The Path of Destiny
Chapter Twenty One-The Hope of Escape
Cyclone was lost.
All the vaporeon could see was sand. In every direction, there was nothing more, simply miles upon miles of sand and dunes. Where was his trainer when he needed him? Gone. Long gone. Miles away by now. He would never find him again, and truthfully, he didn’t care. That boy was a traitor.
The vaporeon wearily stumbled across the shifting sand, ignoring the pain that seared across his scorched paw pads. He was far too dehydrated to manage even the simplest water attack, even now, when he needed it most. He regretted the day he’d made the decision to travel with the boy instead of being released into a forest. But the water stone had been far too tempting.
As the weary pokémon carried on, his paw slipped, and he was sent crashing into the burning sand. Why had his trainer been foolish enough to think he could travel all the way through this desert? He was probably just as lost…that fool… The vaporeon was glad he had left the boy, left before he lost the strength to perform water attacks. He had needed the water more than that stupid human and his other worthless pokémon.
Realizing that he needed to keep going, or else perish, the vaporeon staggered to his feet, only to fall. He tried yet again; once, twice, and a third time. All his attempts failed.
Cyclone was hopelessly lost…
…Yet he would not let himself die. No, his trainer didn’t deserve that satisfaction.
Wearily, his paws scrabbled in the sand as he slowly dragged himself forward, when a glimmer of sunlight reflecting off of something nearby caught his eye.
There were rocks close by, and it looked as if they had once been deeply covered in sand. Another bright flash of light made him blink. He crawled closer. His eyes widened as he reached the burning-hot stones, noticing what looked like a deep green emerald placed firmly into a crack between three different rocks. He stared, perplexed, at the stone. It looked far too tightly jammed to be pried loose, but out of curiosity, he reached out with his paw and touched the center of its shiny surface. What felt like raw energy surged through his body, and his eyes widened in shock, his mouth open in a silent scream.
Then it all went dark.
Rosie’s cage now seemed very, very small. After evolving, she was quite a bit bigger than she had been before, and although still small by a ninetales’s standards, she wasn’t small enough for the cage. The ceiling was far too low to allow her to stand, and she found it hard to turn around in the narrow space.
Irritably, she clawed at the cage’s door, but more out of frustration than actually thinking she could escape. Nightcloud was nowhere to be seen, and the guards were being switched out often. For a while now, the humans had ignored her. She was no longer being trained for battle, and probably wouldn’t ever be. Now she was just a rare pokémon to be sold for a high price.
However, since her evolution, she had not been feeling afraid. Angry and aggravated for sure, but no longer scared, not even when the poachers had brutally stopped her from escaping. She was done being frightened of these humans…she was a ninetales now, and a ninetales didn’t need to be afraid of anything. Glaring angrily through the bars of the cage and looking around the room, Rosie figured it was about time she found a way out of the place.
The problem was…she didn’t know how.
Sighing, she glanced down at where the bars met the cage floor; a few of them were scorched black, a result of her previous attempts at trying to use ember to help her break the bars. Looking back up at a few of the other caged pokémon, Rosie wondered how long they had been trapped in there. “Hm…” she mumbled, realizing something. “Wonder if any of them know how long they keep the pokémon here before they sell them…” Reaching her paw out, she tapped her claws against the cage of another pokémon, a linoone. “You,” she muttered quickly, “how long are we gonna be stuck here?”
The linoone stirred and looked at her drowsily; he must have been asleep. “Er…what?” he muttered.
Rosie rolled her eyes. “Never mind, you’re hopeless. Uh...you. Idiot guard…how long do I have to wait before I’m sold to some stupid trainer?”
The tropius standing as guard gave her a rather un-amused look, then shook his head and looked away. “Fine!” Rosie growled in annoyance. “Don’t answer!”
“Why does it matter?” the linoone in the cage next to her suddenly mumbled. “You’ll probably just end up being treated the same way whatever trainer you’re sold to. I suppose we’ll be living in cages for the rest of our lives.” He sighed. “That’s a long time…”
“You think it’s bad for you?” Rosie replied. “That’s a thousand years for me, and I don’t plan on spending it all belonging to some worthless human!” Turning away from him, Rosie started to think to herself about escape. She had found a slightly loose bar at the side of her cage, but no amount of moving it had made it any looser, and she had abandoned that plan a while ago. She could do nothing to open the cage door, and the only way the cage would ever be opened was when the humans came to feed her. If she attacked them, she would get electrocuted. “Maybe I can be stronger now…” she whispered quietly to herself. “Maybe I’ll be able to stand it long enough to get out and run…If someone like Thunder can do it, I can…”
A noise from the room beyond interrupted her thoughts. One of the humans was shouting at another, and Rosie tried to peer through the doorway, hoping to be able to see what was going on. To her annoyance, she couldn’t see anything, though she could hear what sounded like fighting, and it wasn’t a normal battle considering that both humans and pokémon were screaming.
“What’s going on?” a pokémon in a cage somewhere near to her cried, equally confused.
Rosie listened carefully, hearing the sounds of battle and cries of pokémon and humans alike rising in volume from the room further on. Could it be that some of the pokémon were actually managing to fight back?
Thunder awoke slowly, dazed and confused. She realized she was still outside, but in a much grassier and less rocky place than she remembered. Confused, she opened her eyes, instantly closing them again at the brightness of the sun.
Thunder opened her eyes again. Last time she remembered, it was barely reaching dawn, but now, it looked like midday.
Confused, Thunder stood up, looking around for any signs of humans. But all she could see were several trees and many strange-looking plants, but not far away from where she was standing, something else startled her. Through the leaves of the plants and trees, she could see the bars to some sort of gate. Confused, she walked closer, and as she did, the glint of metal from another direction caught her eye. Turning, she could see bars on the opposite side of the area.
As she ran towards those bars, she noticed something strange. Looking down at her arm, she realized with surprise that the chain was gone. The shackle was still there, however, though the chain itself had been severed. Reaching up with her arm to the collar around her neck, she could feel that it was still there as well; maybe if the humans who’d put the gate there had wanted to remove it, they hadn’t found a way to do so yet.
Looking down at her other arm, she noticed it had been bandaged, as had many of her other wounds. Both confused and annoyed, she quickly tore each bandage off, before hastily running alongside the barred gate, realizing that it completely encircled the small area she had found herself in. There was a similar set of bars above the enclosure, meaning she couldn’t fly out. Carefully, Thunder peered at some of the bars that stuck up from the ground to form one section of the gate. They didn’t look very strong…
Mustering all her strength, she swiped both of her scythes at the nearest two bars, though despite them being rather thin, they were incredibly strong, and seemed barely scratched despite her efforts. She kept trying, and finally stopped when a small piece of one of her battered scythes chipped off.
Frustrated and angry, Thunder thought with a hint of panic, ‘I’m in a CAGE…a very large cage…’
“Thunder?” A voice startled Thunder into turning around. Another pokémon had approached the bars from the other side. Thunder quickly recognized Redclaw, and though many of the arcanine’s wounds were bandaged, he looked much healthier than he had before. Thunder peered further through the bars and noticed more a ways away, and realized that Redclaw wasn’t outside, he was in another large ‘cage’ just like hers, which was also grassy and had several plants and trees within it as well. However, if the humans thought they were replicating an arcanine’s natural habitat, they were doing a poor job; Thunder didn’t recognize most of the plants and she doubted if some of them were even real. However, Redclaw seemed calm. “Relax,” he told her, “the humans have been gone for a while. And there’s food here. It isn’t poisoned. There should be some-”
“Where are we?” Thunder snapped, glaring at him. She could only begin to wonder why Redclaw was so calm when they were clearly once again in the possession of humans.
“I don’t know,” Redclaw admitted. “There’s a large building near all these pokémon enclosures, but there are nicer humans there. You’ve been knocked out all morning so you wouldn’t have seen, but they gave me medicine that made me feel less pain. They’re trying to help us, I think…”
“If they were trying to help us, then why are we in cages?” Thunder spat.
“I…I think it’s more to keep other pokémon out,” Redclaw stammered. “There are lots of other pokémon here, though I think they bring the larger or wilder pokémon to these areas outside. Just be glad they didn’t keep you in that building; it’s kind of frightening, there’s strange smells and lots of injured pokémon. I wonder what’s happened to all of them…I think…I think they put us out here because there were too many pokémon in there already, or maybe it’s because they thought we’d be more comfortable outside. The gates might be to keep us from running off into the wild before our wounds have healed…”
“But why didn’t they give us a choice?” Thunder growled. “I’m not dependent on humans, and if they’re going to force me to stay here I won’t believe they’re trying to help. And by the way, what do you think they’re going to do with us once we’ve recovered enough, huh?”
Redclaw stiffened, and Thunder could tell he was uncertain, but he replied, “There’s nothing we can do now. I suppose we should wait until we’re stronger and then we can find a way to-”
“I feel stronger already,” Thunder remarked, knowing that, if anything, the humans had treated her wounds-not even the bullet wounds hurt as much anymore. “I’m ready to leave. Now. I won’t stick around to find out what these humans have in store for us. I say we find a way out and…and…where the heck is Stormblade?”
“Stormblade?” Redclaw repeated, puzzled, before realizing who Thunder meant. “The other scyther? He’s one of the ones they kept inside…he was one of the worst injured of all the other pokémon I saw…and there were many with really horrific injuries…”
“Well that’s just great!” Thunder muttered sarcastically, looking down at where the end of the gate bars were stuck into the ground. “Redclaw!” she said suddenly, looking up. “Do you think you could dig underneath the bars?”
“Well…” Redclaw began hesitantly, “they must have made it so that pokémon can’t dig under them…I mean…”
“Just try!” Thunder told him. “I can’t dig well, and if you can dig an opening big enough for me to fit through, you could dig another way out of your cage and we can both get out.”
Redclaw said nothing and only nodded, starting to scrape his claws against the damp earth, and, surprisingly quickly, he had dug deep enough to see the end of the bars. “I can dig under them,” he told her, “they don’t go very far underground, but they’re really sharp at the ends.” Careful to avoid the pointed ends of the metal bars, Redclaw swiftly scraped out more earth, soon creating a large pile of dirt behind him. Thunder stood by and waited, though she could see that Redclaw was quickly tiring. He was still weak, she realized, from the electric shock.
After a minute of digging deeper, Redclaw realized the earth had become much harder to dig through, and more rocky. Thunder tried to help dig from the other side, and eventually they made a hole to crawl through, though it was very shallow. “Are you sure it’s big enough?” Redclaw asked her uncertainly.
“It’s fine!” Thunder replied, annoyed, and began to crawl through the small opening. Redclaw knew that it wasn’t big enough for any scyther who wasn’t as thin as Thunder to fit through, but despite the fact that the sharp ends of the metal bars scraped across her back, Thunder managed to make it through and into Redclaw’s enclosure rather quickly. “Come on,” she muttered, “let’s find a way out of here…”
“Wait…” Redclaw told her, still sounding a bit uncertain, “I think we should wait a little while first. I’m far too tired to dig any more right now, but we’ll both be stronger if we rest for a little bit. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble from the humans for a while; they’re all too busy inside the building. And it will be easier to get away from here during the night. They left food and water here, so I don’t think they’re planning on coming back soon.”
Thunder looked about ready to argue, but simply muttered, “Fine…” and turned away. She didn’t seem at all pleased with the idea, and Redclaw noticed her staring through the bars, not at the other outdoor pokémon enclosures, but beyond them. It was quite clear how she felt about being trapped in such a place, though he couldn’t help but wonder if she was really mistaken about the humans who had put them there.
Both Justin and Katie had been shocked to discover the amount of injured pokémon who’d been taken to the Pokémon Center. Katie’s pokémon couldn’t even be checked on, as everyone working there was far too busy caring for pokémon with worse injuries. Katie was confused as to why so many pokémon had gotten injured, though she figured that poacher traps were at least part of the cause. Some of them had been caught in traps meant for bigger pokémon; she’d seen someone bringing in a poochyena that had gotten its leg severed by one such trap. She shuddered as she walked away from the Pokémon Center with her shinx and Justin walking beside her.
Justin had returned, and had gone to the Pokémon Center to wait for her. He had seen her arrive, and to his great surprise, she had brought three injured pokémon with her, with the help of Nurse Joy and a pokémon ranger. When asked by a nurse, she had said that the three were wild, not mentioning that one of the scyther had once belonged to Justin. Katie had not said anything to Justin about what had happened the previous night when they’d found the hurt scyther, and he was very glad of it.
Katie had grown a bit tired of Justin constantly pestering her to search after the white growlithe again, no matter how many times she told him that it would be nearly impossible for any of their pokémon to track it. However, she had eventually relented, and thought that maybe her shinx would be able to find a clue as to where the growlithe had gone. It seemed pointless, but she figured it was worth a try, and the best place to start would be the rocks where she’d found Justin’s scyther. Sighing as Justin suddenly raced ahead, she ran after him toward the outskirts of the city, her shinx following closely behind.
Snowcrystal and Spark were exhausted; Wildflame had insisted they travel as quickly as possible, and even though Snowcrystal was used to running long distances, she felt weak and tired after walking for so long. At last, however, they stopped to take a break. During that time, no one said a word. Snowcrystal was still too shocked, but at the same time she realized that Wildflame was right, and that they needed to keep moving on.
After their little break, which was all too short, Wildflame told the others that it was time to move again, and they carried on.
“Will ya slow down?” Spark grumbled after a short while, far behind the other two. “I can’t run for THIS long! I…hey wait! What’s that?”
Snowcrystal and Wildflame stopped. Spark was sniffing the air, and Snowcrystal did as well, soon noticing an enticing scent. “There’s food nearby!” Spark shouted to the others as he ran off through the bushes. Snowcrystal watched him in confusion.
Then a thought struck her. “Spark! Wait, don’t-”
Her words were cut off by a scream.
To be continued…