“Yes,” she answered immediately, gracefully stroking past the rhyhorn. She proceeded without me as I stilled myself and eyed the rock and ground pokémon. He was evidently uncomfortable with it.
“What’ve you got to do?”
“Uhh...nothing?” he answered, and I gave a few nods.
“Well...do you wanna come with us?” In all honesty, I had my and the kirlia’s best interests at heart, since a rhyhorn would be far more likely to be able to repel any enemies, and he looked to be in a fitter state than both me and the psychic type fused.
The question caught him off guard and he remained still for a moment, the kirlia pausing to turn to him, probably interested in his answer. “No.”
My face turned sour. “What? Why not?” Giving him a judgemental sneer, I added, “What, you got something better to do?” I nodded in an upwards motion to the wall behind him. “Like talkin’ to that wall?”
“Don’t mock me,” he threatened, and at the words, I just sighed.
“Well, come on. You don’t have a reason.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You just want me for protection.”
“You know what?” I began, exhaling again and giving my head a light shake. “I don’t have the time or patience for this.” I whirled around and began walking up the cave again. I did not have any interest in more talk. Sure, I was a talkative flareon, but when that was all I’d heard – bicker and chatter – for the past while, beginning when I woke that day because of that stupid houndoom, I was positively sick of it. I wanted action and progress, not another argument. Zaion had explained to me that while I was asleep, the rhyhorn’s herd had split in two – a party following the original leader and a party following a rebel who disagreed with the leader – just when things were looking like they could lead to peace. I didn’t witness it, of course, but the thought that we were nearly free of the tedious battle, only to wind up with a larger problem in our paws, was frustrating beyond compare. I just wanted to be rid of these caves and back on the surface so we could hurry up and find that base.
I was halfway up the room when I turned around to view the position of the other two. The kirlia had dropped behind and began conversing quietly with the rhyhorn while my thoughts were busy having a discussion with me. I turned back, head casually low as I walked, and very subtly edged my head to the right so one of my eyes was spying the rhyhorn, who, watching me carefully, began to trudge a little faster. I flicked back, wondering if he was, in fact, following us, or if he was simply progressing in the same direction we happened to be going because there was no other path. I watched as he passed by the few tunnels lining the walls, glancing warily left and right, and my mind told me he was less than interested in veering off and disappearing down them. I understood: fear of the unknown. I too preferred to carry on in the direction of a room I could actually see.
I slowed my pace so the kirlia would have a chance to catch up much faster – or that would have been my excuse if she asked how my wound was doing – and soon enough she was but a few metres behind me, the rhyhorn a little closer in distance to her. However, I arrived at the entrance to the next room before she met up with me, and, slowing to a stop, I realised that I had been right—it did slope up, although at a rounded angle, rather than a straight slant.
I surveyed the room from where I was, noting the many rising pillars around me. The entire room was riddled with giant ledges and carved cliffs rising from the ground at great angles, although there were only a few of them. Mostly the rock formations rose far above where I could reach, either a square shape at the top, and therefore easy to stand on, or looked to be lumpy and difficult to grasp. I clenched my jaws, feeling the effects of my wound after the walk as I stood still and could unintentionally spare focus for it.
“Well that...looks like a climb,” I commented, wondering where on earth I was meant to begin. With a wary face, the kirlia cast a solemn glance across the room, displaying subtle signs of caution and, I could see, some kind of hopelessness. I wondered why she was acting that way, especially considering she was able to teleport herself, but when I noticed the rhyhorn lumber up beside us, I understood. She was worried the rock type wouldn’t be capable of scaling the oversized ledges and pillars. When I thought about it, I had similar trouble envisioning how he would climb, and wondered what he would be made to do. I turned to him, trying to find some solution in my mind. It was in our best interest that the protector made it through as well as the protected. “Maybe...there’s another way through?” I asked sheepishly, hoping that he would suddenly reflect my hope with strength I couldn’t find.
He remained silent as he absorbed the scene. He didn’t seem nearly as dismayed as Rentana. “I hope you didn’t underestimate my ability to climb rock,” he grunted, and with a flicker of minor surprise, the psychic type and I glanced to each other with cocked heads. He didn’t say anything for a small amount of time, as if expecting us to consider his statement, and then become suddenly knowledgeable about what he was talking about. I watched as he emitted a sigh. “This is what I’m used to
. I live in a rocky place. There are high-sailing structures like these all over the place that I have to find my way up.” He eyed one of them. “It’s not uncommon for rhyhorn to know how to climb.”
“Ooh,” I began as I looked to the same formation his gaze was set upon, clicking, “I get it now.”
Rentana hesitantly took the first few steps into the room and craned her neck slowly, as if the rectangular pillar before her was some monstrosity she was required to conquer...and then I realised that it was. “There are large gaps between those formations. You cannot leap across,” she affirmed. We both looked to her questioningly, and I noted she was right.
I doubted that even I could leap across some of the spaces, and it was obvious that we needed to ascend most of the rocks to reach the entrance to the next room, which sat far above in the wall, a ledge before it. I suddenly wondered to myself how the surface hadn’t yet begun, and wondered if we were perhaps...underneath the mountains already.
“I will find my way through,” the rhyhorn told her, and although she showed no sign of protest she, like me, was probably sceptical of his comment.
The kirlia lowered her head and faced him. “Even so,” she began, “the path won’t be an easy one.”
After trying to find a way to get back into the room they had been previously in, Zaion had given up with a growling huff and figured that the rest of his company was probably separated as he was, and probably just as lost, and would all be making their ways through the tunnels with the hope of reaching the end. He knew that they should have been close to the mountains, so emerging from them would be ideal, for once they were out, they could use their closeness to their advantage and arrive as quickly as they could.
He glanced to the quagsire beside him, eying him with particular interest as he wondered what exactly inhibited the pokémon’s ability to accurately communicate. It seemed, for the most part, his brain worked cognitively, but his emotional side was not well adjusted. He had considered that perhaps the quagsire was simply not an emotional pokémon, but readjusted his thinking and concluded that it wasn’t that he simply lacked enough emotion...it was that he seemed physically unable to properly express it. The thought of his emotions being suppressed in such a manner frightened him, although it would be all the quagsire knew. He probably never had much emotion in the first place to be taken away. He also wondered how many summers or winters old he was. It was peculiar that he couldn’t tell, but shrugged it off, making an attempt to stop focusing on his travelling companion and start focusing on the travelling itself.
“I’m fairly certain you can understand me, quagsire... Do you have any idea where we are?” he wondered curiously, throwing his head left and right as he examined rough walls with no sign of veering off. He could see another room up ahead, but still, he was extremely curious.
The water and ground type said nothing – he didn’t even look at the houndoom – until they reached the room, where he turned his head to shine his big, dopey smile at the fire and dark type. “Quagsire,” he mentioned, beginning to wag his tail. Zaion blinked peculiarly, unintentionally analysing his tail and suddenly finding that it must have been useful for many things—from a swimming aide to a handy tool in battle. He compared it with his tail, and although he had always liked the fact that it was slim and easy to keep track of, he wished it did more things.
They emerged into a room that, to both of their surprises, dropped immediately downwards several metres, the part they came out onto evidently some kind of strong ledge. The houndoom was quite happy to have been saved an immediate drop, and they would have had to remain at the mouth of the hallway as simple onlookers. He surveyed the area, noting that there was a giant lake in the centre of the room. The cavern itself wasn’t overly large, and estimated that he could probably run along the length of the ledge – which they had emerged onto the middle of – in five seconds per way, totalling a ten second stretch from wall to wall. However, this was only the width of the room, and he guessed that the distance from his side to the other side was at least twice that, if not a little more.
He cringed at the thought of water; he didn’t mind it that much, but he preferred to steer clear of it. It wasn’t something he enjoyed bathing in, but would if it was necessary. The feel of it simply reminded him of the attacks that water types used on him when they thought they had a hope of winning. Nevertheless, the thought of the feeling remained, but he was sure that he would have no trouble crossing it if they could get down
from the ledge.
His first task was to see if there was a way to descend the ledge and end on the bottom floor, as there was no other way to continue, and gave a sigh. He figured that his counterpart would probably not be able to provide them with anything substantial, and began his quest to find a way down.
It didn’t take him long, however, and soon he and the quagsire were before the lake. With another inward groan, the houndoom watched as the quagsire simply fell into the water and slipped beneath the surface. If it weren’t for the subtle change in the pokémon’s disposition as soon as he hit the water, he thought he might have fallen in unintentionally, or with the inconvenience of being paralysed as he entered. He was relieved when the pokémon broke the surface and began to swim around happily; the thought of having to rescue a pokémon his size when the houndoom’s swimming skills weren’t exactly top notch was a little worrying.
He tested the water with two toes, cringing as he slipped the rest of himself in, a little surprised as the floor suddenly dropped and his front paws shot down into nothing but water. He began to drift as he paddled, his back legs dislodging from the floor unintentionally as he swayed and bent his legs in turn, nearly faltering a few times as he quickly sneered and began to swim to the other side. It was an effort, but he was able to make it to the other side without much fuss.
The quagsire swam about, diving in and out of water and splashing about as if water was his favourite thing in the world—which Zaion wouldn’t have doubted anyway. Upon reaching land, the fire and dark type shook off and searched for somewhere he could blow his fire and keep it burning so he could dry himself. Instead he attempted to heat his body’s temperature.
In the middle of doing so, he looked around, spotting his companion still dipping through the lake. For a moment he was fearful that something would pop out and swallow the quagsire up, but he realised that the lake was far too small to carry something that big. He cleared his throat. “Uh, Splash,” he called, “are you done?”
There was barely a response as the pokémon only paid him a small amount of notice between his dips and turns in the water, and for a while he didn’t rise again. It was then that Zaion feared something may have gone wrong, but when his head appeared again, thankfully still attached to his body, he could reassure himself. Perhaps the quagsire knew the depth of the smallish lake and was sure nothing lay at its bottom. If he were to ask, however, he knew he would get an incoherent response if a response at all.
“Come on,” the houndoom commanded, motioning with his head for the pokémon to follow. “We need to find the others.” He began walking away, pretending he didn’t care at all for the dual type pokémon, and continued through an opening in the wall that led to the next cavern.
Upon popping out, the houndoom was semi-surprised to find himself in a wide open space that had a floor riddled with stalagmites everywhere he looked. The most peculiar thing was that some towered over him at more than twice his height, but most of them were either a little taller than him or somewhat smaller. What confused him a little was their frequency; each were only a few paces from each other, forming a sort of maze. The thought itself was hindering, as he knew he would have to navigate with his mind instead of his eyes. However, he did have the advantage of smell on his side, which he decided he would prominently use.
Voices made him instantly freeze. At first he was lost for direction and identification of the voices, but as he stood, surrounded by the protruding rock formations at the entrance to the cavern, he could hear them nearing. He deduced that they were echoing from his left, and figured there must have been another opening in that general direction. He didn’t dare approach, however, as he continued to hear the nearing voices. He glanced around to the quagsire, who had pulled himself out of the water moments ago and shook off, and glared at him with wide eyes. Warily he crept away from the entrance and hissed a warning.
The quagsire approached the opening with the houndoom and stopped to listen. Zaion was well aware that the quagsire was taller than him and would likely outmatch a good number of the stalagmites in height, and clenched his jaws in anxiousness as he wondered if he would soon be sighted. Yet, when the voices continued and the quagsire emerged into the room in a leisurely pursuit of the sounds, he knew that it wasn’t involuntary sightings that he had to be worried about.
“Hey!” he hissed, lowering his head. His shoulders came up beside his jaws. “Quagsire, stop! What are you doing
Despite the calls from the houndoom, the ground and water type pokémon didn’t stop at all. He didn’t even turn around as he began to effortlessly and loosely navigate his way through the crowd of stalagmites. Angrily Zaion thought to turn away and shoot back the way they came, or fling off to the right, but he knew that both options were not exactly ideal. Besides, even if he was the one instigating the trouble, he didn’t want to leave Splash alone. If he met with those pokémon, they would surely find a reason to attack him, especially if they were on the traitor rhyhorn’s side. On top of that was the fact that his fire type moves would do nothing to a rock type’s armoured hide, whereas Splash’s water was a more than suitable means of attack.
He gritted his teeth and clenched his eyes closed while his body very slowly leaned in a few directions before he gave in with an inward sigh and began sneaking after him, his leg motions fluid and somewhat awkward in order to keep him low. At the same time, he gauged how far away the pokémon speaking were and used it to judge how much he should project his voice to the quagsire. “Come on, buddy. You have to stop,” he insisted. When the quagsire still didn’t listen, he thought of something else. “If they’re rock and ground types then...” He trailed off, understanding that the quagsire had a type advantage in two areas, but feared that a type advantage alone wasn’t going to save their hide.
Deciding it was still best to convince him to retreat, he hurriedly captured a few more paces and calculated the action before latching onto the creature’s tail. Even though he ensured that his bite wasn’t hard, the quagsire suddenly yelped and swung around, taking the houndoom with him for a short period before the tail passed a stalagmite and the houndoom’s side slammed into it. He dropped like a bundle of slaughtered prey, and it was in that moment that he thought not about pain, but about accidentally attracting the unwelcome visitors.
Instantly the pokémon froze in their tracks and questioned the noises. They, just as he had expected, raced along the ground, the harsh thud of rock on rock as they powered their way, certain to appear from within a few stalagmites and begin to tear the place apart in rage. He groaned and lifted himself to his feet just as a silver rocky creature came into view, revealing itself to be a rhyhorn, just as he had expected. The creature turned her enormous head upon the sturdy shoulders towards them and stood still, surveying them over a few times. Zaion was convinced she was about to charge, but was surprised when the quagsire suddenly began to wag his tail.
Zaion watched as Splash weaved through the stalagmites loosely and came upon the rhyhorn, stopping before her and remaining still as his tail still swished. It wasn’t long till, to his surprise, a familiar face hobbled into view, rather aghast at what he saw. He looked first to Splash and then to Zaion, and they frowned at one another before the houndoom started nodding his head slowly and began to approach.
“Although I don’t know you well,” the fire type started, eyes on the white and green pokémon, “it’s good to see you here.”
“You too,” the krinar responded, more shocked than anything. He let his surprise fade as he introduced the rhyhorn, whose name was Maka, to his fellow colony member and the houndoom, who he had only seen around on occasion. Maka nodded to each, briefly explaining her course of action: to lead Etire out and find her way back to her clan. “Always good to come across someone who’s on your side,” the psychic and fighting type chuckled, and Zaion nodded slowly.
Expressing his response, the quagsire took a few steps before enveloping the injured Usster pokémon in a strong embrace. The krinar made small sounds of protest as Splash hugged him, but it soon wore off, and the pokémon was once again freed.
“I suggest we keep moving,” the rhyhorn announced, swinging her head toward the other end of the room. It passed the wide opening in the wall that Zaion and Splash had come from and looked to rise with a few complicated ledges they would need to scale, but overall Zaion figured it made sense. If they been travelling to the left from the entrance, he would have been confused and objected, but considering that, emerging from where he had been, the trail continued on his right, all made sense in his mind.
Continued in the next post...