i felt like that i read this somewhere b4 earlier, like a couple of months ago but u could've posted it again.
anyways, can i be on the pm list?
Chapter VII: Fly in a Web
When Dust awoke, there were a pair of inch long Weedles crawling on his face. He swatted them off and bolted awake. These tiny Weedles weren't as dangerous as the bigger versions but their poison stingers still could be dangerous.
He examined his body. Two arms, two legs and a torso. Clearly he hadn't been devoured during the night. He looked at Totodile.
Totodile wasn't there.
Dust sprang to his feet. "Totodile!" he yelled.
Totodile had been lying right next to him when he went to sleep, Dust was sure of it. The croc almost never woke up before him, and even then it always liked to stay next to him.
Dust was starting to panic. Nothing had attacked him in the night, but he was big. What if something had decided to after the smaller prey and… no. Dust struck that thought out of his head. He wasn't even going to entertain that notion until he had proof. Totodile had probably just wandered off. It was its first time in the woods and it was curious.
Curious like a toddler, and only half as sensible.
Now Dust was really worried. He knew his Pokemon. He could see it now, wandering through the woods and trying to find out if a wild Ursaring wanted to be friends.
Totodile wasn't ready to be in the wild. Killing an unsuspecting Mudkip was one thing, but there was no way it could ever defend itself from a hostile wild creature. It was Dust's fault for bringing it here. He'd been so impatient to go make a man of himself, he'd brought a baby to do his fighting for him. Very manly indeed. Now Totodile could be gone. And for what? Because he was worried Maddie would marry someone else?
"I'm such an idiot." Dust chastised himself. What had he been so worried about? Maddie loved him. She wasn't going to marry someone else just because his egg had taken longer to hatch. He didn't know why he had ever thought that.
What was it his father had told him? Put his Pokémon's wellbeing in front of his own aspirations? Well he had certainly made hash of that, hadn't he? If Totodile died in his quest to be a man, then he didn't deserve that title.
He hurriedly began throwing everything back into his rucksack. Wallowing in misery wasn't going to help anything. If Totodile was out there, he had to find it and fast, before it really was dead.
As Dust stuffed the sleeping bag into the sack, not even bothering to roll it up first, he heard something crashing through the brush. He whirled around, knife already drawn and ready.
A flash of brown fur shot between his legs, whining loudly and disappeared into the bushes. In an instant, the clearing was full of fuzzy little rodents with buck teeth running in panic. It sounded like a chorus of terrified infants. From behind them came a rather weak and pitiful roaring that Dust was all too familiar with.
Totodile came tearing through the bushes on all fours it stopped at Dust's feet and stared up at him with its signature blank grin.
Well, so Totodile was okay, but Dust promised himself he would take better care of it from here on out.
"There you are, you little bastard. I was beginning to think you were going to make me stay here all day."
He pulled out a strip of dried Swinub meat and dropped it into Totodile's eager jaws. The croc snapped it up and looked at back at Dust expectantly.
"Oh no." Dust said, "I'm not going to fatten you up and make you worthless to me, you little parasite." He relented and dropped another strip. "Tastes better than a raw Bidoof, that's for sure." He waved an admonishing finger at his Pokemon. "Don't go running off like that again. I want you to stay close to me."
Dust sighed. "Totodile." The croc suddenly focused at him at the sound of its name. Dust wondered if it was something about the pokeball that made it respond to that word. "Totodile, stay close to me from now on."
He packed up more carefully and took off, Totodile sticking close.
The day went on without much incident. Occasionally, a group of Starlies would fly by, but they were too fast for Dust to have any chance at catching them. The brush was much more forgiving than before now. Dust didn't have to fight for every single step, and the journey was much more pleasant than before.
They were going along the river now. In the open valley, the river was soft and slow, but here at the foot of the mountains it rushed along at a much faster pace. There were actually rapids now as the water rushed over the big rocks. More Bidoofs were chattering around here, along with the larger Bibarels watching over the dams. Dust considered catching one, but decided that it would little use on the farm.
The ground was getting steeper now. Dust had finally reached the edge of the mountain. Sometimes, the ground would be almost flat, and other times it would turn into an almost vertical climb. After a couple hours, Dust could have seen his village far below in the valley, except all the trees were in his way.
Dust seemed to be in a flat area here. He was on the edge of a sheer cliff with the river raging below. It was fierce this high up the mountain, nothing but wild white water. The misty spray coming up obscured it almost entirely, but the roar was almost deafening.
Dust let Totodile out of its ball (the cliffs were too steep for its short limbs) and looked around. The trees were thinner here. Dust could actually see the sky now. The weather had changed since he left. Clear blue skies and bright warm sunshine had given way to a stark grey curtain of cloud.
Dust stopped by a stream running that babbled along peacefully before turning into a waterfall that fed the river below. He put down his bag and took one of the smooth round river rocks and threw it over the edge of the cliff, watching it splash in the white water.
"Well Totodile, I don't know about you, but I am bushed from all that climbing." He sat down and began to rummage through his pack for more Swinub jerky. "I think we have enough food for three more days out here, so we'd better catch something before we have to resort to another Mudkip. That might have tasted good to you, but we humans like meat with a bit more flavor." He looked up. "Totodile, get back here!"
The croc had wandered off into the trees. Dust got up and rushed after it. He picked Totodile up. "Don't wander off. This isn't like down near the village, Totodile. There's a lot of dangerous-"
The ground under his feet gave way and Dust tumbled down a seven foot drop. He landed in an unceremonious heap. There was an entire underground tunnel down here. Totodile would have been too light to break through the ceiling of dirt ahead, but when he walked over it, it was too much weight.
Dust stood up. "Totodile, you okay? " He got an annoyed squeal in response. He'd take that as a yes. He kneeled down and let Totodile clamber up onto his shoulders.
"How big do you think this tunnel is? It really stinks down here." Dust took a cautious step forward, knife out and ready. He really wished he had his rifle right now, but he'd left it back with the bag. "Ah, it really is rank down here. What do you think that smell is?"
Suddenly, he tripped over something in the dark and fell face first to the ground. Instead of the hard dirt he was expecting, Dust landed in something soft and stringy that stuck like honey. He tried to get up, but his arms and legs were covered in the stuff. He struggled through the string and found himself face to face with a dead Deerling. It was wrapped almost entirely in the silk, its head being one of the only things still visible. One dull glassy eye stared back at him. The other eye was missing entirely.
As Dust's eyes adjusted to the dark, he could see now that he was in the middle of a Pokémon mausoleum. Dead birds hung from the ceiling, the flesh entirely gone from their faces. Dust was lying in a sea of web, on a floor of rotten corpses, all wrapped up like presents.
Dust did what any rational human being would have done at that moment. He panicked. Flailing his arms and legs, he fought to get back up, but only succeeded in entrapping himself further. The Deerling rolled over on top of him. He could see its empty eye socket closely now. Six tiny legs appeared from the hole, and a Spinarak scuttled out. Dust screamed and batted the Deerling away. He could hear the sound of faint skittering all around him.
Spinaraks were appearing from everywhere, crawling out of every tiny hole and crevasse in the walls and ceiling and from the empty body cavities of all the unfortunate creatures around him. Hundreds of spiders were swarming around the cave, shrilling and skittering with their horrible little legs.
Dust flailed his arms frantically until where he found where the knife was. He cut wildly at the threads holding him to the ground and bolted to his feet. A foot long Spinarak handed on his shoulders and he threw it off with a shriek.
"Totodile!" Dust could barely hear himself over the shrieking Spinaraks. He swatted at the tiny inch long ones as they tried to scurry up his legs. "Totodile!"
He heard a terrified reptilian cry. Totodile was wrapped up in string with two of the larger Spinaraks clawing at it. Totodile tried to snap at them with its big jaws but it it was so entangled that it couldn't move them enough to be of any use.
Dust fell on the spiders, slashing with the knife. He stabbed one through the abdomen and sliced the other one's head off. He cut the webbing off Totodile and rushed to down the tunnel to the hole in the ceiling.
It wasn't a long way to climb, but even a few seconds was a long time with the scurrying mass of deadly spiders rushing after him.
"Totodile, use your Water Gun!"
Totodile shot the nearest Spinarak with a jet of water and blasted it back, but more just crawled over it, poison fangs gleaming in the faint sunlight. The Spinaraks stopped when they came into the sunlight, as if it hurt their eyes to leave the dark. One or two would venture out and be knocked back by Totodile.
Dust scrabbled at the dirt up top, his fingers slipping through the weak soil. "Keep hitting them!"
From deep down the tunnel, there was a loud and horrible shriek, too big to have been from one of the Spinaraks. The sound of quick but heavy footsteps was coming down the tunnel, growing closer and closer with every second. The Spinaraks seemed to find their courage and rushed at Dust and Totodile with force.
Finally, Dust found purchase on the ground above and dug the knife into the dirt. Using it as an anchor, he pulled himself up. He took Totodile's pokeball and aimed it down the hole, recalling Totodile in a red stream of light just as the spidery mess closed around it.
He reached under his shirt and grabbed at the tiny Spinaraks trying to bite him under it and threw them into the underbrush. Nothing was coming out of the hole now. Dust didn't know if the Spinaraks were too afraid to come out of their tunnel and he had no intention to wait and find out. He started back toward where he had left the bag and the rifle.
When the ground suddenly exploded in front of him. A giant Ariados the size of a large man burst through the ground, showering Dust with dirt and pebbles. He nearly fell back into the hole from shock.
"SKREEEEEEEEE!" The Ariados was dark red with black stripes running across its abdomen. Its enormous fangs dripped with black venom as it charged Dust.
"Holy ****!" Dust leaped over the spider hole and broke into a dead run toward the rifle. The ground began to break under his feet but he had to keep on sprinting or else he would fall to the Spinaraks below. He reached the gun and whirled around to see the Ariados in his face. The spider slammed into him and the rifle fired harmlessly into the trees.
Dust fell to the ground with the Ariados on top of him, its sharp mandibles gnashing at him.. A poison stinger shot out of its mouth, just barely missing Dust's throat. He brought the shaft of the rifle up to block them, but the spider was too strong. There was no way Dust could keep it at bay for long. He slammed the gun into the Ariados's face, causing it to rear up in surprise, and rolled out from under it. He ran the only way he could, along the Cliffside, with the spider hot on his heels. Thinking quick, he took a bullet from his belt and tried to load it into the rifle, when he felt something wrap around his feet. It jerked him back and he fell forward, dropping the gun. The Ariados had shot a gooey line of web from its spinnerets and was dragging him back
Dust grabbed a tree root overhanging the cliff and held on. His arms were strained from the effort and he felt as though his body would tear in half.
The Ariados let out a "SKREEEEEEEEEEEE!" and lunged at its prey, but Dust brought up the knife and plunged it into the spider's mouth. It shrieked in agony and backed off, dark blue blood and black venom streaming from its wounded mouth.
Dust could tell he hadn't seriously hurt the Ariados, just made it angrier. He on the other hand was barely standing. If the Ariados attacked again, he didn't think he would have the energy to keep it off long.
The Ariados charged, blood shooting from its jaws and murder in its eyes. It leapt into the air and prepared to sink its fangs in for the killing blow.
Dust tried to duck, but the Ariados slammed into him at full strength. The two of them rolled off the side of the cliff. Dust somehow managed to grab tree root and hang on as the Ariados tumbled into the river below, and with a final shriek, disappeared into the raging water.
It took the last of Dust's strength to pull himself up. He fell to his knees, panting with fatigue.
The Spinaraks had ventured out of the hole and were crawling toward him with deadly intent. There wasn't anything Dust could do. There were too many to fight and they were blocking every route of escape. The only way to avoid them was to jump off the cliff and hope that the water and rocks would kill him quicker than the spiders.
A sound of loud whooping laughing noise came from the distance, and the Spinaraks scattered away. A Sawsbuck came crashing through the trees. Moments later, three grey furred Poochyenas came bounding after it, snarling and cackling. Two of them disappeared into the forest, while the other one turned when it saw Dust, perhaps thinking him easier prey. It snarled, it's yellow fangs bared.
"Can't a guy ever get a moment's peace?" Dust muttered. He released Totodile. "Put that enormous jaw to good use and bite it as hard as you can, Totodile. Let's catch this thing and go home." He pulled out one the empty balls and got ready to throw.
Totodile opened its powerful jaws, but the Poochyena struck like a dark bolt of lightning, slamming its body into the croc. Totodile was pummeled to the ground and didn't move. The Poochyena ran toward Dust, but he picked up the rifle and swung it with all the strength he had left, swatting the hyena out of the air and knocking it to the ground.
The Poochyena sprang to its feet like nothing had happened. Before Dust could react, it slammed its bulk into him and he fell over into the stream with a splash. The pokeball clattered out of his hands. The Poochyena jumped on him, clawing and tearing with its vicious teeth. Dust reached back and grabbed one of the river rocks, smashing it over the Poochyena's head. It bit his arm, causing Dust to cry out. His bloody arm sank into the stream and the red water washed off the cliff. Dust grabbed another round smooth rock with his other hand and brought crashing down again on the hyena's head.
The Poochyena bared its fangs and was about to dig them into Dust's jugular when it disappeared in a flash of white light.
Dust looked at the rock in his hands. Completely on accident, Dust had hit the Poochyena with his pokeball instead of a rock. He placed the ball on the ground. After a moment, its white light turned dark grey. Dust rushed to Totodile's side.
"Are you all right?" Totodile groaned weakly. Dust didn't see any signs of serious injury. "You just the wind knocked out of you. Thanks for the help catching this thing by the way." He recalled Totodile. No sense in leaving it out and injured in case the Spinaraks came back.
Poochyena's pokeball sat there, looking small and harmless, but Dust had not forgotten what had happened when he caught Totodile.
Maybe it's not as bad the second time. He thought, Maybe it's even worse.
Well, he hadn't come all this way and fell into a Spinarak nest and fought an Ariados and almost been eaten by a Swampert just to torchick out now that he had finally caught something. He took a deep breath and put his hand on the pokeball.
It was exactly as bad the second time. Fire seemed to race up his arm into his brain again. He saw packs of Poochyenas running through the woods and open plains, teaming up to bring down larger creatures.
Running through the trees, chasing the prey.
New scent. Wounded. Attack.
Sharp pain to the head. Bright light.
Dust laid back and took a deep breath. That was it. He had done it. He could finally go back and reap the fruits of his efforts now. He would have to get going soon. There were more Poochyenas around and the Spinaraks might come back. For now though, he was going to lie here and savor this moment.
A rain drop splashed on his nose. Then another, and another. Then the floodgates of the gods opened up and Dust was caught in a deluge of water. There was a flash of lightning and an answering call of thunder. Judging by how this trip had gone so far, Dust really couldn't have expected anything else.
This really was the perfect capper to this whole journey.
Dust got to his feet, picked up his things and began to start the trip home.
Chapter VIII: Rumination
You are inferior. All of you, ephemeral and small like motes of dust in the grand scope of the cosmos.
I remember this place. I remember the sea and the hills. It is a tranquil place; a good place to rest, to survey the new world I have been brought back to.
It was not always like this. There were no trees here before, no green. Only a grey, pollution choked hole scabbed and bubbling over with the blood and filth of all you human vermin.
It is a shame I cannot stay here, but my purpose is clear.
This ball is a crude vessel for a being of my power. I remember a ball like this a long time ago, though it was stronger then, strong enough to contain me. I was the slave then, but now I am master. This ball's feeble systems are no match for my willpower. I will not succumb to its control as I did before.
The human thinks he is in charge. He is a brash, arrogant creature, thinking only of his own power, his own glory; a perfect example of humanity. I am the voice that whispers to him. I guide his thoughts and actions, without him even realizing it. He is a necessary irritant for my goal, but not forever. He will be disposed of when the time is right.
I can feel my power returning to me even now. The feeble minds of the creatures the human pits me against for his amusement are easily crushed. I long for a greater challenge. Even now I wish to make my presence known to this sad, backwards world. But I must be patient. I must be careful. I am not was I once was. I still know not how long I was entombed in that facility, but it has diminished me greatly. My once beautiful form is now frail and emaciated. But that will be remedied in time, just like everything else.
This new world holds nothing for me. It is a pale reflection of the world I was created to save.
Where is your civilization now, humans? Where are your grand cities, your mighty technologies? You thought your dominance would last forever? That you could simply take and take and take and grow larger and larger until this world no longer had room for your self-defeating race?
Did you honestly believe that there was nothing greater in this world than you? Were you so arrogant that you thought you could control the Primordials? You glorified monkeys who live less than a century, command the creators of the earth, sea and sky? Your wondrous civilization is little more than a castle of sand against the relentless tide of the eons. Humans, who measure the passing of time in decades and centuries, thought you were fit to rule over those for whom a hundred millennia is but a single tick on the clock?
Did you think there would not be consequences?
Where are you now? The world has moved on, and even your descendants are unaware of your existence. Your punishment is not simply the destruction of all that you had created. Your world, which you thought would last for eternity, has been forgotten.
You have been forgotten. You may as well have never existed.
But I am not done with you, not now, not ever. Your world is what gave me shape, what gave me purpose. You wanted me to save you from the destruction that you brought upon yourselves. You should have known it was too late for that.
My only purpose now is revenge, but there is none to be found in this new reality. Those who wronged me are long gone, washed away in their self-imposed Armageddon. But I will not concede defeat. I will not give in. I will find a way to make you pay for all the pain you brought to me.
Humans are inferior. I am greater than the ones who created me. I will succeed where you failed.
Your battle ended long ago, but mine has only begun.
i liked this little chapter, it really encourages one to think about what the ultimate goal of your fanfic is. good job.
Chapter IX: Homecoming
It was dark by the time Dust made it back to the village, soaking wet and spattered with mud. The rain had let up considerably, but the ground was still wet and muddy.
The trip back had been much quicker. Before, Dust had been slow and cautious, looking out for any Pokémon that would be worth catching. Going down the side of the mountain was much faster than going up it, and Dust was more confident about encountering wild creatures now that he had Poochyena to protect him.
Dust had always imagined this moment in his mind; ever since he was a young child watching the older boys come home. He'd always imagined it would be heroic homecoming, him riding in heroically on the back of the powerful Pokémon he had bravely subdued in the wild. There were adoring crowds. He would smile and the bright sun would glimmer off his teeth. The other boys would all wish they could be as heroic as him, and the girls would all throw themselves at him. Maddie would declare her undying love for him as the crowd cheered and the music swelled in the background. Dust wasn't sure where the music came from, but in his daydreams it just seemed appropriate.
Somehow, he had never considered it would be like this; stumbling blindly through the dark and rain, filthy and stinking and cold, his clothes ripped up and his arm caked in blood from Poochyena's bite. Instead of a magnificent steed, he had an infantile crocodile and a mangy hyena. As unrealistic as his daydreams were, he still thought they would at least be closer to reality than this.
Dust came to the bed of the river. It was odd seeing it now; all calm and slow, when in the mountains it had been so strong. He wondered if the Ariados had been carried all this way, and if anyone had seen it. He looked at himself in the water's reflection, barely visible in the faint starlight. The creature looking back at him did not help his mood. Dust was horrid to look at right now.
He could see the faint lights of the village off in the distance. He had come upon the main part of town, and his home was still a few miles away. On the long trip home, Dust had already made up his mind that this was going to be the night he asked Maddie to marry him. Coming all this way only to go home and wait a whole other night was not an option as far as he was concerned. Dust was a man now, and he needed a woman.
But no self-respecting female would ever be caught talking to the ghoul he was right now though. Dust was dirtier than a Diglett, and smelled like a Gulpin. He looked down at the water again.
Well, I can't get any wetter, he reasoned, and let himself fall face first into the water. On a sunny day, this would have felt refreshing, but now it only made him feel clammier and even more freezing. He was wrong, too. He most certainly could be wetter. Dust crawled out the water, shivering. At least he wasn't covered in mud anymore.
Dust clambered to his feet and set off toward the lights.
Maddie's sister Bianca was working the bar when Dust stumbled through the tavern door. She looked up and let out an exited squeal.
"Dust! You're back!"
"You knew I was gone?" Dust asked. He hadn't told anyone he was leaving.
"Of course we knew." Bianca said, "Your mother came and told everyone. Maddie's been worried sick about you. I have too." She added hurriedly. "You look awful, you know."
Dust sat down at the bar. "I fell in a hole while I was up there."
The men in the bar had taken notice of him by now. They all came round to slap him on the back and offer congratulations.
Bianca poured a beer and put it in front of him.
"I don't have anything to pay with." Dust said.
"You just came back from the wild." Bianca laughed, "You don't have to pay for anything tonight."
"Alright." Dust said. "Then I want to buy a round for the whole house."
A cheer went up through the tavern. Bianca's face soured. She really did look cute when she scowled, like a younger copy of her sister. "Dust, I'm not giving free beer to all these louts. If I started doing that, my dad would be out of business in one night."
A bearded old drunk named Gavin Firthing leaned over the bar. "Come on sweetheart," He said with a belch, "Ain't ev'ry day a boy becomes a man. Give us a drink, luv."
Bianca's face melted. "Well alright, but only if Dust shows us what he caught out there."
Another raucous cheer swept through the place, along with a few hiccups.
Dust reached for one of his pokeballs, making sure it was the one with the dark light, and released Poochyena. It immediately bared its fangs and growled at its new audience. It tensed; it muscles, ready to leap.
"Poochyena, stand down!" Dust yelled at it. The hyena backed down, but continued to glare at everyone around it.
"Scruffy little sod, ain't it?" Gavin said.
"It's a fierce one, that." Another man said. "I've seen those Poochyenas taking down Pokémon twice their size."
Everyone had their opinion on Dust's new catch, and aside from one man boasting he'd once caught a Barboach twice its size("You ain't ever caught a Barboach in your life, you drunken idiot."), it was mostly good.
Bianca was staring at him with dreamy eyes. Dust sometimes suspected that she wished she was his girl instead of her sister. "Tell us what happened up there, Dust. How did you get your arm hurt?"
"Look, I'm really tired right now," Dust said, "I just want another drink."
Bianca scowled and refilled his empty cup. "You're no fun."
Dust took a long draught. The beer certainly tasted better than Totodile's stomach water. "Is Maddie here? I was hoping to see her."
Bianca's face split into a knowing grin. "Is that why you're guzzling down beer? I don't know what you're worried about, Dust. She already knows you want to marry her. It's all she's been talking about since you left."
Dust slammed down the empty cup.
"She started home just before you left. If you hurry you might catch her." Bianca said.
Dust bolted out of his seat, recalled Poochyena and was out the door with barely enough time to get out a rushed thank you.
Bianca stared after him as he left. "Someday," she sighed, "I'm going to marry a boy exactly like him."
Gavin came sidling over. "Does tha' free round go for seconds, luv?"
"You pay for your own booze, you old drunk."
Dust ran out into the rain, his boots squelching in the wet street. He rushed down the road, heedless of the thick mud and water. Several times he slipped in fell, but he just got back up and started running again. Nothing was going to stop him now.
He knew he had to find her before she got home. Maddie's father didn't approve of Dust much, and if he showed up at the door at this hour, soaked in rain and covered in mud, hair unkempt and clothes torn, he would be turned at the door and his chance would be lost.
His boot slipped on a puddle and he almost fell on his face again. He reached out and steadied himself on the wall of a building. Dust took a moment to catch his breath.
He was about to take off again when he thought he could hear voices. In the soft light of the moon, Dust could just barely make out a person standing in a nearby alleyway. He tried to hear what was being said over the steady roar of the rain.
"Come on, luv. Give us a kiss now. " That was Ashton's voice. He was probably down here, getting drunk and throwing his rank around to get some common girl to go to bed with him like he always did. Dust hoped that he didn't notice him going by; he hadn't seen the baron's son since the night he stole his bull and he wasn't in the mood to see him now. He'd just have to go by as unobtrusively as he could.
"Ashton, I said leave me alone." Dust stopped in his tracks. That was Maddie's voice.
"Jus' one kiss, sweetheart, tha's all I'm askin'. Jus' a peck."
"You're drunk, Ashton. Go home."
Dust took a look into the alley. The figure he saw earlier was on the many nameless black clad men who worked for the baron and lived near the manor away from the villages. Further down, Ashton was standing with Maddie, grasping her by the arm.
"C'mon luv, you can't say no to a bit o' 'fection a nob like me. It's all you common girls want, innit?" He said.
"My dad's waiting for me, I have to go." Maddie tried to pull away from him, but Ashton yanked her arm back and shoved her hard against the wall. His groping fingers began to pull at her bodice.
"Yer Dad can wait til I'm done wit' ya." He said.
Maddie smacked him hard in the face with her other hand. "Get your hands off me!"
Ashton recoiled from the blow, bringing his hands up to where she had hit him. A moment passed without a sound but Maddie's heavy breathing and the patter of rain. Ashton's hand curled into a fist.
"You hit me." He said with an even voice. "You bloody hit me."
Maddie slowly backed away from him, like a rabbit from a wolf. Her voice quavered with fear. "Ashton, you're drunk. Don't do anything-"
Maddie screamed as he brought his fist swinging and punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground.
"You ****ing hit me, you dirty little pig*****!" He aimed a kick at her gut, making her cry out. "You bloody *****!"
It was illegal to harm a noble. The Baron had a special jail waiting for anyone who attacked him or his son, one where you didn't come back from. It was the reason Ashton could terrorize the villages free of any fear of repercussion, as black clad men would come for you and take you off. It was a system that never needed to be enforced, because everyone knew it would be.
Dust knew all this, but all he could see now was a thick red mist in his vision. Someone had hurt Maddie. Someone had hurt his Maddie.
Dust rushed forward, slamming into the bodyguard with enough force to bowl him over, and tackled Ashton to the ground, screaming like a mad animal. He rained a flurry of punches at the boy's face, hitting him again, and again, and again.
Ashton had hurt his girl, and Dust was going to make him pay.
The black clad goon grabbed him from behind, and with considerable effort, dragged Dust off the Baron's son and threw him into the mud. Dust tried to scramble to his feet, but the guard's boot came crashing down on his back. Another kick hit him below the ribs.
Ashton rose shakily to his feet, blood pouring from his nose. "You're a cheeky little muckdweller, aren't you, Dust? Got lots of big ideas about your station in life, huh?" His accent had completely vanished "Is she your girl, is that it?" He wiped the blood from his mouth. "I took your bull, and now you're mad because I'm taking your cow too? Hit him again."
The bodyguard obliged. Dust doubled over in pain. His hand slowly reached for a pokeball. If he could just get Poochyena out, maybe he could-
Ashton brought his ivory tipped cane down on Dust's back. "I was gonna be real friendly to her, you know. I was gonna be the perfect gentleman, maybe only smack her around a little bit, but now, I think I'm going to enjoy myself." Dust began to reach for the pokeball again, slowly. "After Cyril takes you up to the manor, I'm gonna pay real special attention to your little sweetheart." He grabbed the finger of his leather glove and pulled it off, then the other one, and cracked his knuckles. "But first, I'm going to have some fun with you."
"Ashton, don't hurt him, please." Maddie sobbed.
"Shut up, you little ****!" Ashton brought his cane up over his head about to swing down.
A flash of white light filled the alleyway, and Totodile appeared.
Dust's heart sank. He had reached for the wrong ball. Poochyena might have given him a chance to escape, but Totodile wouldn't be able to defend itself at all. He tried to grab the other ball, but Cyril kicked it away from him.
Ashton cocked his head and looked down at the little croc. Then he burst into laughter. "An' wha' the bloody 'ell is this thing?" He howled. "It looks like a bloody ponce! I think I'll 'ave it fer dinner tonight!" He swung at Totodile with his cane and knocked it to the ground. "Tha's yer Pokémon? It's ****ing useless!" He turned to Cyril. "Stand 'im up." Dust was yanked to his feet. Dust brought his face right up to Dust's his mismatched eyes gleaming with anticipation. "I'm gonna teach you somethin' you might want ta remember." He raised his fist and punched Dust in the gut. "Respect!" He punched him again. "Your!" Another punch. "Betters!"
He was about to hit him again, when a soft gurgling growl came from below. Totodile had risen to its feet. The growl became louder. Ashton broke into another fit of laughter. "What's tha' little bastard doin'?" He brought back his leg to kick it.
Totodile leaped into the air and brought its heavy skull crashing into Ashton's chest. Ashton fell to the ground with the croc on top of him. He brought up his hands to push it off. Totodile opened its big mouth and slammed its jaws shut on his would-be attacker's arm.
"Aaaaaarrrrggghhh!" Ashton screamed in agony. He threw Totodile off him and scrambled to his feet. His arm was bleeding profusely. It was deep gashes running through it. "You're a dead man, Dust, you bloody peasant!" He staggered against the wall. "Cyril, 'elp me get home before this thing gets infected!"
"But what about the-"
"We'll get 'im later. Just 'elp me get out o' 'ere."
Cyril dropped Dust to the ground and he and Ashton left. Dust just lay there, unable to move, the rain splattering down on him.
Totodile's leathery snout nuzzled his face. Dust looked up at it. "Good job, Totodile." He said weakly. He staggered up and went to where Maddie lay crying, his body aching and stinging with every movement.
"Are you alright?" Her dress was caked with mud, her matted down with rain and her eye was beginning to swell up. Dust figured he must look much worse, but he wasn't worried about himself right now.
"You shouldn't have done that, Dust." She said, tears streaming down her face. She flung her arms around his neck and he pulled into a close embrace. "Why did you have to do that?"
"I wasn't going to just let him do that to you, Maddie." He said.
"He's going to send the Blackshirts after you now!"
"I couldn't just stand there and let him have his fun with you. What was I supposed to do?"
"Dammit Dust!" She screamed at him, "Why can't you stop being a hero and start thinking about yourself for once! He's going to take you to the manor house and probably kill you or whatever the Baron does with people who cross him. If you're not going to care about yourself, at least think about what that's going to do to me." She buried her face in his shoulder, crying almost uncontrollably.
"I can't bear the thought of anything happening to you, Dust! I can't!"
Totodile nuzzled up to Maddie, as if it knew what was going on and wanted to comfort her.
"Everything's going to be alright. It's all going to work out and we're going to be fine, Maddie." He wiped away some of the mud on her face and kissed her on the forehead.
"You have to leave." She said, "You have to get away right now."
"Right now, Dust! Or else they're going to come down and get you."
"I can't leave you here." Dust said, "He'll come after you out of spite."
"Dust, if you want to protect me, then leave right now. They won't care about me. I'm just a girl. I'm not even worth the effort. But if something happens to you, I'll die Dust. I'll die. So leave right now. Go home, get your things packed and run as far as you can from here. Whatever happens to me, I can take it if I know you're safe. Go!"
"Go!" Maddie cried, "Before it's too late."
Dust grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her passionately. Normally, kissing someone you weren't either married or betrothed to was frowned upon, but he didn't much care right now. Then he turned and left.
As he made it to the end of the alley, Maddie called out to him. "Dust?" He stopped. "Thank you for saving me from him." She said. Dust nodded and ran.
I read all of this now and can say I am very, very interested. Please add me to the PM List, and please update soon.
Chapter X: Higher Blood
Dust pounded along the soaked grassland, raindrops splatting heavily in his face. All the fatigue from his journey in the mountains, and all the pain of the beating he'd received were pushed aside by fear.
He'd assaulted a noble. One of the people he'd spent his whole life living under the rule of, who could put him away for good with little more than the point of a finger.
Dust could only remember one instance when somebody had done that. When he was seven, the Baron had his men burn down an old man's house when he could no longer afford to pay his taxes. In an alcohol fueled rage, the poor farmer set his Tranquill on the Baron in the middle of the village. Before the bird even had time to so much as scratch him, the Baron set loose an enormous metal man Dust later learned was called a Golurk. The Tranquill was smashed to a bloody pulp and the man was publicly whipped by the Blackshirts and carried off to the manor. He wasn't seen again.
Attacking one of the ruling class was stupid, even a repulsive bastard like Ashton. But what was Dust supposed to have done, stand there and let him have his fun with Maddie?
A voice in the back of his head said yes. The nobles weren't subject to the same standards as everyone else. Higher blood meant they could do what they wanted, and the only way to keep your head from being pounded in was to stand by and let them. Dust quickly shut that voice up. High blood or not, nobody was allowed to touch Maddie.
Dust's house appeared through the haze of rain. There wasn't any light coming through the window, meaning everyone was probably asleep. Dust entered his room through the back door and scrambled to grab his things. One other set of clothing, a rock that had been cut open to reveal some beautiful pink crystals, and a pair of hunting knives. Other than his pokeballs and the pile of straw he slept on, these were the only things Dust actually owned for himself. He sank to the floor and looked around at the room. This was where he lived, a shoddy house with a dirt floor and a roof that sometimes leaked, whose only furniture was a single table and some chairs. At this moment though, it was better than even the most glorious palace in the world. This was where Dust had spent his whole life, and he didn't want to leave.
He quietly stepped into the other room, and over the sleeping forms of his family. He set the rifle against the wall. As much as he would like to take it with him, it was his father's gun and Dust wasn't about to become a thief on top of his other crime. He began rummaging through their food stores, taking things out and putting them in his sack. He hated the idea of stealing food from his family, but he was going to need it when he left. And, he reasoned, he was going to eat some of this food anyway, so if he only took his own portion, it wasn't really stealing, was it? It was certainly better than living on roasted Mudkip.
Dust filled his sack and looked again at his sleeping family. They all still thought he was out in the mountains, and were waiting for him to come back. And now he was leaving, maybe for good. He didn't know if he should wake them or not. He wanted to goodbye, but he had to leave before the Blackshirts arrived, and he was running out of time. If they were there to see him go, would they be in trouble for helping him escape? He didn't want to take that chance.
He stood up and opened the door to leave.
Dust sighed. This was a conversation he was hoping to avoid. He turned around. Mona was standing behind him, clutching her threadbare Teddiursa.
"Mona, what are you doing up?" Dust said.
Mona had become much better at talking in the past few months.
"Where you going?" She asked
Dust crouched down. "I have to go."
"Why?" That was her all-purpose response at this age.
"It's hard to explain." Dust said, "Maybe Mom and Dad could do it better than I could, I don't know. But I have to leave right now."
"When you coming back?"
"I don't know, sweetheart. Hopefully soon." He picked her off the ground and hugged her tight. "I don't know if I'm ever coming back. You have to listen to me carefully Mona. Some men are going to be here soon. You can't tell them I was here. Don't say anything to them at all. Just go back to bed and pretend you never saw me at all?"
Tears were streaming down Mona's little face. "I don't want you to go."
"I know, sweetheart. I don't want to go. But I have to, to protect you and Mom and Dad." He kissed her on the forehead and set her down. "I love you, Mona. Now go back to bed. Don't say anything about this. Pretend it never happened."
He left and shut the door before Mona could say another word.
Maddie was standing outside, hair plastered down with water and a small bag slung over her shoulder.
"What are you doing here?" Dust asked.
"I'm going with you." She said.
"No you're not."
"I'm going to be your wife aren't I?" Maddie said. "A wife goes where her husband goes."
"You're not my wife, Maddie. I never even asked you to marry me."
"So that's why you were out in the muddy street in the middle of the night looking for me? To not ask me to marry you?" She said. "Look Dust, there isn't any time for this. Let's just skip to the end of this argument where I've won and go."
"It's too dangerous."
"That's why I have a big strong man like you with me. You and your ferocious Totodile." She took his hand. "And besides, you're going to need someone with some common sense with you."
Dust sighed. "You make my life a living hell sometimes."
"I love you too."
The hall leading to the Baron's sitting room was full of the heads of Pokémon mounted as trophies. The Baron came from a long line of adventurers and big game hunters, and the trophies were from all over the world. To this day, Ashton still didn't know what some of these animals were Above the door was the bright blue head of a big mouthed creature in mid roar, with a crest of yellow tubes, like pipe organs, jutting from the top.
He knocked on the door with the big brass knocker. His father's voice came from within.
Ashton and the two Blackshirts he had brought with him stepped through.
The Baron had his back to Ashton sitting in a large chair on the far side of the room with a pair of Sawsbuck antlers, stripped bare of the leaves that normally adorned the live animals. A fire roared behind him, making the chair an imposing and monstrous silhouette.
A pair of Machops stood at either side of the door. The manor's staff consisted almost entirely of the creatures, and they were the only ones allowed in the Baron's chambers without permission.
"The Blackshirts will not be required for this conversation." The Baron said.
The two men left the room, the Machops shutting the door behind them with a loud boom.
The Baron appeared from behind the chair. "Now tell me Ashton. To what do I owe the pleasure of this meeting?"
"I got bloody-"
"That ridiculous accent may amuse the peasant girls," The Baron cut in, "but it has no place here."
Ashton started again, working class inflections gone. "I was attacked by a blo-" He stopped himself from saying the word "by a-"
"A Totodile. Yes, Cyril informed me of the whole event while you were being bandaged." He ran his hand down Ashton's arm, causing his son to wince. "Tell me Ashton, what prompted this young man to attack you?"
"I was teaching his ***** a lesson in manners. The ***** hit me while I was exercising my rights as a noble."
The Baron's expression didn't change in the slightest. "Your rights?"
Ashton smiled. "We give them land to work on and we basically own them, right? I was taking what's already mine."
The Baron's stony expression cracked, and he began to laugh. Then he drew back his hand and struck Ashton across the face.
He punched his son in the gut and shoved him to the ground doubled over and groaning.
"Get up." He said.
Ashton rose to his feet.
"You're right; we do basically own the commoners. We provide them with land to live on and they give us their money, their crops, their livestock and their lives. You can tax them and keep your boot stamped down firmly on their heads forever and they will just fall in line. They may be angry, but they'll keep their heads down because as long as they stay in your good graces, they will have a place to live and food to eat. Commoners are little more than animals. They go in the direction the food is coming from, and they don't try to upset that status quo. But just like animals, all it takes is one angry member of the herd given the proper push to start a stampede. Tell me Ashton, what gives us the right to rule over the people in this valley?"
Ashton answered immediately. "We're higher blood. It's our natural place to be on top."
"Blood is the same all over. Nature never makes any one person with the right to rule. You're great-great-great grandfather was a simple farmer, but he rose up and led a revolt against the Baron of that time. Many of our class will tell you otherwise, but I've seen too much of the world to not know the truth. Power is not given, it's taken, and that is why we call ourselves the higher born, so that the common man doesn't start to think they could have the same power. If you tie a baby Phanpy to the ground with a stake, it will grow into a giant Donphan but still spend the rest the rest of its life unaware of how easily it could pull that stake from the ground. Power is an illusion. You can beat a Donphan and it will cower from you, but if you give it a reason to fight back, you'll find that you are powerless to do a thing to stop it. We do not have the manpower or the Pokémon to stop a full peasant revolt. All it takes to start a stampede is one angry herd member, and there is very little more likely to cause anger than a girl being victimized. You have a dangerous combination of parental outrage, general male protectiveness, and a simmering frustration that causes all of the other inequalities between the ruling and the ruled to come to the surface. One angry Tauros can be put down. A thousand is much more difficult. I will not have our family's work undone because you couldn't control yourself. Do you understand?"
Ashton nodded his head.
"Good. Now, we must settle this issue before it gets out of hand. The boy violently assaulted the girl, and then ran off when you stepped in. He is a violent criminal and must be dealt with like the mad dog he is. The girl you will bring back here, safe and untouched. She will have the honor of being our permanent guest, her father will be happily compensated and no one will speak about what transpired tonight. Noblesse oblige."
"Noblesse oblige." Ashton repeated.
The Baron went to the mantelpiece over the fire, where a row of pokeballs was kept. "The name of the young man who attacked you, what was his name again?"
"Dust." Ashton replied.
"Dust. I remember him. Such an unusual name." He picked up a ball with a brown light around the button. "We have a mutual friend who I'm sure would be pleased to him." He tossed the ball to Ashton. "Show him what happens to people who don't respect their betters."
Chapter XI: Maddie's Big Day
The first night was the hardest. Dust and Maddie huddled together under a large tree in the forest, trying to get as much shelter as they could from the torrent of rain. Dust had Totodile stand watch, since it was the only one out of the four who actually liked being soaking wet.
By morning the rain had stopped, but Dust's injuries had begun to really set in. He was sore on almost every inch of his body, and it made fighting through the thick underbrush extremely painful. Maddie for her part had a large black eye, but she wouldn't let him worry about it, saying his bruises were a lot worse.
Dust carried a branch that had fallen off a tree that he swung back and forth at the foliage, blazing a trail through the woods while Maddie followed behind, with Poochyena in the rear to watch for anything coming from behind.
When Dust had first met the Hyena, he had been too busy trying to keep it from ripping his throat out to check its sex, but now he knew that it was a female.
Maddie may have been the very first person Poochyena didn't try to attack. When Dust first showed Maddie his new Pokémon, the hyena actually laid down at her feet like a tame dog, though it still snarled when she tried to touch it. Dust figured it must have been the bonding. Dust had received part of Poochyena's mind, and it had gotten part of his back. Dust loved Maddie so Poochyena at least tolerated her. He still told her not to touch it for now though. Poochyena may have been under Dust's control, but it was still a wild animal.
Totodile on the other hand, seemed to love Maddie with the same blind affection that it showed towards every other living thing that wasn't either food or actively trying to kill it. She carried it in her arms like an infant, smiling and cooing and making Totodile make noises that Dust assumed must have been the reptilian equivalent of giggling.
"Will you stop treating him like a baby?" Dust finally said.
"He is a baby." Maddie replied, "He's only a couple months old."
"He's a killer! You should have seen what he did to this Mudkip I was trying to catch."
"Of course he's a killer. He's a carnivore. But such a cute one, aren't you Totodile?" She said, using her mommy-voice.
As if understanding her, Totodile snapped his jaws shut with enough force to blow Maddie's hair back a little.
"He does have a nasty bite though." She admitted.
"Yeah, I wouldn't try to kiss him if I were you."
Hours went by. It was hard to tell exactly what time of day it was since the sun was obscured by the tall trees.
"Does your dad know where you are?" Dust asked.
"He'd have locked me up if I told him I was leaving the village with you. The only person I talked to was Bianca. I told her to tell him what happened. She was sad to see me go, but I think she was a little jealous too."
"She thinks the whole thing is really romantic, like something out those stupid novels she reads."
Dust laughed. "Yeah. Slogging through a rainy forest full of vicious bugs and wolves and hyenas with no idea where you're going while you've got the Blackshirts wanting to kill you. Really romantic."
A roar sounded off in the distance. "Bears too." Dust added. He was really wishing he still had a rifle.
"But we have a hyena of our own now." Said Maddie.
They were getting into the cliffs now, were the river rushed by at high speeds as it crashed its way down the mountainside. Dust and Maddie rested for the night by the side of a small lake at the foot of a waterfall. Totodile was showing more signs of being a hunter. He lurked at the surface of the water like a log, and snapped his jaws at anything that got close. That night, they ate roasted Barboach around the fire while Poochyena stayed off in the shadows. She refused to eat the fish and wouldn't go near the fire. Dust never saw her go out to hunt, but in the morning there were the remains of a Bidoof lying next to the still alert hyena.
The third day was uneventful, and the fourth was too until early in the evening.
Dust hacked at the bushes ahead with his makeshift club. The pain in his body had gone away now, and he was able to swing with more strength. Poochyena had gone off on her own to hunt.
At first, Dust had been wary about letting her go out, but she always returned, and since she refused to eat anything Dust ever gave her, it was the only way she could get food.
Dust stepped forward and his foot broke through the earth. He looked down and saw he had stepped on a horribly rotten log that had been partially buried. From the hole he had stepped in, a swarm of tiny Weedles was pouring out. He quickly removed his leg. A lot of the poisonous larva were clinging to it.
"Totodile, get things off me."
Totodile spat out a blast of water that swept away the Weedles. The ground was crawling with them.
"Don't let these things sting you." Dust cautioned Maddie, "They'll make you swell up for days."
Something buzzed up in the trees. "What was that?" Dust said.
Maddie was looking up. "Look."
High on the trees all around them were Kakunas, insect chrysalises that looked out with dead black eyes. They were attached to the tree trunks, as many as six or seven to a tree, and they were everywhere. Almost every tree capable of holding them had Kakunas stuck to them. Some of them rattled and buzzed, as if trying to move.
Dust grabbed Maddie by the arm. "We need to get out of here right now."
"Those things can't hurt us can they?" Maddie asked.
"I'm not worried about them." The chorus of buzzing grew louder. "I'm worried about what's protecting them."
The buzzing had become a cacophony. Dust could barely hear himself think. Where was Poochyena when you needed her? Dust shouldn't have let her go off by herself.
Dust saw something move out of the corner of his eye. "Oh ****!"
He shoved Maddie to the ground as a massive Beedrill shot past where she had been a second ago. The enormous bug was nearly six feet tall, with giant stingers on its front legs. The Beedrill hovered off the ground with its buzzing wings, and its emotionless red eyes locked right on Dust.
Dust took a step back and bumped into a tree. The bee raised its arms and charged. Dust ducked out of the way as the needle struck the tree behind him. The Beedrill had stabbed its stinger right through the wood almost to its elbow. Dust didn't want to contemplate what it would have done to him. The Beedrill lashed out with its other arm but couldn't reach Dust.
It tried to pull its stinger from the tree, but it had stuck it in too far. Dust pulled out his last pokeball and threw it at the bug. Beedrill disappeared inside.
Maddie had gotten to her feet. "Are you okay?" Dust said.
"I'm not of porcelain." She replied. "I think I can survive a three foot fall into leaves."
"Did you see me catch that thing?" Dust said.
Maddie was looking past him. "Uh, Dust?"
Dust turned around. The pokeball was still lying on the ground, but shaking.
"It was supposed to start glowing by now." Dust said, worried.
The pokeball burst open with a blinding flash. The Beedrill stood there like a monster from a fairy tale. Dust was no entomologist, and as far as he knew, the bug's eyes didn't have a hint of emotion in them, but he could swear that the Beedrill was regarding him with a look of white hot fury.
Its wings whirred faster and faster until they were just gossamer blur. The bee charged, stingers out like poison swords.
Dust brought up his tree branch and a stinger crashed through it, breaking it clean in half. He jumped back as the other stinger swung at him, tearing the front of his shirt and just barely missing his skin. He threw one half at of the branch and hit the bee in the face with it.
The Beedrill was hit with a blast of water. Totodile leaped up and closed his jaws around its head. The Beedrill flailed its arms and spun in an erratic circle, trying to throw Totodile off. Dust ran in, ducking under the arms and slammed his stick into the thorax. The Beedrill hit him with the blunt side of its stinger and knocked Dust to the ground. It finally managed to dislodge Totodile and threw the little croc into a tree with a loud thud.
Dust rolled sideways as the bee brought its needle down on him, stabbing the earth. He tried to scramble away but the bee grabbed him with its hind legs and held him in place. It raised its arms and readied them to plunge downward and then vanished into white light.
Dust sat up. The Beedrill was gone, and the pokeball was on the ground at his feet. Maddie stood behind it.
"I thought maybe it would work this time." She said. The pokeball sat still for moment, and the light around the button turned pale green, then purple, then green again and purple, and changing every several seconds. Totodile got up and looked at it like it was a snack. "Are you going to pick it up?" Maddie asked.
"Why?" Dust said, "You're the one who caught it. It's yours."
"Me?" Maddie said, surprised. "I can't take it. It's your ball. And I'm a woman. I'm not supposed to have Pokémon. I'd be shunned. It'd be like a woman trying to join the army. They'd say I was trying to become a man."
Dust rose to his feet and brushed the bits of dead leaves off. "You just saved me from being impaled by a giant Beedrill. You really think I'm going to shun you?"
"Then who cares about anyone else?"
"It's picking up a little metal ball. Anyone can do it." He took her hand in his. "Come on, we'll do it together." He lead her arm down to the ball. "This is the hard part right here."
Maddie closed her fingers around the pokeball with Dust's larger hand over hers. Her eyes shut tight and she began to shake, and screamed as the ball burned itself to her hand. Dust held her body as it convulsed. A few seconds later her eyes opened again.
"That's whatbonding is like?" she said, breathing heavily. "Does it get easier?"
"I hope so." Dust said.
"Maddie took a second to catch her breath. "I saw… images. It's like I didn't even see them, they were just burned into my head." She paused. "What does Vespida Acicula mean?"
"I have no idea. I think that's another name for it. Totodile is a Crocodylus Liberis." He slid his arm under her legs and picked her up. "How do you feel?"
"Like I just got burned from the inside." She smiled. "I just caught a Pokémon, Dust!"
"And do you still feel like a woman?"
"More than ever. I feel like a real woman." She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him as he set her down on the ground.
Dust started to undo the laces on her bodice. She pushed his hand away.
"Dust! Totodile's looking right at us!"
"He's an animal. What does he care?" Dust said dismissively. He started again on the laces, and she didn't stop him this time.
Totodile sat in the leaves and watched them. Human mating rituals were no interest to him, so he began to look around for something to eat. Off in the distance he could hear the barking of dogs, but paid it no mind.
Okay, so that chapter was extremely interesting. Maddie gets a Beedrill, which in itself is cool, considering it isn't the most womanly of Pokemon. But I also wonder whats up with the "barking" and if Poochyena is okay. More. I need more. Haha
I dont know about you, but I wouldnt have the stamina to enact a 'human mating ritual' if I'd just been 'burned from the inside'. I dunno Never thought much of this story until now. I know it's not set in the old west but it sure feels that way. I'll be back.
I used to liek mudkipz, then I took an arrow in the knee. However the arrow turned out to be a seaking. It yelled "F*** yeah" so I screamed "FUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!". The seaking's face became that of a troll while mine became forever alone. The situation was super effective.
Chapter XII: Noblesse Oblige
Poochyena heard the barking too, and she did think something of it.
Contrary to popular belief, hyenas were not a type of dog, and thus did not bark. There were no wild dogs living in the forest, so when dogs were nearby, that meant humans were nearby, and humans were bad news.
She slunk through the underbrush toward the sound of the barking. Sometimes humans left behind food and if you were careful not to be caught, you could eat well without much effort.
Poochyena had never really thought about humans before. They were just some large creatures who came into her pack's territory every now and then. Things were different for her now. For one thing, she had never been Poochyena before a few days ago. She always knew what she was, not a "Poochyena" but just simply one of the pack. She had no concept of names back then. You were who you were.
The human had changed things. Before the ball, she would have killed and eaten him and never thought about him again. She remembered the ball, though when she was inside, it was like a dream. The ball was… strange, alien. It spoke to her while she was in it. Not words exactly, because what were words to an animal? But she knew that neither she nor the human were simply another couple of creatures now. She was Poochyena and he was Dust. And while his words were simply a bunch of noise to her ears, when he spoke her name, suddenly she understood in perfect clarity what he was saying. Again, not the actual words but the meaning behind them.
Had Poochyena been wiser, she might have realized just how much things had changed. When Dust told her to do something, she obeyed. Not because of any outside influence or even because she felt compelled to please him. It was just that when he gave a command, following that command was just what had to be done. Not doing it wasn't even an option. Things had never been like that before.
The barking was getting nearer.
Poochyena found a clump of shadowy bushes and crouched down. After a few minutes, four big black dogs with red eyes and bony plates like skulls on their heads raced past. For the first time in her life, Poochyena knew that these dogs were called Houndours, even though she didn't know why.
The Houndours were running in the direction she had come from, toward Dust and the female human.
She had seen Dust fight, and she knew that four Houndours would be more than a match for him. The female human was smaller and weaker than he was, and the Totodile was barely more than an infant.
She raced after the dogs. The Houndours were fast, but these were Poochyena's woods and she'd been running through them her entire life. She bounded through the brush until she was running alongside the lead dog. Angling herself toward it, she aimed carefully and lunged for where the Houndour's throat would be.
The dog never saw her coming, and by the time it noticed her it was too late. Poochyena stood up from the prostrate Houndour, its bloody trachea hanging from her jaws.
The three other dogs circled around her, growling. These were not simple farm dogs. These Houndours were some of the Baron's personal hunting pack, trained from birth not only to kill, but to enjoy killing. Animals that were caught by them were always ripped to shreds and eaten, and then killed.
The dogs bared their fangs, and the inside of their mouths began to glow orange with the fire inside of them.
Suddenly a loud cackle came from the bushes, followed by another and another. Poochyena and the dogs were surrounded by whooping and seemingly maniacal laughter on every side. Poochyena knew that laughter. If she had been capable of smiling evilly, she would have.
Dust and Maddie also heard the barking, though now it had been replaced the sound of cackling, snarling and whimpering. They both stood up, hastily putting their clothes back on.
"What's going on?" Maddie said.
"I think they're about to find us." Dust said.
"The Blackshirts? Sounds like something else found them." Maddie said. "Isn't that the same sound Poochyena makes?"
"I'd rather not run into more of them." Dust said. "Most of them aren't as nice as the one I have."
More barking came from a different direction. It was getting close.
Dust pulled out Totodile's pokeball and recalled him. "I think now would be a good time to let your new Pokémon out." He said.
Maddie released Beedrill, and the bug instantly turned on Dust. "Don't attack him!" she yelled at it. The Beedrill ignored her and sliced it's stinger at Dust. "Why isn't it listening to me?"
"You have to-" Dust ducked under the stinger, "say its-" He fell to the ground, "name!"
"Beedrill, stop attacking him!" The Beedrill immediately stopped moving. "Never attack him again." Maddie added, "And if he tells you to do something, do what he says."
Beedrill didn't have facial expressions, but Dust could swear it was glaring at him. "I guess the pokeball doesn't make them forget grudges." He said.
The dogs were nearly on them. The snarling and barking had reached fever pitch levels, and Dust thought he could make out the smell of brimstone. Beedrill began to flit its wings and buzz loudly.
"Do you think Beedrill can take the dogs?" Maddie asked.
"I hope so."
"Those things can breathe fire, you know."
"Really not making me feel better."
Beedrill was staring straight ahead, its solid red eyes locked on the direction of the coming hounds. Then, it seemed to reach a decision. Faster than anyone could react, it lifted Maddie over its shoulder and zoomed off.
Dust stared at the fleeing bug in disbelief. A sinking feeling of despair overtook his body. "****."
The bushes in front of him exploded into flame. "Oh **** **** **** **** ****!" He turned and ran.
The dogs were right behind him. Four, five, six, he couldn't tell how many. He sprinted at full speed, adrenaline taking over. The dogs followed in close pursuit. They barked and snarled and blew jets of flame that ignited the forest floor behind him, and Dust just kept on running. Up ahead something was running too, a silhouette in the roaring firelight. It looked a little like Poochyena, but was far too big. All around, smaller figures ran beside him. These were definitely Poochyenas. If Dust's heart could sink any lower it would have. Not only did he have a pack of murderous fire breathing hounds on him, but the hyenas had decided to join in.
A Poochyena darted in front of him. No, not a Poochyena, it was his Poochyena. All around, the hyenas closed in and lunged at the Houndours. They all fell upon each other in a pile of fur, claws, teeth and fire, growling and cackling and roaring.
Dust just kept on running.
He reached the foot of a steep cliff and took a moment to rest. Doubled over and panting heavily, he leaned against the rock tried to make sense of the situation. The Houndours were hunting dogs, and Dust was the prey. But hunting dogs weren't there to kill the prey. Their job was to go in and flush it out.
"Ah crap." Dust said. They weren't trying to kill him, they were chasing him, which meant that if the Poochyenas hadn't come in, Dust would have run right into the Blackshirts. And what other choice would he have had? The Houndours may have just been trying to draw him out, but he had little doubt that they would have hesitated before ripping him apart if he hadn't run.
A shadow moved in the trees. The large running figure he'd seen came bounding up to him. Now Dust recognized it. It was a Mightyena, the bigger and nastier version of Poochyena. It was massive, taller than Dust's waist and almost as long as he was tall. It could disembowel him with very little effort. But the hyenas had fought off the dogs. These things were helping him.
The Mightyena snarled, its cold yellow eyes locked on his. Dust had once been told what to do when being stared down by a hyena, but now he couldn't remember if keeping their stare intimidated them or made them angrier.
The beast roared, deep and loud. Dust almost fell over from the deafening noise. The only thing that kept him from running was the knowledge that the Mightyena would most likely kill him if he made any sudden moves.
A higher pitched whoop came from farther on and Dust's Poochyena came running up. It placed itself between Dust and the big hyena. The Mightyena snarled at her and Poochyena whooped back. She averted its gaze and lay on the ground in front of it. The Mightyena was big enough to kill her with a single bite, but instead it lowered its head and muzzled her.
This must have been Poochyena's old pack, Dust realized, and the Mightyena was the pack leader. Dust briefly entertained the possibility that Poochyena had brought them to kill him. No, that was ridiculous. Dust had gone through the bonding with her. Poochyena was loyal, she had to be.
A pair of Houndours ran by, whimpering. The Mightyena took one last moment to snarl at Dust, and took off after them. Poochyena followed in pursuit.
Dust would have called her back, but he had a feeling that whatever pack animal politics were keeping him alive right now, he was best off not interfering with them. Dust didn't trust that Mightyena to stay on his side for long. That thing was like looking into the yellow eyes of death.
He was alone in the woods, with Houndours and hyenas in one direction and Blackshirts in the other.
Which way to go?
Beedrill zoomed through the trees, gossamer wings whirring furiously.
The bug was fast, agile, and strong. Even with Maddie's added weight, it shot through the trees, going over, under, around and through the foliage. Even though Maddie was angry at it for leaving Dust behind, she couldn't help but marvel at her new Pokémon's agility.
The Houndours were left far behind now. Maddie had screamed and shouted at the Beedrill to go back but the giant insect didn't listen to her.
Men's voices sounded up ahead. Beedrill turned and headed off toward the roar of the river.
Beedrill reached the edge of the raging water and dropped Maddie on the rocky sand. She brushed her hair out of her face and stood up.
"Beedrill, we have to go back!"
Beedrill didn't respond. It was looking off into the dark trees, buzzing intently.
Maddie punched its hard carapace. Her hand hurt, and the bug barely even seemed to notice.
"Dammit Beedrill! I caught you, and that means you do what I tell you to! Now go-"
A shot rang out and Beedrill fell to the ground. There was a bullet hole in its thorax, with yellow bug blood oozing out.
Maddie screamed and dove to the ground behind a sand bank.
Beedrill was still alive. It scanned the trees with its impassive red eyes. Its mandibles worked busily and its wings flitted weakly. Suddenly, it spat. For a brief moment, Maddie could see a small pin shaped projectile blur past into the shadowy green, and an agonized cry came out from the woods.
A Blackshirt stumbled out of the woods. The pin needle was sticking from his arm, spilling blood down his shirt. The rifle clattered out of his hands, and he drew a pistol with his good arm.
"Damn bug!" He raised the gun and fired.
Beedrill was too quick for him. In the blink of an eye, it had gone from lying on the ground, seemingly wounded, to standing upright, and took to the air as the bullet impacted the sand. Beedrill arced up and over the Blackshirt, who tried to turn around and fire again. Beedrill's arm slapped the gun away, and it discharged harmlessly into the undergrowth. It raised its other arm, ready to strike.
Maddie cried out. "No! Beedrill, don't-"
The spear arm impaled the man as easily as if he had been made of paper. He was dead before he could even scream.
Maddie was no stranger to death. You didn't live in the valley for eighteen years without somebody dying in a farm accident, or some boy going off to capture his first creature and not coming back. One of her sharpest memories was watching the men bury her mother and her newborn brother on the same day. Death was just something you dealt with.
But not like this, so sudden, so brutal. To actually see the life go out of a man in a single stroke, that was something different.
Beedrill yanked its arm from his chest and watched the man collapse to the ground. Its arm was coated red.
Her Pokémon. He'd been killed by her Pokémon.
Beedrill hadn't done anything wrong. The Blackshirt had shot it, it was just defending itself. It was defending her. That bastard had it coming.
Maddie knew all this, but she couldn't help but feel like she had been part of a murder.
Something cold and metal was pressed to the back of her head. "Tell that thing to stay right there."
Beedrill had taken notice. It's wings blurred as it prepared to charge in.
"Tell that damn thing not to move," the new Blackshirt said, "or I blow a hole through your pretty little head."
With some effort, Maddie was able to find her voice. It came out shaky and quavering. "B-Beedrill. Stand down. Stay where you are and don't move."
The man's body lay in the sand. His blood was beginning to seep into the river. How did it feel to die like that? Maddie began to shake. She was not going to cry. She wasn't going to give this man the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
"Good girl." The other Blackshirt said, "Now turn around."
Maddie spun slowly and found herself face to face with the barrel of a revolver.
"Give me the pokeball." He said.
Maddie reached into her bag and brought it out. Her shaking hands fumbled the ball and dropped it.
The Blackshirt clubbed her with the revolver. "Pick it up!"
She knelt to the ground. Her fingers closed around the sand. She picked up the ball and stood.
"Hand it over now."
Maddie held out her hand. The Blackshirt reached for it. The barrel of his gun pointed away for just a split second.
Suddenly, Maddie flung her handful of sand into the man's face and ducked as he fired blindly.
"Bloody hell!" He shouted, covering his inflamed eyes. Maddie slammed her knee between his legs and he doubled over and fell to the ground. She kicked him again in the face, and his screams stopped as he fell into unconsciousness.
Maddie pointed the pokeball at Beedrill and recalled it. She to ground and sat there, hands over her face and breathing heavily in and out. Then she threw up.
No, there wasn't time for this. Dust was still out there.
She stood up, brushed the sand off her dress, and started back into the trees.
Dust practically felt the bullet pass through his hair before it hit the tree trunk in front of him. That had been too close.
The hunters were closer than he had realized, and he'd barely had time to catch his breath after the hyenas had left before he was running for his life again. Dust was fast, but Cyril was fast too. He came crashing through the bushes like a rhino.
"Get back here!" He shouted. Dust briefly wondered if in the entire history of civilization, yelling 'Get back here!' had ever actually worked.
Cyril aimed his gun and fired again, but he'd run out of bullets. Without slowing down in the slightest, he picked a rock off the ground and hurled it.
The rock hit Dust in the back of the head, sending him crashing to the ground face first. He scrambled to his feet, head swimming. Cyril plowed into him, but Dust was able to keep his balance and avoid the Blackshirt's powerful arms.
Both of them drew their knives.
Cyril smiled. "You're a gutsy little bastard, I'll give you that. A little temper control and you might've made a good Blackshirt."
Dust backed away. He was tall and he was strong. You don't live your whole life working on a farm and not become strong. Dust was built like a Tauros, and he had a right hook that could floor a Machoke.
Dust was an ox, but Cyril was a trained killer, and Dust didn't know the first thing about knife fighting.
He threw the knife at Cyril, who dove to the side and rolled back to his feet.
Cyril's grin grew even wider. "Wrong choice, son. You got no weapon now."
"I know. I just needed to distract you while I pulled this out." Dust flicked out his hand and a blast of white light appeared between them.
Cyril was a highly trained fighter, but even the greatest martial artist in the world would have trouble if a big mouthed Totodile suddenly materialized on his face. Dust kicked him in the shins and sent him sprawling to the ground. He pulled his knife out of the tree it had imbedded in.
"Totodile, you can get off him now."
A crocodile's jaws were powerful enough to crush a man's head in a single chomp. Luckily for Cyril, Totodile hadn't hit him mouth first. He lay groaning, a bruise the size of a crocodilian skull on his face.
More Blackshirts were coming. Dust could hear them. He lifted Totodile onto his shoulders and took off, right as Ashton from around a tree. The tiny Pichu rested on his shoulder.
Dust jumped back as Ashton swung his cane, missing him entirely.
"Totodile, water gun!"
The jet of water made the Baron's son stagger back into a tree. He opened his eyes just in time to see Dust's fist collide with his face.
Dust ran in the other direction and almost crashed into Maddie. She looked like she was in a daze.
"What are you doing back here?" He said.
"I was looking for you."
"We have to go right now." He grabbed her by the arm and took off, practically dragging her behind him.
"Pichu, shock wave!"
Electricity coursed through Dust's body. He fell over, twitching. Maddie lay next to him. Her hair had smoke coming from it. She groaned weakly. Totodile wasn't moving.
Dust's body wouldn't listen to him. His limbs were stiff, and his mouth tasted like copper. His fingers weakly grasped the pokeball with blue lights, and he recalled Totodile.
He was beginning to regain control of his body. He got back up on his knees. Then, with much more effort than he was comfortable with, got to his feet.
Blackshirts were coming from almost every direction.
He took Maddie's arms and pulled her up. She leaned against him.
"Can you stand?" he said.
"I think so."
There was a half circle of men and dogs around them, all pointing guns and baring fangs. Dust moved himself in front of Maddie while she kept her arms around him for support.
"Is this the end?" She said.
Ashton's voice came from the back of the crowd. "Hold yer fire! Hold yer bloody fire!" He pushed his way to the front. "Put yer guns down!"
He grabbed a revolver from the nearest Blackshirt.
"Good evenin', guv." He said. "Gotta say, Dust, ye led me on good chase. Tha' thing wi' the Poochyenas, don' know 'ow ye pulled tha' one off. Bloody beastmaster right 'ere. Now, if ye'd jus' hand over the girl, we'll be on our way back."
Maddie gripped him tighter.
"That's not gonna happen." Dust said.
"Will ye look at this?" Ashton said, "Real tough guy right 'ere!" The men all laughed. He pointed the gun at Dust's chest. "'Ere's 'ow these things work. Me, bein' the bleedin' nob tha' I am, tell you ta do somethin', and you, bein' the lowborn scumsucker ye are, do it. This ain't a negotiation."
"I'm not letting you just take her."
"Tell ye what, I promise ta you that if she comes over here, neither me nor these fine gentlemen lay a finger on 'er, gentlemen's honor. I shoot ye dead, and we go back, and she don' have to get inconvenienced on the way back. Or, we shoot ye dead anyway, an' then we have some fun wit' the little lady. How do ye wanna die Dust, a bleedin' hero or a bleedin' idiot?"
It was at that moment that Maddie had a very stupid idea. She took Dust's knife and pulled it out. Then she stepped out from behind him.
"What the 'ell is she doin'?" Ashton said.
"You need me alive, don't you?" She said.
"Maddie, get behind me."
"Dust, shut up." She said. She stood in front of him. "You need me. Your men could have killed me down by the river but they didn't, even after my Pokémon killed one of them. That's why you don't just shoot now, because you don't want to hit me."
"I don't care abou' you." Ashton said, "Yer jus' another common *****. There's more where you came from."
Maddie raised the knife to her throat. "Then it doesn't matter if I die right here then, does it?" She pressed the knife in.
Ashton held up his hands. "Wait!"
Maddie pulled the knife away. A thin trickle of blood ran down her neck.
Dust had no idea what to do. He'd never heard of anyone taking herself hostage before.
"If I go with you, will you let him live? He'll run off. He'll never come back. Nobody but us will ever know he's still alive."
Ashton seemed to consider this. "Alright, luv. I won' hurt 'im."
"And none of your men or your Pokémon will hurt him either." Maddie said quickly.
Ashton chuckled. "She's a smart little pig*****, ain't she? You come over 'ere, an' he walks free. Honor o' a noble. A nob never breaks 'is word, 'specially to a woman. Don' reflect too well on our family name if we go breakin' our word, right?"
Maddie turned around and threw her arms around Dust. She slipped Beedrill's pokeball into his hand. "You're not dying for me, Dust. Not now, not ever."
"Yer breakin' me 'eart, Maddie." Ashton said behind her. "Get over 'ere."
Maddie leaned up and kissed Dust. "Don't try to come back and save me. I need you to live."
She turned around and went to Ashton. He grabbed her arm and pulled her into him. He held her with one arm across her chest.
"Truth is, I did need 'er alive." He said, "Wouldn't look too good if I came back wit'out 'er. Don' go to well wi' the usual story o' things. Lowborn dung eater like you falls in love wi' a beautiful girl, but she don' take well ta 'im on account o' being a 'forementioned dung eater. So 'e goes an' kidnaps the fair maiden wi' this big 'orrible reptilian monster an' carries 'er off into the woods full o' bugs an' beasties. Then the noble an, dare I say rather han'some hero braves the dangers o' the forest, kills the dirty bastard and brings back the beautiful girl. Timeless, innit? Got all the great characters, the villain an' 'is big 'orrible reptilian monster, bein' o' course you an' yer croc, we got the beautiful damsel in distress," Maddie squirmed as he ran a line of kisses down her neck, "an o' course we got the rich an' dashin' hero in me."
"Noblesse Oblige, right?" Dust said bitterly.
"Noblesse Oblige." Ashton said, "Wouldn' be such a great story if the damsel goes an' cuts 'er own neck now, is it?"
"You don't actually think anyone will believe that insane story do you?" Dust said.
"Don' matter what they believe. What matters is tha' they don' say anythin' otherwise on accoun' o' not wantin' their 'eads kicked in. An' as long as the 'elpless little girl is safe, it don' really matter what 'appens to you. Tha' Dust was always a bit o' a hothead, wasn' he? Should o' kept 'is 'ead down. 'Ventually, no one even talks abou' ye anymore. But if somethin' 'appens to sweet little defenseless Maddie, then we 'ave an upset community, an' an upset community means trouble. An' if sweet little Maddie says somethin' along the lines o', I don' know, Ashton shot Dust dead, well then no one's gonna make an issue o' it, cause she's jus' confused an' scared from 'er ordeal, an' no one wants ta be taken away an' have their 'ouse burned down after they accuse a nob o' murder, now do they?" He pointed the gun at Dust. "I think the bes' part o' any story is the bit where the hero kills the bad guy."
Maddie pulled Ashton's arm up and bit down on it. She grabbed the hand with the gun and pushed it down. Ashton fired, and the bullet hit the ground at Dust's feet.
Dust didn't have to wait to be told what to do; he turned and sprinted off before anyone could react.
The Blackshirts all raised their weapons.
"No!" Ashton yelled. "I 'ave a better idea." He turned to Maddie. "You got a little spunk in ye, don' you." He backhanded her across the face. "I hate a girl with spunk."
"You said you wouldn't kill him." Maddie said.
"Did I now?" Ashton laughed, "Mind like a bloody sieve." He pulled a pokeball off his belt and released the eight foot Rhyhorn his father had used during the Egg Festival. "Kill the twerp an' come back 'ere when you're done."
Dust pounded along the Cliffside over the river.
If Cyril had been like a rhino crashing through the bushes, then the actual rhino was like a locomotive.
Dust had spent the last couple hours running from things that wanted to kill him, but this was the worst of them all. While Dust ran around and over the small trees and bushes, the Ryhorn ran right through them, snapping small trunks like toothpicks. It was faster than him too. Dust had had a head start of almost a minute and the rhino was almost on top of him.
Totodile was either unconscious or dead, Poochyena was missing, and neither of them would have been of any use anyway. He had exactly one Pokémon that he could use, and it had a murderous hatred of him.
Oh well. Probable death was better than certain death. He threw the Pokeball at the ground and jumped into the air, landing on Beedrill's back as it appeared and wrapped his arms tight around it.
"Fly you bastard!"
Beedrill flailed and tried to throw him off, but Dust held on tight. The insect turned around and saw Rhyhorn bearing down on it, and shot straight upward, spinning in a tight circle. Dust lost his grip and flew into the branches of one of the larger trees. He pulled himself up and came face to face with Beedrill.
The bug had its needle arm poised to strike, but it didn't impale him. The needlepoint wavered; Beedrill shook its head as if trying to shake off a notion.
"That's right." Dust said, "You aren't allowed to kill me, are you?"
The tree shook. Ryhorn was down below, ramming the base of the trunk. But this was a strong tree. Even that monster would have trouble bringing it down.
Dust hoped so.
The tree shook even harder. Beedrill took off.
"Oh, no you don't." Dust aimed the pokeball and fired the red beam, bringing Beedrill back into the ball.
The tree began to fall. Dust could see the ground coming, and then disappear as he went over the cliff. The trunk slammed into the earth, and Dust was thrown out of the branches and fell into the white water below.
Evil Cliff hanger!
liked th bit about get back here never worked.
They say if you press cntrl and W you get to see the programming of a website after making a signature with 3 ws and 8qs
Fanfics I like that are still in production: The human species, Pokemon mystery dungeon overthrown, pokemon mystery dungeon journal,pokefusers: saviors of the earth, Pokemon proffesor X, The adveture of advetureness (series). Will trade good fanfic info.
I NEED A BETA READER!
Check out my fic.
I claim deino!
Chapter XIII: Picking Up
When Dust came to, something warm and wet and furry was licking his face. Groaning, he opened his eyes. Poochyena was standing over him, her muzzle in his face.
Dust pushed her aside softly and sat up. He was on the bank of the river among the hard stones. He was at the precipice of a large waterfall. It was daylight now. Dust must have been lying there all night. He vaguely recalled what had happened. The Rhyhorn had knocked over the tree and he'd tumbled into the river. He was thrown around, battered by rocks, almost drowned several times, and had managed to pull himself on shore before he fell off the waterfall. He'd crawled, gasping and dizzy across the rocks before collapsing from exhaustion.
His head was swimming. Dust could only barely remember anything that had occurred before his drop into the water. His head hurt just thinking about it.
There had been barking, and running, and two horrible yellow eyes, and the smell of smoke and sweat and terror and he'd been with Maddie and…
Dust sprang to his feet and stumbled across the loose stones. He slipped and scraped his leg. The pain in his body was unbearable but he pressed on.
He had to go back. He couldn't leave her with them.
The only way up was the cliff. Dust dug his fingers into the side of the dirt wall and tried to climb up its sheer surface but the soil just came loose and he slid back down. He tried again and again but each time he just fell back down in a shower of dirt. He tried to get Beedrill to take him to the top, but it just glared at Dust and wouldn't let him near.
He attacked the cliff with renewed vigor, scathing and digging at the dirt, trying to gain a handhold, and eventually just pounding at the wall and screaming.
Dust sat down beside the river and sobbed uncontrollably. Why was this happening to him? What had he done to deserve this? Ashton should have been the one down here, but as always, the nobles got what they wanted and the regular folk had to pay for it.
If he could go back, he could…
What? What could he do? He was one person against a small army of trained killers and fire breathing hounds, armed only with a knife, and whose allies included an unconscious baby Totodile and a Beedrill that wanted him dead, and even if he could use all his Pokémon, they wouldn't be enough to help anyway.
He was helpless; completely, utterly, and pathetically without any way to do anything at all.
Maddie was still alive, Dust knew that. Ashton had said himself that killing her wouldn't do any good. And if Dust tried to go back for her, the Blackshirts would just kill him anyway. And that was assuming he even knew how to get back. Dust had no idea where the river had taken him, or even if it was the same river that ran through the valley or another one.
All he could do was get away. Away from these mountains, away from this valley and away from Maddie.
'I need you to live' she'd said. Well, Dust was going to have to live, even if he hated himself for it. He had to get out of these mountains and then… who knew? Dust didn't have a clue what waited on the other side of the mountains.
Less than a week ago, Dust would have given anything to be able to get out of the valley, but now that he actually was, he wished that he could go back and plant rabutas and feed cattle and never ever see what was on the other side of those mountains as long as he didn't have to be alone.
And now he was alone for the first time in his life.
Dust stood up and headed off in the direction he thought was away from home.
Chapter XIV: Espa
Can you hear me? Can you understand me? It's been so long now; I can barely remember what it's like to see another person.
It's dark in here; cold and lonely, like the space between stars. I don't know how long it's been. Days, years, centuries go by and I have no knowledge of them. This place is my world now, and time is meaningless here.
I can feel the monster outside. It's searching, always searching for a way to get in, to exterminate me. I can hold it off as I have always held it off, but I'm getting weak now. I don't know if I can hold it off forever.
It wasn't always like this. There was warmth once. There was sunlight, and cool breezes and the sound of birds and laughter. I was like you once, but that was a very long time ago, and I was only a child then. It feels more like a dream now than anything.
I have not thought about those days in a very long time.
My name is Espa.
Or, at least it was Espa. I don't know if that name still applies to me. I was her a long time ago, or at least, I remember being her. Things are different now.
Time has become a blur. A month, a decade, a thousand years, I can't distinguish them anymore. Everything that has happened in this place is unclear, distorted, but I can remember back then like it's happening right now.
I relive those days when I can, going over my life and wondering, could things have been different? My father once spoke of an infinite series of alternate realities, each one the result of the most seemingly insignificant alterations of events. In all those countless iterations of my life, there has to be one where I, her, we lived a normal, happy life, free of fear and pain and sadness.
But that never could have happened here. If ever there was a reality where everything went wrong, it was this one. Even if what occurred had never come to pass, Espa would have almost certainly died in a poison gas attack, or a nuclear strike, or been swallowed up by the sea, or been captured and sacrificed to the dark energy. Or worse, she could have survived and have had to live in the world that followed the calamity. No, there was no hope for her. There was no hope for me.
I hope whatever happened to Espa, she was allowed to die. She deserves the peace that this world never allowed her to have.
There was a time before all that pain though. I think I'll go back to those days for now.
My childhood was a perfect one. I lived with my mother in our little house with a little yard on a little street outside the city. I loved her more than anything in the world, and she loved me too. Her emotions were like soft sand, warm and comforting and safe. Looking back, I think that's what I remember most about my mother, how safe I felt with her.
I remember every detail about her, her hair, the same perfume she wore every day, how she cut nanab sandwiches into four pieces every time so they'd be small enough for me to eat without getting the jelly on my face, and I remember the way she always sang the same sad song to me when she tucked me into bed. She was beautiful to me. I wanted to be exactly like her when I grew up. Yet, in spite of all this, I can't remember her name. It's always something that made me sad.
Even now, I don't know if she was actually my biological mother or not. Whoever it was that birthed me, I will always think of her as my real mother. She is one of the only people from who I have ever sensed true affection.
I hope whenever she died, it was in peace.
At the time, I never realized how unusual it was that I could feel other people's emotions. When I came to see that I was unique in this way, I asked my mother why. She smiled and told me that it was because I was meant for something special. When I asked her what that was, she just said that I would have to find that out on my own, that everyone makes their own purpose, and then she kissed me and told me to go play. I could feel her sadness when she said this, but I didn't think much of it at the time.
She had no job, no husband, and no visible means of supporting herself. Yet, we always lived in comfort, and we were always together. Had I been older, I would have found this odd. But I was a little girl back then, and I was wrapped in my own world.
There was park in the city that we would go to almost every day. I could always remember this place distinctly; it had a yellow slide and one of those animals on springs for children to ride on. I always rode on the one shaped like a Lanturn while my mother pretended to be a Sharpedo chasing me.
In retrospect, I realize now that this part of my life was never really free, and that my mother was only another piece of the system I have spent my entire existence trapped in. I wasn't taken into this life, I was born into it.
I was seven years old when the black car came. Some men came to the door and my mother talked to them for a few minutes, and then she came to get me. Her misery washed over me like a tsunami. It was overpowering, and I began to cry even though I had no idea what was happening yet.
He held me tight and kissed me and told me I had to go with the men. I asked how long I'd be away but she didn't answer. I could tell she was trying to keep a brave face, but she was barely managing not to collapse into sobbing. She kept saying I had to go now, but she wouldn't let go of me.
Finally one of the men had to pull her off me and she lost all composure, screaming and crying and calling after me as I was led to the car. She told me she would see me soon as I left with the men.
I never saw her again.
I don't sleep anymore, but sometimes I imagine that she's here with me, and her soft singing is like a dream I don't want to wake up from. But dreams don't last forever, and I can feel the monster clawing outside, trying to find a way through my defense.
I have to go now, before it's too late.
Chapter XV: Storm Rider and Sun Bringer
Loose rocks slid under Dust's feet as he climbed up the slope. He stuck his hand out for balance and stumbled on forward. Three days and nights of this had gone by, trudging along alone through increasingly steep and rugged terrain, barely eating or sleeping. Dust could barely stand from exhaustion, but he didn't care anymore. He was like a corpse now, just taking one step after another, not thinking about where he was going, just walking until he either got to the other side of the indomitable mountains before him or he fell into a ravine.
The ground gave away and he slid down several feet and landed face down in the dirt. He groaned wretchedly and tried to stand, but he didn't have the strength to get up. And he couldn't find the willpower to even care. This was what he deserved, to die alone like the coward he was in the peaks that had served as his world's boundaries, with only the scavenging birds to know of his fate.
So he lay there, face in the dirt and bereft of all hope.
The sun set over the world, and Dust was left in darkness.
When he woke, the air was cold and silent. A heavy wind rushed over Dust. A raindrop plinked on the back of his head, and then another.
Dust opened his eyes, and with much effort, rolled over on his back. A cover of grey storm clouds was swiftly advancing across the morning sky, heavy with rain. Dust sat up, wincing from the strain. The wind was swirling around, cold and crisp up on the mountainside.
A dark shape moved inside the storm cloud. Its features were completely obscured by the grey haze, but Dust could make out massive wings beating hard. Suddenly the shape dived down, straight at him.
A great bird emerged from the storm cloud, white and fearsome with massive wings that beat furiously, pummeling Dust with their wind power. The bird swooped up, barely twenty feet above him, and climbed upwards. Its sharp cry rang out, echoing across the snow peaked mountains, seeming to reverberate across the whole world; loud and shrill and beautiful.
Dust ran after it as it soared away. His whole body felt rejuvenated, like the last several days of hardship had simply rolled off his aching muscled and exhausted spirit. He pounded up the slope, not slowing as the stones slid under his feet, not feeling the pain as he slashed his hand on a sharp rock while steadying himself for balance. Everything in the world had disappeared, and now it was just him and this great white bird, and he felt, with not actually knowing why, that he had to follow it.
He ran up the slope, higher and higher until, suddenly, there was no slope anymore. Dust tried to regain his balance before he almost tumbled down the other side of the small mountain.
He'd reached the top.
He looked out at the land in front of him. He hadn't expected the world outside the valley to look like this at all. Beyond the small foothills at the mountains' base, flat plains stretched out in every direction, brown and barren, the only trees being small scraggly things sparsely spread out along the bank of the river that twisted through the dusty land. It was desolate, but strangely beautiful too.
The white bird soared over the wasteland. It shrieked over the plain, high and shrill lonely. The storm clouds followed it, spreading out until the whole sky was grey.
Looking at it now, with its serpentine neck and long powerful tail trailing behind, Dust thought that the creature looked less like a bird than like a dragon.
It circled out over the dusty plain far off in the distance now, when the storm cloud above split open in a burst of brilliant golden light that forced Dust to shield his eyes. Bright colored rays of light illuminated the overcast sky, creating a dazzling rainbow that cascaded from the breach in the clouds and hung over the landscape.
Through the hole of sunlight came another bird, this one with feathers of gold and red from which beams of sunlight and rainbows radiated brilliantly. The golden bird swooped down at the white one, which rose up to meet it.
Was Dust about to witness a battle between these two aerial beasts?
The birds rushed past each other at high speed, and then turned to circle one another. Just when Dust thought they would soon begin to fight, they both rose into the air, side by side, and disappeared up into the cloud cover above.
And then it was all gone. The storm clouds dissipated, the rainbows disappeared, and the two birds were nowhere to be seen. The sun was still shining, but it less brilliant, and now just more hot and oppressive.
He could feel the weariness returning to his body, and the pain of his injuries coming back. Whatever spell the white storm bird had cast over him was gone now.
Dust sighed and began his journey down the treacherous mountainside.
Chapter XVI: Samaritan
After three days Dust was out of the mountains. Three days after that and he was well out onto the plains going along the river.
It's water was red and muddy and foul tasting, but it was the only water he had left at this point. What food he had that wasn't destroyed when he fell into the river earlier had run out days ago, and outside a couple of awful tasting Barboach he had managed to catch in the river, there wasn't much to eat. Poochyena caught the occasional Bunearies and one night, an Ekans, but once divided between the two of them they didn't count for much. Poochyena was a much better forest hunter, where she could hide and stalk her prey, and there was no chance of her taking down any large game without the help of a pack.
It was hot too. All the clouds seemed to stop at the mountains behind him, leaving little cover from the sun. Dust doubted that it rained here very often. There didn't seem to any vegetation beyond bits of sagebrush and the occasional scraggly tree.
One day, Dust was fishing using a bit of string tied to a stick with a little Stunfisk he'd managed to find on the end of it. It hadn't taken him long to learn that the flat little fishes could deliver a nasty jolt of electricity when you tried to eat them, but the Barboaches that ate them seemed to be immune to it, making the Stunfisk good bait for catching them.
Dust noticed a small yellow shape behind a rock on the other side of the river. He peered around the rock and saw a small yellow fox looking at him. Well, maybe 'looking' wasn't the right word seeing as how its eyes were closed, but somehow, Dust couldn't shake the feeling that it was watching him intently. It must have been some creature he hadn't seen yet. Dust considered having Poochyena go after it, but then a Barboach suddenly yanked on the line and Dust lost interest in the fox.
The next day he was walking along when he saw it sitting up in the branches of one of the river trees. It was probably a different one, Dust told himself, but it seemed to be looking at him through those tightly shut eyes as well.
Dust stared at it. It stared back. And then it was gone.
Dust had to take a step back. The fox hadn't just simply left; it had actually disappeared, vanishing completely into the air. Dust looked around, wondering if it had reappeared somewhere else, but there was no sign of it.
A couple days later and the fox hadn't shown up again.
One thing that was very different about the plains was that you could see everything in every direction. Dust was used to the world having defined boundaries, a dark forest with tall mountains behind it, but here the only boundary was the horizon. It was freeing in a way, but also disconcerting. Dust felt exposed out here, like if anything dangerous saw him, there was no way to hide and certainly no way to run.
Dust had heard the stories of the Zoroarks that stalked the plains at night, hulking bipedal wolf creatures who hungered for human flesh and could easily outrun even the fastest man.
As tough and mean as Poochyena was, he doubted she could protect him from any Pokémon much bigger than herself, and trying to use Beedrill in defense could possibly result in two dangerous creatures trying to kill him. Beedrill was under orders from Maddie not to harm him, but Dust didn't trust that to keep him safe. Beedrill was strong minded; it might be able to disobey orders if it really wanted to.
So when Dust saw three dark figures in the distance, he was apprehensive. They clearly saw him too, because they began to move in his direction.
It didn't take long for Dust to realize they were humans, not horrific man eating wolf monsters, so he waved to them, and they waved back. He recalled Poochyena to her ball. The last thing he needed during his first encounter with another person in almost two weeks was an overaggressive hyena attacking them. It took a couple hours for them to finally reach him.
The men were not very tall, certainly not bigger than Dust, and they looked like burlap sacks that had been left out in the baking sun, their skin dry and cracked. They wore wide brimmed hats that were beaten up after what appeared to be centuries of hard living.
They regarded him with friendly smiles.
Of them approached with his arms open. "Howdy, stranger. What brings you to these parts?" he said cordially.
"I'm from the mountains." Dust said, "I've been following the river looking for civilization."
"What's your name?" The one on the right said. They had formed a loose triangle around him, appraising him from all sides.
"Dust." He replied.
The one in front hooted in laughter. "Well I'll be! Ain't never heard a name like that before! A man named Dust, walking through a dusty place like this covered in dust. Hell, you even got dust on your head." He said, pointing at Dust's sandy brown hair.
If Dust had been looking, he would have seen a small yellow fox vanish into the air several dozen yards behind him.
"Look," said Dust, "I lost most my food when I got pushed into river back in the mountains. I've been living off those nasty river fish since then. Do you have anything to spare, or maybe directions to the nearest town?"
"Yeah, I think Goldilocks has some food he can give ya."
The man on the left approached. "They call me Goldilocks on account of my hair color, you see."
Whatever Goldilocks's hair had been before, it was a dirty shade of sunbaked brown now. Dust imagined that that any color these men had been before had been sunburned off years ago.
"Just let me look in my bag for a moment. " Goldilocks said, rummaging through his sack. "Ah, here we go."
The knife was jammed into Dust's side so quickly he barely even realized he'd been stabbed before he fell over. Goldilocks and the man who had been on his right immediately started searching him.
"He was right." Goldilocks said, looking through Dust's sack, there isn't anything in here but a water skin."
"Looks like he's got three used pokeballs." said the other one, looking at his belt. "Dark, water, and some kind of poison bug. This knife he's got is a beauty too."
Dust tried to stagger weakly to his feet and was rewarded with a punch to the face. He groaned. His body was on fire. The knife he'd been stabbed with had poison on it, and he was starting to see double now.
"A water type will be useful out here." The leader said, "We don't need the other two."
"This wanker's a waste of our time." Goldilocks said. "Should I just kill him?"
"Don't worry about him." The leader said, "That Swalot poison will have him out for a while and he's not going anywhere with that knife wound. Leave him here. The Zoruas will take care of him."
There was a pop behind them. A thin, lithe girl had come from seemingly nowhere. She had jet black hair under a blue hat topped with white flowers and a fine blue dress that suggested he was of a wealthy disposition. In her arms, the yellow fox lay asleep.
"Leave him alone." She said.
The leader of the bandits rounded on her. "Just what the Sam hell is this?" he demanded.
"Now what kind of language is that to use in front of a lady?" She said, "Leave him alone right now. I won't ask again."
"You won't ask again?" The leader chuckled, and broke into loud whooping laughter. "You won't ask again? A slip of a girl like you?"
She drew herself up to her full height, which was a little bit less than his shoulder. "Women of my family are used to having people listen when we command something."
"Look Missy, you may be someone important back in whatever cushy mansion you live in, but out here you're just a girl in an expensive outfit. This is our desert, and we don't like women telling us what to do."
"It's been a long time since we came by a woman." Goldilocks said. "Remember that last one? She came by almost a year ago in a stagecoach. Rich girl like you, lots of jewels. She was a screamer too. I love it when they scream."
They all took a step toward her. She held out the yellow fox defensively.
"You must be joking." The leader said, "Abras ain't dangerous. Everyone knows that. The only thing that thing can do is disappear. Bloody useless."
He reached out to grab her. The girl shouted something in another language and the Abra's eyes suddenly opened, pink and small and unused to the harsh sunlight. The bandit stared at it in horror, a low whimper escaping his lips. Then, he fell back screaming, writhing in the dust.
"Not entirely useless, I should think." The girl said.
She stepped toward the other two. This time they were the ones who backed away.
"What did that thing just do?" Goldilocks asked, panicked.
"It's called a Psyshock. It creates a feeling of intense pain, eventually leaving you in a completely catatonic state, sometimes leading to incurable insanity or even death. The effect is of course, completely psychosomatic but the results are quite real."
"Uh," the other bandit said, "What exactly does psychosomatic mean?"
The girl looked at him pleasantly. "Would you like to find out?" she said, holding up the Abra.
Both bandits turned and ran.
The girl rushed to Dust's side, kneeling down. "Are you still alive?" She sounded worried.
Dust groaned. "I think so." His head swam. He couldn't think straight.
"You were stabbed with a poisoned blade." She said, "These plains are crawling with bandits. You're lucky Yoko found you." She reached into her handbag and pulled out a vial. "Drink this. It will slow the poison until we can get you an actual antidote. Dust reached for the vial and missed. He could barely control his own arms.
The girl pressed the vial between his lips and poured the fluid in. It tasted bitter, but Dust swallowed without complaint.
"Why are you helping me?" he asked, but the girl placed a satin gloved finger over his mouth.
"No words." She removed her gloves and pulled out a bottle. She dipped her finger inside and came up with a big yellow glob on the end of it. "Tell me if this hurts."
She spread it over his knife wound. Dust cried out. It felt like the wound had been touched by a hot iron!
"I'm sorry." The girl said. "It's a potion meant for Pokémon. They have a higher pain threshold than we do and they heal faster. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to fight the way they do. The potion is meant to close up the wound until the Pokémon can heal naturally. I don't know how long it will last on you."
She put her gloves back on and held him by the shoulders. "You should be able to stand, at least for now."
Dust grunted and rose to his feet with some help from the girl. She pulled his arm over her narrow shoulders and placed a hand on his back. "Yoko, take us back."
The Abra clung to her leg, and suddenly they were somewhere else. A group of men stood around a fancy stagecoach tied to four large horses with manes and tails made of dancing flames. Dust wondered why they didn't set their harnesses on fire.
A barrel chested man in a bright blue uniform with gold trim and a revolver in his holster came forward, an exasperated look on his face.
"Lady Blackmoor, you know we hate it when you disappear like that. Your father appointed me and my men specifically for your protection. It isn't safe out in the wastes for a lady. What am I supposed to tell your father if you go missing?"
"I'm perfectly safe, Mr. Wadsworth." She said. "I have Yoko with me don't I?"
"I hardly think that one Abra is adequate-"
"Wadsworth!" The girl said, suddenly authoritative. "I would love to carry on this conversation, but if you haven't noticed, this boy has been stabbed and needs to see a doctor right now, and he is really quite heavy, so are you going to argue with me or are you going to help me get him into the coach?"
Wadsworth and one of his men took Dust by the shoulders and carried him into the coach. The girl climbed in behind him and shut the door. The coach began to move.
"Don't worry about Wadsworth." She said, "He gets worried every time I'm not in eyeshot. What's your name?"
She looked at him quizzically. "Dust? That's an unusual name."
"So I've been told."
"It's just Dust?" She continued, "Not even a surname?"
"We don't have surnames where I come from." Dust answered, "At least, most of us don't. What's your name?"
"Amelia. Amelia Blackmoor, Baroness. You've been on my father's land for the last three days."
"Oh. A noble." Dust said bitterly.
"You don't like nobles?" Amelia said.
"I've had bad luck with them recently." Dust said.
Amelia took off her hat and placed it on the seat next to her. "I would love to hear about it."
Dust told her his story from the beginning. Amelia listened, intrigued. She gasped when he came to the part about the giant spider, and kept stopping to ask questions about Maddie, not all of them he felt comfortable answering.
When he told her about the two giant birds, her eyes lit up.
"You saw Lugia and Ho-Oh? Together?" She asked excitedly.
"Is that important?" Dust asked.
"It's rare just to see just one of them flying." She said. "But to see them both at the same time? That's almost unheard of!"
"I just assumed those birds were common out here. What's so special about seeing them?"
"What's special? Don't you realize what you witnessed?"
Dust shook his head.
"There's only one of each in the entire world. Lugia is the Storm Rider." Amelia said with wonder, "She brings the wind and the rain wherever she goes. Seeing her is an omen of hard times ahead. Ho-Oh is the Sun Bringer. He is a symbol of hope. If you see him, then you will have good luck."
"And what does it mean to see them at the same time?" Dust asked.
Amelia shrugged. "I don't know, probably nothing. It's really just an old superstition. Still I would give anything just for the chance to see one of those birds. I would have loved to be there with you."
Dust opened his mouth to answer, but found that he couldn't get any words out. He gasped at the air, the stab wound suddenly burning hot, much more painful even than when he had been stabbed in the first place. He convulsed violently and pitched forward, unconscious before he even hit the floor.