The Path of Destiny
Chapter Thirteen - A New Threat
At first, the wandering aipom had no idea that he was heading in the direction of two large predators. However, luckily for him, the moment he came upon Wildflame and Thunder, they had been distracted by something else. Quietly bolting up a tree trunk, he watched them curiously for a few seconds, then scampered back toward the area where he’d seen the other scyther before. This was certainly strange…what on earth would two scyther and a houndoom be doing here?
Wildflame was losing her patience. Thunder had scared away every prey pokémon they had managed to find long before either of them had gotten close enough to strike. The houndoom was beginning to believe that Thunder didn’t know the first thing about hunting. “All right, listen!” Wildflame growled suddenly, turning to the scyther, “This isn’t working out at all. Haven’t you ever learned to hunt before?”
“Master never taught me,” Thunder replied.
“I meant before you were captured!” Wildflame growled in annoyance, lashing her tail.
“I don’t remember what it was like before I was captured!” Thunder snapped. “Besides, I was still very young then. And I can’t hunt with this chain…other pokémon can hear it…every time I move.” She bit down on the shackle around her arm as if in some vain attempt to break it, but as usual, it was barely even scratched.
“Fine, then don’t hunt at all,” Wildflame retorted. “I’ll do the hunting; you just stay here and keep quiet!” She stalked off, and Thunder turned away without a reply, listening to the sound of the houndoom’s pawsteps as she padded away.
Snowcrystal didn’t like having to wait for the others to return. It was partly that she was worried about their safety, but she also wished she could have gone with them so that she could hunt as well. Everyone in the group needed it, and she wished that she could help out. She also hated having to stay in this rocky clearing where there were sharp pebbles and mud everywhere she stepped. Even the sheltered spot beneath the trees was wet and muddy, making the three pokémon who stayed behind completely miserable. Snowcrystal briefly wondered if the mud would disguise her fur enough to allow her to hunt with the others, but she knew she couldn’t leave Stormblade there to try it.
Spark was curled up beneath one of the trees, his back turned to the others. Snowcrystal knew that his burns were not serious, yet there was still the risk of infection. She figured that Spark probably just wanted to be left alone for a while, and decided to go check on Stormblade.
As she approached the motionless scyther, she was reminded of just how serious his injuries were. The burns along his back, arms, and wings looked even more deep and serious than she had remembered, and his leg still looked bad and was flecked with drying blood. “Stormblade?” she whispered, and the scyther barely turned his head to look at her.
She was surprised to see that he was actually shaking, as if cold. “Are you…all right?” she asked, realizing how stupid the question was right after she asked it. Stormblade didn’t answer. “Well, the others should be back soon,” Snowcrystal continued without waiting any longer for him to speak. “Maybe you and someone else can stay here, while the rest of us go look for a pokémon who can help you.”
“Alright…” Stormblade replied without any other comment as he lay his head back down and closed his eyes.
“Wait a minute,” Spark called suddenly from where he was resting nearby. “We can’t split up! What if Blazefang’s pack attacks us again? We have to be strong, and to be strong, we have to stick together!”
“I’m not going,” Stormblade said quietly. “I’ll be fine staying here for a little while.”
“Really…” Spark replied in a worried tone. “Look, we can’t stop for long. No matter what, we need to keep going.”
Stormblade lifted his head, and though he wanted to stand, all he could really do was sit up slightly. “Well, I’m sure you could keep up with the others, but I probably wouldn’t…make it very far.”
“Spark, he’s right,” Snowcrystal agreed. “I think we should-”
“And let Blazefang’s pack catch up to us?” Spark shouted, his voice rising to a level of desperation Snowcrystal wasn’t used to hearing from him. “I don’t think so…You can’t give up Stormblade! You were always giving up back in the days when we were trainer’s pokémon! Justin thought you were just too lazy to battle for him half of the time!”
“I don’t care what Justin thought!” Stormblade shouted, and it shocked Snowcrystal that he had actually yelled, when before he’d hardly made any sound at all.
“Who’s Justin?” she asked, puzzled, looking from Spark to Stormblade.
“Our trainer!” Spark replied.
“He’s not our trainer anymore!” Stormblade growled, and Spark glared at him.
“I know you don’t care…” Spark muttered. “You never liked Justin! You never understood what a great trainer he was…Of course you wouldn’t understand that I miss him…”
“Spark!” Snowcrystal cried. “Why are you talking about this now? Don’t you see-”
“Well, either way he’s not our trainer anymore…” Stormblade said.
“Justin had to abandon us and it was all your fault!” Spark yelled.
“You know what really happened!” Stormblade shouted back, and there was a sense of betrayal in his voice.
“Well it still happened!” Spark growled.
“What did you expect me to do?” Stormblade replied, but Snowcrystal stepped in front of Spark, and he didn’t explain further.
“Spark, stop this!” Snowcrystal cried. “Whatever happened, it’s in the past…and right now, we have more important things to think about. What has gotten into you?”
“I…I…” Spark stammered, as if he wasn’t even sure himself. He looked almost as shocked at his behavior as Snowcrystal did. “I don’t know…I’m sorry. Everything’s just been-”
Snowcrystal was about to say something, when Wildflame and Thunder reappeared. Wildflame was carrying the limp body of a small spearow, while Thunder just looked exhausted and had no prey to show for it.
“Is…that all you caught?” Snowcrystal asked, shocked.
Wildflame set down the prey and nodded, and Snowcrystal looked dismayed. “Rosie should be back soon, though,” she stated. “Maybe she’s found some berries, and those who can should eat those.”
Thunder didn’t speak to the others as she turned and walked away, not even giving a glance when Snowcrystal called out to her. Before anyone could try and stop her, she had already vanished into the trees.
“What’s up with her?” Spark muttered, casting an odd glance in the direction Thunder had gone.
“What’s up with who?” Rosie’s voice sounded from nearby, and the vulpix trotted into the clearing, dragging a small branch of berries.
“Eh…nothing,” Spark replied, walking over to sniff the berries.
Snowcrystal walked over to the spearow near Wildflame’s feet, but she was stopped when the houndoom placed her paw over the prey. “And were you just thinking of taking it?” Wildflame sneered. “I thought you and those others were going to eat berries. This spearow is hardly a meal, and it was all I caught, yet it is my kill.”
Shocked, Snowcrystal backed away, but knew better than to argue with Wildflame. Everyone had been acting strangely, and she suspected the reason for it must be that the shock of Blazefang’s attack hadn’t yet worn off. Walking back to Rosie, she decided that the best thing to do was to divide the berries among the rest of them. Thunder had wandered off, and knowing that scyther didn’t get desperate enough to try and eat berries as easily as more omnivorous pokémon, Snowcrystal realized it probably wouldn’t matter much anyway. Regardless, she tried to give some to Stormblade, knowing how badly he needed to eat, but to her dismay, he refused them.
“Come on, Stormblade,” Snowcrystal tried to urge him. “Please eat them…You need to get stronger.”
“Berries aren’t going to do me much good…” Stormblade replied. He paused, his gaze moving in Spark’s direction. “I don’t like fighting with Spark. I know he doesn’t mean it, but…”
“I’m sure he’ll calm down once we figure out what to do,” Snowcrystal tried to reassure him. “But I don’t understand…why did your trainer think that about you? That you give up all the time, I mean. You don’t give up easily.”
“My trainer only kept me for battling,” he explained. “Nothing else. Sometimes it was wise to give up during one of those battles, especially if we were far from a city at the time. At those times, if I got injured in a fight, I wouldn’t be treated like the other pokémon; I’d just have to wait until Justin got to the nearest Pokémon Center. And sometimes that took days.”
“But…why?” Snowcrystal asked, shocked.
“It was because my trainer was afraid of me,” Stormblade stated simply, turning away from her. “I was little more than an accidental capture…Justin threw a poké ball at me so that he’d have a few more seconds to run away – not that I was going to attack him – but I was exhausted enough that it caught me. Justin was somewhat glad it had happened, for he ended up keeping me for the very same reason that he loathed and feared me…my scythes.
“You see, as ‘terrifying’ as I was, I could fight well, and he knew that. He kept me for the battles. He had other pokémon who fought for him often; a meganium, a luxio, Spark, and a few others. In the few times I would be allowed out of my poké ball outside of battle, I often saw him running and playing with these pokémon, though I knew he wouldn’t dare get within ten feet of me. When I wasn’t battling, I was usually in my poké ball or made to stay away from the other pokémon. When he let me out, and he had to of course, he always had his other pokémon near him, guarding him, I think. But the point is, Justin was constantly afraid I would hurt him…or even kill him. He was sometimes too afraid to let me out to feed me, and would put it off for as long as he could. All in all, I know I’m better off without him.”
Spark seemed to hear the scyther’s last statement and shot an angry glare at Stormblade, but Snowcrystal ignored him and stayed by Stormblade’s side, aware that something was troubling him. “If you want to tell me…you don’t have to…” she began. “But…why did your…uh…Spark’s trainer have to abandon you?” She was surprised that Stormblade seemed to actually want to talk about it.
“He…he didn’t…” Stormblade replied, noticing that Spark had gotten up and left just as Snowcrystal finished speaking, “He had to release us back to the wild. I guess in a way…it was…my fault…but I never did mean for it to happen.”
“But…I’m sure it couldn’t have been your fault…” Snowcrystal said quietly.
“Maybe not, but sometimes it feels like it,” Stormblade replied. “It happened around a time humans call Christmas time – in the winter – and Justin had taken us all back to his hometown to celebrate for some reason or other. Spark and the other pokémon were inside with our trainer and his family, and when he finally decided to let me out of my poké ball after realizing he had to, he locked me outside, so I ‘wouldn’t hurt anyone’.
“I didn’t want to stay outside in the snow, at least not in the open, so I headed into the nearby forest. I knew I couldn’t hunt there, not that there was much food in the winter anyway, because humans sometimes shot at pokémon they thought could be a threat to the town, and I knew I looked like a desperate wild scyther, because Justin never really took care of me the way he should have.”
Snowcrystal listened quietly; she had heard that humans had weapons called guns, and that they could ‘shoot’ wild pokémon, but she wasn’t quite sure what that meant. All she knew was that, somehow, pokémon could die from it.
Stormblade continued, though he didn’t sound very eager to finish the story. “I was wandering through the forest when I heard screams…from a human. I ran towards the sound and found a small human girl being attacked by a kabutops. I didn’t know what a kabutops was doing in a forest, and at first I didn’t understand why it was attacking her, until I noticed a couple of kabuto nearby, weak from the cold. I supposed they must have been released by a trainer who had passed by near the town, and the mother kabutops was so frightened and confused that she attacked whatever she perceived as a threat. They couldn’t have been under a trainer’s control for long; the way they behaved toward the human girl was just like a frightened wild pokémon would.
“I tried to stop the kabutops, but that only distracted her, and she attacked me instead. While we were fighting, I was hoping the human would run away, but I guess she was too badly injured. The kabutops I was fighting was weak from hunger and exhaustion, and I managed to fend her off without getting injured myself. After she and the kabuto left, I walked over to the human, but she was unconscious, or at least I thought so at the time. I didn’t know what to do, so I waited there, afraid to leave her all alone in case the other humans didn’t find her. It began snowing very hard, erasing all signs of the other pokémon that had been there before. I couldn’t even smell the scent anymore.
“After a while, I heard humans, and a group of them found us at last. But what they saw was me, standing beside the little human who had bad wounds from the kabutops’s blades…and I had blood on my scythes from the fight. A human pointed a gun at me, but I ran before he could shoot, and went back to my trainer’s house. Spark noticed me from the window and came outside…I told him what happened. Then Justin wondered why Spark had left…and he came out of the house and saw me and the stains of blood. He instantly returned me to my poké ball, and the next time I was let out…me, Spark, and all the other pokémon were being forced into the forest. I found out from Spark that the girl in the forest had died, but I believe it was more likely to have been from the cold than the kabutops’s attack. Still, the humans thought I had killed her…and when they found out I was Justin’s pokémon…he wasn’t allowed to be a trainer anymore.” Stormblade paused for a moment, before thinking of something and continuing again.
“When Spark told you…when we first met you…that we had run away and had only been wandering for three weeks…well, we were lying. I knew how much Justin loved Spark, and it must have been terrible for both of them, but I just wanted to get away. We actually wandered for months…Spark had come along with me because I knew the ways of the wild while he had been raised by humans most of his life. And Spark was the only one who believed me when I told him what happened. I tried to tell the other pokémon, but they ignored me and wandered into the forest, going their own ways. We never saw any of them again. I was trying to find a new home…away from humans. And eventually, our travels led us near your mountain, still in search of a place where we could finally live in peace.”
Snowcrystal stepped closer to Stormblade, knowing that he still blamed himself for the whole thing, yet it had only really been a mistake. “But it wasn’t your fault, it was a misunderstanding…you did the right thing by trying to help that human…” Stormblade didn’t reply, and Snowcrystal hoped that her words were still of some comfort. However, she knew they would have to get moving again soon. “Look, I know you want to rest now,” she said gently, “but we have to find a healer, and Spark’s right…splitting up is too dangerous. I’ll tell Wildflame to help you.”
Bounding away from him momentarily, the growlithe spotted Rosie and Wildflame, as well as Thunder, who had recently returned. The sad look had not left the scarred scyther’s eyes, though Snowcrystal knew she wouldn’t want to be questioned about it.
“We need to get moving,” Snowcrystal told the others. “I’ll go find Spark. Wildflame, can you help Stormblade? I don’t think he can walk by himself.”
“Fine,” the houndoom muttered, her voice sounding anything but optimistic about their situation.
Snowcrystal turned and headed after Spark, following his scent. A moment later, she reappeared with the jolteon, and the two of them walked back to where Stormblade was.
The travelling pokémon were unaware of the aipom in the trees. He had been watching them, Snowcrystal especially. He now snuck off, muttering to himself cheerfully. “A white growlithe? My trainer will be pleased with this…”
Still chattering under his breath, he headed back in the direction of the city, thinking up ways he could let his trainer know about the odd colored growlithe.
To be continued…