorn stated firmly, his voice hardened by embarrassment and the need to defend himself.
“Hey, hey, I get it,” I began, a grin on my face as I closed my eyes and turned away, half-tail swaying. I could only imagine his face. “We all make mistakes.”
He only snorted in response. I understood. He didn’t want to be disturbed. He was a lone mightyena, and I was fine with that. As well as that, I was mocking him, but I dismissed the thought and looked to the other end of the room. I was still deciding what I thought about its massive extent...it wasn’t that
large, but it would take at least a few minutes to reach the other side. I was unsure if it meant more room for freedom and more area for space around us in case we were ambushed, or whether the space was a bad thing. If we were ambushed, they could surround us with ease. It was a rather uncomfortable thought and I tried not to think of it. There were no tunnels along the walls...or very few, anyway, and although I imagined they could probably work as perfect routes for a sneak attack, I also knew that I was aware, and if it had to come to that...I could always use my flamethrower. I tried to ignore the fact that fire was weak to rock types and spending energy of any kind may have led me to even more pain.
I turned to the kirlia. “We going?” I questioned.
Continued in the next post...