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    Default Skitoma (One-Shot)

    Skitoma - noun - the phenomenon of mental misperception. The brain is fooled by the eyes, for the eyes see what they believe is true, not what the reality is....


    ~ ~

    Why do we call her Arbiahe? I myself am curious about the origin of her name, but I'm afraid I'm not the one to answer that question. My friends tell me it means something significant in some other tongue, and I'll take their word for it. I haven't a better guess, after all.

    What we call her, though, isn't all that important. It is common knowledge amongst the Wurmple of Petalburg that Arbiahe is the tree we are to take shelter in as the Great Change begins to take hold of us. Instinct tells us to seek the tallest and oldest tree, and Arbiahe fulfills both requirements. She gives us protection from the hungry predators who would seek us out in our weakest state. She shades us from the sun we cannot avoid in our immobile state. She is a worthy protector of the hundreds of Wurmple who come to transform.

    I may be one of few who consider this, though. For everyone else, the Great Change is just a prelude to the real challenge; mating season. Some Wurmple made a point of seeking out suitable mates prior to the Great Change, but I hadn't really bothered. My friends were sufficient enough for me, and I had nine days to eat and strengthen myself for the Great Change. While all the other Wurmple were out foolishly courting, I ate the Pecha Berries they paid no heed to and nibbled at the leaves they had forsaken.

    I don't call it cruelty; I call it survival of the fittest. I don't oppose the idea of a mate, but I think I will find one when the time is truly upon me. My first nine days of life are supposed to be spent conditioning myself for five days of starvation, and I, for one, had trained myself well.

    Now, as my stubby legs carried me across the sun-warmed grass, it was time for the Great Change, and I truly believed I was the most prepared for it, or at least one of the most prepared.

    From the corner of my eye, I spied my best friend slithering up to join me as I crawled determinedly toward Arbiahe.

    "Oligg!" I called, acknowledging his pursuit.

    "Slow up, Henth, I'd like to talk one last time before the Great Change," Oligg trilled back, sounding slightly exhausted.

    "It seems you're short of breath, my friend. Perhaps you should have eaten more?"

    I couldn't help sounding arrogant, seeing as there was no nice way to put it. We both knew I was faster and stronger because I had fed myself well. However, Oligg saw it from a different point of view.

    "Yes yes, brag all you'd like. But luckily for me, my future is assured, Henth. I have a mate already, a lovely gem of a Wurmple called Maris. How about you, Henth? Enjoying that extra helping of Pechas, huh?" Oligg inquired with a hint of asperity.

    "No need to be hostile, Oligg," I told him, passing over a rock.

    I never liked rocks much. They always rubbed me the wrong way (quite literally). That would be one nice thing about the Great Change; no more irritating objects to crawl over or avoid.

    "We both have different ways of going about life. I won't call mine wiser, nor will I call yours inferior," I told Oligg nonchalantly.

    "Won't say it, no, but I know you're thinking it," Oligg responded. His voice seemed mellow enough, so I decided to tease him back.

    "Perhaps. After all, I am moving faster than you," I laughed.

    "A shallow victory indeed, Henth," Oligg sighed, "So you'll reach the tree a few seconds before me, and maybe find a better place to spend the next five days than I will. Congrats, well done, but I've already won the bigger race. I do hope someone will find your wings attractive, if there's even a female left who hasn't been courted."

    "I don't doubt the nature of love, Oligg, but I can't say I'd be too sad to be alone the rest of my life. Can't miss what I haven't had, huh?" I said truthfully.

    "If you say so, Henth. I just hope you mean it."

    "Believe me, I do."

    All at once, a wall of brown bark rose up before me. The time had come to say goodbye to my fledgling years, and ascend into adulthood.

    "See you up top, then, Oligg. I'll save you a spot," I told my friend, who was a considerable distance from the tree.

    As I said those words, there was a sudden shift in my stomach. Hunger? No, couldn't be. It felt different, not like the hunger pains I had constantly lived with...It felt much more momentous.

    "...Afraid not, Henth. I should've told you this sooner, but you distracted me along the way. Maris and I will be scouting out a roost where we can both be together quietly," Oligg said, gazing up at me from below.

    "Well, she can come with us, can't she?" I asked.

    "We'd rather be alone. Nothing against you personally, Henth. You know you're my best mate, but Maris means everything and more to me, and I want to spend the next few days with her."

    "Oh..." I said, feeling let down. I had been relying on Oligg's company for the next five days, considering I myself hadn't found a mate in advance. He had promised to tell me of all the trouble he had gone through with the other male Wurmple about, and I had promised to tell him anything interesting I had learned or heard.

    And then came Maris, dropping a barrier clean through our friendship. I understood Oligg's choice, but that didn't make it any easier to accept. If anything, it made it harder.

    "Well, best of luck to you then, pal. I guess I won't be seeing you afterwards, either, unless we both get incredibly lucky. Hope your life with Maris is prosperous," I said, hiding my slight jealousy.

    "Same to you, Henth. It's been nice getting to know you, and I hope you find contentment, whether you find it in someone else or in the food the world has to offer," Oligg answered.

    "Thanks," I cried out as his crimson body disappeared behind the tree. My head turned back to the enormous vertical wall my feet had grabbed on to, and found that my final conversation with Oligg had cost me time in spotting out a good area to endure the Great Change.

    I propelled myself up the rough surface, my eyes rolling in my head, scanning for any branch, preferably a leafy one. To my right, a fat, firm branch caught my eye. I angled toward it. When I reached it, though, I found a female Wurmple already lying snugly across it, lounging lazily in the dimming sunlight.

    No worries, I assured myself, moving on. Arbiahe was a big tree, and there was no way she would run out of branches for me. It wasn't about finding a branch right now, it was about finding a good one. One that wouldn't force me to gaze into the burning sun every morning. One that wouldn't reveal me to the various airborne predators who delight at the sight of a helpless ball of meat. One that would protect me from the irritating pitter-patter of the rain, should there be a thunderstorm.

    If push came to shove, I'd settle for an open branch, but the night was young, and all around me, beneath me, many crimson shapes were still stalking through the grass toward Arbiahe. There were still many acceptable branches left; I wouldn't need to settle for some time yet.

    I shifted my attention to a branch directly above me, and made a beeline for it. What might this one have to offer? I wondered.

    Nothing, as it turned out. It was bleak, completely devoid of leaves. It even looked faintly diseased; my keen eyes picked out the maggots writhing within the wood.

    This would be the unfortunate resting place of the slowest Wurmple, I knew. Truly an awful shame for the poor soul, but I could not afford to delay. More and more Wurmple were ascending the tree, each one unconsciously stealing a potential area of rest for me.

    I clambered upwards, my eyes on a promisingly thick arm. Buds extended from the bark in some areas, which was a good sign. Let's check it out, I urged myself, rounding the base of the branch where it jutted out from the tree.

    I liked what I saw; there was a thick, leafy hood, of sorts, growing from the tree. The wind must have done something to the cluster, or perhaps it had been the nest of some previous rooster. But whatever had made that small, verdant cavern, it had made it look quite appealing.

    I made my way into the small opening, and curled up. There it was again, that spinning sensation in my stomach. My entire body started trembling, and I felt weakened. There was energy in me still, but the Great Change was beginning its conquest. At that point, there was a decision I had to make before my entire body failed: I could accept this cozy little area, or I could keep looking.

    It wasn't much of a choice.

    I twitched around a little, contorting my body into a position I'd be comfortable with for the next five days. But as my body nestled against the bark, something occurred to me. This nest-like hollow, although it was facing the tree, would expose me to whatever curious creature would nose around this spot.

    Unnerved, I scooched back, letting the leaves envelop me. The bush seemed reasonably thick, enough for a Wurmple of medium build to hide out in. Deeming this a far safer place, I once again started making myself comfortable. I figured I should face out toward the 'entrance', so as not to blind myself by facing the sun.

    I had heard a lot about what it's like to be a cocoon; it's all any Wurmple talks about. There were mad rumors, of course, ones I never would believe. One Wurmple had told me that your entire body melts into a soft goo when you're encased, leaving just an empty shell. This couldn't be true, for our bodies would morph into other creatures while they were inside the cocoons.

    And yet another had ranted about how some Wurmple turn into Metapod, sharing stories of his unfortunate friend who had become a Butterfree. This also seemed fairly unlikely.

    And then there was the notion that a lack of openings would mean we suffocate within our shells. At first, this seemed alarming to me, for I had never seen a cocoon with holes. I was planning on making a makeshift air hole before I realized this was false; were there no way to breathe, there would be no Beautifly and Dustox in the world, and I had seen them with my own eyes.

    But some other rumors frightened me. All Wurmple believed that our cocoons would paralyze us to the point of being unable to blink. Thus, if we ended up facing the sun, we would go blind within hours. It seems like the stuff of superstition, but it scared us all, and we were taking no risks. To be blind would be a terrible curse upon a Wurmple in mating season, especially for one like me who would have nothing but the beauty of others to go off of.

    Before I gave in to the consuming weakness that was ravaging my body, I decided to satisfy one last Wurmple urge. They said there was no turning back when you ascend Arbiahe. This was both literal and figurative. I believed the figurative, but out on a limb with nothing else to do but wait, I wanted to see how high up I had gone.

    I extended my head out of the clump of vegetation, and leaned over. It was a dizzying height for sure, but I actually hadn't gone that high. Rotating my head, I saw what looked like miles and miles of tree reaching up into the sky. I was no acrophobe, but I couldn't help but thinking about how terrifying it would be to be up so high, regardless of the branches we are supported by.

    This really is a perfect branch, I thought incredulously. I had expected to find a good one, but a superb one? Not really. Yet, here I was in what may well have been the best branch in Arbiahe.

    Feeling surprised and satisfied with myself, I spun my head around made to withdraw it. But before I did, I caught sight of the rotting branch beneath me, the one I had so wisely turned down in favor of my own. There weren't any Wurmple upon it, which made me a small bit happier.

    Having scoped out my surroundings completely, it was time to rest. They say the Great Change takes you in your sleep. The leaves rustled and quivered as I retreated into the save haven of my nest. I shut my eyes as a Wurmple for the last time, knowing I would wake up tomorrow as a completely new creature.

    ~ ~

    From the moment the cogs of my sleeping mind began to spin, I knew I was different. I could feel air swishing around two large empty spaces at my sides, which I was sure were the air pockets in, would I call it?

    Also, I couldn't move in the slightest. I tried spinning my legs, and nothing happened. My muscles were probably being eaten away. I had no use of them anymore, after all. If I really tried, I could probably make one jump, but I didn't dare.

    Yet another rumor of Wurmple adolescence is that you become deformed if you move from your selected spot. Your body is developing at an unbelievable pace at this point in time, and you have to be careful not to disturb its development in the slightest. It made perfect sense to me, and I believed it fully.

    But although I accepted this idea as fact, the magnitude of being immobile for five days sank in. In sharp contrast to my larval stage, where I wandered and searched for food every day of my life, this was a completely new experience. There was no shifting position, either, if this one proved to be uncomfortable. I would have to put up with it for five days whether I liked it or not.

    "Gliaaaar!" echoed a voice from high up in the tree. This was the cry we were waiting for; there were always anxieties when the Great Change took place. Many believed it was all a hoax, that we were crawling to our graves. Announcing that it was Gliar day was useful both in assuring the others that we had made it through the Great Change, and also to keep track of time for Wurmple who were....well, like me. Hidden away in the leaves without the sun for a guide, we had to rely on those who were exposed to tell us when a new morning or evening arrived.

    All around the tree, relieved cries of "Gliaaaar!" pierced the air as the Wurmple realized, one by one, that they and all the others were alive. I had long since realized that the Great Change does not kill, but I joined in the happy chorus just for the sake of celebrating the pathway to a new life that we were all traveling down.

    "Gli - ah!" I began, before halting suddenly. My voice was completely different. The Great Change must have altered my vocal cords somehow, for my voice was very monotonous, and hardly sounded male at all.

    "Is someone there?" another voice came from directly in front of me, only amplifying my fear and confusion. I kept quiet, well aware that this invisible creature on the other side of my leaf barrier could be a hungry predator.

    "Is there another Wurmple back there? I'm a Wurmple too," it asked, adding on the last bit to gain my trust. I wasn't sure if I wanted to give it to this faceless voice.

    "If I was a predator, I'd have come crashing through the leaves by now. Don't worry, I am a Wurmple. I'm not pretending," it persuaded me. I knew that could easily be a ploy to get me to talk, to get me to pinpoint my location for it.

    However, a different logic drove me to speak. This thing obviously knew I was here, and it would take but a few seconds of searching to locate me. No need to play mind games with me to get me to verify what it already knew.

    Still a bit tentative, I said, "Yes, I am here." I waited for the bushes to burst open and the hungry face of a Pidgeot to leer down at me, but no such event took place.

    Instead, the voice answered with, "I thought I had this branch to myself. I don't mind sharing, though."

    "This is a very good branch, in my opinion," I said to the disembodied voice. I knew I could brag, for the Wurmple on the other side of this wall was able to agree with me, considering it shared the same branch I was so proud of.

    "It's very thick, and very firm. It's also structured in a way that doesn't make me afraid of falling of. And this little cavern of leaves was a wonderful surprise when I first stumbled upon it. I suppose you're out front, in the hollow?"

    "...You know, you speak fairly intelligently for a Wurmple. You may take it for granted, but I have met some very dense creatures in the past nine days. I'm glad to be in the presence of a smart one for the next five days," the voice praised.

    There was a rather robotic coolness in this Wurmple's tone, one that prevented it from sounding excited. But I heard the sincerity in its words, and felt somewhat proud.

    My next task was to discern whether this Wurmple was male or female. I could just ask it, but I think I already knew the answer. There was a slight softness in its voice that suggested that it was female, as opposed to the fairly sharp edge a male's voice would have.

    Besides, this Wurmple had just praised me for my intelligence. I didn't want to lower its opinion of me by asking such an obvious question.

    "What is your name, fellow cocoon?" I asked it.

    "Aurora," it responded. Definitely a female; no self-respecting creatures would name a male child a female name.

    "That's an interesting name for a Wurmple. My name is Henth," I said.

    My new, flat voice was depressing to listen to. Perhaps Aurora had had a pleasant voice before the Great Change, and had lost her voice just like I had.

    "That's a true Wurmple name you have. I like it; it's quite pretty. I am named the way I am because I am a domestic Wurmple. I was born in the house of a family of aristocrats, and given to the children of these people. One of the children named me, and since children are not as clever as adults, they named me Aurora, a boring name that makes no sense for a Wurmple. I wish I had a new name, but I have nothing else to go by," Aurora elaborated.

    "I was born in a forest, and lived there for all my life....My very short life. I never considered the idea of being born in a human home."

    "It's...not a pleasant way to live," Aurora answered flatly, "Be glad you were born in the wild."

    I liked Aurora; her manner of speech was very controlled and intelligent. Oligg wasn't what I'd call stupid, but he wasn't a genius either. He was fun to talk to, and a loyal friend, but I could never delve into deep conversations with him.

    Aurora sounded different, though. She sounded like someone interesting to pass the time with. We had two totally different upbringings, which would make for engaging conversations when we needed to kill time. And for the next days, we had nothing to do but kill time.

    And aside from that, she was female. I quite liked her already, and she'd probably be a good mate. She was also alone, and judging by Oligg and, betrayal of me, it sounded as though couples preferred to roost together. If Aurora was alone, that probably meant she was not claimed. I wasn't bold enough to ask her, though, for fear of coming across too strongly.

    All at once, my ineptitude at courting rang loud and clear in my head. Here was a female who I was getting along with, and I had no idea what to do. Asking her to mate with me made just about as much sense as saying nothing about it to her. Which should I do?

    My mind urged me toward the latter. I had befriended Oligg (I seemed to be referencing him a lot lately) over time, not immediately. I hadn't just ordered him to be my best friend; I had shown him that I would be a good friend to him. I figured the same was true for courtship, but there was no way to tell.

    Though, even if I never did grab Aurora's attention, at least we could be friends, which was good enough for me.

    "Say, Aurora..." I started warily.

    "Yes, Henth?" she said.

    "You and I are both figuratively imprisoned on this branch for the next five days. I hope it's not too much to ask, but would you like to pass the time with me?...I-I mean, with conversations and things," I proposed, painfully aware of how I had botched the ending.

    I heard a short chuckle from Aurora, and she answered, "Certainly, Henth. I've no one else to talk to, and you seem nice. I'll be your friend."

    'I'll be your friend', huh? Well, that was a nice surprise. I was just expecting her to give a Yes or a No. That was a good sign.

    "Fantastic!" I exclaimed, though my voice failed to capture my enthusiasm. Aurora noticed.

    "You don't sound as though it's fantastic," she giggled. At least she was laughing, though; that could easily have offended her.

    "I mean it," I said, and rolled my eyes (the only muscles in me that moved at all anymore) as my voice once again came out flat and unexcited. Aurora laughed again.

    "Heh, I think my voice sort of died when the Great Change morphed my body. All of me seems to be weaker than usual," I explained.

    "That makes sense, and the same is true for me. I think our bodies are disabled so that we aren't tempted to move and disrupt the metamorphosis," Aurora guessed.

    "Sounds about right to me," I said.

    It was somewhat irksome to be incapable of truly seeing Aurora. All my eyes could see was an endless wall of green and the occasional brown stick. The leaves closest to me had minute bugs scurrying across them.

    I envied the little beasts, wishing I could move around. I felt no pain in the position I was in, so I couldn't call it uncomfortable. But it was boring, being confined to just spinning your eyes to change your view of the world (and only slightly, in my case. All leaves look the same).

    "So, uh, how's the view up there, Aurora? I'm none too enthralled by mine. All it is is a big mess of green and brown with this little white bugs skittering around," I asked, pulling a new topic out of my own discomfort.

    It suddenly occurred to me how difficult it would be to talk for a whole day for the next five days. Aurora had plenty to say about whatever I brought up, but I couldn't imagine having enough topics to go on past one day, two if I was lucky.

    "Not a lot better than the way you make yours sound. I'm facing straight into the tree, which means my wall is brown. Completely brown. But if I strain my eyes and force them to either side hard enough, I can see the tops of the trees of Petalburg Forest," Aurora said.

    "That doesn't sound half bad. Want to trade places?" I joked.

    "Nah, I think I like mine better. Though at least you've got those insects to keep an eye on. My wood is as dead as dead gets. There's no excitement in it at all," Aurora whined.

    I laughed, before realizing that she actually did have a point. At least the insects moved, if the leaves refused to. Most of them were little white ones, but I saw a beetle not that long ago, and I imagined there would be some other interesting ones in the next few days. I became a lot more appreciative of my viewpoint after considering that.

    "You know, I'm wondering what it will be like to be airborne. I've lived my life on the ground, and I can't imagine these...things hanging off my back all the time. It's even weirder to imagine them actually propelling me upwards, and keeping me afloat," I thought aloud.

    "I'm curious as well, but I'm looking forward to it. I've had a wide span of space for most of my life, but you can only go so far on the knobby little legs that Wurmple have. With wings, I could go the distance it takes me to go in a day in just a few minutes, probably. I won't be held in one space anymore; I'll have the whole world to explore," Aurora mused.

    Even with the toning down of her voice that the Great Change has caused, I could hear the wonder in her words, and was swept up in it along with her. The whole world would become accessible once I burst free of this prison.

    Not only would I be able to cover much larger distances, I'd be able to move up and down in a moment's notice. My ascent of Arbiahe had been slow but sure; I had reached my goal, but it had taken a fair bit of time. Nothing wrong with a bit of effort, of course, but the idea of being able to move such distances in just seconds was mind-blowing.

    "Aurora, I'm glad I met you," I said sincerely, "We've only talked for a short while, but you're really opening my mind to the world. I never counted myself as close-minded, but I've been taking a lot of things for granted. I'm looking forward to being capable of flying, but I never really considered what a miracle it was."

    Even with my subdued tone and monotonous voice, I heard the honesty ringing true in my words. For a while, Aurora didn't answer. After a few seconds of waiting, I was afraid I had been too forward with her.

    Not wanting to alienate her, I was about to speak up when she answered softly, "I'm glad to hear it, Henth."

    My nervous heart slowed at her answer. Thank goodness I hadn't messed up so early on; a mistake now would be all but irreparable.

    "I've never had a friend before," Aurora continued, surprising me. I had assumed she was done talking. "The humans I was with weren't friends, they were just the people I depended on to live properly.

    You can't miss what you haven't had, I guess, so I never really paid much thought to what it would be like to have a friend. I contented myself with pondering the world and the things around me instead of chatting with a friend.

    And there were wonderful things in my home, believe you me. Humans are amazingly complex, and they can build almost anything they want. Did you know they launched another human out of this planet in Mossdeep City, way on the other side of Hoenn? I didn't know that was even possible! But I learned it was when I was with those people.

    I learned so much, but the one thing that I could never have explained to me was...friendship. As I made my way to Arbiahe, I was quite satisfied with my knowledge of the world. But I took for granted the most important part of life, which is interacting with the other beings that share this world.

    So thank you, Henth, you too have opened my eyes to something I had never paid attention to before. You have no idea how thankful I am that we're friends."

    Aurora's tangent touched me deeply. At that moment, I gave up my thoughts of using her as a sex toy, as a way to get my own children into the world. Not more than a foot in front of me sat a deep thinker, clever and witty, but also lonely. She had known nothing but loneliness for the past nine days, and it seemed as though I'd be the one to cure her of her loneliness.

    "I've had friends in the past. Like I said, I was born in the wild. But they were all stupid male Wurmple, who had nothing but food and mating on their minds. I can't say I was too different from them. My first nine days were only about eating, nothing else. I was glad for my friends, but all I really cared about was becoming a stronger creature.

    You're different, though, Aurora. You've shown yourself to be smarter than every Wurmple I've ever met, and we've only been talking for a short span of time. In a way, I've been taking friendship for granted as well, though not on the same level as you have. My friends were just time-killers, Wurmple I could talk with about whatever was on my mind.

    I am doing the same thing with you, but on a much more....profound, I guess the word would be, level. I've been undervaluing the creatures I share this place with, and meeting you has shown me what a gift it is to have friends. Sorry if I come across too strongly, but that's how I feel," I said, the words just spilling out of me as the thoughts burned in my head. Aurora sighed.

    "If I haven't come across too strongly with my rambling, then you certainly haven't with yours," she said with a small laugh.

    "You didn't, don't worry. I'm just blown away at the fact that a Wurmple can think so deeply about life."

    "Same to you, I suppose. I always knew I was a notch above the rest, but I figured I was just a freak, a deep thinker meant to be alone for the rest of my life, examining the world. Thank you for showing me the other side of life, Henth," Aurora said warmly.

    "Thank you too," I said, my head spinning and my heart light.

    ~ ~

    Gliar passed with Aurora and I talking about what we planned on when we became aerial. We discussed the adventures we wanted to have and the things we wanted to see.

    Aurora was looking forward to seeing the ocean for the first time. Living in those enormous houses that humans build, she had been exposed to little outside of that area. Even trees were miraculous to her. She explained in great detail the feeling of wonder she had felt while walking through Petalburg woods to find Arbiahe.

    All the while, I realized how jaded I had become, having been birthed in the middle of the forest. It was all so familiar to me that I never even stopped to wonder about how incredible it was.

    As Aurora waxed on, I felt continually guiltier about my gluttony. My goal had been an acceptable one, but my endless eating had blinded me to what the world really has to offer.

    Was it my fault that I had befriended average-minded Wurmple? No, not really, but if I had tried, I could have found someone like Aurora in that span of time. Though, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wouldn't change a thing about my life, for it had led me to Aurora.

    Glier passed in a similar manner, the two of us laughing and sharing our thoughts on the world. We spent a lot of our time talking about how other Pokémon functioned. As Bug Types, our attacks had been limited to String Shot, Tackle, and Poison Sting thus far. Aurora had heard from her caretakers that, upon becoming a Beautifly or Dustox, new techniques were learned immediately. I looked forward to that as well, testing out the new powers that would be endowed upon me.

    Aurora was feeding my excitement about Gliur's arrival, and all the while, the two of us became closer and closer. My initial fear about a lack of topics became completely baseless; Aurora and I had so much to talk about that the entire day seemed to fly by.

    Oligg and my other friends all but faded from my mind. In the presence of Aurora, I wondered how I had scraped through my life in the company of such friends. They weren't bad Wurmple, nor were they stupid, but I felt so much more animated when I was talking with Aurora, more alive than I felt when I was actually mobile.

    As we said good night to one another on the eve of Glier, I didn't feel like sleeping at all. But it was necessary to augment my strength, which was still important to me.

    Meeting Aurora, though, had changed my perspective on becoming stronger. After talking with her, I did indeed want to be strong enough to see all the things we had talked of. But talking to her was so fulfilling that I forgot my concerns about my health; the worries simply melted away into the endless stream of words we swapped.

    Meeting Aurora had been such an enlightening experience, and I still had three days to enjoy her company. I intended to make the most of those days.

    ~ ~

    "Gliir!" I called out as the daily chorus erupted into the air. Aurora was awoken by the cries, and joined in shortly after. After the howling ended, I gave a hearty Good Morning to Aurora, to which she responded happily. I was still relishing the bond that had formed between us, and launched into conversation immediately.

    "It's almost a shame, Aurora, that you've filled my head with these fantasies of flying and exploring the world. I'm now so anxious to break free of this shell that I may do so prematurely," I said.

    "Well, I apologize, but I can't help it. I'm just as eager as you are, Henth," she laughed.

    I had grown to live for her laugh, to rope it out of her any way I could. It wasn't so much the tone of it that appealed to me as it was the fact that I could make her laugh, when she had expressed clearly how little she had in the first part of her life.

    "I know you are, but goodness, my brain's now prone to bursting with these images of watching Yanma breaking glass with their screeches, humans bustling around in a city, and Wailord that are almost longer than Arbiahe is tall," I scolded her lightheartedly.

    "It's an exciting prospect, certainly. And it is difficult knowing that we've still got three days to suffer through as little balls in a tree," she answered.

    "Speaking of which, how exactly does your body feel right now? Can you tell?"

    "Well, that's an odd question if I never knew one."

    "Aww, no it's not. I just want to know how close to being aerial we are."

    "Well, I'm curious too....All right, I'll tell you. Right now, I feel impossibly skinny, thin enough to break in half if a twig were to fall across my back right now.

    I feel these new muscles inflating and growing inside my body, though, and I think I can feel the skin on my back bulging with the wings that will grow in soon," Aurora stated.

    I let my mind wander, and gauged how I felt at this point in time.

    "I feel pretty much the same, though, only it feels like the skin on my back has torn or something. I can feel the air moving into the small opening there, and I can sense the wings beginning to push upwards. By tomorrow, they'll probably be outside of my body and beginning to form into the shape of whatever it is I'll turn into," I reported back to her.

    "You did get here before me, so I guess you got a head start. Now I think of it, I may have been the very last Wurmple to reach Arbiahe.

    Or at least it seemed like it, because when I arrived here, there was no movement at all on the ground, and the moon was high above me. All the Wurmple were asleep," said Aurora.

    "Heh, I was one of the first. I didn't live too far from Arbiahe, and I was a pretty strong little guy when the time came to come here. I won't make guesses about your strength, but I guess it's safe to assume you lived a fair distance away from here?" I said, concluding with a question I had been wondering about for a while now.

    I had sort of skirted away from asking Aurora any personal questions during Gliar or Glier, but I felt we had developed a very close friendship by now, and I felt like I could dig a small bit deeper now.

    Aurora seemed to share my sentiments, for she seemed fairly at ease as she answered, "Yes, I lived in a city called Rustburrow, not too far away from Petalburg Woods. You were born here, you said...Mind telling me about how life was in a forest?"

    "There's not a whole lot to it. I'm sure your past is a lot more eventful than mine," I said humbly, "But I'll give you the short version, since every day was basically the same. Each day, I'd wake up to find myself a little bit bigger than the day before, and a lot hungrier than the day before. My lone concern was to eat and eat and eat, until I had sated my appetite.

    I never did, though, so I just kept eating. I wanted very much to grow up to be powerful, so I prepared myself as best I could back then."

    There was a short pause, before Aurora inquired, "That's all? That's all that happened in nine days?"

    "Heh, told you it wasn't too exciting," I answered somewhat sheepishly, "You've probably got a great story, though. From the things you tell me of all the time, it sounds like you had a great life living with humans."

    Another pause followed my words. Silence had never felt so loud as it did now; very rarely did Aurora and I stop talking, if even for a moment.

    Eventually, though, it was punctured with the sound of....crying. Aurora was crying. Aurora was crying?

    "What's wrong? Is it something I said?" I asked her concernedly, heart beating slightly faster than normal.

    "No, it's not your fault. It's just, my life with humans wasn't as happy as I always made it seem. It was awful, to be completely honest. Torturous, even..."

    "Well, if it's a sore subject, then you don't need to talk about it. There are plenty of other topics we can discu - " I began, before Aurora interjected with, "No, no, it's fine. In fact, I'd rather like to talk about it a bit, to get it out of my system. Do you mind if I do?"

    "Not at all," I said earnestly.

    "Thanks," Aurora said. She didn't talk for a short while, but I knew better than to interrupt the silence. She was probably just deciding how best to start her story.

    Sure enough, she spoke: "The first thing I remember was waking up and seeing a little boy standing over me. I suppose that's when I was first born. The little boy was all smiles. He was so happy to see me, and his happiness transferred into me a bit. He looked kind, and I felt like I'd be safe with him around.

    That assumption turned out to be a lot more literal than I had expected. The little boy, Steven, had an older brother. He didn't share the light blue hair color that Steven had, his was listless brown. His eyes lacked the warmth of Steven's, and they were much more narrowed. He looked angry, and he seemed to have decided to take it out on me.

    He asked Steven to name me, and that's how I became Aurora. Then the boy, Dan was his name, took me. And he did whatever he pleased with me. Harassing me in any way he could think of..." Aurora paused, her voice cracking.

    A few seconds later, she regained her composure and continued with, "The first game he played with me was making me crawl across a stove, which is a machine that roasts food, with the heating panels turned on. If I made it without touching on of the heated panels, I win. If I burned myself, I lost and had to redo it.

    Steven screamed and yelled, pleading with his brother to return his dear Wurmple, but Dan didn't care. He was a sociopath, plain and simple. Their father was never around, he was always busy at the place where he labored. I'm not sure he ever even knew I existed.

    Dan continued tormenting me in any way he could think of, letting me be with Steven whenever he ran out of ideas and needed to think of some more. Steven typically cradled my injured body in his arms and let me watch something called a 'television' with him.

    Oh Henth, if you could only see the miracles a television works. It's a great box with a clear front, but it can play any image and any sound you want it to. You control it with another little black box; just push a button, and you can change what the television shows you. It's amazing, it really is.

    I loved watching it, and loved it even more because it was a reprieve from the cruelty of Dan. Steven and I would watch shows about how things were made, and the people who made them, a lot of the time. Steven was a curious little boy, and as a newborn Wurmple, I was eager to learn as well.

    But, of course, Dan would always come in. As soon as I heard his deep voice calling Steven's name, I knew I was about to be tortured again. Steven could do nothing to protect me. He just cried and cried and let me crawl over to Dan, who took me and forced me to do the most horrific things.

    One instance I remember clearly is him hanging me from a tree and letting his Persian leap up and try and snatch me down. A Persian's a big, white cat-like Pokémon, Henth. Steven told me they're mean-spirited by nature, so it's a small wonder that Dan had one.

    'Higher, Jewel, jump higher! Grab that little grub out of the air!' he'd cheer on his Persian. And it always came so frightfully close, frequently grazing my underbelly with its claws. I felt so helpless, so powerless, as Jewel leaped into the air again and again, eyes glinting and paws outstretched.

    Sometimes Dan made me battle it, too. All I could do was send out String Shots in hope of catching it. But I never did. Every time I tried, Jewel just flung itself to the side, and batted me ferociously with a paw. Most of my time was spent like that, performing whatever sadistic game Dan dreamed up, until Steven decided that enough was enough.

    On the eighth night of the nine days I had as a Wurmple, he decided he had to let me go. No matter the cost to him, he wanted me to be safe. He was never allowed to watch the things Dan did to me, but he saw the bruises and burns and scars I came back with every time Dan let me go for a short while. He knew I would be better off in the wild.

    He carried me to the open window that night, and told me to get away from there. I nuzzled him tenderly, a small thanks for a kindness that could never be repaid.

    Then I left, crawling up the wall and out the window. Steven shut the window behind me and ran off into a different part of the house, not giving Dan any clues to where I might be. He bought me enough time to escape the city and crawl through the forest. I feared being picked off by some predator, but they never came, for some reason.

    I slept most of the following day tucked safely away in a tree. I slept right up until I heard Dan calling my name. I snapped awake and looked around carefully. Off in the distance, Dan was looking around the forest. He kept calling out, "Come out come out wherever you are..." in that evil voice.

    That was the most frightening time of my life, even with those eight days of torment. I knew being found and staying hidden was the difference between life and death for me. I slowly slipped downward into the crook between the two branches, slowly disappearing out of sight.

    Miraculously, Dan didn't find me, and stalked off into some other part of the forest. I knew I couldn't stay in that spot forever, though. I stayed among the treetops, and crawled along, with no particular destination in mind. I kept moving, slinging myself from tree to tree with my String Shots.

    And then, at last, I found the tree we are in right now, Arbiahe. At the time, I didn't know I was about to evolve. I only knew that this gigantic tree would serve as a safe haven from me, a place where I could hide where Dan could never reach me.

    I crawled feebly upwards, always fearing to hear Dan's voice yelling up at me. He never came, though, and I found this branch. It looked very safe to me, so I stayed here.

    The next morning, though, I woke up as a cocoon. And then I met you: my one and only friend now."

    Tears were pouring down my face all the way through Aurora's narrative, and I simply erupted at the end.

    "I'm speechless, Aurora. No one sh-should ever have to go through th-that, least o-of all someone like you..." I choked out.

    Aurora sighed, and said, "Thank you, Henth. It does my soul good to know that you care so much for me."

    "You're welcome," I told her tearfully. Another silence sprouted, in which my tears slowly stopped.

    Then Aurora said, "If you don't mind, Henth, I'd like a bit of a nap. It's a bit stressful on me to tell that story."

    "I don't mind at all, do whatever you want to," I told her, "If it'll help, who am I to tell you not to?"

    "Thanks Henth. The only favor I can ask of you now is to not treat me differently now that you know about my previous life.

    This is now, and that's behind me. My scars are probably, even now, healing as I change into a Beautifly or a Dustox. That life is behind me, and this is the here and now.

    There's no television, no Dan, not even a Steven. There's just you and me, two Wurmple anxious to change forms once again. I want it to be that way, because that way was the best time of my fairly short life," Aurora said softly.

    "Of course," I said.

    "Thanks....again," Aurora replied with a small chuckle. And then she let herself fall asleep.

    I stayed awake a while, though. For one thing, I didn't feel too sleepy. And aside from that, my mind was buzzing with Aurora's heartbreaking tale. And I thought I had had it rough, choosing between food and mates. A shallow concern compared to the choice between survival or death!

    Once more, Aurora was opening my eyes, this time teaching me of the evils of the world. And I suppose I was teaching her the good of the world, telling her the stories of stray events in my past that had made me happy.

    Beyond that, though, my friendship must mean the world to her. After such a rough life, she had found someone who could simply be a friend to her, talk to her normally and make her laugh.

    I had no idea that I would make such an effect on her when I first met her by just being myself, but now that I thought of it, just being myself had saved Aurora from a life of paranoia and isolation.

    ~ ~

    Sorry, I have to split this in half because it's so long. Second half right below this (of course).
    Last edited by ≈*Virulent Tsunami*≈; 15th April 2007 at 9:03 PM.

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