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Pokémon Shattered Crests Book 1: Lines Broken

Vray

Pull up a chair.
This story will contain, Blood/Gore/Dark Humor and Themes/Strong Language/Sexual Themes/Prejudice/And other material.
Chapter 1
In a Moment's Notice
A lone Drapion walked along on a deep dark path filled with a dense brush on both sides. However, he wasn’t nervous or tense. He knew where he had to go and that the recipients of his message were friendlies. He suddenly heard rustling coming from his left. He immediately leaped backwards, faced where the sound had come from, readied his pincers, and curled his tail to strike. To his surprise, something from above landed firmly onto his back, putting a claw around his neck and a firm foot on his tail.

“Who are you?” A growling voice demanded from above him. He tried to remain calm and uttered the words,

“M-miss, I have a letter. From Team Alpha’s leader. He says, ‘your thick-headed Feraligatr will listen to you if not to me so don't harm this guy’.”

"What's team alpha?" the voice demanded, increasing the pressure she had on his tail and putting her claw even closer to the Drapion's neck.

The Pokémon began to stutter in fear but managed to say, "Please don't hurt me. I'm just giving a message from Nasch; I swear he said you'd listen to that code or whatnot. Please, I'm being honest here."

The creature above him paused for a moment, before removing the claw from his throat and releasing his tail. When the stranger got off him, the Drapion fell forwards from relief but managed to catch himself, panting heavily.

“Sorry for that," a less threatening voice spoke. “I can’t be too careful. After all, no one needs to know I’m here. I hope it wasn't too frightening for you?”

The mon got up and looked at her. His former attacker was a female Charizard. Strong built, but still slim and tender in appearance. Her eyes were blue and quite calm, and on her shoulder was a Norfarion crest. He began rubbing the back of his head and blushed a little. "I-it's fine miss."

The lady sighed, determining that she had frightened the poor soul quite immensely. She gave a gesture for him to follow. "Come, we can discuss why Nasch sent you to my place. Also, if you'd like to rest before you head back, I'd be happy to have you." She gave a little laugh as she rubbed her left shoulder. "It's the least I can do after putting you through that startle after all."

The surprised Drapion gave a nod of acceptance. She took the lead and the reluctant scorpion followed. As they walked through the jungle area, the Drapion managed to muster the nerve to ask, “So um, why are you here, miss?”

She gave him a glance and just kept walking on. Even with no vocal response, the Drapion got the idea that it wasn’t his concern. However, she didn’t leave the stranger completely lost in the dark. “I live with my family.”

“Family‽ You are residing here with a family‽” The Drapion repeated in surprise.

“Yes, I believe I said that,” the Charizard replied with a slight bit of annoyance, “I live with my family. All four of them to be exact. Speaking of which.”

Without any warning, she thrust her claw into a cluster of lush leaves on their left. The Drapion was left confused as she pulled out a little Charmander from his hiding place.

“Mom….how didya-” the little orange mon growled in a high boyish voice.

“You shook the brush too much, your breathing was too noisy and most of all, you didn’t lower your tension enough to make your tail's light dim enough for stealth. I could see it. Frankly, I'm surprised you didn't catch the forest on fire again.”

The little Charmander crossed his arms with a scowl. Angry that his mom cut his little time as a spy short. He gave off a little growl to which his mother smiled and began tickling his belly. The child began struggling to push her hand away, laughing uncontrollably. "Hahaha, hay stoppit hehe mom!"

She finally obeyed his request and followed with, “Shouldn’t you be with your father in training?”

The little mon looked up to her and exclaimed with an upside-down smile, “He let me, Seliph and Jaron outta train’n early. He said dat he had somethin' tah do.”

Freya sighed and put the little mon on her tail.

He clasped onto tightly and laughed a little as his ride moved up and down as the adults walked on. The Charmander stopped being engrossed in his fun for a second and asked the stranger, “Hey, whawt’s yah name misteh? Mine’s Ciecro!” The Drapion gave a confused look; a mix of surprise by this Western Accent to the lady's Eastern and the scene that just played half a minute ago.

“Don’t just give out your name son,” Freya rebuked, looking back at her son.

“It's fine mom. Dad says yah can say whawtevs, so long as yah make sure yah kill'em before dey get away.”

The Drapion flinched and Freya facepalmed. He is the spitting image of his damn father. she muttered in her head.


< O >​


“Jaron!” a Frogadier called out, as he strolled through the woods, “Jaron! come on, dad’s going to get mad if we aren’t back at the house by the time the visitor comes.”

A little rustling came from some grass nearby. The water type quickly glanced at it but failed to spy it in action. He started browsing the group of bushes with squinting eyes. He heard another rustle. He darted his stare where the sound came from, but once again he failed to catch it moving. Slowly, he began to turn around in a circle, glancing anywhere he thought looked suspicious. Finally, he sighed, crossed his arms, closed his eyes and smiled. So that’s what it will be huh. Well fine then, Jaron, I’ll catch you. A smile covered the Frogadier’s face as he walked on.

Amid the many leaves lying in the area, a Totodile watched his older brother. The little water type laughed in his head at his brother’s seemingly clueless display. Despite this, Jaron followed Seliph’s every movement very carefully, knowing full well Seliph wasn't a dumb older brother and would attempt something. Something like Seliph’s Frogadier frubbles since he lost many hide and seek games due to that.

Hmm, what's he doing? The Totodile thought to himself as the Frogadier stood still and closed his eyes. Jaron refused to take his eyes off him though, expecting anything. He can't be trying to hear me so-...wait...is it me he's trying to hear? Is he even trying to hear me? The unsure Totodile simply kept watching as his brother remain motionless and seemingly uncaring to even search. Jaron wouldn't fall for it. He's baiting me no doubt. He wants me to move or something.

For seven minutes straight, Seliph remained still and Jaron watched his brother. Slowly, the boredom began to set in Jaron’s head as his eyes started drooping and the tiredness of being still started to set in. He decided to adjust himself to a better position, but suddenly, Seliph shouted, "Jaron!" Startled by the sudden shout, Jaron slipped a little rustling some leaves in the process.

"Gotcha." Seliph quickly spun around, drew out a Cut, and threw it straight at the spot he heard the rustling.

Jaron shrieked and fell over, but not until the move had struck him. To his surprise, it disintegrated upon impacting him. He landed on his back with a “thud”, startled but unharmed. Dammit his substitute. But it was too late. Seliph leaned over him with a grin on his face.

“I take I win again,” He boasted with a slight smirk.

“That was dirty Seliph,” Jaron growled.

“It’s your own fault, brother,” Seliph answered, holding out his hand to his angry sibling. Jaron raised his hand but hesitated for a moment before clasping it. "Come on, I won fair and square," Seliph stated with a smile. Jaron looked up and gave out an aggravated sigh, before clasping Seliph's hand.

"How was it my fault?"

Seliph pulled him back up. “You know what my moves are after all. Certainly, with the vantage point you had, you would have expected some trick up my arm.”

Reluctantly, a ticked-off Jaron asked, “Yeah, but I never expected you to pull off something like that. How did you come up with that so quickly?”

Seliph gave off a short titter. “Jaron, it’s called being creative.” Seliph tapped his head, before moving his right arm down his left, saying, “Mom taught you moves are extensions of your power, right? Use your head and manipulate them in ways to your advantage.”

"Well, yeah but...ah screw you Seliph." Jaron pounced on Seliph, laughing and telling how next time he would win.

Seliph laughed as well. "We really should get back home now."

Jaron nodded, got off his older sibling and the two started walking home. They didn’t stop till they arrived at a little hut in a clearing. The two went around it to the back and entered. Once inside Jaron let out a little yawn and asked Seliph, “Hey so when are mom and Ciecro gonna get back?”

Seliph just shook his head. Jaron let out a bigger yawn and muttered, “I hope mom gets back soon. At least before dad.” Seliph slumped his head down. Their faces shot right back up, as a loud slam filled the room. A growl came from the front of the house, saying, “Anyone here! Freya, Ciecro, Seliph, Jar-”

“We’re here dad,” the two answered, coming to the front room. They couldn’t lock their eyes with Dad’s scary ones, but remained focused on his neck. Jaron turned his head to the floor shaking slightly. Seliph, on the other hand, remained more composed despite being nervous too.

Their dad’s tone and expression business was happening and business would always put Gathor in a bad mood.

Despite his unease with having a visitor, Gathor relaxed a little upon confirming that the other two were fine. Their actions in avoiding eye contact didn’t bother him. He turned his gaze to the window and went on to say, “Freya will be bringin' someone here soon. I want yah tah stay in the back. Do whatever, just don’t come to dah front nor go outside, yah hear.”

Without waiting for a nod in confirmation, he went towards the door, opened it, and said, "Be on yah best behavior." The door slammed as he made his exit.

The two stopped their shivering and let out relieved sighs. Jaron broke the silence first. “You think the visitor is scary? Dad is all tensed up by this visit. He didn’t even smile slightly when seeing us.”

“I don’t know Jaron,” Seliph replied, “I don’t think he would be scared of some mon. Dad is one of the toughest Norfarians out there, at least I think.”

Seliph looked at the Norfarion crest on Jaron’s right shoulder, something he, Ciecro, Jaron, and all Norfarion children would be born with. A birthmark of their bloodlines always on the right shoulder. Of course, that wasn’t all that made them Norfarions, or just Original clansmon in general. “I’m surprised your gift didn’t act up?” he said to Jaron, looking at his brother.

“It was, I could clearly see you and feel your presence. You just startled me, you bully.” Jaron got up and walked over to Seliph, “you didn’t even have to use your gift.”

“Yeah heh,” Seliph grinned as he rubbed Jaron’s head, making the Totodile sulk, “Well, it’s like dad says. ‘Don’ try tah us yah gifts all dah time, o’ yah migh’ give dem clues to yah fightin’ style.’”

Jaron’s annoyance shifted to a little giggle at Seliph’s attempt at impersonating their father. “Heh, that sounds more like Ciecro,” he joked, making Seliph give him a playful punch to the shoulder.

“You moron,” Seliph said with a smile as Jaron a defiant playful, full-toothed grin.

Suddenly voices were heard outside. The two rushed to the window to see their father carrying Ciecro under his arm while Freya talked to a Drapion.

Is that the visitor? Seliph thought. The door once again slammed open as Gathor tossed Ciecro in. The Charmander quickly got to his feet and rushed towards the exit, but was immediately stopped by his dad’s firm hand on his head.

“Bu' dad, I wanna be there too,” the little one demanded, pushing against it and attempting to pry it off to no avail.

“Dis is an adult conversation. Stay wid’ya brothers, Ciecro.”

“Buh I wanna be dere too!” Ciecro protested, “I’m ten now so I’m old enough. Come on, it’s not fair!”

Gathor gave off an annoyed growl, pushing his son back with his palm.

Ciecro struggled in response, pushing back with all his body. Sadly, even with all his force thrown at the arm, he could overcome its strong base and after multiple attempts of head pushing, poor Ciecro finally sank his head in defeat as he sat down sniffling.

Gathor’s stern face softened slightly as he moved his strong Feraligatr hand from the boy’s head down to his cheek and cupped his fingers under Ciecro’s chin. Gently, he moved his hand up to get Ciecro to look at him.

Ciecro’s teary face looked up with a big droopy stare that tried to keep some semblance of composure for his father.

“Why can’t I be dere?” he begged for an answer.

“Son.” Gathor paused for a breath before saying. “I know yah wanna come, but yah’re not old enough fo’ it, nor Jaron or Seliph. Dis is somethin’ me and yah mother need to handle.” Moving his claw over to Ciecro’s chest, he poked a little section on the left side as he continued. “But, I’m glad yah wanna come. Means yah heart is in deh right place. Be patient son and be a good boy, fo’ me and I’ll let yah help me wit more stuff when yah get oldeh.” Ciecro gave a little whimper, lowing his gaze at the floor. “Yes…dad,” he replied, wiping his face.

Gathor moved his hand from the boy’s chin to the top of Ciecro’s orange head. "Ciecro, yah gawt some growin up tah do before yah ready for adult things. Now stay here with yah brothers Ciecro." He looked away for a second and then muttered, “and if yah be good I’ll give yah a high toss in' de air.”

Ciecro’s eyes looked up towards his father. “Promise?”

Gathor tried to keep a straight face, but Ciecro’s cute smile even made him fail to fully hide a smile. “Promise.”

“As many times as I wanna?” Ciecro said, his eyes widening with glee.

“As many times as yah wanna.” Gathor rubbed Ciecro’s head, making the little Charmander giggle. “Now stay here, take care of ya brothers, and be good.” Removing his hand, Gathor stood up gave an affirming nod, and went to the door. Gathor slowly opened it and shut it with much less force than he had earlier, as the three kids stayed inside.

Jaron and Seliph got from their spot at the window and joined their brother in the middle of the room. It was just them and whatever they wanted to do for fun.

Ciecro began doing small, wobbly, twirls in anticipation. "I hope he trows me real high, like higher dan dah trees and up in dah clouds."

"I don't think even dad is that strong, bro," Jaron pointed out, giggling a little at the thought.

Ciecro just gave him a slight scoff as he crossed his arms and puffed out his chest. "Yah’re just jealous, 'cause when I grow up, I'm gonna be able tah fly and yah’re gonna be stuck on dah stupid ground."

"At least I can swim." Jaron countered, forming a snarky grin.

"So? Seliph can too, so whasso special about dat?" Ciecro countered Jaron's counter.

"Well...uhm..."

"Looks like he's got a point Jaron. Sides, he's a fire type so it's not like he was born to swim," Seliph added earning a grateful nod from the Charmander, who instantly took the time to rub it in the annoyed face of Jaron.


< O >​


That night Jaron and Ciecro were in their straw beds sleeping well. Seliph, however, was wide awake. He thought about the stranger and wondered what he wanted from his parents. Suddenly he heard a door open with a little flicker of light come from the area outside their room.

“I’m going tah bed Freya,” The voice of their father resounded. “Tell me what it says, tomorrow.”

This sparked Seliph’s curiosity. ‘What it says’ so it’s a message. He got to his feet and tiptoed his way to his Mom’s study. He peered inside and gazed at the room he was rarely allowed to be in. His mother was at the desk looking at something on it.

Hmm, I wonder what this is about, she thought while she mulled over the message. She stopped pondering as she detected someone outside her study. Acting on instinct her wings shot up, causing something to nudge the door a little. She quickly deduced it was merely one of the kids spying through the door Gathor neglected to fully close.

“Don’t leave, come in here now,” she spoke to the silhouette in the door crack. A nervous Seliph walked in. His face had guilt written all over it. Freya took a deep breath and asked for an explanation.

“I was just curious.” Was Seliph’s reply. Freya gave him a stern look not taking this answer lightly.

“Seliph come here,” she ordered the Frogadier. He reluctantly walked over; his head still downcast. Despite his face looking at the floor, Freya could easily see the remorse in his eyes. She looked at the crest on his right arm and pondered deeply.

“Son,” she spoke in a softer tone, “look at me,” After a few minutes of moving, his eyes finally locked with hers. She picked him up and placed him in her lap. The water-type was caught off guard by this odd move by his mother.

“Seliph, since you’re awake do you want to help me read this?”

It took a few minutes for it to click, but Seliph realized that he wasn’t in trouble but on the contrary, lucky. He looked at the piece with his mother and read over its contents.

“What’s odd about this? It’s straightforward,” He stated after finishing.

She explained, “Letters like this may look direct, But usually they hold another hidden message. Letters like these sent by Norfarion higher-ups tend to be coded to be decrypted later by its receiver.”

His eyes widened with interest and resolve. But he didn’t know any “Code”.

Seeing the stumped look on his face, she decided to throw out an example. “Well, some words may say one thing, but usually there is a metaphor or simile in its meaning. Or possibly retracing a sentence or paragraph. I believe this one might be like that so give it a try.”

Anxious to impress his mother, Seliph tried again. After re-reading he looked back to his mom and summed the contents.

“The first two paragraphs were very straightforward about inquiring how you were and what you and dad have found. Also, it asks if any additional research materials are needed, But,” he shifted to a more analytical stare. “The third one talked about some list of information and random stuff.”

“Any thoughts?” she asked in an encouraging tone.

“Well, the list of stuff in the third paragraph appears to be normal items. But, the first paragraph about asking how you were and if you needed research material felt a little weird. Mom, would these travel items be research material?”

“I don’t leave here when I work so let’s see about this list,” Freya concurred with the thought. Seliph peered closer to the list of items and began reading them out loud.

“Materials that will be sent for research.
Healing Items
Food Supplies
Material
2 Fire orb
A pair of Eye drop seeds
Huh? Hmmm”

“You found something?” She asked.

“Well, these two ‘Fire orb’ and ‘Eye drop seeds’ are pretty specific. Maybe they are related to the secret message. What do you thi….”

He stopped upon seeing a serious expression cover her face. It was like she was seeing something horrible from the letter. Seliph said her name over and over until she snapped out of it.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” He innocently asked. She didn’t answer but looked away at her shelf of books. This was a side of his mom he hadn’t seen before. A scared side. This made him uneasy and sent a shiver down his spine.

Freya put him down on the floor and walked over to the bookcase. She was mumbling something under her breathing, but Seliph could only make out the words, “in case” and “Come”. As she fiddled with some books Seliph noticed her wings begin to spread a little. Another indication of her anxiousness thus giving him more reason to worry.

She pushed some books aside and pulled out a little box. She then took a key out of one of the satchels on her travel belt and checked to see if the box was locked. After confirmation, she put the box into a drawer in her desk and locked it with another key.

Seliph remained quiet but was scared to even think of what this could mean. His mom scared? His mom was never scared? What could possibly scare her?

She walked over to her son and moved onto one knee. She gently grabbed his hands and moved them into a cup. She then put the box key in those hands and closed them.

“Mom wha-? What’s this?”

“Seliph, I want you to take care of this. What I’m going to tell you is between me and you. I don’t want you to speak of this to anyone at all. Son, if…” She paused to take a second to think of what to say.

“If what?”

She sighed softly and with a slight smile, she said, “Seliph I want you to hide that key. Only use it and take what’s in that box you saw should we be…attacked.”

His spirit fell at that last word. A thousand questions flooded his brain. Freya put one of her claws on his shoulder. She leaned in and nuzzled his cheek as to calm him down.

“This is only in an emergency Seliph. I know you are young, but I need you to be brave. You’re smart and clever and you can take care of your brothers and yourself if need be. I know this is sudden, but I tell you this because I trust you fully.”

These words only made him feel worse. He tried to pull out of the nuzzle, but Freya got the message.

She stopped and pulled back her head. Looking directly into Seliph’s eyes, she whispered something to him.

Seliph returned to his bed, shaking. What happened was the biggest question in his head. He looked at the key his Mom gave him and obeying her, stuffed it into his bed of straw. He lay there wide awake, unable to even close one eye.

What did she mean by ‘attacked’? Will it happen soon? He rolled over to his side and tried to sleep. He wasn’t scared, but the words his mom told him eased him a little.

“Your father and I love you Seliph. We might not show it all the time, but we do. You, Ciecro, and Jaron mean so much to us. I know you’ll do me proud. Because you have strong blood in your veins, but more importantly you are the smartest kid I know.”
 
Last edited:

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 2
A Rising Temper​



Seliph could hardly sleep that night from his mother’s troubling information. Slowly, he opened his eyes to greet the morning light from the window with the defeated stare of tiredness and uncertainty. With a yawn, Seliph sat up and rubbed his eyes for a second before resting them in his lap as he stared at his floor bed’s blanket deep in thought. A noise came from nearby, instantly snapping his attention. He looked at their door to see Jaron trying to drag a sleepy Ciecro to the door.

“Come on Ciecro. We’ve got to go before mom or dad come to drag us out,” Jaron stated, his words spaced out with yawns.

“I don't wanna. I’m tired Jaron, so dere,” Ciecro sleepily answered, struggling against Jaron’s weak pulls.

Seliph sighed, throwing off his blanket and getting up to stretch his back for a second. They weren’t going anywhere fast, so Seliph took the time to ensure he was wide awake before walking over to shoo them out.

Once in the kitchen, Seliph left the two to go get breakfast for each of them. He undid the storage bolt easy enough and opened the creaking door, a selection of different shelves filled with berries and other edible things.

As Seliph began digging around for their normal morning food, Jaron’s stomach rumbled as he yawned. Leaning over to his drowsy brother, a grinning Jaron drowsily joked to his tired, swaying brother, “Heh, looks like my stomach is getting impatient. I hope Seliph gets back here with breakfa-” He stopped talking at the sight of Ciecro, fast asleep again. Growling in annoyance, Jaron quickly got up, walked over to his sleeping brother, and started shaking him roughly.

“Wha? Jaron what de hell are yah doin'‽” Ciecro asked, angry and surprised.

“Waking your sorry self up. Stop snoozing, baby,” Jaron ordered.

“I snooze if I wanna, so shu'it.”

This dismissal just ramped up Jaron’s frustrations. “Seliph’s gonna be back soon with breakfast and mom said we need to be awake for breakfast,” Jaron reminded Ciecro, forgetting that Seliph was only a few feet away, watching them as he felt-searched for the right berries.

“I can catch a few z’s before den.” Ciecro brushed Jaron’s grip off him and curled up to get some sleep.

Fed up by Ciecro’s lack of cooperation, Jaron took a little breath before lightly spraying Ciecro in the face with a mild, warm Scald.

Ciecro shot awake with a start, his eyes wide with fright and surprise. He looked at his person, his surprise slowly being substituted with an angry stare as he put two and two together. Without moving his head, Ciecro’s orange eyes looked at an unsympathetic Jaron and growled. “Why did yah do dat?” he demanded in as low and threatening a tone that a ten-year-old Charmander could do. “I said, Imma sleep some more!”

“And I said you’re gonna wake up!” Jaron snapped right back.

“Yah can't tell me whattah do. I’m gonna sleep now and yah can't stop me!”

Jaron gave a little smirk as he sprayed Ciecro again with a light Scald.

This was the last straw. After wiping the water out of his eyes, Ciecro jumped from his seat and started taking a deep breath, an orange light forming in his deep throat.

Jaron did the same, but with an azure blue color instead. The two were about to fire Scald and Flamethrower, but before they could unleash their moves indoors, a pair of frubble gobbets hit them on their mouths, sealing their mouths shut.

“Can’t you two just get along,” Seliph scolded, setting a bowl of berries in the center of the table as he eyed them both one at a time with a frustrated expression.

The two pulled the frubbles off their mouths.

“Did yah have tah do dat?” Ciecro said, rubbing his snout from the little pain left from having to pull off the sticky frubbles.

“Maybe if you just woke your lazy tail up, we’d be eating right now,” Jaron accused, triggering Ciecro to shout back.

“Yah started it, yah big mouth!” The two pressed their heads against each other, doing an angry stare standoff. “Doofus!”

“Idiot!”

“Baby!”

“Jerk!”

Back and forth, they kept hurling childish insults in front of their brother, who was slowly reaching his last nerve.


Finally, Seliph had his fill. He slammed his hands hard on the table and yelled at the stubborn duo, “Enough both of you!” Once he had his brother’s attention, Seliph continued without lowering his voice or easing up his tone. “I don’t want to have to separate you immature brats just to eat, because of your childish squabbles. Why can’t you two just grow up and stop giving me more problems like good brothers‽”

Jaron and Ciecro froze in their places as Seliph stormed off, leaving the berries on the table. Reluctantly, Jaron reached out for a berry and held it in his hands, staring at it with a guilty look. Even his stomach appeared to share his remorse and had stopped its rumblings or interest in eating at the time.

“W-what just happened,” Jaron stated his thoughts aloud, still surprised by Seliph’s outburst.

"Why’d he hav’ta go and do dat?" The Charmander growled. Annoyed, Ciecro went to the nearest, open spot on the wall, rested his back on it, crossed his arms, and mused over what happened with an eye-closed, lost in thought scowl.

A few minutes later, Jaron walked over to his sibling and gave him a concerned look. “Ciecro,” Jaron meekly said, fiddling with the berry in his hand as Ciecro opened his eyes to watch him.

There was just silence for a little bit, only broken by Ciecro sighing and following up with saying, “I guess we was bein' dum babies?” He uncrossed his arms, stood back on his feet, and plastered a little smile on his face.

Jaron smiled back. “Yeah,” he said, earning a little pat on the shoulder from Ciecro.

“So, let’s put our heads togeder an’ tink up somthin’ tah make it up tah Seliph.”

Jaron nodded in agreement, however, Gathor’s calling for them to come outside for training would have to put the planning on hold.


< O >​



Seliph shouted as he threw his cuts at small wooden logs set up for training today. One by one, he struck the targets, showing his bad mood with the excessive force with each throw. This was noticed by his brothers, watching nearby with Gathor.

“Mon, he still looks pretty mad,” Ciecro whispered to Jaron. “He's tryin, dem moves wit pretty stiff arms.”

“I hope he doesn’t mess up. He hates messing up his throws,” Jaron murmured back. “But he only has three targets left and he’s been nailing every target so far so he should be fi-”

“Good so fah, Seliph,” Gathor shouted, breaking the boys’ conversation. “Now show me just as good aimin', while dodging.”

Seliph stopped, facing towards his father ready. He took a light stance, thinking it was one of the three who would play obstacle this time.

Jaron and Ciecro looked at each other, clueless. “Did he ask you tah be de-” Ciecro began, but stopped as Jaron shook his head for a “No”. At that moment they heard a yell from their brother. Twisting their heads back to the training field, the two saw Seliph on his back, shaking. In front of their brother was a shallow but clear claw slice mark. They followed the direction of Seliph’s gaze to see Freya in the air, retracting her Dragon Claw as she stared down at Seliph, as one would prey.

“Mom!” They shouted in unison, earning the “Shut up and watch” look from their father.

Gathor returned his gaze at Seliph and pointed to the targets once more. “Now finish.”

Forcing himself to stand, Seliph looked at his father, doing his best to suppress his concern. His eyes trailed to the targets before turning completely in a circle to look back at his mother. Their eyes met. How weird it felt to see her this way. The serious, battle-ready glare towards him felt so contrasting to the mother, who gave him the key last night.

A scowl crossed his face, determination building. He spun around in the blink of an eye and shot forwards, towards the targets. Despite his mad dash forwards, he knew he couldn’t beat his mother to the targets. Glancing back to see where his mom was, Seliph drew a Cut.

Freya dove, pulling her wings back so they merely guided her descent to a vertical angle rather than slowed her fall. As she neared her son, the wings began to surge a light blue hue.

In response, Seliph did a little hop to spin himself around without wasting the momentum and pressed his right foot onto the ground, swinging his arm back to throw the Cut towards the Charizard. His cut whizzed through the air but was quickly cut down by his mother’s superior Air Slash. Now! He ordered himself as he shot a Water Pulse from his other hand. The ring of water expanded, flying through the air to hit the Charizard’s right wing before she could evade it. Taking advantage of the extra time, Seliph resumed his dash towards the targets as his mom worked on getting her avian bearings.

Seeing his brother gaining the upper hand, the younger siblings started cheering him on. “Go Seliph go!” Jaron shouted with delight as Seliph drew two cuts in his hands.

“Nail ‘em like yah always do!” Ciecro cheered as two targets were struck with thrown Cuts.

Without any hesitation, Seliph drew the third and hopefully the final one. Drawing his attention to the target, he drew his arm back, but as he was about to throw Jaron called out.

“Seliph, look out!”

Instantly, Seliph turned around. To his surprise, the Charizard he was expecting to come flying in was nowhere to be seen behind him. Shit! Seliph spun around and there she was, standing between him and the target.

Watching the standoff with a displeased look, Gathor gave a little grunt, leading the siblings to snap in attention. “No more interferin’, Jaron,” Gathor said in a low, firm tone.

Jaron held his snout, embarrassed and guilty as his head bent down towards the ground.

Ciecro looked at the Totodile with sympathy, but neither stayed that way for long for the noise of their mother’s roar pulled their eyes to the scene of Seliph taking on Freya.

All Seliph could do was dodge her attacks, though even that wasn’t going in his favor. He had to do something, since Freya’s attacks were carefully timed and spaced to push him backwards, away from the target. Desperate to find a way around Freya quick, Seliph had one plan he could try. He drew a Cut and flung it straight for her face.

The move struck her face, evaporating upon impact. Freya just stared at him with an unhappy look, completely unshaken by the move.

This sturdy response to Seliph’s attempt at a fake out did more damage to Seliph’s cause than any of her moves prior. He started backing away, defensive and focused on her.

Gathor’s eyes narrowed while Ciecro scowled. “Dad, he jus’ hasta hit dat last target, right?”

The Feraligatr didn’t reply immediately, just let out a sigh. “It’s oveh.”

“Oveh‽” Ciecro stared at his father in disbelief, appalled his dad was calling it there.

These words seemed to just make Jaron feel worse. The Totodile looked up for the first time since he misspoke and his spirit sank. There Seliph was, desperately trying to dodge his mother’s swipes, till finally one landed on his leg. Jaron looked to the side and watched Ciecro stamp his foot down on the ground, frustrated on Seliph’s behalf. “No, come Seliph, yah can still do it!” He yelled, then Jaron looked to his father.

Gathor’s eyes closed as he gave a little snort, leading to Jaron sniffling. Forcing himself to look back up, Jaron watched as Seliph was pinned down by Freya’s firm claw that wouldn’t budge no matter how hard Seliph struggled.

Gathor opened his eyes, uncrossed his arms, and called out. “Seliph, yah’re beaten. Yield.”

Seliph stopped, looking at his dad disheartened.

“It’s alright son,” Freya consoled from above.

Seliph let a little frustrated noise and reluctantly stated, “I yield.” Freya let him go and offered a hand to help him up. Instead of taking it, Seliph just got up on his own and without a word headed off towards the woods behind the targets.

Freya didn’t stop him but merely walked over to Gathor, who joined her halfway.

“He did pretty well,” Gathor concluded, Freya nodded. Gather was about to leave when Freya moved her left claw onto his cheek, making their gazes meet. Giving a nostril exhale since he knew what we coming, Gathor followed with, “Yes, dear?”

“He looked pretty upset.” Freya looked towards the forest, where Seliph went to sulk. “I think you should go talk to him.”

The Feraligatr moved his right claw to scratch his chin, much to Freya’s annoyance. “Can’t yah do it? He listens to yah more an’ all.”

“But he almost did it and he hates it when he fails by a thread.”

“That ain’t unique tah ‘im,” Gathor countered, looking towards the forest opposite where Freya was looking.

This was enough to get on the Charizard’s bad side. Twisting to face him with an aggravated scowl, Freya withdrew her claw from his chin and sharply chastised. “Gathor Ergon Almkin, you go talk to your son now.”

Gathor smirked and gave a defiant chuckle. “Yah know, dat no one is around fo’ dat to be a blow below dah waist.”

“Would a real blow below the waist convince you?” Freya said in a low growl, spreading her wings in a threatening manner.

Undeterred, Gathor looked back at her and crossed his arms. “Do dat and I won’ be able tah go oveh dere.”

Freya growled but strangely let out a sigh. “Gathor, please. I know you think I’m better at talking to him and maybe I am, but this is something you need to talk to him about. You’re his father and he looks up to you.”

Gathor looked to the forest Freya was asking him to go to and let his gaze grow serious.

Seeing Gathor’s inner thoughts be expressed in his facial expression shift, Freya moved her claws up to his face and moved them once more to have their gazes meet. This time his look was the stern, worried one and hers was the calm. “Seliph is a lot like you.” Her left claw drifted down, massaging his tense chest in small, gentle circles. “Strong, stubborn, hates to lose, lovable, silly.” She looked up to his face and with a mischievous smirk said, “Cute, cuddly, kissable.”

Gathor groaned as he took her hands off himself, grumbling, “a’ight, a’ight I’ll do it!”

Freya laughed a little at her husband’s tantrum and gave him a little peck on the cheek, making him feel a little less sour. “You’ll do great. Just don’t call him stupid and it should be fine.”

“Yeh, yeh,” Gathor halfheartedly said as he stomped off after Seliph, grumbling to himself.

Freya just gave a smile as her husband disappeared into the forest. I didn’t mention the best ones. ‘Good-hearted’ and ‘brave’. I love you. The victory celebration in her mind was interrupted by the little Charmander jogging over to her.

“Mom, is dad getting Seliph?”

“Yes, Ciecro.” She scooped him up in her arms, holding him in front at full arm’s reach. “They’ll be back, but for now we’ll head back home.”

“Mom…” Ciecro looked at her with a worried gaze. “Seliph’s not in trouble, right?” Freya’s confirming “no” brought the smile on Ciecro’s face back. “Good, because yah’re a hard nut to crack.”

“Excuse me?” Freya raised a brow.

“Dat’s wha’ dad says wheneveh he has to go against yah.” Ciecro looked at her with an innocent proud look, making Freya sigh at his naivety.

“Perhaps you’re a better sneak then I thought, you little berry.” She set him down and called for Jaron to come over.

Slowly, Jaron walked over, head downcast and mood upset.

“What’s wrong?” his mother asked, picking him up and looking at him concerned.

Jaron didn’t reply, just curled in her arms as he stared blankly in front.

“Jaron’s upset because he messed up Seliph’s focus,” Ciecro blurted out, earning a cold, hard stare from Jaron.

“You smashed berry!” Jaron shouted.

“Jaron!” Freya held him out front, by both arms. “None of that.”

Jaron’s anger shifted to sadness, as his head drooped down. “I’m sorry mom,” he said with a sniffle. “He would have gotten it if I hadn’t alerted him and because I did you got in the way and that…” Jaron sniffled and wiped his eyes as Freya pulled him to her chest and tenderly rubbed his head.

“It’s alright, you meant no harm,” she comforted him. “Seliph is better than to hold a grudge over something like that. You were just excited that’s all. He’ll forgive you.”

“Yeah, Jaron.” Ciecro brushed his snout with smugness as he added, “an' if he’s still mad I’ll knock'em back to his senses.” The two fire types laughed.

Jaron looked up at his mother and started clearing his eyes of the sorrowful tears. “I…I guess you’re right.”

“Guess?” Freya gave him a smart aleck look.

Jaron’s eyes narrowed as he stated, “Well, I dunno, maybe you’re wrong or right. How am I sup-” Before he could finish, his neck was attacked by Charizard snout nuzzling, a sad Jaron’s only weakness. Jaron started laughing uncontrollable, trying to push the snout away, but only succeeding in making Freya more relentless. “Okay, okay! You’re right, you’re right, stoppit,” Jaron pleaded amid his laughing, prompting Freya to honor the request.

Freya then set him down on the ground. “Alright, so let’s go home and work on supper. It’s getting a little late.”

The two boys nodded and were about to race off ahead when an idea crossed Jaron’s mind.

“Hey mom, can you do me a favor?”

“A favor?”

“I want to apologize to my brother, but I need you to do something. I want Seliph to know I’m really sorry.”

Freya thought for a second, then decided it was at least worthy of a hearing. She leaned down, moving her near the boy’s head to listen to her part in Jaron’s little apology scheme.



< O >​



Seliph curled himself up next to a tree, angry thoughts running throughout his head while he gazed at a little pond a few feet away.

Stupid exercise, Seliph ranted in his mind, curling up closer to the tree the more he thought about it. Of course, he’d include something like mom. Isn’t it bad enough Ciecro and Jaron cause enough stuff on their own without mom and dad making it mo-

His head twisted slightly as he heard some rustling nearby. Calmly, he stood up and pressed himself against the tree, listening in on the stranger approaching. The noise of heavy footsteps upon leaves and grass was getting louder as Seliph readied to pounce. Once Seliph was certain he was in striking distance, the Frogadier leaped from around the tree, punching with all his might. However, his punch was stopped by a much larger hand, clenching over it like one would hold a rock. Seliph’s initial surprise was replaced with a scowl as he looked up and his eyes met Gathor’s testy ones.

“Threw dat one too tightly. Would also pay tah see me before yah let it loose.” Gathor leisurely replied, letting go of the Frogadier’s fist.

Seliph pulled his fist back, keeping it close to his chest as if it was holding something dear to him. There was just silence from the two, neither wanting to say anything but knowing no conversation wasn’t an option. Finally, Seliph bore out his inward kept frustration by stating, “Leave me alone.”

Seliph turned around and started walking away, but Gathor put his hand on Seliph’s shoulder. “Wait a minute.”

Brushing it off, Seliph attempted to leave without having to turn around. His tracks were stopped, however, with a firmer repeat of the command.

“Seliph…wait a minute.”

Reluctantly, the boy complied, stiffening his body as he angrily stared at the pool of water. “I don’t want to talk about it. So just leave me alone.”

“Make me,” Gathor answered, getting tired of Seliph’s attitude.

This was enough to push Seliph over the edge. “You know I can’t,” Seliph replied in a hostile but still non-shouting voice. “Like you can’t take a hint.”

Gathor’s scowl stiffened at this sass from his eldest. Despite this, Gathor uttered no reply, nor did he say anything when Seliph mustered his defiance to walk over to the pond staring into the water from his standing position.

Gathor’s fists tightened as he let out a little growl. Mid-growl he stopped it, and looked at the tree Seliph was curled up at. Reflecting upon things, Gathor bent down and just looked at the spot. Symbolically letting out his aggravation in the form of a sigh, Gathor stood up and walked over to his son.

Seliph’s glower grew as his father’s reflection appeared behind his in the water. Without a word or any form of movement, the Frogadier watched the mirror image of Gathor move his arm slowly to rest on Seliph’s left shoulder. Seliph tried to shrug the hand off again, but Gathor wouldn’t give him ground this time. The clenching only tightened till Seliph’s gave up, submitting to the stronger mon’s wishes.

“Sit down Seliph,” Gathor asked in a dominant but attempted soft voice. His son obeyed, and Gathor joined him, sitting on his left. There they were. Father and Son, staring into their reflections, their minds steeped in hard thoughts. Once more the dilemma of silence crept up as neither could muster a word.

Getting impatient at his hesitation, Gathor almost snarled at his reflection. What’s de matter wit you? He asked his reflection. He’s only twelve fo’ Arceus’s sake. Not everytin’ is a battle, yah’re supposed to be past dat now. Gathor’s eyes softened as he took a glance at his son’s reflection.

Anger seemed filled in those eyes, but an anger Gathor knew all too well. The type of anger that hated everything in that moment. Everyone involved, including the self. The kind of anger that would resist even if the battle was unwinnable.

Gathor stared once more at his reflection, but now with a sorrowful look. Damnit…Dis is hard. I dunno what tah say. Wha’ would dad say? His searching for a starting phrase was halted by a grumble from Seliph. “Why are you here?”

A little bit relieved Seliph talked first, Gathor mustered up a serious but confident look at his reflection and replied with, “Tah talk wit'yah.”

“About how I shouldn’t have let a distraction keep me from hitting the damn target!” Seliph shot back with a tone that felt like it was being said to Gathor’s face.

Gathor scowled at this heightened aggression, responding with a countering. “I don' appreciate yahr outburst after I came tah talk.”

“You mean after mom had to ask you to.” Seliph crossed his arms and curled up, staring angrily at his reflection in the water. “Face it dad, I failed the exercise so just leave me alone. I don’t want to hear some dumb lecture from you about stuff I already know.

Gathor sighed, slightly turning to face his angry son. “Seliph,” Gathor calmly said, “yahr not wrong about yah mother tellin' me tah talk tah yah. But it’s not like I never wanna talk to yahs, son.”

“Sure,” Seliph rolled his eyes. “I’d be lost without your criticizing, wouldn’t I?”

“Criticizing…” Gathor repeated, this time with a faltering in his tone.

Confused by the tone change, Seliph looked at his dad’s face. All that he saw was the Gathor looking at him with dismay, almost as if Seliph had said something horrible. “Dad?”

Gathor’s eyes lowered, looking back at the pond with a remorseful look. “Criticizing huh…” In a lazy tone, Gathor asked, “So is dat all I say to yah?”

The uncanny reaction caused a small bit of guilt to creep into Seliph’s heart. Keeping up a firm tone and face, Seliph looked back at his reflection in an attempt to hide any backing down. “…Maybe that’s an overstatement, but…argh.” Frustrated and at a loss of words, Seliph firmly planted his hand onto the right side of his forehead, overwhelmed with a wheel of emotions going too fast to pick one to feel.

“I’m not good at dees things like your mother,” Gathor admitted.

Seliph no longer could keep up his angry stare in good faith. Relaxing his muscles, Seliph sighed and blinked his eyes a few times, pondering what to say.

“But I guess I shouldn’ be surprised. She’s always been dah betteh talker…and encourager.” Gathor turned again to his son, this time with an interested gaze and asked, “Did mom eveh tell yah how we met?”

Skeptically, Seliph replied calmly. “Yeah, she was tasked by her captain to capture or take you out due to your criminal reputation. She outsmarted you in y’alls fight and defeated you. Once she brought you in they offered you a job as a way to get you back on your feet.”

“An' eventually she an’ I worked hard enough tah join Team Alpha an’ later become mates. I was a hard bastard in my youth, but yahr mother broke me outta my dat state. She’s a wonderful person, takin' a punk like me as her bitch, heh.” Gathor finished followed by a chuckle.

Seliph hid his face, trying to obscure his childish grin at Gathor speaking of himself that way. Leaning in closer, Seliph devoting his full attention to whatever Gathor’s was about to say next.

“Yah know she taught me somethin' that I’m still trying tah do.”

“Speak Eastern," Seliph joked, earning a smile from Gathor.

“C’mere.” The Feraligatr head locked Seliph, rubbing his son’s head while the two of them laughed. After a few more seconds of playful punishment, Gathor let Seliph’s head go and lowered his head slightly as a smile crossed his face. Despite the smile, Gathor’s eyes indicated seriousness.

Seliph stopped his laughing as Gathor looked back to the pond. Slowly, inch by inch, Seliph scooted over and rested on his dad’s side as his father began talking.

“She taught me dat I’m okay bein' weakish an’ flawed. Yah know, my father was critical of me too.”

“Really?” Seliph’s eyes widened a little at the mention of his grandfather.

Gathor nodded, keeping his eyes on the pond. “I was really a great son an’ he wasn’t a great father either. I suppose it took yah mother to help me make up fo’ a lot of tings. Like.” Gathor shifted in his seat and put his right arm around Seliph’s smaller body, pulling him closer to his side. “I remember bein’ on a mission wit' yah mother an’ another teammate. I wasn’t strong enough tah cover dem both an’ as a result yahr mother got injured bad. I hardly left ‘er side fo’ a while. It was de first time I was truly afraid foh someone else instead of bein’ mad at failin’ because I wasn’t strong enough.”

This was a side of his father Seliph had heard from his mother, but never from the Feraligatr himself. Hearing this disclosure from his father sent mixed feelings into his heart.

“When she recovered, she assured me it was a'ight.” Gathor gave Seliph a stern look, snapping his son’s to focus, “I didn’t believe ‘er, so I trained every day. Pushin' myself furter and further, so I could neveh fail ‘er o’ anyone else I cared abou’ ever again. But one day she asked me tah spar wit her an’ I agreed. In our fight, she left herself open. Intentional or not I dunno fo’ sure, jus' dat I had a clear solid hit. ‘Owever, I couldn’t attack ‘er. It was den she show me how much she cared.”

To Seliph’s surprise, Gathor started rubbing his cheek like he had been slapped.

Taking a moment to think back and reflect, Gathor closed his eyes and turned his face upwards finishing his story in an almost trance-like fashion. “She punched my face an’ shouted, ‘yah tink yah’re so strong dat yah rather not fight me with yahr full power an’ treat me like I’m some pansy in de wind!? Yah need to get yahr self-righteous ‘ead out of yahr weak mouth an’ fight like de mon I know yah are. A bastard dat will die fightin’ alongside me an’ will neveh give into damn self-doubt cause he knows I like a man I can punch hard an’ can punch me back harder!’”

Seliph tried his best but couldn’t hold in his barrel of laughter.

Gathor blushed from embarrassment at his son’s chortling, but the chuckling was contagious. After the two calmed down from their laughter, Gathor turned to Seliph and said with a caring gaze, “Seliph I don’ want yah to be strong tah please me. I want yah to be strong so yah can surpass me an’ keep what yah value safe. Same foh yahr brothers. I want y'all tah be able tah fight wit’ me and laugh wit' me. We may be an annoying fam, Seliph, but I hope yahs won’t forget we want yah to go as fah. I love yah, son, an’ I’m sorry I neveh say it often.”

Not quite understanding the concrete though Gathor was saying, Seliph checked by asking his father, “So you’re saying love you all by being distant?”

“Naw, we still should try an’ be a close family, but you're yahself an’ so am I. Don' do yahr battles wit needin’ tah please me. I wanna rely on yah when I need yahs and I want yah tah do de same. Watch my back and let me watch yahs. Be angry at me. I want yah to be honest and I don' wish I was de perfect father, but one yah can love while punching his face in and one yah know would be proud of yah.”

Seliph felt all cozy inside as he moved his hand onto Gathor’s burly arm. “Dad.”

Gathor replied with a grunt.

“Did grandpa support you too?” Seliph looked up curiously.

Gathor’s eyes lowered, deep in thought. Giving a small grunt to break the silence, Gathor looked to his son’s anticipating face and said with a little grin, “Dat’s a story for anoter time. Besides, yah’ll get to see ‘im one day.”

“Really?”

“Yeh. But fo’ now, let’s go see yah mother before she comes out tah find us.”

Seliph giggle at the joke and was about to get to his feet, but was swept up by his Dad’s arm. “? Hey?” Seliph laughed as Gathor grabbed his side with both hands, lifted him high, turned him around carefully, and finally placing the Frogadier on his large shoulders. Gathor gave a goofy smile as Seliph hugged his dad’s head.

“Thanks, dad. You’re a brute, but I wouldn’t want any other dad.”

“An’ I’m happy wit you, Ciecro, an’ Jaron.” Gathor started walking home, brushing aside the branches and occasional brush as Seliph rode on his shoulder, holding his father’s neck tightly. Seliph rested his head next to one of Gathor’s Feraligatr spikes and asked, “You think grandpa would like me?”

Gathor smirked, answering without hesitation. “Of couhse. He’d like all of yah even if he’s bad at showin’ it.”

“Like you?” Seliph jested.

“Don’ make me hang yah upside down.” The two laughed once more as they journeyed homeward.



< O >​



Freya peered out of the window, wondering what was taking her husband so long. Surely he wasn’t that bad at talking to his own kid she reasoned, but the reality of how much time it was taking was staring to get on her nerves. Giving an annoyed growl, Freya turned to walk away from the window, but out of the corner of her eye she spotted movement. Returning to the window, she spied a Chesnaught stepping out of the forest. Oh? She peered closer at the mon and noticed he was wearing a green bandanna that had some hard to see red dots.

A ranger. A scowl covered her face, not one out of anger but worry. If one of the rangers is here something must be wrong. Those two better get back soon. I better see what this ranger wants. Leaving her watch at the window, Freya walked over to the kids’ section of the hut, peering in at the two boys playing inside.

She knocked on the doorway, grabbing the two’s attention from their play, Freya instructed, “Jaron, Ciecro, both of you stay and play in here till your father gets back, understand?”

The two nodded their heads, hints of curiosity on their faces as she shut the door.

After putting on an arm packet as a precaution, Freya headed out to meet this unanticipated visitor.

“Hello miss, how are the young ones,” the Chesnaught politely greeted.

Freya focused on the bandanna and confirmed the signature red leaved bandanna the rangers in their region wore. Despite this revelation, she remained uneasy, nodded her head in greeting and answered with, “They’re healthy. I assume something is going on for a ranger to come here.”

The large mon looked around a little and let out a little sigh. “I’m afraid I do have bad news.”

Freya’s heart sank. Tensing up, the Charizard asked, “Have you seen any of them? The ones I and Gathor have informed you about?”

Filled with consternation, the Chesnaught nodded. “Yes, I and other rangers have spotted mons that fit the eye description you talked about except that color was only in their irises. We’ve also found-”

Their conversation was interrupted by a shout from Gathor, stepping out of the woods with Seliph riding on his shoulders.

Freya let out a breath of relief at them being back. A smile crossed her face at seeing her husband had succeeded in his efforts. Reluctantly, Freya returned her focus to business and signaled Gathor the importance by flexing her right wing.

Gathor’s cheerful expression left him at receiving this message as he picked the Frogadier off his shoulders and set him down.

“Go inside an’ play wit’ yah brothers. Yah mother and I have business wit’ dis mon ‘ere. Be good and don’ leave de house.”

Seliph become nervous due to his father’s sudden seriousness, but understanding nod and headed inside.

Once Seliph was safely inside, the Feraligatr joined his wife. Without introductions, Gathor asked to be filled in on the news. After being brought to speed, Gathor’s seriousness was replaced by anger at the mention of these threats nearby. However, he kept his composure as he faced the Chesnaught and asked, “Have dey done anyting?”

“According to other ranger stations, there have been proven attacks on rural families. No more than a collection of one or two in a spot, but still nothing left but ashes. What you’ve told me about that group, it isn’t hard to deduce it’s likely them.”

Freya sighed. Despite the sympathy she felt for the victims of these recent attacks, she took relief at the thought that the enemy hopefully wasn’t aware of them yet. Gathor let out an angry snarl, pulling in Freya’s gaze.

Noticing their reactions, the Chesnaught adjusted his bandana and stated “It’s awful, I know.” Gathor just growled in reply, making the stranger feel uneasy. “I’m sorry if I misspoke.”

“No, you did nothing wrong.” Freya explained, “The red eyes are no doubt doing a ‘life gathering’ project in the area and well…we both detest the act.”

“Life gathering?” The ranger replied confused.

Freya nodded. “It’s what some of the red eyes prisoners called it when interrogated. All that’s been gathered is that it is attacks on small, rural areas. Enough to, I guess ‘gather life’ while not being big enough to grab too much attention. Sadly, that’s about as far as the Norfarion interrogations have gotten on that subject. We still don’t know why they’re doing it or what they’re gaining from it.”

This disclosure was a bit unsettling for the ranger and Gathor looked to the side, also clearly bothered.

Freya looked at her husband and with a bit of cheeriness in her voice asked Gathor, “So how was your talk with Seliph?”

The big Feraligtr scratched his head a little. “Well um…it wen’ okay. Wasn’t easy at first, bu’ at least he feels betteh an' uhm-”

She walked up and gave him a little smooch on the cheek. “That’s my husband.” Gathor couldn’t help but blush and let out a slight titter, while Freya nuzzled his neck a little.

A fake cough from the Chesnaught snapped the two out of their moment and back to the situation. “Well, I’ll inform the other rangers to evacuate the more rural families. You two should come as well.”

“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary,” Freya answered, surprising the ranger. “Considering your report of the mons doing these attacks implies that there’s a good chance they don’t know our existence here. Otherwise, if they did your town would be overrun with them trying to find us. We should stay here and try to weather this out. It’d be better for both our sakes.”

A nervous chill went down the ranger’s spine at the bluntness.

Gathor gave a short laugh and said, “Guess it’s a good ting dis place don’t look too suspicious. Dough, yah migh' wanna keep casual if yah don' wanna be killed off.”

Despite this just making his nerves worse, the mon gave a light laugh as well, bidding the two farewell. Although, before he left, the ranger pulled an orb out of his travel pouch. “Excuse me.” Turning around, he started conversing through the communication orb while the couple watched. After a few exchanges with the person on the other side, the ranger put his orb away, took a second to clear his throat, turned back to Freya and Gathor, and after a deep breath said, “Miss Freya, apparently a mon has arrived in town. Says he knows you.”

“I wasn’t expecting anyone else," Freya muttered to her husband, who was rather concerned by this information as well.



The ranger scratched his head, perplexed. “Well, if it helps you. He says he’s your brother.”

Instead of putting her at ease, the ranger’s news only made Freya give a low, angry growl. She muttered fiercely under her breathe, “Why in Arceus's name did he come‽”

After a gulp from her reaction, he continued. “He said that he wished to join you both after uhm … being smart and that he’ll join you two asap.”

Freya face-palmed and grumbled in annoyance, “Does he have a fucking death wish?”

With a smile, Gathor put an arm around Freya’s shoulder as he jested, “I wonder what he did to ‘be smart’.”

Freya clenched her fists and started shaking them slightly. Her tone grew rough amid her growling. “When he gets his sorry little ass here I’m gonna take his head in my claws and brea-”

“Welp, I need to go now. Those families aren’t going to evacuate themselves,” The Chesnaught said, hiding his discomfort under a mirthful tone. Darting away before Freya finished, the ranger waved back to the startled two and darted into the forest without glancing back. “Have a good day and stay safe!” And with that, he disappeared into the forest.

Gathor laughed into his hand at this unsubtle action while Freya rolled her eyes. Upon finishing, Gathor said to his annoyed wife, “Yah brother is pretty stubborn. He probably will be in biggeh trouble goin' back den whatcha do tah him ‘ere.”

“When he gets here I’ll pound that idiot’s face in!” Freya shouted, shaking her fists at the forest as if it was listening.

“You might not wanna, afteh all, we could use all deh help we can get. Especially if dey figure out we’re ‘ere.” Gathor pointed out.

Freya gnarled as she buried her face into her hand and gave a muffled scream.

Gathor just laughed as he pulled her close with his arm behind her neck and whispered, “Come on, it’s been a while. He can help us an’ let’s face it, he still is yahr little brother yah love.”

Despite the slight teasing tone, Freya couldn’t deny he had a point. She nodded, but added, “I’m still going to punch that loser’s face in.”

Gathor gave a nod, saying, “Let 'im have it, honey.” After sharing a little nuzzling of snouts, the two went back inside to tell the kids the news.
 

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 3
Obeying Orders?​


Seliph sighed again, adding another count to him looking at his bed, although he had lost count a while ago. It was currently noon and their father was busy inspecting their escape tunnels for the day so none of the three kids would have training today. Of course, Seliph didn’t feel like playing or doing anything much for that matter, just sitting on this stool and just staring around at nothing.

His eyes trailed around their room, finding their resting spot on his bed, again. Despite it being obscured, Seliph could almost see the key through the straw that made his bed from his imagination alone.

Slowly, his head fell as he mulled over all the things going on. Mom and Dad trust me to keep that key safe and if something goes wrong use it to open mom’s drawer and take its contents, and go to the tunnels with my brothers and wait till things are clear.

Shifting a little on his stool, Seliph looked at the window, wondering what his brothers were doing right now. Probably messing around. His eyes narrowed as he leaned over and rested his chin on his propped up arms. They’re so stubborn. I bet they wouldn’t listen to me even if I did want to take them. He paused for a bit, not sure how to feel about these thoughts. Sure, the two were twats at times, but it hadn’t bothered him too bad before. I just…want this to be over. Leaning back on his stool, Seliph looked straight up at the ceiling, rocking the stool back and forth with his body, although having it dangerously leaning close to falling over. Like, who knows. Maybe we won’t be… He gulped as he finished that thought with the word “attacked”.

Unfortunately, his gulping lead to him leaning a little too far back, causing him to fall over and hit the floor with a hard thud. He let out a groan and rubbed his head. Growling angrily, he kicked the stool away from him as he sprawled down on the floor, still cupping his head in his hands. Stupid stool. Slowly, he relaxed on the ground. At least it’s good to know Uncle Tethe is coming soon. Mom and dad didn’t seem pleased when mentioning it to us, but Uncle Tethe is always a nice thing. I hope when he does gets here things I won’t have to worry about that blasted key, or this stupid plan, or that damn ‘attack’ or any of this mess.

A knock on the door snapped him away from his thoughts and glued his gaze to the door.

“Seliph, are you in there?” his mom’s voice asked, from the other side.

“Yes, ma’am.” Seliph sat up, crossing his legs and cupping his hands in the middle, trying to look composed for his mother.

Freya opened the door, looking around at the room first before her son. “I heard a noise in here and just wanted to check on you. Are you doing okay?” She started stepping in, but paused when Seliph said he was fine. “What made that noise?”

Seliph pointed to the stool.

“Oh…” Freya walked over to the stool, bent down, and set it back upright. “Seliph, are you sure you’re fine?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well,” Freya walked over to the window, looking out at the white, overcast sky. “Training yesterday was a bit rough on you. I-”

“I can handle it,” Seliph interrupted, looking to the side as he reached out for one of Jaron’s balls.

Freya paused, a serious look crossing her face. Despite Seliph being a tough boy and capable of handling things Freya could easily tell he was still bothered. She looked at him directly, walking a few steps towards him and asked. “Seliph…are you worried about the news?”

Seliph started fiddling with the ball in his hands, keeping his head low. “…No”

“Is that a lie?” Freya got on a knee, bending her neck to move her head closer to his.

Seliph didn’t reply.

“Seliph, you don’t need to lie to me. I know it’s hard with all this knowledge and I’m sorry I had to thrust this on you so suddenly.”

Seliph scowled. “I can handle it,” Seliph stated, a little bit firmer than last time.

Freya gave a small snort in the face of his defiance. Standing up and looking down at him, Freya asked him in a calm yet authoritative tone. “Where did you hide the key?”

Seliph pointed to his bed.

Freya smiled a little as she looked at the bed. “In a spot easy to access, while at the same time not directly in the middle of the room. Good choice for a hiding spot.”

Her compliments eased him a little, leading to him letting calm down slightly. “Mom…” his mother looked at him, while he kept his gaze to the floor. “Who would attack us over that key?”

Freya walked over and once more moved her face in front of his. “Some bad group.”

“Why do they want whatever is in your drawer that this key unlocks?” Seliph looked up at her, his eyes clearly desperate for answers but were keen on keeping respect.

Trailing her eyes to the side, Freya let out another small, almost noiseless snort as debated on what to say. After a few uncomfortable seconds, Freya spoke softly, “Because it is something they don’t want us to have. Something that if studied could potentially undermine their aims.”

Seliph cocked his head slightly. “How come?”

Freya looked back him and smiled, “Don’t worry about that.” She moved her claws on his shoulders and licked his face to try and ease his tension. To her dismay, the unwillingness to elaborate seemed to bother him more.

“Why can’t I know?” Seliph inquired, looking at her directly. “Why won’t you tell me? Wouldn’t it be better if I knew what we’re dealing with?”

“Seliph, I don’t want to worry you more than you already are.”

“You think telling me what we’re going against would make me worry more?” Seliph spat, going to stand up, shrugging her arms off him. “Just go on and say it. Tell me what I’m up against so I know what bastards are putting my family in danger.”

“Seliph.” Freya stood up. “That’s enough tone. If you want to talk with me, then don’t shout.”

“Talk to you huh? More like talking to someone that treats me like a child.” Seliph crossed his arms and looked to the side.

“Seliph, you are a child.”

This answer made Seliph tense up. He gave a little snarl.

“Seliph…look at me,” Freya commanded. Seliph didn’t comply till she asked him again in an authoritative tone. As he struggled to look at her, a mix of anger and nervousness making it hard for him, Freya got on her knee and in a calm tone said, “I’m sorry I can’t tell you. Seliph, I…it’s not like I don’t trust you. You’re a strong, young mon, but I don’t want you to understand who they are right now.”

“Why not?” Seliph demanded, gaining confidence from wanting to hear her answer.

“Because when you find out how big the world can be you can never lose it. Seliph, as your mother, I want to keep you safe from as much as I can. I know one day you’ll be confronted with it and you’ll be in a world where you can see them, but right now you aren’t ready for such things. You’re twelve. Please…try and understand I don’t want to expose you to something that could harm you if you aren’t ready.”

“And if we are attacked?”

Freya sighed, pulling him close for a hug. “If we are…then know I have faith you will do the right thing.”

Seliph gave a lackluster, “Sure.”

These words hit her a little hard. Freya, pulled Seliph closer as she tensed. “I’m sorry.” She sniffled a little, causing Seliph focus on her. “I’m sorry this is happening. I never wanted it to, and I’m so…sorry.”

Seliph froze, not knowing what to say or do. He couldn’t must any words to say, despite him wanting to comfort her too. It was then Seliph felt it. His mother was shaking slightly. She never shook when hugging him. Slowly his eyes feel, his mind focusing on one thought that crossed his mind. She’s scared? Mom is scared still? But this isn’t like when she gave me the key…

This thought worried him, leading him to pull out of Freya’s grip almost by instinct. It was that moment he could see Freya eyes. They had a few tears, looking at him with a mix of sadness and worry, but far rawer than any other kind he’s seen before. Even when he saw her scared with the key, it was still his strong mother, but her face now. It looked like how he felt that night.

“Seliph, I’m-” she wiped her eyes, stopping her sentence.

“M-Mom.” Seliph reached out his hand towards her, but stopped before he even got it above his waistline.

“I’m alright,” Freya said, looking at him with a smile that looked like it was taking effort. Suddenly, her eyes widened as she gasped. “Oh, I almost forgot.”

“What?”

Freya got up and moved her claw on his back. “I need you to go find your brothers; they went in the forest to play.”

Seliph blinked a few times, flabbergasted at his mother’s change in mood.

“Bu-but mom.”

Her claw started moving him unwilling towards the door. “Now, now, we have to get things ready for your Uncle when he gets here. I’ll need you boys’ help.” After giving him a little nudge forwards she smiled and said, “I’ll tell you three what to do when you get back.”

Despite still processing this abrupt shift, Seliph nodded slightly and started walking out.

Once outside their home and venturing into the forest, Seliph thought about his mother’s face at that one moment. She’s been bothered by it too…probably more than I ever have been. And here I go, yelling at her. Seliph side-swiped a small branch as he walked on. Of course, she’d be worried, but you were too busy with yourself to see it. Arceus… Stopping for a second, Seliph leaned on a tree for a second to think about all this. I…I need to apologize to her. It wasn’t fair of me to just accuse her like that. Looking back at the direction he came from, able to make out their hut barely, Seliph nodded as a promise to himself. This gave him motivation to hurry over to find Jaron and Ciecro.



After a while of trekking through the forest, checking specific spots they would all play, and ensuring they weren’t the escape tunnel into the mountain, Seliph finally heard the sound of his brothers.

To his surprise, it sounded like shouting. He was about to rush off, concerned they were in trouble when he stopped him rush to focus on the context of what was being hashed out.

“Are they…arguing?” Seliph thought aloud. Stealthily, he followed the noises till he noticed there was a clearing up ahead. Deciding to get a view first, Seliph snuck behind some brush, got onto his stomach, and crawled as slow and carefully as he could to prevent detection. Finally, he reached a spot where he could see beneath the base branches of the brush as they shielded him mostly from view.

There they were, Ciecro and Jaron, yelling at each other.

What are they fighting about now? The Frogadier wondered, tilting his head as he propped his head on his arms to hear the scene play.

“Come on, Ciecro, it has to go on this string here. How do you expect to get this rock on it?”

“Can’t yah jus’ tie it up or somethin’?”

“It’d take too much string you dolt. We have to finish this before he gets here, now go get a smaller rock.”

“Hey! Yah said foh me tah find a rock I liked an’ I found dat one. So put it on dere, shrimp.”

“Moron, we’re making this to say sorry. This isn’t some little arts and crafts shit.”

“Fine, if yah won’ tie it on, den I’ll do it.”

“As if, I said go find a smaller rock.”

“No, so give it here an’ lemme do it.”

The two’s bickering grew and grew till, predictably, they started tussling. Shouting whatever mean insult they had in their mental queues as they struggled for dominance while their amused brother watched from his hiding spot.

As he watched the two fighting his eyes fell on the object they were working on. It looked like a bit of strong string and two little rocks. For a second, Seliph didn’t pay attention to the scene and just thought about everything. A small smile formed on his face, appreciating their attempt to make him a gift even if they wound up fighting instead.

Guess that makes sense. Those two always needed me to get along. Seliph crawled into the open and after dusting himself off headed over to the two. Crossing his arms and grinning down, Seliph casually asked, “Hey bros, what are you two fighting about now?”

The two froze in place. Ciecro, currently on top, twisted his head to look straight up at Seliph’s amused smile. “Uhm…notin’” Ciecro said, with a little bit of a squeal in his voice.

“This nothing?” Seliph asked with a mischievous smile, holding up the string in view.

“Uh…” Ciecro tried thinking for a minute, till he gave up after Jaron sighed.

“Okay, you got us.” Jaron gently pushed Ciecro off, rubbing his arm as a guilty, caught look crossed his face. “I just…wanted to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Seliph walked over to the two and sat down.

“Well...if I hadn’t, you know, distracted you back then you wouldn’t have missed.” Jaron wiped his snout as his head went downcast. “I’m sorry.” Before Jaron could react, Seliph was upon him. Giving him a big hug around his shoulders. “H-huh?”

“I forgive you, Jaron. It was mostly my fault anyways.” Seliph pulled back, keeping his arms on the Totodile’s shoulders as the youngest brother stared surprised back at the oldest. “I’m sorry you thought I was mad at you. I wasn’t mad at you at all, just myself.”

Jaron looked down for a second, before looking back at his brother with a little grin. “So we both screwed up, huh?”

“Yep.” Jaron fell into Seliph with a hug of his own. Their embrace was interrupted by some giggling from Ciecro. “What’s so funny?” Jaron asked, backing off for a second.

“Guess it’s because unlike yah two, I’m not a screw-up.”

The two looked at one another and proceeded to tackle Ciecro, pinning him down as the three laughed. "Screw up my tail!” Jaron shouted smiling, pinning one of Ciecro’s arms down while Seliph got the other.

“What should we do with him, Jaron?” Seliph asked, with a fiendish smile cropping over his face.

Jaron formed his own fiendish grin, albeit far more mischievous than Seliph’s.

“Uh, yah know I was jus’ jokin’, right? Lemme go, Jaron! Sel-heh…Sel-hahahaha.” Ciecro couldn’t speak from the sheer amount of laughter as Seliph tickled Ciecro’s sides with his free hand. Ciecro writhed around, first threatening and later begging for Seliph to stop.

“Say you’re a screwup, and we’ll let you go,” Jaron answered, laying down his terms of release.

Ciecro’s spine wouldn’t give in…at least for the first ten seconds of asking. It was around the fifteen mark of torture tickling that Ciecro submitted and said, “Alrigh’, yah win! Hahaha, I’m ahah a hahahaha screwup hahahehehe too.”

With the goods delivered, Jaron nodded and the two let go. Of course, as Seliph let go, Ciecro lunged at him trying to pin him. The two wrestled a little while Jaron watched, till he was dragged in by a spare arm from Seliph, cupping him in a headlock while Ciecro nuzzled Jaron’s head with his Charmander hands.

After about ten minutes of non-stop roughhousing the three finally broke up and just took a second to catch their breaths.

“Dat was fun,” Ciecro cheerfully said, panting a bit as he leaned back on his arms.

“Yeah,” Seliph replied, crossing his legs and resting his arms on his knees. “So, Jaron.” Jaron looked back at Seliph, as the Frogadier asked. “What exactly were you two doing?”

“Oh, right.” Jaron got up and walked back to pick up the string and a couple of stones. As he headed back, Jaron explained, “We were making something for you, but I guess we were too busy arguing and being slow to get it don-”

“Yah mean, yah were,” Ciecro objected, crossing his arms.

“I mean we were,” Jaron countered, as he sat back down in his spot on the dirt. “And by we, I mean mostly you.”

“Oh yeah!”

“Yeah!” The two stared at each other fiercely, about ready to go at it again till their intense gaze was interrupted by a rough yet playful tapping their shoulders with a simper.

“Hey, don’t start again you two, else you’re never going get it done.”

The two sighed and gave an agreeing nod. Jaron put the string and three stones out in the middle of their sitting circle.

“So, you both were making a … necklace?” Seliph guessed, rubbing his chin while looking down at the parts.

“Uh-huh.” Jaron nodded.

Ciecro leaned in and pointed to the string. “Yah see, we were plannin’ tah use dis string with dese stones tah make a necklace fo’ yah, tah sorta like give yah a remindeh dat we’re wit yah.” Puffing his chest a little with pride, Ciecro added at the end while pointing at himself, “Deh stones were my idea.”

“Oh?” Seliph tilted his head and leaned in closer.

“Yep,” Ciecro repeated, pointing to the rocks. “Yah see, each one is suppose' tah be one of us. Red is me, White is you and Blue is-"

“I wanted to say that!” Jaron piped.

“It’s okay, Jaron. This is from both of you after all.” Seliph patted Jaron’s back, convincing Jaron not to start once again with Ciecro. “So, how about we finish this.”

“Well…” Jaron rubbed his chin as he looked at the necklace. “The string is too strong to get all three of these one here.”

Seliph pondered for a second before announcing with a smile. “True, unless.”

Both Ciecro and Jaron looked at him confused, till they saw Seliph take off a few frubbles and begin attaching them to the stones and set them facedown so the frubbles wouldn’t get any dirt on them.

Then Ciecro took the string and attached each one to it with Jaron doing the finishing touches with a double knot. “There!” Jaron exclaimed with glee as he held it out front, the three staring at their finished product.

“Try it on,” Ciecro urged Seliph.

“Alright.” Seliph gently took the necklace from Jaron, who was biting his lip a little from worry that the hole wasn’t big enough.

To Jaron’s dismay, his fears were correct since Seliph couldn’t put it on over the head. “Oh no.” Jaron’s head fell, but didn’t stay down for long as Seliph reminded him that the stones were connected with frubbles. “Oh right, so they won’t slide off or anything if we need to untie it.”

Giving a confirming nod, Seliph did just that; he untied the necklace and carefully put it back one, making sure to tie it once more. “There.”

“It looks good on you,” Jaron complimented.

“Eh, it’d look betteh on mom, bu’ it’s fine on yah” Ciecro bluntly stated.

“Better than if you wore it,” Jaron teased.

“I concur,” Seliph joined in, as the two looked at Ciecro mischievously. “It might catch fire if Ciecro wore it.” The two chuckle, much to Ciecro’s annoyance.

“Y’all’re jerks.” Ciecro pouted.

Jaron shook his head as he pointed out, “You started this bro; you gotta pay up.”

“I was jus’ bein’ honest, yah shrimp,” Ciecro argued.

“So were we,” Jaron countered.

“Were not!” Ciecro snarled, taking a step toward Jaron.

“Were too!” Jaron retaliated, pushing against Ciecro’s head with his.

“Guys!” They both looked at Seliph, who had his arms crossed and was shaking his head. “Do you have to fight over everything?”

Jaron’s head tilted down a little, while Ciecro crossed his arms and looked to the side. They both were grabbed around their necks and pulled into a big hug from their brother. “Don’t feel bad, I love you two just the way you are. even if you fight a lot, you both at least care.”

Jaron’s eyes lit up as Ciecro formed a little grin as they shared in. “Sorry, we’re such bickerers.”

“Yeh.”

“Well, I haven’t been a perfect older brother either, but…thank you for making me this gift. It means a lot to me.”

“Dat’s dah point.” Ciecro chimed as he looked up at his older brother’s eyes. “Somethin’ nice fo’ yah to make yah happy.”

“Uh-huh.” Jaron looked up to Seliph as well. “And don’t worry, you’re a great older brother.”

Seliph just looked at the two, smiling boys in the eyes. It felt good, no great, to just be here far from worries or keys. Just here with his bros, who he knew cared even in their naivety. I’m so glad I have you two. Seliph thought in his head as he rubbed their heads with his hands, making them chuckle a little. You both are better little brothers than I give you credit for…no, you both are the best little brothers I could ask for.



< O >​



Gathor and Freya were sitting at the family table watching their kids at the window. The sun was about halfway past the tree lines now so the sight was very enticing to the trio of children.

“How long is he gonna keep us waitin'?” Ciecro whined in impatience.

“Your uncle will get here when he gets here,” Freya answered, clenching her fist a little.

“Mom.” Jaron turned around and innocently asked with a curious look. “Are you really gonna punch his face in?”

Freya’s face instantly shot red as she asked, “W-who told you that?”

“Now, now, hun.” Gathor patted Freya’s still clenched fist and cupped it in his two claws. “I tink it’s pretty obvious fo’ even a kid tah figure it out.”

Freya was at a lot for words for either Gathor’s attempt of a joke or simply covering for Jaron. She was about to protest but as she was about to speak Gathor lean in closer and kissed her snout.

“Jus’ don’ kill him. Migh’ scare deh kids.”

Freya smirked. “Did you tell Jaron that?”

Gathor growled a little as he looked at her with a fierce look. “Maybe, interrogate me and find out.”

“With pleasure.” Freya leaned in and the two started igniting the flame figuratively, making Jaron cringe in disgust.

“Blegh,” Jaron said, loud enough for his parents to hear it as intended and shifted back in his seat to the horizon. The Totodile, rested his snout on the windowsill and just blankly stared at the trees tops, slightly swaying as the sun’s circle slowly started creeping below them. “I hope he gets here soon. I don’t remember much about him.”

“You were three. But don’t worry, he’ll get here soon I’m sure,” Seliph answered, joining Jaron on resting his head on the windowsill, but more his head on his arms crossed. “I mean he probably doesn’t remember the route well.”

“Yeh,” Ciecro agreed with a snort. “Well he betteh, else I’m gonna-”

“You’re gonna what?” Seliph asked, giving him a smug look.

“I’m gonna hide in some bushes an’ pounce on ‘im.” Ciecro did a few visualizations for his brothers of him pouncing from the stool he sat in.

“Pounce at him like that and I bet he’d laugh more than get scared.” Seliph smirked at Ciecro, who crossed his arms and gave him a sneer.

Jaron was keeping his eyes on the window, although the back and forth of Seliph’s teasing and Ciecro’s stubbornness were amusing. Suddenly, something moved in the distance near some brushes. Squinting his eyes, the Totodile got up and leaned in closer, till finally a mon with red and white colors stepped into view, brushing leaves off his shoulder with his Blaziken hands.

“He’s here!” Jaron gleefully shouted. The two stopped arguing and immediately joined Jaron in staring at their uncle as he headed towards them. Jaron turned around to tell his parents but stopped in surprise at neither at the table. “Mom? Dad?” Seliph and Ciecro turned around and were also surprised by the disappearance of their parents. A bolt locked. The kids looked at the door, quickly rushing to it.

Ciecro stood on his toes and tried to twist the knob, but it wouldn’t budge. “Locked?”

Realizing their parents and must be already outside, the kids rushed back to the window and peered outside. Sure enough, there were their parents, waiting about a third of the way from the house, looking rather cynical.

“Freya, big sister, long time no see,” The three head their cheerful uncle called out with a big smile and an accompanying wave. However, their mom remained silent with only a scowl to greet him. An uneasy chill filled the child’s nerves. So far, their mom’s expression didn’t change even as their uncle got closer and closer.

“Seliph,” Jaron said, taking his view from the scene to Seliph, “Was mom like that last time Uncle Tethe came to see us?”

“I don’t believe so but it was a long time ago,” Seliph replied, glancing at Jaron for a second.

“You think he's in trouble wit her?” Ciecro added. They looked back and saw Tethe was now almost within three feet of the Charizard. The Blaziken reached out his hand but was instead socked in the face by a pissed off Freya.

“What? Come on, at least give me some kind of smile or greeti-”

He didn’t get to finish. Tetheron went spiraling to the ground from a strong jab to the cheek from an angry Freya.

The three kid’s eyes winced at this scene play.

“Why in Arceus's name are you here‽" Freya demanded seizing him from the ground by his throat and holding him in the air with one both hands.

“Wow,” Tetheron laughed along with a few coughs. “You can still punch me off my feet. I traveled a long way to get here so mind not squeezing so ti- ack!”

“Answer the damn question, you pathetic twat!” Freya roared, tightening her grip on the neck of her choking, antagonizing brother.

“Ack, fine! Fine!” Tetheron choked. Once she had given him enough slack to speak without having to struggle, Tetheron confessed, “I came because I was worried about you.”

“You pathetic, prideful, useless stain! How could you come here when you know full well why we’re here‽ Nasch spaces these visits out for a damn good reason, and yet you still came. You stupid, shrimpy, moronic, idiotic, poor excuse for a Norfarion elite!”

“Look I was worried, okay,” Tetheron snapped back. Freya paused in her ranting as the Blaziken looked at the side. “I didn’t want to just sit back and wait for news to happen or not. It’s just you, Gabber, and three kids all alone.”

After a few seconds of contemplating, Freya let him go. “I can handle myself.”

“I know you can,” Tetheron replied, rubbing his neck as he stood up. “I just wanted to help you both…even if it wasn’t for long. Besides,” Tetheron crossed his arms and gave a little grin, “despite your abilities sis, you aren’t exactly the best at surviving when you don’t have your tools and things.”

“Did you go all sentimental just to add more snark at the end?” Freya snarled.

“Hey, somebody’s gotta inspire your kids.”

Freya stretched her arm to slug him once again, before it was grabbed by Gathor’s. “Yahr nimrod of a brother is already here, Freya. Yah can’t send 'im back now not wit dem mons nearby. ‘Sides, It’ll be good tah have ‘is help in case we need tah figh’.”

Freya didn’t reply, just wretched her hand free from Gathor while looking at the side, growling a little. “I’ll be talking with you later,” Freya informed Tetheron, who nodded in understanding.

The serious look vanished quickly, as the Blaziken strolled on past the two, towards the house. “Alright, now where are my energetic nephews? Been dying to see them again.”

“He’s such a damn child,” Freya muttered as her brother walked up to their hut.

“But a helpful, damn child,” Gathor snorted, forming a grin where his frown was. “Yah know he’s jus’ worried for yahs.” Gathor cupped her hands in his and looked at the Blaziken, waving at the kids through the window.

Freya’s anger was sapped to slight guilt but also concern. “I just…”

“Hey.” Gathor moved one of his claws to her chin and moved it slightly. “I know. Yah want ‘im tah be safe an’ whatno’. Yah both work like dat.”

Slowly a small, comforted smile replaced Freya’s former dissidence. “Alright.” She nuzzled his neck, leading to Gathor giving a pleasured growl.

Their moment was interrupted by Tetheron calling out. “Uhm, mind if you open the door for me?”

Freya face-palmed as Gathor laughed.

“Well den, shall we all ge’ comfy.” Gathor walked for the house, pulling Freya by the hand.

Anxiously, the three children waited at the door, as the bolt was undone. Once the door swung open and their uncle stood in the doorway, the three kids all lunged at him, shouting. “Uncle Tethe!”

Tetheron caught all three, bracing back on his knee to prop himself. Laughing, the Blaziken set them down and rubbed their heads one at a time. “Well now, you three are gonna need to get fatter if you’re gonna bring me down.”

“We'll reach dat point someday!” Ciecro assured as if issuing a challenge. “An’ not by gettin’ fat.”

Tetheron laughed and knelt down to Ceicro. Gently patting Ciecro’s head Tetheron answered, “Just worry about beating me in a battle someday.”

Ciecro hugged Tetheron’s neck, giving a big smile. “I’ll beat yah so bad. Even baddeh dan mom.”

“That’s not a very tall bar,” Tetheron goaded, looking at his sister.

“Losing to me isn’t something to be proud of,” Freya reminded him.

Tetheron chuckled. “Fair enough, sis.”

“Uhm Uncle Tethe.” The Blaziken looked at Ciecro as the little Charmander asked, “Why did mom punch yah an’ den choke yah?”

Both he and Freya blushed from the naïve inquiry. Tetheron rubbed the back of his head and weakly laughed. “She just sometimes has to show me who’s in charge, right sis?” Tetheron looked at her in a jesting manner.

Freya sighed, planting her palm on her face once more. The six Norfarions then congregated around the table, talking, catching up, bragging, and enjoying each other’s company as the last bits of the sun’s circle dripped below the trees.



< O >​



Freya and Tetheron sat at the living room table, the only light coming from a single candle on the table. The door was locked, the window was closed and locked, and the kids were in their rooms with their father.

Without a word, Freya reached out for her cup of water, pulling it close to her side while staring at her barely visible reflection in it.

Tetheron was twiddling with his thumbs, staring straight down like a kid when they were about to get lectured for being in trouble. Tensing up a little as he heard his sister sigh, Tetheron looked up to his older sister with a serious look, more forced than actual confidence.

“I’m confident you know what I’m going to ask.” Freya looked over to him, their eyes locked in a manner that only added to the tension.

Tetheron remained silent, thinking it over while looking at the locked, wooden window shutters. He moved his hand and held it outwards, his palm turned to cup a tiny flame forming in the middle of it. “Before you lecture me for breaking form, don’t try and act like you wouldn’t do the same thing.”

Freya’s eyes narrowed, whatever sympathetic look they had now replaced with a realist bluntness. “That is irrelevant.” Tetheron’s eyes narrowed as well, as the flame he held out in his palm got slightly larger as Freya placed her arm on the table and rested her head on it. “I want you to tell me exactly why me and Gathor were sent here.”

He gave her a scowl as the flame evaporated with a clench of his fist. They kept their gazes locked, neither backing down till Tetheron growled before leaning back into his chair and propping his legs on the side of the circular table. “To study the Red Eye’s formula sample Nasch acquired.”

“Correct,” Freya said, taking a sip of her drink. “And why can’t they simply have researchers, synergenists or simple biologists look into it back home in Norfair?”

Tetheron rolled his eyes and looked away from her. “Stop talking to me like I’m a child.”

Freya didn’t reply immediately, just looking at the flame trickling between them. “I want you to understand the gravity of this.”

“You think I don’t?” Tetheron set his legs down and firmly glared at her. “I read the reports of their attempts to steal the formula, I’m well aware of what it took to get it, and I agree with Nasch’s decision.”

“Then why are you here risking us more?” Freya demanded, in a commanding tone.

“I told you why. Because I just couldn’t take it anymore,” Tetheron snapped back. “I haven’t seen my older sister in five years… five years, Freya.”

Freya’s eyes lowered slightly, looking to the side as she listened.

“I understand the rules and why you had to be on this task, but Arceus damn do I hate the reasons.” Tetheron leaned in closer as he looked at her. “Did you hear about father?”

Freya shot her gaze back. “What about him?”

“Exactly.” Tetheron slouched back in his chair. “It’s like you don’t exist anymore.”

“That was the point of me coming here,” Freya argued.

Tetheron tensed, his arms crossed and eyes looking downwards. “I needed to see you all. Gathor, my nephews, you. I just…needed to come here. I want to help you.”

“What are you trying to tell me?” Freya inquired, almost as if Tetheron never spoke at all.

With a slightly hurt look, Tetheron looked to the side and mumbled, “Father passed away three weeks ago.”

Freya’s eyes widened, almost like his words had been a dagger plunged in her stomach. Before she could formulate words, Tetheron spoke again.

“I know you weren’t very close to him, but at the same time, you know what that means. My family is off here on Triacal in the middle of nowhere, researching a formula that would give those red eyes terrorists ample reason to kill all of you.”

“Tetheron…” Freya didn’t know what to say.

“I know what I did…was wrong, but I’ll accept whatever punishment Nasch will give me. I want to be with you all. I don’t care what you think of me, you’re still my older sister, and I’ll gladly take a hit to the stomach if it means you come out okay.”

Freya growled softly as her fists clenched firmer around her cup. “It’s not just some punishment, Tetheron. We’re talking about court-martial.”

“You think I came here not knowing that?” Tetheron accused.

“No, I bet it wouldn’t have stopped you.” Shooting him a firm stare, Freya added with. “Which is exactly why I’m mad at you for throwing yourself just to see me.”

Tetheron paused, not replying but keeping a firm, defiant look back at Freya. After taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she took a deep breath, looking at him straight in the eyes with a calm look, and said, “This situation is much bigger than you or me. I understand more than you think I do. I’ve missed you as well, but I understand why I can’t leave, because doing so would only put my family here at risk and all the mons that my research results could potentially help.”

Disapproving and bothered, Tetheron kept silent, staring at the floor like a kid sulking from a punishment.

“But…” Tetheron raised a brow as she looked at him with a sincere smile and continued, “I am glad you’re here.” Getting out of her seat, Freya walked over to the window, feeling the lock with her claw as she stared idly at the small line of blue light coming through the middle.

“And you’re probably right.”

He raised a brow as Freya undid the lock.

“I would have done the same thing,” Freya answered, opening the shutters to let in the moonlight. “But even if I would that doesn’t make it right.” She turned around and stated, “So, since you will be staying then you’ll need to follow any orders me and Gathor give you without question.”

Tetheron smirked as he rested his arm on a knee and jokingly replied, “So is this your excuse to get me to do chores?”

“This is me compromising and saving your ass.” Freya walked back to her seat while giving him an understanding look. “I know you meant well, but deviating from the plan could put us all at risk. The big reason why they sent me and Gathor out here was so that there wouldn’t be the risk of an information leak or a traitor on the Red Eye’s payroll selling us out.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tetheron sat back up and moved his arms on the table. “I am … sorry for causing all-”

Freya raised a claw for him to stop. “I’ll talk with Nasch but I want you to understand what we’re dealing with here. A group that wants to keep whatever dark secrets lie in that liquid I have locked up hidden from the world. You’re a grown male Tetheron and I’m going to treat you like one. Can I trust you?”

Tetheron smiled and nodded. “I’ll be damned if I stand idly while my big sister gets all the punches.”

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that,” Freya added, taking another sip of her drink.

“True.” Tetheron leaned back in his seat and propped his legs up once more, looking at the rooftop.

Once she set her cup down, Freya’s eyes shifted from infected by her brother’s energy to more melancholy. “I hope his burial was good.”

“Dad’s?” Tetheron clarified.

“Yes. I wish I could have been there to help you.”

Tetheron made a little noise, attempting to lighten the mood and lessen her guilt load. “Nah, it wasn’t that hard. Just make a little speech and all that. The usual Norfarion style send off and the rest is boring add-ons.”

Freya looked at the door behind her specifically the light beneath it, where the faint shadows hinted at some fun happening inside. “I wonder if he would have liked them.”

Tetheron joined her in looking at the door. “I dunno. Maybe Seliph, but the others are a bit young for his taste.” At last, Tetheron took a sip of his own drink. “I’ll always be impressed at how oblivious that old coot could be. We could be invaded and he wouldn’t notice.”

The two chuckled for a few seconds. “Speaking of invasion,” Freya began, taking another sip from her drink. “How are the tensions between the clans and collective?”

“About as good as before you left,” Tetheron answered.

“Still that bad…” With a heavy sigh, Freya looked at her drink once again, slightly wobbling it in her grasp.

“You’d think three hundred thousand years would be enough to make things cool down, but nope.” Tetheron gave a wave of his arm for emphasis. “Still about ready to tear into the other or at least expecting the other one to do it.”

“The Collective isn’t exactly friendly with the clans and vice versa. It was our ancestors that invaded and controlled them till Mextrein won independence three hundred thousand years ago. Since then it’s just been mild skirmishes, mild scoffing, and other peacetime tensions,” Freya pointed out. “I’m more amazed either side hasn’t full on-invaded yet.”

“Well, Bermuda’s bad enough to get their attention.” Tetheron formed a little diamond shape in his hands. “That place is a shithole right now, what with everyone up for grabs. Though, I gotta say the Amestrian and Yveshian tension has us busy too.” Tetheron shrugged his shoulders. “But in all honesty, why can’t mons just get along? Live and let live?”

“I’m guessing you mostly refer to the clans and the collective,” Freya rested her head on her arm again as Tetheron snapped saying,

“Bingo. I mean, I’m no peacemaker, but come on.” Tetheron pointed at his sister as he added, “I mean, fucking Nasch is half Sorphian and half Norfairon yet he’s doing well.”

“Nasch earned his spot from hard work, effort, and winning trust.” Freya set her empty cup aside and gazed at him. “And it’s not like there aren’t groups that still distrust him for the ‘half-blood’ part he shares with Sorphia. There’s history to unpack and all.”

“Fuck those guys.” Tetheron looked towards the window and exclaimed, “Nasch has done more good for Norfair than whatever Sorphian complaining punk has done in their local bar.” Tetheron stood up and with a mocking tone said, “Duh, like I know, this Nasch has done like a lotta things, but he’s part Sorphian and that’s baaaaaaad.!”

Freya sighed and shook her head, albeit slightly amused at Tetheron’s childish antics. “Maybe you are a child.”

Taking it as a tease, Tetheron smirked back. “Better to be a child than boring.”

Freya rolled her eyes, countering with, “Better to be boring that snapped in half by a boring person.”

“As the Amestrians would say.” Tetheron gestured his arm out and pulled the other claw to his chest almost as if singing to his dear sister. “Touché”

Freya smacked his arm away, chuckling a little with her brother. “Well, I suppose we should let the kids back in.” Freya got out of her seat and stretched her wings as Tetheron opened the door.

“Hey kids, I’m free fr-” Tetheron exclaimed just as he swung the door open. Before he could finish, Ciecro pounced at him but was caught by his larger uncle.

“Damnit, yah didn’ fall!” Ciecro growled, sulking as Tetheron held him outright at arm’s length.

“Well, get a little bit bigger and maybe I will,” Tetheron encouraged the little Charmander while giving him a big bear hug, making Ciecro giggle.

Looking up at his uncle, Ciecro asked, “Hey, Uncle Tethe, can yah play wit me?”

Tetheron moved his hands away from Ciecro and propped them into a thinking position. “Hmm…Hhhmmmm…” For a few minutes, Tetheron just kept pretending to think, which was starting to make Ciecro lose his patience.

“Heh, stop torturin’ dah boy Tetheron,” Gathor laughed, scooping Ciecro up in one arm.

“Very well,” Tetheron nodded, “What shall we do then?”

“Battle!” Ciecro blurted out with excitement.

“It’s too late for that.” Freya entered and shut the door behind her. “It’s almost time for you three to go to bed.”

“But mom,” Ciecro pleaded.

“No “but mom”’s Ciecro. You know the rules.” Freya picked Ciecro from Gathor’s arm and set him down.

“Aww, but Freya,” Tetheron added in, taking a similar tone to Ciecro’s pleading but with a teasing grin on his face.

“Don’t you dare start,” Freya ordered. “They need their sleep.”

“True, but.” Tetheron got on a knee, scooped Ciecro, and lifted him on top of his head. “If I wear this little guy out, he’ll be lights out faster than a Volbeat after three hours of flying.”

While not exactly convinced by his rather exaggerated analogy, Freya looked at Ciecro who was giving her his “desperate” look. Gritting her teeth, she tried to fight the cuteness of her Charmander son, but finally she caved, grouchily grumbling out, “You have ten minutes before I drag you back in.”

Tetheron held his hand up for Ciecro to slap it with his tinier ones and the two victors proceeded outside, celebrating their win over Freya’s stubbornness, who was starting to regret her decision.

At least, till Gathor put his arms around her neck and nuzzled her from behind. “Want to go watch the kids play?” He asked her.

“I wouldn’t mind that,” She answered, moving her tail slowly around his. Gathor moved his head slightly away from her so his Feraligatr jaw could kiss her on the cheek.

“Hey, Gathor!” Tetheron boomed, causing the two to give him annoyed glances at ruining their moment. “Maybe I can battle you after this little guy,” Tetheron asked, pointing to Ciecro who was also behind this idea.

Gathor rolled his eyes. “Naw,” he answered.

“Oh come on, you fatty. It’ll be good for you.”

Freya looked at Gathor and back to Tetheron. “I think you mean it’d be good for you Tetheron.”

The Blaziken rolled with the verbal punch and just asked again. “Come on Gathor, I want to see what you can do.”

“Yeah!” Ciecro backed up, almost mindlessly supportive.

Gathor snorted as he stepped from Freya. “Fine, but yah primed if yah tink yah can win.” He growled at the Blaziken as he walked past, while Tetheron smirked at him competitively.

“I hope you’re ready for broken legs.” Freya crossed her arms and shook her head. “He hates getting interrupted.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Tetheron spun around and followed Gathor outside, with Ciecro still clinging on his head.

Freya was about to follow, but quickly took a second to check on Seliph and Jaron, who were busy playing a game in the corner. “You two want to join us?”

“No,” Jaron answered, carefully studying the board.

“When we finish we can,” Seliph added.

Satisfied with Seliph’s answer she nodded and headed out.

“You think we’ll be done by then?” Jaron asked, keeping his eyes on the board.

“I dunno.” Seliph returned his gaze to the checkers board and said, “Okay, it’s your move.”

“I know,” Jaron roughly replied, frustrated that it was still his turn after what felt like an hour of studying the board. After a while of pondering, Jaron moved a piece only to wind up being jumped thrice by one of Seliph’s pieces. “Come on!” Jaron growled as he rested his snout on the floor, frustrated.

“Yeah, sorry bro, but you left an opening and all.”

Jaron rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling, bummed.

Seliph raised a brow as he leaned toward Jaron a little. “You okay?”

Jaron sighed and just muttered, “I’m gonna lose to you anyway.”

“Well with an attitude like that.” Seliph pointed out, as Jaron rolled back on his stomach.

“But you’re better than me at this game,” Jaron argued, sulking.

Seliph shrugged. “Well, I have to be better than you at some things, else what kind of an older brother would I be?” Seliph jested.

Jaron wasn’t amused by the joke. “You mean everything,” Jaron muttered, turning his gaze towards the wall to his right.

Seliph raised a brow. “Come on, Jaron, don’t be like that. You’re better than me at a lot of things.”

“Like what?” Jaron asked, lazily looking up at his brother. As Seliph started thinking, Jaron’s look fell to the pieces on the board, still resting there and mocking him almost. Such a stupid play that anybody would know not to do, at least anybody but him. The checkers lead to him thinking about other instances, other screw ups, even the recent one with Seliph.

After what felt like ages, Seliph finally gave his answer, albeit with a rather weak smile. “You’re better at biting than me.”

Jaron’s eyed him with an unconvinced look. “Hooray,” Jaron grumpily said, rolling his eyes.

“Well that’s just one thing,” Seliph encouraged.

Unfortunately, this didn’t help Jaron’s mood at all. “I’m stupid.” Seliph’s eyes widened at the sudden out loud thought from Jaron. “I make stupid checker moves, I make noise, and I can’t even make a gift without you needing to make it.”

Seliph leaned in closer, concerned.

Jaron sniffled a little, moving his claw to one of the pieces and tapping one of his claw nails on it. “I just wanted to make you something, but you had to help me get it done. I’m stupid, not strong like Ciecro or smart like you.” Jaron made little sad noises as he just lazily sprawled on the floor, eyeing the piece with a saddened gaze.

“Jaron, you’re not st-” Seliph paused for a second, trying to think of what to say. What can I say to cheer him up? He isn’t stupid just young and he at least cared enough to … cared! Seliph snapped his fingers. “Hey, Jaron.” Seliph crawled over to Jaron’s side and informed him. “I thought of something else you’re better at than me.”

“What…” Jaron said, not out of curiosity, but just more or less just a normal response.

“You’re a better brother than me.”

Jaron instantly shot his stare at Seliph, sitting up in complete shock at Seliph’s comment. “H-huh? No, I’m not.” Jaron protested as he shifted to face Seliph directly, “I made you mess up and I couldn’t make your gift.”

“Buuuuuut, you were just cheering me on, and you wanted to make that gift to cheer me up and say sorry.” Seliph patted Jaron on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t have done that as soon as you did. I probably would have just said sorry instead of make a gift to make you feel better.”

Jaron’s stare slowly changed from surprise to actual curiosity. “…A…are you sure?”

“Sure I’m sure.” Seliph looked at the board and Jaron’s gaze followed his. “I’m lucky to have a brother like you. I know you’ve got my back since you care and you know what?”

“What?” Jaron leaned in closer, wondering what Seliph was getting at.

“That’s something I’m learning from you. To be a good older brother and well…I’ll do my best. I’m on your team Jaron, and I always will be, just like how you’re always on mine.”

Jaron looked down, wiping his eyes a little as a smile formed on his face. A few noises came from him, like he was trying to say something, but they were replaced with Jaron quickly hugging Seliph’s, squeezing him as tight as he could.

Seliph gave a chuckle as he patted Jaron’s back, glad that he succeeded.

It wasn’t long before Jaron looked up to him, looking better. “Thanks Seliph,” Jaron said, quickly retreating one of his arms to rub his snout and sniffle. “I’m glad you’re my brother too.”

“Yeah.” Seliph pulled Jaron back in with his arms and Jaron hugged around Seliph’s abdomen. “We’re brothers Jaron and always will be.”

“Always,” Jaron started smiling a content smile, even after Seliph broke their hug. “You, me, and Ciecro,” he gleefully said, cupping his arms near his stomach.

Seliph nodded. “Well, if we aren’t going to play anymore, guess we should put this aw-”

“Uhm…” Jaron interrupted, his hands started fiddling. “I’m feeling…better now, so how about we play again?”

“I thought you didn’t want to play anymore.” Seliph grinned, already knowing the answer.

“Well.” Jaron’s hands shifted to rubbing his arm as he fumbled for an answer. “I gotta beat you once so let’s play again!” He showed Seliph a competitive smile, hoping this would convince his older brother.

Seliph chuckled to himself at Jaron’s obvious but well-intentioned lie. Sure you do. Crawling over to his side, Seliph started resetting the board for their next game, with Jaron’s help of course.



< O >​



The trees swayed in the nighttime breeze as the stars above glistened brightly, not hindered by any town or city lights. It was a beautiful sky to look up at although that would have to wait. Today was the day he’d do it. Today was the day that Ciecro would beat Tetheron in a battle the Charmander told himself, snarling slightly with anticipation.

Just across the path that cut through to their house where his goal, Tetheron, was stretching for the battle. Tetheron definitely was tall, just about the size of dad, but that didn’t matter. Ciecro had a plan, and when the opportunity struck he’d use his secret weapon.

After finishing his pre-battle stretches, Tetheron stood up and stared at his “ready to play” nephew. His eyes went right as Ciecro’s went left, both looking at Gathor, standing in the middle of the path about ten yards from the door to their house.

“Okay, yah both ready?” he called out to the combatants.

Tetheron nodded and Ciecro shouted, “Yeah!”

Gathor nodded, crossing his arms as he spoke. “Dis’ll be a battle by dah Norfarion combat rules fo’ youth. Moves may only be used by dah kid. Deh one who gets ‘is opponent to yield firs’ is dah victor.”

Tetheron gave a third finger up as Ciecro twitched for the battle to start already.

Seeing confirmation. Gathor swung his arms and tensed them at his sides, and shouting, “Clash!”

Tetheron was the first to move. Charging forwards while bent low, he blazed the distance between him and Ciecro in a matter of seconds. Leaping while spinning for a jump side kick, Tetheron twisted his body further to bring his leg sharply down on the little Charmander.

Despite how fast Tetheron moved, Ciecro managed to dive for the side, scrambling back to his feet as Tetheron pushed forwards and put a handspring’s distance between him and his nephew.

Smirking, Tetheron faced Ciecro. “Good dodge, but that’s just a fraction of what I can do.”

Ciecro frowned, putting on his serious face as he kept a steady look on his Uncle. Okay, I gotta be careful. Uncle Tethe’s legs are talleh dan me so I gotta wait fo’ dah openin’ I need. Till den, play soft.

By this time, Gathor had walked backwards back to the house, enjoying the show. He gave a little grunt at Tetheron’s threat and turned around only to be surprised at Freya’s very stern look. It took him a second to notice it wasn’t him she was staring at. “Yah havin’ one of dem motherly moments?” Gathor asked, joining her side.

She gave him a disapproving look and said, “No you idiot.”

Gathor raised a brow and inquired, “den what’s got yah look-”

“Ciecro can take a beating, but I wish Tetheron would…” Freya looked down for a second and mentally facepalmed as she added, “tone it down with the strikes.”

Gathor nudged her with his elbow and said jokingly, “So yah are havin’ one of dem motherly moments.”

“You want our son to have a broken skull?” She gave him a serious look. “I know you won’t take it too far, or at least don’t take it too far now. But Tetheron is acting like he’s fighting yo- Ciecro look out!” she shouted, although to her relief Ciecro had already evaded the axe kick levied at him.

Gathor crossed his arms and watched, his jesting gaze going as he assured her with, “Tetheron ain’t stupid. He knows Ciecro is jus’ a kid.”

“I know.” Freya sighed. “Maybe it’s just something else.”

“Oh?”

“My brother’s rather…well…” Freya looked at Gathor and asked, “Did you ever break any bones as a kid?”

Gathor scratched his chin, pondering. “A few.”

Freya returned her focus to the fight, not exactly happy about that answer. “I just hope Ciecro can handle whatever Tetheron throws at him.”

Gathor put his arm over Freya’s shoulder and leaned his head on hers. “He will. Wanna know why?”

She gave him a curious look as Gathor pointed to her. “He gets ‘is stubbornness from yah.”

Freya gave a little smile at the jest with a good point to it. She looked back at the battle, focusing on Ciecro’s attempts at evading getting hit or slammed and narrowed her eyes. “You can beat him Ciecro!” she shouted.

“Give dat cock a surprise he’ll neveh forget.”

While appreciative of the cheering, Ciecro couldn’t really divert any attention towards them. It was taking a lot to simply evade all Tetheron was throwing at him and without giving Ciecro an opening.

After dodging a few more kicked, Ciecro spied Tetheron go for a leg sweep. Attempting to jump over it, Ciecro suddenly spied Tetheron shift his hips the other way. Quickly, Ciecro’s eyes managed to spy Tetheron sweeping with his other leg, this one aimed properly. With a hard whack, Ciecro was sent into the grass rolling a little before stopping on his stomach.

Freya gasped and Gathor scowled. She managed to avoid rushing over to him, waiting to see if he was still in it and sure enough, Ciecro started getting up. Filled with relief, Freya sighed as Gathor clapped and praised his son.

“Good block. Dat was some fast tinkin’.”

Ciecro had gotten on his feet by this time, looking at his parents’ proud faces. He then looked at Tetheron, who was nodding agreement. Dad…Mom… Ciecro rolled his arms and crossed them for a Norfarion defense. I gotta win now.

Tetheron charged once more, Ciecro waited as Tetheron got closer. Once the Blaziken was close enough Ciecro switched arms facing outwards as Tetheron went for an axe kick once more. This time, Ciecro shifted just enough to avoid it, while pushing at it with his arms, using the upper part of the X they formed to ensure he didn’t miss. Due to Ciecro’s interference, Tetheron had to move his arms down to catch himself, allowing Ciecro to pounce at his shoulder.

“Hey!” Tetheron exclaimed, but it was too late.

Ciecro pushed off the grip he had on the shoulder and did a hard jab on Tetheron’s neck. The force wasn’t enough to bring Tetheron down but was enough to distract him. Ciecro inhaled and blue fire started appearing in his mouth. Dragon Rage! He shouted in his head, unleashing it with all his might, or at least he would have.

To his dismay, his move was halted by Tetheron pushing up with his shoulder, throwing Ciecro off balance. As the Charmander fell from the shoulder he fired his move out in surprise, striking near the side of the house. Ciecro hit his side with a thud as he rolled on his stomach. No, not- too late. He felt Tetheron’s hands pin him by his upper back. Ciecro started pushing against it, ranting, “No fair! I had you!”

Tetheron just laughed, keeping him down till ten seconds had passed. “That makes ten,” he gleefully spoke, finally releasing his nephew.

Ciecro rolled on his back, disappointed and mad at himself. Sitting up, Ciecro grumbled, “I almost had it but…”

“Hey sport, you did very well.” Tetheron bent his legs as he moved his head more to Ciecro’s level. “Not many ten-year-olds can say they’ve pushed an axe kick.”

“Bu’ I had yah righ’ dere,” Ciecro protested, standing up and staring at his Uncle with frustration in his orange eyes. “I coulda won if I wasn’ so shrimpy.” Ciecro’s arms hung low.

“Well, on the plus side, you won’t be shrimpy forever.” Tetheron rubbed the little one on his head, getting Ciecro to eye-lock with him once more. “And if you can do what you did tonight now, imagine what you can do when you’re older. Best to learn how to do things now so you’re even stronger later.”

Ciecro smiled a little as he took those words to heart. “I’m gonna be tuff an’ strong like mom, dad, and yah.”

Tetheron grinned as he picked up Ciecro and set him on his shoulders. “Well, I like the idea of being a role model.” The two headed back to the watching parents, both with pleased looks on their faces.

Freya walked over to her son, picking him off of Tetheron’s head and nuzzling him as a non-verbal way to say she was proud of his performance.

Gathor smacked Tetheron on his shoulder, bragging, “Gotta say, if my boy can do dat to yah, yah ain’t got much of a chance come our age.”

“Oh shut up you big jaw.” Tetheron countered, “I just hope he doesn’t talk like you when he’s older.”

Gathor laughed. “He’s been talkin’ like me since he could talk.”

Tetheron raised a hand to his beak and looked at Freya. “Speaking of talking. Why does he talk like Gathor?”

“Oh, that.” She cradled Ciecro on his back as she explained, “You see, Gathor was the one to teach him Unown so he sort of caught onto the speech.”

“What was going through your head when let your western husband teach him how to talk?” Tetheron quizzically looked at her as Gathor punched his arm.

“And what’s wrong wit dah way I talk?” Gathor gave him a stern looked as Tetheron rubbed his shoulder.

“I’m just saying, why him and not the other two?” Tetheron quickly recovered.

Gathor snorted and crossed his arms as Freya rocked Ciecro. “Well, Ciecro didn’t start talking till three, which was near the time Jaron was so I handled Jaron and Gathor handled Ciecro.”

Tetheron nodded in understanding. “Guess that’s fair.”

“Now abou’ yah earlier comment.” Gathor stepped in front, pinning Tetheron to the door, making Ciecro shoot up from the drowsiness he was getting from being in his mother’s arms. “What’s dah problem wit me teachin’ my son how tah talk.”

Tetheron started fumbling over his words trying to come up with a reason. “Well, it’s not that it is…well a problem, per se, it’s more of…well the way you…sometimes you-” This messy display was finally ended with Freya walking up to Gathor.

“How long are you going to torture my brother?” She raised a brow as Gathor looked at her, forming a malicious smile.

“Gotta have my fun now and den.” He let Tetheron go, who gasped in relief.

“Wait,” he panted. “So…I’m not in trouble?”

“Obviously not.” Freya shook her head. “Did you forget Gathor’s sense of humor comes from terrorizing things?”

As the memories flooded back, Tetheron just shrank down, completely embarrassed he fell for Gathor’s basic bluff.

“What can I say?” Gathor opened his mouth and pointed to his teeth before continuing with, “Dese get dah job done.”

“Oh shut up,” Tetheron grumbled as, Freya, Gathor, and Ciecro laughed. Freya then walked over to him and offered a hand, which he begrudgingly took. However, the force of the pull was more than Tetheron was expecting, sending him into a kiss on the cheek from Freya. “Never change brother.” She said with a sincere smile, Gathor putting his arm over Tetheron’s shoulder and nodding in approval.

Tetheron rubbed the back of his head, rather embarrassed but the good kind. “Thanks sis,” was all he could say, and was all head really needed to. With smiles, the four headed back inside for bed, uncertain for the future but glad to have each other’s company.
 

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 4
Childish Answers​



“Come on, one of yah’ll win already.” Ciecro let out an intentionally loud yawn.

“Hush.” Jaron glanced at Ciero, hissing, “I’m trying to think.”

“Can’t yah tink fasteh?” Ciecro grumbled, rolling on his back. Despite how bored of the game he was, the ceiling was just as dull, so he tilted his head upwards till he could see their faces upside-down. As he watched Jaron grab a red piece, Ciecro let out another big, careless yawn.

“Ciecro!” Jaron snapped. “Shut up!”

While Jaron’s upside glare was funny to look at, Ciecro didn’t appreciate the outburst and was about to fire back till Seliph beat him to it. “Ciecro, please try and be quiet.”

Crossing his arms and sulking, Ciecro watched the two resume their lame game. Slowly, his eyelids started to droop as Jaron kept silent, planning his move. He watched Jaron finally pick up one of the wooden, black pieces on his side and jumping one of Seliph’s pieces. “Your turn,” Jaron said, a bit nervous about his move as Seliph browsed the board.

Since it was Seliph’s turn, Ciecro stopped trying to hold back his yawn. Jaron gave him an annoyed look, while Seliph more or less wasn’t bothered, focusing on what to do. The Frogadier grabbed a piece, taking one last look before jumping three of Jaron’s pieces and setting his piece at the end. “King me, please.”

Jaron’s mouth hung open in complete disbelief. “Wh-…bu-…how? Uh…”

Normally, Ciecro would giggle at Jaron’s mind exploding in front of him, but he couldn’t help himself to one more yawn, thus becoming the target of Jaron’s anger exploding.

“Damnit Ciecro, can’t you hold your stupid yawning‽”

“Bu’ I’m tired an’ watchin’ yah’ll play dat is borin’.” The Charmander yawned again, rolling on his back and closing his eyes as if he was asleep.

“Then how about you go to bed, you stupid baby!” Jaron shouted, starting to stand on his feet before Seliph pressed a hand on the angry Totodile’s shoulder, laughing at his brother’s fuming.

“You’ll get me next time.”

Jaron crossed his arms and sulked.

Seliph started putting the pieces away. After a few seconds of neither sibling doing anything, he looked up at Jaron, saying, “Come on, don’t be like that. It just takes some practice.”

Jaron rolled his eyes. “I doubt I’d beat you.” He knelt down to help pick up the pieces, as Ciecro continued not helping. “I bet I’d sooner beat Uncle Tethe than you.” Jaron paused for a second, staring at a piece before looking his brother in the eye. “Why do you think Uncle Tethe came here?”

Seliph shrugged. “He probably has his reasons.”

“Grown-up reasons.” Ciecro sat up and spun around to look at the board.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, Ciecro. Tetheron visiting before Uncle Swift and Uncle Garon’s turn seems uncanny.” Seliph resumed putting the pieces away.

“Plus mom was pissed at seein’ ‘im,” Ciecro added, standing up. Crossing his arms and staring at the board, He just stewed in thought before mumbling absent-mindedly, “I can’t wait till I’mma grown-up.”

“Huh? What did you say?” Seliph looked at Ciecro, tilting his head slightly.

“Grown-ups getta know an’ do all dah tings us kids aren’t supposed tah do.” Ciecro brushed his foot on the ground like he was kicking something light. “I wish I was a grown-up, den maybe dad would lemme do tings instead of babyin’ me.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say he’s babying you,” Seliph said with a smile, flipping one of his red pieces like a coin. “Plus, we are still in training.”

Ciecro scowled in return. He looked at the piece in his brother’s hand, tensing up a little as he focused on it. “…Sure” The Charmander turned around and walked out of the room, leaving the other two bewildered at his tone and exit.

Easy fo’ him to say, Ciecro grumbled in his mind as he shut the door behind him. He walked up and pressed his head against the wall, staring the floor with a frustrated gaze. After a few minutes of internal complaining, he heard Gathor’s voice coming from past the door.

“Kids! Come ‘ere!”

“Coming dad!” Seliph’s voice answered as Ciecro walked over to the door. The Charmander placed his hands on the door, listening for the two to leave. Once he was certain the two had gone, he slowly opened the door, his heart beating faster and his breathing getting heavier.

He squeezed himself through the crack and softly shut the door behind him. The flame on his tail flickered vibrantly as it shook parallel to his hands. After taking a deep breath and calming down, Ciecro let go of the knob and tiptoed over to their beds. He got on all fours and reached into the straw on Seliph’s bed, feeling around inside.

Come on, where is it? I know he put somethin’ ‘ere. His frustration grew at his lack of success till he felt something hard. In a moment of excitement, Ciecro wrenched his hand out of the straw and gazed upon his findings.

His eyes shot open as he felt something hard. He pulled his hand away out of instinct. Taking one last look at the door, Ciecro reached in and after a short count in his head, removed the object from its hiding place.

“Huh? Why does he have a key?” Bewildered, Ciecro peered closer. It was rather plain looking, though it had some distinctive markings unlike the others. Going full sleuth, Ciecro browsed over it, hoping for some kind of clue.

“Ciecro!”

Ciecro about jumped out of his scales as he threw the key up in the air. Quickly he dove and managed to catch it before it hit the ground.

“Ciecro! Where are yah‽” Gathor’s voice boomed from behind the door.

The nervous Charmander pressed the key tightly to his chest and answered. “C-comin’ dad!”

“Well hurry up. We have tings tah tawlk abou’ an’ don’ have all night!”

As the sound of Gathor’s footsteps stopped after another door slam, Ciecro plopped down relieved. However, not wanting to make them wait longer, he quickly crawled back to the beds. Ciecro took one last long look at it, memorizing the décor and design of the rather boring key, before placing it back and standing up.

He rushed towards the door, grasping the knob with his hands but suddenly paused. His eyes lowered as he looked to the side. Maybe…maybe I should- He looked back at the beds, debating in his mind. After a few minutes, he shook his head and with a determined scowl on his face, he faced the door and twisted the knob.

Silently, he went down the short hallway to where the light from the front room touched the dark corridor. He paused just behind the open door, taking a second to breathe before stepping around it and into the light. His parents had moved the chairs to one end of the room, sitting in them as if they were judges while his two brothers waited on their respective stools, moved from the eating room.

Without a word, Ciecro made his way to the last empty stool. He could feel the chills from everyone looking at him as the thoughts on his discovery lingered in his mind. Shoving all this tension as far into his head as he could, Ciecro reminded himself no one saw him as he climbed up and got comfortable.

Seeing he was seated properly, Gathor gave a confirming nod to Freya, who proceeded to clear her throat. The three kids in front looked at her as Freya began. “Your father and I have been talking and we’ve decided a few changes are in order.”

Ciecro leaned in closer as did the other two.

“Firstly, training exercises will be on the mountain. Secondly, we’re adjusting the boundary rule to the end of the front yard.”

“That much‽” Jaron blurted out, quickly closing his snout shut after a disapproving look from his father. The little Totodile curled a little in his seat. Both Seliph and Ciecro stewed on this news, till Jaron unclamped his snout and asked a follow-up question, although more respectful this time. “Did we do something wrong?”

“No, this isn’t punishment,” Freya replied with a calming smile.

Jaron let out a breath of ease, Seliph tilted his head, while Ciecro looked at their mother and asked, “Den why?” All eyes focused on him once more as he repeated, “Why are yah sayin’ we can’t play in dah forest pas’ dah fron’ yawrd?”

“It’s just a temporary measure, Ciecro. The town is busier this time of year so we are trying to avoid trouble.” She looked at each one of them as she asked a more general question. “Remember why we made the boundary rule in the first place?”

Jaron was the first to raise his hand. After a confirming nod from Freya, Jaron answered, while scratching the side of his head a little fuzzy on the details. “Was it when we accidentally scared that ugly lady near town?”

Ciecro shriveled in his seat as did Seliph. Yeh, she was ugly. Ciecro agreed in his mind, trying to wipe the newly popped up memory from his mind. Suddenly, he heard a snort. Looking up, he noticed Tetheron repositioning himself in the chair while doing his best to suppress his giggling his with claw. His dad apparently found it amusing too, keeping his eyes shut but a big grin on his face.

“Jaron, a Jynx isn’t ugly…just different,” Freya scolded mildly, rubbing the back of her face with a tired expression. Her eyes scowled immensely as the room was filled by Tetheron’s uncontrolled laughter.

Ciecro smiled at his Uncle’s reaction, laughing to himself but not daring to join out loud.

“Sorry mom,” he heard Jaron say, but upon looking at his little brother, Ciecro noticed Jaron was trying his best not to laugh too. Seliph also had a hand pressed firmly against a shaky face, trying to avoid making noise either.

Ciecro took a breath and waited for the laughter to die down and Freya to begin again.

“In any case,” Freya resumed with a bit more firmness in her tone. “We’re halfway through Xern so traders will be coming to pivot their wares in town. We don’t want to have another incident like that.”

Ciecro’s smile faded. He looked at the other two, who nodded in obedience.

“Ciecro?” he heard his mother say. His eyes were fixated on the floor as his grip on the stool tightened. He could feel his heart beat a little faster, as he looked his mother dead in the eyes confidently and asked. “Bu’ why now?”

Freya raised a brow. “I thought I explain-”

“Bu’ why dis year?” Ciecro pressed further, his eyes narrowing a little as his yearning for an ‘adult’ answer grew with every second passing.

“Ciecro, don’ interrupt yah mother,” Gathor rebuked.

The Charmander shut his mouth but kept gazing at Freya, who was rather confused at Ciecro’s constant gazing at her. She broke her gaze from him, probably trying to think of what to say.

However, Tetheron leaned in closer to his nephew. “Yeah, trust me pal, this year isn’t a good one to have you all out.”

Ciecro tilted his head, confused.

Seeing all eyes were on him, Tetheron shrugged as he elaborated. “Well, I mean, I’ve been in town and I’ve seen some weirdos there right now.” He patted his chest in affirmation. “Like, tons of them around, so that’s the main reason why it’s this year, right Freya?”

Tetheron had a confident smile on his face as he looked at the leering Freya. Gathor also looked at Tetheron with a disapproving look.

Ciecro looked at his Uncle with a leer of his own, more or less since his parents were.

“Are they more Jynx?” Jaron innocently asked.

Freya sighed deeply before answering, “No Jaron…not ‘more Jynx’.” As she answered, she growled at her brother a little.

Ciecro focused on the scene of his mother eyeing Tehtheron like a head to bite. Slowly, his eyes drifted to his Uncle, currently trying to do damage control and suddenly. “Den who?” Ciecro asked.

“Tradesmon,” Freya quickly replied, glancing at him for a second. “And Xern is their major trading month so we’re going to respect their space, right Tetheron?”

“Aheh, right, yeah of course.” Tetheron answered his laughter clearly showing remorse for his earlier attempts to help.

Ciecro’s eyes lowered as his fists tightened. A scowl formed on his face as he imagined the key from before in his hand. No. He quickly raised his head. “We scared dat ugly hag three years ago.” Hopping off the stool, Ciecro stared his mother directly in the eyes. He felt warm inside, powerful even as he defended. “We’re betteh abou’ dat stuff now.”

“Ciecro, mind what you say,” Freya scolded him, but he wasn’t gonna stop now. He just kept staring right back at her scowl with the best scowl he could pull. At least, till Gathor’s voice grabbed his attention.

“Ciecro, Yah mother told yah already. Now sit down.”

Ciecro’s gaze fell, but he clenched his fists. “But…but da-”

“Ciecro.”

He looked at her and instantly regretted what he saw. Freya was out of her seat, staring down at him with her snout slightly raised. Her eyes were as calm like white and orange glass. “Just a few days ago you were spying on the guest I was going to see, correct?”

Ciecro froze as his eyes widened. All his momentum felt gone as his head fell slowly. His nerves tingled all over as he felt his mother’s stare still digging into his head.

“Correct?” Freya asked again.

Reluctantly, he shook his head.

“The clearly you haven’t gotten better about it.”

The words felt like a Brick Break on his Protect. His eyes widened as they stared at the floor. Desperately, he looked up to her and said, “What? But yah didn’ have a problem wit it den.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Do you speak for how I feel?”

Unclasping his fists, Ciecro just looked at his mother, frozen.

“I was busy with our guest, so disciplining you slipped my mind. But I don’t want my son getting into any more trouble because of his curiosity and recklessness. Dragging this out further won’t change my answer. Now sit down before you earn a punishment, Ciecro Valm Almkin.”

The use of his full name felt like a deathblow. His head lowered as his shoulders moved slightly inwards. He closed his eyes as he felt the eyes of everyone on him, the silence just adding to the torment. Slowly, he turned around and walked to his stool and climbed up on it, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone.

Once he was back in place, he just kept his eyes shut, curling himself inwards a little as he just wished the meeting was over.

“Any other questions?” Freya asked.

The following silence felt like an eternity for Ciecro. Part of him wanted to ask, to get his answer, but he couldn’t do it.

“Get some sleep. We have an early day tomorrow. Dismissed.”

Ciecro waited till he heard the two walk past, not opening his eyes for a second. Whatever they were thinking or expressing, he didn’t want to know, same for the three adults. He just got off his stool and walked out, shutting the door.

He stood there in the darkness of the hallway, lost in his defeated thoughts as he watched the other two go down the hallway towards the back of the house to get ready. Nothing felt good and in the end, his best wasn’t enough. His fists clenched as his anger started to pick up, burning up from the shame he felt.

Slowly, he looked back at the door, a small scowl forming as his body started trembling again. Trying to be as quiet as he could, Ciecro crept back to the door, pausing with every step to suppress his nervous shivering.

Once at the door, he pressed the side of his head against its rough, wooden surface and the metal plating of the keyhole. The fire on his tail picked up slightly as his shivering died as he focused on listening.

“What were you thinking?” The angry voice of his mother uttered from the other side.

“I’m sorry, I thought he’d go for it,” Tetheron defended before Ciecro heard the sound of a whack followed by Tetheron grumbling.

“Next time, keep your stupid beak shut and let me handle my own son, damnit.” Freya grumbled, then sighed as she added, “Now they’ll be wondering who is coming to town. Arceus, ugh…”

Ciecro’s eyes narrowed, tensing up at the following silence. He relaxed a little once Gathor spoke up, “Don’ worry, Freya. I’ll make sure dey focus on dey’re trainin’ tomorrow.”

“It’s not that…Gathor I hope I wasn’t too hard on Ciecro. I know he’s just curious and he didn’t do anything wrong, but…”

“I know, I know,” Gathor’s comforted in a gentle tone.

Pressing closer, Ciecro mouthed, “But what?” His previous skittishness replaced by the anxiousness of getting what he desired.

“I’ll be sure tah check on ‘im.”

“What about Jaron and Seliph?” Tetheron asked, causing Ciecro to grumble at the conversation shift.

“Seliph already knows and Jaron will obe-”

Ciecro wrenched his head away before she finished, staring at the keyhole shocked. ‘Seliph already knows?’ Ciecro’s eyes lowered as his gaze drifted to the light coming from under the door. Dat key…Did mom give ‘im dat?… A scowl started to form as Ciecro rubbed his arm. Why Seliph? He sniffled. It’s not fair. The poor Charmander rubbed his snout with his arm, till suddenly he felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Ciecro?”

The Charmander let out a scared, “Dya‽” as he spun around, almost punching Jaron in the face.

Jaron backed up, raising his arms to protect his face as Ciecro’s startled expression shifted to a stressful angry leer. “Jaron,” he angrily whispered.

“I’m sorry bro, you didn’t come so I came to see-” Before Jaron had the chance to finish, Ciecro clamped his jaw and looked at the door. After a few seconds for the shock to die off, Jaron pulled at Ciecro’s grip on his snout, trying to tell him to stop amid the forced clamp.

“Quiet, do you want to get us into trouble?” Ciecro chastised in a whisper. The rebuking worked and Jaron stopped trying to pull Ciecro’s hands off.

However, both their eyes shot open as the sound of footsteps came. Shit! Ciecro screamed in his mind. Seizing Jaron before the poor Totodile had a chance to think and quickly pilling him to the wall, Ciecro remained absolutely still.

“Kids?” their mother said from the other side of the door.

Ciecro held tightly onto Jaron’s snout, pulling the Totodile as much into the corner made by the door as possible.

Despite the discomfort, Jaron didn’t struggle, equally worried about getting caught. After looking down the corridor, Freya sighed and mumbled something as she shut the door.

Ciecro sighed in relief as he let go of Jaron, who gave him an angry look.

“Did you have to hold it so hard?” Jaron angrily whispered, rubbing his poor snout. “I’m not five, Ciecro; I can be quiet without your help. So stop clamping me shut. I don’t like…it?” Jaron’s hands lowered from his precious snout as he noticed Ciecro pressed against the door, trying to listen in. Raising a brow, Jaron walked next to Ciecro and asked, “What are you doing?”

“Hush,” Ciecro commanded, pressing his head harder against the door. After a few minutes, the light underneath the door went out, followed by the sound of a door being shut. “No, no, damnit dey moved.” The Charmander broke from the wall, stomping his foot on the ground.

Once he had settled, Ciecro just looked at the ground, only look up once Jaron walked in front.

“What’s wrong?” Jaron leaned in closer. “Why were you listening on mom and dad?”

Ciecro scowled at Jaron. Crossing his arms, Ciecro snubbed him, refusing to answer.

“Huh?” Jaron tilted his head at Ciecro’s rather mean reaction. Growling a little, Jaron pointed at his brother and said “Mom and dad said we shouldn’t listen on them. So why were you listening? What did you hear?”

“I didn’ get tah hear nothin’.” Ciecro replied, attempting to shut the conversation down. “Now let’s go tah bed.” Ciecro was about to head down the hall till Jaron stepped in front.

“You did too hear something. You almost got us both in trouble for it. So I think I should get to know what they said too.”

“I said, I heard nothin’.” Ciecro repeated, growling a little.

Jaron wasn’t backing down, however. “That’s not true. Stop being unfai-”

“Jus’ shut up!” Ciecro snapped. Keeping a firm gaze, Ciecro watched Jaron’s former defiance shrivel back into surprise and then timid remorse. After a few sniffles, Jaron held the top of his snout, saying, “I’m sorry. You don’t need to tell me.”

Ciecro paused, his eyes dropping a little as Jaron rubbed his snout. After taking a glance at the door, Ciecro sighed and turned towards Jaron. “Sorry…”

There was an awkward silence, before Ciecro put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder, making him jitter or a second. “Let’s jus’ get ready fo’ bed, okay?”

Jaron just slowly nodded, quickly turning around and heading to their room.

Ciecro just watched in silence, his fists clenching. Once Jaron was gone, he put his head against the wall and just let out a gruff exhale. Aggressively, he pushed off the wall before walking towards their room. He kicked the wall hard, but not enough to hurt himself before exiting the hallway and shutting the door behind him harshly.
 

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 5
Tipping Point


A thud sounded as Gathor shoved a boulder into the ground. He smiled and dusted his hands, while looking proudly upon the impromptu move range he’d just set up. Shifting his smile to a frown, Gathor moved his hands around the boulder and shifted it to stand better.

Meanwhile, the three sat on a few rocks near the side of the mountain and watched their father tweak the boulders, like one trying to align a picture frame yet being dissatisfied with the result each time.

Move endurance trainin’ huh. Ciecro theorized in his mind, his prediction supported by the groaning from his siblings.

“Endurance day,” Jaron whined as he laid down on his boulder and went limp.

Seliph rested his arms on his legs and grumbled. “We already had to walk all the way up here.” With a heavy sigh, Seliph laid back next to Jaron. Shifting on his side, Seliph looked at Jaron’s displeased face and asked, “You ready for it, Jaron?”

“Blegh,” was all Jaron answered with. The two began sharing their mutual disdain for this exercise while Ciecro just looked off in the distance.

They all had a good view from their flat, open cliffside; one could see almost the entire forest that sprawled around the mountain and even the start one of the signature plains that dotted Triacal in the distance.

His idle view gazing was interrupted by Gathor’s approach along with his brothers quickly sitting up from their sprawling.

“A’ight, kids, line up an’ pick yah stone,” Gathor calmly ordered.

Seliph and Jaron hurried on over to the two end ones, annoyed and ready to get this over with. Ciecro just walked normally to the one in the middle, lining up to his siblings. Each of the kids was about fifteen feet from his paired boulder.

“A’ight,” Gathor said, stepping past them and giving each one a glance. “Keep yah move on yah bouldeh as best yah can fo’ ten minutes.”

Ciecro heard Jaron groan as the Charmander looked at his rock, ready to begin.

“Okay, Seliph, use Water Pulse. Ciecro, use Dragon Rage. Jaron, use Scald. Everybody ready?”

“Yes, father.” The water types replied, while Ciecro just eyed his boulder and narrowed his eyes.

“A’ight, Get ready!” Gathor raised his arm as the three tensed up. “Three!”

Ciecro, moved his arms forwards as he took a deep breath,

“Two!”

He held the air in his cheeks as his insides rose in temperature. His tail’s flame flickered fiercer. Ciecro could feel energy moving throughout his body as heat filled his throat. “One!”

Ciecro opened his eyes and focused on the target, before swinging his arms back and unleashing Dragon Rage right as his father yelled, “Launch!”

The purple fire with yellow core struck violently upon the boulder, as the other two were subjected to a Water Pulse and Scald respectively. Feeling the air in his lungs depleting, Ciecro eased the pushing on his throat for a steadier, longer lasting Dragon Rage.

He relaxed a little at seeing Jaron’s Scald cease hitting the rock first. Glancing over at the other one, Ciecro grumbled in his head at seeing Seliph’s rock taking the steady hits of enlarging circles still. Come on! Ciecro begged as he started to struggle in keeping the move going.

After a few minutes, Ciecro was forced to cease firing. With a heavy pant, he looked over to Seliph, who was keeping his arms fixated in position, like he had just started. After a little growl to himself, Ciecro shook his head and resumed.

The process repeated of him and Jaron having to take a minute to regain air, while Seliph, occasionally had to roll one of his arms before returning it back.

“Two minutes!” Gathor shouted.

Ciecro quickly stopped his Dragon Rage and inhaled for a finishing stretch. As he did, he noticed Seliph’s rock looked rugged, with its surface chipped by the Water Pulse. Glancing back at his rock, Ciecro noticed it had damage too, although not as badly as Seliph’s. No amount of Dragon Rage would even the score, at least as good as a Water Pulse to a rocky surface.

Disappointment filled Ciecro’s heart till he noticed his boulder was slightly tipped away from him due to the force he’d been exerting on it. I’ll tip it oveh! Dat’ll show Dad how tough I am! Invigorated, Ciecro took as big of a breath as he could before unleashing an even stronger Dragon Rage upon the rock.

“One minute!”

It felt like the air in his lungs were disappearing as he struggled to keep the powerful flame up. Did he misjudge how hard it would be to keep it going? Ciecro blinked, trying to push through the fatigue he was feeling. Come on! He pleaded for the boulder to move and slowly he could it tipping. A rush of excitement filled his mind and soul.

“Time!”

Ciecro stopped immediately, not on command but out of surprise. His hands draped in front as he hunched over, panting heavily. Worriedly, the Charmander looked up to his boulder only to frown in defeat at it remaining mostly upright.

“Good job, all round.” Gathor congratulated. Shoving his fists onto his sides, Gathor looked at all three with a pleased smile. Jaron was too much of a panting mess to respond, Ciecro was just staring at his boulder dumbfounded, while Seliph gave him thumbs up amid some wheezing. “Take a break while I clear dese things fo’ battle practice.”

Seliph walked past Ciecro to help Jaron back to their spots, as Ciecro trudged over, sat down on the ground near the side of the mountain, and stared at the ground with a frustrated look.

“I…hate…move…endurance…training,” Jaron complained, while panting as Seliph helped him onto one of the rocks.

Seliph chuckled, sitting down on a nearby one and leaning back to stare at the clear, blue sky. “Yeah, it does suck. But hey, it isn’t running laps this time.”

“I guess…” Jaron pulled at one of his feet, before looking at Seliph and bluntly saying, “But move endurance training still sucks. I’m just glad it’s over.”

“And hey, you did it.” Seliph sat up, giving Jaron an encouraging smile.

Jaron gave an unsure look in return. “What good is keeping a move up if I’m just tired afterwards? I can fire moves already, do I need to keep them up for so long?”

“It ain’ jus’ abou’ how long yah can keep firin’.”

All three quickly shifted their gazes to their father, walking over while rolling his arm.

“Then why?” Jaron asked, sliding off his rock onto his feet. After a few breaths and keeping his stance up, he asked further, “Why do I need move endurance anyway?”

Gathor tapped his chest then pointed at Jaron’s chest. “Yah’re trainin’ in dere. Move endurance also helps build up yah ability tah use yahr synergy fo’ moves. Like buildin’ muscle fo’ liftin’ better.”

Jaron tilted his head and began scratching it. “So, like making my moves come out stronger?”

Gathor chuckled, making Jaron blush awkwardly. “Not quite, Jaron.” Suddenly, Gathor scooped Jaron by the underarms before setting him gently onto his shoulder. Turning to the left and gesturing at the view before them, Gathor explained, “Moves are our power, but tah use ‘em as moves we need tah convert dat power. When yah used Scald, did yah notice how yah felt tired while doin’ it? Moreso den just rapid fire?”

Jaron nodded with enthusiasm. “Very tired.”

Gathor chuckled, rubbing Jaron’s head for a second. “Yep, but how do yah feel tired?”

“Huh?”

Gathor took his right hand before carefully pressing a finger to Jaron’s throat. “Does it jus’ feel tired ‘ere?”

Jaron thought for a second before shaking his head. “It feels mostly tired there. But my arms and legs feel a little tired too.”

Gathor looked at the other two and said, “And yah both feel tired all over too, right?”

Seliph nodded, while Ciecro just gave a minor grunt.

“Y’all feel dat way because dah power comes from all oveh yah. So when part of yah is usin’ a move and it starts tah run dry, it takes synergy from dah rest of dah body. Dat’s why move endurance is important. I helps wit dah circulation as well as yah move stamina.”

Jaron just kept a blank stare at his father, causing Gathor to smirk.

“Didn’t yah mother teach yah how mons use moves?”

Blushing a little and fiddling with his hands, Jaron shook his head.

“I think he fell asleep during that lecture, father.”

“Seliph!” Jaron shouted as Seliph got up from his sitting spot.

“Hah! Nothin’ tah be ashamed of, son,” Gathor assured Jaron, patting the embarrassed Totodile’s head. “I’d snooze too if I had tah listen tah her talk on an’ on.”

Seliph walked over with a big smile. “Yeah, but she’d smack you awake,” Seliph said, punching Gathor in the side, mildly acting like Freya.

“Woah!” Gathor cried suddenly, bouncing back on his right foot. Jaron and Seliph looked at him in confusion till Gathor, with a big smile on his face, whined, “Don’ hit so hard. Yah’ll break me in half.”

Deciding to be silly like his dad, Seliph rammed into Gathor’s stomach, making the big gator go “Oof”.

“Have yah gone primal‽” Gathor playfully whimpered. Seliph’s reply was just pushing harder, forcing Gathor to finally give up on being easy and push back from falling over. Gathor gave a challenging chuckle at Seliph’s pushing as hard as he could. “Yah gotta do betteh den dat, boy- ack!” To his surprise, Jaron had left his shoulder and was climbing onto his head.

“Pull as hard as you can, Jaron!”

“Will do!” Jaron excitedly replied with his signature grin as he roughly grabbed his father’s face, right as Gathor tried reaching for Jaron’s tail.

“Help!” Gathor pitifully cried out, the smile on his face a bit obscured by Jaron’s arm. “Somebody, help! Dah kids have gone feral!”

It wasn’t long before the mixed forces of Jaron’s pulling and Seliph’s pushing and a hint of Gathor letting it happen finally toppled the mighty Feraligatr over. The two leaped on their fallen father, hitting him with playful punches and laughing, while he begged in exaggeration amid his own laughter, “Please, spare me! Ahh!”

As the hearty three did their roughhousing, Ciecro watched them from his spot. His eyes took turns focusing on one of the three before finally just looking off hihs right hand. Lowering his head, Ciecro slowly clenched his hand just short of a fist. I can almost feel it. He thought, imagining the key in his hand. I wish dat-

His thoughts were interrupted by the booming voice of his father. “A’ight guys that’s enough wrestlin’. We got trainin’ tah do.” He heard Jaron and Seliph utter bummed ‘aww’s. Ciecro’s eyes narrowed at hearing Seliph whine like that. Hmph…so he’s dah adult, eh? Dat whineh gets dah key an’ dere twust. A scowl formed on the Charmander’s face as he clenched his hand fully into a fist, the force he was exerting causing it to shake slightly.

“Hey, Ciecro! Come!” Gathor called to him and he immediately complied. Without a word he joined the other two as Gathor gestured towards a flat, open area away from the boulders they used earlier. “Okay, so it’s battle practice time. So, who wants tah go first?”

Before anyone else had a chance, Ciecro raised his hand and quickly added, “Can I say somethin’?”

Gathor raised a brow, but permitted it with a nod.

Ciecro moved his raised hand to point at Seliph. “I wanna battle Seliph.”

“Me?”

“Him? Why?” Gathor crossed his arms as all three looked at the Charmander.

Ciecro took a breath, pushing back their stares in his mind to reason, “Because, Jaron is probably still tired.”

“Hey!” Jaron protested, before Gathor held out his hand, indicating him to stop.

Cieco clenched his mouth shut as Gatho looked at Seliph. “Are yah fine battlin’ Ciecro first?”

The Charmander held his breath with anticipation, not releasing it till Seliph answered with, “I suppose so.”

Gathor gave a nod and the two siblings walked to their respective sides of the flat area, while Jaron joined Gathor at the side.

Both boys started loosening their muscles, as their father yelled, “A’ight normal battle. Stop when I say stop and no foul play.”

The two nodded and stared at each other as Gathor started counting down. Ciecro leered at Seliph, who was caught off guard by the glare.

“Begin!”

Ciecro rushed towards Seliph as fast he could, as the Frogadier thrust his arms forwards and sent a single Water Pulse in his direction. Despite managing to roll away from the enlarging circlular move, Ciecro wasn’t fast enough to avoid the rim; he felt the water strike his legs, sending him off course into an ungraceful landing onto his back.

Ciecro gnashed his teeth as he felt his legs sting from the move. Rolling onto his belly and picking himself up, Ciecro growled as he heard Gathor ask, “Yah okay, Ciecro?”

“Yes!” He replied, rolling his head before giving Seliph another scowl and planning his next move.

“A’ight, Resume!”

Ciecro charged once more. Seeing Seliph thrust his arms forwards again, the Charmander quickly darted left. Dat’s right, don’ fire yah move yet. Just keep it ready. He kept going in a large circle around Seliph, as the Frogadier kept his arms pointed at him, ready to launch Water Pulse.

Now! Ciecro pivoted, heading directly for Seliph again. This time, when Seliph fired the Water Pulse, he rolled to the side earlier to evade the expanding move. Firmly stopping his roll with his right leg, Ciecro fired a responding Dragon Rage as fast as he could.

Seliph leap away from it and landed safely, extending his arms for another attempt.

No you don’t! Ciecro turned his head and body, moving the Dragon Rage towards Seliph, but sadly he wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Seliph.

The Frogadier was now the one running in a large circle around Ciecro, easily leaving the move behind. Fine! Ciecro ceased firing and quickly dashed to the left as Seliph fired Water Pulse at him. Once clear of the move, Ciecro fired Dragon Rage back, which collided with another Water Pulse Seliph sent his way.

The explosion was close enough to send some water splashing towards Ciecro, forcing him to cover his eyes. Once the stinging on his arm leveled, Ciecro moved his arm away and quickly tried to spot his brother. However, he was suddenly be hit in the shoulder by smaller Water Pulse.

“Ack!” he whimpered as he clenched the spot. He looked to his right, with Seliph there, smiling from his direct hit.

Ciecro snarled at Seliph, while holding his shoulder.

Seliph crossed his arms, bothered and a bit annoyed by Ciecro’s angry stare. “Hey, you just stood there so don’t be sore abou-”

“Shuddup!” Ciecro yelled, standing up and ripping his hand from his stinging, dampened shoulder. The Chamander rushed at Seliph once again.

Yah tink yah’re smart? Well I’ll knock yah smart! Ciecro surged Slash in both of his claws.

Seeing that, Seliph quickly moved his left arm in front to fire a Water Pulse as his right formed a Cut stick.

Yah’re not betteh dan me! With the mightiest roar he could muster, Ciecro crossed his arms above his head, leaped, and crossed sliced right onto the incoming Water Pulse. His move cut through the water, splashing it into his upper face and lower body. Confused from the water hitting his eyes and stinging, Ciecro’s blindly landed onto his face. He yelped from the hit as he held his head and rubbed his eyes.

“Ciecro!” he heard Seliph cry, before feeling his brother help him up. “Are you okay?”

Slowly, Ciecro opened his eyes, fighting through the stinging before he could finally see. As the pain eased, he looked slightly upwards to Seliph, who looked down at him with a relieved smile.

Ciecro just silently looked at him, making Seliph’s smile shift to worried confusion. “Ciecro?” was all he could say before the Charmander pushed him back and leapt upon him.

“I don’ need yahr help!” Ciecro shouted, punching and scratching at Seliph’s face.

“Ciecro! Stop it!” Seliph pleaded, defending his head with his arms. “Get off me!”

“Ciecro, stop now!” Gathor shouted as Jaron gasped.

Ciecro wouldn’t relent. Yah ain’ betteh den me! Ciecro shouted in his head, over and over, till a hand gripped his tail. Yelping in surprise, Ciecro was pulled off Seliph and hung in the air upside down. He froze, as he stared straight into his father’s scowl.

Not taking his eyes off of Ciecro, Gathor asked, “Are yah fine, Seliph?”

“Yes sir.”

Ciecro’s frustration returned, but the discomfort of the moment limited his nerve to say anything. He just looked away from his father’s eyes and glared in a random direction.

With a snort, Gathor set Ciecro down and ordered, “Seliph, practice block forms with Jaron. Ciecro and I are gonna have a talk.”

Gathor led Ciecro behind some rock formations and gestured for the Charmander to move right behind the rocks.

Despite complying, Ciecro refused to look up to his father out of a mix of shame, worry, and anger. He rested his back against the rock and waited through the few painful minutes of silence.

“Ciecro…” Gathor’s voice sounded very authoritative, but wasn’t too rough to sound harsh. “Why did yah staht hittin’ yah brother and why did yah ignore me?”

Ciecro didn’t reply, but tensed a little as Gathor asked once more. After taking a breath, Ciecro gave in and answered, “Because I was losin’ an’ it got to my head.”

“Is that dah truth?”

Ciecro’s muscles froze, almost as if the blood inside him had solidified into instantaneous ice. His heart beat faster as he kept a shaky leer to ground. What do I say?

“Ciecro…” He heard Gathor get onto a knee and say, “look at me.”

Ciecro freaked out in his head and closed his eyes. Imagining Gathor’s angry gaze felt like a cold Ice Beam to the chest, shriveling him up and making it hard to think straight. After Gathor started asking again, Ciecro desperately blurted out, “No!”

“‘No’? Why ‘no’?”

“Why should I?” Ciecro answered, more out of nervous sniping and irrational thought than actual confidence.

“Because I’m yah father an’ we need tah talk.”

Ciecro kept shivering, before Gathor put his hand on Ciecro’s shoulder. Something about the heavy arm on his made his body relax, probably due to nostalgic feel of his father’s touch. His breathing slowed and his eyes opened, although they were fixed squarely on the ground.

“…Ciecro, what’s wrong? Why are yah afraid tah look at me? I’m not mad jus’ worried.”

“Worried?” Ciecro’s said in a low tone. Worried… Something about that word shifted all his thoughts from fear to earlier, when Gathor asked if Seliph was okay. Frustration slowly began to return the longer he dwelled on that scene.

“Yes, Ciecro. Yah wouldn’t do dat tah Seliph.”

The Charmander scowled at the ground. Seliph…worried… Slowly, he raised his head and looked at his right hand. “Worried…” His right hand started shaking and closing.

“Yes…yah know dat right?” Gathor’s tone seemed different, like he was picking up on something changing in Ciecro.

“Sure...I know dat.” Ciecro mumbled as his fist clenched tightly.

“Ciecro-” Gathor started, but ceased once he heard Ciecro growl at him.

I’m done wit dis! Ciecro yelled in his mind. He looked right at his father with his fierce orange eyes and harshly snapped, “I know, so don’ waste yah worryin’ on me!”

Gathor’s eyes widened, before settling into a scowl of his own. “Don’ yell at me boy,” Gathor rebuked, but it was met with a challenging snarl from his son.

“I’ll yell if I wanna!”

Gathor stood up, his height overshadowing Ciecro. “Ciecro, what’s gotten into yah? Why are yah bein’ so aggressive wit me?”

Ciecro crossed his arms, snorted, and looked to the side. “Nothin’s gotten inta me.”

“Somethin’ clearly has fo’ yah tah growl at me and attack yah older brother like dat.”

Ciecro’s muscles tightened and his eyes narrowed as he mumbled, “Tck, worried I’d hurt ‘im.”

“What was that?” Gathor demanded, his voice raised slightly.

Ciecro retaliated, “Isn’ dat dah truth?” Taking an aggressive step forwards, Ciecro yelled as loud as he could. “Yah might as well jus’ go an’ check on Seliph if yah dat worried!” Tears started forming in his eyes, as he kept on Gathor face albeit not really seeing his father’s reaction. “Go on, I don’ care! Go make sure I didn’ hurt ‘im in my stupid rage an’ punish me like dah bad kid I am!”

Panting a little, Ciecro braced himself, ready this time for whatever Gathor would throw at him, or so he thought. He paused; his aggressive, dominant scowl slowly melting away at his father’s face, which was still serious but not like before.

Slowly, Gathor’s eyes shifted left, deep in thought. Small growls or grumbles were coming from his closed mouth followed by an eye closed sigh. Suddenly, Gathor started leaving, but not before placing his hand on the rock formation and saying as he glanced back at Ciecro. “If yah wanna be left alone…okay. I love yah…an’ I’m sorry I made yah feel dat way.”

The sad look in Gathor’s eyes took all of Ciecro’s attention. It stung more than any poison or blow, leaving the Charmander at a loss of not just words, but actions too. Once Gathor took his hand off and resumed leaving, Ciecro went after him, reaching his arm out. He opened his mouth to say something, but the words didn’t come and without another word Gathor disappeared behind the rocks.

Ciecro stopped in his tracks as his right arm fell to his side, open and limp. His face lowering as tears started to flow again. After wiping his eyes with his left arm, he made his way to the edge of the rock formation and leaned past them to see the others.

Gathor was talking with the other two, who looked worried at whatever their father was saying.

Ciecro pressed his back against the cliff, his eyes wide, his breathing slow, and his claws clasping roughly on its rocky surface. Did…Did I…h…h-h-hur-. He couldn’t finish it. He didn’t want to finish it. Tears started to flow once more as Cieco slid down onto the ground, sniffling and shaking like a newborn. I hate all of dis! He leaned forwards and slammed his fists on the ground hard, unconcerned by the following pain. He pressed firmer onto the rough earth as tears fell from his face, hitting the ground near his hands.



< O >​



A gentle breeze blew across the opening where the house stood, occasionally hitting Ciecro as he sat outside the house. He was too troubled to care about the annoying wind, too lost in thoughts to stare at anything but the dirt field a few meters away. Images of his battle with Tetheron filled the spot as did the thoughts of how happy everyone was then. Now, just two days later, it was empty, and he felt alone and sad.

Finally, he shifted his depressed gaze to different patches of dirt in the grass near his feet. He circled between all of them with his eyes before he heard the complaining rumblings from his stomach as he got a whiff of the food being prepared inside. Sighing heavily, Ciecro stood up and walked over to the empty battlefield and plumped down onto its edge, making sure his tail’s flame wasn’t in the grass.

Leaning over, Ciecro started to draw in the dirt. First he made a picture of himself blowing fire. Heh, he chuckled at the silly stick figure and triangle body him. Leaning in closer, he next drew a tree, although it only had four lines. Pausing for a minute, Ciecro brushed dirt over the tree drawing till only the long stump line was left. Carefully, he drew a diamond at one end, before adding a few spots at the other end. A frown formed as he stared at the key drawing in the dirt.

He sighed heavily as he hunched over, just staring at the two drawings, glancing from one to the other.

“Hey Ciecro!”

He about jumped from his spot. Jaron? Instead of looking at Jaron, he swiftly brushed over his drawings.

“What did you draw?” Jaron inquired, leaning over Ciecro to get a glimpse at the spot.

“Notin’,” Ciecro replied nervously.

“Oh…” Jaron scowled slightly, before scratching his neck. “Fine, I guess.”

Relieved that Jaron wasn’t pressing further this time, Ciecro stood up, dusted off his hands and bum, composed himself with a breath and asked Jaron, “Do yah need sometin’?”

Jaron nudged his snout towards the house. “Mom and Dad wanted me to tell you dinner is almost ready.”

“O…Oh…” Ciecro looked to the side, awkwardly. “Well, I’ll be dere.” He looked back at Jaron, and noticed Jaron looked annoyed. “What’s wit dah face?” He asked, facing Jaron.

“Nothing,” the Totodile huffed as he crossed his arms, raised his snout, and closed his eyes. “And by nothing, I mean something I’m not going to tell you.”

Ciecro groaned and rubbed his head. “Dis again?” he grumbled, unfortunately loud enough for Jaron to hear.

“I’m not stupid, Ciecro.” Jaron suddenly stepped closer with a interrogating, narrowing eyed stare, catching Ciecro off guard. “You’ve been acting weird ever since you listened in on mom and dad.”

Ciecro was about to say something before Jaron quickly held up an arm and informed, “I didn’t tell them.”

“Phew. Thanks, Jaron.” Ciecro’s relaxation vaporized as Jaron moved his head closer, antagonistically.

“So why are you being such a jerk now?”

“Huh?” Jaron’s gaze increased in pressure, as if he was pushing Ciecro against a wall with it.

“You’ve been a jerk ever since that night. You never attack Seliph like that. You even made Dad worried.” Jaron pointed at Ciecro and demanded. “I want to know the truth and I want it now.” He ended with crossing his arms.

“I’ve jus’ been havin’ some…err…” Ciecro about panicked as he saw Jaron scowl even more at the stuttering. “Well uh-”

“Just tell me. I’m tired of you acting this way.” Jaron demanded, stiffening his form to come off as determined. “I want the old Ciecro back, so what’s wrong?”

Angered a bit by Jaron’s accusation of changing, Ciecro crossed his arms and after calming himself, replied, “Well…yah can’t.”

Jaron’s eyes widened in surprise, before shifting to skeptical. He leaned in once more to asked, “Why not?”

Getting frustrated at Jaron not backing down, Ciecro grumbled. “Because…Er” He paused, causing Jaron to scowl more at this delay.

“Why not?” Jaron asked again, growling a little.

Fed up with this pressing, Ciecro just blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Because…yah’re too young.” He facepalmed, dragging his hand over his face. “Ugh, look Jar-” He stopped at hearing a sniffle. Quickly face Jaron, Ciecro stayed still at the sight.

Jaron’s head was lowered, his eyes narrow and focused. The Totodile sniffled again. “Is that why?” Jaron’s asked, though his voice was cracking despite his best efforts to keep face.

Ciecro looked to the side, shamefully looking at the side. “Well...it’s complicated.” Ciecro put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder and tried to explain, “Tellin’ yah now wouldn’ be right, becau-”

Jaron swatted his hand away. As if frozen in time, Ciecro just looked into Jaron’s angry and tearing up eyes.

“Fine!” Jaron shouted, in a quivery, tempered voice. “If I’m too young and stupid for you to trust me, okay then! Stay a jerk!”

Ciecro remained silent and motionless, while Jaron was all fidgety and struggling to say more.

“So…so…” Jaron turned around and rushed away as fast as he could while sniffling.

Snapping out of his stupor, Ciecro reached out for Jaron, pleading, “Jaron wait! I didn’ mean-” He stopped and his eyes widened. As Jaron headed inside Ciecro looked at his right hand, as a realization filled his head.

Shakenly, Ciecro tightened it to a fist as his face filled with rage. Unable to contain it anymore, Ciecro let out an angry yell before dashing into the forest. I wish I neveh foun’ dat stupid key! He cried in his mind, as he disappeared into the brushes of the dark forest.
 

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 6
Tunnel Vision


“You ever going to move?” Seliph yawned.

“Don’t rush me,” Tetheron snapped, as he looked back at the checkerboard. Grumbling to himself, the Blaziken slowly grabbed one of the red checker pieces before pausing to study the board once more.

Seliph watched as his Uncle placed the piece back down. With a dull expression, Seliph pointed to a nearby square. “Your piece was here.”

“Uh…Well, these things happen when you rush me,” Tetheron complained, making Seliph chuckle.

He really has no idea, does he? Seliph rolled onto his stomach and crossed his arms to prop his head up. With a cocky grin, Seliph awaited Tetheron’s next play.

Keeping his beak firmly shut, Tetheron shakily lifted the piece again and jumped one of Seliph’s black pieces. He kept his claw on it for about ten seconds of uncertainty, before removing it.

With a narcissistic grin, Seliph looked up and asked, “That your play?”

Tetheron didn’t answer immediately, just looked at the piece. “Y-yes.” Tetheron finally said, trying his best to not sound nervous.

“Okay,” Seliph chirped, as he took a piece near the side of the board and proceeded to jump his way to the end. “King me, please.”

“Arceus, damn it! I knew you had something!” Tetheron roared with anger, stamping his foot on the ground, saying, “I knew it!” repeatedly.

This time, Seliph couldn’t contain himself. He started laughing at his uncle’s sore loser behavior.

Making a sarcastic laugh in response, Tetheron crossed his arms and muttered, “This game is rigged.”

“Sorry, Uncle Tethe. I’ve just had a lot of practice.”

“With who? God‽” Tetheron stormed off to the kitchen door near the end of living room. “I’m going to help your parents make dinner.”

“‘Kay,” was all Seliph could get out before the door slammed shut with a loud THUD!

Sighing to himself, Seliph looked at the board once more. Maybe I should go easy next time. Else, no one will want to play with me. After a little chuckle to himself, Seliph proceeded to put the pieces in their case, picked up the board, and headed towards his room.

I hope I didn’t make him too mad, but it’s so funny to see him pissed like that. It’s like that one time when mom found us hiding in her- Seliph reached for the door knob, but stopped at hearing some strange sound coming from inside. “Huh?” He pressed his head against the door and listened.

“…Jaron?” Twisting the knob, Seliph opened the door and peeked in. He saw Jaron curled up in the corner, eyes shut and holding his snout while sniffling.

Seliph gasped. He quickly placed the checker set on a stool near the door and jogged over to Jaron’s side. “Jaron, what’s wrong?” He asked, gently putting a hand on Jaron’s side.

The Totodile sat up, sniffling as he rubbed his snout.

“What happened?” Seliph’s eyes narrowed, as he slid over to sit in front of Jaron.

Jaron took one last big sniffle and wiped his snout with his arm. “Stupid nose,” Jaron grumbled.

Ah, Seliph got up and looked for a cloth, which he spotted on top of one of the stools. Quickly grabbing it, Seliph offered it to his little brother, who accepted it and proceeded to blow his nose. “Better?”

“Better,” Jaron replied, finishing up. However, his mood seemed far from better.

“So, what happened?”

Jaron wiped his eyes with his arm. “Mom asked me to tell Ciecro that dinner was almost ready and we…we had an argument.” Jaron blew into the rag once more as tears started forming again.

Patting Jaron’s head, Seliph said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m sure he’ll get over it.”

Jaron shook his head. “I just wanted to know why he did that to you earlier.”

Seliph cocked a brow. “You mean, at training today?”

“Yeah,” Jaron looked to the side. “I asked him about it and he didn’t tell me. He’s being a big jerk and I want to know why. I want Ciecro back to normal.”

Seliph started rubbing Jaron’s shoulder in a calming manner. “I dunno what’s got him acting weird either, but maybe it’s something embarrassing. He’s ten after all.”

“It’s not fair. He never kept secrets from me before. But now he kept making excuses and treating me like I’m some dummy, so I yelled at him and-” Jaron stopped.

Seliph’s eyes narrowed. “Jaron?”

Jaron looked up at Seliph with a horrified look. “I think he ran into the forest.”

“What‽” Seliph stood up. “By himself?”

Jaron hastily nodded.

Seliph pointed to the ground as he started for the door. “Stay here, I’ll find him.”

“Screw that! I’m coming too?” Jaron exclaimed, getting up to follow.

Seliph turned around and stated, “No, I can find him faster if I don’t have to keep track of you too. And splitting up to look isn’t good since it’s nighttime. What if you get lost too?”

“B-but,” Jaron began, but stopped; his head lowering.

Suddenly, and idea popped in Seliph’s head. He quickly dashed out the door saying, “Wait right there, I’ll be back in a sec.”

About seven minutes later, Seliph returned, holding something in his right palm.

“What is tha-?” Jaron stopped once he spotted a pair of com orbs in Seliph’s hand “D-did you take that from mom and dad’s room?”

“It’s an emergency; I’m sure they’ll understand.” Seliph offered one of the orbs to him. “They should already be set on the right frequency.”

Hesitantly, Jaron accepted the orb. “Wh-what if mom and dad asked about you?”

“Just tell them the truth. Tell them that I went into the woods to find Ciecro,” Seliph answered, opening a drawer to take out a belt with a singular pouch attached to it. “I’m pretty sure there’s still a little bit of time till dinners ready so I’ll have a little head start. I hope I can find him before it gets too late.”

Jaron looked at the orb in silence, as Seliph put the belt on and placed his com orb into the pouch. “Seliph…”

Seliph glanced at his brother. “Yeah?”

Scowling, Jaron ordered, “You better bring him back, or I’m gonna find you two and drag you back myself!”

Chuckling at Jaron’s motivation attempt, Seliph walked to the door and gave Jaron a thumbs up. “Heh, I better find him then.”

Jaron gave a firm nod as Seliph opened the door.

“It’ll be fine, just you wait and see.” With that being said, Seliph dashed to the back door and swung it open. He quickly jogged to their empty sparring ground and looked at the forest in front. Okay, I bet he’s at the spot. Seliph took a second to look at the sky. Dusk…not good. Without any more delay, Seliph hurried into the forest.

Please be at the spot. Seliph pleaded as he maneuvered his way through the bushes, trees, and uneven plane. Despite the forest growing darker, he knew the route well enough to reach the clearing before the light was gone. “Ciecro?” Seliph called out, anxiously looked around. His heart filled with dread at the lack of an answer, prompting him to shout once more as loud as he could, “Ciecro!”

Nothing but silence answered him. Where are you? Seliph’s eyes lowered as he sat down in the middle of the grass. A shiver filled his spine as he pulled his arms in close, finally noticing the cold wind blowing on his body. “No, keep it together.” He gave himself a slap on the cheek and scowled. “Calm down and think.” Seliph stared at the ground in front, rubbing his noggin’. If I was Ciecro, where would I go if I was sad? But there isn’t any other place I know he’d go, damnit! Seliph slammed his fist on the ground.

“I guess I have no choice.” Opening the pouch, Seliph pulled out the com orb and was about use it till a thought entered his head. He activated the orb, causing a holographic box to appear with some wavy lines that moved along a static plane. “Jaron?”

“S-Seliph? Oh no you’re calling me! Does that mean you haven’t fou-” Jaron’s high-pitched squeals made the audio lines grow tall and thin in the projection.

Seliph interrupted with, “Hold on Jaron, I need to ask you something.”

“Huh? Me?” Jaron’s confused voice replied over the orb.

“Yeah, when you talked with Ciecro, did he ever tell you anything odd?”

“What’s that got to do wit-”

“Trust me,” Seliph interrupted, causing Jaron to stop talking.

After a few seconds, Jaron sighed and grumbled, “He didn’t tell me anything, just that I was too young for him tell me what was wrong. I’m only two years younger than that stupid head!”

As Jaron went on a rant, Seliph thought carefully. ‘Too young’? Hmm…wait! When he talked back to mom that one night, he wanted to know why the rules were being changed… Seliph looked forwards, eyes lighting up as a detective would at finding an important clue. He’s mad at all of us. So, if he wanted to be alone, then. Seliph looked around, his eyes falling onto the large mountain that the forest surrounded. He wouldn’t go that far on his own. So maybe some hiding spot nearby. He wouldn’t just stay in some random spot especially with it getting colder. He’d need to find shelter, maybe a place he knows well enough to reach without much daylight. His eyes suddenly widened as he snapped his fingers. He might be at the escape tunnel near here. He quickly spoke into the com orb, “I think I know where he is!”

“Huh? Oh! Okay, do you want me to tell Mom and Dad?”

“If they finish making dinner and call for us, yes. Tell them I’m looking for Ciecro at the emergency tunnel near the pond we play at.”

“Why would he be there?” Jaron inquired.

“It’s just a hunch. Anyway, contact me when they’re done with dinner and if I haven’t found him, tell them everything.”

“Okay.”

Seliph pressed the button, causing the orb’s holo-projection to vanish. Quickly, he stood up and looked around, stretching his arm out to get his bearings on where to go. Okay, that way! Leaping into a fast dash, Seliph pushed past the random bushes and once more made his way through the dark forest.

After a couple of minutes, Seliph found himself at a running creek, running between two uneven parts of ground. One side rose up higher as the other remained relatively the same. Carefully, he stepped into the cold water and made his way to a spot covered with brush. He pushed his way into the bushes, grunting as the branches scraped him a little till he crawled into a small hole and fell into a patch of dirt below.

Grumbling to himself, Seliph started getting back onto his feet, looking around his immediate vicinity. Huh? He peered closer at what looked like some dirt wall in front, illuminated by a faint light. He spun around to see a long tunnel, stretching into an endless darkness with a small clump of rocks with some small light coming from behind.

Seliph sighed in relief as he crossed his arms. “There you are.” After hearing no reply, Seliph called out again, “Ciecro, come on. I know you’re there.”

The sound of a grumble came from behind the rocks, as the Charmander stood up from behind the rocks and walked out of his hiding spot. He was covered in dirt and scowling, but his head was fixated on the ground.

Without saying anything, Seliph walked over. He saw Ciecro close his eyes tightly and sighed in his head. He got on a knee and pulled Ciecro in for a hug; the Charmander didn’t make any moves, but did sniffle a little bit.

“I’m glad I found you. You alright?” After a few seconds of silence, Seliph pulled back and looked at Ciecro, who was staring at the wall with a troubled scowl. “Ciecro, what’s going on?

Ciecro said nothing.

Not even a grunt, huh. Something’s definitely up if you’re not gonna even grunt for me. Seliph moved over to the side of the soil wall and leaned against it, keeping his eyes on Ciecro. “If this is about what happened earlier, don’t worry. I’m not mad.”

“…Yah should be,” Ciecro mumbled, his head tilting slightly more downwards.

Seliph curled up his knees, keeping them in place with hands hooked around a little below the knee. “Why should I?” He inquired. There was only silence, prompting Seliph to sigh a little. “Look, Ciecro, I can’t read your mind so just tell me.”

“Jus’ leave me alone,” Ciecro said, a small growl added at the end.

Seliph’s looked to the right. “I can’t do that.” A tense silence followed for the two. The Frogadier took the time to adjust his seating and lean back onto the wall of soil that thankfully wasn’t damp enough to be more trouble than a simple brush off.

Ciecro crossed his arms, raised his head slightly, and gazed forwards. “Why are yah even ‘ere?”

“Me and Jaron were worried about you.” Seliph kept his head still, but move his eyes just enough to notice Ciecro pull his crossed arms tighter. The Charmander’s expression also seemed to grow softer.

“Yah shouldn’ be.”

Seliph’s stood up and walked in front of Ciecro.

“I attacked yah an’ yelled at Jaron.”

“Hmph, well I said it was okay,” Seliph protested, looking down at Ciecro with a defiant and frustrated stare. “And Jaron would say the same.”

“It ain’t!” Ciecro shouted, locking eyes with Seliph with a glare. “So…So stop actin’ like it ain’t nothin’!”

Seliph crossed his arms, unfazed. “How about you stop telling us how to feel.” The two kept their fierce scowls firmly locked towards one another.

Eventually, Ciecro’s caved. His fists were clenched tight and he mumbled, loud enough for Seliph to hear, “Yah don’t get it.”

“Then tell me, you little doofus.” Seliph exclaimed. Ciecro shot his scowl back, but Seliph ignored it. “Jaron’s been crying ever since you left. I came out here on my own to find you and bring you home. We’re not mad at you, we’re worried. So, stop cowering away from my question and tell me what I don’t get!”

Ciecro eyes widened for a second, although remaing in a scowling formation.

Seliph took a deep breath and was about to apologize, when he noticed Ciecro wasn’t looking at him anymore. The Charmander was looking at the wall with a look that seemed very troubled and sad. In fact, it felt like Ciecro might cry at any moment.

“Ciecro…” He walked closer and put his hands on the Charmander’s shoulders. Ciecro remained motionless as Seliph bent over a little so their eyes were level. “What don’t I get?”

Ciecro’s face curled slightly as he moved a hand to rub at his eyes, attempting to stifle any tears or perhaps hide ones already forming. “I-I yelled at Dad,” He said in an uncontrolled, high-pitched tone.

Seliph raised a brow, but didn’t say anything.

“An’…an’ I…” Ciecro started sniffling and wiping his eyes.

Watching with a concerned look, Seliph noticed small tears flow from as Ciecro tried to rub them out before the fell from his cheeks. The Frogadier felt a lurching feeling in his eyes, as his own felt only seconds away from starting. Nevertheless, he remained quite as Ciecro stuttered.

“I…I was…ugh!” Ciecro gave up rubbing his eyes and just stamped his foot on the ground. He let out a growl as the fire from his tail shot up for a split-second before settling down when Ciecro did. The Charmander struggled to look Seliph in the eye.

Seliph let go of Ciecro’s shoulders and instead moved them to his brother’s clenched fists. He pulled them up a little between them both and with a little, tearful grin, “Ciecro, whatever is telling you to keep it a secret, tell it to screw off. I’m your brother and I love you, no matter what you’re gonna tell me. Trust me.”

With much effort, Ciecro finally brought his eyes to Seliph’s level.

Seliph let go with one hand and brushed his own eyes for a second. “You got me crying to, heh.”

Ciecro formed a melancholy smile from that statement as rubbed his own one more time.

Before Seliph could rejoin their hands, Ciecro pulled his other hand free and latched them around Seliph’s neck. “Huh?” Seliph froze as he felt the trembling touch of Ciecro’s form on his head, neck, and upper torso.

Ciecro sobbed, “I…I was jealous of yah.”

Jealous‽ Seliph remained still, as the word filled his mind. He stared into the darkness in front, as he went through every memory where Ciecro was acting strangely. Thankfully, he wasn’t spaced out for long, thanks to Ciecro’s loud sobbing. Slowly, Seliph pulled Ciecro in to a hug and asked, “Why?”

Ciecro pulled back, brushing some of the tears. “I noticed yah puttin’ somthin’ in yah’re bed dat one night. I didn’ tink abou’ lookin’ dough till lateh, when Uncle Tethe came. Somethin’ seemed off, but no one was sayin’ nothin’, not even at dat meetin’ so I…” Ciecro took a second to wipe some more tears away.

“Hey, you’re doing good,” Seliph encouraged, rubbing Ciecro’s shoulder as his other hand let go of his brother’s back. “You’re a strong guy; you’ve got this.” He listened intently with a supportive smile and constant shoulder rub.

Finally composing himself, Ciecro’s stared low with a small scowl. However, it was a scowl of determination. With a stuttering pace and what sounded like a lot of effort, Ciecro managed to say, “I…listened in on Mom and Dad.”

Seliph’s face went serious, but he just nodded and kept up his shoulder rub on Ciecro’s right shoulder.

“I heard ‘em talkin’ about somethin’ dey trusted yah wit. Den…Jaron foun’ me an’ almost got us caugh’ an’ I made ‘im promise tah not tell on me. Today, I jus’…” Ciecro looked up at the dark ceiling above them, Seliph did the same. “I started tinkin’ dat dey trusted yah more since yah were older. I got mad cuz I wanted dem tah trust me too. I…even yelled at dad when he talked tah me today.” Ciecro sniffled one more time before looking at Seliph with a sorrowful look.

“I felt bad fo’ yellin’ at ‘im so I just sat outside. Jaron found me an’ asked me questions. I didn’ wanna tell ‘im so I said he was too young tah know an’ dat hurt his feelings. He yelled at me an’ ran back inside.” There was a small pause as Ciecro looked slightly to the right, his breathing slowing down. “I felt like shit so I just ran ‘ere tah hide. I’ve been bad to all y’all so I wanted tah never be found.” He shut his eyes as he lowered his head.

Seliph smiled, moving his shoulder rubbing hand onto Ciecro’s head. With a soft tone, Seliph leaned closer and said, “I forgive you, Ciecro. I just wished you had told me about it sooner.”

Despite being forgiven, Ciecro didn’t smile. Just look to the side with a frown and a pair of self-hating eyes staring at the wall aimlessly.

“Come on, we’re not mad at you.” Seliph let go and stood at full height with an invigorated smile.

Ciecro rubbed his arms together, curling his frown a bit more as his tail flame started flickering a little. “I jus’ made tings hardeh. I wanted tah help but I jus’ hurt y’all.”

“I guess so.” Seliph moved to the wall and gestured Ciecro to do the same. Once the two of them were on the wall, Seliph looked up and said with a smile, “But I’m glad you told me this. I bet it was hard to, but I’m very glad you did. It makes me feel better, but.” Seliph lowered his glance to look straight forwards.

Ciecro look at Seliph curiously.

“I honestly feel bad too. I feel bad for having to keep you and Jaron in the dark about all that’s going on.” Lazily, Seliph started stirring the soil at his feet.

Ciecro tightened himself, scooting a little closer to Seliph so his shoulders touched Seliph’s arm. “Yah were jus’ doin’ what mom an’ dad asked yah tah do.”

“I know, but…” Seliph mumbled but stopped to think up the words to say. “Remember when I was grouchy and you two made me that necklace?”

Ciecro’s cheeks blushed a little as he rubbed the back of his head. “Dat was more yah making it foh us.” He gave Seliph an awkward smile, making the older brother giggle a little.

“Yes, but you two had the idea and it really cheered me up. Which kind of makes me feel like a jerk for not being able to tell you about what’s been going on,” Seliph admitted, fumbling his hand into the pouch absentmindedly. Touching the pouch, Seliph suddenly remembered something that made him shout, “Oh shit!”

“Wha’‽” Ciecro shouted, in surprise.

“Dinner’s done by now, so Jaron- We gotta hurry back!” Seliph grabbed Ciecro’s hand and proceeded to lead him to the opening.

“Wah!” Ciecro exclaimed at the forceful tug. “Wait a second!” Ciecro wretched his hand from Seliph’s firm grip, rubbing his wrist. “Don’ do dat.”

“Sorry, it’s jus-” Seliph began to explain, but Ciecro gestured him to stop with a hand raised.

“We’re in trouble, righ’?”

Seliph rubbed his shoulder and with a weak smile said, “Yeah, kinda.”

Ciecro shook his head before giving Seliph a smile of his own. “Well, I’m glad it’s ain’t jus’ me.”

“Hey!” Seliph playfully exclaimed, grabbing Ciecro’s head, trying to noogy him. The two playfully fought for a minute, till they were panting.

“Okay, okay.” Seliph put his hands in front. “Enough fun, we really have to get back.” Seliph started to turn around, but stopped at seeing Ciecro form a worried frown on his face. “Hey, don’t worry,” Seliph said as he walked over and put his arm around Ciecro’s shoulders, looking at his brother straight in the eye. “I’ve got your back when you talk to mom and dad.”

Ciecro looked up at him, eyes wide.

“I mean, I’m in trouble too, so what’s one more lecture gonna do?” Seliph said with a shrug.

Wiping his eyes for a second, Ciecro smiled back. “Tanks bro. I’m glad yah came lookin’ fo’ me.”

“I’ve got your back and I know you’ve got mine.” Seliph said as he moved a fist in front of his brother.

Ciecro grunted with a nod as he bumped his fist into Seliphs.

“Now, let’s hurry before dinner gets cold and mom’s temper gets hot.”

“Yeh!” Ciecro darted forwards, followed closely by Seliph.



< O >​



Light from a small emura lamp shone from the top of Freya’s desk bring a somber light to the four mons in the room. Freya was leaning her arm over her desk, eyeing the lamp in deep thought. The two children were sitting their respective stools while Gathor was resting his back on the bookshelf, arms crossed and eyes stern.

He looked to his wife, who returned a glance. With his eyes, he looked down at the kids, then back to her.

Freya sighed as she shifted to face the two kids, who looked up at her at the sound of her moving. “Ciecro, as much as I’m glad you’re okay and that you told us the truth, I am going to be honest.” Freya paused, forming a fist that she pushed to her mouth. Her eyes shut as the two boys waited in nervous stillness. “I’m disappointed in your behavior in all this.”

Ciecro’s head fell. “I’m sorry mom. I really am.”

Seliph patted his brother on the back, while giving him an encouraging smile.

“I understand wanting to know things and the frustrations that comes from not knowing, but in this house, we understand why we have rules in the first place. They’re not something you choose to break whenever you please, they’re serious. Breaking it once could lead to consequences not just for you, but for all of us.”

Ciecro curled up more, keeping his gaze low and submissive.

Seliph frowned. Getting to his feet, Seliph turned to his mother and respectfully said, “Mom, can I say something?”

Freya looked at Gathor, who nodded his approval. “Very well, go on.”

Nervously, Seliph started to rub his arm as he looked over the lamp near Freya. “I know he broke the rules, but things aren’t normal right now. So, is it alright if you go a bit easy on him this time?”

Freya rest her arm on her desk as Gathor got off the bookshelf.

“Son,” he said, prompting Seliph and Freya to look at him. Gathor opened his palm and gestured it to the side. “Dat’s dah reason we need tah be stern on dis. It ain’ normal so we can’t have y’all breakin’ dah rules, especially now. Yah understand wha’ I mean?”

Seliph’s eyes lowered. Attacked. He looked up to his father clenched his fists, moving his arms up with resolve. “But he doesn’t know that. I mean, sure we three know, but it’s already tough on us as it is, right mom?” Seliph looked at Freya, who snorted to the side and looked at Gathor.

“Yes, this is taxing on all of us, but we know what we’re doing.”

“Bu-”

A hand clamped on Seliph’s shoulder gently. He looked up, to see his father shaking his head.

“Le’ yah mother finish, Seliph.” Gathor let go of Seliph’s shoulder and once more leaned back on the bookcase, prompting Seliph to sit back down to Ciecro, with a frown.

Freya cleared her throat for a second and looked at the two kids. “Normally, we’d deal out a punishment, however…As you said Seliph, we understand the abnormality of this time we’re in.” She looked at Ciecro specifically. “We won’t deal out a punishment this time, but you’ll need to respect the rules from now on Ciecro.”

Ciecro sighed in relief and looked at Seliph, who was smiling at him. The Charmander gave a small smile back. “Tanks,”

“No problem.” Seliph gave him a thumbs up. He then looked at their parents and inquired, “So, is it alright if we tell him?”

Freya raised a brow before letting out an annoyed sigh and rubbing one of her horns. “You’re asking a bit much. But I suppose, since Ciecro already knows about the key and we’re stressing the rules, then I suppose there’s little reason not to tell. However,” Her eyes narrowed as her tone shifted to a very serious one. She moved her claws onto her legs and leaned in closer.

Seliph and Ciecro remained motionless and listened intently.

“Do not tell Jaron about what I’m about to say, unless it is an emergency. He’s only eight and it’s a lot to take in at his age.”

Seliph’s gaze lowered. Yeah, it was a lot for me, after all. Probably is best to avoid telling Jaron if we can.

“Although…” Gathor suddenly added. “Dere’s little point in pretendin’ dere’s nothin’ goin’ on. So, if he asks abou’ it. Tell ‘im to ask us, else keep it between yahrselves. Understood?”

The two boys nodded.

Opening her drawer, Freya reached in and took out what looked like a small box. She held it towards the two boys and explained. “The key I gave Seliph goes to this.”

“What’s in it?” Ciecro interrupted, his eyes wide with curiosity.

Freya gave him an annoyed looked, making Ciecro get himself back in line. “I’m getting to that.” She then set the box on the desk and placed a protective claw over it. “This box holds my research notes and an important sample.” She cautiously paused for a second, perhaps out of instinct given the subject matter.

Seliph, once again, felt a chill in his body. The memories of his mother’s scared posture flooding his memory, although he took solace in seeing her more composed and calm this time.

“Before any of you were born, I and your father were part of a certain recon and combat squad called ‘Team Alpha’.”

“Yeah,” Seliph added, “and the mons that visit us were your teammates.”

Freya nodded. “Not long after we found out we were going to have you, Seliph, we were called in by Nacsh. I doubt you would remember him, Seliph, since he only visited once, when Ciecro was just an egg.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened at that, perhaps mesmerized at the thought.

Seliph asked, “So who’s Nasch?”

“Dah leader of Team Alpha,” Gathor answered. “Anyway, he was dah one dat asked us tah come ‘ere.”

Seliph and Ciecro looked at each other, excitement and anxiety shining in their stares.

Freya patiently waited for them to return their attention to her before elaborating. “Nasch wanted us to take on a researching project for him; the details about it would take time to explain and I’d rather not burden you with the knowledge about it right now. What’s important is that we’re here on a research mission, while also raising you three.”

“So is dat why yah enforce stuff like dah rules and trainin’?” Ciecro asked, prompting Gathor to answer with a nod.

Freya continued. “Yes, and why we’re living in a secluded location with a low profile. It’s always been our aim ever since we got here, especially after having you three kids.”

After a second of thinking, Seliph raised his hand.

“Yes?”

“So, I’m confused. Why have your research here? I mean, why would we need to be in such a secluded location? Why not with Nasch and the other members of your team?”

Gathor and Freya looked at each other before Freya stood up. Freya tensed up, but kept a professional tone about her posture and expression. “Because there are mons out there that seek to stop our research and have already tried several times on others tasked with this. I won’t go into detail, but we are here to remain hidden.”

Seliph looked at Ciecro and noticed the mix of excitement and fear filling his body. Looking back at Freya and happy with the answer, Seliph hushed so she could continue.

“Now…everything we’ve done recently, the stricter rules, giving you the key to Seliph, and minimizing leaving our house and nearby area is because we’ve received information that these bad mons have been sighted nearby.”

“What?” Ciecro squeaked, as he quickly leaned forwards, almost tipping his chair over. “Dere here‽”

“Calm down, son,” Gathor commanded. As Ciecro shrank back, Gathor gave him an encouraging smile and added, “We jus’ were told dey’re nearby. We don’ know dat dey know we’re here.”

“Indeed,” Freya added, though she kept a serious look on her face. “However, we can’t treat them being nearby lightly. There still looms the possibility that they were sent to find us. If so, then they would be after this.” Freya patted the box once more, prompting the two to look at it. “We right now are trying to wait things out. The towns nearby know little about us and the rangers are also on alert. Hopefully, we can wait this out, or better yet, they weren’t sent for us at all. And…” Freya sighed once more, but this time one that seemed to be a mix of anxiety with relief of bearing these thoughts off her chest.

“Mom?” Ciecro asked, his interest taking a seat for his concern to take precedence.

For the first time in their talk, Freya gave them both a big smile. “We’ll be fine. You both know what to do during an emergency and… I’m sorry for being impatient with you. But I’m proud of you two and for having to put up with all this going on.”

Seliph felt all fuzzy inside, after all a praise from their mother meant she wasn’t kidding. “Thanks, Mom, we’ll keep it up,” he uttered with resilience, causing her to lightly chuckle.

“I’m sure you two will.” After taking one more look at Gathor, Freya stated, “Alright, that’s all. Have a good night you two.”

Both boys nodded and said, “Night.” And exited their parent’s room, Ciecro making sure to shut the door behind them.

Once in the hallway, Seliph cupped his fingers together and stretched his arms overhead, making an “Hmmmm” noise as he bent backwards slightly. “Glad that’s over with.” Seliph turned around and stopped.

Ciecro had his hand on the door, his head lowered, and his eyes focused and scowling.

“What’s wrong?” Seliph inquired, walking over to his mulling sibling.

Taking his hand off the door, Ciecro mumbled loud enough to answer, “Dose ‘bad mons’ Mom told us abou’.” Ciecro looked up towards Seliph with a mild scowl. “I wonder who dey are.”

Seliph shrugged. “Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.” He smiled and patted Ciecro on the shoulder.

After a few seconds of pondering, Ciecro nodded and smiled back. “Yeah…tanks fo’ havin’ my back dere.”

“Hey, I said I’ve got yah.” Seliph smiled. “And well…we aren’t done yet.”

Ciecro’s eyes widened before sinking down to a minor frown. “Oh…right.”

“Don’t be so glum, it’s Jaron.” Seliph started walking down the hallway towards their room. “He’s way less scary than mom.”

“I know dat,” Ciecro replied, a bit annoyed at Seliph’s optimism. “It’s jus’-”

Seliph put his hand on their door as his other gestured outwards. “Just what? You and Jaron fight all the time, right?”

Ciecro rubbed the back of his head he joined Seliph by the door. “Yeh, but I made ‘im really mad dis time.” Slowly, Ciecro moved his scratching claw to instead start rubbing his wrist. “I mean, we’ve had ou’ fights before, but dose felt…well…felt like when we roughhouse. We get mad but wouldn’ stay mad always, yah know? But wha’ he said tah me den…”

Seliph’s smile lowered as he and Ciecro stood there in silence, both looking at the floor. Finally, Seliph perked up and with a confident and encouraging smile, put his free hand on Ciecro’s shoulder, causing the Charmander to look up to him. “Well, we’ll never know till you apologize, right?”

Slowly, Ciecro nodded, still looking worried but more invigorated to make things right. “Yeh.” With a firm grip, he twisted the knob and slowly opened the door. “Jaron?” Ciecro muttered as he pushed the door. “Jaron, I- Ah!!”

Ciecro was pushed onto his back by the totodile, who buried his face into Ciecro’s chest and clenched his arms around the Charmander. “I’m sorry!” He repeated, sobbing and squeezing Ciecro with a tight hug.

“Hey! Get off me!” Ciecro shouted, pushing back on Jaron.

“No!” Jaron exclaimed, only squeezing tighter.

Ciecro ceased his protesting, confused. He looked at Jaron, who was shaking with eyes shut. The scowl on the Charmander’s face slowly grew soft as he looked up at Seliph, who gave him a nod with a confident grin.

“Hey, bro.” Ciecro gently pushed on Jaron’s head. “It’s okay. I was wron’.”

Reluctantly conceding to Ciecro’s hand, Jaron let go and sat down on the floor as Ciecro sat up. Jaron rubbed his eyes and said amid sniffles, “I…I’m sorry. I was just…I shouldn’t have said…I don’t want you to run away again!”

Hearing Jaron’s messy apology warmed the Charmander’s heart. Ciecro smiled as he scooted close and hug Jaron’s collar with one arm. “I’m sorry bro. Can yah forgive me?”

“Of course!” Jaron exclaimed, eyeing Ciecro with a weak, angry stare that looked like it would fracture at any second.

“Heh, tanks bro.”

Jaron smiled a little at hearing this, starting to wipe his eyes with his arm.

Ciecro’s eyes moved back to Seliph, who offered a confused look in return. “Jaron,” Ciecro started, prompting two to look at him. “I have to tell yah somethin’.”

Jaron’s eyes widened as did Seliph’s.

“Hold on a sec-”

“It’s fine bro, I know,” Ciecro answered, looking at Seliph with a serious look.

“Know what?” Jaron looked from one to the other, starting to worry.

“Jaron…I was mad because dey gave Seliph somethin’. All dat stuff, like dah listenin’ in on mom an’ dad…dat was part of it.”

Jaron leaned in closer, his worried expression shifting to intrigue. “What ‘something’?”

“Ciecro…” Seliph gave the Charmander a stern look.

Ciecro sighed and rubbed the back of his head. “I-I can’t tell yah.” Seeing Jaron’s head lower, Ciecro stretched his arms out and quickly said, “But it’s because mom and dad told me not tah.”

“Huh?” Confusing filled Jaron’s eyes as he glanced up to Seliph.

“It’s true,” Seliph added with a sigh. “It’s kind of just well…adult stuff.”

Ciecro stood up, giving an affirming nod. “Yeh. I know dis ain’ fair an’ all but…” Rubbing the back of his head, Ciecro took a deep breath and added, “If yah wanna know, ask Mom an’ Dad. Dey’ll tell yah.”

Jaron raised a brow as he looked at the two. “Huh?”

Seliph and Ciecro chuckled at this reaction.

“It’s late after all.” Seliph walked over, helping Jaron to his feet. “Come on, we’ll explain it tomorrow.” As they gently moved Jaron towards their room, Ciecro following behind, Seliph suddenly stopped. “Wait!”

“What?” Ciecro and Jaron said in unison.

Seliph moved the two in front and placed his hands over their shoulders, like a group of players would for an in-game meeting. “How about we go play in our normal spot tomorrow?”

Jaron’s eyes lit up at the idea, but reluctantly added, “But, what if mom and dad have plans?”

“Oh…well then I-”

“I’ll go ask ‘em!” Ciecro exclaimed as he broke off, storming towards the parent’s room.

“Wait! Ciecro, it’s late!” Seliph stated.

“Dey’re adults so dey gonna be up anyway!” Ciecro shouted back, as he headed to the living room door. He paused as he put his hand on the doorknob, looked back at the two, and smiled.

Seliph didn’t reply, but instead nodded, as Jaron’s eyes beamed with joy.

Ciecro opened the door, his heart pounding fast. Similar to that one night, but entirely different; a nice feeling.
 

Vray

Pull up a chair.
Chapter 7
A Hider’s Instinct

Seliph dashed through the forest, looking around with desperation. Come on! Come on! He’s almost done! Seliph’s panting quickened as he dashed through the forest, frantically looking around. Come on, I can’t hide up in a tree again.

“Ready or not! Here I come!”

Seliph abruptly stopped and looked behind him, his heart sinking. Quickly looking around, he grumbled as he latched onto the nearest tree and started shimmying up it as fast as he could. Once close enough, he pushed off and grabbed onto the lowest limb. With a heavy grunt, he pulled himself up and started climbing up the other limbs like one would a stairway.

Okay, that should be high enough. He crawled over to the trunk of the tree and leaned his back on its rough bark surface. Slowly, his panting died down as he closed his eyes to listen.

He sat there in stillness, with only the sound of rustling tree limbs from the wind. Relaxing in his spot a little, Seliph looked up at the pores of light coming through the thick bushels of leaves above him. A small smile formed. It feels like ages ago since we’ve played hide and seek like this.

Seliph sighed, scooting forwards a little to curl his legs better between his arms. His eyes slowly lowered. Hmm…I hope this stuff blows over soon. I want things to go back to how it was before all this. Heh, listen to me. ‘I like how I’m not thinking about it’ and I just go bringing it up again. He pressed his forehead to his knees. It’s been almost a week since I got the key from mom. When I think about it though…nothing really has changed; it just feels like it has. He formed a small smile as he looked upwards. Yeah, maybe this situation isn’t as bad as I’m acting like it is. I guess I’ll just have to keep waiting till mom and dad says it’s cle-

Suddenly, he heard an angry shout not too far from his position. Uh oh. Jaron got him. Carefully, he slid back up against the trunk and remained still.

“I found you fair and square, Ciecro,” Jaron’s voice gleefully exclaimed. “Come on, let’s go find Seliph.”

Seliph lightly hit the backside of his on the tree and groaned. Already? Great, and they don’t sound far away too. Damn it, Ciecro, why did you have to pick a hiding spot so close to mine. He crossed his arms and pouted. I was literally going in the opposite direction at the start, but of course, you’d somehow find a hiding spot so close to mi-

“Seliph!”

He froze, as his heart started accelerating.

“Seliph!” Jaron called out once more.

Seliph turned his head slightly and listened to Jaron’s repeated callings. They’re heading this way. Okay, it’s fine, just remain calm. They have no idea you’re in this area and there are tons of trees. Just stay still and they’ll just pass by.



To his dismay, the next shout from Jaron came from directly below. As quietly as he could, he took a deep breath and held it.

“You think he’s hiding somewhere near here?” He heard Jaron ask from below.

“How should I know?” Ciecro rudely replied.

“I dunno, because you’re older,” Jaron teased.

“Don’ staht dat again, or yah can find him yahself” Jaron chuckled as Ciecro grumbled. “Why do yah need my help anyway?”

“It’s in the rules. Everyone that’s been found has to help the mon it to find the rest.”

“Stupid rules.”

“More like stupid tail light,” Jaron giggled.

“Grrr, I’m still workin’ on dat.”

“Yeah, well mom can make her tail light go pretty low, why can’t you?”

“She’s a grown-up. Of course, she can.”

Seliph scowled. Why out of all the forest, they bicker under my tre- Mpf. He clamped his hand over his mouth, his mouth feeling hot and starting to hurt. The two’s argument seemed to only escalate, prompting Seliph to plead in his mind, Just go to another tree already.

“Stop being a sore loser, Ciecro! I know I’ve got my gift, but it’s not like it helps me detect everything.”

“Why not? Are yah too stupid tah use it?”

“I dunno, are you too stupid to keep your tail from lighting up?”

“Hey! Dat’s a problem us charz have.”

“Not mom apparently.”

“Can it, Jaron! Yah’ve got less excuse den I have. Doesn’ yah gift react when someone’s nearby?”

“No, idiot! It doesn’t work like that at all. I just get a feeling sometimes.”

“A feelin’? What feelin’‽ Den how dah hell do yah know where dah person is‽”

“I dunno, ask mom if you’re so curious.”

“I’ll pass. Sounds dumb.”

“Tck, your gift is dumber.”

“Is not!”

“Is too!”

“It’s dah same as dad’s!”

“Yeah, exactly why it’s dumb.”

“Shuddup, Jaro-”

Seliph couldn’t hold it in any longer, he pursed his lips and clamped tightly over his mouth, letting the air out. Quickly, he held his breath once more and muffled his mouth.

“Hrm? Jaron?”

Seliph froze. Damnit, did he hear me?

“Jaron, wha’s up?”

“Who’s gift is stupid now?” Jaron said with smug. “Alright, Seliph. Come down from up there, I know you’re there.”

Seliph groaned into his hand. Why me…?

With a frustrated sigh, Seliph leaned climbed down till he was on the lowest branch and leaned over, scowling at Jaron, who was giving a victorious grin. “You two are impossible, you know that?”

Ciecro crossed his arms and with a grin, replied, “Yep.”

Jaron crossed his arms as well. “Uh-huh.”

Seliph rolled his eyes. “That wasn’t a compliment, by the way.” He swung himself below the branch and let go, landing on the ground with a hard thud. As he stood up, he stared down at Jaron with an annoyed look before raising a brow. “So, how did you know I was there, Jaron?”

Jaron brushed his snout and smirked at Ciecro. “I wasn’t sure, but I sort of got a weird feeling from above us. After looking, I thought I saw you and all.”

Rubbing the back of his head, Seliph grumbled. “Yeah, you’re getting better at using Wary huh.”

Smiling, Jaron nodded. “Yeah, but I think I was just lucky this time.”

“Yeah, I did a dumb thing by holding my breath.” Seliph then looked at Ciecro, his eyes narrowing. “Course, it wouldn’t have mattered if you hadn’t led him right to me.”

Ciecro leered back at the accusation. “Why did yah hide so close den?”

Rolling his eyes, Seliph didn’t bother answering and just walked past them. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just head back and play a new game. I’m getting a little tired of hide and seek.”

The trio hiked their way back to the clearing with the clear water pond and sat in the grass near it. “Okay, so what should we play now?” Seliph asked.

Ciecro shrugged. “Dunno.”

Jaron stroked his snout before shrugging too.

Seliph swung his arms in small circles as he started sitting down, saying, “Well, let’s think of something.” Jaron and Ciecro looked at each other before sitting down as well. The three went quiet for a second before Jaron broke the silence.

“Uhm…Seliph.”

“Hrm? Got a game?” Seliph asked, leaning in along with Ciecro to hear Jaron’s suggestion.

Jaron’s head lowered slightly as he rubbed his arm slowly. “Uhm…no it’s not that. I’m just…I was wondering.” He looked Seliph straight in the eye and said in almost a whisper, “You two know what’s going on?”

The two looked at each other before Seliph turned back to Jaron. “What do you mean?”

“You know, the stuff that’s got mom and dad worried.”

Seliph sighed as Ciecro just leaned back and plopped on the ground, making sure to raise his tail onto his leg to avoid setting the grass on fire.

Placing a hand on Jaron’s shoulder, Seliph leaned in close and with a serious look calmly said, “Jaron, I thought we told you that we couldn’t and you’d have to ask mom and dad about it.”

Jaron’s head fell. His hand stopped rubbing his arm and both went up to his little snout and gently held onto it. “I…I don’t wanna ask them,” He meekly confessed.

Seliph raised a brow and took his hand away. “Why not?”

“Because I feel like it’s something bad.”

Seliph looked at Ciecro, who had moved his head up enough to look them. A little smirk formed as he moved over to sit next to Jaron. “Why do you think that?”

Jaron’s hands clamped harder on his sat, prompting Ciecro to sit up.

Seliph looked back at Ciecro, concern filling their faces. They waited in silence, while Jaron moved his arms from snout clamping back to the arm rubbing. “Well, it’s just.” He looked at Seliph, asking, “Do you remember when we played hide and seek a couple of days ago?”

Seliph thought for a second before answering with a chuckle, “You mean the one where I made you scream like an old lady Jynx with my fake Cut.”

Jaron scowled. “I didn’t scream like that.”

“But yah can,” Ciecro added, laughing.

Jaron crossed his arms, till Seliph patted him on the shoulder.

“Sorry, we’re done. Continue.”

After a sigh, Jaron continued, “I remember when we were walking home that day, getting a weird…uhm… feeling?”

“A weird feeling?” Seliph crossed his arms. “Like what?”

“I’m not sure, but felt weird and kind of faint. Like something was watching me, but not really near me. Maybe like a ghost type hiding in the ground or a rock, just waiting to scare me.”

Seliph’s eyes narrowed. “Was it your Wary reacting to something?”

“Maybe, but that time felt different than the other times. I’m not sure how to describe it.”

Seliph looked at Ciecro shared a glance as Ciecro joined them.

Jaron looked upwards. “I just know that I felt it for a second, then stopped. I guessed it was just my imagination or something else so I forgot about it when we got back.”

“Yah tink yah gift had a dud?” Ciecro tilted his head, shifting to sit perpendicular to Jaron.

“I don’t know. I only really remembered it acted up during our game.”

The three went silent, thinking their theories about it, till Ciecro raised a question. “Wait, wasn’ dat when dat Drapion guy came?”

Jaron’s eyes widened. “Yeah, that’s right. Maybe my gift was reacting to him.”

Seliph stroked his chin, thinking for a second before nodding in agreement. “Probably, you still got some growing to do before your gift fully matures. Maybe, it reacted to him since he was a stranger or something else about him.”

Jaron started rubbing his shoulder again. “I…I dunno.”

“Dunno? Yah jus’ said-”

“I know, but...” Jaron went silent, before moving his hands out and cupping them as if he was holding a ball. “It’s like this. I felt that feeling at this point. Then,” Jaron extended his right hand a little ways. “Seliph acted weird the next day.”

Seliph nodded, “Yeah, since I had talked to mom last night.”

Jaron nodded and moved his arm further, “Then Ciecro started acting weird too.”

Ciecro crossed his arms. “Well…uh.”

“You had a lot on your mind,” Seliph stated, smiling at Ciecro, who gave a little, grateful one back.

“But that’s what I mean.” Jaron let his hands rest on his tummy as he looked at Ciecro. “You both started acting weird after that Drapion guy came. Not just you two, but just home, in general, feels weird. It doesn’t feel like that weird feeling I told you about, but it doesn’t feel the same either. Doesn’t feel sa-…” Jaron pulled his hands close and stared at the ground, shivering slightly.

Poor guy. Seliph put a hand on Jaron’s shoulder, causing the Totodile to look at him. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Huh?”

“This weird feeling you’ve had and still do. Don’t worry about it.” Seliph pulled Jaron close. “Because whatever is making you feel that feeling, it’s not gonna get near you. I won’t let it.”

Ciecro nodded, with an invigorated smile. “Yeh, an’ if it does try somethin’, I’ll knock its head off.”

Rolling his eyes at Ciecro’s over-enthusiasm, Seliph commented, “You can’t knock the head off of a feeling.”

Ciecro snarled at this, making Jaron laugh. “Yeh, well maybe it’s a big, scary monster causin’ dah feelin’.”

Seliph just shook his head. “Well, if it’s a big, scary monster then you can knock its head off.” He patted Jaron on the back and looked him in the eye. “But you get the idea, right?”

Swiftly nodding, Jaron hugged Seliph’s neck. “Yeah, thanks.”

Seliph patted Jaron’s head, while Ciecro rolled his eyes.

“Dis is gettin’ stupid,” he muttered, getting back on his feet.

The other two looked at him confused. “What’s wrong?” Seliph said, placing a hand on his hip and smirking. “Big tough Ciecro don’t like being hugged.”

Ciecro scoffed. “Naw, it’s jus’ yah two do it way too much.”

Jaron and Seliph looked at each other, mischievous grins forming.

“Don’ yah dare!” He yelled, starting to run away, but Seliph was faster. Pouncing on him, Seliph pinned Ciecro to the ground with a big hug.

“Lemme go!”

“Oh no!” Seliph laughed, “You’ve been caught by the big, scary hug monster.”

Ciecro growled, as he tried to push up from the ground, despite Seliph’s weight. “Get off of me! Jaron ge’ ‘im off- Wait no, Jaron! Don’- Agh!” He collapsed once Jaron joined the dogpile.

The two on top laughed as they gave the sour Ciecro a big hug from on top.







Ciecro yawned loudly as he nestled into the grass and shook his head. “Nope, dat’s gotta be an Onix.”

Seliph sat up and gave him a disapproving look. “Ciecro. It’s an Ekans.”

Ciecro sat up as well, snarling, “It’s an Onix. Are yah blind?”

Groaning, Seliph pointed to the cloud. “Look at how it’s shaped. It’s smooth and shaped like an ‘S’. It can’t be an Onix.”

“Oh yeah! Well wha’ about dat pointy thin’ on its end, dere?” Ciecro pointed.

Seliph smugly grinned as he shrugged his arms and shook his head slightly. “It’s an Ekans tail.”

“Tauros Shit! It’s an Onix pointy head ting. Yah got it upside down.”

Seliph merely laughed at Ciecro’s protest.

While they were arguing, Jaron was sitting at the edge of the clearing’s pond, looking at his reflection in the war. He twisted his head a bit so he could see his curved red scales, protruding from the back of his neck. He smiled at how they curved like a Gible’s fin as did his father’s, although his were significantly smaller. His admiring was broken, by the sound of his brothers’ argument getting louder. With a grumble, he dipped a finger into the pond before latching onto the edge and somersaulting his way in. With a big slash, Jaron sat up and giggled, swatting at the chest-high water with glee. “Come on guys, let’s play some more!” He shouted, shifting around to look at them.

To his frustration, the two were still arguing. Still fighting over some dumb clouds. He crossed his arms and pouted as he stared back at the water, which was starting to settle. Suddenly, he raised a brow as he looked back at the fighting duo, then back to the water, repeating this process till a dark grin formed on his face. Alright, you two asked for this. He leaned forwards and filled his mouth with water. After his cheeks were full, he climbed out of the pond and quietly walked over to the bickering two. After counting to three in his head, he sprayed their faces.

Spitting out water and wiping his face, Seliph shouted, “What the? Jaron, what the hell was that for?”

Jaron simply laughed as he started running away. “You’re both all wet now.”

“Get back here!” Seliph shouted, charging after Jaron and tackling him to the ground. He pinned Jaron by the back and scowled. “Think you’re funny, do you, twerp?”

“Okay, okay, you win,” Jaron laughed. “I was just trying to get you two to stop arguing.”

Grumbling, Seliph got off of Jaron and crossed his arms. “You didn’t have to spray us like that.”

Jaron smiled as he dusted off his tummy. “Maybe, but my idea was more fu-”

“I’m gonna kill yah!”

They both looked towards Ciecro, who was slowly stomping towards them, his scowling face noticeably redder than his body, which was covered in dirt.

Seliph tilted his head. “Why are you so filthy?”

“Tah get dah wateh off!” Ciecro snapped.

The two looked at each other, before breaking out into a chuckle.

“It ain’ funny!” Ciecro yelled, stopping right in front of them and leering. “I hate wateh!”

Seliph sighed. “No, you don’t. Just when it gets on your tail.”

Ciecro looked to the side, his cheeks blushing and snarling in frustration. “Shut up.”

The duo finally calmed their laughter down.

“I’m sorry, Ciecro, I kinda forgot about how sensitive your tail is to getting wet,” Jaron said, rubbing the back of his head with a weak smile.

Ciecro raised his snout and snarled. “Well…yah’re stupid fo’ forgettin’.”

“Hey!” Jaron snarled.

“Ciecro, he said he was sorry. You don’t need to go all out on him.” Seliph walked over and gave Ciecro a calming smile.

Slowly, Ciecro’s scowl faded as he started scratching his head awkwardly. “Fine, I forgive yah. Let’s jus’ do somethin’ else.”

Jaron nodded. “Hmm…what should we do?”

Ciecro crossed his arms and looked upwards. “Uhhhhhhhh…”

Seliph pressed a finger to the side of his head. “Okay, so we already did hide and seek, tag, cloud watching.”

“And Roughhousing, Greninja, Rescue Explorer,” Jaron added.

Ciecro closed his eyes, saying, “An’ SPUD, Stop an’ Go, Find dah treasure…”

They went silent, all staring at the ground in front before Seliph turned around and gazed at the tree line. “It’s getting late. Maybe we should head back.”

Jaron and Ciecro looked at each other.

“Are you sure?” The Totodile asked, a little disappointed.

Seliph brushed his nose. “Aren’t you hungry? It’s getting close to dinner time and we skipped lunch.”

Jaron placed a hand on his stomach and a second later said, “Yeah, I am kinda hungry.”

“Yeh, I could go fo’ some food too,” Ciecro added, rolling his neck.

“Alright, it’s settled. We’ll go back and get some food, then play in our room for the rest of the day.”

“Yeah!” Jaron shouted with enthusiasm.

“Yeh, sure.” Ciecro nodded. “Let’s hurry den, I’m hungry.” As he started for the forest, Seliph put his arm on Ciecro’s chest and gently moved him back.

“Woah, there. You can’t go home like that.”

“Huh?” Ciecro looked down and his eyes widened. “Oh…yeh.”

Jaron chuckled, making Ciecro growl at him. “Sorry, I guess it is my fault.” Suddenly, an idea popped into his head. “Hey, Seliph, how about I go home and make something to eat, while you clean Ciecro up?”

“Wha’‽” Ciecro exclaimed, his cheeks flaring with red.

“Sounds like a plan,” Seliph nodded.

“Are yah kiddin’ me? I ain’- Wait Jaron!”

Unfortunately, Jaron had already started for the house. “Don’t take too long!” He shouted back, as he disappeared into the forest.

Ciecro just stood there, devastated with his head sagging. “Do we really hafta do dis?” He asked, as he looked at Ciecro with a depressed frown.

Shrugging, Seliph walked in front and pointed out, “Well no, but do you want to go all the way back there just to have mom bathe you herself?”

Growling to himself, Ciecro raised his arm and huffed, “Jus’ make it fast. An’ watch dah tail.”

Seliph nodded and gently grabbed Ciecro’s arm to hold it still. “I’ll try, but don’t squirm too much, else I can’t promise your tail getting out of this dry.”

Rolling his eyes, Ciecro just braced himself, though wound up screaming once Seliph started spraying his side.

“Don’t be such a baby, it’s just water.”

“It’s cold water!” Ciecro snapped.

“Okay, then…let’s talk about something. That might help distract you from the chill.”

“Fine,” Ciecro grumbled as he tried to think of a topic. He winced as Seliph started spraying on his side again. A few seconds later, his face went serious as he stared at the forest edge in front, pondering. “Do yah tink dey’ll leave us alone?”

Seliph stopped spraying so he could ask, “Who, the bad guys?”

“Yeh…”

Shrugging, Seliph lowered his head and started spraying again, taking moments to talk during his cleaning job. “Mom and dad think there’s a good chance they will. I mean, the note only said they were in the area, not that they were here for us.”

“Yeh…Seliph?”

“Yeah?”

“Who do yah tink dey are?”

“Not sure. I’m guessing, if they’re enemies to mom and dad, they must be enemies of Norfair.”

“I guess so. Bu’…wha’ kinda enemies do dah Norfairions have?”

“Beats me. Mom and dad never talked about it outside of history class. Can’t blame them though.”

“Yah tink dey’re Mextrein?”

“Why Mextrein specifically? Wait, wasn’t that just a continent fighting for independence a long time ago?”

“Yeh, dey fough’ dah Norfarions an’ dah oteh clans.”

Seliph shrugged as he shifted behind Ciecro to work on the other side. “Okay, but that was a long time ago, right?”

Ciecro went silent as he thought on that question.

Seliph, continued, “I doubt it’s still going on or at least that there’s an active war between the two. I mean, think of it this way. If there was one, wouldn’t there be some news about it? Sure, we live in some remote forest near a small town, but we can hear news now and then, right? Plus, I don’t think the message referred to Mextreinions.”

“How do yah know?”

“Cuz I read it, and it didn’t mention anything about Mextreinions.”

“Huh?” Ciecro looked at Seliph, eyes wide open. “Yah read dat message!” He said excitedly.

“Well, not exactly. You see, Mom said that it had some kind of secret message to it, and there was a listing of items at the end of the message. I think that’s where the secret message that mom meant.”

“So, wha’cha figure out?”

“Not too much, but I noticed two items on the list that seemed odd and I’m guessing they’re related to the secret message since mom reacted to me mentioning it.”

“Wha’ were dey?”

“A ‘Fire orb’ and ‘Eye drop seeds’. They seemed weird since it was a list of generic supplies, but these two items were very specific. Plus, they weren’t really useful for us anyways, so why mention them in the first place? That was my reasoning at least; I don’t know what the secret message has to do with a Fire Orb and Eye Drop Seeds.”

Ciecro glanced towards the forest, mulling over this information. He was so engrossed in his theorizing, he didn’t even notice Seliph start speaking again.

“There, all done…? Ciecro?” Seliph gave him a little tap in the side, snapping Ciecro out of his mulling. “Hey, genius, I’m done.”

“Huh?” Ciecro looked down and all over his body and happily commented, “Hey, it’s all gone. Tanks.”

“No problem, now let’s hurry on back. Jaron’s probably home by now.” Seliph started to turn around.

“Uhm…Seliph.”

“Yeah?” Slowly looking back, Seliph raised a brow upon seeing Ciecro scowling all of a sudden. “What’s wrong?”

The Charmander crossed his arms and stated, “I tink…we should come up wit a plan. Jus’ incase.”

“Incase what?” Seliph walked closer.

“Incase we’re attacked.”

Seliph could feel the air around him grow colder as he lowered his gaze, along with Ciecro’s. Hmm…he’s right though. It wouldn’t hurt to be prepared. He put his hand on Ciecro’s shoulders and their gazes met. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s discuss it on the way back.”

Ciecro nodded and started on towards home.

Seliph watched Ciecro lead on and a smile began to form. He jogged after Ciecro and the two began discussing their backup plan.



< O >​



“Hmm, let’s see…” Seliph stroked his chin as he examined the checkerboard in front. His other head started pointing out moves, a gesture that slightly intimidated Jaron.

Crossing his arms, Jaron sighed. “Can you hurry up and move?”

“You can’t rush these things.”

“But it’s just the first move,” Jaron complained as he rolled onto his side and groaned.

Seliph eyed him in annoyance. “Come on, Jaron.”

Jaron grumbled, rolling on his back. “Well don’t take too long. Mom and dad are about to start making dinner.”

“Probably, but we’ve got time. Though.” Seliph looked up from the board to his little brother. “So you’re going to ask them after dinner?”

Slowly, Jaron sat up, rubbing his arm. “Y-yeah…”

Focusing back on the board, Seliph put a finger on a piece and said, “Do you want us to be with you when you ask?”

Jaron’s eyes widened. “Sure, that’d help a lot.”

Chuckling at the enthusiasm, Seliph picked up the piece and looked at the two squares the piece could go. “Done deal then. Now, let’s see…Let’s try this mov-”

Suddenly, their room door slammed open with a harsh thud.

“Dyah!” The piece slipped from Seliph’s hands, making him swipe at it till he managed to catch it. “What the? Ciecro! Don’t scare me like that!” He leered at Ciecro, but his expression change once he noticed his brother looked worried. “What’s wrong?”

As Seliph stood up, Ciecro jogged over. “Dat, Chesnaugh’ guy’s back.”

“What? The ranger from a few days ago?”

“Oh, I remember him,” Jaron got up too. “Where’s he now?”

“Out talkin’ wit’ mom an’ dad.” Ciecro leaned over to say, “I need tah talk to yah.”

“Uhm…okay.” Before Seliph was even standing up, Ciecro seized him by the arm and proceeded to drag him towards the door.

“Huh? Where are you two-”

“I need tah talk tah Seliph fo’ a sec,” Ciecro answered, not bothering to turn his head.

“But our game-”

“It won’t be long, right, Ciecro?” Seliph asked.

Ciecro didn’t answer but finished dragging him out of the room and saying to Jaron, “Jus’ hold up till we done.” Before Jaron could say anything, Ciecro shut the door and briskly walked past a confused Seliph. Once they were in the front room of the house, Ciecro went to the window and peered out.

Seliph crossed his arms and finally spoke up. “What’s this about?”

Ciecro back from the window and pointed to it.

“Huh?”

“Jus’ look.” Ciecro requested, his tone sounding anxious, hasty, and perhaps a little excited.

Sighing to himself, Seliph walked to the window and peered through. Just like Ciecro said, the Chesnaught was talking with their parents, though Tetheron was present as well. Huh? Squinting a little, he pushed up closer to the glass as something between the group of adults caught his eye. It wasn’t easy to make out due to it being dusk, but it looked like something purple that was big enough to top right above the Chesnaught’s kneecaps.

“Why do yah tink he’s back ‘ere?” Ciecro inquired with a serious scowl.

Seliph removed his face from the window, and pressed a fist to his chin. “I don’t know…but I’m going to find out.”

Ciecro nodded, “Yeh, let’s go.”

“No.”

Ciecro stopped just short of the door, surprised. “Huh?”

Seliph walked over and put his hand on the door. “I’ll check on what’s going on. You stay with Jaron.”

“Wha’? Why? I wanna see too.” Ciecro protested but stopped at Seliph giving him a serious look. With a reluctant scowl, he lowered his head and looked to the side as he mulled for a second. “A’igh’…jus’ don’ take too long.” He started to head back, but stopped for a second and glanced back. “Make sure tah tell me whatcha find out.”

Seliph nodded with a smile. “I will. Thanks, Ciecro.”

Ciecro nodded, his scowl shifting a little softer, and left the room.

Seliph closed his eyes and smiled for a second, before turning to face the door with a determined glare. He took a deep breath, before twisting the knob and opening the door.
 
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