The Path of Destiny
Chapter Sixteen - A Risky Venture
Rosie was still shivering by the time the truck stopped. She was cold, hungry, and terrified. The vulpix tried to give a brave growl as a human lifted her cage up and placed it on the ground beside the truck and in front of a large building. Rosie could see no other human buildings anywhere nearby.
Rosie jumped, startled, as a human unlocked her cage. She lunged forward and the human stepped back, but as soon as her paws touched grass she was lifted up by her scruff again, and the human forced something around her mouth; something that held her jaws tightly closed. ‘A muzzle!’ she thought, outraged. ‘He’s making me wear a muzzle?’
Once the muzzle was secure, Rosie found herself being taken toward the building. She clawed and scratched, but the human didn’t even react to it at all, not even when she drew blood. She was carried into the building, past rooms she didn’t bother to try and look at closely. Before long, she was brought to a rather large room, and put in yet another cage. The human did not take the muzzle off.
Rage flooded through her, and she slammed her small body against the cage bars, in some vain hope that somehow, she would be able to free herself. Though after a few tries, she fell back, feeling exhausted, battered, confused, and most of all…scared.
“What’s going on?”
The teddiursa’s innocent sounding voice roused Rosie from her thoughts, and she looked up, watching him being taken, held by the scruff as she had been, past the room and to another. “Help…” His eyes grew wide as he realized he was being taken away from his newfound vulpix friend. “Help…wait…Stop them! Help!” he cried, suddenly alarmed. “Don’t let them take me! Hel-”
Rosie heard a loud smack, and realized the human must have hit the teddiursa in order to keep him quiet. She moved closer to the bars, but she could no longer see the human. She realized that all around her were different pokémon in cages, though most of them were either asleep or lying still and pretending to be. They seemed to grow especially quiet whenever a human walked by with another pokémon. Since she had the muzzle, Rosie couldn’t ask them anything. Sinking slowly to the floor of the cage she allowed herself to cry, not caring who saw or heard. The tough, spunky little vulpix was gone, leaving only a lost, scared, and lonely little pokémon in her place.
Rain lashed down against the tall buildings of the city, dark clouds making the nighttime seem even darker. Walking cautiously through the alleyways, two pokémon followed a third as they made their way through the gloom, occasionally glimpsing nearly deserted streets as they crept around the towering human structures. They counted themselves lucky that the rain seemed to be keeping most of the humans away from that section of the city.
Wildflame shuddered. Her fur was soaked through and plastered to her body by the rain. She had always hated the rain; most fire types did, and the houndoom was certainly no exception. “How much farther is this place?” she growled to the aipom up ahead.
“Not far!” he replied, before running off down another side alley.
Snowcrystal, her fur soaked with muddy water from the streets, ran after the others as Wildflame bolted after Sid. After a short while they stopped, and checked around for humans before Sid led them to the side of a large building.
Snowcrystal peered up through the rain at the side of the building, while Sid clambered up onto a windowsill and carefully opened the small window.
“I’ve snuck in here before,” he explained. “This window never closes fully. We can go in through here. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to fit, miss houndoom.”
Wildflame growled. “Then I’ll wait here…” she muttered. “You know about humans, so you help Snowcrystal find what she’s looking for, all right?”
“Of course,” the aipom replied with a smile before slipping through the open window.
Wildflame expected Snowcrystal to have a bit of trouble climbing, but to her surprise, the growlithe leaped clear up onto the windowsill from the ground. Noticing Wildflame’s impressed glance, the growlithe explained, “I’m used to this sort of thing. There were lots of rocks I had to climb back at the mountain.”
Wildflame merely grunted in reply, and lay down with her paws tucked under her, after she had carefully scanned the area for any passing humans.
“You’ll be okay, right?” Snowcrystal asked, turning to look at the houndoom.
“Sure,” Wildflame replied with a shrug.
Snowcrystal sighed, carefully turning back to the window and leaping to the carpeted floor inside, her paws making a dull thud as she landed. She was in a small room, and it was too dark to see much of anything. Lifting her head, she searched around for Sid, and found the aipom standing in a doorway leading to a much larger room.
“Over here,” he whispered, prodding the door open wider. “This…is what the humans call a library.”
Snowcrystal’s eyes widened. The dark room ahead was brightened ever so slightly by the windows near the ceiling, which let in a fraction of dim blue light. Every few seconds lightning flashed across the sky, briefly lighting up the interior of the vast room and allowing her to see more of what was inside. The noise of booming thunder filled the air, somehow sounding more eerie inside the building.
The room was far huger than any of the cave chambers Snowcrystal had known back at her mountain home. Massive shelves of books seemed to tower far over her head, rows and rows of them in all directions. All along the walls were large intricate pictures depicting all sorts of pokémon and humans. Many of the pokémon in the pictures were legendaries; Snowcrystal even spotted one of Articuno.
“This way!” Sid’s voice snapped Snowcrystal out of her reverie, and she followed the small aipom as he headed toward one of the large shelves.
“Do you know where we can find the right books?” she asked, whispering, as if fearful some human or guard pokémon would hear her. There seemed to be no one around, however.
“Hmm…I might have an idea,” Sid replied, rather loudly. “Oh, I know! Let’s split up! I’ll look for a book about poachers, you look for one about healing remedies…you know, for your scyther friend…S…s...Skyblade.”
“But…but how will I know how to find it?” Snowcrystal asked, worried.
“Just look at the pictures!” Sid shouted, already starting to run off. “You’re smart…you’ll figure it out! Just bring whatever you find to me!”
“But wait!” Snowcrystal cried. “Shouldn’t we…” She stopped, for the aipom was already gone. “Decide on a meeting place…” she finished to herself in a whisper. She didn’t like the thought of splitting up, especially in a place as vast as the library seemed to be, yet now, she didn’t have a choice. Looking around, she noticed hallways leading off into other rooms that were probably as big or bigger than the one she was currently standing in. She decided to start where she was. Sighing, she headed over to one of the towering shelves.
Noticing a group of thick books near the bottom of the shelf, Snowcrystal tried to pry one loose with her claws, which brought the rest of the books next to it crashing to the ground as well. A few of them landed open, but none of them had pictures at all. Snowcrystal gently turned some of the pages with the tip of her nose, but found nothing that seemed useful. She figured a book about healing herbs would have to have pictures, and moved on, leaving the other books lying on the floor.
Quietly she moved between the dark shelves, pulling down books with her claws and looking for any sort of pictures. She found nothing helpful or of interest to her.
After she had walked along two rows of shelves, she began to feel hopeless. The place was simply too vast, and she couldn’t even reach any of the books on the higher shelves. She could barely reach up to the second shelf, and she figured that climbing them would be too risky if she didn’t want to be heard; she still had no idea if there were any humans around.
A little while longer, and Snowcrystal had stopped to take a short break. She had explored various areas of the room, and found that, at least as far as she could tell, certain types of books were together in certain areas. She had found one area filled with books all about humans training their pokémon, an area with books depicting various fire pokémon, and yet another area where all the books were small or thin and had bright, colorful pictures on each page, but which had no real meaning, or at least not one that Snowcrystal could see. She decided she needed to look elsewhere for books that had pictures of plants.
Turning towards one of the wide hallways, Snowcrystal quietly padded along it, shuddering as lighting forked across the sky beyond the tall windows, sending bizarre shadows against the walls. She willed herself to calm down, telling herself that she shouldn’t be afraid of things like that; she hadn’t minded darkness or shadows in the caves back at her mountain.
After having passed a large mural of the three legendary beasts, Snowcrystal made a mental note to herself that humans might have placed books about legendaries somewhere near. Feeling a burst of excitement surge through her small body, she ran forward into a room even larger than the one she had just recently left.
Running up to the nearest set of shelves, she pulled a few books free, which landed on the floor with a rather loud thud.
Then she heard footsteps.
Terror raced through her mind as she realized by the sound of the footsteps that they could only belong to a human. Such was her shock and fear of being discovered that she did not try and control her panic. Turning away without even looking at the books, she fled down the next row of shelves, running as fast as she could. She did not slow down or try to hide, even though some part of her knew she was probably making enough noise for the human to hear her. She didn’t take the time to think about where she was running. She didn’t think about how the human was not a poacher and would not kill her…she just ran.
Yet in the midst of everything, she remembered what her friends had told her earlier. Pokémon with colors humans weren’t familiar with, growlithe that were not orange, would be captured in an instant if seen by a human. She had to get out.
Shelves of books, large paintings, various hallways and corridors all flew past her as she fled, illuminated every few seconds by a burst of bright lightening. Snowcrystal couldn’t even tell if the human was following her or not, she just kept on running.
Then she stopped dead.
She had ended up in what was the beginning of another hallway. She had entered an open doorway to come face to face with a huge white wall, with the hallway veering off on either side of it, stretching both to her left and to her right.
But the thing that had stopped her was the large painting on the wall directly in front of her, illuminated by the glow of her crystal. It was larger than most of the ones she had seen before, yet not the largest. Unlike the others, this painting was circular, and all around the edges were different pokémon, all of various types. A golduck, a vileplume, a mightyena, a raichu, a kadabra, a pidgeot, a golem, a sandslash, a dewgong, a weezing, and a charmeleon, all using different attacks that merged together at the center of the painting.
It was the charmeleon she couldn’t stop staring at, for from its gaping mouth came a burst of burning blue-white flames, with small streaks of purple and black flickering across them. She had recognized it the instant she had seen it, and mouthed the word under her breath.
Against her will, memories awakened more vividly in her mind of how the attack had followed Stormblade in midair, and not even hiding behind a tree had saved him from it. She shuddered, knowing all too well the damage it had done to him. Her thoughts drifted back to Stormblade…she wondered how he was coping with the pain. She didn’t want to imagine how badly something like that would hurt.
Stepping closer, she studied the other attacks in the picture. All of them were incredibly strange and eerie; the one the vileplume was using seemed to be a huge mass of vines and other plants bursting from the ground with massive thorns. There were not only vines, but also what seemed to be giant carnivorous plants. It looked like some very twisted version of frenzy plant. The other attacks were equally vivid and strange, and the golduck’s attack also caught her attention; it seemed to be using something like rain dance, but the ‘rain drops’ were green and in the shape of burning skulls. Whether the attack really looked like that or it was just the human artist’s depiction of it, she wasn’t sure, and she didn’t think she cared to know. There were human markings at the base of the painting, but Snowcrystal didn’t need to read them to understand what the picture was showing; the Forbidden Attacks.
Snowcrystal could not tear her eyes from the picture. She sat staring, not knowing how long it had been since she had entered the library. She wasn’t sure if she had sat there for hours, or simply just minutes, but it was yet again the sound of approaching footsteps that snapped her out of her trance.
“HEY!” shouted a voice, a human voice. Snowcrystal glanced up in alarm, seeing a human holding a bright light and advancing toward her. Without a second thought, she got up and fled. The human ran after her, and without pausing to think, she chose the left hallway and bolted blindly down it.
The human with the light seemed to be following closely, until Snowcrystal veered off into another open doorway. After passing through several large rooms, Snowcrystal, by some stroke of bizarre luck, noticed the small room through which she had come into the library. She made a beeline for it, knocking a few books from the shelves by accident as she did so. The human’s light flashed across the ground behind her, but Snowcrystal had already entered the room and reached the windowsill. Effortlessly slipping through the window, Snowcrystal leaped to the wet pavement below.
“I’m here,” the houndoom replied casually, stepping out of the shadows of another nearby alleyway. “What’s going on?” she asked calmly. “Did you find the books?”
“Humans,” Snowcrystal gasped. “A human chased me. We have to get out of here!”
“Where’s Sid?” Wildflame asked as they started to run.
“I dunno,” Snowcrystal replied breathlessly, “but he said he’s snuck into human buildings before…he’ll know what he’s doing!”
Wildflame merely nodded in reply as the two sped off.
“Aipom!” Katie shouted, stopping right as she glimpsed her pokémon, just beside the wall of the city library. Reaching out, she managed to grab the normal type before holding him at arm’s length and glaring at him. “What do you think you’re doing? Running off again!” She sighed. “I sure wish you’d listen to me once in a while…”
Justin caught up with his friend, stopping to catch his breath by the side of the building. “You know…” he gasped, “do you think maybe Aipom was trying to lead us here or something?”
No sooner had he said that then he noticed two pokémon bolting into an alleyway up ahead. Katie seemed to have noticed as well, because she had stopped scolding Aipom, and due to her surprise, dropped him.
“That…that growlithe was white!” Katie whispered, awed.
Sid mumbled to himself as he stood up, staring in the direction of Snowcrystal and Wildflame. “She escaped?” the aipom mused to himself. “Hmm…interesting. Well, not exactly according to plan, but still…if Katie catches the growlithe, that means I’ll be rewarded since-” He paused, realizing that neither trainer was paying any attention to him. “Hey!” he shouted. “You only saw the growlithe because of me!” Of course, neither human understood him.
“Let’s try and find where it went,” Katie told Justin excitedly. “Aipom, do you think you can help us follow the growlithe?”
Sid stopped yelling and instead stood up straight, giving a polite nod and for once looking every inch the helpful, obedient pokémon.
“All right,” Katie replied, “let’s go and find out where it came from. I doubt a pokémon like that lives in the city. Someone would have told people about it…I’ve heard that growlithe can be golden, but not white! Think of what a discovery it would be if we caught it!”
Justin nodded as Katie and her aipom sprinted off, and reached down into his pocket to pull out a poké ball that Katie had given him. Technically, he wasn’t allowed to have one, since his trainer license had been confiscated. Yet Katie had given it to him, secretly hoping that he would resume training; not knowing the truth behind why he had ‘quit.’ Justin had kept the poké ball, in memory of the pokémon team who had been so close to him; Jungle the meganium, Thunderbolt the luxio, Magma the growlithe, Whirlpool the buizel…and Spark the jolteon. All good friends whom he would never see again, thanks to that accursed scyther…
Justin sighed as he stared down the alleyway to where Katie and Aipom had just disappeared. He then looked down at the poké ball intently, memories of his days as a trainer flooding unbidden through his mind. He pictured the white growlithe, such an incredibly rare and even unknown pokémon, running away as he looked up back towards the alley. He whispered to himself under his breath as he gripped the poké ball tighter.
“It’s time to redeem myself.”
Spark paced impatiently back and forth across the clearing, wondering when Snowcrystal, Wildflame, and Sid would be back. He was pleased to see that his wounds were healing; already he could walk with hardly a limp at all. Just out of curiosity, he did a few experimental sprints to test this. His wounds still hurt, but he felt a lot better even after running.
Pausing for a moment, but still feeling restless, he looked over to Stormblade, who, unlike him, looked no better than he had the day Blazefang had used that attack on him.
Spark walked over to him, noticing that for the first time since being injured, Stormblade had dozed off. “Probably the first time he’s slept in days,” Spark muttered to himself, glancing over the scyther’s wounds. Suddenly he stepped back, a look of alarm on his face. He hadn’t noticed before, but now that he’d gotten a closer look, there was no mistaking that Stormblade’s wounds were beginning to show signs of infection.
And infection would spread.
Worried, the jolteon looked at his own wounds. The burns didn’t look as bad anymore, and were obviously healing, and fur was starting to grow back on his shoulder where it had been scorched away before. Glancing back at Stormblade, he could see that his friend’s wounds just looked worse. Spark stood still, thinking back to something Stormblade had told him before about the wild. In the wild, infection was deadly. If a pokémon’s wound became infected badly enough, a slow and painful death awaited them.
Spark tried not to panic. Everything about the wild used to scare him. He remembered when Stormblade was trying to teach him how to hunt and survive when he was new to it…the horror he had felt at learning that if anything really bad befell him, there would be no humans to help. No pokémon centers, no potions. Spark shook the thoughts from his mind. The others needed to know about Stormblade.
He turned around, realizing that the only other one there at the moment was Thunder. Running past a few trees to where she had been resting, Spark shouted, “Thunder, I-”
He stopped. Thunder wasn’t there. Confused, he looked around before approaching the place beside the large tree where she’d been lying before. The grass was stained with blood, and Spark turned his head away in disgust. Confused, he wondered why Thunder hadn’t even attempted to make a comfortable nest. He may have been raised by humans most of his life, but he knew enough to make a nest from leaves and moss whenever he slept outside.
“Thunder?” he called, carefully sidestepping the patches of blood while peering through the trees. “Where could she have gone now?” he mumbled to himself, wondering why she had even left in the first place. Judging by the fact that her scent was somewhat stale, he figured she must have left a little while ago.
Padding forward, Spark soon noticed a small trail of blood leading through the trees, which alarmed him further. Even though Thunder had never particularly liked him, or anyone else for that matter, he was worried about her.
Spark followed Thunder’s scent, growing even more concerned. No pokémon in her condition should be out there on their own…even if she was a scyther. He knew he would have to find her before the others came back, or she might get captured by poachers, or worse…killed.
To be continued…